Friday, November 30, 2007

I Am Thankful That This Is The Last Day Of NaBloPoMo!

Yatta! I survived NaBloPoMo 2007!

Don't get me wrong. I am thankful for NaBloPoMo! NaBloPoMo kick-started my blog and got me to start writing and posting my entries (instead of just saving them to my hard drive!) so I am grateful that Eden had the insane idea to create a month like this, and also that I was able to find out about it, join up, and actually post every single day for the month of November. Not to mention also fulfilling my quota of posts for 30 Days Of Thanks.

But now that this is all over, I'm looking forward to blogging at a more leisurely pace. And yes, I do think that I will continue blogging in some form or another. At the very least you know I'll be posting tomorrow because I already told you I would! :)

PS: Feel free to grab the badge! And leave a comment and say "hi!" if you do! (Code for the badge is here.)


Alternate Side Of The Street Parking 101

When it comes to parking, there are three options in NYC: paid garage, paid parking meter, or free "alternate side of the street parking."

New York City cleans one half of the streets on some days and the other half on other days. During street cleaning times, people must remove their cars from the side of the street that is being cleaned, but at all other times their cars can be parked there for free. (Unless there are other restrictions like school zones or loading zones etc.)

Street cleaning days and times vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and sometimes from block to block. Sometimes the rules and times even differ from one side of the street to the other (as I discovered the one and only time I was towed!) It's really important to read signs carefully and make sure you understand what the rules are for where you're parking otherwise you could be towed and ticketed (for about $200-ish) AND have a large impossible to remove sticker adhered to your window that says:

This vehicle violates N Y C parking regulations. As a result, this street could not be  properly cleaned. A cleaner New York is up to you.

Photo from Starts And Fits

-Because the fines plus the cost of the cab ride and the time it takes you to retrieve your car from the impounding lot aren't bad enough. You need a guilt trip too!

Most residents have alternate side of the street parking down to a science. Ideally, what you need to do is move your car someplace else during the street cleaning hours, but be back 30 minutes before street cleaning ends. During those last 30 minutes people park on the "you're not allowed to park here right now" side of the street (which is empty at that time because nobody's supposed to be there) and sit in their cars until the "forbidden" time is over, thus securing a parking space that will not require them to move their car for another 3 days.

If a police car or a street cleaning truck comes by during that time, everybody drives around the block until the threat is gone, then immediately tries to get back into one of those parking spaces. -It's kind of like musical chairs with cars. If no police or street cleaning trucks come along, people sit in their cars and read or chat with other regulars of this routine until that side of the street is safe for parking again.

The reward for sitting in your car for those 3o minutes is well worth it. If you are successful with the timing and parking placement of your car, you'll only have to move your car twice a week. If, however, you fail to secure the right parking space at exactly the right time of day, you may have to move your car 4 or more times that week, and if you miss that "30 minutes before" window you could be driving around in your car for over an hour each time before you find another parking space!

So, why am I explaining this to you? Is it because I am desperate for topics to write about on this final day of NaBloPoMo? No. It's so that when I tell you about my grocery shopping trip, you'll understand why we HAD to get it done in under 30 minutes :)

(-Yes I am going to be posting the day after NaBloPoMo!)


Thursday, November 29, 2007

If I Spend $25,000...

I got a new credit card in the mail today to replace the one that's about to expire. When I called in to activate it, a very nice woman who sounded like she was in India reading out of a manual, told me about a new program that my bank has added to this credit card to show its appreciation for its customers.

With this new program, for every $25,000 I spend on my credit card I will get a $25 check back! I started laughing and made her repeat that to make sure I'd heard her correctly. So she did -Then she started laughing!

I'd better get out there and start spending!


I Am Thankful For Days When I Can Get Stuff Done

We all have them; days when you're too busy, days when you're not feeling well, days when you kind of have time but not quite enough to really start and finish something.

Then there are those days when you have the time, the house is quiet, you're feeling great, and by the end of the day you've made it through a whole bunch of stuff that's been staring at you for several weeks days moments (long moments!)

Man I love those days!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Cold Room At Fairway

I have often referred to Fairway as "the happiest store on earth." Compared to grocery stores in suburbia it's probably not that big a deal, but where I live there are very few truly large grocery stores, so when Fairway first opened its 132nd street store, I thought I'd died and gone to grocery heaven. Every time I thought I was almost "out of store" there were MORE rooms and aisles! I bring people to this store all the time and they just about faint. It becomes their "Happy Place" too.

One of my favorite features of this store is "The Cold Room." It's an entire room that's been turned into a gigantic freezer. It's not a little room. It's a big room with lots and lots of aisles! All meat, poultry, fish, and dairy items are in there as well as essential staples like pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough. :) I don't know the exact temperature of The Cold Room but it's low enough that the store supplies jackets for customers to put on before they enter -even though it took them a while to actually tell us that that's what the jackets were for!

It all started when a bunch of coat racks showed up alongside a wall in the middle of the store one day, with what appeared to be a variety of old coats. In short, it looked like someone had raided the local Good Will. But why all those old coats were hanging there was a mystery. At one point I thought they might be personal coats belonging to store employees (because, you know, that makes perfect sense... that out in the middle of the store would be the place for employees to hang their coats, instead of someplace more private and secure in the back!)

It was at least another month before the random coats were replaced by brand new matching Fairway jackets, another few weeks after that before a cardboard sign was put up explaining what the jackets were for, and another month or two after that before a professionally made sign was finally put in place.

New people, in particular, rarely grasp the "take a jacket before you enter" concept. You can always tell who's never been to the store before because they're the ones huddled in the corners and turning blue. When I ski over to them with my sled dog team to give them a shot of brandy and tell them about the jackets that are hanging outside the door, the looks of gratitude in their faces make life worthwhile. I'm sure there are several first born children named after me by now.

Of course there will always be that small percentage of people who refuse to put on a jacket even though they know that's what they're there for. Some people think they're too cool to put on a jacket (no pun intended). Others get creeped out by the thought that hundreds of people may have worn that jacket before them. Me...? I don't have this problem. I put on the jacket. I don't care how many people have worn the darned thing before me! It's freaking COLD in there!

Once or twice I was in a hurry and thought "I'll just run in there quickly, grab what I want, and run back out. I don't need a jacket." -I learned my lesson. I always wear a jacket in The Cold Room now. And if no jackets are available, I will wait outside those swinging doors until someone returns and puts their jacket back!

sled dogs and I are in no hurry.


I Am Thankful For Rainy And Overcast Days

Most people don't seem to like rainy or overcast days, but I do. I actually prefer them to sunny days most times. I don't want to get caught in the rain if it's freezing outside or if I'm on my way someplace where I won't be able to change into dry clothes at the end, but if I'm on my way home, I'm ok with getting wet (as long as I'm wearing more than a T-shirt!)

Every now and then there's a bunch of dark or rainy days in a row and people start talking about how depressed they feel or how stir crazy they're getting, but I don't ever feel that way from rainy or overcast days. I like them. And there's something immensely comforting to me about rain. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the ions in the air or something. Who knows. But on an overcast day I just feel better.

(...And rain makes the flowers grow and cleans out pollen and breaks heat waves and all that stuff too!)


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Bracelet

What's that on your keychain?


That pink rubber thing.

Oh, they were giving these away at the hospital for free. It's one of those bracelets for breast cancer.

(inspecting the bracelet)
It doesn't say that.

Doesn't say what?

That it has anything to do with breast cancer.

What does it say?

The name of a lab. It's an advertisement for the name of the lab. There's nothing on here about fighting breast cancer.

Well it was free. And it's pink.

Oh well you should definitely keep it then.


I Am Thankful For Taxis

Do you ever stop to think about how convenient it is to have Taxis available to you, and what's really going on when you use one? I do (but this shouldn't surprise you by now!)

Basically, what happens, is that you need to get someplace and you need a ride. So you go out into the street and look for someone who can give you that ride, and when you find someone who's available you more or less say "Hey could you please do me a favor and give me a ride to this place? I'll pay you for it." and then the complete and total stranger whose car you've stopped says "Sure! Hop in!" Not only that, but you get really lucky, because the ride you get just happens to be from someone who knows where EVERYTHING is! Even when you may not be sure how to get to your destination! (What are the odds? ;) )

Then when you're done, do you know what that total stranger who gave you the ride does? They drive around the city looking for more people who might need a ride somewhere. Because that's just the kind of nice and helpful person he or she is.

How many other people do you think would happily give you a ride anyplace you asked, (paid or unpaid), any time, day or night, with absolutely no advanced notice, and no questions asked? How many people would say "Sure, I was just driving around looking to see if someone might need a ride somewhere anyway, so yeah, no problem. I'll take you."

I am really thankful for Taxis.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Public Service Announcement: Fall Attire

Central Park Fall Leaves

Photo courtesy of newoldthing

A friend and I were talking about how beautiful the trees were in the parks yesterday. I had walked home through Central Park and she through Riverside Park. I told her how picturesque the view had been and how even the people fit perfectly into the landscape, as if they were floating through a serene painting, because every single person in the park had matched. They were all wearing black -As was I!

My friend said she'd had the exact opposite experience. She said she saw a family with a mother wearing a very nice plumb colored brocade coat, a daughter wearing a hot pink parka, and a father sporting another parka in a blindingly bright teal. According to her they were totally clashing with the landscape (and each other) and ruining her view.

So, on behalf of my friend, I would like to request that everyone please think before venturing outward into the beautiful fall surroundings, and plan your wardrobe accordingly. Please try your best to wear colors that compliment the landscape and any people you are with, so that you may contribute, and not detract from the aesthetic experience of park goers around you. 1, 2

1. If you live someplace where doing this might cause you to be mistaken for a deer, a lovely fluorescent orange will do fine.

2. Since this blog is relatively new, it may take some time for this PSA to reach the masses. With this in mind, anyone with a heightened sensitivity to wardrobe/park clashes is strongly advised to purchase a pair of amber sunglasses until such time as this situation is resolved.

That is all.


I Am Thankful I Saw The Leaves In Central Park

I am thankful I had a chance to walk through Central Park yesterday and see its beautiful fall foliage. I normally walk in a different park because it's a little closer to my home (not much but a little.)

I am also thankful that I managed to escape my friend's "tragically unsettling" experience ;) (See today's PSA for more info.)


Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Am Thankful I Can Rhyme

I am thankful I can rhyme,
I used to do it all the time,
for songs and poems, jingles too,
I could rhyme "glue" with "shoe" and you!

I'm thankful I don't do this now,
but if I must, I still know how.
What good's a skill like this you say?
Well, it fulfilled my post today :)


Saturday, November 24, 2007

I Am Thankful For The Body's Ability To Physically Heal

I've always been amazed at the regenerative properties of the human body. Most people never give a second thought to scratches, cuts, bruises, or broken bones, because they expect them to heal 100%. And most of the time they do. Very often, many crippling and disfiguring injuries also mend completely, as if they'd never happened.

Think about it: What if your body didn't have the ability to heal? What if a broken bone, whether it was your leg or a finger, would always be broken? What if every cut or scratch you ever had, large or small, never healed (ok the bleeding could stop but beyond that I mean!) What if once you tore or pulled a muscle or ligament, that's how it was going to be forever?

We are all extremely lucky. Not just because our own bodies do this, but also because the bodies of people we love and care about often have this same amazing regenerative ability. It's true that not everything heals 100%, but many things do, and that's miraculous to me.

Scene from Death Becomes Her

A scene from the comedy Death Becomes Her
where the characters learn that "immortality"
doesn't mean "can't sustain permanent injury."


Friday, November 23, 2007

I Am Thankful For Random NYC Art

First it was The Cows...

Between 1999 and 2000, over 500 cow statues started to randomly appear all over New York City. (See the Cow Parade website for more info.)

Then there were The Gates

Photos courtesy of "The Gates @ Central Park"

In 2005, 7,500 bright orange "gates" lined 23 miles (36.8 km) of footpaths in Central Park. (More information on The Gates is available at NYC.Gov.)

Earlier this year there were the R2D2 Mailboxes...

Photo courtesy of wsh1266

And now, for the past month, our Taxis have looked like this:

Photo courtesy of kjgrow

Photo courtesy of melinni

New York City's art initiatives keep me entertained, if not slightly perplexed. It's a good thing I don't use drugs.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

I Am Thankful For Holidays With E And P

Holidays were a difficult time for me growing up. I loved holidays and really got caught up in all the hype and magic of them, so not having a place to go or people to celebrate them with was always doubly hard when I was younger.

Eventually I did the whole "make your own holiday" thing and that worked well for a while. I was happy with that, as were the people I invited. But then there were a few years where it wasn't going to be possible for me to do that and it looked like I was going to have to resign myself to holidays alone again for a while.

Then one year, I was invited to three different places for Thanksgiving. THREE. But all the places I was invited to were over an hour away, and I wasn't going to be able to travel that far, so I had to decline them all. I remember thinking to myself, "Is this for real? After all those years of not having a place to spend Thanksgiving, did I really just get three different invitations from people and decline them all?" I remember shaking my head at the Universe (as I often do!) and saying "Thanks a lot!" ;)

Then I got an invitation from E. He and I were classmates. We were friendly and got along well, but outside of a group project we'd worked on we'd never met outside of class nor had any outside communication with each other. I was really surprised when I got his invitation. My first instinct was to say "no" for the same reasons I'd had to decline the other 3 invitations. But then I thought "Hmmm... let's ponder... If I took a taxi, it would take me 10 minutes and $10 to get from here to E's.... Oh my gosh.... I could do that!" So I gratefully accepted his invitation.

It was one of the best things I ever did. I had the best time!

I didn't know any of his friends, which you'd think would have made things a bit more stressful, but it was entirely the opposite. Nobody knew me so I was taken at face value as just "me." Not me "the family member" or me "the professional" or me "the caretaker." There was no image I had to project, no role I had to fulfill, no expectations to live up to... I felt absolutely no pressure to be anything other than whoever and however I was in that moment. I could just be. It was like an amazing mental vacation. I laughed more that night than I had in about 2 or 3 years. We all laughed a lot. Laughing until your stomach really really hurts kind of laughter. It felt incredible.

I look forward to spending holidays with E and P every year now. Not just Thanksgiving, but sometimes Christmas, and Easter too. The food is great, their friends are fun, and my holidays are extremely blessed because of them. I am so lucky.

I've told them all this, but I don't think they really get it. I wish they did. Holidays with them are something I now look forward to all year round.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Why Blogs Are Helpful

I was just sitting at my computer thinking "why am I so tired?"

Then I saw my earlier post from today.

I think it's time for Chinese food.


I Am Thankful For A Good Night's Sleep

-Which I am not getting right now!

About 4 to 5 days a month, I wake up way too early and can't get back to sleep. It's annoying but it happens and I'm used to it.

But those nights when I fall asleep at a reasonable hour, sleep all the way through to the next morning and wake up well rested after 8-9 or more hours of sleep, with the kinds of dreams I could replay over and over and never tire of? Those are the best mornings in the world. And on those mornings, I always lie in bed for a few moments, taking it all in, and think "Wow... how cool was that!"


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Am Thankful For Bigger Things

Whenever I sit here to write about what I'm thankful for, there are a lot of really "big" things that come up for me. But they're things I'm not comfortable writing about. Still, they are there. Sometimes the reason something is so appreciated is because the circumstances surrounding it were so intense; Random acts of kindness during tragedies, deaths, injuries, or traumatic events like 9/11...

It's not difficult for me to write about the good things that happened, nor is it difficult for me to acknowledge my gratitude. I've expressed my thanks to the people involved many times. What's difficult for me to write about are the contexts of those various events. -The background information about what was going on at those times that made those acts so appreciated.

So because it's very strange for me to write about a bunch of things I'm thankful for, and know that I'm not including some events that are very important or significant to me, this is my official acknowledgement of all those people and all those situations that I think about every time I sit down to write, and choose not to write about at this time.

I will always be thankful, and I will always remember. Because I have an insanely long memory, and I never forget.


Monday, November 19, 2007

I Am Thankful For Universal Remotes

I love the immense convenience of remote controls. For anything really. But I am particularly thankful for whoever decided to invent and release universal ones that take the place of 3 separate remotes or replace broken or missing TV remote controls altogether.

My favorite universal remote, for several years now, has been this one:

Star Trek Phaser Remote

It works just like a real phaser. When there's something on TV I don't like, I just point, fire -and it disappears!


What Not To Say

A phone conversation with a friend of mine.

I just got an email that really pissed me off.

What was it?

Some friend sending me information about what I need to eliminate in my life to cure cancer.

And that made you feel like she was saying the cancer was your fault. I love people like that.

It also says chemo makes cancer worse and mutates cancer cells. So according to this I now have mutated mutated cells.

So now it's not only your fault you got cancer but everything you've chosen to do to help yourself is also wrong. That's nice.

-Not everyone is pro-chemo. But you knew that.

Yeah but it still pisses me off. Plus according to this I'm supposed to be "starving my cancer cells" by avoiding certain foods on this list here and I should have never had surgery.

Is this someone I've met?

Yeah. At my party.

The young one?

She's not that young. She's your age. She just looks really young.

Really? The one who looked like she was 12? She's my age?



People are going to do stupid things. They don't know it's upsetting.

They don't know what to say to you. They want to help. They see something that says "cancer" and they think "Ooooh! Something I can do! I'll give this to 'so and so' and then I'll have done something helpful!" She cares about you. She wouldn't have sent you that if she didn't. She doesn't realize how stupid something like that can be.

Yeah and everybody reacts differently to different things.

Exactly. I have a friend who loves getting stuff like that.

Last year over the holidays, a cab driver was telling me about how his wife had died from cancer, and how he was now on a one-man crusade to tell everybody what to do to prevent this from happening to them. He had literature in his cab and everything. The solution according to him? Oxygen. He gave me a pamphlet and told me to make sure my friend E got this information.

The next time I saw E, I asked her if she wanted me to send her his info. She said yes. But I knew she probably would. That's how she is.



So that's the problem. I haven't been breathing enough all these years.

According to the cab driver.

Didn't Michael Jackson do that? Sit in an oxygen tent every day?

Probably. And he doesn't have cancer, so there's your proof. Sitting in an oxygen tent cures cancer.

-And makes you white.

I'm still really pissed off.

I know. But she sent it to you because she cares. She thought she was doing something helpful.

Yeah, I know.

Look it even says "Make sure you send this letter to 20 people you really care about."

See? You're "someone she really cares about." It didn't say send it to 20 people you really want to piss off!

It just makes me SO angry!

I know.

When my friend was going through chemo she'd get angry really easily. Once, a neighbor came by to see her and brought her soup, and her husband knew it would set her off so he told the neighbor she wasn't up to having any visitors that day. After the neighbor left, he told my friend about it and she blew up!

About what? About him not letting her friend in?

No, about the soup! She hated being treated like a sick person. She yelled "Does she THINK I can't make SOUP??!!!"

(At this point I burst out laughing for about five minutes!)

See, I would have brought YOU soup. Even though I didn't did I...? What did I bring you?

-I brought you ginger tea and Gatorade because you wouldn't drink your damn fluids.

And ginger candy.

And a sweatshirt.

Oh and popsicles. I have to get more of those. And the sorbet.

Thank God I didn't know your friend. I probably would have brought her soup! That's still hysterical to me.

"Does she THINK I can't make SOUP??!!!"

But see? Everybody's different. You have to know the person you're trying to help. If M showed up at your door with a bowl of soup you would not be pissed off!

Hell no! I'd be like "Hello! Free food! Bring it on in!"
I'm still reading this...

It says it's a study by John Hopkins. Like that's supposed to make this sound more impressive and "legit." How do I know that? And how do I even know which "John Hopkins?"

Could be John Hopkins the motorcycle guy...

Or John Hopkins the dog walker...

Or John Hopkins the butcher down the street...

There's so many things I'd have to get rid of if I followed everyone's advice about all the things I've done wrong, or am doing wrong, that supposedly cause cancer.

Lots of people eat and do all those wrong things and they do not have cancer.

Sure, there are things everyone could do to live healthier lives but lots of people do all the "wrong things" and they're perfectly fine, so it's not as simple as that. You do what you can and what works for you.

And you do live an extremely healthy lifestyle. You always exercise, you're in great shape, you eat well, you've just switched to "non-hormone" milk...

I'd have to move to Oregon and live on a farm or something to make all these people happy.

You'd have to move out of the city.

I'd have to live on the moon.

Well. Except that the moon has no oxygen.

-And I need oxygen to cure the cancer.

Right. And stay white.


I'll get you a tank.
© 2007


Sunday, November 18, 2007

I Am Thankful For Soup

I love soup. Especially when it's cold out. It's also one of my comfort foods. Below is my recipe for really a simple homemade broccoli soup.

Broccoli Soup

  • One 16 oz (464 g) package of frozen broccoli
  • One 10 oz (283 g) package of frozen spinach
  • One quart (32 fluid oz / 946 mL) of vegetable stock
  • 6 oz (170 g) of cheddar cheese
  • Nutmeg to taste (Unless you're half asleep when you're making this one day and mistakenly add cinnamon instead -which surprisingly is also ok.)
Put everything in a pot. Heat. When the cheese is melted and the vegetables are thawed, use a food processor or blender to blend everything until smooth. I use one of those Braun handheld wand mixer thingys and blend it right in the pot.

If you want to use fresh ingredients that's fine. I use frozen so I always have what I need on hand.

If you live someplace that has different sized packages of frozen food just improvise. The amounts don't have to be exact.

If you're dieting or counting calories, divide the finished soup into 6 portions and each portion will have 100 calories of protein. Most diets don't care if you eat too many vegetables in a day, so the rest of the calories in this soup would be "free." :)


The Bicycle

I saw this and my mind wandered...

then kept wandering....

So I took a picture.

Click to see larger version

I thought about cleaning up the image. Making it a bit brighter. Clearer. But I kind of like it this way.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

I Am Thankful For Accounts That Remain Active Even When You Forget What They Are

For about a year now I've been very frustrated because I couldn't figure out what was going on with my StatCounter account.

One day I logged in and my "project"1 was gone. It just wasn't there. I hadn't logged into my StatCounter account for a while so I thought maybe I'd had more than one account and I'd just logged into the wrong one. -You've done that too. I know you have! Made an online account for something and then forgotten about it, or forgotten your user name or password, but having them emailed to you won't work because the account has your old defunct email address, so you just create a 2nd account instead of trying to salvage the first?

Well I thought maybe that's what had happened. I vaguely remembered creating more than one StatCounter account way back when. So I tried various combinations of user names that I usually use, paired with the various passwords that I usually use. No luck. I could only log into that one account (the one that was missing my project!) and nothing else would work.

I even went so far as to email StatCounter and say something to the effect of:

"Hey, this is my project number. You can see it's on my webpage at this address, and these are my new and old email addresses, and did I make another account with you or did you just lose my project? Because if you did, is there any way I can get it back? And if you didn't, can you give me a clue as to what the %$#@!? my other username and/or password might have been?"
Oddly, I got no response.

I delayed putting a StatCounter on this blog because I was still hung up on that missing project and I didn't want to have two different sets of stats in two different accounts (if the fault was mine), or to start a new project that would also disappear one day if the fault was in fact theirs.

So then, the other night, I tried once again to enter all my usual user name and password combinations into the StatCounter website, and guess what happened? One of the ones I SWEAR I tried several times before, WORKED.

-And there was my missing StatCounter project.

Right there. Still working and gathering stats. Right were I left it. Just waiting for me to remember what the heck its account name and password were so I could get back in to view it again.

So I made a new project for here and now both projects are very happy together living under the same account. (And I wrote down my account information this time!)

Free Web Stats

1. With StatCounter you can set up different counters for different websites. The information associated with each individual counter is called a "project."


Caching, Maggie Smith, And The Loch Ness Monster: The Conclusion

If you've been reading this past week, you should now know all about Geocaching, Letterboxing, Maggie Smith's bench, and my Loch Ness Monster sighting. And with this information, my post from November 12th should now make perfect sense. (If you haven't read all those, feel free to go read them now. I'll wait.)

Ok, every one caught up? So, now that you know what I'm talking about, I'll finish the story.

As I said, I'd seen what I thought were cachers in the park a few days earlier. But I hadn't approached them because they looked like they were trying to be discrete. Plus, I wasn't completely sure that's what they were doing, though I was pretty sure. They were even carrying a Ziploc bag ;) But I didn't see them carrying a GPS. When I later discovered that they'd been searching for a Letterbox and not a Geocache, the lack of a GPS made sense -and also explained why there'd been no listing for it on the Geocaching website!

I returned a few days later with my stamp, book, and ink pad in hand; retrieved the Letterbox, stamped my book with its stamp and stamped the Letterbox's pad with my own stamp. The Letterbox's pad was so small that a gentleman walking his dog thought I was writing directly onto the palm of my hand and stopped to ask if I was writing crib notes ;)

This was actually my first Letterbox that wasn't a Geocache/Letterbox hybrid. I've never hunted for a pure Letterbox using only clues and a compass without any GPS info, but now that I've discovered that many are hidden close to my home, I may have to give some a try. I'll admit I'm a bit intimidated by this thought. The last time I looked at a set of Letterbox clues they were hard!

If you're in New York and would like to search for this Letterbox, I tracked down the corresponding clues for it online and they're quite easy. Nothing cryptic, and no puzzle solving or compass required! Just go to this page at and click on the Letterbox called "Stumped."

I can't show you pictures of the Letterbox's exact location or its contents because that would be against the rules of the game, but this guy might tell you...

Squirrel On Bench

When I returned to stamp the Letterbox, I also came prepared for him this time.

Squirrel By Bench

Squirrel By Bench

Squirrel On Bench

And yes, I "paid his toll."

Squirrel Eating Peanut In Tree


Friday, November 16, 2007

I Am Thankful For Pajamas

For several years, I have wanted warm, comfortable, totally unsexy, "real" pajamas, but nothing I found was the right size, price, or style. So I basically slept in T-shirts and boxers or sweat pants. And that's fine. But I wanted real pajamas!

This year, I finally found some. Right size. Right price. -I bought five.

And they make me very happy :)


Maggie Smith's Bench

The other day, when I was walking in the park, I noticed what appeared to be a new park bench.

Maggie Smith's Bench

Maggie Smith's Bench Closer

Plaque On Bench

"Maggie Smith
Loved all animals,
especially the baby birds."

I'm guessing this was a Maggie Smith, and not the Maggie Smith. Still, it was very sweet. It's now one of my favorite spots in the park, and has made me think of a few relatives for whom I could have made similar benches. Maybe still will.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

What Is Letterboxing?

Letterboxing is a game that started in Europe in the 1850s. The earliest known USA Letterboxes date back to the 1980s/1990s.

How Does Letterboxing Work?

Letterboxing is similar to Geocaching. All over the world, people hide small containers (called Letterboxes) which contain a log book and a rubber stamp. But unlike Geocaching, which uses GPS coordinates to find a cache, with Letterboxing people follow cryptic clues to find the Letterbox. These clues often involve riddles, puzzles, descriptions of landmarks, and instructions to walk a certain number of paces in a given direction. Another difference between Letterboxing and Geocaching is that with Geocaching, people swap items, but with Letterboxing, people swap stamp impressions.

What Equipment Do I Need To Letterbox?

The first thing you'll need is a rubber stamp which will serve as your "signature stamp." Your stamp should be a picture of something that you feel represents you. It can be anything: An animal, a symbol, a fancy design... Purists carve their own stamps or commission them from companies so that each person's stamp is unique, but you can use one from a store if you'd like.

In addition to your personal stamp, you'll also need a set of clues, an ink pad, a pen, a blank book or pad to collect stamp impressions from your various finds, and sometimes you may need a compass.

What Do You Do Once You Find A Letterbox?

As with Geocaching, discretion is key. You must make sure that nobody sees you retrieving or replacing the
Letterbox. When you find a Letterbox (and remember that Letterboxes only contain a stamp and a small pad or book, so the containers may be quite small.) have a seat with it somewhere nearby so as not to draw attention to its exact location.

Use the stamp from the
Letterbox to stamp your personal book and use your pen to make a small notation in your book about that particular stamp (like the date, location, and any other notes you might want to jot down etc.) Next, use your own stamp to stamp the Letterbox's log book and write a small note identifying yourself and the date of your find. Then take a moment to look back through the log book and see the stamps from all the other eccentrics very nice people who've come before you.

When you're done, put the
Letterbox (with its original stamp and log book) back where you found it. Remember, with Letterboxing you do not swap items. The only thing you're trading is stamp impressions. The Letterbox should be put back with its original stamp and book, and you should be leaving with the stamp and book you brought with you.

Are There Geocaches That Are Also Letterboxes?

Yes! Some
Geocaches are also Letterboxes. If a Geocache is also a Letterbox, it will say so in the description so you know to bring along your stamp, ink pad, and book. For Geocache/Letterbox hybrids the rules for trading stamp impressions are the same, but the clues to find it will include GPS coordinates.

Where Can Clues To Letterboxes Be Found?

Traditionally, clues to
Letterboxes were passed amongst other Letterboxers in a kind of "secret society" manner. Nowadays there are publications listing the various locations of Letterboxes in Europe, and of course there's now also the Internet.

Unlike Geocaching, there is no worldwide
Letterboxing website, but a good place to start is Letterboxing North America. Their site is pretty comprehensive and can give you a good overview of Letterboxing. If you don't live in North America, read their site anyway (and be sure to check their Map Page for some International listings.) When you're finished try Google for additional Letterbox locations.


I Am Thankful For NaBloPoMo

...because lemme tell ya, having officially reached the "halfway point" today, I can absolutely guarantee you that without NaBloPoMo there is no freaking way I would have been posting EVERY SINGLE DAY for the past 2 weeks!

Seriously though, this was the right way to start doing this blog. Wish me luck for the 2nd half! (And good luck to all of you too!)


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I Am Thankful For My Mini Trampoline

For over 10 years, I have had one piece of exercise equipment in my home, and I actually use it. I am thankful for my mini trampoline because with it, on days that I can't get outside to exercise due to the weather or the time of day (or lack of clean clothes...), I can still get a workout that has the same aerobic benefits and caloric burn as walking or jogging (depending on the exercise intensity).

Why A Mini Trampoline?
  • It takes up less space than a treadmill.
  • It folds and is semi-portable, so if I'm going on a long trip I can bring it with me if I really want.
  • It's low impact.
  • Rebounding (aka "jumping on a mini trampoline") is good for the lymphatic system.
  • You can use it in front of a TV.
  • It uses no electricity.
  • It's too low to use as a clothes hanger.


What Is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a game that started in the USA in the year 2000. It's very similar to Letterboxing, except that GPS coordinates are used instead of hints, and real objects are swapped instead of stamp impressions. I've been Geocaching since 2002 and it's one of my favorite things to do outdoors.

Yeah But What Is It?

It's a sport, it's a game, it's how geeks experience nature :) It's a treasure hunt that's taking place all over the world. Even where you live! -And you probably didn't even know it.

Here's How Geocaching Works:

All over the world, people have hidden "caches." A cache is basically a small collection of objects, usually small inexpensive things like keychains, refrigerator magnets, or small toys. These are usually hidden in small waterproof containers like Tupperware, or small plastic Ziploc bags. Once a cache has been hidden, its coordinates (latitude and longitude) are uploaded to the Geocaching website.

Later, another individual (let's say YOU) logs onto the Geocaching website and types in their postal code or city and country. When they do so, a list of caches in their area pops up on the screen with coordinates and occasionally some additional clues. You copy down all the relevant information, grab your GPS unit and go!

What's A "GPS Unit?"

GPS stands for "Global Positioning System." You've probably heard about them being used in cars to help people navigate to where they're going, but there are also smaller handheld versions that hikers use. That's the kind you'll need. You can pick up a small GPS unit for $100 or so and even cheaper if you find a used one. There are also modules that snap onto Palm Pilots and convert them into GPS units. That's what I use.

Once you have your GPS unit in hand, you type in the coordinates for the cache you're seeking, your GPS unit makese a few calculations, then it shows you how far you are from the cache. It will also display an arrow indicating which direction you need to walk to get closer. As you walk, the GPS unit will continuously update this information. Just walk in the direction of the arrow and make sure your distance from the cache keeps decreasing (if it's increasing you're walking the wrong way!)

Here's the thing though... your GPS unit will get you close, VERY close, but will rarely lead you to the exact spot. When you're really close, the unit's readings will often start jumping around a lot. At that point you're probably within 10 to 20 feet of the cache location. 10-20 feet in all directions can be a lot of ground to cover when you're looking for a small container. And many of them are very well hidden! They have to be so that Non-Geocachers (Sometimes called "Muggles") won't stumble across them by accident. It takes me anywhere from about 5 minutes to one hour to find a cache once I reach the correct location. Once in a rare while, I won't be able to find it at all.

About "Reaching The Correct Location..."

Reaching the correct location is not always as easy as it may seem. To get to the cache coordinates, you'll probably be led on some interesting walks and discover nature paths you never even knew existed. Sometimes mountain climbing skills are in order. Once I needed a boat. Generally the cache description page will give you an idea of how easy or difficult it should be to reach the cache location and will let you know if you'll need any special skills or equipment. Most are quite easy though. Well.... easy to get to, but maybe not always so easy to find once you're there!

What Do You Do Once You Find The Cache?

First make sure nobody else is around. This all has to be done without Non-Cachers seeing what you're doing. Then, when nobody's looking, take the cache container a bit away from where you found it, so as not to give away its location, and have a seat. Open the cache and take a look at what's inside. Next, take one of the objects to keep for yourself, and swap in one of your own (-another magnet, keychain, action figure...). Then sign the "log book" that's usually enclosed in the container and take a moment to read the entries of all the other geeks very nice people that came before you. Then, when nobody's looking, put everything back exactly the way you found it. Then go home, log onto the Geocaching website and say "I FOUND IT!" :) and go look for more!

Geocaching is fun, and it's a really a great way to get outdoors and discover new and beautiful places. I know... You're thinking there's nothing like that where YOU live right? You're wrong! There are caches near you. Don't believe me? Take a look!

The Groundspeak Geocaching Logo is a registered trademark of Groundspeak, Inc.
Used with permission.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Am Thankful For Animals

I am thankful for animals. All kinds. When I was growing up, I used to love animals more than people. Sometimes I still do.


Loch Ness Monster

(Please note that all photographs below are from various sources on the web. See the links below each photo to go to the originals.)

As I was walking along the river yesterday, I saw a small curved neck and head sticking out of the water in the distance. I looked away for a moment, and when I looked back it was gone. Completely gone! Nothing perched on the rocks, nothing flying away, no ripples in the water showing where it had gone. Nothing. It had disappeared.

I'd thought it might have been a bird, but where had it gone? Plus, what was odd about this "supposed bird" was that I hadn't actually seen its body. Just a long curved neck sticking out of the water. So then I thought maybe it had been a snake. Except that I'd never seen a snake stick that far out of the water and curve that way.

I kept walking and scanning the water from time to time, and a few moments later I saw it again, but much further down the river. I caught up to it just in time to see it disappear below the water again and, just like the last time, I could see no trace of where it had gone. I couldn't see its body or a shadow under the water, or ripples letting me know which way it was going, or air bubbles... Nothing. After what seemed like a pretty long time it popped its head up once again, further downstream.

Source: Andy Fan

Source: Andy Fan

So I did the only natural thing I could do. I followed it! And I figured out a few things. Yes it was a bird! (But you already knew that!) It was dark black with an orange beak, it was going very deep under water (because I could see absolutely no trace of it when it dived), it could hold its breath for 23 seconds at a time, and it could swim underwater the equivalent distance of 32 of my paces before resurfacing for air.

I followed it down the river for a bit always trying to guess where it would surface next. Once I figured out the "32 paces and 23 seconds rule" I got pretty accurate in my guesses. Just before we parted ways, I saw it catch a fish. It had probably caught many more but that was the only time I'd noticed the glimmering silver flash that quickly disappeared down its throat.

As soon as I got home I did a little research, starting with a call to my friend K. She knew exactly what it was from my description. (K knows everything!) She said what I'd seen was a "Cormorant." -I've never heard of a Cormorant. I looked it up online and discovered that what I'd seen was, more specifically, a Double-Crested Cormorant.

Then, for fun, I thought I'd google one more thing... It turns out, I'm not the only person who thinks the Double-Crested Cormorant looks like a mini Loch Ness Monster from a distance!

"Another Cormorant was swimming around the lagoon doing a Loch Ness monster impersonation."

"...when I first caught sight of a cormorant I wondered if it might not have some connection to the Loch Ness monster since it rides so low in the water that all you usually can see is its head and neck sticking up."

"If cormorants were just a little bit larger, watery legends like the Loch Ness Monster would be easy to explain... The double-crested cormorants ... have an unmistakable serpentine quality as they weave between the waves in their never ending search for food. With a snake-like neck, a fierce, toothy face, and a body that remains largely submerged beneath the surface, a giant-sized cormorant could easily inspire the type of stories that keep landlubbers and children away from the water's edge."

"The Cormorant is interesting to watch because it swims with its body partially submerged and its head and neck held above the water. When swimming it resembles a miniature Loch Ness Monster."

"looking at this, i think the loch ness monster is a giant cormorant :) "

"...a cormorant circles the dock, eyeballing the fish in the buckets and swimming low in the water with a sinister profile of a little Loch Ness Monster."

So there you have it. My miniature Loch Ness Monster. He was actually pretty cute! I can't wait to see one again :)

Source: Mark B.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Caching, Maggie Smith, And The Loch Ness Monster

Ok, so first of all I went out to do laundry and go to the bank, but the bank was closed. So I decided to go on my walk because the other day I swore I saw cachers but they were trying to be discrete so I didn't bother them, so I'd gone home and was going to leave them a message except I couldn't find a cache listing so I'd planned to go back and see which one it was, because I know all the caches in that park, and so I went back today but there were muggles in the area, so I sat down on Maggie Smith for a while and then this squirrel came up to me because apparently if you're going to sit on Maggie Smith you need to pay a toll, and I explained to him that I hadn't realized this and therefore had nothing for him (because I knew Maggie Smith liked baby birds but no one said anything about squirrels) but he didn't seem to understand this and sat right next to me waiting, and I showed him both sides of my hands to see if that would help (because I figured that was the universal language for "I have no food!"), but by now there was no one around so I went back to where I expected to find the cache and ANOTHER squirrel came up to me (because apparently you have to pay a toll there too!) and I found the cache and went back to sit on Maggie Smith, accompanied by the troll under the bridge squirrel, and it was a letterbox! But I didn't bring my stamp, so I put everything back, said goodbye to the squirrels and proceeded on my walk where I saw the Loch Ness Monster and...

What? Did I lose some of you? Yeah... maybe some background information? Ok... I'll write about that in the next few days and I promise you when I'm done everything will be 100% perfectly clear. But I can't do that right now because I have to go switch loads and buy some nuts.

(No I'm not on drugs! :p)


I Am Thankful For Feminine Hygiene Products

'Nuff said! ;)


Sunday, November 11, 2007

I Am Thankful I Live By The River

I love water. -And not just because I'm thankful for it ;) I love looking out over an ocean or a river or a lake or a pond. I don't necessarily want to go in the water. I just want to stare at it. Nothing else fills me with as much calmness and awe.

I used to be envious of people who lived on the East Side, because they could walk along the East River any time they wanted. It's true I lived near the Hudson River but there was no way to get to and walk alongside of that. -Or so I thought.

I always thought there was the city, then Riverside Park, then the highway, then a steep drop off, and then the river! I didn't know there was anything on the other side of the highway that was pedestrian friendly -not to mention a way to even safely get across the highway!

What does this look like to you?
Park... highway... drop off... river!

But about 3 years after I moved into this neighborhood (Yes, I'd lived here for over 3 years before I figured this out!) several people insisted that there was a way to get across. Not by going over the highway but by going under it. And one of them finally told me where this supposed underpass was. And of course, it was just 6 blocks away from where I lived!

The secret underpass.
Well... secret to me! Everyone else knew it was there!

I'll never forget the day I finally went in search of the underpass that supposedly led to the river. As I approached what appeared to be the correct tunnel, I still wasn't certain I'd found the right place. But then when I turned the corner and looked through it... Does anybody remember the film "Lost Horizon?" -When they're up in those snowy mountains and they look through the mouth of the secret cave and see the paradise of Shangri-La on the other side? That's exactly what this moment felt like to me.

Rounding the corner.


When I saw the river on the other side of the tunnel, I cried. I really did. The whole experience felt a little surreal. It was as if all of this had suddenly appeared by magic. Because after all, as far as my reality was concerned, I'd lived here for several years and this had never been there before!

I was so transfixed by the water that for a while I just stood there taking it all in... the view, the waves, the breeze, the smells... Then after about 10 minutes or so, I wiped away my tears (I was still crying), took a deep breath, and stepped back to take a look around. And guess what? There was a whole other freaking part of the park on this side of the highway!

There were paths and railings and benches...

There's even a tennis court!

It was like somebody actually wanted us to walk alongside and enjoy the river! So that's what I did. And I've been thankful to the city of New York ever since.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Am Thankful For My iPod

(After yesterday's "thankful" post, I realized that I really needed to split that into 2 posts. So today "just the iPod part" :) )

iPod Mini Pink I never would have thought of myself as an "iPod type." I'm not a music junkie and I don't have bazillions of songs on my iPod. In fact I can go for weeks at a time without listening to any music at all. I was perfectly happy with my cassette players. But a few years ago I specifically needed an MP3 player for something (which is another story) so I bought my first iPod. Then once I had it, I used it just because "it was there."

It's not significantly different from using a cassette or CD player except that with those you have to carry the extra music with you as well. With an MP3 player, you just have one unit, and all your music is already with you. There's nothing extra to carry, and of course the player itself is smaller.

Since the iPod was small enough to have in my bag all the time, I started noticing that it came in really handy:

  • Having trouble exercising? -> Exercise to some music.
  • Bored on a train ride? -> Listen to an audiobook.
  • Need a mental break in the middle of the day? -> Put on a meditation tape.

The convenience of having those and other options available to me at all times without having to pack anything extra or plan ahead (except to make sure that the battery is charged!) is a luxury for which I have been truly thankful.

A properly loaded and utilized iPod can be an indispensable tool that helps calm/de-stress, motivate, and distract. -And it's way easier to carry than an ocean, a coach, and a juggling clown.


I Seem To Be Losing My Eyelashes Today

I found two on my keyboard, then found another just now. Obviously I must be rubbing my eyes this morning, but still... three eyelashes? It's like they're all jumping ship!

I always wish on eyelashes and blow them away. I'm not sure where or when I learned to do that. Heck I'll wish on anything... stars, dandelions, birthday candles...

My first and often only wish is always for my friends. The ones that are no longer here. I know people have lots of varying ideas about what happens after death. I'm honestly unsure. Maybe after people die they're at peace. Maybe there's nothingness. Maybe something else happens. I don't know. What I do know is that I'm not 100% sure where and how they are now. So my first and often only wish is always for them. For them to be happy, and peaceful, to feel safe, and to be free of pain. Once in a while (like when two more eyelashes fall out!) I may add a wish for myself, but that's pretty rare. There's just absolutely nothing else in the world that is as important to me than knowing that the people I love are safe and all right. In this life or in any other.


Friday, November 9, 2007

I Am Thankful For The Blog That Fixed My iPod

A few months ago, my iPod stopped working for no particular reason. One day I plugged it in to charge, and moments later I was greeted by the sad iPod icon

sad ipod icon

-which by the way, is only a slight step up from the early Mac days when Apple would show you a bomb if something went wrong with your computer!

I tried hard and soft resets, booting in disk mode, I tried to re-install software... Nothing worked.

Had I not needed to buy an iPod a few years back, I doubt I'd have one now. I'd still be perfectly happy with my old walkman. But since I'd had one for a while, I really missed it when it stopped working. There was no question in my mind that I was going to have to get another one. (Repairing it would have cost more than buying a new one.) Since new models were about to come out I delayed my purchase so I could take advantage of any specials or price drops that were sure to come on older models -and that delay turned out to be a very good thing :)

One day, while I was waiting for the new releases, I came across this site which mentioned an iPod fix that was receiving a tremendous amount of attention. I read through over 100 comments that said things like "OMG IT WORKS!!!" and "DUDE you're a GENIUS!!!" -and variations on those themes. The solution sounded crazy but I had nothing left to lose and it had worked for all these other people, so I decided to give it a try.

-And the darned thing worked.

What was the solution? Dropping it. Yes that's right. Dropping it. That thing you always try NOT to do with your iPod! The thing you buy clips and lanyards and straps and case protectors to prevent from happening. That's what worked. I couldn't believe it! I also couldn't be happier :)

If you've got an old dead iPod sitting around in a drawer give this a try -but only after you've exhausted all your other options.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

I Am Thankful For My Home

As I listen to the wind and street noises outside, I'm very aware that I'm inside and not out there -and that I have an inside that is mine to be in. I often look around and think about how incredibly blessed I am to have my own space with my own stuff in it, arranged where and how I want it. (-No "grown ups" or parents or "whoever" telling me what I can and can't do or where I can and can't put things! ;) )

I have my own little section of the world. It's small but it's mine. And it has heat and plumbing and air conditioning and food... and my bed where I lay my head down every night to dream. Barring any natural disasters or acts of war, it's a safe and comfortable place for me and anyone I love to come visit or stay. I don't own my own place. I rent. But right now, I have a home. And a home is a really great thing to have.


Template Update

Ok, yet another template update. Yes I know... except for the green header boxes on the right, for most of you this looks almost identical to the template I had up this morning. But for anyone with an antiquated browser, this should look a lot better.

The text in the blog title may still show a gray box around it for people using IE versions older than version 7. I'll try to implement a workaround for this when I have access to a windows version of IE (hopefully soon.)
[Edit: This should be fixed now.]

So now that I've done this... thoughts? Too bright or busy? Hard to use in some way? Or is it working and looking ok to you? (If you hate something, now is your big chance to tell me! Lol!) Seriously, if the new template is causing problems for anyone I'd like to know. I don't want people leaving because they're having trouble viewing this blog. So please do speak up and let me know what you think.

Thanks! :)


Template De-Bugging

Ok, well it appears that this blog template is not "playing nice" with Internet Explorer.

Here's how this blog is supposed to look.

And here is how at least one person is seeing it in Internet Explorer.

For those of you who thought it was supposed to look the 2nd way -It's not! :) WHY would I do that to you? Lol!

Unfortunately IE is no longer compatible with Apple's new Operating System, (a fact I've already lamented about to several people because I've always said that testing something in IE was the best way to see if something was going to go wrong!) so I can't troubleshoot this just yet, but I will be installing Windows soon (it's in the mail) and will be able to address this then.

Meanwhile, if anyone else is not seeing what's in the first screencap, please leave a comment below and let me know what type of computer you're using (Mac or PC), which web browser you're using, and your web browser's version number.

Thank you!


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New Template

I'm modifying some template settings. If you see things moving around and changing colors it's not you! It's probably just me playing in the background :) (and if something looks really wonky on your end, please let me know in the comments!)


I Am Thankful For Grocery Stores

It's amazing to me that I have access to buildings FILLED with a huge variety of foods, and that for a price I can choose whatever I want and take it home with me any time I want. It's such an amazing commodity.

I'm not talking about having the money to buy food. That's something different. I'm talking about the availability of it. Everything that's involved in making it available and accessible, from the farmers, to the boats, planes, and trucks that ship it, to the stocking...

Every time I walk into a grocery store and see shelves filled with fresh, canned, boxed, and frozen food, I really do think to myself "Wow... how in the world did I ever get this life?"


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I Am Thankful For My Friend "T" And Our Trips To Costco

I know this may not seem like a big deal to some, but TRUST me... when you live in a large city where stores are generally small, crowded, and overpriced, a trip to a large discount warehouse like Costco is like a trip to Mecca.

It's a religious experience complete with miracles, false idols, communion (ok samples), and happy travelers from far off places who occasionally break into spontaneous singing and dancing in the aisles.

But in order to get to Mecca Costco you need a car and an offering, secret handshake membership card. T has both. And she's picking me up in an hour. :)


Monday, November 5, 2007

I Am Thankful For My Eyesight

Without my eyesight it would be so much harder to write, to draw, to see the smiles that melt my heart in the eyes of children and the people I love, and to see bugs in my food.


My Wild Self

Last night, as I trolled through looked through profile pictures on NaBloPoMo to try to get some inspiration for mine, I came across this one by andi and thought "Hey! I want one like that!"

So I visited her blog and saw that she made it at

I had a little fun there...


So did my friend Cammy
(I love this!)

The scary thing is, these really look like us! Lol!

Here's MP!
(Added 12/13/07)
MP's wild self

What about you? Show me your wild self!