Pest control — June 17, 2020

Pest control

Earlier this spring, as you might recall, I wrote about my lovely tulip bed. The perfect, colorful flowers brought beauty into my life during a global expletive pandemic. Axl Rose warned us, however, that nothin’ lasts forever, not even lovely tulips. Watching the tulips wilt gave me a case of the sads, but I was comforted by the knowledge that they’re perennials and, thus, will return next year.

But that was before something – or someone – romped through the garden, eating several of the tulip bulbs in the process. I’m no horticulturalist, but I believe it’s dern-near impossible for a tulip to bloom without a bulb.

Anyway, a bear has been spotted in the neighborhood and I frequently spy rabbits and birds in one or more of my yards as well. It’s also been brought to my attention that a certain chipmunk could be responsible for snacking on the bulbs. As you might recall, I recently devoted this-here space to a certain chipmunk who has been hanging around like he/she owns the place.

Come to think of it, though, neither the cat army nor I have spied the chipmunk in a few days. I hope the chipmunk hasn’t run into any bears.

In other news, I’ve also been battling gnats and/or fruit flies. I’ve killed at least a half dozen in recent days. That might not seem like many to you, but gnats and/or fruit flies annoy the expletive out of me and turn my stomach. One evening, I became so vigorous in my pursuit of a flying pest that I slapped the eyeglasses off my face.

Random ants also show up occasionally and, as you might recall, I’ve encountered dead mice and a live snake in my garage in recent weeks. This led to the initiation of what I refer to as the steel wool project. An expert in the field of extermination cautioned me that vermin can fit into holes that are equal to or larger in size than a nickel and he advised stuffing those holes with steel wool.

I’ve purchased more supplies, and I’m prepared to resume the steel wool project. I also must admit that this experience has caused me to constantly be on the lookout for nickel-sized holes. So, if we should be engaged in a conversation and if my eyes should wander above your head or to the side of your face, then I’ve probably spied a hole and I’m probably estimating the size of said hole.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A … her name was Alice — June 10, 2020

A … her name was Alice

93004098_227775398576073_309184473616875520_nAlice, the youngest member of my cat army, died two weeks ago.

She was a kitten when she showed up on my front porch in spring 2010. She was black and white in color, long-haired, and beautiful. She wore a flea collar, so I kept her in my garage while I looked for her humans. I asked around, ran an ad in the paper, and rolled my eyes when friends and family predicted that I’d keep her.

Truth be told, though, I was relieved when nobody claimed her.

She moved into the main house and I named her Alice Aurora in honor of Alice Horton, the “Days of Our Lives” matriarch who had recently died on screen, and Aurora Greenway, the strong-willed character from “Terms of Endearment.”

Alice settled into the household, but she never bonded with her feline siblings. Although I encouraged her to form an alliance with her canine sister, the lovely and talented, Mia Frances, that relationship never came to fruition, either.

Instead, Alice kept to herself. Like most cats, she slept approximately 23 and a half hours a day. She was as soft as a pillow, stood low to the ground and didn’t have much of a vertical leap. When she was younger, I started noticing that my bedroom light was on every evening when I arrived home. I couldn’t figure out why that was happening until I saw her jumping on the bed and swatting the ceiling fan cords. She had madder hops than I had thought.

She also enjoyed chewing strings. She chewed the strings on the shorts I’m currently wearing and once chewed through a bra strap. As recently as last month, I had to shoo her away from my pile of workout clothes. I think she was also drawn to the smell of sweat.

Unlike the rest of the cat army, Alice also enjoyed human food and would climb into the trash can and scavenge for scraps. I eventually tired of keeping the can behind closed doors and replaced it with a taller, lidded trash can. On the day of its arrival, she scurried to where the trash can sat, only to find the fancy new version. She turned and gave me a look that was tinged with sadness and disappointment.

Alice began her mornings by meowing until I emerged from the bedroom. After I’d break my fast with some hearty oatmeal, I’d put the bowl in the floor and she’d clean it for me. The last video I made of her showed her licking mashed potatoes from my dinner plate. (If you think this is gross, then perhaps you should BYOB – bring your own bowl – if you come for a meal.)

She also enjoyed cuddling with me before bedtime – and sometimes during the day — and lounging under the Christmas tree. Indeed, it seemed like I no more draped the skirt around the tree before she had settled underneath it.

Alice was afraid of thunder storms, but not of heavy winds, and acted shy around most humans. On occasion, her eyes made her look evil, but she was the sanest member of my cat army and rarely caused me concern. Well, there was the day she sneaked out of the door to the garage and then through the open garage door. That was during Memorial Day weekend 2016. She died during Memorial Day weekend 2020. I’m so grateful a neighbor helped me find her four years ago – she was hiding under a house – and that I was able to enjoy hundreds more breakfasts and thousands more cuddles with her.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Common ground — June 3, 2020

Common ground

As I finished a recent work day, I noticed that something in the back yard had captured the attention of Cady, the leader of my cat army. With wide eyes, she paced at the French door, moving her head to follow the action. From the way she was acting, I knew that whatever had captured her attention had to be more exciting than a bird or a bug.

So, I joined her at the door, hoping I wouldn’t spy a snake.

I didn’t.

96772544_188395462296916_5362753069807304704_nBut I did find a small critter sitting on the back step like it had a clear deed for the property. I grabbed my phone and took photos and shot videos of the critter, which was nibbling on the remnants of a raspberry. (Don’t ask.) I then shared the evidence with others and asked them to identify the critter’s species.

My sisters and niece agreed that the critter was a ground squirrel, which made sense to me because whilst I recorded it enjoying its supper, I had said to myself, “Self, it looks like a miniature red-ish squirrel.”

Besides, I also recalled hearing my dad refer to scurrying critters as ground squirrels. Of course, I had never been up close and personal with those critters.

Anyway, I posted the video to Facebook, where it proved to be one of my most popular posts of all time. However, several of the dozens of commenters called the cute little critter a chipmunk.

Huh. A quick search indicated that those little critters I had spied scurrying over lawns my entire life had not, in fact, been ground squirrels. That means that, unbeknownst to me, I had been in the presence of chipmunks for my aforementioned entire life.

Even as a wee lass, I was never a big fan of cartoons, but I made exceptions for certain shows including “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” So, I should be forgiven if the cartoon skewed my idea of what real-life chipmunks look like. For the record, I did not think chipmunks wore glasses, walked upright, and/or sang. Well, at least not all of them. But I did figure they were larger in size and had chubbier cheeks that the critter I spied on the on my step.

Regardless, after I studied various photos of chipmunks and ground squirrels, I came to the realization that I’ve probably never seen a ground squirrel scurrying across the lawn or anywhere for that matter.

I have, however, repeatedly seen my resident chipmunk, which continues to demand Cady’s attention. She frequently sprints from window to door to monitor its activities. Of course, I’m not sure if she spied it this morning as it relaxed in the shade like it had a clear deed for the property.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Steel yourself — May 27, 2020

Steel yourself

As you might recall, dear readers, I recently devote this space to the saga of a mouse that had chosen the back of my stove as his/her final resting place. Well, a few weeks later, I opened the door that leads from the house to the garage, only to be greeted by an odor that I recognized as dead vermin.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to find the dead mouse, which had chosen an aging, blue plastic trash can as his/her final resting place. I held a private service for the departed vermin and, in the ensuing days, I wondered about the mouse’s cause of death. It couldn’t have died at the hands of the cat army. They’re not allowed out of the main house. Had it suffered a heart attack? Do mice have heart attacks?

Regardless, I eventually quit thinking about the matter. That is, I did until the morning I found another dead mouse in the aging, blue plastic trash can.

Of course, I didn’t have much time to consider that two mice had chosen that particular household item as their final resting place. Why’s that? Because a few hours later, I found a snake sleeping in my garage.

I reacted as any sensible person would – I screamed, jumped into my car, and fled the garage. As I did so, I could hear words of wisdom spoken by my mom – “If a mouse can get in, a snake can get in.”

Vowing to avoid the garage until I had backup, I returned the next day with an expert who pointed out a few holes and advised that I fill those holes with steel wool and foam.

After I procured the supplies, a few helpers and I braved the garage. Luckily, we found no vermin or snakes, dead or alive. We did find remnants of vermin visits as well as additional holes. We spent dozens of minutes plugging holes in that scorching garage.

We eventually finished our task – or so we had thought – and my helpers left. As I was collecting my supplies, I decided to gaze upward. There, I spied several holes around the garage door brackets. I also spied two fractured electrical outlets – one on the ceiling and one on the wall – that needed to be replaced.

I eventually finished my task, but not before learning a valuable lesson – it’s not a good idea to mix steel wool and electricity. Let’s just say sparks flew.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

There’s an app for that for a reason — May 26, 2020

There’s an app for that for a reason

If you read this-here space last week, you might remember that I left you with a cliffhanger. Due to my own actions, I had lost my Walmart Grocery Pickup timeslot. Thus, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to procure a Barbie for my great-niece’s kindergarten graduation or bananas for a nanner pudding.

As it turns out, my sister had scheduled a pickup time (no surprise there), so she added the Barbie to her order and my great-niece squealed with delight when she received her surprise. And as it turns out, I had already scheduled a trip to the Food City, so I added bananas to that list.

But what of the third part of my cliffhanger? Did I obtain a replacement time slot?

Yes.

You might be saying to yourself, “Self, I wonder how it went?”

Wonder no longer. Overall, I had a pleasant pickup experience and plan to use the service again. Indeed, I still can’t believe that all I had to do was zip into a parking space, wait a few minutes, and then leave with a backseat full of groceries and supplies.

Of course, I do have a couple quibbles. For starters, if they don’t have an item, they make substitutions. I had no problem with three of their four substitutions. But my taste buds had been looking forward to enjoying the Supercenter’s bakery fresh shortbread cookies. So, imagine their disappointment when they received sugar cookies.

We live to learn, and I learned that we can refuse substitutions. (By the way, I found a good home for the sugar cookies.)

My other quibble involves cereal. One of my first tasks was to add two boxes of generic cereal to my cart. But when I checked the cart a few days later, I saw that the cereal was no longer available. So, I added one box of brand cereal.

So, imagine my surprise when I spied three boxes of cereal in my car. (On an unrelated topic…I also ended up with enough spaghetti to feed a family of 12 for a year, but that’s on me.)

Anyway, I close with a few words on the Grocery Pickup app. When I announced my pickup plans to my family, I received a message from my niece. Knowing that my slight paranoia prevents me from embracing too many apps, she asked how I planned to proceed with my order.

“Through the website,” answered I.

“Hmm,” responded she.

On the morning of my pickup, I received an email from the Supercenter, advising me that my order was ready and asking me to let them know when I was on my way.

It took me about three seconds to realize I would need to download the app to proceed with my order. I sent my niece a message that read, in part, “I have to install that expletive app. Are you happy?”

She must have been overjoyed because she sent me a laughing-until-you-cry emoji. So, my pickup experience was pleasant for her, too.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Pickup line — May 13, 2020

Pickup line

I have been borderline obsessed with Walmart’s grocery pickup since it came into existence last year. Firstly, I couldn’t understand why the company considered it good business sense to pay someone to shop for customers. (I eventually learned that the service represents another way they’re trying to stay competitive with Amazon.) Secondly, I’ve been on the verge of placing a pickup order too many times to count, only to  waller on the idea for so long that I eventually ran out of time and supplies, necessitating trips to the store.

Of course, my needs dictate that I go to the Supercenter only once every six weeks. So, it’s not like the grocery pickup would save me dozens of hours. Besides, I enjoy my occasional treks to the store.

But that was before the coronavirus. Nowadays, entering buildings not my own generates too much stress. Thus, it seemed like the perfect time to place my first pickup order.

Before doing so, I consulted my sister and nieces for advice. After all, they are grocery pickup experts and keep those associates busy. Then, I logged on, selected a pickup time, and started adding to my shopping cart.

Let’s start with the good news. I appreciate that I can instantly learn which items are on the shelves and instantly see the total of my selected items. You might be thinking to yourself, “Self, has she never before done ‘online’ shopping? Is she not familiar with the process?”

No, this is not my first foray into online shopping. But I’ve never before purchased groceries via a device. And as I saw the order total rise, I asked myself questions like, “Do I really need food?”

Anyway, here’s the not as good news. I’m not sure this process has saved time. That is not meant as a criticism of the Supercenter. It’s my fault for wallering over which box of lens wipes to add to the cart and comparing and contrasting the merits of various brands and sizes of crushed pineapples. Besides, at least I was able to do my shopping from the comfort of my home whilst watching TV and wearing pajamas.

Regardless, the grocery pickup did save me from outfitting myself with clothing, mask, and gloves/old socks, so all’s well. Right?

Not so fast.

I started my grocery shopping on a Sunday and selected a pickup time for the following Saturday. But I misunderstood my sister’s instructions. I thought she said I didn’t have to check out until a few hours before my selected time.

Wrong.

So, imagine my surprise when I clicked checkout Friday evening and received a message that I had lost my pickup time.

Questions flooded my confused mind: Would I be able to select another time that fit my schedule? How would I get bananas for the nanner pudding I had planned to make? And, most importantly, how would I procure the Barbie I had ordered for my great-niece’s kindergarten “graduation?”

Tune in next week for the answers to those questions and more.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Watching the wheels — April 29, 2020

Watching the wheels

If my TV was on in the 7 p.m. hour during my pre-pandemic existence, then it was usually tuned to some sort of sporting event. Alas, just as with not being able to see my great-niece and great-nephew or make random trips to Dollar General and Big Lots, sports represents something else I’ve had to learn to live without. Well, sort of. I’ve taken advantage of a free subscription to NFL’s Game Pass and I’ve devoted dozens of hours to classic Olympics coverage. What’s more, as of this writing, my TV is tuned to a classic Major League Baseball game.

But during the aforementioned 7 p.m. hour, I’ve returned to two old favorites – “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!”

Indeed, for decades I had a nightly date with “Jeopardy!” The show was also a favorite of my dad, who pronounced it as Jefferdee. At some point, though, I fell out of the habit of watching every evening. Oh, I would watch both game shows here and there and sometimes for several nights in a row, but I can’t say that either resumed being part of my daily routine.

That is, they weren’t until the coronavirus.

One evening, with no sports on and with “Magnum, P.I.” airing an episode I had seen a couple weeks prior, I decided to flip the flicker to “Wheel.” It comforted me to see that Vanna White was still lovely and sweet and that Pat Sajak was still ingratiatingly sarcastic.

But I have two complaints with the show. Firstly, it has too many toss-up puzzles. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, it means the puzzle is revealed one letter at a time and the contestant who correctly guesses wins $1,000 or $2,000.

To the best of my recollection, the last time I watched they had only three toss-up puzzles, which was already excessive. Sure, toss-ups throw money at the contestants, who don’t have to spin the wheel and, thus, run the risk of hitting a bankrupt or lose a turn. But it also reduces the drama because viewers know the contestants won’t lose any money or turns.

Secondly, the rules regarding winning $1 million make me borderline angry. In order to win the million bucks, a contestant must hit the million dollar wedge, call a letter, successfully solve that puzzle, win that round, and win the game without hitting bankrupt.

If you assume that the contestant will then win $1 million if he or she successfully solves the bonus round puzzle, you would be wrong. If you haven’t watched in several seasons, during the bonus round the winning contestant spins another wheel containing envelopes that represent money and prizes. If the contestant has hit and held onto the million dollar wedge, the envelope that usually represents $100,000 is replaced with a million. This means that the contestant still has to correctly solve the puzzle, which I endorse, and hit the million dollar envelope to win the big bucks.

I do not endorse that nonsense. If a contestant makes it that far and still has the million dollar wedge, he or she shouldn’t even have to spin the second wheel.

Somehow, this extra hurdle has not rendered it impossible to win a million on “Wheel.” In fact, three contestants have done so.

Of course, I guess I should just be happy that they’re not throwing a million dollars at contestants who solve those ridiculous toss-up puzzles.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Shed light on — April 22, 2020

Shed light on

Due to the coronavirus, I’ve had to make adjustments to my life including, but not limited to, working remotely, wearing masks to the store, and staying healthy at home.

Oh, and I’ve been doing a little something called cooking.

As I’ve mentioned before in this-here space, it’s not that I’m a bad cook. It’s just that I don’t cook much, basically, because I don’t need to cook. At least I didn’t need to cook. After all, until recently, I took most of my lunches in a cafeteria that provided me with salads, various selections of meats and vegetables, and pastas. For dinner, I subsisted on cereal, frozen foodstuff, or leftovers. Take it from me, being a picky eater whose food choices mimic a child’s has its advantages.

But a couple days into working remotely, it suddenly occurred to me that my cupboards and fridge contained no vegetables. Or much food at all for that matter. I created a list and braved a trip to the store. I’m happy to report that I’ve become adept at steaming veggies. I’ve also been experimenting with marinades and expanding beyond grilling meats to baking them.

Indeed, I’ve created many yummy meals comprising such delicacies as baked chops, mashed potatoes, and steamed mixed veggies.

Yet no matter how good the meals taste, I always experience pangs of guilt when I gaze upon the stacks of dirty dishes crowding the sink and counters.

Except for the post-meal cleanups for big meals served on days like Thanksgiving or Easter, I’ve never dreaded washing the dishes. I always made a deal with my sisters and nieces. If they would clean off the counters, put the leftovers into Cool Whip bowls, and take care of the grease and drippings then I would wash the dishes. What’s more, even though my house came equipped with an electronic dishwasher, I usually washed by hand and didn’t regret this decision.

But that was before what my 6-year-old great-niece, with whom I’m only communicating via FaceTime, refers to as the corona. Since the corona, I’ve washed so many dishes in such a short period of time that my hands have started peeling. In fact, my hands have shed so much skin that I expect a couple reptiles to crawl from my arms at any moment.

The frequent dishwashing has also led me to realize that instead of toilet paper, people should be stockpiling dishwashing detergent and lotion.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A mask gathering — April 15, 2020

A mask gathering

In case you haven’t heard, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends we wear face coverings when we go to the store for sundries and supplies. Of course, we shouldn’t be wearing hospital-grade personal protective equipment (PPE). Indeed, if you have any PPE, might I suggest you donate it to a hospital or a long-term health care facility.

There are oodles of tutorials that demonstrate how to make cloth masks. I needed to run to the grocery for provisions, so I watched a tutorial that a friend shared. It’s fairly basic and involves putting elastic hair ties on each end on a strip of cloth (e.g. a handkerchief or bandanna), fitting one end of the cloth into the other, and then placing the mask around your face and the hair ties over your ears.

After retrieving a lovely blue scarf from my bureau, I attempted to make a mask. I wouldn’t describe my effort as an abject failure, but it certainly fell short of success. No matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t fit one end into the other, so I wrapped the scarf around the lower half of my face and tied it to my hair with an elastic hair band.

These days, no trip to the grocery store is complete without a pair of gloves or, in a pinch, a pair of old socks slipped over your hands. I know that some people advise not to wear gloves because of cross-contamination. That is, if you grab a bag of chips and then a pack of candy, you’re contaminating the candy with the chips’ germs. But wouldn’t your bare hands contaminate them as well?

Regardless, I’ve been wearing gloves for more than a month. And during my three most recent trips to the store(s), I’ve worn the plastic gloves I used a few weeks ago to color my hair. After each use, I’ve washed the gloves. I’m not an infectious disease expert, however, so please do not adopt my practices as your own.

92505799_684244409007070_168426468202774528_nSo, with half my head covered by a makeshift mask and my hands covered with hair-coloring gloves, I went shopping. I’m happy to report that most of my fellow shoppers were also donning masks. Of course, I was the only one who looked like she was fixing to rob a stagecoach.

What’s more, since my mask wasn’t firmly attached to my head, it kept trying to slide down my face. So, I kept pushing the mask up my face, no doubt contaminating the outside of said mask with various germs the gloves had picked up in the store. Fortunately, the mask never succeeded in sliding off my face. Unfortunately, a hole materialized in the gloves just as I finished shopping.

No worries, though. I’m sure I’ll need to color my hair again soon.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Tulip fever — April 8, 2020

Tulip fever

For the most part, I’ve never been the type of gal who cultivates flowers. Sure, I bought a few hanging baskets the first spring I lived in my house, but that experience confirmed what I had always suspected about flowers – that you expend time, money and energy toward something that lives for only a few weeks.

92282445_217515545999820_4288322135484530688_nWhat’s more, unless the flowers reside outside a window, you can’t enjoy their beauty. So, for that reason and others, I decided it was easier to enjoy my neighbors’ flowers than to go to the trouble of planting my own. (Yes, this philosophy also applies to exterior Christmas decorations.)

But after my dog, the lovely and talented Mia Frances Goff, died, I decided to plant a wildflower garden in her memory. The garden, which also honored the lovely and talented Tom Petty, grew in front of my porch and was visible from my living room window.

The wildflower garden didn’t turn out to be as magnificent as I had hoped. In fact, a guest remarked that my flower garden resembled a marijuana patch. So, I pulled up the weeds, which left a rectangle of dirt enclosed by decorative edging.

Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the trouble I’d gone through to obtain those decorative edges, I might have grown a garden of dirt. But I remembered the broken nails, bloody knuckles and dozen of trips from the car to the rectangle to transport said edges, and I said to myself, “Self, you’ve always admired the beauty of tulips.”

So, I bought tulips and received tremendous help planting them last fall. Due to our mild winter, I spied the bulbs pushing green leaves through the dirt in late February. Every day, I inspected the garden and noted slight additions. By mid-March, the rectangle was resplendent in yellow, light purple and dark purple tulips.

There’s no other way to put this – I became obsessed with the tulips and momentarily considered planting them throughout my yards. I snapped photos of the tulips from various angles and at various times of the day. I took photos of the tulips in the shade, in the late evening, in the full glory of the sun. I took photos of individual tulips and groups of tulips representing all three stunning colors. I shared so many photos with friends and family and on social media that I probably caused people to say to themselves, “Self, if I see one more expletive picture of those expletive tulips…”

But I knew my time with the tulips was finite and, alas, it is with great regret that I report the tulips are wilting.

Although this expected development has given me a case of the sads, I’m already studying on ways to improve next year’s harvest. I plan to buy more soil as well as additional bulbs to replace the few that didn’t yield this spring. And I have a phone full of photos to remind me of the beauty of this year’s tulips as well as the compliment from a visitor who assumed the near flawless flowers were fake.

Take it from me, that’s much better than hearing that your flowers look like weed(s).

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.