Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Trip to the Dermatologist

I haven't been to the dermatologist for at least 5 years. I am supposed to go every year because I have a radiation burn on my backside which may eventually turn cancerous. How did I get a radiation burn, you ask? Well, I had a birthmark that my mother thought would be better off being removed.  So off to the doctor to have the birthmark removed. Something went wrong and I ended up with a bad burn which left a scar much worse than the birthmark was in the first place.  I suppose it could have been somewhat improved with plastic surgery but since the whole mess was caused by a doctor and it wasn't in a visible place, my mother decided to leave well enough alone. So here I am 65 years old and the burn scar is still there but so far no cancerous changes in it. 

While I was there I had a wart on my right index finger removed. I think that is the only wart I have ever had. It was annoying because I was always bumping or rubbing it against something. The good doctor gave it a couple of sprays of Freez-it and it is supposed to fall off or otherwise go away in a couple of days. I have some cream to put on it every night for 8 weeks.  

The derm doc asked if I used sun block and I answered honestly that I don't because I am out only in the early morning and late afternoon.  I've never been one to seek a tan mostly because I don't like being hot and sweaty. 

Anyway, I'm supposed to go back in 8 weeks to check the wart removal. I will go if the wart is still there or if there is any problem with it. But if not, I'll see the derm-doc next year. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.” 
― Wendell Berry

Love Wendell Berry!!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Goals for Next Week

Goals for Week Ending Saturday, August 3, 2013

Hope I get more done this week than last week.  I stayed busy but didn't seem to accomplish much.  Onward to next week!

     Schedule meeting 
     Make appointment for grandfather clock repair
     Finish painting plant stand
     Block #7
     Have flower beds cleaned out
     Buy replacement plants
     Replant succulent in new planter
     Centennial by James Mitchner (audio cd)
     The Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson
     A Long Shadow (Inspector Rutledge #8) by Charles Todd
     Tales from the Underground by David Wolfe 
     Cooler, Smarter by The Union of Concerned Scientists
     4 dinners
     Have new lenses put in frames

Friday, July 26, 2013

Apple - Pecan Muffins

These are so good!

Granny Smith apples -2 medium-large, peeled, cored, & diced
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole wheat flour (You can use all whole wheat flour if you prefer.)
1  1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten, at room temperature
1/2 cup chopped pecan pieces

1.  Toss the diced apples with sugar in a medium bowl.  Pour the oil over the top, stir well, and set aside at room temperature for 45 minutes. 

2. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 F. 
Line muffin tins with liners or spray with Pam. 

3. Whisk the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a second bowl until uniform. Set aside. 

4. Using a wooden spoon, stir milk and egg into the apple mixture until smooth. Then stir in the prepared flout mixture until moistened. 

5. Fill the prepared tins 3/4 full.  Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until the muffins have rounded, slightly cracked tops. 

6. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove them from the pans and cool on a wire rack for another 5 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dear Huma

Dear Huma,
     I am so sorry my dear to see what you are going through with that wretched husband of yours.  I really cringed for you when I saw you on television yesterday proclaiming your love and belief in your husband.  Huma, he continued the behavior after he resigned and you know that.  So now you think he has stopped or will stop? Do you think that there is something you can do (such as humiliate yourself on television to an unbelieving public) that will make it all go away? Chances are that his behavior will not change for the better and may very well escalate. Do you really want to spend your life wondering when the next shoe will fall? You deserve so much better than that.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

No bees, no butterflies

Whatever is killing off the bees has really hit us this year.  We love to have our flower beds and flowering bushes humming with bees and butterflies.  We have large beds of milkweed and salvia and many flowering bushes just to attract the honeybees and butterflies.  Last year our 2 acre meadow at the back of the property had hundreds of little butterflies and there were bees on all the salvia and bottlebrush bushes. But this year in late April or early May, they all just disappeared. Yesterday I saw one Monarch and two Gulf fritillaries and there are a few bumblebees on the salvia. I have no idea what happened to them but I miss their tiny humming presence. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Goals for Next Week

Goals for Week Ending Saturday, July 27, 2013

     Meeting with Fidelity--done. 
     Continue Medicare Reading
     Make appointment for grandfather clock repair
     Buy paint for lamps--done.
     Finish painting plant stand
     Block #6--done. 
     Have flower beds cleaned out
     Buy replacement plants
     Centennial by James Mitchner (audio cd)
     The Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson
     A Long Shadow (Inspector Rutledge #8) by Charles Todd
     Tales from the Underground by David Wolfe 
     Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons--Finished
     Cooler, Smarter by The Union of Concerned Scientists
     4 dinners--done. 
     Bake German Chocolate Cake for Paul's birthday--done.

It seems like I didn't get much done this week but I know I stayed busy.  Onward, to next week!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Age 65 is good.

Age 65 is good. 

Age 65 is such a good age. Major health limitations have not set in. Yes, I can't do as much as I used to but the fact of the matter is that I don't need to do as much. I am fortunate enough to be retired and I love retirement. I once thought that I would be bored and lonely at home. Not at all. 

Age 65 is good because although I have lost both parents and an older brother, I still have good friends and family. One thing I learned from my Aunt Lillian who died at age 100 is that one should have friends of all ages, both older and younger. I enjoy my church groups, my book club, my quilting guild. I am alone at home while JMM is at work but I am never lonely. 

Age 65 is good because I have so many interests that require little effort or money. I love my quilting and reading. I enjoy my roses and am looking forward to growing a few other things too. 

Age 65 is good because our finances are in reasonably good shape. We are debt free and have savings and retirement funds. Although since JMM is still working and we are on his insurance plan, we both qualify for Medicare and will be able to afford supplemental insurance. We don't have an expensive lifestyle so our income is quite adequate.

Age 65 is good because I have learned to take what is useful from " the experts" and trust my own judgement.  Just because someone is an expert doesn't mean that they know what is best for me. 

Age 65 is good because I have time to stop and stare. Time to appreciate the beauty of sunrise and sunset, the lovely bright eyes of the tufted titmouse as he nips a sunflower seed from a feeder, the soft fur of my sweet cats, the smell of bread in the oven. And wisdom to know it is important to stop and stare. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Water Problem

We received our water bill for the month of June and were pretty much gobsmacked by it.  It was for $150. But what has us flummoxed is the fact that over half of that amount is flat fees that are unrelated to the amount of water that we used. $30 was for a "base fee" which has never been on our bill before. Another $60 is a flat fee to our "ground water reduction" district. This means that I am paying $90 per month before I get a drop of water. 

I fully realize that water is a precious and limited resource and I am all for water conservation.  But these fees have nothing to do with how much water I use or if I don't use any water at all. JMM says that the Ground Water Reduction fee is for piping surface water from Texas lakes to population centers.  Obviously, someone has forgotten to take a look at the state of our rivers and lakes in this drought. And since I don't live in a population center I wouldn't get any benefit from it anyway. 

JMM wants to look into putting in a water well. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers and other things

Nice people and other things

Yesterday I got caught in a summer rain shower. I was in the parking lot at my grocery store and was using my  lift to load my scooter into my van.  It looked like it might rain but I thought I could beat it.  Well, I didn't and was getting soaked when a sweet lady with a large umbrella came over and held it over me while I finished loading the scooter. She certainly earned her wings yesterday!

Egypt. What can I say about it other than how terribly sad it is. The people are starving and the ones who should be leading them to a better life are locked in a struggle for power. Everyone loses. Democracy is having a very difficult start in Egypt and Syria. Sometimes we lose sight of just what precious things our democracy and our culture are. 

I was horrified to see that the local power company cleared all the trees, bushes, and undergrowth around the pond. There is now nothing to shade the water, nothing for the creatures to hide in, and where there was beauty and life, now there is ugly and dead. 

I am planning what to do with two garden flower beds. They are a mess right now and it is too hot for me to work up any enthusiasm to go clean them out. I got a flyer on the door the other day from a couple of neighborhood boys offering their services to do yard work and other chores.  So I think I will see how much they would charge me to clean out the beds. Then I need to decide on plants to go in them. I definitely want low maintenance plants that don't need much water and that deer won't eat. Maybe a nice cactus garden....

I had my eyes examined and am happy to say that other than needing a new prescription for my glasses, my eyes are fine.  I have the faintest beginning of a cataract on my left eye but nothing that will need attention in the near future. What a blessing vision is!

JMM took my van to work today loaded with all the recycling. We are very diligent recyclers and about every 6 weeks or so he takes all the cans, bottles, paper, and plastic in to the recycling center since we do not have curbside recycling out here.  I wonder how many tons of paper, glass, metal, and plastic we have recycled over the years??

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Judgement of Paris by Ross King

This excellent book brings to life Paris and the artists of Paris during the decade 1863-1874.   Although many of the Impressionist artists such as Pissarro, Cezanne, Monet, and Morisot are woven into the story, it is particularly focused on Edouard Manet and Ernest Messonier.  Wait, you say, who is Messonier?  Well you may ask.  For while he was alive,  Messonier was the wealthiest and most prominent painter of the time. He won three grand prizes from the Salon during  his life, he was wealthy beyond the dreams of most artists of the time. Yet today, very few have even heard of him, much less seen his work. On the other hand, we have Edouard Manet, who seldom had money to live on and who was belittled and ridiculed through most of his life. Today works by Manet are valued in the tens of millions of dollars and he is regarded as one of the premier artists of all time.  The story of their lives and the story of art in France during this period includes the Franco-Prussian War, the fall and death of Louis-Napoleon, and the Communards in Paris.  A  tumultuous period which gave us the Impressionists. Another excellent book by the author of Brunelleschi's Dome, which if you haven't read makes you 2 books behind--start reading!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The American Plague by Molly Crosby

The American Plague by Molly Crosby 

What an interesting book! I learned so much from this well written book!

Yellow fever meant little to me--just a tropical disease that one never hears of these days. But what a story that is behind the fact that we seldom hear of yellow fever today!  

The book begins with how Yellow fever was brought into the Americas from Africa by the slave trade. The Africans had some immunity to the disease having lived where it is endemic for centuries but when it hit the Americas, the natives and the whites were virtually defenseless against it. 

Yellow fever is a particularly horrible disease and the book gives graphic accounts of the course of the disease. Not a pleasant way to die.  

Yellow fever epidemics periodically devastated the  United States east of the Mississippi. This book details the 1878 epidemic specifically the city of Memphis, Tennessee although the epidemic actually stretched from Brazil to Ohio. Over 5,000 citizens of Memphis (almost 1/3 of the population remaining in the city) died that year. 

The second half of the book is about the search for the cause and mode of transmission of the disease. It is about the unsung heroes of that search. While most of us have heard of Dr. Walter Reed because of the hospital in Washington, few of us have heard of Drs. Jesse Lazear, James Carroll, Aristedes Agramonte, and many others who searched for and finally found the cause and mode of transmission of the yellow fever virus and finally to a vaccine. 

We think of yellow fever as a disease of the past, but it is not conquered. It is still to be found in the jungles of Africa and South America.  We still have the mosquitoes and to transmit it. All it would take to set off an epidemic today would be a single person returning to the U.S. having been bitten by an infected mosquito while abroad and transmitting that virus to a mosquito here. 

Excellent book. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

More Adventures in Medicare

Today has been dedicated to delving into Medicare Advantage plans.  I found the Humana Gold Medicare Advantage through USAA and it seems to provide the coverage we need with the cost being only the Medicare Part B monthly fee.  We would have to use physicians and hospitals are in the network but that is not a limitation because our physician group and Memorial Hermann hospital are in the network. The co-pays for physician office visits and prescription drugs are very low.  Also there is a maximum yearly out of pocket cap of $3400. 
The one thing that has been made outstandingly clear in my adventures in figuring out Medicare is that health insurance with or without Medicare is a complete muddle.  Between the two of us JMM and I have 2 Bachelors degrees, 1 MBA, 2 B.S. in Pharmacy degrees, and 1 Pharm.D.  And we are reduced to blithering idiots in trying to decipher the outline of coverage limitations and exclusions.  At one point this afternoon the total bizarreness of some of it had us doubled over laughing. Sometimes you just have to laugh. 
To be continued. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

One Hot Mama.....Raccoon.

It is so hot here.  Saturday it was 104 in the shade.  Our resident raccoon family is suffering in the heat as are all the creatures.  But this one has found a way to cool off--in the birdbath.  Every afternoon she climbs into the birdbath and lays down, drooping her legs over the edges and fully immersing her belly.  She is very familiar with me and doesn't move unless I get too close.  I can just imagine her looking forward to a cool afternoon at the pool.  She will eventually come out of the birdbath, climb up a tree, drape herself over a branch, and drip dry.