"I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere beyond the morning." - J.B. Priestly

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reading Goals

In the remake of "Sabrina" (the one with Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear), there's a part where Sabrina is talking to her father (the chauffeur for the family) as he sits in a comfy wing chair surrounded by piles of books on every surface in the room and another in his hand.  She says that she loves the fact that he took a job as a chauffeur so he'd have time to read.  That is my favorite inspirational moment from almost any movie I can think of.

I, too, have piles of books sitting everywhere and really love to pick up a new book -- there is such a sense of anticipation.  I generally have one or two books that I'm reading at any given time, and often another in audio format in my car.  Not sure how I came across it, but I found a site to keep track of reading (Goodreads) and love the ability to track what I've read and when, as well as keeping a quick rating of what I thought of it.  Additionally, I've been keeping an excel spreadsheet list of my reading since 2005.  I just track what I read and note whether it was fiction or non-fiction, when I read it, whether it was audio, and whether or not it was in condensed or abridged format.

The last couple of years, I've actually set goals:  this year I wanted to read 100 books, but I don't think I'll make it.  I did so much reading this year, but it was a lot of magazines and informational pieces about gardening -- both during my Master Gardener class and afterward.  I also read gardening books and did count those, but not the magazines or web articles.  Still, with all of that side reading and my volunteer work, I'm still doing pretty well.  As of today, I'm at 50 books for the year and I still have three months to go.

2005 - 50 (but I didn't start keeping track until May)
2006 - 58
2007 - 99
2008 - 89
2009 - 105
2010 - 76

I guess the goal of 100 was pretty ambitious considering the past years.  I also had a lot of condensed books in 2005 and 2006, quite a lot of condensed and audio in 2007, and a lot of Nancy Drew in 2009.  Those are really short and easy reads so maybe that number is a bit padded.  This year, so far, I have a ton of audio and that has really made the difference for me.

Well, we'll see how the next three months progress.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


It has been almost a full year since I retired.  Since that time, I decided to get some part-time jobs on a seasonal basis (Kohls and Target), and take on volunteer work.  The seasonal jobs were a bit much during the Christmas season last year so I dropped the day job at Target, but decided to retain the night job at Kohls.  I still work one or two nights a week and, now with Christmas once again approaching, that may increase to up to 3 nights per week (which is the maximum that I want to work).

Ian got the first strike at the Book 'N' Bowl fundraiser
Volunteering is the thing that has really started to consume my time.  I had to be cleared by the City of Appleton in order to work at the Library, and I also started doing some volunteer work at the Gardens of the Fox Cities (in conjunction with needing volunteer hours to maintain my Master Gardener status).  Working periodically at the library wasn't too bad, until I was recruited to work on a fundraising committee.  Since July, we've had periodic committee meetings to put together the Book 'N' Bowl fundraiser.  The event was held this past Saturday at Super Bowl and we all attended and had a good time, but I'm also glad that the event is now over.  We'll need to have another meeting or two to assess our success in raising money, and we'll need to determine what steps need to be closed out (thank you notes, etc.).  However, the bulk of the work is done and I'm glad that's behind us.  We started with a fairly large committee (maybe 12 people), but it ended up being only 6 of us doing everything at the end.

At the event this past Saturday, I was approached and asked to also work on the next fundraiser:  the Used Book Sale that takes place in November.  I agreed immediately because it looks like fun -- working in the library "dungeon" organizing books that we'll be putting up for sale, and then working the sale itself.  That, too, will have a reasonably short shelf life as the book sale is in November.  After that, I'm guessing that any work associated with that committee will be intermittent and involve sorting and shelving books to be sold at the next sale.

Then, there is the periodic monitoring at the free movie screenings held at the Library.  Those are my favorite volunteer activities:  show up and get the room ready, then sit and watch a movie for two hours -- counting people as they come in so we have an accurate count of the participants.

With cold weather on the way, I'll also want to start spending days at the Library shelving books since it's nice and warm there and it means I won't have to turn the heat up at home.

I was also doing volunteer work at the Gardens of the Fox Cities:  helping with various craft and educational classes, and helping out at social functions held at the Gardens or supplying food for volunteers that are working all day.  I also ended up on a Marketing Committee that will now meet every few months during the winter.  Again, with winter on the way, I'm guessing that work at the Gardens will taper off considerably.

Also, for my Master Gardeners group, they were looking for someone to manage the Facebook page so I took that on a while back.  It is definitely the easiest of all of my volunteer jobs -- maybe 15 minutes a day on those days that I do any posting.  The work at the Gardens and the work for the Facebook page are both counted toward the 20 hours per year that I need for my Master Gardeners status.


Our Master Gardener group has determined that we need to create a new website and I thought I might be able to help with that.  I've spent many, many hours the past few days reviewing our current website and comparing it to other websites, looking into hosting sites, and playing with the creation of a template for a new website for our group.  I don't think there is any way that I'd be able to put this together -- certainly not in any reasonable time frame.  I had no idea how really complicated it is to build a website!

One final organization that has come to my attention:  Saving Paws Animal Shelter.  I provided a monetary donation (recurring 12 month donation totaling $250), and got a nice sweatshirt, t-shirt, and tote bag from them.  I've been advised that they also need volunteer help so I'm going to keep them in mind in case I have time this winter.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Working on Photo Albums

Wow!  It is so easy to take thousands of pictures with a digital camera -- and really quite difficult to sort through them to create a great album when the time comes.  I want to organize my photos from England into albums and maybe even enlarge a couple of them.  I had no idea how many pictures I had -- and how many are too valuable to discard!  They all remind me of little things on the trip so I want to include all of them.

Additionally, I never really finished my blog.  Once Steve got to England, I guess I stopped posting so my trip to Westminster Abbey, our soccer game, the trip to Paris, and the wedding never made it to the blog.  I eventually want to have the blog printed into book format so I can put it with the rest of my trip memorabilia, but I need to finish it first.

Then, there's the trip we took out to Utah in May with the wonderful visits to Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore.  Again, there are a ton of pictures to go through and organize into an album.

Additionally, I want to keep a photo album of my gardens showing the various stages of growth and bloom throughout the season.  I think it will really help with future planting and, because I put so much work into it, why shouldn't I have it in an album?! 

I can see what I'll be doing this winter.  We also have trips coming up in January (Caribbean), possibly May (Mexico), and August (Alaska) so I'd like to get somewhat current before I start adding more.  I also need to backup my photos onto CDs as I've fallen behind with that, too.

Oh yeah, this is a whole winter project!

[Note:  maybe I'll also get inspired to get back to my scrapbooks for the kids, which are waaaaay behind.]

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Phantom of the Opera

To celebrate 25 years on the stage, a special production of Phantom of the Opera was performed at Royal Albert Hall in London today.  Scheduled for 7 p.m. London time, it was broadcast live into movie theatres around the globe -- including one in Appleton.  Marcus Theatres brings these productions in all the time:  concerts, opera, live theatre, etc, but this is the first time that I've ever been available to attend one that I really wanted to see.

The cast consisted of entirely unknowns to me, but they were all splendid and the production was as lavish as ever.  One really good part about watching a broadcast is the fact that the camera zooms in on the cast, allowing you to lip-read some of the lyrics that might otherwise be lost.  This particular musical contains a lot of music where cast members sing over the top of one another -- not unlike an opera.  Although the cast consisted of unknowns, the definitely more well-known past performers were introduced at the end and sang some songs.  There was Colm Wilkinson, Sarah Brightman, John Owen-Jones, and Michael Crawford (although Michael Crawford did not sing).

What a really fun time it was, and I've discovered some heretofore unknowns that I can now follow.  Turns out that a lot of these people have appeared both in Phantom and in Les Miz rather consistently and with great reviews (Colm Wilkinson, of course, but also John Owen-Jones and Hadley Fraser).  I believe the whole thing will be available on DVD so I'll have to add it to my collection.