Saturday, September 23, 2017

Just chillin'

yearling doe
Every now and then I catch a glimpse, out of the corner of my eye, of movement. The windows overlooking the backyard often reveal a herd of deer grazing in the grass still wet with dew. But on this day, there was a lone critter, a yearling doe. The seasons are changing—it is Fall now—so this little one will soon have her new coat. I didn’t realize until I uploaded pictures I took of her, that I noticed the spots along her back are faintly visible. It wasn’t long ago that she was a fawn, tagging along with her mother.

Oh how I delight at the sight of a new fawn in the neighborhood. This one was likely born nearby, which is why she comes back. I wonder if this was one of the fawns I’ve enjoyed watching run and play like a new puppy scampering through the yard. Or perhaps she is a second or even third generation of one of them.

Some of the other deer I’ve seen in the last few days have already grown their winter coats; it is a completely different dark gray color than the tan color they wear in the summer. One doe that came to visit recently was actually dappled with splotches of dark gray-brown on her light-colored coat. It was not a good look.

I am always delighted to see the critters that live among us. This year has been a particularly active year for wildlife siting. Along with the birds I feed regularly and the hummingbirds that come and go every year, we’ve seen families of skunks, raccoons, fox, squirrels, chipmunks, opossums, and even a stray armadillo to add to the menagerie. Of course there are always black snakes, lizards, and frogs, not to mention a very healthy population of insects and butterflies. And there are always animals we hear but don’t see, like the coyotes and a variety of owls whose unmistakable sounds fill the night.

I love living in the woods. There is a kind of peace that surrounds us. Living with nature is the best way to live. I know I’ve tried them all. I was born in the city. When I was little, our family moved to the suburbs. I spent the bulk of my growing up there. Then, as a young wife and mother, our family lived in a small farming town. But this—life in the woods surrounded by the animals that let us live among them—is my favorite place to be.

I love living among the animals. I can only imagine what it must have been like hundreds of years ago when so many more animals lived together on this earth. I am saddened to what has befallen them and what will come of the rest of them as an unchecked human population crowds out anything that isn’t of immediate benefit to man’s existence.

Personally, I consider the wildlife in these woods to be beneficial to my very existence. I admit that when a yearling doe comes out of the woods to munch on grass and clover in my backyard, I relish it. And when she is comfortable enough to lie down there, even knowing that I’m watching, I’m a little bit flattered. The whole experience just makes my day.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Not just a plain old pot rack anymore

To some it may be just an old wooden pot rack, but to me, it is a precious piece with a story to tell. It is a part of the family now, and is well traveled, having been in three states.

It all began several years ago when my sister-in-law Jean joined me in selling at our garage sale, which has now become an annual event. With the miles between us since my husband and I moved to Arkansas, our sales are also a family reunion of sorts. It wasn’t like that in the beginning, when we all lived in Illinois.

One of the items she was selling was a wooden pot rack. I always admired it in her kitchen. I immediately professed my love for it and said I had to have it.

Despite this stroke of luck, the fact is, I never got to use it. My daughter, Jenny, decided it would look great in her apartment. I was ready to fight her for it, but my husband piped in and said she could have it. I’ve been pouting about it for the last 15 years.

Finally, Jenny, who moved it with her to Massachusetts, decided she didn’t want it any more. She was moving into a new house in Rhode Island and didn’t want to bring it with her. She figured she would sell it at a garage sale until I told her I still wanted it. So, she mailed it to me. I will be paying the postage, but it will be so worth the $21 to finally have my pot rack. Finally, I’ll be enjoying it in my own kitchen for the first time. I couldn’t wait to install it.

I actually have a small rack that I hang cast iron skillets and a couple copper pots from. It is very utilitarian, but I love it because it is a relic from an old railroad depot in the town where we used to live. I had hoped to hang both racks, one above the other.

I took everything down from the wall, giving me a chance to clean behind, under, and around everything that was there. I positioned my new, (actually 25 year old) pot rack and drilled the holes. It was a really tight fit and I had to place it all the way to the edge of the wall. What I didn’t know was that the corner of that wall was reinforced with metal. The screws just stopped dead in their tracks when they hit it. Upon further inspection, if I hung it there, my cabinet wouldn’t open fully. I realized it wasn’t going to work. And, I had no other wall big enough in my kitchen. I was crushed.

I was having a garage sale of my own in a few days. I entertained the idea of selling my precious pot rack, but then thought better of it.

Then it hit me. I don’t have to hang pots from it; I can drape a quilt onto the rung that would normally hold the pot hooks. So that is what I did. I turned my precious pot rack into an even more precious quilt rack.

I have just painted my bedroom, something I’ve wanted to do since we moved into this house 12 years ago, but never quite found the time or energy to do it.

So, now it is done. And the first thing I hung on the newly painted wall was my quilt rack. On it I’ve displayed my favorite quilt. It hangs above the cube shelves where I store my fabric stash. This is also a new endeavor. I used to keep all my quilting material in tubs under the bed, but now, it is all organized. One portion of my room resembles a quilt studio. I couldn’t be happier.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Burning desire

For the past several months, I've wanted to burn some brush in the yard. The timing just never seemed right, until today. This morning, the sky was partly cloudy with a chance of rain in the forecast. Temperature was a balmy 80ยบ. Despite the myriad things I had to do today, I figured this was as good a day as any to take care of the pile of branches and twigs already thrown into my makeshift burn pile.

I set out with my trusty Bic lighter. I thought I could start the pile by simply igniting a few dried leaves. That was a good idea, but not quite good enough.

Undaunted, I went into the house, grabbed some dryer lint and stuffed it into an empty toilet paper tube. I read somewhere that was an excellent fire starter. It might have been, had I not used too much of it. It was packed too tightly and just smoldered with that sickening smell of burnt hair. Oh, and it it died out before it could ignite any of the branches.

By this time, I had run the lighter out of fuel. I headed back to the house for a box of matches. I knew I had some, but I'd be darned if I knew where they were. Finally, after rifling through several kitchen drawers, I found a box of 36. That should do it, I thought.

I got several small fires started, but they quickly went out. I was starting to think this wouldn't be as easy as I thought. So, I tried a little more of my homemade firestarter. I used a tiny twig that was strong enough, yet small enough, to push some of the tube's contents back out. My twig also worked to rake a few dried leaves into the newly ignited flames. I used tiny twigs to catch on fire from the burning leaves. Finally, I coaxed larger twigs until I could get the branches to burn. It was a success. As the fire died down, I found more twigs and dried leaves in the yard. There is an abundance of both. Finally, I had a nice fire going.

I never learned how to build a fire. I was never a girl scout. Ironically though, when I was about 13 years old, I was a Camp Fire Girl. I don't recall ever learning to build a campfire.

Building a fire is such a primal activity. As I was arranging the burning pile and adding new dried leaves, I felt a real kinship to my ancestors. I just know my father had done this many times as a boy growing up in Michigan. It was probably a part of his routine summer chores. Thinking about that made me feel close to him.

I'm terrified of fire, so I will never abuse the practice, but burning is such a useful tool in rural areas. So much falls out of the trees that need to be disposed of. I want to make this a regular activity. I really enjoyed myself today.

Since my husband's illness more than two years ago, I find myself doing things I never did before, especially outdoor tasks. This is one of them that I really found enjoyable. There is a real sense of accomplishment when I look at the former tangle of branches in the circumference of my rock-lined fire pit. All that remains there now is a smoldering pile is ash.

Friday, March 3, 2017

My computer saga continues

My love/hate relationship, with Microsoft, at least the latest version of it, has continued for more than a month. I last wrote about this in a post dated January 26, entitled, I hate Windows 10. It is now March 3. That is far too long to fret over some silly machine that has always been billed as helpful.

My message today is two-fold. First, it isn't just Windows 10 that I hate, it is Microsoft in general. More about that later...

But the good news is, I have solved my problems, at least for the meantime.

I purchased a refurbished computer that already had Windows 10 installed. I was a little leery when I realized it was an older system that had also been upgraded.

I proceeded ever so cautiously, as I attempted to transform this little black box into the familiar tool I had known and loved before it was upgraded from Window 7 to Windows 10.

Love the photo--the new computer is on the right side of my desk. The old one is on the left. I'm not sure how much longer I can live with this! My initial goal was to downsize from that giant desk. Now I'm grateful that I have it so it can accommodate two computers, two monitors, two keyboards, and two , not to mention my phone, lamp and some other necessities. 

I've spent the last week with this virgin computer, bulking up the system to meet and exceed the old one. Windows 10 is working well. I am pleased.

The first program I installed was my beloved Crossy Road game, the one I wrote about previously that simply would not work on my old system with Windows 10. The saving grace was the fact that the new system ran Windows 10 Professional edition, rather than the home edition Microsoft offered in their free upgrade.

I was thrilled that Crossy Road works again. Once again I can get my chickens and other favorite characters across the busy highway of life.

Another problem the old system had was the inability to run Google Earth. Runs like a champ now.

Quicken was also a problem. The sound files didn't work. After using this program for years, I was rather used to hearing that little cha-ching sound when I hit the enter key. I spent a few days trying to figure out the problem, but never did. I suspect it is a Quicken problem however; not a Microsoft one. Google is home to lots of Quicken sound complaints. I'm just one of many.

I had a sound problem in, Pretty Good Mahjongg, another one of my favorite games. It just wasn't fun to play my favorite free cell game without the sounds I was used to. However, once installed in the new system, it works just like it is supposed to--like it used to.

That brings me to why I am so angry at Microsoft.

I bought an upgrade of my aging software, MS Office 2007. I upgraded to MS Office 2010 not too long ago. I bought it online, so of course I don't have a disk. I did save the email however, that contains the Product key. My computer life is fairly well organized, so I could lay my hands on it almost immediately. I installed the software and noticed that Outlook, the integrated email program wasn't there. Outlook simply wasn't there.

As I lay in bed last night, I formulated a plan. I would uninstall MS Office 2010, reinstall 2003 and then upgrade it with 2010. Hah, everything went according to plan until I learned that Outlook installed alright, but as a trial version.  I did a little Google sleuthing to find out that I purchased the Home and School edition. When it installed over a previous edition, it installed as a trial edition. Never mind the fact that the program is old; Microsoft still wants me to buy the thing as a stand alone program. It is only good for 2 months. At that time, I could either buy Outlook or I could upgrade to Microsoft's latest version of MS Office 365, which is basically a monthly rental. Forget that!

I looked all over the internet for a solution to this problem. It isn't that I like Outlook; I don't. But, I read something somewhere that made me think tweaking the settings in Outlook would allow all the affiliated Office programs, Word, Excel, etc. to have more options than the blue, black, and silver settings the program offers.

It was not to be. Everything I've read indicated that there is no work around to the 2-month limit on Outlook.

The color issue has me driven. I was really curious because when I looked at my old program, there was a green tint in the application. It wasn't present in the new install. I couldn't remember what I did to get that pretty green color. Finally, it dawned on me. The setting I used wasn't in Outlook at all; it was in the Windows desktop personalization. I clicked a few buttons, and got my green color. As my photo illustrates, my computer has a sunflower theme. Yellow doesn't work very well, but a green tint at the top of the application window is just great. It is all matchy-matchy with my sunflowers, just the way I like it.

I'm over the fact that I got screwed by Microsoft again, but the joke is on them because I don't like their old Outlook program anyway.

So, the only casualty in my computer life is the loss of my old best friend, Lotus Organizer, a program I've had for 30 years or more. It still worked in my old system, but because I no longer have the installation disk and subsequent setup program, I can no longer put it into the new computer. I scoured my old computer in search of the initial setup email, but I just couldn't find it. I went back to the online store where I initially bought the upgrade, around 2003, but alas, it is no longer active. Amazon was even selling the program at one time, but they are out of stock and will no be able to get more. I would gladly pay the 14 bucks for it. It held all my phone numbers, email addresses, Christmas Card list, birthdays, and so much more. So sad!

Lotus Organizer was an old IBM program from back in the day when Lotus Office Suite contained several programs. Remember Lotus 1-2-3 and Word Pro. That really does go way back--perhaps to the 80's. Organizer was a nifty little program, unlike any I have seen since that simulated a day planner complete with animated page turning. I have no idea why someone hasn't developed one similar to it in all these years. I've tried them all, however. There are none like it.

My initial program was installed with seven 3.5" floppy disks. I'm not even sure we have an old computer around any more that has a 3.5" drive in it. The last time I installed the program, many years ago, it still worked. That was nearly as many computers ago as it was years.

So, all in all, I'd say my computer life is back on track. It will be nice to be rid of a second system on my desk. I plan to reset and repair Windows 10. It will be good as new. It is nice to have all my photos, music, and documents that go way back to my professional life. The new computer is now lean and mean too. Without all the junk, it is much speedier. No regrets. Microsoft tried, but I win!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I hate Windows 10

Seems to me the last time I even opened CHMusings was about six months ago. That has to be close to the time when my computer installed a Microsoft Update to Windows 10. 

I was pretty satisfied with the new operating system. I was using the Windows 7 version. I really liked that, but fell for the hype about upgrading to the free version of the free operating system for a limited time, blah, blah, blah. Then around Aug. 16 when Microsoft released its dreaded Anniversary edition, it all changed.

I haven't been happy with my computer since then. It seems that every time I open a program I haven't used in awhile, something goes awry. 

Early on, I found new problems every day. Many of them have been fixed, thanks to the computer pioneers who have availed themselves to us poor inexperienced users. There are so many fixes for the multitude of problems that Windows 10 has unearthed that I now wish I had resisted using it.  

Had I known I could, I would have uninstalled it pronto. However, it wasn't until about a month in that I realized that was even possible. Then I learned that Microsoft limited rollbacks to only 10 days, I believe. It was too late for me; I was stuck with it.

Remember my obsession with Crossy Road, a game available in the Microsoft Store. I wrote about how much I loved this game in a previous post. Well, I did love it. Microsoft killed it.

I used my event viewer in Windows to try to troubleshoot the problem. I used the built in troubleshooters; I left messages in the Windows forum, that were never adequately answered. I searched for a solution to the multiple problems loading and ultimately playing the game. I read about solutions, one-by-one, trying them in an effort to get the game to work. I took chances with repairs I really didn't understand, like editing the registry and altering code that didn't make sense to me. All the while I expected my computer to just become a giant paper weight. I had the important files backed up, so I felt almost safe.

Windows continued to update their system. I kept hoping that one of them would make the game work, but to this day, it will load, but it doesn't play correctly. 

Funny though, I can play it on my laptop which I bought with Windows 10 installed on it. Everything works fine on that system. It is just my desktop where nothing works correctly, you know, the one that I've used for years for everything from writing to household finances to listening to my favorite music. 

I've also found that the sound no longer works in Quicken, the software I use to track our household finances and pay my bills online. After following advice and trying everything I could, I broke down and bought the latest version of the software. It still doesn't have sound. Truthfully, I like my old version of that better too. 

I've used Quicken for years. I was always accustomed to hearing that little cash register sound every time I hit the enter key. Now, I am now faced with black hole silence. 

My camera won't upload photos through the USB cord, even though I bought a new one. That doesn't work either. I now have to physically remove the card and insert it into a card reader that works sometimes. Who knows how long that will last? 

The other day I opened Google Earth. Oops, it won't load. I tried updating the software and using the compatibility setting, but to no avail. I no longer have Google Earth. I wonder what program is next.

I'm so frustrated with Windows 10 that I'm thinking of wiping the hard drive and installing a clean copy of Windows 7. I just know I will lose data though, so that is a really last resort. One day I worked up the courage. I was going to go there. First, I thought I'd double check my backup. It was on a thumb drive. Windows said it couldn't read it. So, once again, I'm stuck. 

I'm thinking of trying to manually install whatever I can on my laptop and going with the paper weight idea. In the meantime, I'm not happy!