Desperate Times

“Desperate times breed desperate measures”–William Shakespeare

On most days I have lunch alone, either here at Doright Manor or at one of a handful of Tallahassee cafes. Now, before you feel sorry for me you need to know that I enjoy my solitary lunches. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy having lunch with Studly Doright or with a friend, but when I dine alone I pull my Kindle out of my purse and read. And there are few things I’d rather do than read.

One day last week I had a whole list of errands to run, most of them in Tallahassee. I planned the most efficient route and left home around 10 a.m. with the goal of having lunch at the best little vegan eatery in the world, Sweet Pea Cafe.

With my errands halfway done, I drove to Sweet Pea and ordered that day’s special, Tempeh Temptation. I found a table and reached into my purse for my Kindle. Hmmm. No Kindle. I searched every zippered compartment with no luck.

“That’s okay,” I said to myself. “Just read from the Kindle app on your phone.”

“You’re so brilliant!” I answered.

“I know.” I said.

Unfortunately my brilliant self had managed to leave my phone at home as well.

As I waited for the meal to arrive I wondered how I was supposed to eat without a book in hand. How does one do such a thing?

“You can do this,” I gently reminded myself. “Just be more mindful of your meal. Pay attention to every bite. People watch. Listen to the music playing. Enjoy the experience.”

“Shut up! I NEED my book. Or just something, anything, to read.”

Gee, one of us needs anger management therapy.

In the midst of my angst I noticed a woman who’d been reading from a book as she dined at the table nearest mine. She’d finished her meal and as I watched from the corner of my eye saw that she was preparing to leave.

I hesitated for a second before asking, “Excuse me, this is going to sound weird and slightly desperate, by I don’t suppose you have an extra book that I might buy from you.”

Now, the beauty of this is she totally understood my question. The sad part is that she’d just returned from a trip to see her sister and had given the sister a box full of books that she usually carried in her car.

We laughed about our respective reading addictions. She apologized for not having a book to offer. I laughed and told her no big deal while underneath my smile I was thinking, “Couldn’t you at least have saved one book for us, I mean, me?”

She left the cafe as my meal arrived and I began to eat in a desultory fashion. The food was excellent as always, but damn it, how could I enjoy myself when there were intrepid space explorers trapped on an exoplanet in my book, and how the heck was I going to save them if I couldn’t read the remainder of chapter 55 while I chewed?

That’s when an angel came to my rescue. The woman who’d taken a box of books to her sister came triumphantly back into the cafe waving a book.

“Look what I found,” she smiled.

“It must’ve fallen out of the box. It’s yours if you want it….”

I wanted to hug her, but I restrained myself, offering effusive thanks as I tried to pay her.

“Absolutely not!” she said. “I don’t know how anyone can eat alone without a good book for company.”

A true hero, that woman.

I opened the book and began a new adventure. John Grisham paired quite nicely with Tempeh Temptation.

Peace, people.

Pee Patrol

Seems like all I do lately is clean up “accidents” left by our younger cat, Patches. From the time I get out of bed in the morning I’m on constant alert for the smell (Oh, the smell!🤢) and the telltale wet spots of cat urine.

When I return to Doright Manor after a trip to the store or lunch with friends the first thing I do is patrol the entire house, spray bottle in hand, to identify and eradicate cat pee. Before we get into bed and in the middle of the night I do walk-throughs. I’m paranoid and exhausted.

Late yesterday evening, for the first time ever she relieved herself on Studly Doright’s side of the bed. Thank goodness the bedspread prevented the liquid from penetrating to the mattress, but it was a near miss. I was up late doing laundry and changing the bedding. Studly was not pleased.

So, even though she was examined for a urinary tract infection in October, Patches and I are at the vet’s again, hoping to find an answer.

Wish us both luck.

Patches is underneath the calming blanket, and is refusing requests from all paparazzi.

Peace, people.

Christmas Decor at Doright Manor

Doright Manor isn’t a fancy place. Studly Doright and I seldom (never) entertain, and neither of us is overly concerned with having a spotless house.

I do enjoy playing with decorative items, though. And while my styling taste is on the eclectic side it’s also not expensive. All those years of having no money taught me how to make do with the decorating resources at hand.

Here’s a little tour of a few of my Christmas vignettes:

The Santa above was purchased for me when I was about four. When Mom passed away it was one of the few items I wanted. The old guy is getting pretty worn, but he’s my favorite decoration.

This Christmas bear would greet guests at the front door if we ever had any. I bought him at a post-holiday sale many years ago.

My mismatched Christmas village is mostly comprised of items I’ve found at garage sales. I like that the items are built to different scales. Imperfection pleases me.

Studly Doright has yet to notice the sprig of mistletoe hanging in the main hallway. I’ve gone unkissed for several days now. Well not exactly, but no kissing has occurred under the mistletoe.

My preppy reindeer couple and stylized Christmas trees are relative newcomers to Doright Manor. I need a backdrop for them, but nothing has caught my eye yet.

Our main tree is perfect in an imperfect way. I used to do a fancy schmancy tree, but it was sort of boring.

Above are stockings that SHOULD have been given to my children when they started their own families, but I cry every time I think of letting them go. The bear was bought for our daughter’s first Christmas and the reindeer for our son’s. Neither of them holds many goodies, which was a good thing in those years we were so poor.

Since we don’t have a fireplace, our stockings are hung on the bookshelves with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. From left are Studly’s, mine, and the two cats’.

That’s our dining table with Santa and a single reindeer.

Below is my gigantic angel overseeing the nativity. Almost a Gulliver’s Travels situation going on here, but I love my nativity scene.

Scout was interested in my placement of each piece, so I took the opportunity to tell her the story of how Jesus came to be born in a stable and placed in a manger.

Here she is, looking for the baby. Well, that’s my story anyway.

My cowboy snowman is fittingly in the Texas guest room.

This Santa is in one of the guest bathrooms. He is quite discreet when folks need to use the facilities.

On my kitchen hutch is a party of reindeer being hosted by my naughty elf on the shelf. They raise a ruckus in the wee hours.

That’s about it, I suppose. Thanks for taking the tour.

Peace on earth, and good will towards men, people!

Calling Cupid

I see Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and ________, and Donner and Blitzen.

What happened to Cupid? He was the one that got away. The reindeer ornament I never found at CVS. I had Rudolph, too, but he fell victim to a curious kitten and shattered into a bazillion pieces on our living room floor many years ago. No matter how many CVS locations I visited; though, I never found a Cupid.

As I type this, Studly Doright is searching eBay for the little guy. If he’s successful I might have him look for Rudolph, too. In the meantime I’m going to secure the remaining reindeer against a cat attack. The one responsible for Rudolph’s demise still resides at Doright Manor.

Peace, people!

Long Weekend Recap

Serendipitous. That’s what I’m calling the events of this past weekend. Although, to be honest, not all of the happenings were unplanned, but they were all happy.

Studly Doright left early Thursday morning for a grand adventure in dual sport motorcycling with buddies from Tennessee, Virginia, and various other locales. While I don’t mind time alone, I had no clue how I’d get through the long weekend without going a bit crazy out here at Doright Manor. Fortunately for me, I found ways to fill the time. Unfortunately for you all, I’m going to recount them.

Thursday:

Olli class at FSU. It was the fourth of six on The Parallel Universe of Ants. I take copious notes during these classes even though there’ll be no test, no grades. Old habits die hard, I guess.

Afterwards I had a long lunch at a Tallahassee restaurant before buying some goodies for dinner. I rented a movie on demand (Lion King) and snuggled with Scout on the sofa.

Friday:

This was the day I was most concerned about. No plans, no estate or garage sales on the calendar. Just me and two cats. I did all of the week’s laundry early in the day, and decided to make a run to Target. While I was wandering the aisles a friend, Michelle, texted me, and we chatted back and forth. I told her where I was and she asked if she could join me. Yay!

We browsed Target for awhile, talking more than shopping, then decided to go to lunch. Afterwards we went to a consignment shop and then to a bookstore. We completed the afternoon with a beer at a pizza place. Okay, I had a beer, Michelle had a slice of pizza. We talked and talked. Everyone went home happy.

Saturday:

Several members of the Olli class enjoyed a field trip to Ant Heaven.

https://nananoyz5forme.com/2019/11/02/ant-heaven/

Afterwards I came home and took an epic nap. I hadn’t looked at my email all day, so when I logged on I discovered over 200 messages. Most were easily deleted, but there was one from the Olli group. One of the class members who’d ridden to Ant Heaven with me asked if she’d left her keys in my car.

Immediately I went to the garage and sure enough, her vest with her keys in the pocket was in my backseat. I emailed her. No response. Called and left a message. Nada. Finally I texted her, and she replied soon after. Thank goodness.

In my wild imagination I’d pictured her standing in the Publix parking lot where the group had met that morning. Forlorn and hungry. Shaking her fist at the woman who’d driven off and left her alone to fend for herself. In reality, she had a spare car key and was at a movie when I’d tried calling.

Sunday:

In spite of my long Saturday nap I slept well. Thanks to the time change I lolled about in bed way longer than I normally would. Instead of having my regular breakfast I decided to have brunch at Sweet Pea Cafe, where I enjoyed french toast with fruit, cheese grits, and hash browns. Yum!

Afterwards I returned home and watched football well into the evening. Studly called saying he’d made it safely to his hotel in Dillard, Georgia, and would be home mid afternoon on Monday. I had such a lovely weekend, but I’m ready to see my guy.

Peace, people!

Ant Heaven

(Note: I made the mistake of taking an epic nap after my trip to Ant Heaven and before writing this post; therefore, a great deal of what was learned on the field trip just floated away into nothingness. I used to be so much better at retaining information.)

Normally I’d spend my Saturday morning running around Tallahassee, going to the Farmer’s Market or to estate sales. Today, though, I went on a field trip to a place affectionally dubbed “Ant Heaven” by Dr. Walter Tschinkel, our Olli instructor extraordinaire.

I’m not totally sure where Ant Heaven is, even though I drove my car in a caravan of other Olli participants to the spot. If it were a secret location I’d never be the one to spill the beans.

Soon after our group of a dozen or so arrived at Ant Heaven, Dr. Tschinkel put us to work laying bait trails.

The orange stakes indicate the location of an ant nest, while the pink substance is a mixture of mashed up cookie with a non-toxic pink dye added. Our job was to place the small piles of bait at various distances from the nest and then to observe foraging ants carrying bits of bait back to their respective nests.

Prior to our visit, Dr. Tschinkel had gone to the trouble of raking away much of the detritus (pine needles and leaves) from around several nests so we’d have a better opportunity to watch the ants in action.

Mine is the annoying voice saying, “It might be a carpenter,” which is totally wrong. What it might be is a Harvester ant. I should’ve kept my mouth shut. If I had a penny for all the times that was the case, Bill and Melinda Gates would be borrowing money from me.

As we watched ants foraging for bait Dr. Tschinkel set up the kiln to melt aluminum for casting a nest.

It takes time to heat the aluminum to beyond the melting point, so I wandered around trying not to step on any ants.

This video above is from a Harvester Ant nest. The black bits surrounding the nest, as well as those scattered on top of the nest, are pieces of charcoal. Apparently no one knows why Harvester Ants collect charcoal and mark their nests with it.

One of the critical tools of the professional myrmecologist is a shop vacuum. Seriously. The shop vac is used to clean debris from a nest and even to suction up a large number of ants to take back to the lab for studying.

In the video above, Dr. Tschinkel is using a suction tube to pick up ants as he searches for a fungus garden in the nest of a Northern Fungus Gardening Ant. These ants collect caterpillar droppings and “feed” them to a fungus that the ants tend as nourishment for the super organism that is the colony.

I believe you can see some of the ants suctioned in the picture below; although, these might not be the fungal gardening ants.

Once the aluminum had reached approximately 1,000° C, Dr. Tschinkel began the process of casting.

Now, a lot of work went into this prior to the pouring of aluminum. He had to clean around the nest, (shop vac) and scoop a large amount of sand away from the area. It’s a labor intensive task. Oh, lest any of you worry about loss of ant life, the castings are made from abandoned nests.

This first pour yielded a small casting.

They’re incredible little sculptures.

A second pour produced a larger piece; although, I didn’t get a picture of it for some reason. Both sculptures were sent home with lucky attendees who happened to guess a number Dr. Tschinkel had in mind.

I did get a couple of pieces leftover from previous pours. Generally such pieces are melted for future castings.

One teeny tiny ant (whose name I have forgotten) coats the chambers of its nest with a black seed-like fungus. No one knows why. It’s one of Dr. Tschinkel’s newest research topics, and one of our group members found a nest of the little guys. Dr. Tschinkel excavated one of the chambers and will study it further.

After the excavation we headed back to Tallahassee. I was tired and hungry but not grumpy. After a nice meal at a sushi place I returned to Doright Manor and took a three hour nap!

Ant Heaven was an adventure. I had a great time learning a little bit more about ants, and I’m leaving out incredible stuff here. We’ll blame the nap.

Peace, people!

Tuesday Tech Miscellany

Yesterday (Monday) I wrestled with my internet connection all day long. Studly was traveling, and I didn’t want to exacerbate the technical issues by doing something stupid in his absence. Instead, I was mostly tech free all day, and it was kind of nice.

My understanding of WiFi and connectivity and the million other little things that go into making my devices communicate smoothly is limited. I know that some of the little lights on my home router need to be flashing while others need to remain constant, but beyond that I’m lost. Thank goodness Studly Doright arrived home in time last evening to tell me how to fix the problem. (Basically I had to unplug the router, count to five, and plug it back in.) My hero!

Speaking of being lost, one of the things I like best about my Apple Watch is the gps feature. When I ask Siri for directions to a location, my watch will sync up and provide brief instructions as well as a pleasant buzz on my wrist as I approach a turn.

For some reason, though, on Saturday the watch lost its ability to guide me. I was heading to an estate sale using iPhone guidance and kept driving mile after mile waiting for the friendly buzz to indicate I needed to turn. Finally, I pulled into a parking lot and realized the watch wasn’t doing it’s part, and I was stuck with just the phone instructions. Plus, I was way north of Tallahassee. Not lost, but not where I needed to be either.

When I returned home I googled possible remedies to the situation, but none of them bore fruit. I figured I’d need to seek out some technical assistance at a local tech shop. Then this morning I noticed the little airplane icon on my watch. Hmmm. Had I accidentally switched it to airplane mode?

Why, yes. Yes, I had, and as soon as I figured out how to take it out of airplane mode the gps was back in business. I literally just asked Siri for directions to Trader Joe’s and my watch responded with a turn suggestion. It’s a bit confusing since I’m still inside my home, but still, I’m back in business.

Now, at the risk of making myself seem even more foolish, my car has a gps built in. Yes, I could, and often do, use it for directions. But it doesn’t buzz on my arm. I like the buzz.

No, not that Buzz; although, the wallpaper on my Apple Watch can be set to Toy Story.

To infinity and beyond! Or to Trader Joe’s. Whichever is closest.

Peace, people.

Monsters Inc, Alachua

Based on predictions that tropical storm Nestor would bring buckets of rain and high winds to the Tallahassee area on Saturday, Studly’s golf course closed for the day. I envisioned a lazy afternoon of watching college football while snuggling on the sofa with him and the cats. Studly, on the other hand, envisioned driving to Gainesville, FL, to look at, and perhaps purchase a motorcycle. At least he invited me along for the ride.

When we left Tallahassee the skies were threatening.

The winds hadn’t begun blowing yet, but I certainly questioned Studly’s sanity in his decision to travel so far from Doright Manor and into the belly of a storm.

“Relax,” he told me. “It’s not going to hit until this afternoon.”

As it happened, he was right. What’s that old saying about even a broken clock having the correct time twice a day? I think that applies here.

Gainesville is about a two and a half hour drive south and East from our home, and thanks to gps we easily found the place where the motorcycle was being stored. Within a few minutes the bike was loaded into the back of our pickup truck, and we were headed home.

We were both ready for some lunch, and while Gainesville has hundreds of restaurants we opted to drive north to Alachua. I’d never been there, but Studly promised that the little town had a terrific Main Street with several good cafes. He was right again! I’m going to have to start reconsidering that broken clock analogy.

We ate at Conestogas Restaurant where everything seems to be fried, and vegan options were practically nonexistent.

I had a baked potato stuffed with bell peppers and grilled onions, along with a salad, while Studly enjoyed a chicken fried steak with gravy. Obviously he wasn’t concerned about the lack of vegan fare.

After lunch we walked along the street, and inspected the town’s Halloween decorations. It didn’t take us long to discern this year’s theme:

On nearly every corner we encountered characters from Monsters, Inc. If there’s a contest for best design, I vote for the one directly above. The door clinched it for me. Studly, who’s never seen Monsters, Inc., wondered aloud why the door was part of the display.

“The door doesn’t seem all that scary to me,” he observed.

Of course I had to fill him in on the importance of collecting screams and the implications of having a human child follow one of the monsters back through a door.

Still he asked, “Couldn’t they at least have painted the door orange and black and put spiderwebs or something on it instead of flowers? That would be scary.”

“But that’s not how the door looked in the movie,” I said.

“Their mistake.”

Sometimes I feel like I’m conversing with a tall toddler.

There were a few non-Monster, Inc. themed decorations, as well:

Perhaps those in charge of decorating these storefronts had never seen Monsters, Inc. either.

After our walk we continued the drive home, encountering heavy rain just as we neared Tallahassee. We’ve needed the moisture, so tropical storm Nestor did our area a favor. Studly and I spent the evening watching college football and snuggling, so I got what I wanted out of the day, as well. That’s a win-win, right?

Peace, people.

Venturing into the Unknown

Doright Manor is situated on a small lake in a rural housing development about eight miles outside of Tallahassee, Florida. I live in the woods, and I love it. Studly Doright, my husband of 43 years, and I often joke that there are more trees in our front yard than there were in our respective Texas panhandle hometowns of Dumas and Floydada. Honestly, that’s not much of an exaggeration.

One of the coolest things about living here is our proximity to Florida State University. A 20-minute drive gets us right into the heart of the campus. Of course being the curmudgeonly people we are, we avoid FSU like the plague. If I have an appointment anywhere near the school I plot routes that will avoid busy Tennessee street with its six narrow lanes of crazy college aged drivers, even if taking said route requires me to add an additional 20 minutes to my drive. Today, however, I am purposely venturing onto the FSU campus for OLLI.

One might ask, “Who is OLLI and why is he/she worth risking one’s life for?”

OLLI is an acronym for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. According to Wikipedia, “Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes offer noncredit courses with no assignments or grades to “seasoned” adults over age 50. Since 2001, philanthropist Bernard Osher has made grants from his foundation to launch OLLI programs at 120 universities and colleges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

I’ve been aware of OLLI classes for at least a decade. When we lived near the University of Illinois I had friends who took classes through the program there, but I was still working full time. Now that I’m mostly retired I no longer have any excuses. Except–the anxiety of venturing into the unfamiliar territory of Florida State.

Yesterday (Wednesday) I performed a dry run to locate the building in which my first class will be held, even though I initially went to a similarly named building. And, even after locating the right one I never quite figured out where I’d be able to park. Guess who will give herself an hour of extra time to get there today?

You might also wonder what class has intrigued me enough that I am willing to venture out of my comfort zone. It’s one titled “The Parallel Universe of Ants.”

Studly Doright thinks I’ve lost my mind, but who do you think will have the last laugh when our insect friends begin their quest for world domination? Again:

If you don’t hear from me again after today you can blame it all on OLLI, or ants, or you can just make something up that’s suitably dramatic.

Peace, people!

Anxiety Central

On Tuesday night I drifted off to sleep as gently as an innocent little lamb, only to awaken twenty minutes later with my mind raging like a caged lion. My trip to Illinois was still two days in the future, yet my brain paced restlessly inside my head as if my flight was imminent and I was woefully unprepared.

Truthfully, I was unprepared, but I still had ample time to do laundry and pack and straighten the house before I had to leave Doright Manor for the airport. So why was I all abuzz? Welcome to Anxiety Central.

Irrationally I began worrying that my car would break down on the way to the airport. What would I do should that happen? I worried that I’d forgotten to get cash from the bank, so I got out of bed and wrote myself a note that I then taped to the bathroom mirror where I’d be certain to see it first thing the next morning.

I became concerned that I’d finish the book I was reading on my kindle and wouldn’t have ample connectivity to download a new one. Most worrisome was the state of the liquids I NEEDED to pack for the trip. Liquids that might not be able to fit into a clear plastic quart baggie. Damned TSA requirements. How’s a girl supposed to cram all of her necessary liquids into such a small bag?

Zip, zip, zip went the thoughts in my brain. I was electric, and not in a good way. Poor Studly must’ve felt my frantic vibes causing him to adjourn to the sofa in the den at some point in the night.

When he left for work on Wednesday morning he planted a kiss on my cheek and told me he’d see me when I returned on Monday. I’d forgotten he had to be out of town on Wednesday and Thursday and wouldn’t return until after I’d departed on my trip. Sheesh. One more thing to worry about.

You know, I might not have many talents, but I excel at worrying over absolutely ridiculous stuff. Anxiety is my middle name, and that’s no joke.

I fly on Thursday. Just get me to the plane on time.

Peace, People!