Friday, August 31, 2012

More School Memories

I clearly remember my first day of school. In those days, my public school had two years of kindergarten which was called junior and senior kindergarten. I started junior kindergarten when I was three years old. I was going to turn 4 in October and I believe they weren't as strict back then as to age as they are now. I don't remember being scared at all. I wanted to ride the school bus and go to school. My sister and I would always play school -- she always got to be the teacher since she was older. I remember my mother telling my sister to bring me to the right classroom.

I remember my sister holding my hand and taking me down this flight of steps to where the junior kindergarten was located. At the door she quickly let go of my hand -- mission accomplished -- no pep talk or reassurance -- she'd done her duty.

I remember the classroom had hooks along one side where you hung up your coat. There were big tables, an area for rhythm instruments and I remember the boys who would shove in front of everyone would always get the cool instruments and the shy ones like me would be stuck with the very uncool "rhythm sticks" which were nothing more than two sticks you hit together.

I remember my mother bringing in cupcakes for my 4th birthday and how strange it felt to have my home world and my school world collide by seeing my mother in my classroom.

We had fire drills, of course, and there was a bathroom attached to the classroom -- and we'd go in the bathroom and then have to crawl out this window for the fire drill. The teacher, Miss Brubaker, was a large woman and she never crawled through the window, but rather left the class and joined us wherever we were on the lawn. I was always worried that in case of a real fire Miss Brubaker wouldn't make it using her alternate route.

Later on, we'd have fire drills and I remember my second grade teacher telling us that we can never stop to get our coats because, "Your parents can always buy a new coat, but they can never buy a new you." Made sense to me.

And then we'd have air raid drills too. And the bells would be different so you'd know if it were an air raid drill or a fire drill. At first we would crouch under our desks, but later the system was changed to we would all line up in the hall way, lining the walls, with our faces against the wall. In those days, it made perfect sense, but I wonder what the hell they think this would do since we were within the area of impact if New York City was hit with an atomic bomb. Somehow facing the wall would protect us? From what? Our faces could melt and adhere to the wall, no doubt. But we did it. With no talking, of course. I don't think we really understood what an air raid drill was.

I really loved that elementary school. It was built in the 1920s, this imposing, official, commanding building. Like what banks used to be. When you first entered these huge front doors, there was a rotunda, with a world globe in the middle of it. I thought it was a huge area until I returned as an adult and saw just how small it was.

The other thing I often think about is the total unsafety of the playground. All concrete and hardness and I may have written about this before, but in addition to swings, see saws, jungle jim, there was a "fire pole" where you had to be in 3rd grade to use. You'd climb up this metal ladder and when you got to the top, there was no guard rail or anything and you'd lean forward, over open air, and grab the "fire pole" and wrap your legs around it and slide down. I'd say it was about 20 feet. I don't ever remember a kid falling or getting hurt on it, but I don't think you'd see a fire pole today.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back to School

I'm calling my own moratorium on mouse reports for now after this: no body, no evidence. I took the garbage out and moved the trap back to the baseboard in my living room.

Just made a donation to Donors Choose, one of my favorite places to give. Thought I could commemorate back to school and the end of the summer by doing something positive. I finished the funding for 32 world atlases for a "high poverty" charter school in Philadelphia where they were trying to teach geography with one world map.

I was telling someone that decades ago this week always brought this call outside to my sister and me from my mother who announced we were going to go buy new school shoes. I remember looking in the window of the shoe store to see which appealed to me. My mother never agreed. Of course, in those days, we wore "sensible" shoes -- oxfords, tie shoes, good sturdy walking shoes. Hush Puppies. Oh my.

In those days, my sister and I had been going barefoot for months, and I remember how those new school shoes -- oh yes, and we had to put on socks for the first time in weeks to try on the shoes -- anyway, those new school shoes felt as if someone had tied bricks to our feet. We were a Stride-Rite family and I remember looking down on the Buster Brown shoe kids. Clearly inferior to Stride-Rite. Although I did like that little guy and the dog logo in the shoes. My other memory is the shoe salesman wrapping up the boxes with our new shoes with thin green string.

My other back to school memory is having to cover your books on the first day. My mother did not believe in "store bought" book covers and would cover our books with brown paper from grocery bags. Funny what a sin it was to not have a cover on your book. Later on, in high school I was able to buy my own book covers and could shed the very uncool brown paper ones. I also have to say that I loved the new school supplies -- that big packet of notebook paper, the new spiral notebooks (although we weren't allowed to turn in homework on ripped out spiral paper; there were standards.)

Let's see. I remember the weekly town paper would print the week before school started the school bus schedule and we could see what time the bus would pick us up. It was always really early -- like 7:19 or 7:21, very precise. Our house was on a hill that overlooked this lake where a road bisected the lake and on one side was a freshwater lake, and other the other side was salt water from Long Island Sound. And we could sit in the kitchen and see this yellow bus coming across the lake at which time we'd run like hell out the door, down a hill to the bus stop and make it just in time. I think about how effortless that used to be.

Just by coincidence, I wondered if there exists a photo of this lake -- of course there is. This is the Internet.

So this is taken from the road where the school bus would be heading from right to left. This is the fresh water lake, and about one-third over to the right would be the road across the two bodies of water. This lake looks powerful, but it's really only about four feet deep throughout.

So what memories do you have of your first days back to school?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mission Not Accomplished

Outsmarted by a rodent. I came upstairs this morning, with my wad of paper towels in hand, ready to cover the body by dropping them on top. I would have bet $100 there would be a dead one in there. I had rehearsed in my mind how I would first cover it and then gingerly pick the trash bag out -- the easiest way to close the drawstring blah blah blah. I was surprised.

So my goal is to take a positive action so today I called the building management. The manager for this building is this young crusty Italian guy whom I genuinely like -- the kind of guy who has seen it all. He wasn't there, but I talked to his assistant and explained my situation. I want them to have the exterminator re-poison the basement, and I also want to hear Peter's recommendation on whether paying someone for mouseproofing is worth it.

Maybe I'll compile a book on everyone's mouse tales, but who'd want to read it? Remember there was that viral photo a number of years back with a mouse who got caught in a printer? My manicurist told me yesterday two stories: Some friends of hers got so frustrated trying to get rid of one mouse that they gave up, called it a pet and gave it a name. Would let the mouse eat off the kitchen counter. Ok, I'm not going that route.

Second story was recently taking her daughter to the Bronx Zoo and there's an exhibit called the Mouse House with different kinds of mice from all over the world. Don't want to go there either. But she said when she and her daughter were in the Mouse House, this woman starts yelling, "Let's get out of here. If I wanted to see mice, I could have stayed home." Yeah, sister, I'm with you.

The only saving grace is that there was no mouse droppings in my garbage so maybe the mouse took the night off. I'm going to keep the glue trap there tonight. I'm thinking of putting a tiny dollop of peanut butter in the center.

Monday, August 27, 2012

True Mice Tales

I admit, I'm obsessed with mice, but I have a plan for tonight. More on that in a moment.

Today a woman called me whom I don't speak to regularly. She asked how everything was in my world, and I said, fine, except there's a mouse in my world right now. She was totally sympathetic, told me she used to live in New York, by the UN and had mice in her apartment that she battled.

Then she told me a story that all these years later still made her do the ew ew ew dance. She said one morning she sat up in bed, attempted to put her feet in her bedroom slippers and there was a surprise for her in one slipper... it was a mouse, not alive, not dead, but dying. She says she can still feel what she felt that morning as she jumped ten feet.

I asked her if she threw away the slippers, and she said yes, and it was sad because they were her favorite soft LL Bean slippers. The mouse picked a good place to die.

And now, here's my plan. No mouse in the glue trap, but I noticed some droppings in the kitchen garbage which is about 2/3rds full. I'm going to put the glue trap, in the garbage bin. Mouse enters to check out garbage, gets trapped in glue, then no muss, no fuss, the trap will already be in the garbage and all I'll have to do is throw the bag away. Think it will work?

I talked to another friend who had mouseproofing in Massachusetts -- Hmmm... sounds like the name of a novel, and she said several years ago, she was charged $160. I think I am going to do this and am guessing it will be $300 to $400. That's my guess. Stand by.

It wasn't all mice/all the time, however. I did have a mani/pedi/waxing today. My manicurist asked if I'm still writing my blog, and I said yes, and she said I should do a before and after of my hands since I always admire how different it looks... so next month I'll try that.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Disposing of the Body

I wrote that Ana put out two glue traps and, sure enough, Thursday night captured one, and because these were bigger size (the size of an ice cube tray), I purposely left it out for Friday night as well thinking maybe I can get another. Plus, there was a small part of me, I admit, that thought that was a good reason to do nothing.

So this morning, I totally wasted time, procrastinated, dragged my feet, stayed downstairs in my bedroom fretting about it until about 3 pm when hunger drove me upstairs to deal with it. This event was not without tears, not sobbing, but definite teary eyes and poor, pitiful me.

The sane part of me reasoned I'm stronger than this, I've done worse, don't make this more than it is, but still I couldn't do it. The glue trap with critter -- definitely dead, thank God, was right inside my kitchen by the garbage can.

I came upstairs, made it no further than my living room and sat there not able to go further. I just couldn't do it.

I remember, years ago, when I had a dead one in the crawl space under my stairs that was stinking up my bedroom and I was searching for it with the creepy-crawly willies that I finally called Mary and I had the phone in one hand and whatever tool I was using to find it with the other. At one point, when I saw it, I let out this ew-ew-ew-ew noise and Mary yelled, "Did it come back to life?"

She was serious, and thinking about that always makes me laugh. So what good is it to have a best friend if you can't be your stupidest self with them? I called Mary, thinking she would probably not be home, but she was. My voice was cracking and Mary was being her most patient and helpful self.

After discussing various strategies, I told Mary I was willing to do step one which was to take the wad of paper towels I'd been clutching and throw it on top of the glue trap. That's a strategy I'd used before: drop paper towels, tamp down with broom, sweep into box, put box in garbage bag, remove garbage.

I put the phone down -- Mary later said she expected to hear ew ew ew screaming on my part... I glanced at it and saw that the mouse was really at one end of the trap. So I dropped the towels down on top (now at least I didn't have to look at it) -- and then felt brave enough for step 2 so I grabbed a roll of aluminum foil in the box that was sitting on the counter and tamped the paper towels down with that. I knew the paper had stuck.

So then I wanted Mary to be proud of me. I felt brave enough to actually pick up the non-mouse end of the trap and drop it in the garbage. I had resisted anything fancy as I was afraid I'd somehow drop the glue trap and have it land glue-side down on the floor.  I picked it up, dropped it in the empty, lined garbage bin and then triumphantly went back to the phone.

I reported success to Mary and I was home free (or so I thought) at this point. I was sitting there talking to Mary about other things. All of a sudden, I see a mouse, a live one, running along the baseboard. It was so discouraging. I kept talking and then saw it run in the opposite direction. I left well enough alone for now. I've done enough mouse things for one day, but my motto is going to be "take a positive action."

On Friday, I spent some time researching "mouse proof" on the Internet and I swear, I could skip steps 1 though 8 -- things like "get rid of piles of newspaper" -- I have always thought, and still do, that the mice in my apartment are passing through only -- I can go months, and sometimes years, without seeing one and then all of a sudden, bam, there they are.

I did read in my research that a cat is not a good pest control device as they tend to just play with, not kill the mouse. I remember reading years ago that just the smell of a cat will keep mice out so I was hoping to find "eau de cat" somewhere but I guess that's useless.

Of course, I did take the garbage out so one down, who knows how many more to go?

To be continued...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tale of Two Covers

I have long been fascinated by book jacket design and in particular what attracts me and what doesn't and how a designer would go about designing a jacket cover. I find some of them so clever. So when I was getting the cover for the lighthouse book I am currently reading (and enjoying), I noted there are two different covers for the same book. I think one must be for the US and one for the rest of the world. I guess I must be an American as I totally hands down prefer the US cover.

To refresh your memory, here it is:

I like the colors, the boldness and the simplicity of this cover.

And here's the other cover which I think is easily ignorable.


I don't like the typeface. I don't like the colors. However I do like the little summary which reads, "From a remote Australian island comes a story of right and wrong and how sometimes they look the same."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Horrid Mice Experience

I heard someone say on television the other day, "You can't be in denial for two weeks," and I thought, "Are you kidding? You can be in denial for decades."

And I've been in a state of semi-denial over my mice. My denial was as long as I didn't see one, it didn't exist. Of course, I saw evidence of one, but it has been a week or more since I've seen one.

Ana was here today to clean and she asked me when she arrived if I'd seen one, and I said no. I was in my office -- she was cleaning and I could hear her and know her movements enough to know she was almost finished. She puts garbage and recycling by the front door and she had passed my door a few times.

All of a sudden I hear, "Oh Pah-tree-cee-ah"  and she comes in and tells me there are three mice... three! She saw them. Her English isn't good enough to understand my question of dead or alive? I'm trying to pantomime "dead" and she confirms they're dead. Well, thank God for small mercies, at least.

But three of them!

She couldn't articulate where she saw them, where they lay, and wanted to show me and I said no. She said they were "babies." I was girding myself to get up and help her dispose of them, or dispose of them myself. I am typically the battalion leader type who says, "Stand back, men. I won't ask you to do anything I wouldn't do myself."

As I sat cringing, contemplating three dead mice -- and by the way, there was no odor, and my nostrils pick up on that odor -- I know it and recognize it and so they must have been newly dead -- so I'm thinking about how I'm going to dispose of them without having to look at them -- paper towels on top, sweep into cardboard carton kind of thing when I realize that Ana is going to dispose of them without me.

Yes, I am a big yellow-bellied coward. A small smile formed on my lips... and I sat there, stone still, while she did it. Better her than me, I thought. I always pride myself in treating the people who work for me with dignity and respect and "do the right thing" but this time I acted like the spoiled lady who couldn't possibly get her hands dirty.

She walks past my office with a handful of paper towels she had used to pick up (oh dear god) the dead mice and was putting them with the rest of the garbage. She held out her hand with the dead mice/paper towels in it to show me and I just said No, no, no. Are you effing kidding me? Oh yes, let's get some photos while we're at it.

Ana, you're more of a woman than I'll ever be. I could no more take a paper towel and pick up three dead mice than I could jump ten feet in the air.

Then she left and I sat there, still being a yellow-bellied coward, not wanting to get up and go in the living room. But they're gone, I said, but I still did want to get up.

Eventually I do, and of course, my apartment has that sweet clean smell it has for a bit when Ana first leaves. So good timing for these mice, and I thank them for dying on someone else's watch. I guess I'll have to get some glue traps in case there are siblings on the loose.

I was thinking that I don't know what more I can do. Maybe I should hire some exterminator to close up any more holes, and not just use a handyman. But honestly, Ray does this amazing job closing the holes he has found. For example, there was a hole in the wall where the pipe for my washing machine comes out and he put steel wool, tile and some sort of putty around it... no one could have done a better job than this. He put silicone gel in the tiny space between the floor molding and the floor. I never leave food out. I don't even leave dirty dishes out. I am regular in taking out garbage.

As Ana said, and this part I understood, "Dead. That's good." Yes, very good.


two hours later update: Ana has just returned with glue traps she bought and put them out. Now I'll have to do the slow creeping up on them with my face distorted into a grimace and I never know if it's better if it's empty or has snagged a critter. I know this is not just part and parcel of urban life since you don't escape them anywhere -- the city, the suburbs, the country.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What I'm Reading/Scattered Thoughts

This is a novel about an isolated lighthouse post on an island near Australia in 1910. The couple tries unsuccessfully to have children. Then one day a boat with a dead man and a live baby washes up on shore. They don't report it, but rather keep the baby as their own. Then when they get their once every two years shore leave they find out that the baby has a family. So that's all I know.

Old Business: I loved Gone Girl. It's a trashy page-turner full of twists and turns and everything you'd want in a summer book. Very light, very entertaining, never saw the plot twists coming. This is her third book and I'd definitely go back and read her other two.

Summer produce: There are certain fruits and vegetables I feel neutral about -- strawberries, cantaloupe, tomatoes... I'll eat them, but not with any relish or fervor. The other night when I ate the strawberries, I realized that for nine months out of the year, we're eating crappy strawberries and good ripe berries is season are delicious.

Same with cantaloupe. I'm used to the hard, near-flavorless light orange cubes that we get most of the year. When I was in Oshkosh, I had summer ripe cantaloupe and my taste buds did a double take. I was eating from fruit salad for breakfast, speared a cube of cantaloupe and went Wow. I forgot how good and sweet and soft cantaloupe is.

I remember my father used to eat it, and my mother taught me that you shake a cantaloupe to see if it's ripe and you should be able to hear the seeds rattle. I enjoyed cutting the cantaloupe in half and scraping out the seeds for my father. In those days, it was only in season.

Then, of course, the tomatoes. I read recently that the same genes (or whatever) that are factored in to give them better transportability also actually do detract from the taste. One of my favorite smells is that warm summer sun earthy tomato smell... like a basket of freshly picked tomatoes that have sat in the sun. Oh my.

Second Avenue Subway: My least favorite public works project does it again. Yesterday I got an email that said "thank god you weren't hurt in the explosion" -- what?? Turns out they were doing underground detonation at 72nd and Second and it went wrong. It blew the metal coverings on the road off, broke store windows... saw a woman on tv who lives in a 4th floor apartment and she said she was knocked off her chair. I am glad I don't live in a big building on Second Avenue... I just can't believe underground detonations have no impact on nearby buildings. Miraculously, no one was hurt.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What I'm Reading

There's nothing I would like right more right now than an impossible to put down, page turner book. This book has been on the NY Times Best Seller list for a while. It's about a wife who disappears and of course they look to the husband. The story is told in alternating chapters of the husband talking and the missing wife's diary/journal. I like that format, but it wasn't enough to make me buy.

Then I saw the author on television, and I really liked her. The interviewer loved the book, said she couldn't put it down, and said that she loved that your loyalty switches back and forth between the husband and the wife as it's not clear who's the good guy and who's the bad guy.

The author is this lovely woman in her 30s who has this happy marriage and kids and she writes out of her home in the basement -- she was asked if it's hard to go from the world of the book to her normal family upstairs and she says she made a sign that said, "Leave the creepy in the basement" -- which I liked. Plus she said she will stop writing and give herself 15 minutes of video games or some other transitional activity before she'd go upstairs and be the normal, uncreepy wife.

I ordered it, and it arrived today. Will let you know how I enjoy it.

Tuesday Night Dinner, described on Thursday

I admit; I'm behind. It was one of those things of having my camera, the cable to download and my computer all in the same place at once. Not as easy as you may think. The first picture is of limited interested and primarily for Stephanie. This is the corner of 87th and Lexington -- for a number of years, there was a place there called Mangia, and I think Fran and I ate there once, maybe Barbara and I as well.
I hadn't been there in a while, but I remember two things about it; if you look at the pedestrian crossing sign, you can see there's a table inside the restaurant that was almost like sitting on the sidewalk. It's a busy intersection due to the subway at 86th Street so it is a great vantage point for people watching.

The other thing is not so pleasant. Restrooms in NYC restaurants are often tiny, in the basement, hard to find, down a flight or two of stairs. In this place, there is/was a unisex restroom that was like a closet built into the main dining room. It was like soneone took an old fashioned phone booth and stuck it against a wall -- it protruded into the dining room. So when you're sitting on the pot, you are about 3 feet away from diners. It is a bit embarrassing as you want to be really, really quiet when you're in there. Then the giant flush and you walk out with a big grin on your face.
The former Mangia, now Bocado Cafe

This was Barbara's and my last summer dinner before we go back to our fall schedule of lunches. We went back to Nonna which is the place where I had the cocktail of the day which I enjoyed so much. All day I was thinking (and yearning for) that cocktail. Right before I left to meet Barbara, I got a voice mail from Mac who called to chat. I emailed him saying I was leaving for an early dinner and craving a cocktail of the day and I'd call him the next day. The cocktail of the day was a "blood orange martini" and I knew Mac would be asking me, and I knew he would disapprove of such a wussy martini. So I ordered a Grey Goose Gimlet on the rocks. Oh heavens, it was so bracing and refreshing.

But sure enough, the next day I talked to Mac, told him that I avoided the Blood Orange Martini which I knew he would disapprove of and sure enough he goes into a rant about "people drop a turd in a martini..." and we both finished "and call it a turdatini" so I made the right call.  Of course, I'd be more than willing to defend my cocktail choice, but I'm sort of on the same page as Mac. I'm bored with all the iterations of martinis and this one struck me as an expensive Screwdriver.

This is my meal -- "pasta trio" -- the special for Tuesday. It was delicious. And great for indecisive people who want a taste of several different things. The pasta was cooked so perfectly that I remembered how wonderful al dente pasta is. Firm, just firm, and holding its shape. The one on the left in the front is my favorite -- wide, flat pasta with veal and mushrooms. But even the ziti one was good when the ziti isn't falling apart having had the last ounce of life boiled and baked out of it.

And this is Barbara's dinner -- I can't remember the proper, full name, but she always orders this... it's "brick chicken" and the menu claims they cook this chicken breast under bricks to flatten it out and it's full of spices and comes with the arugula salad. I might have to try it someday, but I so love the parpardelle (the flat thick pasta) with veal ragu and mushrooms, which was one of the pasta trio so I always want to get that.

This is our garlic bread which we love.

Barbara had another glass of wine and I had dessert -- this is "winter citrus pannacotta" with fresh strawberries. I don't think I have had pannacotta -- the waiter said it's his favorite dessert -- and it's like custard, like flan, but 10 times lighter.... just like a puffy, airy flan. Really wonderful with a very light citrus taste and the wonderful fresh ripe strawberries. A perfect light ending to a great dinner.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cable Restored

...but not without incident. As I mentioned, my appointment was 4 to 6 today and I built my day around that. I had gotten an email saying stay close to the phone because we'll call you and if you don't answer the phone in person to say you're home, we skip you.

Well, you know me and how I take things literally. I kept moving the phone around with me. So around 5:15, the phone rang -- it was Time Warner saying they couldn't keep the appointment and I just went ballistic. Both reacting and observing myself, I realized there was definitely a touch of the addict in my response-- BUT I NEED MY TV FIX!

I know I've pitched fits before, and they never worked in my memory, but this one did. The guy puts me on hold and comes back and says they'll send someone but it will be after 6 pm. I said OK. I had been sitting in a big comfy chair reading a novel, and I dozed off, then awakened by the ringing phone. I have three rings before it goes to voice mail. On the first ring, I woke up, totally startled, where am I? who am I? what day is it? What time is it? On the second ring, I answered all those questions and had to quickly hoist myself up from a low upholstered chair and lunged for the phone on the third ring.

So the technician arrived around 6:40 -- a totally lovely woman who fixed my situation in 10 minutes. She gave me a new remote control and added, "Oh, I programmed it for you." Kiss, kiss (in my mind). I offered her a bottle of water which she took and she was on her way.

Another Step Forward; Another Step Back

Ray came yesterday and fixed my kitchen lights. Of course, anything in my home is always of the "out of the ordinary" variety. For example, if a gizmo has a little circle in the middle, mine will have a little triangle. If the typical one has three prongs, mine will have four. And the ones with the little triangle and four prongs are always hard to find to replace them making everything way more complicated than it should. Thus it was with this switch, but he fixed it.

In the meantime, though, the crazy wiring in my apartment caused another problem. The circuit that has the kitchen overhead lights on it (but not the outlets or refrigerator) has my downstairs bathroom light and outlets in my bedroom. Was every electrician drunk when they set up these circuits?

What happened has happened to me before. When Ray turned off the circuit in the kitchen to work on the switch, it turned off power to my TV and cable box. When the dust settled and I went downstairs to watch TV, the actual TV had power, but the cable box was dead as a doornail. As I recall, this is some built in defense so that people can't steal cable boxes or something.

Well, it made me face "My name is Pat and I'm a TV addict" -- I am one of those who has the TV on as background at all times, so it seemed terribly quiet all night. I did have some movies that I had bought months ago on the street to watch, one of whom starred Kris Kristofferson whom I have thought was quite the sexy guy since about 1968 and in this movie he plays the old man who comes home to die. He is clearly the doddering old guy. Hey, he is still sexy to me.

My forced withdrawal won't last long. Quite surprisingly I got the first appointment which is 4 to 6 pm today so that's not bad.

Then Ray is coming back next Saturday to fix the last mouse entry point we know about. It's in a closet upstairs. Still haven't seen any bodies, not for a week now.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Par Levels

When I was writing for the restaurant magazine, I learned about something called par levels. What that meant is that a restaurant would set a minimum level of a particular item and never go below it. For example, they might have 500 cloth napkins as the par level. Then someone I know who is a nurse told me that hospitals have par levels so they never run out of a particular item.

The only par level I have in my home is laundry detergent. I've vowed that I will always have the bottle I'm using and a full backup. That's because there's no replacement for it. I don't want to pull an I Love Lucy by trying dish soap in the washing machine. I know it's the same with dishwasher soap, but I can live without a dishwasher, not so with a washing machine.

So I broke my own rule and am down to about one capfull, one load left, with a whole bunch of laundry so I'll have to get groceries tomorrow. I'm still not used to how much laundry detergent costs.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

One Step Forward; One Step Back

In terms of my assembly woman or council woman or whoever it is, now everyone is denying that this power outage even happened and I got an email today asking if I had brought this to the attention of my building management -- inferring that it was just my building. I said no and I told them to check with Time Warner since that one night the cable outage was widespread enough that Time Warner had it as an outgoing message from customer service ("If you are calling about...")

But I did call Dollar Rental Car. As you may recall, when I showed up for my car when leaving for Oshkosh, there was no car -- that was the fourth straight time what I had reserved weeks in advance wasn't ready. So I had to scramble around and finally got a car from Budget. I don't know what I expected from Dollar, but I just wanted to lodge my complaint.

To make a long story short, I'm getting two $25 vouchers in the mail. Then when I send it the paperwork showing my final bill from Budget, they will consider refunding me the difference between what I would have paid at Dollar and what I ended up paying at Budget... and it's about $200. He volunteered that so I'll get them faxed to them. Made me glad I called.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Better Wednesday

No mouse sightings which always makes it a good day. Turned in my article. A client voluntarily, without my asking, told me that my monthly retainer is being raised starting in October. Heard back from my City Councilwoman's aide who I think is being very responsive about the power outages. So all in all, things are looking up a bit.

Sent flowers to someone today and I like to find a local florist and call them directly. My feeling is that some anonymous FTD order gets short shrift. So in this town, there were three florists. One seemed too fancy and snobby; one seemed too country kitschy and one seemed just right. Of course, I spent time studying each web site.

I could write a book of things that annoy me, and one of them happened today. I call this florist around 10:30 am and get this recorded message about the store hours and how I should call back during the store hours. IT IS THE FRIGGING STORE HOURS RIGHT NOW. I was going to call a different florist, but I decided to give this one another chance so I called 30 minutes later and got a nice woman.

Not much else happening.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

OK Tuesday

Two nice things happened today. I decided my mouse was only a weekend visitor, as he's packed up and left and I haven't seen him since Saturday night. However, I had loads of laundry sorted in front of my washer in the room where I think he gains entry, and I very gingerly sort of poked the laundry on the floor in case he was having a nice little nap but no, he's gone. Please humor me on this.

Yesterday I felt as if my kitchen overhead light switch finally gave up the ghost and there was a buzzing and the lights went out and I thought, OK, time for an electrician. Today the lights wouldn't go on, but just as I was making a sandwich for lunch, the lights went on so I was given another day's reprieve.

It's cooled down; I haven't finished my article that's due tomorrow that I've worn like a millstone around my neck, but I just have to write one more section, a two- or three-sentence beginning and a two- or three-sentence ending and I'm done.

Monday, August 6, 2012

From Bad to Worse

Sure enough, after writing that everything was fine, the power went off again. The TV stayed on, but it kept flickering off so I could watch my shows but had to keep turning the TV back on. Not so for the air conditioner. It was as dead as a doornail.

Tried various things. The plug has those buttons (like a blow dryer has) -- I don't know what they do, but they reset somehow the appliance... that did nothing, plug, unplug, plug, unplug, press buttons, try remote, stamp my foot... then I had an idea that maybe a surge of electricity threw a circuit so I tromp upstairs hoping a circuit was thrown, look in the circuit box, but no such luck.

I opened the garden door and I can't call it a breeze, but it was moving air. I can't call it cool, but it was less warm than inside. Then I opened my bedroom window, same less warm moving air coming in. I was miserable. My pillowcase was literally damp with sweat. Finally fell asleep around 2, and awoke to cool air at 5:15 when I saw a magnificent sight: the little lights of my air conditioner.

I had already decided to screw budgets -- if my a/c was broken, I was just going to buy a new one today. I  was going to see if my homeowner's insurance would have paid for it. God knows I've paid enough premiums to pay for 10 air conditioners and have never had a claim.

I also decided, just to annoy myself, to complain to my city councilwoman. Found her website, and believe it or not, there's no phone number. Had to fill out one of those annoying on line forms... the "don't call us, we'll call you" forms. But I did it anyway. I don't expect anything from it, but I just wanted my voice to be heard.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hating the Second Avenue Subway Sunday

All evening my lights were flickering and I was trying to ignore it and tell myself it's my imagination, but no, eventually the lights went out, the A/C went off and I heard a bunch of sirens. Have no idea what happened. Luckily it was only about 45 minutes and now things seem to be back to normal, but I was getting angry thinking that this can't be good for the appliances to have these flickering periods, followed by a surge of electricity.

Oh, and for the past three days, I've seen a mouse. On Friday night, I decided to just ignore it -- that if I hadn't been in my kitchen at 10 pm, I wouldn't have seen it, but this guy has made its presence known all weekend.

I am tired and crabby, but at least I can watch Hoarders: Buried Alive, followed by The Newsroom on HBO which I am really enjoying.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Lizzie Borden Saturday

Flipping around the television dial yesterday and today to my various paranormal and true crime stations, I was struck by what I thought a coincidence that there were a number of programs about Lizzie Borden. Then I realized that today is the anniversary of the murders -- August 4, 1892.

Here she is - 32 years old at the time of the murders (her father and stepmother.) I have long been interested in this story. In fact, I remember my older sister somehow getting a book about the murders and then giving it to me to read. I think I was about 5ht or 6th grade, and it was one of the first "adult" books I read. I have always thought that Lizzie did it.

Years ago, I went to Fall River, Mass., because the house the murders had taken place in had been converted to a bed and breakfast. I didn't want to stay there, but I was excited to take the house tour and also tour the Fall River Historical Society collection.

By the time I visited Fall River, I must have read a dozen books about the crime and I remember my excitement waiting outside with a handfull of other people waiting for the tour to start to see in person what I had imagined in my mind's eye for so many years.

I also found the house where Lizzie (after being found not guilty) lived out her life until she died in 1927. Her father was very tight with the money, even though he was rich, and Lizzie lived in a big lavish house entertaining a lot of people.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Catching Up Wednesday

My helper Marilyn came today and typically I have prepared what I want to accomplish with her. Not so today. My suitcase was half unpacked, junk mail, laundry, all over. I had to take myself in hand and say that this is what a helper is for: to help me. So she arrived at 10, left at 1 and she unpacked the rest of my suitcase, put it away, folded laundry, wrapped some presents and packaged them to send, went to the dry cleaner, the post office, the bank, etc. and I felt it was time well spent. Without her, I would never have done this on my own.

I am still tired from Oshkosh, as is everyone I talk to who was there. Just tired to the bone, but these days there is not the luxury of taking a few days off. We all had to hit the ground running again. I am looking forward to a Saturday morning of sleeping in late.

I had heard on TV this morning that certain people were getting refunds from their health insurance companies -- this is part of the Affordable Health Care Plan (aka Obamacare) which says that an insurance company must spend 80% of its revenue in actual payments to doctors, hospitals, etc. So I got two things in the mail about my health insurance. The first, and I can scarcely believe this, is that I got one of those checks -- a whopping $108 -- but I'll take it and it was quickly deposited.

Once a year, I have to prove that I'm a business since I have a business health insurance plan and I do this by sending it a certain portion of my tax return for the previous year. In years past, when I faxed it, it would just go into that deep dark insurance company black hole and I'd get a threatening letter that I better send it in. One year, I was close to tears after my third attempt. So last year I faxed it and then also mailed it. That seemed to work and so I did it again this year.

You could mail it in a "supplied envelope" but there was no envelope -- and so they gave the address. When Marilyn was here on July 18, she had faxed it and mailed it and what turns up today was the envelope she mailed being returned for some reason we couldn't understand but it was something about an incomplete address. I had addressed the envelope and so I read the address back to Marilyn (from the original letter) and it was the exact address.

So when Marilyn arrived, I had her call the place (worth her pay alone!) and they had gotten the faxed version, gave me some sort of confirmation number and mumbled something to Marilyn about the address. We both agreed that if I had just mailed it they would blame me in... well, in a New York Minute for doing it wrong.

The envelope that was returned was sent to Manhattan and it's rather appalling it took two weeks for it to be returned to me. All's well that ends well -- at least so far, and I'm $108 richer.