No Greenies Post

As you'll recall, I've been mentally geared up for pickling the green tomatoes on the plant in the teensy garden in the backyard. With the warm weather we've had lately I'm not sure I'll ever be left with any greenies! Take a look...
February 26, 2012

Took these photos today. Just a week or so ago, these babies were solid green. For over the week it's been warm, but the two last days it's been in the 80's (26.66 C) and at night in the 50's (10 C). Plus, super sunny! Which is lovely, but doesn't help with keeping the tomatoes green. Yes, I "should" be happy that I'm still getting ripe tomatoes. What can I say?

In the second photo above, you'll notice I set the three tomatoes on a plastic saucer which wasn't holding another potted plant. The idea was to get the fruits off the ground and away from hungry little critters. I turned it up upside down not only for a platform but for another more sinister looking reason...this velvety-looking, brown, flattish fungus in the center of the photo. Less than 1/2 inch thick in height and about 2.5 inches across.

It started like this when I first covered it up, then...
Yeah, it seemed like a really great idea at the time, only problem...the fungus I covered up didn't go away, it grew larger!!! I know...duh.

Just for a final comparison, here are the two fungi, the upper one had sun and the lower one had none.
These fungi are growing on the stump of an old tree by the garage.
So there you have it. The Before and After in the land of fungi otherwise known as Grey House. Note: you may refer to my previous post listing the assortment of fungi suddenly appearing in the yard last year. (I just spent 20 minutes trying to find the fungus post but to no avail, sorry) Okay, silly me, if I would have just entered a few words like "fungus" in the search bar I would have found the post I was looking for right here and in under one minute!!

I still say the landlord and gardener are nuts. One doesn't need to water the lawn for 40 minutes every other day. But then, I'm just a renter now, what would I know? (Other than owning my own homes and dealing with and re-habbing houses and landscaping for years....)



Digitizing the Past

Mom, Gram and me

Over the last year, I've really wanted to post some "old" non-digital photos but since I don't have a scanner and don't want to spend the money buying one right now, I've been stymied, as well as annoyed and frustrated. Especially in light of the recent stories I've been writing about my parents. Suddenly, it hit me...what about Kinko's? (Though I guess it's now called FedEx office services.)
Regardless, I called the branch that's about a mile from my rental and voila! Problem solved! There are three ways to process them into digital format. The first, cheapest and easiest is a kiosk in the store. For about $5.00 one can scan up to 99 photos! Since I have photo software, I can then just adjust each as I need.

They can't digitize slides or negatives, but at least it's a start! Now I just have to round them all up since I want to get my money's worth, lol!

I know...all of you probably already are aware of this. Once again, I'm late to the digital party in life. Oh well, I'm still excited about it!

Just the other day, I found several cd's with assorted images on them. Most I had, but one contained some images of old photos I'd scanned about seven years ago. I love surprises like that! 

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Fire in the Hood Post

Well, it was yet another sleepless night in my area of So Cal. I was minding my own business and surfing the web, only to be blown away by screaming sirens, fire trucks, police cars and loud walkie talkie messages back and forth! Life here is just so special...and tonight really, really smoky.

Can't tell what's going on but this is the most emergency vehicles within less than a block since I've lived here. Tried to call the police but no one answered. My bedroom office house...wreaks of smoke. Since there are five fire engines, I imagine a house or apartment building is going up in flames.

At first, looking out, I thought it was a drug bust or something like that, due to men running and yelling with arms out front as if guns were drawn. Then more fire trucks from surrounding cities screamed in. Gheesh.

Finally got through to the police and yes, it's a house on fire, just five houses to the East of this rental. Not a welcome thought.

It all started at about 12:30 a.m. and it's now 5:15 a.m. All the equipment is still out there with all their lights twirling and flashing. Must have been some fire. It's times like this that I feel so sorry for owners/renters, whatever....and how much history they may have lost. It just hurts.

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Morning Post

Man, I was up late! At least for me... 3:20 a.m. Not being able to fall asleep ranks near the top of my list of things that make me feel crazy. It's so annoying. And Blue wasn't any help! Just as I'd start to drift off, he'd want to go out and do his business (aka, poop). In desperation, I poured myself a glass of wine and a very small cup of the same for him, in hopes we'd both drift off and fall asleep.

An hour later, we were both still awake. Blue had to go out yet again. There was more than one benefit of letting him out...I got to see something I would have missed. A GORGEOUS misty fog had settled over this area of land. The smallest sliver of a silver moon glowed through the haze. Purely enchanting. Wish I could have taken a picture of it!

If only I could make my digital camera work like my SLR film camera. Not being able to, just annoys me to no end! Could use the SLR (single lens reflex) but then I'd have to find film and so on.

Would rather have a DSLR (digital single lens reflex). Two problems with this wish though, first the prices start around $600 and only go up into thousands. Yikes. Second, so very many choices! Wish there was a source for trying some brands out just to see what they can do.

So the misty moonlit image I saw will have to remain in my cranium which is too bad because it was stunning!

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The Significantly Insignificant Things Post

Years ago, while sorting through my parents' belongings with my brother, small discoveries were made. My dad's shoes had holes in the soles with cardboard covering them. This, from a man who always prided himself on his dapper style of dress.

Dad circa 1953-4
It's from him (along with my mom) that we inherited our love of well-made leather shoes. If you want good foot health, leather soles are a must IMHO. They breathe and cushion your tootsies in a way no synthetic sole can.

Guess I'll never be a vegan. A good pair of classically styled, well-made leather  shoes...worth every penny. What I find interesting is that they were ahead of their time in that it's certainly more earth-friendly to buy quality and then preserve it with minimal waste (re-heeling and resoling), rather than just tossing used shoes out and buying more.

We were taught a few cardinal rules of proper shoe care:
     -one never wore the rubber part of the heels down to the actual shoe heel, you had them reheeled
     -if the soles wore through, you resoled them (not with a synthetic product)
     -you polished and buffed your shoes with shoe polish and a proper brush regularly

My parents were not rich but weren't lacking in money for the basics, so this little discovery shocked the heck out of us.

Why had this happened? How? When? Maybe as you hit a certain age, you just stop worrying about the details.

All I can say is that I'll never forget the look on my brother's face as he carried the shoes over to the bed where I was sorting other things. The look of shock and dismay was so intense. It was as if he were a child again and a parent had disappointed him. But now, he couldn't ask "why?"....

The problem is that this mentality doesn't explain my dad allowing the holes to go all the way through to his feet. One doesn't wait that long, because then the bed of the sole is ruined. On top of that, there's the covering of the holes with cardboard...makes no sense.

In mom's closet I'd discovered boxes of S and H Green Stamp books with the stamps all glued in place. What was she saving them for? I also found a gift type box filled with old red cancelled postage stamps from the early 1950's.

Again...why? It wasn't like these were in the spare room that she used for storage. These were in her day-to-day bedroom closet with things currently in use. Yet another question never to be answered.
S & H Green Stamp Books
Some things you simply can't prepare for. For example, let's just imagine what my mom's reaction would have been if I'd said (excuse me while I peel myself off the floor where I was rolling in fits of laughter at this thought) I wanted to go through her closet...the answer would have been a firm "no". The "don't ever go there again" would have been implicit.

But there's so much else that you could think of in the way of completing their histories and thus yours. It's information that will be forever lost to you. Never forget Mark Twain's words,  "...years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did...."

So if you're reading this, take a little time to record what you remember. Often, simple retelling of stories is the easiest way to do this. By doing this while you still have your family, they can help fill in the blanks!

A few months before my parents died, I was "home" and the three of us were sitting in their den. I asked them how they met. Mom became all shy and school girl-like. Dad looked off into a distance only he could see and after a pause, began telling the story. He'd glance every now and then at mom, in a way one looks at a another when seeing them as they had appeared so very long ago, in the very memory they were reliving.

It was truly magical and something one doesn't witness often. They seemed to see each other as they had in that moment so long ago. I'll never forget it. It was like being a witness to time suspended.

It's a romantic story that will be with me forever but would have vanished into the winds of eternity had I not taken time to ask. I'll share it with you, but in a future post. I'm going to go and be alone with the warmth of this memory for now.

I think I've written this before, but it deserves repeating,

Memories don't belong in drawers.
George Burns (1896 - 1996)

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Flats and Wonders Post

Wrote this entry and then totally forgot to post it because I didn't title it. But it's a good little story. When I have these encounters with "grace" I feel it's important to write about them since they remind me that "good stuff" does happen. For me, that's important considering how 2012 is going so far...but that's a subject for another day. So here goes:

It's a really good thing that I can laugh. Back on February 3, I was at my auto mechanic's shop bright and early. It's only 10 min. away, but at 8:45 in the morning it took 25 minutes to get there. Gotta love L.A. traffic! The appointment was to have him check the air conditioning unit, since it was blowing warmer air than the outside temperature.

Normally if my car goes in, I rent a car, but since I'm pinching pennies, no rental for me this time. In preparation for my three to six plus hour visit/stay, I'd made a sandwich, filled a water bottle, had a pillow for my knee, also my phone, camera, a book and even a letter to write if I got tired of reading (I had an iPod but it died). Yes, I take the Girl Scout motto to heart:  Be Prepared. I was quite pleased with myself and all set to "camp out" in the waiting area.

Well...almost. In the course of loading up the car I managed to forget one rather important item...my purse. Of course I didn't realize this till I was at the shop. Hmmm.... What to do? As I was talking to the owner and rescheduling, his assistant noticed a screw in my front tire...it was almost flat. Thus the day's schedule was completely thrown out the window. Fortunately, there was a tire shop a few blocks away.

Can't recall if I mentioned this, but when I was at the health clinic on January 7 for my MRI report, I left the clinic to find my left front tire was flat. Okay, that turned into a three day project which is too involved and annoying to go into.

The bottom line is, AAA eventually changed the flat for the full sized spare in the trunk. The January flat was also due to a screw but I hadn't fixed it yet, thus both the "new" flat and the "old" one were kaput. The tire salesman said I was probably looking at two new tires since the holes were right near the side wall. (Note:  for those with no auto experience [lucky you], one can fix a hole in the tread [flat] area of the tire but not in the side walls.)

While sitting in the tire showroom waiting, I realized I couldn't even read my book because my reading glasses were in my purse, which was at home! I ask you, could the day get any more twisted?

Thank goodness, no! It actually got better! To my complete delight they squeezed me in between other appointments and fixed both tires! And for free! Alrighty, things are looking up. Remember, I still had no purse or money. (Mental note:  Squirrel some cash somewhere in the car, just in case.)

Being pooped from the morning's stress adventures, I opted to go home vs. errands. While icing my knee, I called AAA and found out I could go online, fill out and print the form for a temporary handicap placard for my car!

It gets better...the form had to be the original, not a copy or fax. Since I had nothing to do with the rest of my day, I called up the health clinic and asked if I could bring the paperwork over and leave it for the doctor to sign. Why YES, I could! Superlative!

Upon arrival they actually squeezed me in and the doctor filled the forms out so I didn't have to make a second trip back to pick them up!

It gets even better, if you can believe it!

There was still time to drive the paperwork over to my local AAA office. Twenty minutes later I left with my very own temporary handicap sign and printed authorization. Now I ask you, is that not simply  miraculous? No standing in line at the Deptartment of Motor Vehicles, no waiting, just "poof", and I received a wonderful gift!

Granted, to some it may not be a big deal but in my case, it grants me a little more walking time on the knee when I'm out by saving me a few steps...in some cases, a lot of steps!!

It amazes me when one gives up the fighting and resistance to things they can't change.... Something just shifts, literally shifts and wonders actually happen, I don't know how else to describe or explain it!

I should note that the cynical part of me is dismissing the whole idea of grace and "The Presence of Miracles", while the childlike part of me just stares in wonder at how this "seems" to work. Reminds me of Shakespeare's "Hamlet":

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

   Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

"William Shakespeare"Hamlet", Act 1 scene 5

P.S. It actually continued to get better if you can believe it...while at the clinic one of the ladies began helping me with information on getting assistance and possibly disability. While we talked we both forgot that I hadn't paid. I left with the bill in hand, lol! When I got home I remembered to call them, canceling next week's appointment. Found I was talking to the same person who helped me and she told me about the payment problem. I apologized and offered to drop a check in the mail immediately. Okay, are you ready for this? "No problem, you can pay the next time you come in"! Trust! A rare kindness in today's world! Maybe one of the elements of "grace" is that it gives you a new perspective...hmmm.

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Tomato Greenies Canning Post

Back on 12/31/11, I commented on beginning my search for pickled green tomato recipes. Unlike the last four years of pulling out the tomato plants in February or March when the fruits have stopped ripening and the green horn tomato worms have taken over, I decided to pickle the greenies rather than just giving up on them! So I added canning jars to my grocery/errand list that I'll tackle over the next week or so, errand running not pickling that is.

In cleaning up my blog posts, I realized that I'd never posted my findings! So here are a few recipe links for pickling greenies:
1. Amazing Ribs has a quick recipe for refrigerator version (my preferred method BTW, since it's not as involved as the hot bath method).
2. CD Kitchen has another refrigerator version. What I like is that it only takes five tomatoes so I wouldn't be stuck with tons of pickled tomatoes! Plus there's the added bonus of canning as the fruit gets to size.
3. Michael Ruhlman's blog lists a recipe using the hot bath and fermentation method.
4. Home Sick Texan has yet another which list both the refrigerator and hot bath techniques. I like the combo of flavorings in this one, except of course, the jalapeno.
5. Of course "Martha's" site had a slew of canning recipes. If you go to slide #2 you'll find refrigerator pickles. Slide #10 had pickled vegetables in general. Slide #16 had Bread and Butter Pickled Green Tomatoes. All in all, plenty of pickling to keep one busy.
6. About.com Southern Food has yet another recipe though this uses the boiling water bath method.
7. Closet Cooking also has a recipe using the heat sterilization bath. I listed it because even though I don't want to bother getting all involved with the hot bath method, I really liked the ingredients.
8. Organic Garden is a wonderful site with a wealth of information including a list of blogs. In fact for those who may have more than one plant and are up to their eyeballs in greenies, that link will take you to a recipe and this lovely photo. Organic Gardening is being added to my favs!
Photo Source
9. A Way to Garden had one that uses cukes, tomatoes or peppers that's from his mother.
10. This site has a ton of pickled green tomatoes photos, most of which, when clicked on lead to a recipe or site about them!

Well that should provide a plethora of ideas on how to use greenies of all sizes, as well as plenty of related advice based on experience. One last site I'll mention is on salt. It's here, at Smitten kitchen it's well written and clearly defines the differences in the assortment of salts available today.

My pickling will be limited to small batches using the refrigerator technique. Will definitely post pictures when I finally decide on which to make! Have fun searching these sites, I found them enjoyable and enlightening (even though I still haven't found any recipes for senf gherkins).

P.S. To readers in Europe, especially Eastern Europe, I hope you're all safe and recovering from what was reported by the media here, as record-breaking blizzards and snowfall!

2/17/12 Note from author:  After reading Joanne's comment and writing mine, I wanted to suggest that readers look at the finished results in the links. Some are bright green like the photo above and some look a bit discolored or brownish like results from a hot bath method. So do compare notes between them.

It's gotten cooler here, so my tomatoes should finally stop ripening (sorry to those in cold climes I don't wish to be insensitive...remember, I did live where the wind chill could get down to -30F (-34.4 C)...).

As soon as I have six or so fat greenies, I'll try one of the recipes and post my results. I'm also going to try a recipe that accommodates all the tiny greenies I'll get in March. Can't wait for my results! If you try any, please print the link for your results in the comments, or email me and I'll post them for you! My email is in my profile. Thanks!

Happy canning! 

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Valentine's Day Post

Well, nothing special going on at Grey House today. Sent out email valentines to a few friends and family. The latter of whom will probably not answer, but oh well.

Signed up for Pinterest today. This could be a very "dangerous" thing as far as a time sucker....

Haven't heard back from them so no idea what the rules are about using a pic. Found this on Pinterest to share with you. Hope that works as crediting for the photo source.

Happy Valentine's
Day to You!

I love ranuculas! They're right up there with peonies, lilacs  and sweet peas, just to name a few.



Tomatoes in February Post

Back on 10/8/11, I wrote about my tomato plant (s) and how the sillies were still putting out blossoms and tomatoes despite the date. Well, here's a photo of the crazy characters still produching and even ripening!
The photo above was taken on 1/18/12. Since then, the darn things have gotten quite red! This has happened in previous years, but it never ceases to amaze me!!
You can't tell, but you're looking at three ripe fruits; hidden by leaves.
Here's a shot from two days ago, showing their gorgeous color. They're ready for picking. Yum! Hopefully they taste as good as they look! You can't see it, but it would appear that I've waited a bit too long to pick the tomatoes. The smaller one seen in the upper picture has been half eaten. Something (probably a rat) had a feast.

Due to the warm climate and plethora of fruit and nut trees, we don't have your run-of-the-mill "city" rats. No, we have fruit rats or roof rats. I won't post a photo of them, you can check out the link above if you're so inclined. The article is excellent though and written with a wry sense of humor.

Like squirrels they live in the trees, getting around on the many utility lines that we humans have kindly erected for them that create the network of highways they traverse. Being nocturnal, they spend the winter days "indoors" by squeezing into homes via cracks in attics and garage rafters.

In looking up the little vermin, I found this link at the above site. Apparently the city of Davis, California  actually "recruits" barn owls to control the long-tailed critters by putting up wooden boxes in the trees around town to encourage the owls to set up residence. Mice and rats are the natural dinner of barn owls who according to the article are "also the cutest and most charismatic owl". This way the city eliminates a good portion of the rats and reduces the use of pesticides.
Photo Source:  Daviswiki.com
Back to the tomatoes. One of the lovelies was so big it got stuck in the cyclone fence mesh and I had to sort of squish it out, but still quite nice and three inches across (7.6 cm). While out picking Thursday morning I checked the other side of the fence, I found yet another ready to pluck. Quite an amazing haul for mid-February!
I was going to photograph them all in a basket outside, but today's overcast skies followed by rain put an end to that idea. Hopefully we'll have a sprinkling of sun tomorrow. I'm quite impressed with the little plant(s) since I have done absolutely nothing to encourage this. The only water they get is from the lawn sprinklers. So this is just remarkable.

The plant(s)...can't tell if it's one or two...are once again loaded with bunches of two inch and larger green tomatoes! There's probably a good 20 to 25 and that's just at a glance. The other rather unusual thing I've observed is that (knock on wood) there are no green horn tomato worms in sight. That's usually why, in years past,  I've ripped the plants out by now.

Well, that's about all from my little 1.5 by 4 foot (.4572 m by 1.2192 m) "back forty". As always, life is truly exciting here at Grey House. Lol!

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"Super Humidity?" Post

No rain last night and I noticed the weather prognosticators have altered their predictions to a 90% chance this morning. The ground did get a bit wet here and there...gosh, I don't know what to call it! It wasn't just mist but not enough to actually be described as drizzle. Maybe you could call it "super humidy"; a step or two above 100% humidity?

The sun peeked out for a split second and I ran to grab my camera determined to photograph the tomatoes, but in the few seconds it took, all hope of sunlight vanished behind the white-gray clouds.

That's it for today's blurb. Keep you fingers crossed for tomorrow's sun so I can take some photos.

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Gloom, Sleep, Corporations and Poverty Post

Regular (non-daylight savings) time is such a pain. Although I must say that keeping all my clocks set to DST, is helpful in avoiding the winter blues that come when it gets dark at four p.m.! Today's plan had, among other things, a list of over half a dozen pictures to take (meaning I'd have to snap four times that to get a decent pic) so I could complete several posts that are in the works.

Circumstances did not cooperate however. First was the heavily overcast sky. There's a 60% chance of rain tonight and 40% tomorrow. All I can say is that we'd better get some rain in trade for all this gloom. It isn't just a white grey yet bright sky, we're talking Portland-type gray skies. Cement skies. Taking pictures, at least the kind I want, is just a waste of time in this kind of limited light and a flash doesn't help at all.

The second thing that put a wrench in my to-do list, it was my body. Didn't sleep well (or much at all for that matter) last night. Finally fell asleep about 7 a.m. which is very annoying. Woke at 2:30, which by my clock is 1:30. Yes, I'm an odd duck, what can I say? On top of that, I felt under the weather physically; rather sick to my stomach so I stayed in bed for two more hours.

It reminded me of something I read the other day by Ronni at the blog, Time Goes By. It was an article on sleep as one ages. She wrote about how every now and then she'll wake up, go through her normal morning routine and after a bit, just not feel quite right. She follows her body's signal and goes back to bed. Though she's tried to define the problem or cause , in the end she just attributes it to getting older.

Of course, I just felt like a wimp since she's older than me, but that aside, the comments she got were fascinating. Apparently, a wide range of people come across this "malady without a cause" in their lives. Anyhow, I don't know if it was a delayed power of suggestion or what, but I felt better about it and just revised my plans for the week. No big deal.

As far as her blog goes, it isn't something you'd necessarily run across or pay attention to if you were under 45 or 50. It addresses a wide range of topics and is labeled as an "Elder Blog". Now this is a shame since it contains a world of information (and not just on aging) that most people would be amazed at; articles both obscure and targeting current events.

What I like is the variety. For example, a Guest Blogger wrote an article about the whole Susan B. Komen charity debacle where they cancelled funding to Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides basic services like mammograms and other cancer screenings to women who couldn't afford it. (Note:  scroll up in the link for the article vs. the comments.)

She also questioned the endless churning out of licensed "pink" merchandise under the guise of a potion of the profits going to breast cancer research. The guest blogger included a quote from Huffington Post in 2010 that said "Komen trademarked the phrase “for the cure” and according to several reports, spends at least a million dollars a year defending that trademark against other, smaller charities". An interesting and questionable use for charitable funds I thought. So it seems breast cancer has become "big business".

This post had an excellent video by Barbara Ehrenreich on the "corporatization of breast cancer" that is a "must view" in my book. There's also an excellent video by Stephen Colbert talking about the Komen Corporation in the first part of the video addressing Komen's suit happy activities to protect its trademark, "for the cure"(TM). Stuck the trademark symbol in there, just in case....

Well, it's almost 10:30 p.m. and this was not the post I intended to write, but it's what popped out of my brain after yet another "nap".

Funny, back in the late 80's, I had a party for all the neighbors (whether I knew them well or not) who endured one of our longer house re-habs. During the event I finally met the woman across the street who drove the latest Mercedes, always wore lots of diamonds, and had a vintage '59 Mercedes 190 or 300SL in her garage.
Photo Source:  Wikipedia
While I don't begrudge anyone hard-earned wealth, I was taken aback at the party. We were chatting which led to her profession. She was owner/organizer of two large homeless shelters in L.A. To my complete shock, she laughed  and bluntly commented "there's big money to be made in poverty".
Since that day I've always looked at charities with a jaded eye, especially the huge, incorporated ones that license their logo for profit. There's a fine line between real charity fund raising and flat out product marketing for profit in my book. Especially when donations like $1,000,000 per year go towards things like frivolous lawsuits, huge media campaigns and TV commercials. I'm thinking of the United Way which caught a lot of heat in the late 80's for using more donation money for running their organization and executive salaries than was spent on actual charity work. I guess nothing's changed in twenty or so years.

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The "F" Finger Post

Gotta' tell you, I was never a fast typist. In high school we had to take "Personal Typing". Must say, I'm not in "that" side of my brain a lot because I barely passed. It was my only grade below an A I received. Dang!

Luckily, and very sadly, I had a fellow student who was also typing challenged...so much so that Sister Mary Casper put "blank covers" on the keys of her typewriter so she had to memorize the location of the keys. I felt so bad for D........of course, I didn't do much better.

Between time and errors, my typing rate never got above 40 wpm. Quite sad. But at least I know the location of the keys if not the numbers...that was just too much to take in within the semester. Thus you can imagine how a swollen middle finger on my right hand might slow down my typing...oh, let's just say a whole lot!!!

I find this all hysterical because when I was an Art Director I hired a typesetter who could do 93 wpm!! Yes. Utterly amazing!!! But I digress...as usual.

I had a post all set in my mind but when it came to inputting it, good grief, took forever! Then I tried to photograph my right finger so you could see how swollen it was (what a thrill). It seems all the cameras I own are made for right handed people.

Try as I might to take pic of my middle stiff, I couldn't, so you'll have to take my word for it. Anyhow, this post is to tell you I'm sorry for the continued delay. I have a post already for tomorrow (if I can get the photos taken) so I hope you'll continue to be patient and "tune in".

Did you look at the moon tonight? It's full and gorgeous!