Tuesday, January 26, 2010

4 Months and Counting Since I Unplugged the TV....

My cousin Nina mentioned to me (by email) that I hadn't talked about living without TV in awhile.  Funny.  That was the focus of my blog when I started. 

I used to come home after work and turn on the TV.  First thing.  Now my TV only gets turned on when I watch my two Netflix movies per month, or when I watch a DVD.  I watched Get Shorty a couple weeks ago.  I love that movie.  I also watched a VHS tape (OMG!) of It's a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve.  My daughter gave me the DVD of Inglourious Basterds for Christmas, but I haven't taken the plastic off yet.  Watching my TV set has become an "event" instead of just background noise in my condo. 

That being said I have found that the Internet is just as addicting and time-consuming as TV.  I boot up my laptop every evening and
  1. Check my facebook account.  OMG facebook.  I don't spend as much time on facebook as I did when I first signed up.  I don't play Farmville anymore.  BUT I do spend a lot of time commenting on my friends' posts and clicking on links - and then those links often lead to other links - and more links.
  2. Check my Google mail.  I set this account up when some A-hole hijacked my Yahoo address book on Christmas Day and sent all my contacts emails with ads for Canadian Viagra.  I actually had one friend who asked why I had sent it to her.  sigh.  I think it hurt her feelings that I thought she needed Canadian Viagra.  I had to explain the hijacking thing and then I pointed out (kindly, I thought) that WOMEN  don't take Viagra anyway.  dur.  (BTW... is Canadian Viagra different than American Viagra?  I've never dated a Canadian guy....)
  3. Check my Yahoo mail.  Because some people will NEVER update my email address to the new Google address no matter how many times I ask them.
  4. Check my Hotmail mail.  Because there are still a couple people who have never updated to the Yahoo mail.  I must be the most patient friend in the world. 
  5. Check my Blogger home page and read the Blogs I'm following.  Sometimes I comment on their blogs, or click on the blogs  they are following and so on and so on.
  6. Check my bank account.  That doesn't take long.  sigh.
  7. Read the local paper online because someone always wants to TALK to me during my break at work when I'm TRYING to read the local paper. Reading the paper online tends to lead to reading the Jacksonville news online which can lead to watching short video clips of interest.
  8. And maybe write something on my own blog.
Seriously, I was doing all this online stuff AND watching TV before I unplugged the TV so I don't feel too bad about it.  It does cut into my WRITING.

As far as TV is concerned the Winter Olympics, the Oscars, and some TV series I miss will be on.  When I was a kid, if I missed an episode of something, that was it.  I had one chance to maybe catch the rerun in the summer.  Now, between listening to the radio and accessing the Internet, information is always available.  If I'm still interested next September when my project is complete, I can Netflix or Hulu to my heart's content and catch up on my favorite story lines and characters.  We'll see.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

St. Augustine: an afternoon stroll

One of the joys of working in downtown St. Augustine is being able to play tourist.  I brought my camera to work today and promised myself an afternoon of taking pictures and just walking around.  I looked forward to it all day.

At the end of my workday I stuffed a few dollars into my pants pocket and unhooked my car key from my main key chain.  I pocketed my car key and put the rest of my keys in my purse.  I debated taking my cell phone, then put it in my other pocket.  I left my office about 3:15pm (I work 7am-3pm with just a short breakfast break at 10:00.) and placed my purse in the trunk of my car.  I slung my camera over my shoulder and strolled out of the parking lot.  Even though the sun was shining brightly it was still pretty cold, and I found myself hunching in my corduroy jacket.  I pulled the sleeves down around my cold fingers and picked up my pace.

As I walked past houses dating back to the late 1800's I watched for good photo opportunities.  I also watched where I was stepping because the sidewalks are uneven and St. George Street is paved with brick to give it that old cobblestone look.  I've stumbled more than once because I stepped into a hole while I was staring at some interesting piece of architecture! 

I turned east on Bridge Street and I could see the Matanzas River sparkling in the afternoon sunlight.  I walked a couple blocks east and snapped this photo.  The building on the left is the Kenwood Inn  - notice how it's built right on the street. 

I backtracked to Aviles Street (the oldest street in the oldest city) and walked past the Casa de Solana Bed & Breakfast whose main building was erected about 1803 or so.  Then past a series of shops that beckoned to me with antique maps and books, jewelry, pottery, and art.  Today I would not succumb to the temptation of shopping.  I was on a mission to relax, take photos, and enjoy my town.

If you're walking north on Aviles Street it ends at the Plaza de la Constitucion.  Most southern towns have a square in the middle of town.  Because our city was planned and built by the Spanish we have a plaza.  It is rectangular and contains several monuments, a gazebo, large, stately trees - cedars and live oaks mostly, a structure known as The Market, and several cannons.  I strolled around the plaza and snapped some pictures and just enjoyed being outside. I even sat for a few minutes on a bench, but it was still too cold to do that for long.

I turned my attention back to walking and headed over to St. George Street again.  North of the Plaza St. George Street becomes a pedestrian walkway bordered by shops and restaurants.  I hurried because I was not shopping today and quickly turned east on Hypolita Street.  Facing east I could see the waterfront again.  Tourists were out in abundance enjoying the sunshine and warmer temperatures.  I passed two cafes that had recently closed.  The economic downturn has wreaked havoc on our locally-owned restaurants and shops.  I slowed as I passed Claude's Chocolates, but I did not stop.  Claude is French and crafts the most exquisite Belgian chocolates...I must stop as my mouth is watering.  The light looked interesting on Charlotte Street so I headed north.  A large motel backs up to Charlotte Street on the east side of the street so no photo ops there.  I turned west on Cuna Street and noticed that a toy store had been replaced by a book shop.  I made a note to come back and spend some time browsing in there! 

By this time I had been walking for 45 minutes and I was getting cold and thinking a hot cup of coffee would be delicious.  I turned left on St. George Street and headed to Cafe de Hidalgo.  This little cafe serves delicious gelato, all kinds of delicious coffees, and sandwiches.  Just as I opened my mouth to order a coffee to go I saw the handwritten board that advertised Mexican Hot Chocolate.  Oh, my.  I ordered the Mexican Hot Chocolate.  Made with real chocolate (not a powdered mix), milk, cinnamon, and a dash of hazelnut, it sounded too wonderful to pass up.  The woman at the register said it would be about 5 minutes so I grabbed a small table and relaxed for a few minutes.

There was a couple sitting next to me - the man and woman looked to be in their early thirties.  A server brought out huge cups of coffee to them.  Then a server brought out a huge piece of apple pie a la mode and served it to the man.  I wasn't the only one who noticed; several of us were taking covert peeks at what looked like heaven-on-a-plate.  It was huge so the assumption was that the man and woman were sharing it, but no!  Another server brought out the biggest piece of cake I have ever seen!  Seriously, this looked to be almost a quarter of a very tall cake!  Someone at another table said, "I guess they're not sharing!" and giggled.  The woman who had ordered the cake looked mortified, but we all started giggling at the huge piece of cake and she seemed to relax.  She leaned over to me and offered to share.  I told her thanks, but no thanks.  I asked her where they were from, and she replied, "England".  I apologized for our extremely cold weather (We Floridians tend to take responsibility for the weather, you know.)  She said they were having a great time, and we agreed, "At least it's not raining!"  She added, "Or snowing!" and I had to tell her that we had had snow on Saturday just 30 miles south.  She was stunned and amazed.  I picked up my hot chocolate and bid them farewell.

I strolled back to my car - taking another 30 minutes or so to get there.  What a great afternoon!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

HARLEY - Six Years Old - and Counting...

I took down my Christmas trees today.  I was picking stray pieces of plastic and lint off the carpet when something caught my eye under my desk in one of Harley's beds(1).  I got down on my hands and knees, looked closely under my desk, and gasped.  Shards of glass glittered up from the brown and tan cotton-covered bottom of his bed.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  The *FLB had chewed up a glass ornament.

I looked at him.  He looked at me.  "What?!" he seemed to say.

You're probably thinking, "Well, did you rush him to the Emergency Clinic?"

You're new to this blog, aren't you.  No, I didn't rush him to the Emergency Clinic, and I probably won't mention it at his next vet appointment.  It's been weeks since I first put up the tree, and weeks since any ornaments would have hit the ground and not been noticed by me.  Whatever he's eaten or swallowed has been through his system and exited.  And, before you call PETA on me, I saw quite a bit of glass in there; it could be that he didn't swallow any of it.

Besides, sigh, this isn't the first time the *FLB has chewed on something or eaten something that should have, at the very least, made him really sick. 

He stole one of my granddaughter's small stuffed animal and hid it in his bed after one of her visits.  Sibling rivalry.  I found it and saw a small hole chewed in it and threw it away.  Later I was vacuuming the carpet and all of a sudden I heard, "clinkaclinkaclink" as a lot of small somethings rattled through the machine.  I stopped and, yes, got down on my hands and knees, and felt around his bed.  There were hundreds of small pearl-sized plastic balls next to his bed and in his bed.  Had he shaken them out of the little stuffed animal?  Probably.  If he'd sucked them out I think they would have been gooey with Harley liquids.  Had he thrown up recently?  No.  Anything unusual in his....spoor?  (Classy word, eh?)  No, but I don't get up close and personal with his...spoor.  I shrugged and cleaned up the rest of the little balls.

A co-worker and friend who has since returned to the Czech Republic (Hi, Luci!) created a beautiful and original Christmas gift with cookies and birthday candles.  I displayed it on my table under my Christmas tree for a weekend.  When I returned from work on Monday it was gone.  Not a gram of cookie or candle anywhere.  I interrogated the *FLB but he denied any knowledge of said gift.  I watched his...spoor...for several days and did see flashes of yellow, but chose not investigate further. 

When I brought this dog home from the pound he was one year old.  It was January.  So I celebrate his birthday in January.  The date is flexible; it depends when dog products go on sale and I find something inexpensive (CHEAP) and appropriate for the *FLB.  So far I haven't found anything that, A. the little guy wouldn't just chew and eat in one sitting (rubber/plastic), or B. something that the *FLB will use to spread stuff all over my carpet for months (braided rag chews).   His toys currently consist of :

1.  a small tire purchased by my brother that is advertised as INDESTRUCTIBLE and is made of tire-grade rubber.  I can vouch that, although the *FLB has invested many hours gnawing on the tire, it looks as new as the day he got it.
2. a rock that the *FLB stole from my office.  I brought the rock back from a beach in Nova Scotia.  It is a ragged piece of quartz and I was using it to prop open the compartment door where I keep my computer tower and modem.  Since both machines can run hot I like to keep the door propped open.  (Why did I buy a desk that had a closed compartment?  I don't know.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.)  So I used to use the rock to prop the door open, but I would come home from work and the rock would be missing.  I would find it in Harley's bed.  I finally gave up and let him keep it.  Although it does embarrass me when I have company and he brings out his rock.  "What's that?" they will ask.  sigh.  "That's his rock," I will explain.  "BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
3. a red and green un-stuffed thing from which all the stuffing has been removed and spread all over my house (I removed the squeaker); he just likes to chew on the fabric.

He used to have one of those really hard plastic Nylabones that's supposed to be safe for dogs, but I can't find it.

*FLB=Freakin' Little Bastard

(1)  In the Old Days dogs were lucky to have a towel or some other rag on which to sleep.  My childhood pets slept outside. Even Lassie slept on the floor at the foot of Timmy's bed - no special bed for Lassie!   Now they have dog beds and, evidently, one is not enough.  You should have a dog bed in every room so your dog will have somewhere safe and comfortable to sleep in every room.  (It's Me or the Dog)  Harley has a crate and 2 dog beds.  I am so politically correct. 

Friday, January 8, 2010


What the heck!?

OK.  This is Florida. Sunshine.  Beaches.  Oranges.  Manatees.  Miami Vice.  You know.

So, please, what the heck kind of weather forecast is this?

The HIGH for today was 39 and the LOW is 38?! 

And here's the latest:

Slight chance of snow flurries after midnight

I know you guys up north have no sympathy for us down here.  Please remember that it was just a few years ago we had hurricanes up the wazoo - back & forth & back & forth.  Then the next year - more hurricanes!  We were all over the news.  Remember?  Isn't that enough?  Before that (and before I moved here) it was the embarrassing 2000 election with the hanging chads.  And Floridians have been laughed at for decades about their early bird specials, old folks, swampland for sale, and cockroaches the size of small dogs.

What makes all the humiliation bearable is knowing that while you are freezing your cans off in January we are wearing shorts!  And when we are sweating in July with our 95 degree heat and 150 percent humidity we know that the rest of you will be shoveling snow out of your driveways so you can go to work in February!  So what if we have snakes in our backyards living under buckets?  You have constant rain and fog and cold weather during the winter.  Hurricanes?  You guys have earthquakes and fires and tornadoes and ice storms and blizzards!

So when we have a whole week of really cold weather we get crabby.  And when the weather forecasters have the nerve to mention the "snow" word....well, we can get downright ugly. 

I may just sleep until Friday - when it will be in peeking distance of 70 degrees.  BAH HUMBUG!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Ultimate Beauty Tool

I purchased a package of cotton swabs the other day and, as I had nothing better to do, I read the package. I was shocked at the variety of tasks that that these little cotton sticks could perform. 

First of all you can use them for FIRST AID.  Next time I cook dinner and I chop part of a finger off (I'm quite the chef, you know)  I am going to grab a cotton swab.  The cotton will absorb the blood and I can use the pressure from the stick to stop the bleeding.  I bet EMTs have to carry a boxful on their trucks.  Picture them arriving at a car wreck, or at a condo where a chef is bleeding to death from an amputated finger.  "Ralph, grab the cotton swabs! We have a bleeder!"  Cotton swabs make great splints also - as long as you have enough of them.

Second, you can use cotton swabs to CLEAN AND DUST ELECTRONICS.  I've been using those stupid cans of air to clean my laptop keyboard.  Silly me.  I have a couple TVs that are gathering dust, and an all-in-one printer/fax/scanner, and a CD player.  My goodness.  I'm going to have to buy more cotton swabs!

Third, BABY CARE.  The picture on the box shows a baby staring warily at a cotton swab sitting in front of his nose.  We all know where that cotton swab is going and it's not going to be pretty when it comes out.  I'm glad the box doesn't go into any more detail.  I really don't want to see boogers in advertising.  I don't have a baby and I don't plan on having a baby, but I do have two small grandchildren and a third on the way.  My granddaughter is 3 and seems to enjoy taking care of her own nose with her very own finger at this stage.  Maybe I'll give her a box of cotton swabs.

I don't see cotton swabs replacing baby wipes any time soon, though.  Gross.

Fourth, HOUSEHOLD USE.  The picture shows a cotton swab poised in front of a bathtub faucet.  Holy cow!  On my next vacation I'm going to take a case of cotton swabs and REALLY clean my tub!!! 

Fifth, but should have been FIRST:  ULTIMATE BEAUTY TOOL.  I've been using a putty knife to apply my makeup since I turned 50.  Dang, this sounds so much better.  A cotton swab has pure soft cotton and a flexible stick and I can use it not only to apply, blend, and touch up my make up, but also to remove it.  My face has quite a bit of....acreage....and it may take me some valuable time in the morning to apply and cover.  I know!  I can tape several together!  American ingenuity comes to the rescue!

For the life of me I can't remember why I bought the cotton swabs in the first place, but now I have dozens of uses for them.  So many things to do with them; I'm going to have to stock up!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

You're not the boss of me!

I had such good intentions for this week.  Put away all the Christmas stuff.  Get all my paperwork sorted, organized, shredded, filed, etc.  Normal household chores.  Maybe even start that walking thing - you know, exercise?

But it's cold.  I'm not talking chilly...I'm talking "freezin' butt cold" (as my friend Susan calls it).  It has stayed in the 40's and 50's during the days and below freezing at night.  My heat pump is set for 68 degrees - very "green" of me.   And it's COLD in my home.  I would never set my A /C to 68 degrees!  For one thing that would be a waste of energy and money.  For another thing it would be freakin' COLD in here!!!!  YET YET YET it has not been above 68 degrees in my home since Saturday.

All I want to do when I get home is wrap up in a quilt and get warm.  So I wrap up in my Grammy's crocheted quilt and then I snuggle in my big, fat chair, and I read.  Or I wear one of my two jackets and get on my laptop.  Or I eat - after all, that brings up the body temp considerably.  What haven't I done?  Put away the Christmas stuff.  Get ALL my paperwork sorted, organized, shredded, filed, etc.  Normal household chores.  And forget exercise!  It's COLD outside and I have little outerwear - a couple jackets, no gloves, no hats (unless sunhats & visors count), and no warm scarves.  And there's no way I'm stripping down to some stretch pants and a top and doing yoga in this cold meat-locker living room of mine.

I will admit that I have sorted a lot of paperwork and put a lot away - not all I had hoped.  AND I unloaded, reloaded, and ran the dishwasher.  But that's it.  That's all.

Well, whaddya know?  ....my hands are much warmer now.  Maybe a little tantrum was just what I needed.  I'm feeling much better and I believe I have some things to do .... after all...it's only Tuesday!