Sum…sum…Summertime!

When the weather gets warmer we get busy! I’ve not had the time to post here so much. I hope you are doing well!  Here’s some of what I’ve been up to recently:

House/Garden

  • Raised bed gardening – built them, filled them, planted and now have stuff growing! Picked lettuce and sugar snap peas already. Have tons of tomatoes coming!
  • Trying to widen the driveway. I’ve not done any work on this this year, but have gone to the masonary a couple of times with my husband to look at brick, etc. Time consuming.
  • Taking care of my lavender and herb garden.
  • Painted the deck and cleaned up
  • Had a yard sale last weekend – exhausting!

Gaming – Yes you have to make time for some gaming!

  • Was playing Runes of Magic and Allods Online when Sony’s EverQuest 2x was down. It’s back up now and I’m so into it I can’t get back to the others! My sister joined and we’re having fun decorating our EQ2 houses and questing in Butcherblock Mountains. 🙂 Maybe I’ll make a post on my characters some time.

Family and Pets

  • My mom was in the hospital these past few weeks – she had pneumonia. She’s ok now but it scared us all for awhile.
  • Today I worked out some computer help in exchange for tutoring for my son for Algebra II (something he had troubles with this year). She’s going to help him with that and some SAT prep, for as long as we can pay for it. She’s the one that suggested the bartering and I was happy about that. She needs some help with this program she’s installed and I’ll help figure it out and train her to use it so she can decide if she wants to buy it. My hours there in exchange for the tutoring she’ll give him. When I run out of hours, we have a bit of money from recycling metal that we can use for the tutoring, probably once a week this summer for him until school starts. Unfortunately I doubt we’ll be able to continue it once school starts but we’ll see. One step at a time.
  • Kitty – our kitty cat was REALLY sick last month and the month before. I thought he was going to die. But the vet down the street got him back on track and he slowly recovered over time. We’re very happy. He still has fleas though. UGH. Not as bad as last year. Frontline is helping but we haven’t been able to keep that on schedule due to financial constraints.
  • Finches – I had three left of what was once a 14-finch flock. Gave half to a friend, then the seven we had slowly died (old age, couple of accidents, etc.) The crippled girl we had (she was so cute!) died of old age about three weeks ago. Finches are social birds – the more the better. All I have left is a girl and a boy. The girl mourned her dead friend for almost two weeks. She barely came out to eat, and just tucked her head in her feathers for days on end. The boy called her and also comforted her. She finally broke out of it and is ok again, but I thought I’d lose her too. I would love to adopt some more, but my son and husband don’t want the birds anymore. They take up a lot of space, are messy, etc. But I love them and want more.  They’re sweet, not a lot of work and are fun to watch and they talk with me! The boy sings to me when I come in the room sometimes, too.
  • Looking to switch my husband’s job into something he can do himself. Looked into festivals but was thwarted at every turn. It’s so difficult to break into. Looking into vending from a cart or mobile unit now, but having problems figuring out how to get the money to do that. Thinking of selling the truck. *sigh* It seems so silly, if we’d have not gotten the truck in the first place we’d have had some money before. Now that we have the truck paid off, it seems foolish to sell it for partial the amount of money we put into it.

Techie Stuff

  • BlackBerry PlayBook – my husband is playing with this thing more than me! Until they release some more productive apps, I only pick it up to read the news, check if they have any new productive apps, update the software, and watch some videos sometimes when I don’t feel like being on the computer. I tease him that it’s his now. He does use it way more than me – mostly for Facebook. Barf.
  • Building a computer – my son needs a new computer. He’s using my old ABS machine (7 years old at least!) and still working well. It just can’t handle recent games, and is just having problems doing much at all. It’s time for that good ol’ machine to be converted to a media pc or storage system or something. So we’re planning on building a new system. It’s cheaper, and it’ll be a project from which my son can learn something.

 

 

 

Runes of Magic Review

I’m a former WoW player, but don’t want to go back (subscription fees). I paid for years and can’t even see my characters unless I pay again. They’re held hostage! All those hours I spent belong to Blizzard, not me.

I tried a free trial of RIFT and loved it so much, but knew it’d be the same subscription hazard that I’d run into with WoW, and I’d be unhappy eventually. (working hard on being wise with my money!)

So I went out digging for some other MMOs to keep my mind off wanting to play RIFT. I found EverQuest2, Allods, and Runes of Magic. All free games – all really great in their own way. All have their own shortcomings too but so does WoW or other paid MMOs.

Runes of Magic starter areas (Elf/Human) are charming, as is the music. I was surprised how much nice gear you get, as well as a starter mount for a day (so take full advantage of that whenever you make a new character and make sure you can play for a day!)

There is cute player housing, but it’s tied in to the Item Shop. If you want to spend money in your games, make sure it’s somewhere you can get enjoyment out of it again and again.  I’ve not bought anything in there yet, but there are mannequins in which you can show off your favorite gear, and equipment racks (for that favorite sword!) There’s plenty of in-game storage space between your bags, the storage locker they give you for your house, and your bank. I’m a hoarder so I’m sure that I’ll start to overflowing soon.

It’s too bad there are only two races, but the class and secondary class combinations would keep anyone busy for quite some ime.

Their crafting is great – you can take ALL the crafting+gathering skills in the beginning (kind of required if you want to make some of your own starter stuff). Later I read that you specialize in one specific profession.

This is definitely a game to check out if you’re a former WoW player, or if you’re younger and have been playing stuff like MapleStory and want to try a more full-featured MMO that’s fantasy-based.

More game reviews to come later!

Related:

For the techies, there’s a podcast called RoMCast. The game’s Community Manager covers things like upcoming changes to the game and class discussion. If you play the game, try it out!

Related articles

I’m a Winner

The New BlackBerry PlayBook

Yesterday I found out I won one of 10 new BlackBerry PlayBooks from the RIM folks:

and the other 5:

We had to write up to 10 haiku, via Twitter, to @BlackBerry with a #PlayBookHaiku hashtag in the tweet. The haiku had to follow the 5-7-5- rule, and have either BlackBerry or PlayBook in the poem.

I love writing haiku so it was really a fun and quick little contest for me, and I knew I had a good chance of winning one of the PlayBooks. I realized I had an even better chance when I looked at PAGES of #PlayBookHaiku entries. Either they didn’t follow the 5-7-5 rule (what the heck is a haiku?!), their entries were kind of stupid: “Hey I wanna win a Blackberry”, or they wrote haiku without the word BlackBerry or PlayBook in the poem. Sometimes these contests are all about following the rules.

The BlackBerry folks sent me a DM saying they’ll post the winning entries on their blog sometime next week. I can’t wait to see which of mine was picked, and to read the other folks’ winning entries.

Here are all 10 of mine. I’ll edit this post next week and mark the entry that was the winning one. Don’t steal them for your entries for the next #PlayBookHaiku contest – make up your own original ones, ok? And don’t laugh too hard – some are so silly.

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

Sit back and relax
Under the pink sakura
enjoy your PlayBook

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

I open the box –
“New toy” excitement brimming!
PlayBook from RIM.

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

BlackBerry PlayBook
Winter, spring, summer and fall
Four seasons for love.           <——-If anyone has watched Avatar: The Last Airbender – you’ll know the “Four Seasons” song.

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

Pink, gently floating
A cherry blossom petal
Lands on my PlayBook

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

Frog jumps into pond
A splash of water!
Protect my PlayBook      <— reminiscent of Basho’s famous frog jumping into pond haiku

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

You call me a geek
As I hold my new PlayBook.
Call me what you want.

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

News. Mail. Games. Books. Apps.
It all comes together now.
My life. My PlayBook. <<– Looks like this one was the winner; they mentioned they loved it in the Congrats letter they sent with the PlayBook

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

Relaxing morning –
French pastry, a cup of tea
and the new PlayBook

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

Hand-cradled PlayBook,
Oh BlackBerry BlackBerry
How I do love thee.

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

Sleek black PlayBook
the newest BlackBerry crack
should be wearing shades

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

What Would You Name It?

hat’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.

~ William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Last night my husband told me: “Go buy some wholesale plants; let’s get you selling them at the Farmer’s market, etc. etc.” Since I can’t seem to find work in my field any longer, I need to generate some income again. Last year it was my goal to get quite a few things growing, take the seeds, start them this year, and sell (at the farmer’s market, from home, on Craig’s list, etc.) However, it’s easier said than done. A lot of the herbs I planted didn’t grow. Some grew but not well enough/large enough to seed. We worked on so many things last year that I couldn’t pay specific attention to planting and caring for those seeds and seedlings.

So, in order to get me doing something to make money, my husband said we’d go buy some starter plants so I can at least get going on this idea and try it. It will take awhile to get a garden going where I can cull my own plants and seeds from it to sell.

So I have to get a business license if I want to buy wholesale. Then, here comes the kicker – I have to think of a business name. Show stopper here. I’ve been collecting words and garden-type business names for over a year, and have come up with nothing creative, cute, or simply just nice, that fits! We started throwing around words and names last night. I’m not creative like that. That’s why I started last year saving ideas, and my short list leaves a lot to be desired.

I like these words:

  • sunny
  • seasons
  • flowers
  • meadows
  • blackberry
  • patch
  • lavender
  • fields
  • idyllic – folks may not know how to pronounce; what it means
  • birdsong
  • summer
  • sky
  • bees
  • leaf
  • mountain (abundance)
  • green
  • fields
  • spring
  • path

I’ve been playing with  combinations of these words, adding other words, i.e. Sunny Gardens, Sunny Sky Gardens, Sunny Day Gardens…you get the idea. Also doing things like Bloomin’ ____ Gardens (Bloomin’ Fool, Bloomin’ Nuts haha you get the idea). Nothing seems to strike me.  Maybe you can help with some ideas.

I would sell vegetables, flowers, herbs, and seeds in the future. All organic, eventually heirlooms. So the name can’t be just a flower name, or an herb name, or a vegetable name. “Tomater Tom’s Garden” but I’m selling lavender seeds – is that even ok? I don’t know that it’d work as well as something general.

If you had a gardening business, what would you name it?

Have a bloomin’ day!

Top Searches on Your WordPress Blog

Amazing – I just discovered Top Searches in my Dashboard. This makes me realize I need to fix my pages – people are searching for stuff on my old website and can’t find it.

They’re looking for my Basho haiku stuff, and stuff on the old Animal Crossing games. Yikes. I should put that stuff back up. At least I have my kyodai mahjonng links up.

“Top Searches
basho’s narrow road manuscript, animal crossing faces, homemade compost bin, kyodai+layout, raised beds with pallets”

GMO Infuriation

Official seal of the National Organic Program

Certified Organic

Not so long ago, foods marked “organic” meant that the foods had been grown without chemicals and pesticides that are harmful to the body. Chemically sprayed foodstuffs used to be just something to avoid because you wanted to simply avoid health issues from a buildup of pesticides in your system, had sensitivities, or just wanted to keep your body clean of these poisons.

Nowadays, there’s an additional evil element that certified organics promise you don’t get when you purchase a product with this label. That evil is GMOs. Now, something marked “certified organic” means that it’s also not a genetically modified organism, or GMO, which is the acronym used everywhere now. GMOs are essentially monster food. “Let’s take some pig genes, stick them in tomatoes, pass them off as being able to have greater shelf life so everyone will think our million-dollar sponsored work is A-OK, and hey! we get free experimental results on how this stuff effects the public.” GMOs make me hopping mad and they should make you so, too.

Genetically modifying food is playing God. It  is just daring nature not to do something destructive to us and our food supply. We need to leave our food alone, as God/nature has intended.

Learning all we can from the environment around us is great – it’s our way to grow in knowledge. However, exploring for the sake of learning and healing and helping is one thing. Modifying our food source for big company profit, with disregard to human health is just plain stupid, not smart and not scientifically responsible. I’m ashamed of the genetic engineers who screw with our food.

GMOS are not something to just avoid. They’re something we should all work hard to eliminate, starting first with our diet, ending up eliminating them from the world.

Here are some ways to start:

  • Look for the certified organic label on packaged food products. Buy only those packaged products. If you read the ingredients, everything that is grain/fruit/vegetable/sweetener etc. in the product should say “organic” before it. i.e. organic oats, organic corn, organic wheat, organic rice syrup  (in a cereal mix, for example)
  • Buy only organic produce
  • Grow your own garden. Everyone’s doing it and it’s fun. Buy heirloom seeds. Heirlooms are food that haven’t been touched genetically. Maybe a tomato or type of corn is something that your grandmother grew. Most of these foods cannot be found in your regular grocery store. Or you can buy organic seeds, which would not be from a GMO plant.
  • Teach your family how to choose organic food and to only choose organic foods. They may be a little more money but are worth our health. Nearly 100% of the corn products you find on the grocery store shelves are GMOs. That includes your corn chips, corn cereal, corn oils, taco shells, pancake mix…
  • Teach your friends and neighbors about organic foods. Talk to them directly. Teach a class in your home to your friends about purchasing and growing organics.

If everyone in a community only selected organic food in their supermarkets, all stores would immediately make a shift toward providing more of those foods. The processed GMO foods would eventually expire and be pulled off the shelves, and your local food store would be stocked with shelves and shelves of healthy, organic, life-giving foods!

If every community did this in a town, the town would be the first all-certified organic products town in your country! Health nuts would flock there, certainly. The town would have all the publicity and tourism it could handle.

You know the rest. Your state, your country – all concerned about the good health of each citizen. All foods clean of pesticides, free of genetic modification. All the frackin’ big food businesses would have to go organic, go out of business or get out of the food business.

It’s a simple, good, wholesome idea which starts in your shopping cart, in your kitchen cabinet, and in your garden.

Seed Swap

Lithograph seed packets

Image by etgeek (Eric) via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I went to my first Meetup.om meetup. The location was a lovely farm in Lancaster County, Pa.  We had a seed swap! Everyone brought packs of non-hybrid seeds. I wish I had a picture of the table with all the seeds laid out. Instead I have a picture of the host’s cow, who liked me and slimed up my hand with his runny nose. He was so cute!!

The host put together a spreadsheet for us of the planting windows of some of the common plants. We discussed biodynamics, a particular study of planting and growing. Then we got to the seed swap! Or, like one of the guys there said, a “seed pillage”! LOL There were tons of seeds I’d never imagine getting. Stuff I never saw before. One woman brought a pack of real Italian pomodoro tomato seeds. One brought some bean seeds she said produced like crazy last year. I brought my beloved sugar pumpkin seeds. We all got to take as much time as we wanted to select the seeds we wanted, and write down planting and growing information.

I got crazy things like Cosmic Purple carrots, some half carrots, Amish tomatoes, purple podded pole beans, green apple cukes, and Abe Lincoln tomatoes, among many others.  It’s going to be real fun watching these different seeds come up.

Homemade Food Compost Bin

I wanted to compost last year but didn’t have the proper equipment. Or so I thought. I’m learning by the seat of my pants here.

I recently read a magazine article which explained food composting and leaf+grass composting.  I thought I could throw the food on top of the grass/leaves but I was worried about stinking up the neighborhood and attracting animals.

The solution that’s going to work for me: build a compost pile for grass+leaves in the back, and have a separate food composter. When the food compost is broken down we can add it to that grass pile, or just put it into the garden directly.

In the spirit of saving money, I wanted to work with something I had already. I first started saving the compost (banana peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, vegetable scraps) in an old plastic bowl in the kitchen. It quicky filled. I saw a bin-type composter in a magazine that had holes in the side for aeration.  Why couldn’t I take my rubbermaid bin and  drill some holes for air? And that’s what I did. Dumped in the food compost, add some dirt with it. Done. As it fills more I’ll add worms as I find them when it rains 🙂 or dig up some garden soil soon. Mix regularly! Not sure how long it will take the food to break down but as worms are added it goes much faster.

Our grass+leaves composter is going to be made from wooden pallets (my husband picks up free from the warehouse) and I’ll post back about that when it’s built.

Saving Money, Cutting Back: How We’re Faring

First, I have to say, no amount of financial loss and continued tightening in my family can compare with the losses that this week’s Sendai earthquake and tsunami have brought to the families of the people who have lost their homes, livelihoods, and lives. I have been watching BBC news nearly non-stop since. Even though I’m physically here in the US, my mind has been in Japan.  Thoughts and prayers for the Japanese people.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Old-style rabbit ear antenna, Best Buy, $10

This has been our first week without cable tv.  I don’t think I’ve been without access to cable since the mid-80’s when I was in NEED of having MTV. Since then I’ve grown past MTV and into using TV as a tool for learning and for enjoying particular shows with my family members. Only lately did I start getting into some of the prime-time shows, having the tv playing more than cartoons on Boomerang or Cartoon Network. or gardening shows, or Westerns.

Psycological Aspects

This week, even though we have Netflix, I started craving certain aspects of tv. We’d watch a couple of things on Netflix then turn off the tv. I started missing the non-stop entertainment playing in the background while I used my computer or did household chores. Then I realized another thing I was missing – commercials. :O Who’d ever say such a crazy thing! I’d always fast-forward past the commercials, but now I was missing them? I must have gotten used to the mix of shows+commercials, and now I was going through withdrawal.

In the meantime, I missed several shows that played this week, namely The Event, Hot in Cleveland, The Big Bang Theory, and my regular Saturday night Britcoms. I am not happy about missing my britcoms and I can’t find them streaming online anywhere. Grr.

Solutions

I’ve been able to find most everything of favorite series online, minus the britcoms online. At first I thought I’d have to go to all the network sites, and watch the episodes of each show I missed. I’d done that to catch up on the first few episodes of The Event, which my sister recommended I watch.

Here’s a list of some of the things I’m working on and testing to replace nearly all my cable tv, a lot of which is just free shows that the cable companies charge you to view. Cable companies very much need to rethink their cable fees. I don’t hate them, I just can’t pay their prices any longer.

* Rabbit Ears – I bought a pair of $10 rabbit ears from Best Buy yesterday. I was SO curious what stations I could get without cable. It was extremely easy to hook up – nothing to it. I had an immediate flashback to the 60’s as I pulled up on the antenna, trying to get reception. A really weird thing but I was amazed at the high definition reception of my 6 channels. Unless I turn the rabbit ears in another direction and then I get 11 channels.  Most of the channels are stuff I don’t watch, but I will get network stations (minus ABC which I can’t seem to pick up) plus PBS, and 24/7 news plus local news. For $10 it’s great. I may look into better antennas later (better reception, more channels) and will post again on that if I do.

* Boxee – absolutely great application. Download to your desktop and view shows. Reminders for new shows. Superior interface.  This app is a must. Problems: won’t play Hulu stuff (or does but there’s no sound). Hulu won’t allow Boxee to play stuff you can find on Hulu.

* Hulu – I haven’t checked out Hulu Plus yet and don’t know what it entails, but I’ve been able to play the missed episode of Hot in Cleveland. I’m sure I can find more on there but I’m a little overwhelmed by all the other options right now; will sift through Hulu more this week.

* Web page of links – Can’t find everything on Boxee or Hulu?  There are a bunch of sites that have things to watch that will keep one entertained for a long time. I’ll be making a webpage for myself with the links to what I like. All organized, and I won’t have to search and dig through Google to find a series I want to watch. 30 Sites to Watch Free TV and Movies Online – a very helpful start. Add to it your own favorites  (I like Martha Stewart and Veria.com videos), list on a webpage, and you’ll have an easily accessible list of what you watch regularly. Save our links on PBWorks, Pen.io, any free site, or to your own paid-for website. I think I’m going to do mine on Pen.io – you can create any page name you want, and don’t have to login to it to access the information – just type the url and you’re there.

All this may not be as easy as having cable, but it’s fun to see how much you can do yet still cut back.

Day Two: Netflix

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

We’ve crossed into the second day using Netflix, with no cable. My husband loves action/adventure movies and has been watching Jackie Chan, Jet Li and other such movies. I think he’s going to get a good bit out of this Netflix genre.

Additionally, we got him a  $14.99/month sub to FoxSoccer.tv today so he can watch the English leagues play. That was our biggest problem cutting cable: finding him a way to watch some games.  The FoxSoccer sub + Netflix won’t even nearly approach the amount we were spending for cable. He’s happy now – he saw two games today.

He said “What about you?” though to me…I can’t seem to find my British comedy (I get the urge to watch 3-4 shows at least once a week). I’ve looked online today and haven’t yet found some of the older Britcoms streaming. We did find some Westerns online, and Netflix has Wagon Train and Gunsmoke to keep us busy for quite some time. But since I’m having problems finding these, and also having problems finding Mike and Molly episodes (I can only find one), $#*! My Dad Says (can’t find any online episodes – I’m scared! I HAVE to watch that!) and a few others, I might be out of luck until they come out on DVD. I can do without Mike and Molly actually (half of the show is sweet, the other half is awful crass). I think it’s just an adjustment I’ll go through. Plus, in the future I’m sure there’ll be a lot of the recent stuff streaming and/or we’ll be able to buy low priced subscriptions to things – ala carte personalized tv for cheaper than today’s cable prices.

I’ve been lucky to find quite a few Westerns here and there – all but The Virginian (one of my husband’s favorites). So we’re going to have to do without that. Maybe it will show up on Netflix one day. Or I can wait for the Borders’ 40% off seasonal coupons and buy him a season or two. Not sure if I want to do that unless I’ll be sure he’ll watch them multiple times though.

We did do something fun too – we hooked up the HDMI cable from my laptop to the tv – wow was that a great picture! He watched his Arsenal vs. Barcelona game that way, but until I can get the proper audio cable, the sound comes through my computer.  We’ll be able to watch our online Westerns on the tv together now. Woot!

Netflix Positives:

* Streaming is great – immediate and as gratifying as tv

* There are quite a few things to watch

* A lot of the stuff on there is good

* Simple interface. As with everything, I had to teach my husband how to use it (he claims he’s “techless”) 😀 and the teaching went fast. I like a lot of buttons and features and widgets and gizmos. It’s too simple and  there’s no fun in it for me. But for him it’s beyond perfectly easy.

* Price is great for the amount of things you can watch

Netflix Negatives:

* Can’t find nearly everything you want to watch

* A lot of the stuff you can find to watch is not streaming and still has to be sent via DVD. How hard is it to just stream it all? You’ll have me for life, folks, if you stream it all

* Can’t search actors

* Can’t search genres (like Westerns) and then pull up a list

* Have to know the names of what you want to watch to search them

* New releases are pretty old movies!

* A lot of the stuff on there is junk – ugh

More to come on our experiences with cutting cable and other expenses.