The Tree

Last Saturday, our condominium board member greeted me at the parking lot with the words: Hettie, I didn’t forget about your tree! I was puzzled. There was a story with that tree; as you can see in the picture, it hangs over my backyard from the different condominium! It took several months of negotiations to agree to cut just one big branch. The tree was not a hazard, and “too much shade” on my loan was not good enough.

Indeed, the grass started to grow much better after that big brunch was removed. But there was still too much shade.

Now, the board member happily announced that she saw that the tree’s trunk is coming lower, and now it’s finally a hazard for my roof, and it has to go down.
And now that somebody needs to pay for this tree to go down, it turned out that other condominiums might not even own the tree.

Since our fire lane is a part of the former local railroad (and I knew that!), there are high chances that the village owns it and will have to pay for its removal. I hope that they will be able to sort it out before the tree would come down by the forces of nature!

House Cleaning

The reason why this weekend ended up being as it was – my girls are coming to visit me tomorrow. Yesterday, Kira turned two months, and their pediatrician allowed them to extend the circle of contacts slowly.

I was planning to come and visit them in Wisconsin, but since the parents, understandably wanted me to quarantine before meeting the baby, and Mayor Lori wants me to self-quarantine myself after I visit Wisconsin, Anna decided to give me back two weeks of my life.

Nadia is old enough now to sleep in her bed, not pack-and-play. That meant that this time, everybody would stay downstairs, where I have two guest rooms. These rooms usually stay ready to host people who come to visit me, but nobody lived there for the past nine months due to the pandemic.

I never entered these rooms for the said nine months, because there was no need. Usually, they would be in use at least once in two months, and I would change the bedding and possibly dust and sweep, and they are ready for the next visitor. I do not remember when it was the last time they were vacant for nine months!

I am walking in, and I feel like I am walking into the cellar, that’s how it smells! There are cobwebs in the corners, and there is dust on the surfaces. The first thing I wanted to do was to open the windows, but there was no window screen in one of the rooms. A trip to the ACE hardware revealed (as usual!) that this size is no longer used. I ordered the “cut it yourself” kit on Amazon, but it will only arrive on Tuesday.

I took all the bedding fro that room upstairs and hung it to ventilate. Then I cleaned the floor and all the surfaces. I also had to put back the railing on the stairs (because I didn’t do it yesterday, remember?)

I called Boris so that I could consult him about drilling the holes and screwing the screws in. This plus a couple more trips to the stores – that’s how my day was!

However, I can even describe how ecstatic I am to see y girls and see Kira in the flesh for the first time! I am so looking forward to all the activities and conversations!

Quick Update

A quick update about everything. Biking injuries: everything still hurts, but I took off most of the bandaids, and make sure the wounds stay dry. I didn’t notice one cut super-close to the right eye yesterday and didn’t treat it. Today, it looks very impressive… The shoulder hurts. Boris says that I broke a bone there, but I am sure it’s not. Time will heal 🙂

On Friday, I had contractors putting new laminate on my stairs. Before that, I had to remove the railing on the upper part of the stairs, which took longer than I planned. And then I had to put them back, which takes even longer! And then I realized that I need to drill four new holes in the steps :), and I decided to postpone till tomorrow.

After that, I started to hang back on the walls all the pictures I took down for construction duration. And I accidentally changed places of two pictures, which proved to be fatal – one of them was too heavy for the hook I hang it on. It fell down, and a glass broke. First I was very resentful, but then I realized I could just hand this picture without any frame 🙂 Which I did.

Then I went down to the basement to prepare the guest rooms. Nobody stayed there for at least nine months, so they turned to be almost uninhabitable. I started to clean them, but more has to be done tomorrow.

I am leaving out of scope a couple of minor disasters 🙂

Maybe, It Does Not Sound Funny, But It Was Funny!

You know, how one thing leads to another… after I picked up an additional external monitor from the office so that I could have two external monitors to work from home, I realized that my first monitor is not of great quality. And when you mostly work from home, it matters.

I discussed it with Boris, and we agreed that I would purchase the same model as I have upstairs for online classes. The only thing that scared me a little bit was the fact that this monitor was sitting not on the stand but the adjustable desk mount. I asked Boris whether he is sure I can affix it myself. He said: definitely, it’s just four screws, and that’s it. And I believed him!

That was another project for the holiday weekend. The monitor was delivered, and I told Boris that he would need to guide me through the process using Facetime.

Now, it’s not that much space on my desk. This desk used to be spacious fifteen years ago or so, but since then, the standards have changed. And the monitor sizes, as well.

I was able to unscrew the old monitor from the mount. But after that, the mount, free of the monitor weight, went up, and would not come down. And I had to hold it to screw on the new monitor without being able to see what I am doing.

That was a challenge! First, I didn’t realize that the new monitor has it’s own four screws in and wondered why I couldn’t find the holes! Then, it was almost impossible to keep the whole construction down. Boris kept telling me that I should turn the mount ninety degrees so that it would be easier to attach a new device, but again, without the weight, the mount won’t cooperate. At some point, it jumped up and hurt my upper lip and the bottom of the nouse. I screamed; that’s how bad it was!

Boris suggested finding a box that will support the monitor on the height of the mount’s natural position, which I did, and then I was able to screw it in, and everything was great. But looking back at that situation, even though my nouse still hurts, I can’t keep from laughing! Who else would complete such a project remotely?!

I can’t believe it’s still Friday!

‘I can’t believe it’s still Friday!” – that’s what I said to myself about an hour ago. A Friday of Independence Day weekend, which would be perfect, if happened in the time of peace.
Even though there are none of the usual Independence Day activities, I still planned a lot. This week, I finally felt that I am very close to a usual self, active, getting things done, making plans, and completing the projects.

We had a shortened workday yesterday, and I was able to complete some of my shopping and other errands. I stopped myself from trying to do even more, knowing that I would be entirely exhausted by the end of the day if I tried. After all, I am not thirty-five anymore. That was a wise decision – I had enough energy today not only to finish shopping but also to finalize my order for the new stairs in the Home Depot. It might sound not like a big deal, but that’s what I had to do:

1) to come there without the laminate samples I took home several weeks ago to choose the best match
2) run back home with another, more promising sample to check 3) stop at ALDI on the way home, because it was indeed on the way.
4) pay with my Home Depot credit card.
5) lose my card somewhere in the store
6) rush home, call the credit card to report a loss.
7) at some point to receive a text message from my neighbor, that she needs some help with her computer
8) come to her house and fix the problem (which fortunately ended up having nothing to do with a computer)
I also did a lot of cooking and baking, and fixing some floral arrangements on the deck, which were damaged during recent storms, and installed a new printer at mom’s house.
Today, this bubble in my eye is finally gone, and I started to wear contacts again. That also helps me to feel more like a human 🙂

While discussing with Boris this whole situation of masks and not masks, we were trying to figure out why it all worked in Finland, although the face-covering was never mandatory there. Boris said that he thinks it’s mostly because of air conditioning. In Finland, most private houses do not have it and all office workers are still working from home and are supposed to continue in the same manner until September.

The airconditioning idea looks very logical. It would explain the Southern states’ spikes. It’s not really the fact that they were opening too rapidly, but rather “how many people trickled into the newly opened bars with airconditioning.”
I guess I will wear a mask in the office, even if I will be the only one who will return back 🙂

Today’s Breakfast

My favorite local grocery sells a variety of Italian biscuits, and some have breakfast suggestions on the packaging.

It looks funny (or I’d rather say – unusual) for somebody used to American or Scandinavian breakfasts, and who often invest more time in breakfast preparation than in cooking dinner. However, possibly because I first saw these biscuits in the wake of lockdown (I believe it was a part of my previously mentioned “hoarding specialty food” spree) all of a sudden, I wanted to make myself a breakfast like this.

Since even Italian references can’t bring me to the point of consuming whole milk sweetened latte, I ended up modifying it a little bit, so that I get a similar amount of protein and sweetness from the different sources :).

Fat-free raspberry skyr with raspberries on top

And here is how it looks on my deck:

Analyzing Quarantine Shopping

I threw away a couple of items from my fridge, which I bought in mid-March, just before the lockdown. I was trying very hard not to get into apocalyptic shopping, considering I’ve been through the winter of 91-92. 

I was not afraid that there would be nothing to eat. However, I was a little bit afraid that some specialty stuff might disappear from the shelves because the stores will be trying to satisfy a demand for basic products, which for several days looked like it is going to happen. 

Undoubltfully I bought something extra during that time. Most of the products were consumed in the course of the next two-three months. Some non-perishable is still sitting in my pantry and will be eventually consumed. Some are the items I occasionally buy, for “just in case” situations, like canned chicken soup to be there on a day when I would get sick. By the way, did anybody notice that when we are in isolation, we are not getting sick whatsoever, even with a common cold?! I think it proves that when we are getting sick in the time of normality, it’s not because somebody was dressed not according to the weather, but because somebody got a virus. 

Back to the aftermath of the pre-lockdown shopping. Another category of that extra stuff was due to brand substitution. I get most of my household supplies from Amazon Subscribe and Save. And in late March, lots of these items were back-ordered. Although I could easily wait for a couple of weeks, I had that thought of “oh, and if they will never restock?!” I ended up purchasing brands that I didn’t really like, but they were available, and then my regular brands would reappear and would be delivered. I am just finished with the dishwasher pods of the wrong brand, and it’s the end of June! And I am still not through with the wrong-brand napkins! 

And I didn’t escape a curse of buying extra hand soap! I do not use much of regularly, and most often, purchase perfumed ones from Yves Rocher. But when everybody is buying … Guilty of one refill jar and a pack of four regular-size/regular-flavor. And I hope that that’s it, and my shopping will remain normal 🙂

Everything Is Falling Apart!

Last Saturday, I walked into my kitchen and noticed that something was on the stovetop, which looked like splashes. I proceeded with wiping them off, but I quickly realized that they were not splashes – they were cracks. My glass stovetop had two massive cracks, and I had no idea when and why they appeared! I didn’t drop anything on the stovetop, that’s for sure, and I didn’t hear anything falling. In any case, there was a double-crack and some dents along with it.

I googled the situation, and Grandfather Google told me that I couldn’t use the stove like this, and I need either to replace the glass or the whole stove.

Figuring that the glass top would cost at least $200 plus labor, plus I need to find a technician to do this job, plus the wait time, I decided that the best bet would be to buy a new one. I went to the Home Depot website, being slightly upset that I do not have time to do a throughout research. But I quickly realized that most of the models were not available until mid-July or even August, and there were just a few which could be delivered within a week. I chose one of those, and then I thought that since I am buying a stove, I can also buy a new over-the-stove microwave. I planned to replace it in February, but then life happened. Once again, looking mostly at the earliest delivery time, I chose one and proceeded to the checkout. The website was hinting that I can apply for a Home Depot credit card, and have zero-percent financing for a year. I had this card a while ago but stopped it when I stopped making major purchases at Home Depot. Having too many credit cards is not good for your credit history, and I terminated it. This time I said to myself: I do not need this card, and I do not need zero percent financing; I can pay right away, but the next page said: you will receiver $50 off each appliance if you apply, and I gave in :).

Continue reading “Everything Is Falling Apart!”


Another weekend activity was planting my flower garden. For the past four years, each spring, something would happen which would prevent me from doing it the way I like.

In 2016, I just started my new job; I was traveling to Texas each week, and I do not even remember how that summer looked like. I remember that I only put some flowers in the planters on the deck. In 2017, the weather was really bad, and half of what I planted died. In 2018, I had my back surgery. And in 2019 I could not start panting until June, because it was so cold! Each spring, I was saying to myself that next year it will be better. And here comes 2020!

I knew that after this weekend, the weather wouldn’t be great for a while, so Sunday morning, I headed to the Home Depot. It was not “first thing in the morning,” I was up for almost five hours by that time, but 10 AM is still considered morning 🙂

At Home Depot, it was pretty well organized, they had a separate entrance and exit, and they only allowed a limited number of people into the store simultaneously. I have to say, that selection was not that great; I know pretty well what I need to get to have all of my flowerbeds and planters the way I want. This time, many items which I used to buy every year where not there. If it were business as usual, I would come back one more time and one more time and would visit other stores, but that time around, I decided that I will go with what they have. So unless I will run into them in Jewel-Osco, I won’t have any ivy, coleuses, or decorative sweet potato vines. But hey – I got a full trunk!

I started planting in the afternoon but managed to finish everything in one day.The weather was beautiful, I was outside in a t-short and capris, and I really like how it all turned out!

Continue reading “Gardening”

“I Can Do It!”

I am always taking pride in “I can do it” kind of things. However, I vividly remember what happened when Anna and Vlad went away to college. And when I realized that when I see some unknown bug in the house, I can’t scream: Vlaaad!!! Get this thing out of here! And I can’t ask anybody to get into the attic to take the stuff out. That year, I had to learn to do lots of things by myself for the first time!
When Vlad came home for Thanksgiving that first year in college, he told me: Mom, I am so happy that there are still things you can’t do yourself! And I get it :). With both Boris and Vlad, there are things that I would always delegate to them.

So what happens when due to the quarantine, your family is in five different places? You have to learn to do even more things by yourself :).

Last weekend, I had two activities of that kind. First, I needed to install a handlebar extension on my blue bike. Last year, I bought this bike “just for fun” because it was blue, and I didn’t plan to equip it fully with all the necessary details. But since my white and green bike will stay inside until the end of quarantine, the blue bike became my primary means of transportation. Usually, Boris installs all the new gadgets on my bike, or I would ask Anna or Vlad. But since none of them were available, I had to manage. Boris explained to me everything I needed to do over Facetime, and I marched to the garage well-equipped. Things didn’t go quite smoothly, but I did it!

Continue reading ““I Can Do It!””