March Recap

03/01 (Fri) – The kids came over for dinner. We got takeout from our favorite Mexican place and played a new version of UNO they gifted us (it was our belated Christmas gift exchange) – UNO No Mercy, which was brutal, but fun. I’m now the proud owner of the Funko Pop 5-pack of The Cure. Joe received a Nightmare Before Christmas vinyl LP and a Jack Skellington Funko Pop.

03/02 (Sat) – I finally got an eye exam, at LensCrafters, which I had been putting off until I was told by my allergist that my daily Flonase use could cause eye issues and to have my retinas examined. They try to upsell this digital retina imaging where you don’t have to get your eyes dilated so it’s quicker (but you have to pay out of pocket for), but after some quick googling I learned they see less of your retinas that way, so I opted for the old school method which insurance covers. Sure, it requires you to spend more time at the exam, and then wait a few hours for your eyes to return to normal, but it’s free. Also, my eyes are perfectly healthy, so that’s good.

03/03 (Sun) – Visited the baby owls and on the way back visited Armstrong Park to see what it’s looking like since they started restoring the creek bed. It’s awful now! All the trees that housed the northern flickers and attracted migrating birds are gone. I understand the need to repair the erosion but it’s really disappointing. It was one of our favorite places to visit, not to mention closest to home, and I don’t think it’s going to attract many birds now. Total bummer.

03/04 (Mon) – Spotted some mourning doves hanging out on the abandoned robin’s nest on my neighbor’s light outside their door and called the association to ask them to remove the nest. I debated asking the neighbor directly, but we’ve never spoken and I didn’t want to chance her refusing, so it was better this way as they sent out a pest control person the next day to remove it. Neighbor has a video doorbell or I would have done it myself, honestly. Neighbor rarely uses their front door but we use ours often to walk Wookie and it was not fun getting dive-bombed by the mother robin last year. Not sure if mourning doves are less aggressive, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

03/09 (Sat) – Joe filed our taxes (refund small, but better than having to pay) and we tried out a new to us Polish deli that’s been around for years. While we didn’t like everything we tried, we like enough (pierogis & stuffed cabbage) that we’ll definitely get food from them again.

03/16 (Sat) – So there we were, driving along the west side of the Morton Arboretum with the windows open, taking in the sights and listening for birds, when we heard what we thought was hooting in the distance. It was too faint for the Merlin app to identify, so we pulled over and decided to investigate on foot because it didn’t sound familiar like a great horned owl. Luckily the hooting continued and we were able to track it to a group of pine trees where this barred owl was perched.

Talk about exciting! Neither of us has ever seen one in the wild before. The funny thing is just minutes before we heard it, I was thinking about how we should look for a barred owl, but I didn’t say anything to Joe because I don’t know why that thought even popped into my head. It’s not as if anyone had mentioned seeing one there recently. So strange.

Also, I’m shocked at how well the photo came out considering just how overcast it was on this day, not to mention windy, and how high up the owl was.

03/19 (Tue) – Finished the black oil sunflower seed and started feeding safflower seeds to the birds. While it has lessened the pesky squirrels trying to climb the feeder, it’s just as messy as the other seed. The bag is only 8 lbs, so I’m sure we’ll be out of it quickly. We also bought a small bag of sunflower hearts, which I suspect the birds will tear through in a matter of a week, maybe two. Which is fine, because by the end of April I plan to remove the seed feeder and put up the hummingbird one. Moving forward, I will be using the suet feeder only in the late fall and winter months. I hate how messy the seeds make the patio. Luckily my favorite birds – chickadees and woodpeckers – are the ones who primarily use the suet feeder.

03/30 (Sat) – I had heard there was a common loon hanging out at West Branch forest preserve recently, but hadn’t had the opportunity to look for it until this day. I texted my birding friend who just so happened to be going there and she was kind enough to text me back when she saw it, so we decided to look for it despite the overcast weather.

Sure enough, it was there, but it was so far across the lake that the best photo I could get of it is not so great. I’ve never seen one before, though, so that was exciting.

On top of that, while walking around the lake to see if we could get a better vantage point (spoiler alert – we couldn’t), we saw two more water birds we’ve never seen before – buffleheads and horned grebes. The buffleheads were in a group of three, and there were 7-8 grebes, although the one I got the best photo of was off by itself not too far from the shoreline.

So that’s three more birds added to the life list. I’m at 78 and hoping to hit 100 this year.

03/31 (Sun) – We had a low-key Easter this year. We didn’t go anywhere or invite anyone over. Heck, I completely forgot to decorate until three days beforehand! We made the last of the ham from Christmas in the crockpot, and had mashed potatoes and green beans with it.


Throughout the month we’ve been taking Wookie to her internal medicine specialist & local vet for her chronic kidney disease. She’s not doing well, unfortunately, although after starting her on subcutaneous fluids she did perk up. Her decline in energy was rather slow so we didn’t realize she was acting differently until she started feeling better. It’s been super stressful trying to figure out ways to help her and come to terms with the fact that she might not be around come this time next year if things keep progressing the way they have.

I think I was in denial when she was first diagnosed back in mid 2022, because even with knowing this would shorten her lifespan, I didn’t think about it too much because she was acting perfectly normal. Now that things have changed, it’s becoming too real and I’m already suffering from pre-emptive grief.

To make matters more stressful, she fights us when we try to give fluids at home (we’ve tried multiple times), so I’ve been taking her to our local vet daily (except Sundays since they are closed) to have them administered, and will continue to do so until her next follow-up appointment with her specialist in mid April.

I’ve joined a couple of Facebook groups about her condition but all the information is overwhelming. She’s on a special kidney friendly prescription food that she doesn’t like so I keep having to add stuff to it to encourage her to eat and I worry I’m harming her kidneys further in the process. Logically, I know that ultimately she needs to eat, even if her diet isn’t exactly the best possible thing for her condition, but I feel guilty anyway. I just hope the new medication the internal medicine specialist started her on helps.

February Recap

02/06 (Tue) – Took Wookie to an internal medicine specialist this morning regarding her kidney disease and got total sticker shock when they presented us with an estimate for all the testing they wanted to run. But how can you say no if one of those tests might put you on a better path to managing her condition? So of course we agreed. They did a thorough ultrasound and lots of blood and urine testing. We have a plan going forward to manage her health as best we can.

We tried drowning our sorrows at the Costco food court later that afternoon and got a strawberry sundae and their new chocolate chip cookie. Both were very disappointing. The cookie was baked far too long and wasn’t good at all. We ate less than half before throwing it out. As for the sundae, I’m not sure if there was something wrong with the soft serve machine, or if they switched to an inferior ice cream, but it wasn’t nearly as good as it usually is. The taste, texture, and color were all off. I hope it was a fluke.

02/14 (Wed) – We don’t exchange gifts on Valentine’s Day anymore which is fine because I don’t see the point in getting stuff just for the sake of it. Plus we just had Christmas and my birthday, so it’s gift overload. We did order our favorite Mexican takeout for dinner, though!

02/17 (Sun) – Went looking at tile and flooring for the master bathroom renovation that we’ve been putting off. Honestly, I get overwhelmed just thinking about it. I am having such a hard time finding wall tile I like! The Tile Shop had the perfect white tile on display when we first walked in and wouldn’t you know it, that tile has been discontinued for three years. Because of course it is! I cannot catch a break, and with other stuff going on with my health, Wookie’s health, and the house, I am feeling stressed out. None of it is the end of the world (except for worrying about Wookie), and will eventually get worked out one way or the other, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling like too much is going on at once. I’m thankful I’m not working because that’s an added stress I just can’t deal with right now.

02/21 (Wed) – Saw baby Great Horned owls! Apparently there are three in the nest, but I was only able to see two at any one time. The parents were in trees nearby as well.

02/23 (Fri) – Woke up with nerve pain in arms that as the days progressed turned into my legs hurting and feet burning. Tried to remain active and not give into the pain, but it freaks me out when this happens. Looking back through my notes, it seems to happen once a year and lasts longer each time. Do I have some weird Fibromyalgia that comes and goes? A lot of the symptoms seem to fit. It also seems to get triggered by periods of high stress, which is really hard to keep at bay being a Type A person.

02/29 (Thu) – Saw my gynecologist to talk about how I’ve been feeling lately. She ran a bunch of bloodwork that came back normal, although I did notice some things were on the low end of normal and could explain some of my issues. I’m going to try taking birth control to even out my hormonal fluctuations. I’m definitely in perimenopause at this point and tired of the unpredictable cycles and moodiness.

Note – as of March 10th, most of the nerve related issues have almost completely gone away. Interestingly, I’ve started taking Emergen-C again after discontinuing it last year. It must contain the right combination of vitamins that makes me feel good. Or it’s just an odd coincidence, but I started taking it shortly before all my issues from 2019-2020 went away, so I’m convinced it does something good for me.

Enjoyed the following movies and series in February:

The Breaker Uppers (Netflix) – For the right price, BFFs Jen and Mel will ruthlessly end any romance. But when one grows a conscience, it threatens to derail their relationship.

The Now (Roku series) – Starring Dave Franco, a man decides to turn his life around after learning that he is the third member of his immediate family to be suicidal.

January Recap

01/02 (Tue) – Purchased the lifetime subscription to UpNote and moved all my notes over.

01/03 (Wed) – Made some delicious homemade chicken noodle soup. For years this was Joe’s specialty, but when he got COVID the first time I decided to take his recipe and tweak it. Now we can’t go back to the original because my version, while more time consuming, is so much more flavorful.

01/06 (Sat)My friend came over for us to celebrate Christmas and my birthday.

01/07 (Sun) – Visited Morton Arboretum

01/09 (Tue) – Finally got around to trying this spiced chai (tea) we got at Trader Joe’s last year. It’s very good! One of the best teas I’ve had, in fact.

01/10 (Wed) – Nearly got run over in two separate parking lots while shopping.

First at Costco was an old lady backing out right as we were walking behind her car. Joe had to punch her trunk to get her attention. Luckily she wasn’t going very fast.

But the scarier incident was merely ten minutes later at Aldi when a lady in a giant SUV literally started peeling out of her spot, almost turning right into us as we were walking alongside her vehicle. She must have stomped on that gas hard because when she heard us yelling she ended up skidding in the spot trying to stop.

What the hell is wrong with people?

01/12 (Fri) – Did a major paper declutter/filing which was overdue (when isn’t it?)

01/13 (Sat) – Purchased Nintendo Online membership for the year so I could play some of the old Nintendo and Super Nintendo games. Namely, F-Zero and the Japanese version of Planet Puzzle League. What can I say, I like simple games.

Also installed a new Apple Watch screen protector after realizing mine had disappeared from my watch without me noticing right away.

01/14 (Sun) – Joe installed the new corner shower caddy, which we got from Costco for $60, in the upstairs guest bathroom.

I like that the shelves cannot slide down the pole like the old one that was using a rubber ring to keep it in place. It also looks nicer, and hopefully will not rust like the previous one. The thing I don’t like, however, is how the lowest shelf cannot be installed all the way at the bottom so that it sits on the corner of the tub. It holds the heaviest products, which makes it sag a bit, so all the bottles want to slide to the front. I find that irritating, and didn’t realize it would work that way until everything was put together. When Joe renovates the master bathroom, he’s going to put a large cutout in the shower so no caddy will be necessary.

01/17 (Wed)Recycled and donated multiple items and did some shopping.

01/18 (Thu) – Joe works across town so we took advantage of that and met up at our village hall to check out a small bimonthly indoor market where we purchased tacos, salsa (verde), egg rolls, and cupcakes. All items ended up being underwhelming except two of the cupcakes.

The flavors from top left to bottom right are vanilla bourbon, whatchamacallit, chocolate malt, and cannoli. We’d only get the first two again.

01/20 (Sat) – Joe did some more work on our dryer. The slides keep deteriorating, so earlier in the month he replaced a piece on the top inside portion of the door that had worn down and put in new slides. The dryer was still squealing a lot, so he replaced the bearing in it as well. They no longer sell dryers like ours so we’ve been really reluctant to replace it as not only would we lose precious space in the laundry room, which is already cramped enough, but most of the dryers we’ve looked at have sloped tops on them. Why, I do not know! Our laundry room is also the entrance into the house from the garage so the dryer is a makeshift table for us and needs to be flat (we have a liner on top to protect the surface).

01/23 (Tue) – I had a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy. One polyp was found and removed, and even though the doctor thought I had issues with my esophagus, the biopsy results indicated otherwise. It’s a bit confusing, and I’m planning on making a follow up appointment with him to discuss everything further.

01/24 (Wed) – Cancelled Amazon Prime. It’s gotten so expensive at $140 annually, we rarely watch shows on Prime, and packages tend to get delayed so you’re not getting them in two days anymore. The breaking point came when they announced they’d be adding commercials to their Prime content unless you paid them $3 more per month for ad-free viewing. WTF? Even though, like I said, we don’t watch much Prime, it’s the principal of the thing. They keep jacking up rates and giving you less in return for your money. I think this will save us even more money in the long term since we won’t be placing orders until we have multiple things we want to buy.

01/27 (Sat) – Went to Woodfield Mall. It had been nearly a year since we’ve been in any malls at all (and the last time was Woodfield too, in fact). We no longer shop out of boredom (or for “fun”) and only when we need something specific.

They added a new anchor store called Primark which is based out of Ireland. I picked up a cheap pair of sneakers for walking on the treadmill since my old ones are literally falling apart. Was crossing my fingers they fit well (spoiler alert, they didn’t); these are the fourth pair of shoes I’ve tried. Not sure what is going on, but finding a comfortable pair of walking shoes has been difficult lately. Even the more expensive ones have been duds (such as the Pumas I got from Costco that I ended up returning). I did learn that I need the shoe to fit snugly (so even though I wear a size 8, I’m better off with a 7 or 7.5) and one that has a shape similar to an hourglass instead of just a wide toe box but narrow everywhere else.

The mall got pretty crowded by noon so we high-tailed it out of there and back to the safety of home, but not before picking up Bibibop. Luckily that location made everything as ordered!

Enjoyed the following movies and series in January:

Leo (Netflix) – An animated movie about a lizard (voiced by Adam Sandler) who talks to school children and helps them with life’s issues. Super cute and funny.

Self Reliance (Hulu) – Starring Jake Johnson and Anna Kendrick, this was a pretty unusual movie that had you guessing what was really going on the whole time. Truthfully, the main draw was Andy Samberg’s cameo, which was a bit disappointing.

Interstellar – I’ve been meaning to watch it for years and after a recent discussion with a friend, who said it was one of their favorite movies, I felt it was time. Was it good? Yes. Would I ever watch it again? Doubtful.

Hijack (Apple TV) – Starring Idris Elba, this drama mini-series had enough intrigue and drama to keep my attention, although I didn’t find his acting in particular all that engaging.

Queenpins (Netflix) – Kirsten Bell is entertaining, which was no exception in this comedy about a pair of women who create a fraudulent coupon empire.

Ted (Peacock) – I wasn’t sure at first how I felt about this limited series, but after two episodes I really got into it. It’s amazing how far we’ve come with CGI these days. Ted looks amazing and blends in seamlessly with the actors. Plus the show is just funny.

School Spirits (Netflix) – What a unique premise – Maddie, a teen stuck in the afterlife, investigates her own disappearance with the help of her fellow dead schoolmates whose souls are also stuck on school grounds. It keeps you guessing until the last episode which still leaves you with questions, hopefully which will be answered in season 2.

Frustrated With Companies

Today was supposed to be Wookie’s internal specialist vet visit (to address her kidney disease), that was scheduled over a month ago, and which Joe took a half day off work to attend. I woke up at 7 am to a text that was sent at 4:30 am saying the specialist wouldn’t be in the office and we’d need to reschedule.

I called the facility to confirm the text was legit, since the phone number it came from wasn’t the vet office, and the woman who answered told me oh no it was just some error the ultrasound tech made. It wasn’t until I read her the text that she put me on hold only to come back and confirm that yes, the doctor wouldn’t be in and I’d have to wait to hear from the department that can reschedule the appointment. Why do people talk out of their ass? What if I just took her word and went there, wasting both time, and money on gas, only to learn it really was cancelled? I swear, people don’t think before they speak!

So anyway, I asked her if I’m going to get a discount for the inconvenience. After all, I pointed out, if I were to cancel with less than 48 hours notice they would keep my $100 deposit. She assured me my deposit would be fine and applied to the rescheduled visit. I explained that wasn’t what I asked her. Seriously, I have very little patience for people who don’t actually listen! She said someone would have to call me back about that. She also tried to say something about just getting there and not handling that stuff. I told her I know she isn’t personally responsible, but she’s the one I’m asking to find out. Ugh!!! I thought this was implied. This happens too often where people who represent a company act like you’re personally accusing them of something. It’s so irritating! Is this what people mean when they accuse people of being snowflakes? This woman couldn’t handle being screamed at like I did when I worked customer service for the cable company. And to be clear, while it’s true I wasn’t happy with getting a last minute cancellation, I was certainly not screaming at her or being rude. Get over yourself, and do your job.

Anyway, to make the most of a crappy situation, we went to Chick-fil-a for breakfast since there was a free breakfast sandwich in our accounts for the Blackhawks winning or something. Then later on we ran some errands. I donated books to the library, including one called The Queen Gene by Jennifer Coburn I had won through Goodreads, which the author had signed inside. I feel kinda bad getting rid of it, but I can’t read physical books anymore with my eyes. It’s just easier to read on a device, plus it makes room in the house not holding onto stuff I’m not actively using.

After the library we went to the police station to recycle all the “drugs” I wanted to discard. I had a ton of stuff, some Rx, but mostly supplements, from when I was sick in 2019 and was trying anything and everything to get better. Everything had since expired, and most of it was useless anyway, but it was sad to think how much money was spent on all that stuff only to throw it away. I am grateful I don’t need any of it, though. For the most part I’m completely healthy again. There’s a drop-box for the drugs, but they have to give you a key to open it. The guy looked at the huge gallon bag I had (along with a quart-sized one) and said the larger one might not fit, but he had smaller bags if I needed them.

Luckily it did fit, and they took everything, even though there was a sticker saying they don’t take supplements (I asked him about it and he said it was fine as long as they weren’t in the bottle).

After that we stopped at the Sports Hub to recycle some batteries. Then we went to a place called Repeat Boutique to donate some items (finally got rid of a loud, but still working, Dirt Devil stick vacuum, plus a glass shelf we bought like two decades ago, amongst other things), and some clothing.

We decided to look for some cookware at TJ Maxx / Home Goods, but left empty-handed. We stopped at Bath & Body Works so I could cash in my free birthday item but ended up leaving when I realized to get a free $10 item you have to buy something else and sale items don’t qualify. So instead of a free $17 item like before, you get less and have to buy something full priced? No thank you. After I spend the gift card my friend gave me I think I really am done with BBW. All these stores are getting to be too much.

Speaking of, last year I placed an order with Macy’s for a deep skillet and a syrup dispenser. The latter arrived broken. With the weather I haven’t been able to get to the store to either exchange it, or get credit, since the closet store is still a decent ride. Today I thought maybe I could just ship it back, but if I start a return on the website, it says since I am not a Star Rewards Member, I would have to pay a $10 return shipping fee. I paid less than that for the item! I don’t see anything about there being an exception when they send a damaged item even though it makes sense there would be, but I cannot confirm that since it’s AI only if you try to chat with them. Even if you call them (and I had to Google for the number since they don’t put it on the website) it won’t let you speak to a human. What horrible customer service! I won’t be buying from Macy’s again.

My 48th Birthday

My friend K came over with her dog on the 6th to celebrate my birthday and exchange Christmas gifts. She got me some really cool stuff, although I can’t remember which were birthday vs Christmas now.

Dog calendar
Change purse made from recycled materials
$15 Bath & Body Works gift card
Happy Endings complete series on DVD
Plush chickadee that sings when you press the button (Wookie hates it)
Heather grey (looks more navy blue) bird t-shirt
Not pictured: a set of loofas that came inside a fabric bag with dogs on it

I like the bird related gifts the most.

Speaking of, Joe got me this awesome owl for my birthday. I had put it on my wish list and I love how it fits in with the winter decor I have currently in the house.

I hate having a winter birthday because the thing I want to do most is be in nature. This year we decided to drive around the arboretum since it had just snowed the night before. It looked really pretty and was the best option all things considered.

We also ate lots of takeout for my birthday weekend. We got fajitas Friday night, Just Kabobs with my friend on Saturday, and Thai food on Sunday. I didn’t have to cook at all and we enjoyed the leftovers for days afterward too. So overall it was a nice low-key birthday with my favorite humans and dogs. :)

Here’s a list of all the birthday deals I received this year. Some of them just appeared in my mobile app (like Dunkin, Jewel, and Starbucks), so it’s always worth checking your apps for any rewards on/around your birthday.

** = rewards I’ve already redeemed
* = rewards I might still redeem
x = rewards I’m not bothering with

* Bath & Body Works – free $10 item – expires 2/6
* Beef Shack – $5 off – expires 1/31
x Cafe Zupas – free dessert w/ $5 purchase – expires 1/14
* Chick-fil-a – free brownie – expires 1/31
x Chilis – free dessert – 1/14
* Culvers – free sundae – expires 1/21
x Dunkin Donuts – 3x points
** Jewel – $5 off $5 or more – expiration date unknown
* Jimmy Johns – free side item – expires 2/6
** McDonald’s – free item from a choice of 7 items (3 breakfast or 4 lunch ones) – expires 1/14
x Nothing Bundt Cakes – free bundtlet – expires 1/15
x Red Lobster – Chocolate Wave Reward – expires 1/30
x Red Robin – free birthday burger w/ minimum purchase of $5 (dine in only) – expires 1/31
** Starbucks – free food or drink item of your choice – only good on your actual birthday
** Target – 5% off – expires 2/6

If it wasn’t so cold/snowy this weekend, I would have gone to Nothing Bundt Cakes but it isn’t worth the drive. They closed our local Red Robin (plus we’re still not comfortable eating inside restaurants) so that’s off the table. I should probably delete my Royalty account with them as I don’t foresee eating there anymore. The quality has taken a nosedive while the prices continue to rise, so as much as I used to love them, I’m not a fan anymore.