Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Avocados and Fallen Branches

I went to the office in the morning and had a fairly productive work day in the air conditioned comforts of the office (cold enough that I needed a sweater!)
Summer is the time when several of my colleagues go on vacations abroad.  When they come back, they bring souvenir goodies.  Today, I found someone had brought back these mini-boxes of candy coated chocolates.  I loved Smarties as a child:
Candy Coated Chocolate

One of my friends gave me some avocadoes from her tree; I will share them with my daughter:
They are not ripe yet, but they'll ripen in a few days.  

When I came home, this was the sight that greeted me:

Fallen Eucalyptus Branch
Another branch had fallen from the self-trimming eucalyptus tree!  A bigger branch, this time!  The new growth at the end of the branches are too heavy, I guess.  I sure wished I had that chainsaw, still!

From a different angle
Anne, I thought of your mom and her self-trimming tree.

Thank goodness it fell on the bare lawn and not on the roof of the house!  I felt a little upset by this turn of events.  Once I went inside, I called my gardener friend and left a message for him.  I will ask him to start trimming some of the branches, if he can, or ask if he knows a tree trimmer.  Maybe time to buy my own chainsaw?

It was too hot to do anything right then, so I had a cup of tea and watched the evening news.  Then, at 7:00 p.m., I put on my gardening gloves, took my handsaw, and went to work!
My cousin was watering her garden and she called out to me, so I went across the street to say hi to her and talk about the fallen branch.  She said neighbor E was out of the country, on vacation, otherwise he might have helped me with the branch.  While we were talking, a complete stranger who was walking past us offered to deal with the branch for me, but I didn't know him and I was wary of accepting his help.  So, I thanked him but said my gardener will deal with it for me.  It is sad; it might have been a completely genuine offer of help, but I was afraid he might have had an ulterior motive.

Of course, I was too impatient to wait for my gardener friend!  I was able to break off most of the smaller twigs and branches with leaves and cut a few of the thicker branches with the handsaw.  I filled the yard waste bin and the black trash bin!  I dragged another smaller section of the branch, leaves and all, to the back of the house, when the bins were full.  But the big branch was too heavy for me to move.  It was past 8:00 p.m., by then, and too dark for me to see, and I was too tired to try to saw the branch into smaller pieces I could move.  Also, I know I usually have accidents when I get tired and I didn't want to have anything happen.  So, I just left it in place to deal with tomorrow, or on Friday, when my gardener friend usually comes to do the garden.  I was able to do quite a bit and I am happy with what I was able to do.  Six months ago, I would not have been able to do what I managed to do, today.  

I came inside and rested a bit.  Then, had dinner (a scrambled egg and toast; I had had rice, fish curry, and cabbage for lunch).  Called one of my friends and wished her for her birthday.  Except, it wasn't her birthday, today!  Her birthday is in September!  Today is her youngest granddaughter's birthday.  I told her that, very often, I remember people's birthday before the day and after the day, but often forget on the day!  So, if I forget to wish her in September, consider herself wished!  LOL.  

My neighbor T called me and we chatted briefly.  

I didn't finish my to do list for today, but I made a good start on it.

Wednesday's To Do List:
- Office - DONE
- Launder sofa dust sheets
- Water the front garden - CLEARED the fallen branch, instead!
- Tidy the kitchen - STARTED; put away the dried dishes from yesterday, did today's dishes, cleared and wiped down one counter, wiped the stove top, took the trash out.
- Water the houseplants - DONE
- Clean litter box - Will do before I go to bed.
Thursday's To Do List:
- Office
- Launder sofa dust sheets
- Water front garden 
- Tidy the kitchen
- Tidy the family room
- Pick up daughter from airport
Today, I am grateful for:
- The falling branch didn't damage the house or any car parked by the curb in front of my house.
- It fell at a time when I am well enough to deal with it.
- Avocados from my friend
- Air conditioning at the office
- One more sleep and daughter will be here!

How was your Wednesday?

Warm Tuesday!

French Cruller Doughnut

Today, I went to the office in the morning.  Someone had brought doughnuts.  I try to avoid them, but, French crullers are my favorite, there were two left by the time I got to the office, and this one was calling my name! 

I left the office at 1:30 p.m. to go to my podiatrist's appointment.  The visit went well, there was nothing wrong with my feet, they trimmed my toe nails for me, and told me to come back in three months.  I made the appointment, for November 28, before I left the clinic.

I had received a text from the pharmacy in the morning, stating that one of my prescription refills was ready for pick up (the texts saying a refill is ready don't say which one is ready; there's another site to go to in order to access that information and neither my daughter nor I have been able to access it!).  Later, I received another text stating that the doctor's office had refused to authorize a refill and to please contact the doctor's office (this text gave the first two letters of the medication).  I didn't bother to call the doctor's office, however, because I know I have an appointment coming up and enough of that medicine to last me till then.  I thought the text referred to two different medications because the first text said the medication was ready for pick up.  So, I stopped by the pharmacy on the way home from the podiatrist's office.  Apparently, the two text referred to the same medication!  However, it was OK, because the first text was the correct one and the medication was ready for pick up!  Good thing I didn't call the doctor's office, because they would have thought I was very confused!  LOL!  Anyway, the long and short of that is: I picked up my medication! 

Then, I went to the dollar store, which adjoins the pharmacy.  This is called a 99Cents Only Store, where most items are .9999 cents!  LOL.  But they have other items that cost a little more, including comforters, for $7.99!

Comforter Label

The label says king sized, but the measurements are given as 84"x96", which is more like a standard queen size (86"x93").  But the packaged (pre-cut) queen size (90"x108") quilt batting at the fabric store is priced $11.99 and that's the sale price (regular price is $19.99).  So, I decided to buy the $7.99 comforter to use as the batting for my Road to the Mountain quilt.

The Comforter
  I spread it on the bed and it is just the right size for my queen size bed:


There was one small area with some stains, which looked like rust stains:

I hand-washed that area and it looks like they faded, a bit, but didn't go away completely.  I might soak it in some OxyClean to see if it helps.  But the stains don't bother me too much, as they will be covered by the quilt top.  I am also thinking that, with this comforter, I will not need to use a separate backing!  I can just attach the quilt top to the existing comforter backing! 

After I purchased the comforter, I went to the bank.  

Today, it was 109F again, and almost 90F inside the house when I came home after running my errands. 

Temperature Inside

I decided to retreat to the bedroom and turn on the window air conditioner.  Then, I answered blog comments, read my friend's email, and took a nap!  Woke up around 8:00 p.m., had a cup of tea, ate a sandwich, washed the comforter, called my friend R to check on her, and video chatted with my daughter.  She introduced me to a type of on-line puzzles she and her friends have been doing.  They are like brain-teasers and we spent some time trying to solve them!  I was rather hopeless at them, but I managed to get one correct answer and solved one puzzle with her help.  It was a lot of fun! 

Today, I am grateful for:
- A good visit with the podiatrist
- My medication was ready for pick up, after all
- Being able to run my errands
- Air conditioning!
- Playing games and solving puzzles with my daughter

Wednesday's To Do List:
- Office
- Launder sofa dust sheets
- Water the front garden
- Tidy the kitchen
- Water the houseplants

There's a lot more I want to do, but it is going to be another hot day and I am not sure how much I'd be able to do.

How was your Tuesday?  Do you have a favorite doughnut?    Is it still hot where you are or is it starting to cool off?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Productive Weekend

Saturday was a productive day.  My energy levels were good, the weather was not too hot, although it got up to 104F in the afternoon, and I was able to get things done.  I renewed the car registration, made several phone calls, put gas to the car, did some shopping, went over my grocery budget (!), cooked, did the dishes, and cleaned the litter box.

Sunday was a less productive day.  My neighbor T called in the morning and we had our weekly phone chat.  Later, I attended the monthly prayer gathering and gave my cousin P a ride there and back.  It was an hour-long drive, each way; we left a little after noon and got back at 5:00 p.m.  My friend who hosted the prayer gathering had picked some pomegranates from her tree and gave me some:

I am keeping them until daughter comes home, because she loves pomegranates.

I did a load of laundry after I came home.

Later in the evening, my neighbor S who lives across the street from me called; her daughter had made some Armenian rice pilaf with vegetables and chicken and was bringing me a plate:

Armenian Rice Pilaf

I had some of it for my dinner and it was very tasty. I had more of it, today (Monday) for lunch and there's more leftover for another couple of meals.

I had planned to cook the beef steaks I had bought on Saturday, but I still had the fish curry I had cooked earlier and now I have all this rice pilaf, as well.  So I added curry powder and spices to the beef steaks, repackaged it into three smaller packages and froze them.  All I'll have to do will be to thaw them, add the rest of the ingredients like onions and curry leaves, and cook them (they'll be cooked as a curry).

Today, Monday, I went for my oncologist appointment in the morning.  I asked for and received a copy of the mammogram results (the actual report), and had my port catheter flushed.  I had planned to go to the bank, afterwards, but I came home, had lunch, and then, didn't feel like going out, again, in the heat (109F today).  Instead, I wrote a blog post about my stuffed toy tiger, paid the telephone bill, watched some TV, wrote a couple of emails to friends, and relaxed.   Later in the evening, I put water to the back garden and took the trash cans to the curb.

That's when I noticed that I had a self-trimming eucalyptus tree:

Fallen Eucalyptus Branch
It wasn't a very big branch.  I managed to break off the smaller branches with the leaves and stuffed them into the yard waste bin, which will be collected, tomorrow.  The branch itself, I moved to the back; it needs to be cut down so that the pieces can fit into the yard waste bin.  I might ask my gardener friend to do that for me.  Or I might cut it with my handsaw.

Once upon a time, I tried to cut a fairly big dead tree in my back garden with my handsaw.  I was standing on a ladder and sawing away at a branch when one of the neighbors in a house behind me happened to see me.  He offered me his chainsaw and I had that tree down in a few hours.  The only part I couldn't cut was the very last bit of the trunk, which was about 2-feet in diameter.  The saw kept getting stuck!  I didn't know then, that the way to cut such a thick trunk was to cut down vertically along the middle and then cut horizontally to remove each half.  Another neighbor, to whom I offered the wood, cut down the last bit for me and showed me how it should be done.

My mother was fussing at me because I was determined to cut that tree that evening  and it made us late to go to a family gathering!  Well, it was she who was unhappy with having a dead tree in the backyard, saying it was unlucky!  I hadn't planned on cutting the whole tree in one go, though.  I thought I'd saw off one branch at a time over several days, but when my neighbor offered me the use of his chainsaw, then I didn't want to stop!          

My podiatrist's office called to remind me of my appointment scheduled for tomorrow afternoon and I confirmed that I will be there.

I should put away the laundry from yesterday, make up daughter's bed, and do another load of laundry (the sofa dust sheets).  But first, I should have dinner (cold cuts sandwiches and salad).  

To Do List for Tuesday:
- Office
- Bank
- Podiatrist appointment

Today, I am grateful for:
- A good visit with the oncologist
- A productive weekend
- Pomegranates from my friend's garden
- The branch that fell was small and did no damage
-  The slightly cooler evening.

How was your weekend?  What are your plans for the rest of the week?

Tiger's Story

All this reminiscing about the anniversary of leaving my country of birth brought back memories of the preparations we had to do in order to leave.  I started writing a post about all the decluttering that we had to do as we got rid of most of our possessions.  That reminded me of the few things we kept with relatives with the intention of coming back to get them, someday.  The only thing I kept behind, with my cousin P, was a stuffed toy tiger which had been a 5th birthday present from my father.

I started to write about that stuffed toy tiger, for it had a story attached to it (seems like most of my possessions have stories attached to them and this is why it is so hard for me to declutter), when I realized that it deserved a post of its own!  So, this is Tiger's Story:

I don't remember the exact events of the day I acquired Tiger, but this is the story of that day as my mother told me.  According to my mother, for my fifth birthday, my father and she took me shopping at a store called Chands.  I don't remember if my mother had said anything to me before going to the shop, but, knowing her, she probably told me not to ask for anything!

But, once in the shop, my father had said to me, "Baby, choose anything you want"!  LOL!  How could I resist such an invitation?  I had made a bee-line to this stuffed toy tiger that was probably the biggest toy in the store!  It was in a stretched out reclining position, with the head held up and measured about 3 feet long and about 1 foot high at the head.  It had  an excelsior-filled body with tawny fake fur with black stripes on the top and a creamy-white belly, a pink embroidered nose and green eyes that glowed in the dark.  It had a noise-maker inside so that when you pressed down on its stomach, it growled.  It cost 125 rupees, which, at the time, was A LOT of money!  In comparison, a gold necklace with clusters of small rubies cost  Rs. 135!  (I don't know how much that would have been in US dollars back then, but, in 1973, when we left Sri Lanka, 8 rupees equaled $1; today, 152 Rs. equal $1).

Notation in my Baby Book about the Tiger

My mother had tried to interest me in a smaller toy tiger, a doll, a different toy, something less expensive, but I was adamant.  Father had said to choose whatever I wanted and I had chosen!  Mother said I hugged that toy tiger and wouldn't let go.  Father bought it for me.  (Was I spoilt?  I'll let you decide!)

My mother took me to a studio to have a picture taken of me seated on the tiger!

My Tiger and I

I remember that dress - it was coral pink with lace butterflies linked with lace around the skirt and the neckline.  Mother sewed the dress; I don't know who made the lace, but she probably bought it.

Tiger was loved.  It was my most cherished toy.  It was my confidante.  Its sawdust body absorbed my tears because I would hug it and cry into it whenever I was sad.  It had long whiskers that I "trimmed".  One green eye fell off and was glued back on.  A mouse nibbled its tail and Mother patched it. 

When it was time to dispose of our possessions, I gave away most of my clothes and many treasures, including my beloved collection of books and my 3 foot high walkie-talkie doll my mother had bought for me when I was 6 or 7 (it too had a story: my parents had given it to me, pretending it was a gift from my uncle who had returned from a trip abroad - I don't know why they did that, but maybe I was told he'll bring me a doll if I was good?  But I knew it wasn't from him the moment my mother told me to thank him for the doll and I did and uncle was quite confused, asking what doll and my mother prompted him with a "Why, the doll you brought back from your visit abroad"; I gave the doll to my stepfather's dental technician whose baby daughter had been diagnosed with cancer and wasn't expected to live; he had asked if he could buy the doll for her). 

But I couldn't give away my tiger.  So, I asked my cousin to keep it for me and she did.

When I went back for the first time in 1979, Tiger looked a bit dingy and no longer growled, but I wanted to bring it back with me.  Various members of the family tried to discourage me from bringing it back; they told me I would have a hard time with Customs at the airport, that they would cut into it to see if there were any gems or other smuggled items.  I cried (yes, even if I was 23 at the time!)  I said, in that case, I will bury my tiger that my father had given me, just as I had buried Father.  I was at my aunt's house at the time and she couldn't bear to see me cry.  She said something to her husband who told me not to cry and told off the rest of the family.  Together, we wrapped Tiger in clear plastic and I was allowed to bring it as my second piece of checked luggage without any hassles at the Customs.

I brought Tiger home and shampooed him to remove some of the dirt.  He had pride of place at the foot of my bed, again.  Over the years, the fur on the top of his head got loved off, the tips of his ears got torn, the pink embroidered nose frayed, one or two stitches in his seams gave way and he leaked sawdust every time he was moved, and, I don't know if you noticed, but just like the Velveteen Rabbit, Tiger became Real and went from being "it" to "he".  He moved with me when I moved into my house.  My daughter grew up knowing who Tiger was.  The bed in the guest room became his room.  It seemed to me that he had begun to have a quizzical look on his face.  He looked old and worn out, he no longer held his head up proudly, but I would still pet him on the head at times and his eyes still glowed at night. 

One day, however, I knew it was time for Tiger to go.  I was a 50+ year old woman, at the time, with a stuffed toy tiger and it seemed slightly ridiculous.  I let go of Tiger and I cried. 

I am grateful for:
- an indulgent father
- my mother's record keeping
- mother having my photograph taken with my tiger
- memories of my much loved toy
- stories to share!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

August Grocery Shopping Overview

My August grocery budget was $75 + $7 carried over from July = $82.00

My grocery spending for the first twenty-four days of the month looked like this:

8/1 = $2.81 (bread and grapes)
8/8 = $6.59 (bread, bananas, lettuce, cold cuts)
8/13 = $7.95 (bread, beef chuck steak, ice cream)
8/15 = $1.90 (milk, bananas)
8/18 = $3.98 (bread, grapes, blackberries)
8/20 = $4.75 (brown sugar, coconut cream, relish, creamcheese/strawberry snacks, bananas)
8/22 =  $19.38 (corn, turkey pot pies, pastries, milk, pork chops, ice cream bars, cold cuts)
8/24 = $6.79 (roasted cashew halves and pieces) 
Total spent to date = $54.15

Then, I went grocery shopping again, on August 26, as follows:
Discount Store:
8/26 Discount Store Purchases
4 boxes of cereal bars, @ $2.50 = $10.00
1 box cookies = $2.00
1 can cream cheese frosting = $1.65
Total =  $13.65

Grocery Store:
8/26 Grocery Store Purchases
1+ lb. beef round steak @$2.77/lb = $5.04
Grapes @$.99/lb = $1.65
Bananas @$.59/lb = $.61
2 cans condensed milk @$1.59 = $3.18
1 cucumber = $.50
Green beans @$1.49/lb = $.73
1 loaf bread = $.99
Total = $12.70

Grocery spending to date = $54.15 + $13.65 + $12.70 = $80.50
August grocery budget = $75 + $7 carried over from July = $82.00 

I would have been just fine, with $1.50 leftover, if I had stopped there!  But, no!  I had to go to the Sri Lankan store!
8/26 Sri Lankan Store Groceries
At the Sri Lankan store, I bought:

6 boxes tea, @$5.49 = $32.94
2 lbs. cashew pieces, @$5.79/lb = $11.58
4 pieces frozen "Seer" fish fillets, @$4.99/lb = $3.19 + $3.19 + $3.14 + $2.99 = $12.51
A lot of tea because they don't always have it in stock and I've learned to stock up when a shipment comes in.  The six boxes I bought should last me at least six months. 

The cashew was the cheapest I've seen anywhere; I am keeping them for making Love Cake, during Christmas.

The fish is a favorite and not available in the regular grocery stores, here.
1 jar fried bread fruit = $3.99
Fried Bread Fruit
1 packet Lemon Puff biscuits (probably my favorite biscuits) = $1.99
Lemon Puff Biscuits
1 packet Nice biscuits (another favorite) = $1.49

Nice (Coconut) Biscuits

Spicy fried lentils = $1.99

Fried Lentils

Murukku = $2.99
  Cocktail mixture (mixture of murukku, fried lentils, peanuts, etc.) = $2.99
Cocktail Mixture

 Sri Lankan Store Total = $72.47!
Total spent on groceries in August = $80.50 + $72.47 = $152.97
Amount overspent = $82.00 - $152.97 =  -$70.97!

How is that for going over budget?

(Susan, what do you think?)

I feel blessed to be able to afford to do this and go over budget.  There was a time, when my family had newly arrived in this country, when we couldn't have afforded to have done this.  I am grateful for the ability to pay almost twice what I have budgeted for groceries in a given month.  

If I were to deduct this amount from September's grocery budget of $75, I will have a total of $4 to spend in September!  Obviously, I am not going to do that!  I often have grocery money leftover in October, because I host the monthly prayer gathering in October and I augment my grocery budget then.  So, I will carry forward the deficit and make it up in October and November.

How did you did with your grocery shopping this month?      

Weekend To Do List

First of all, I hope everyone in the path of hurricane Harvey is safe.  I know I have some readers in Texas, including Carolyn and PamInTexas and several friends; some of them have indicated that they are safe.  My aunt and cousins (stepfather's sister, nieces and nephews) and their families are also in Texas and they have indicated that they are safe, but expecting flooding.

Late last night (Friday night), I couldn't go to sleep because there were several "to do" things running through my mind:  "I have to do this, I should do that, I want to do this other thing, but first I need to do that other thing".  It was getting to a point where I was feeling overwhelmed and when that happens, I get stressed.  Even my daughter noticed that I was stressed, when I ended my video chat with her.  So, after I said goodnight to her, I sat down with a pad of paper and wrote down my Weekend To Do List:

Weekend To Do List:
Friday Night:
- Check car registration renewal notice/see if a smog check is required (DONE/not required)

- Take car for smog check if needed - NOT required
- Go to DMV counter at the auto club to pay registration fees and get the sticker - DONE
- Put the sticker on the car - DONE
- Phone calls:
   - Call lady hosting the prayer gathering to let her know I'll be attending - DONE
   - Call cousin to let her know I can give her a ride - DONE
   - Call sister to see if she's free to go to lunch when daughter is here - DONE/left a message
   - Call sister-in-law for update on brother - DONE (he's out of ICU but can't recognize family or friends, sister in law is being shown how to take care of him - brush his teeth, bathe him, etc.)
   - Call the Sri Lankan store to see if they have my tea - DONE - they do!
   - Call friend R to ask if she needs to go to the Sri Lankan store - called and left a message; she called back after I had left for the store and I called her back after I came home
   - Call gardener friend to thank him for the package of dried spicy mango he left for me - DONE
- Put gas to the car - DONE
- Shopping:
   - Store 1 - DONE (didn't buy anything)
   - Store 2 - DONE (bought a butter dish and some nutrition bars to share with daughter)
   - Fabric store for quilt batting?  ($11.99 for queen size batting)
   - Dollar store for a finished quilt to use as batting? ($7.99 for queen size quilt)
   - Sri Lankan store for tea (and maybe other goodies!) - DONE
 Grocery shop for bread, fruit, vegetables - DONE
- Laundry - daughter's bed sheets, sofa dust sheets
- Water the back garden
- Cook - DONE (rice, fish curry, sauted curried cabbage)
- Do dishes - DONE
- Do litter box - DONE

- Attend prayer gathering
- Catch up on Saturday's list
- Dust
- Vacuum
- Clean bathrooms

- Oncologist appointment
- Bank

- Office
- Podiatrist appointment

This morning, I had a cup of tea and started on my list.  First, I called the lady hosting the prayer gathering, then, called my cousin.  After that, I renewed my car registration and started on the shopping.  I found many things my daughter would like; we've planned to go back to the store when she comes, next week.

Came home and cooked rice, fish curry, and cabbage for lunch.  After lunch, I rested a bit, made the rest of my phone calls, waited to see if my friend will call back, and at 5:30 p.m., went to the Sri Lankan store (friend had called 5 minutes later!), put gas to the car, did my regular grocery shopping, and came home around 7:30 p.m.  I called my friend and chatted with her for a bit; I promised to call her again, the next time I go to the Sri Lankan store.  My aunt C called and I had a chat with her, too.

I will do a separate post about the grocery shopping and how I spent all my August grocery shopping budget and more! 

But for now, for all the British ex-pat readers, more goodies on display:

A Selection of Biscuits and Crackers

I was tempted to buy a packet of the Rich Tea Biscuits, but balked at the $4.79 price tag.

More Goodies, including Christmas Pudding!
I was tempted to buy some Christmas pudding, but I thought I'll hold off until closer to Christmas!  Besides, I still have half the Christmas cake my friend made and gave me last year!

Today, I am grateful for
- Family and friends in Texas are safe
- Brother is out of ICU
- The store had my tea!
- Being able to go over budget on occasion
- Being able to drive myself around

Today, I spent money!  $244 to register the car, $72+ (!) at the Sri Lankan store, $21+ at a discount store, almost $13 at the grocery store, and $33 for gas ($2.79/gal) for the car.  Oh, well, the trip to the Sri Lankan store was cheaper than a trip to Sri Lanka and now I have enough tea (6 boxes of 100 tea bags per box!) to last me for the rest of the year, if not longer!

How was your Saturday?  Did you have a good start to the weekend?  Do you sometimes get a bit overwhelmed with all the things that have to be done, that should be done, that you want to do, etc.?  If so, how do you handle it? 

Friday, August 25, 2017

August 25: An Anniversary

August 25, 1974, 43 years ago today, I arrived in Green Bay, Wisconsin, to attend university there. I was 18 years old.
A year prior to that, my mother, stepfather, and I had left Sri Lanka.  We went to Malaysia, first, to visit family (my stepfather's cousin lived there) and friends, and stayed there for several weeks.  Then, we flew to Hong Kong to visit more family (one of my stepfather's sisters and her children, and one of his nieces from a different sister).  Then, we went to Taiwan to visit another of my stepfather's sisters and her family, and yet another of his nieces who was the sister of the niece in Hong Kong).  While we were in Taiwan, my mother was offered a position at one of the universities there to teach English for a term.  So we settled down in Taipei for a few months.

After my mother's contract ended, we went back to Hong Kong.  My mother would teach English there for the next 4 years (my mother had teaching certificates from Britain and Hong Kong was still a British colony at the time). While we were there, I was offered the opportunity to attend university in Wisconsin and a tuition waiver scholarship, so I accepted the offer.  Well, actually, my stepfather said we'll discuss it and my mother immediately said, "She's going" and that was that!  The decision had been made; there was nothing to discuss!
I had exactly two weeks to prepare for my trip, which included being able to show we had US$2,000 in a checking account as collateral before the visa would be granted.  We didn't have that much of money at the time (we were not allowed to bring out any money from Sri Lanka, at the time) and there was no time to get a loan!  My mother took her jewellery in a paper bag and showed it to the visa officer, who issued the visa without a word!  Later, my mother would pawn her jewellery to raise the funds that were needed; when my stepfather's sister found out, she gave my mother her children's college money to redeem the jewellery, with the understanding that my mother will pay her back in monthly installments. I had one week after getting the visa to book a flight (I couldn't buy a ticket until I had the visa), and get myself ready!  I also needed to bring another $2,000 with me to pay for the deposit on housing, registration fees, and various other expenses.  The fact that we had very little money at the time was an added challenge.

But, my mother was determined that I would go to the US to attend university.  We managed to obtain the funds we needed and I was outfitted with adequate clothing, other essentials, and a brand new, portable, manual typewriter.  My stepfather's sister gave me some warm clothing, an alarm clock, and two one dollar bills should I need to buy something at the airport, and a dime for a phone call. The Cashiers check for $2,000 was obtained and my mother put it in a plastic bag which she sewed to the inside of my blouse so I wouldn't lose it and no one could steal it!

And, on August 24, 1974, I boarded a plane to come to the US.  It was the first time I had ever flown anywhere on my own.  From Hong Kong to South Korea, where we found out that my travel agent hadn't booked me on the connecting flight!  I was taken aside to be searched thoroughly and all I could think of was not making the connecting flight because that would mess up all the other connecting flights!  But, I was finally allowed on the connecting flight which took me to Honolulu, which was my port of entry.  The customs people there gave me a hard time because I had some chocolates and a couple of other food items with me.  I remember telling them it was to keep me fed until I was able to buy groceries at the other end. 

Then, from Honolulu to Los Angeles.  Where I had to find my way from the international airport to the domestic flights terminal.  Which was in another building.  And I had no idea where to go.  I found an airlines counter, but there was no one at the counter.  As I stood there, wondering what to do, a gentleman approached me.  I had seen him before, in the plane, with a lady and a child who I assumed were his wife and baby; so, when he asked me if I needed help, I said yes.  He led me out of the terminal, through a dark parking lot, to the other terminal where there were airline counters with people working behind them!  Looking back, I marvel at how trusting I was to follow a stranger like that! 

Then, it was a wait of several hours until my next flight.  I had eaten lunch on the plane, but now it was evening.  But I only had the cashiers check for the university and the two one dollar bills and the dime my aunt had given me, and I wasn't going to spend them.  I ate the crackers I had with me and waited.  My next flight was from Los Angeles to Chicago.  I boarded the plane sometime around 11:00 p.m. - too late for them to serve dinner on the plane.  I arrived at O'Hare Airport at 5:00 a.m. - too early for them to serve breakfast on the plane!  There was a 3-hour wait at O'Hare and then, I boarded a plane to Milwaukee and, from Milwaukee, an even smaller plane (there were, I think, some 6 or 8 seats on the plane!) to Green Bay! 

My stepfather had cabled the university with my flight information, asking someone to meet me at the airport, but they hadn't got the cable and so, no one met me at the airport.  Half of my luggage, too, was missing!  One suitcase had made it on the plane with me, but the second suitcase, with my new typewriter and several other items, was missing!  So, I filled out the missing luggage claim forms (the airlines eventually located my suitcase and forwarded it to me, but it had been broken into and items, including my typewriter, were missing) and used the dime I had to call the university.  Within the hour, someone came to the airport to pick me up and take me to the campus, to register me, and get me to my student apartment (they didn't have dorms at this particular campus, at the time; they had contracted with a private company to provide student housing, which consisted of apartments).  Eventually, someone suggested lunch, and I had my first hamburger at the cafeteria.  In the afternoon, I was taken to the bank to set up an account, so I could cash that cashier's check, then, to the grocery store, and back to the apartment.  None of my roommates were there, yet, so I was on my own.  I remember cooking some hot dogs for dinner and not even being able to eat them because I was so tired and jet-lagged! 

The next day, I was asked to come in for some placement tests.  What tests?  No one told me anything about tests!  LOL.  I was to be tested in English, math, science, and social studies.  I was never very good at math, so I didn't do too well on that and was placed in Intermediate Algebra.  Social studies was only a little better, as it was mostly about American history, and I knew some, but not a lot.  I did better in Science - enough to get 6 college credits for it!  And I did really well in English (although they didn't give college credits for that), scoring the highest of all the incoming freshmen, that fall semester, much to the surprise of the campus administration!  How could a foreign student score better on English than anyone else?  Well, I had grown up in a former British Crown Colony, English is one of the three official languages there; my parents were British educated, and I was bi-lingual in English and my own language.    Of course, I had to relearn how to spell and pronounce certain words and learn to say cookies instead of biscuits and so forth.   But I managed to surprise everyone with how well I spoke English. 

My stepfather and mother immigrated a couple of years after that.  They found Wisconsin winters to be too cold, so they moved to Florida.  I joined them there, after I had finished my studies, then, we drove across the country to California.  I went back to Wisconsin for my graduate studies, but came back to California, afterwards, and here I've stayed.  I can't imagine settling down elsewhere, but I know I'll be able to, if I need to. 

43 years have passed since I arrived in this country!  At the end of this month, it will be 44 years since I left Sri Lanka. 

Today, I went to the office.  My gardener friend was tidying up the garden when I came home.  I felt too tired to do much in the evening, other than watch some TV and exchange some messages with family in Texas.  Apparently they are not in the direct path of the hurricane, but are anticipating flooding.  My friend R called me and we had a nice chat. 

Today, I am grateful for:
- Being offered a scholarship to attend university
- My mother's willingness to let me go and make it happen
- My stepfather's sister and family doing what they could to help
- The confidence of youth which enabled me to venture out on my own
- All the blessings of the past 40+ years!

How was your day?  What are some of the special anniversaries of your life? 

My Grandmother's Song

My mother's family was very musical and they could all sing beautifully.  Mother's oldest brother played the violin and mother and her sisters played the piano.  Often, they would all gather around the piano in the evenings and sing.  In fact, according to my mother, her father refused to buy a radio because he was afraid that, with a radio in the house, the children would stop singing.  It seems that everyone had their favorite songs, which came to be identified as their signature songs.

My maternal grandmother had two favorite songs.  One was "A Boy's Best Friend", which her youngest son used to sing to her.  The other was "The Ballad of Grace Darling".  My mother taught me the song and had me sing it to her mother.  Several years later, on what turned out to be my mother's last visit to Sri Lanka, one of her cousins gave my mother this songbook that she (my mother's cousin) had, to be given to me:

Old Songbook
 The book contained the words to the song, Grace Darling:

Words to the Song

The Rest of the Song

My grandmother died when I was 15.  I have no idea why this was one of her favorite songs.  But I remember her every time I sing this song.

Today, I went to the office.  During my afternoon break, I went to the nearby CVS pharmacy to buy some cans of cashews.  They had them on sale - buy one get one free.  I bought two 8-oz. cans of roasted cashew halves and pieces for $6.79.  It was cheaper than the $7.99/lb. I pay for the raw cashews at the grocery store.  I kept one can at the office to snack on and brought the other can home.

The eye doctor's office had called and left a message, yesterday, reminding me that it was time to make an appointment for my annual eye exam.  So, I called them, today, and made the appointment for September.  Then, I texted my cousin N to ask if she could go with me to the appointment as my eyes will be dilated and I won't be able to drive right away, afterwards.  She texted back to say she could.  She has been such a blessing to me.

After I came home, I put away the load of laundry I did yesterday and watered the front garden.  Then, I played the piano and sang a bit, including the above song.  Later, I video chatted with my daughter.

Today, I am grateful for:
- Memories of my grandmother
- Cousin is able to go with me to my upcoming medical appointment
- The songs we've sung and the memories they bring
- Water for the garden
- Video chatting with my daughter

How was your day?  Have you heard of the song "Grace Darling", before?  Are there certain songs that you associate with a certain member of your family?  What was your grandmother's favorite song?  Do you know?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Twenty Questions

Anne at New Happenings at the Table and Whatever had posted a list of questions and answers on her blog and invited others to copy and paste the questions and play along.  So, I thought I will!  Why not?

1. What was the last thing you put in your mouth? An amaretti cookie.
2. Where was your profile pic taken? Don't have a profile picture.
3. Worst pain you've ever experienced? A toothache from an infected tooth.
4. Favorite place you've traveled? London.
5. How late did you stay up last night? 3:00 a.m.
6. If you could move somewhere else, where would it be? I've lived in many places and really wouldn't want to move anywhere else, but, I'd move to Berkeley, if daughter decides to settle down there.
8. Which of your Blogger friends lives closest to you?  I don't know; maybe Debbie at The Next Chapter In My Life ( who lives in Washington.
 10. When was the last time you cried? When I got my newest mammogram results confirming it was normal!
11. Who took your profile photo? No profile picture.
12. Who was the last person you took a picture with? A cousin visiting from Australia.
13. What's your favorite season? Summer, even though it is hot, I like the heat and there being light till late in the evening.
14. If you could have any career, what would it be?  A historian.
15. Do you think relationships are ever worth it? Depends on the relationship.
16. If you could talk to ANYONE right now who would it be?  My father, who died when I was 7
17. Are you a good influence? I would like to think so.
18. Does pineapple belong on pizza? Yes!
19. You have the remote, what channel? PBS
20. Whom do you think will play along? Good question!  Don't know if anyone will, but it will be fun to see if someone does.

Thanks, Anne, for the questions.  Is there anyone else who'd play this 20 Questions game?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Grocery Shopping on Tuesday

August 22 Groceries

Yesterday (Monday), in addition to watching the solar eclipse and various TV programs about space and eclipses and so forth, I cleaned out the fridge, took the trash cans to the curb, did the dishes, put away the laundry, and tidied the shelf with the bed sheets in the linen closet.  I was going to take a picture of that shelf, but forgot to do so.

This morning, I put away the dried dishes (I leave them in the dish drainer overnight to air dry), cleaned the cat's litter box, and brought in the trash cans before I left for work.  I had a pretty good day at the office.

On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store to take advantage of some sales, today being the last day before the prices changed.

I bought:
5 ears of corn @5/$1 = $1.00
6 turkey pot pies @$1.49 = $8.94 (to be shared with daughter)
2 pastries @$.50 = $1.00
1 pint milk = $.99
1 lb. pork chops (2 chops) @$.97/lb. = $.97
1 6-ct. ice cream bars = $2.99
1 7 oz. cold cuts = $3.49
Total =  $19.38

Amount spent on groceries in August = $27.98 + $19.38 = $47.36

After I came home and put away the groceries, I made a cup of tea and had one of the pastries:

It is a square of puff pastry, with a drizzle of some type of jam (strawberry, I think) and sprinkled with sugar.  There was no filling inside:

The cut pastry
The second pastry I bought has a cream cheese center:

Cream Cheese Pastry
Later, I cooked some rice and the pork chops I had bought - I cut them into strips and made a curry with onions and tomatoes I had harvested from the garden and spices:

Rice and Pork Curry

Today, I am grateful for:
- A safe drive to the office and back
- Grocery bargains
- Emails from my friend
- Video chatting with my daughter
- Cooler days

Plans for tomorrow include going to the office and maybe some sewing.  How was your day?  How is your August grocery shopping coming along?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse on Monday!

Today, the continental US experienced an eclipse of the sun.  Some states experienced a total eclipse which comes, perhaps, once a life time.  Other states, including California, experienced a partial eclipse.

Some people apparently flew in from other countries, or drove or flew in from other states, to those states where a total eclipse was expected.   I selected to stay where I was.  Some people bought special glasses to view the eclipse, others made their own viewing boxes.  The local branch of the library held an event this morning and the first 30 people who participated were given free eclipse-viewing glasses.  I debated attending the event; if daughter was home and younger, I might have taken her and gone.  If it had been a total eclipse, I probably would have gone.  Instead, I chose to stay at home and watch it from my backyard using very low tech ways.

On the morning of the eclipse, the skies above my house were clear and blue:

Clear Blue Skies

The sun shone brightly, but I didn't want to point the cell phone camera directly at the sun:

A Hint of the Brightly Shining Sun

The garden was bathed in sunshine:

Back Garden on the Morning of the Eclipse

I took a small paper plate, leftover from my daughter's 16th birthday, and make a pin hole with a thumb tack:

Paper Plate Eclipse Viewer

The Pinhole (just below the sparkle star)

And a large white envelope which I propped up on one of the lemon trees.  With my back to the sun, I held the paper plate up so that the pinpoint focused the reflection of the eclipse onto the envelope:

Low Tech Reflection of the Eclipse

I don't know why the white envelope appears blue in the pictures - I didn't expect that!

Another View

The day remained as bright as ever and there was lots of sunshine and no visible change in the light as far as I could tell. 

In fact, as I told daughter (she said it was foggy up in Berkeley and she couldn't see anything - she watched the eclipse on-line, instead!), if one didn't know there was an eclipse going on, one would not have known in by any change in the sunlight.  At least not here, where the eclipse was only about 60%.  But I was happy to have known that I experienced it and managed to capture an image. 

I also watched the live coverage of the total eclipse on the various news channels.  It was very exciting, although I felt sorry for the people whose view was obstructed by clouds.

Today, I was grateful I could witness the partial eclipse of the sun from my backyard even in such a low tech manner. 

Did you experience the eclipse where you live?  Were you able to watch it in person?  Or did you watch it on-line or on the TV?

Sunday: Phone Calls and Groceries

Sunday was a day of phone calls!

The first one woke me up before my alarm went off and it was some sales person from a construction company, cold calling to see if I had any construction work done!  No, thank you!  Even if I have any projects that need doing (and I do), I won't be having some unknown person coming over to my house to give me estimates!  I am a bit paranoid, that way!

The next phone call, when I was brewing tea, was from daughter; she was having her morning coffee while waiting for her colleague who was coming to pick her up.  They were going to feed the stray cats at the race track in San Francisco and then go grocery shopping, afterwards. 

Then, my neighbor T called - our weekly Sunday phone call.  It would have been her 51st wedding anniversary and the first one since her husband's death.  I wished her for her anniversary, although I am sure it was a difficult one.

After that, my friend R called to say hi and to see how things were.  We had a nice chat, catching up with each other since we last spoke, which was about a couple of days before that!

Cousin V called in the afternoon, to let me know that her daughter in New York will be visiting again with the baby, next week.  She said the baby loves the bright colors of the quilt I made for him and spends a lot of time on the quilt!  Made me feel very happy to hear that.  Cousin will call to let me know when would be a good time to come and see the baby again, when they are here.

Aunt C called when I was making my evening tea, to ask how I was.  She said she had a good visit on Friday night when she and her daughter, my cousin N, visited.  I mentioned that I went out to lunch with sister on Saturday (sister has the same relationship to her as I do).  Aunt's first question amused me no end - she wanted to know if I colored my hair before going out with sister!  LOL!  No, I told her, I don't color my hair, didn't color it before, and don't plan to color it now or in the future!  I am perfectly comfortable with the very natural aging process and the grey hairs and wrinkles that accompany it.  Actually, my hair was greyer before my cancer treatment caused it to fall out; the hair that has since grown back is more pigmented.  I still have some grey, but it doesn't bother me. 

My hair has been a source of consternation to various members of my family!  When it was long, all the aunts and many of the cousins were always telling me to cut it.  When it started to grey, it was cut and color it!  Now that it is short (since it is growing out), everyone is assuring me I look younger and nice in short hair, but I am still being urged to color it.  Personally, I'd prefer to have long hair, even if it is grey!

Finally, cousin P called to check on me and to ask me if I was attending the monthly prayer gathering (scheduled for next Sunday) and, if so, could I give her a ride.  Originally, the monthly prayer gathering had been scheduled for this past Saturday, but then, the lady who had volunteered to host it this month was unable to host it, so the lady who leads the prayers stated she'll host it.  When she called me to tell me about the change of plans, last week, I had told her I will let her know if I am able to attend the prayer gathering closer to the date.  I told my cousin the same thing - I will let her know if I am going, but if I am going, then, I will definitely give her a ride.

In between all these phone calls, I went to the pharmacy to pick up one of my medications, and then, I stopped at the dollar store next door to the pharmacy for a few grocery items:

August 20 Groceries
I bought:
1 lb. box brown sugar = $1.00
1 can coconut cream = $1.00
1 jar sweet pickle relish = $1.00
1 2-pk. cheesecake/strawberry topping = $1.00
Bananas, @ $.49/lb = $.75
Total = $4.75

Amount spent on groceries in August = $19.25 + $3.98 + $4.75 = $27.98

Breakfast had been a scrambled egg with toast.  After I came home, I made myself a salad with the last of the barbecue chicken breast from Saturday's lunch out.  Then, I had one of the cheesecake containers.  It was the first time I have bought these and I bought them to try them.  At $.50and 170 calories a serving, it wasn't too bad, although it really didn't taste like cheesecake in my opinion.   I have no idea how much they cost at the grocery store, but for $1 for a package of 2 containers, I might buy it, again.

After lunch, it was time to strip the bed and remake it.  Dancer, being the helpful kitty he is, "helped":

Dancer Helps to Make the Bed

Smoothing Out the Sheet

Then, because bed making is so tiring, he took a nap:

Testing out the newly made bed
While he napped, I did a load of laundry and washed the sheets I had just taken off the bed.  I have two sets of cotton blend sheets for my bed for the summer and one set of cotton flannel sheets for the winter.  There's another older set I use as dust covers on the family room sofa to keep the cat fur off the sofas to the extent possible.

Later in the evening, I video chatted with daughter and exchanged emails with a friend.

On Sunday, I was grateful for:
- Phone calls from family and friends
- A working washing machine
- Help with making the bed!
- Getting my medication from the pharmacy without any drama
- Lots of interesting programs on TV, pertaining to the eclipse.

How was your Sunday?  Did you have a good day?