Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Still Battling the Paper Tiger

I may have mastered, or semi-mastered, most of the clutter in my life, but the whole paper thing still bogs me down. I have a really bad habit of not knowing what to do with certain pieces of paper, so they accumulate into a pile which I conveniently shove into a drawer, a cabinet, a shelf, etc.

Today Marilyn was here... well, I'm getting ahead of myself... last time, we started cleaning out this piece of furniture in my bedroom where I had stashed loads of paper. I have an on-going goal of being able to open any drawer, any cabinet, any closet and having the contents be organized. As of right this second, I am about 80% successful.

Today we finished the job in this piece of furniture. I had a bag for paper recycling, a bag for shredding and a bag for non-paper garbage. My most ridiculous and embarrassing find was a big packet of blue cheese salad dressing. That was in a computer bag I also cleaned out. God only knows how long it's been in there. Luckily I'm not a food hoarder even though I'm sure this salad dressing has a shelf life of 20 years, out it went.  Now I have one fewer junk areas in my apartment. I'm getting there.

I have also been thinking of the notion of what I have named "false abundance." Last time Marilyn was here, we cleaned out my bra drawer. I hadn't really seen it until after she left and I was a little taken back when I opened the drawer. It looked so empty! I had to remind myself that this drawer only holds bras I currently wear. Any bra. Any time. That big jumble of bras that I'd have to dig through to find one I wanted is gone, but more importantly, I think that big jumble gave me reassurance (and falsely so) that I got plenty of bras. Well unless I start wearing more than one at a time, I have plenty of bras now.

One last thought: Watching Hoarders has really helped me throw things. I don't believe I have ever been in danger of living like a hoarder, but I remember one show where the shrink/organizer pointed out that hoarders have a little backstory about every item they don't want to part with. Typically I can make a quick decision, even with something like what I am sure was perfectly good salad dressing today, but I know when I hold something in my hand and start to tell Marilyn or myself a story about it, the object has got to go.

Yesterday a friend told me that she told her elderly mother "you left this mess for me to clean up." Meaning the clutter and mess and hoardery-ness of her life. That has been a big motivation to me. When I imagine Mary or whoever cleaning out my apartment when I keel over, I want it to be as easy as possible for whoever gets stuck with that task.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Feeling like an Idiot

Somehow, a number of weeks ago, I turned on a function on my computer which activated the camera/microphone. This was a tool bar about 4 inches long and an inch high and it constantly got in theway on the screen. I could move it around, but I couldnt for the life of me figure out how to get rid of it. I moved that bar around 100 times a day. No exaggeration. Just now, it was annoying me and, on the spur of the moment, I tried the right click on the mouse. Oh yeah, there is was -- a little window that said "close" and I clicked that it was gone. I couldn't believe my eyes, but more importantly, I can't believe I hadn't figured that out before.

Meantime, on another plane of petty annoyances, I had opened this package of cheese spread and inside was a folded up consumer questionnaire about where you bought the cheese, had you bought it before -- maybe about 20 questions. I was just looking at it and thinking why would I take the time to fill that out, use my own envelope, postage, etc. In other words, what's in it for me?

I wasn't wearing my glasses so I couldn't read the fine print, and I started thinking maybe the company would send me a coupon for a free package of cheese which would be good since it's close to $6.00. No such luck. The offer was one dollar by return mail. I'd heard yesterday that a first class stamp is now 46 cents, so I'd do all that work for 54 cents? I don't think so. It seems like penny-wise/pound-foolish so in the trash it went.

Certainly I must have a third boring, senseless story to tell...Let's see... Ah, the weather. After having bitter in the teens and 20s weather this past week, it's now warming up and by Wednesday it's supposed to be 60 degrees which I will welcome. I will enjoy opening the garden door and letting some fresh air in.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Love Me Some Richard Gere

ANetflix recommendation -- it's a Richard Gere movie called "Arbitrage" -- the description reads: As billionaire Robert Miller struggles to divest his entire empire before his fraud is brought to light, fate takes a nasty turnh. Now desperate and running out of options, Miller turns to an unlikely source for help. Rated R.

I'll spill the beans and say the "nasty turn" is the accidental death, caused by him, of his mistress. Susan Sarandon plays Richard Gere's wife -- of course, he's the billionaire. I have always liked him, really for years, and so at first I was sympathetic to him, but he's not a good guy and I finally was laughing and thinking if you are sick of the rich getting richer, this movie shows at least one rich guy getting his come-uppance. I'd give it three stars, with an additional half star if you are a Richard Gere fan.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Technology Marches On

I follow Sandra Bernhart on Twitter -- I'm not sure why since I am not a particular fan, but I enjoy how she expresses herself. She just posted this (well, the beginning of it on Twitter, then continued on her web site) and it's such a lovely nugget of prose. I identify with it, how the world is so much more complex. Here's what she writes:

January 24, 2013 just found out my darling great aunt birdie passed away she was born in 1911 lived to be 102 of sound mind. found out about it via email as my taxi driver made a u turn on 23rd onto 9th ave. remember when it used to be a call at home when you had time to process it all? on a stationary phone from bell electric where you might be able to sit down take a deep breath and have a good cry.

me again: Today a client told me how he can set his voice mail system to take an incoming voice mail and turn it into text and send it to him as an email. When I try to wrap my head around that, it makes me squint my eyes. The only thing I could say is "Whatever happened to those pink phone message slips that said "While You Were Out?" I miss them.

But where's the "before?"

Amy spent a long weekend in Paris visiting her daughter and has just now sent this photo:

Gee, she left the lemon wedge! This reminds me of the old fashioned cartoons where the cat would stick a whole fish in its mouth and then pull it out again, stripped of all the meat and you'd have a fish skeleton.  Amy writes: Well it was pretty, too, but i was hungry! If money was no object i would eat here most nights. Oh well. Great weekend.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pie Day

Looking at the lineup of pies today, I am reminded that it is the pit of winter. Having it be 12 degrees when I got up this morning was another good clue. So we will still continue to celebrate National Pie Day with these offerings:

  • RITZ NUT TORTE with Freshly Whipped Cream
  • HOT MINCE PIE with Rum Sauce
  • PUMPKIN PIE with Whipped Cream

  • My first definite no (well, my only definite no) is Mince Pie, made worse by rum sauce. Never cared for either of those, much less in combination.

    If it were summer, I might do the peach, but not with canned peaches.

    I am curious about the Ritz Nut Torte, but wonder if the "ritz" is about crackers which doesn't really appeal to me. It reminds me of some horrid recipe that people make for the Ladies Aid Pot Luck Supper-- like stuff made with Lipton Onion Soup Mix or Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup. Of course, I sound like a food snob when we all know darn well that if you put something in front of me whose key ingredient was either onion soup mix or canned cream of chicken soup, I'd scarf it right up.

    Graham Cracker Creme Meringue also sounds interesting, but I'd want to know more about the creme. It must be fancy if they've changed the spelling from cream to creme.

    So I think I'll be a traditionalist and go with the Dutch Apple, yes, with ice cream and a big steaming mug of great black coffee.

    I found a picture that approximates what I want. I don't know what the drizzly sauce is, but it looks good to me. HAPPY NATIONAL PIE DAY!

    Monday, January 21, 2013

    Celebrate with Me

    Just received an important email alert from the restaurant in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, that has the great pies. In a New York Minute will be observing National Pie Day. The email reads:

    NATIONAL PIE DAY is an important occasion at Schreiner's, and we want you to enjoy it with us! On Wednesday January 23rd we will take $1 off the price of each slice of pie we sell, all day long. That's right, our Pie Happy Hour prices will be good throughout the day, so come in for a slice of Freshly Baked Pie from Schreiner's Bakery. Mark your calendars: Wednesday is NATIONAL PIE DAY!

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    Fran Finds Spring

    While out for a stroll, Fran found these crocuses somewhat rushing the season. In New York today, it's 52 degrees. We seem to have very mild weather, then one day of cold. By the way, on Friday when I said it was so cold, I hadn't realized that the heat and hot water had gone off. It was fixed by the time I woke up on Saturday morning.

    Friday, January 18, 2013

    One Success, One Failure

    I was true to my word and just now (at my self-inflicted Friday deadline) filled out the rodent control "contact me" form at Pest Away. I tried three times and each time it said something like "unable to receive form; try again later.) I hate when I build up my resolve to do something and can't. So I'll try them on Monday.

    On the positive accomplishment side, I did make an appointment today for tax preparation. That's another thing I hate. I have gone to the same accountant for probably 30 years and he's nice as can be and it's as pleasant as it can be, but I still hate it.

    Furthermore, it is chilly beanos in New York. Man, is it cold!

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    PS to Yesterday

    I heard a couple of times on TV about a YouTube video about a mouse and a college student, and I finally saw it this morning. A student had a mouse trapped in his wastebasket from his dorm room and decides to take it outside and let it go free.

    The video starts with the student tipping the can over and you can see the mouse running out.  They are in a slightly wooded area, sort of an area you'd see beyond a parking lot. You hear the student saying, "good luck" and he calls the mouse by name (Whiskers) as the mouse scurries off.

    The guy filming him asks him how he feels about setting the mouse free and, as he's answering, you see this big bird, like a hawk, sweep in and clearly take the mouse. The student who set him free says, "He didn't last five minutes!" I have to say it was pretty funny, at least to me.

    Then the student goes on, feeling guilty that he sent the mouse to his death. That mouse lasted about 15 seconds in the wild. I had the image of this in my head all day, and it's made me smile.

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    I'm Queen of De-Nial

    You knew this topic was going to come up again, didn't you? Yes, my four legged creatures are back to torment me. I had not seen hide nor hair (or cocki) of a mouse since about two days before Hurricane Sandy. I convinced myself that "my" mice had been drowned in the hurricane.
    I really did believe they were gone. I have had years at a stretch where I didn't see a mouse and I convinced myself that I was in one of those periods.
    As you may recall, I contacted an exterminator, after doing at least 10 minutes of research, to come and do rodent prevention. This exterminator was awarded a prize for being "best" in NYC. Of course, they didn't respond. I filled in an on-line form to be contacted.
    So today, I went into my kitchen to make lunch and I hear that familiar rustle-rustle in the trash bin. Oh no, it couldn't be. Just then, the critter made itself visible. on top of the garbage and then went back in. The bin was only about 1/3 full so with about three seconds' hesitation, I snatched up the bag. It was one of those "handle ties" but I didn't stop to tie the handles. I held the bag, stiff-armed in front of me, as if I were transporting a bomb that was about to go off.
    Out I went to the garbage cans where the bag, still untied, was deposited.
    I wrote Mary to whine and said that I just can't face the intrusion of having the exterminator people come. I just want to be left alone. So now I'm outing myself and publicly making the commitment to contact them again. It's not even a money issue (well, I would prefer to spend money on a lavender scrub youth inducing facial and massage). I do have to pat myself on the back for my bravery at snatching up the bag. I knew I only had a matter of seconds to make a decision before it scampered out again. The other thing I've procrastinated about is buying a kitchen garbage bin that has a lid on it. Ok, first things first. I'll contact the exterminator and I'll give myself by week's end to do it. 

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    Foggy Night In DC

    It's been so mild here -- in the 40s and low 50s. I had told Mary that I was having trouble sleeping earlier in the week -- just couldn't get comfortable until I had the brilliant idea of opening a window. So when I opened my bedroom window about 1/2 inch, it was literally a (cool) breath of fresh air and I haven't closed it since. Today I opened my bedroom window more and had the door to the garden open a foot or so and didn't close the garden door until about 9 pm.

    So here's a foggy night in DC town with Mary's description. I'm playing off "A foggy night in London town" which I believe is a song from the 30s or 40s, but I'm not sure.

    This is from Mary's new screened in porch:
    Mary writes: Looking out the front of the porch at night in the fog. The fog was supposed to lift this morning I thought, and it did, but it came back much heavier tonight.
      Now they say it will be here til 9 or so tomorrow morning, which will make rush hour fun.

    Ladyparts I Didn't Know I Had

    I'm just about finished (and have really enjoyed) this Ann Rule true crime book which is about eight different true stories. She uses an expression I've never heard before -- and this is bad, but it makes me laugh when I read it. She uses the expression vaginal vault. It makes me think of a little safety deposit box down there. ("Let me just tuck this away in my vaginal vault for safekeeping.")  So I checked it out on wikipedia and here's what it is: The vaginal vault is the expanded region of the vaginal canal at the internal end of the vagina.

    A number of her stories are murders that took place in the 1970s which she wrote about back then and now for this new book she has updated and done "Whatever happened to...?" since a number of the murderers have been released. I still embrace the notion that if you kill someone, you're in jail for life, but no more. Anyway, it's odd that back in the 1970s, there was no DNA testing -- and all they could do was test for blood type to see if the blood type matched the victim or the perpetrator. What a boon DNA has been to crime solving.

    Friday, January 11, 2013

    OMG! I'm in Style!

    I hired a woman from Craig's List to come to my home for a haircut, and she has just left, and I really like what she did. Stephanie will appreciate I am probably the easiest customer to please, however. She suggested a bob, so I said OK. She said her mother has fine, thinning hair as I do and she gave her mother a bob and I figured she wouldn't do her mother wrong so it was fine with me. It's slightly longer in the front than the back, parted the usual way and it basically looks like a cleaned up version of what I look like.

    As she's doing the styling, I said, "I should have a hot date for tonight" and she said "It's not too late to get one" and I thought, "yes, it is."

    Amanda is 20 years old, sweet as can be, really delightful. She is Maltese (on her mother's side) and Dominican (on her father's side) so she has an interesting look. She is TINY. I couldn't resist and I said to her, "So you're the person who buys the pants that I see in a department store and wonder who the heck could fit into these."

    She has worn size 00 pants. That's double-zero pants. Now she's gained some weight and she wears either size 0 or size 3. She claims she "eats like a pig" and has trouble gaining weight. Right now she weighs 94 pounds and wants to weigh 120. I joked that most women in the country would hate her for that problem. She said her doctor told her that -- that he's not used to giving advice on how to gain weight, but she is now drinking protein shakes between meals. Maybe in my next life.. I didn't think she looked skinny or anorexic, just petite. .

    She told me she is designing her own line of hairbands and I asked about them and she said some were "hippie" headbands. This is when we were just chatting after she was finished. I told her I was her age in the hippie days and went and got my college yearbook from 1971 and she was absolutely fascinated by it. I told her she could borrow it, and she was thrilled. Really?? she kept saying.

    In fact, if I never saw her again and lost the yearbook, I really wouldn't care. But we did talk about coloring my hair -- she wants to do mahogany which is fine with me. So maybe I'll call her again in a few weeks.

    One funny thing about her age -- I asked her about why people emigrated from Malta -- her mother came here as a child. Was there some sort of revolution or were people just coming here for better opportunities?  I told her the super in the building is from Malta and she said there are lots of Maltese supers. That is such a New York thing... Greek coffee shops, Korean manicure places, Palestinian cigarette/candy stores -- and now Maltese supers.

    Anyway, she said that her Maltese grandfather was a cook during World War.... and she hesitated... World War Two? World War Three? she asked herself aloud. Uh, sweetie, there was no World War Three. Not yet anyway.... but I didn't say that and she finally said, "Yes, World War Two."

    Oh, and she was admiring her work when she was leaving and then said "You know, bobs are in style now." Oh my God. I'm in style!

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    Scattered Thoughts

    I am getting my hair cut tomorrow. Stephanie won't be surprised that I'm long overdue. Mary and I have often talked about how we're OK with our hair and it's growing and all is OK and then one morning you wake up and it's totally unacceptable and you want to rip it out by the roots.

    I had some lo mein for lunch today and decided I hate water chestnuts. They are useless and tasteless.

    I have had the window in my bedroom open for the past few days -- not a lot, but about one-half inch. It's been so mild that the cool air is refeshing.

    I'm really enjoying this Ann Rule true crime book. The first story was about that couple where the woman disappeared one snowy night and the police suspected the husband who had some wacky alibis. They had two sons, and this is the one where, very sadly, the father, on a supervised visitation, barred the social worker from coming in his house when she came with the two little boys and then the father set the house on fire and the three of them died as the social worker stood outside frantically calling 911. The second story -- and I'd seen these people on Dr Phil about a year ago -- it took place in Coronado, California, and a 6-year old boy died from a fall in the house which no one could really explain. He was critically injured. Two days later, the father's live in girlfriend was found hanging from a balcony with her hands and legs bound and the police ruled her death a suicide which makes no sense. I've just started the third story -- I say "story" but these are all true crimes -- and it's an elderly couple who are found murdered in their home. They were wealthy philanthopists and there was no robbery so we'll see what happens there.

    In the first story where the woman disappears, the police later find a safe deposit box she had in which was a letter saying if anything happens to her that her husband did it. She said in this letter if it looks like an accident, look at my husband. You hear about this frequently. What I don't understand is if you think your spouse is going to kill you, why are you hanging around? I don't understand why these people don't leave. She had a good job so she could support herself and her two boys.

    My cleaning woman told me today that her daughter is pregnant -- she's been married three years. Of course, I remember this daughter as a little girl, but she has since grown up, gotten a master's degree, got married and now she'll be a mother. Ana's mother accompanied her today -- she's living with Ana for the time being and I was teasing Ana about being an "abuela" (grandmother) and I asked her what the Spanish word for great-grandmother is -- and I couldn't understand what she was saying. The first word sounded like "beeze" so I'll have to look into that.

    Monday, January 7, 2013

    Good News

    I finally talked to the property management guy, after having left three voice mails for him to contact me. In the first one, I was cheerful, in the second one, I was cordial and in the third one I was annoyed. He almost instantly called me back, and I hate that I couldn't get a timely response when I was still feeling friendly.

    So the good news is that he was totally open to my just sending him the receipts for reimbursement from Rotor Rooter. Zero argument; he didn't even seem interested in hearing about it. I'll stick them in the mail and get that going.

    Even if I wouldn't have been reimbursed, I am still glad that I took matters into my own hands and got it fixed. Knock on wood: no problems since.

    Sunday, January 6, 2013

    Weird, but Good

    I have built-in shelves, cabinets in my bedroom in this odd shaped mini-alcove and one of the features is a place for dirty clothes. There's a bin whose door pulls down and out like how a dishwasher opens and inside there's a metal basket for laundry.

    So on Thursday, I pulled it open to put something in the laundry and the one side came off the hinge. I fiddled with it for a while, but it looked really broken -- the one side was literally separated from the built in, hanging down. I thought oh well, next time the handy man comes he can fix it.

    Today I went to get the basket out to do laundry and I gingerly opened the door, pulled it down, and the hinge was totally normal. I felt like one of those cartoon characters where their eyes pop out of the sockets. It was so strange because on Thursday, I couldn't get the door to stay closed, and I just wanted it to look cosmetically good until I could get it fixed so it took me several tries to get that door to stay closed.

    I looked at the fixed hinge, looked skyward and said "thank you angels" -- I really have no explanation for this. I know with 100% certaintly that it was broken because I saw it with my own eyes, but I remember also thinking "damn  it, it's always something." One explanation is that Ana (who came on Thursday) fixed it, but she is not handy that way and also she has no reason to even touch that cabinet door or use it to put a piece of laundry in. When she changes the sheets, she carries them to the washing machine.

    Maybe it was easier to fix than I thought and it somehow snapped back in again -- I don't know, but it surely didn't look like that easy a fix on Thursday.

    So however it happened, I am grateful it's fixed!

    Friday, January 4, 2013

    Photos from Mary

    Of course I read Mary's email before I knew what the photo was. Mary wrote: Imagine him crying, wailing with his nose pressed to the door trying to get out. I thought she was talking about her date last night. Ok, bad joke, but I couldn't resist. It reminds me of the old joke making the trade show rounds back in the 80s of a man saying, "There was a woman last night pounding on the door of my hotel room, yelling, screaming" and you think "wow, that's a weird story" and then the punchline is "And so I decided to let her out."

    This is actually the door to Mary's new screened in porch where she had considered putting in a cat door, but then decided against it. Milo has been very confused by this addition. I said to Mary if she woke up one day and there was an extra room in her house she'd never seen, she'd be confused too.

    These two are the DC Court of Appelas building where Mary reported for jury duty yesterday. It's one day or one trial (which is what NY is as well) and Mary didn't get chosen so she has now done her civic duty. The statue is Abraham Lincoln.

    Thursday, January 3, 2013

    Scandal and Other Thoughts

    Marilyn had asked me if I watched thiis TV show called Scandal, starting its second season. I'd never heard of it, and she said it's based on a real African-American woman in Washington DC who helps people navigate through scandals. She said you can get the first season via Netflix, so I added it to my queue and put it at the top.

    Next thing I know, I got the Netflix email that I was going to get a DVD that was not Scandal and I thought that I must have screwed up. Then when I returned Into the Abyss, it said that Scandal was next on my list and I thought FINALLY! But then the next email -- the one that tells you what you're getting is a totally different DVD. So I went to the Netflix site, and noticed that yes, Scandal is at the top of my queue, but by it, there's the note VERY LONG WAIT.

    Wow. I've never had that. I wonder how long a "very long wait" is. I guess this is one of those things where the show suddenly has caught on. New programs started tonight, but I want to watch it from the beginning so I understand the characters.

    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    What I'm reading, watching, listening to

    This is a book Barbara passed along to me, and laziness got me started reading. I had already plopped myself down, only to realize my current book was in the other room and this one was within reach on a side table so I picked it up. I'm about one-third of the way through, and am really enjoying it. It takes place during World War II and then in 1986. There's an Asian boy (during the war) who is an outcast because of his ethnicity, and he is ageing and reflective in 1986. It's a very gentle, slow-moving book, and the characters and time and place (Seattle) are interesting and different.

    I watched "Into the Abyss" from Netflix this afternoon. Here's the description: Director Werner Herzog's compelling documentary examines the emotional aftermath of a triple murder in Texas, interviewing the two convicted killers, their relatives, the victims' families and law-enforcement officials involved in the case.

    Both the killers and the victims had sad lives. I thought this was going to be more about the details of the crime --sort of an anatomy of a crime, but it was more an anti-death penalty movie. I enjoyed it. I am not that familiar with Werner Herzog, but I enjoyed his questioning -- you didn't see him, but you heard his voice off camera. I was touched by the respect he showed all participants.

    The most interesting part of the movie, for me, was a prison official who talked about the actual death penalty, and how he made himself unofficially a prisoner advocate by explaining to them in detail what would happen down to every last move. He was the one who arranged their last meal (make mine lobster mac and cheese) and even though he prided himself of doing things by the book and to the letter of the procedure, he would treat the convicted person humanely.

    He worked at 120 executions -- he said at one point they were having two a week. After one -- and I can't remember her name... Carla?? Remember her? She was the convicted murderer turned Christian who got a lot of sympathy since she was a totally different person. Anyway, he served at her execution and it was the first time he'd served at an execution of a female. He was really a Texas prison guard straight from Central Casting -- a big good old boy. He also had the job of unstrapping the dead body and getting it ready for the funeral home to pick up. Anyway, after this woman's execution, he went to his office and started shaking and couldn't stop and finally talked to the prison chaplain, eventually quit his job and has become anti-death penalty.

    The other thing that intrigued me is the daughter of one of the victims who went to the prison to witness the execution which holds zero appeal to me. I just don't understand why you'd want to put yourself through that. She was saying how wonderful it was to be at the execution and how it lifted a weight off her shoulders, and how she thought the murderer was a big monster but seeing him lying on the gurney she saw he was "just a boy." And that made her feel better?

    As a Netflix, I would recommend this documentary. It's not as dark as it sounds.

    I have not had a current CD in years, but after seeing Alicia Keyes on two talk shows, I really liked her, liked her music and liked her as a person. You may know her from the American Express commercial where she's on stage and she sings "This girl is on fire." -- That's the name of this CD: Girl on Fire.

    On one show she sang this song -- Brand New Me -- which I instantly liked. That's rare. It's a modern, slower, softer song similar to the Gloria Gaynor classic "I will survive." She is singing this to her old boyfriend who has come back, but she's wiser now, and tells him so in a lovely way.

    So I bought this CD -- I feel just so damn cool -- and I have really enjoyed Alicia. This girl is on fire.