Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Thing #20--Snow Day!

The phrase Snow Day is music to the ears of anyone who works in the educational field. Thanks to a "major winter storm" that moved in a few hours earlier than predicted, there was no Quest today. By 3:00 there were a couple of inches of snow on the ground. What can you do with snow? Cook with it!

Today I made shaved ice with homemade syrup. I know snow today is full of pollutants, but I wasn't planning on eating much, so I figured we'd be ok. I put a measuring cup outside the garage door to catch the snow. It's a pretty sheltered place and, more importantly, easy to reach without getting your feet wet!

Brian just gave us a bottle of Key Lime juice as a souvenir from his recent cruise. I found a recipe for a limeade concentrate on the Cooking for Engineers Website. After the syrup cooled, I used an ice cream scoop to mound the snow in a custard cup and added syrup. YUM! It was sweet but had a tart aftertaste.

I tried to think of sunny, tropical weather as I was eating in my cold and gloomy kitchen.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Thing #19--Blogging for Beginners

When I was working on a different Internet project yesterday, I came across a great site called Cool Cat Teacher Blog. The author, Vicki Davis, has put together great posts on teaching, the use of technology in the classroom, and blogging in general.

Her post on Friday, March 03, 2006 was called "Ten habits of bloggers that win!" . One of her suggestions was to add a hyperlink to any Website you mention. I didn't know how to do that, but thanks to Vicki's tutorial I now do!

I'm planning on incorporating more tips from her blog as I learn them.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Thing #18--Ah, Serendipity

One of the benefits of this project has been a new willingness to "drop everything" and go in a different direction at the spur of the moment.

That's what happened today. I was lying in bed before the alarm went off listening to the weather forecast. At 7:00 it was 59 degrees, but thanks to a cold front coming in it should be a frigid 20 degrees by bedtime. I knew I had to make the most of the nice temperature before winter came back. I decided to eat breakfast outside.

Son Donald starts his shift at Sonic at 7 A.M. He was really surprised when I knocked on the kitchen window to say hello. He came out to greet me, and made some recommendations from the menu since I've never eaten breakfast there. My food was fresh, hot, and good. I sat at a table on the patio and watched the traffic, then I waved goodbye to Donald as I left.

Monday, January 28, 2008

New Thing #17--Fun with Soap

Today's thing actually turned out to be two things!

When I was compiling my list of things to do this year, I did some Internet research...on one site it talked about microwaving a bar of soap to see what it would do. I thought that was interesting so I added it to my list.

That was going to be my project for the day. I grabbed a half-used bar of soap from the shower, put it in a measuring cup, and started the experiment. Wow, did it expand! My camera didn't do justice to the process, so here's a better video from YouTube:

However, seeing the soap disintegrate got me thinking...what would happen if I added water to it? Would it turn into liquid soap? I put some water into the measuring cup, added some more soap pieces, and nuked it some more. Here's the result:

I let the slurry set on the countertop to see what it would do after it cooled. Sadly, it became a semi-solid glob. I turned it out onto a cookie sheet and cut it into chunks, which I'll put back into the shower.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

New Thing #16-Against the Grain

You Kill Me was one of my favorite movies from last year. Ben Kingley plays Frank, an alcoholic hitman who goes to San Francisco to dry out. He befriends Laurel (Tea Leoni), a woman who might come in handy when it's time for him to return home to settle some old scores. In one scene, Laurel tells Frank to walk backwards on the hills in San Francisco because it's easier on his legs. In Laurel's spirit, today I walked backwards.

The weather was really nice, so Tony and I decided to walk to church. On the way home I tried to walk backwards as much as possible. I think I managed to do it almost half of the 30-minute trip. Some observations:
  • A partner who walks the correct way can tell you when you're about to run into things.

  • It's nice to be able to LOOK at your walking partner when you're talking.

  • It's hard to walk on curves :-)

  • Walking backward up hills is VERY challenging.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

New Thing #15--How High Can You Fly?

Brian and Donald had a function at Skyzone tonight. Parents were invited, so I played in a trampoline dodgeball tournament. Skyzone has all-trampoline fields, with nets and padded sides so it's safe to jump on. That really changed the game of dodgeball; instead of jumping just a couple of feet to dodge a ball, you could jump five, or fall on the ground and bounce back up. Our team was pretty weak, and we were eliminated after our first two matches. Still, it was a lot of fun.

My camera batteries gave out so I don’t have any good pictures of me jumping, but here’s a picture of Brian on the court:

Friday, January 25, 2008

New Thing #14--Small is Good

I was introduced to the Small-Mart concept a while back. The idea is that we should shop more at local markets and less at the big box stores. West Newsmagazine, a community newspaper, just started a program called Shop H.E.R.E. (Help Energize the Region's Economy) to promote the same thing.

The problem is that my area has more chain stores than independents. It's hard to justify the extra time and gas it takes to drive farther to shop. However, today I changed that when I shopped at an independent hardware store.

The store was right in the path of my other errands, so it didn't take any extra time or gas. When I walked into the store, I didn't have to look for an associate to answer questions; someone greeted me right when I came in and asked what I was looking for, and since the store was small I didn't feel like I was getting my workout for the day walking around in it. The cashier was friendly, and my purchase didn't cost a whole lot more it would have at the big box store, either.

I think I'll be back there.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Thing #13--Hearth & Home

The temperature for the last week has been stupidly cold...so cold all you want to do is hibernate inside. When Tony called and said he was working late tonight, I decided to pretend I wasn't in the middle of January, and I cooked dinner in the fireplace.

After I got the fire going, I made foil packets with carrots and celery, and put them on the floor of the fireplace. Pretty soon there was enough embers to cover them. I skewered a hot dog and pretended I was by a big bonfire as I cooked it. For dessert, I cooked bananas in a small cast-iron skillet and poured them over ice cream..

Donald thought my idea was funny, but he ended up joining me for dinner before he left for the night. I enjoyed the fire the rest of the evening.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New Thing #12--Release and Catch

According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, bookcrossing is defined as "the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise".

At BookCrossing you can register a book, and then "release" the book (leave it in a public place) for a passerby to pick up. The "catcher" (finder) can go to the BookCrossing Website and leave notes about the book, then re-release the book so the process can be continued. The goal is to track the progress of the book as it moves from person to person.

Today I released a book. I left it on a bench at a grocery store, and I'll wait to see if someone picks it up and adds a journal entry on BookCrossing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New Thing #11--So, Do You Soduku?

In my family sons Tony and Brian are good at math, science, and logic. They got their innate ability from their dad; they didn't get it from me! I'm much better at reading, writing, and interpreting words then working with numbers. However, today I played a game of Soduku.

My last receipt from Borders said I could download Big Fish Games Sudoku. The price was right (free, because of my Borders Reward membership). The game was easy to download, and after a short learning curve, I figured out the program and tried to figure out the logic behind the puzzle.

About 30 minutes later I actually completed a puzzle! However, I think from now on I'll leave the game to someone else.

Monday, January 21, 2008

New Thing #10--I Have a Dream

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King day today, I downloaded and read his complete "I Have a Dream" speech.

I graduated from school before King's birthday became a federal holiday, and I don't remember studying his life much. I think I, along with most people, can quote the highlights of the speech, but I've never really digested the whole thing. I found out it's way more than the sound bites that I'll hear on the news tonight.

I also did some research and learned a little bit more about Dr. King's life. I was surprised to learn that later in his life he spoke out on anti-poverty issues for all Americans (the Poor People's Campaign) and opposed the Vietnam war.

The "I Have a Dream" speech can be found at http://www.mlkonline.net. Here's a link to some really thought-provoking pictures about segregation then and now: http://www.newsweek.com/id/94787

Sunday, January 20, 2008

New Thing #9--Popcorn on a String

In the Little House on the Prairie books I read as a kid, the characters always decorated their Christmas trees with popcorn strings. My tree is gone till next year, but today I made a string of popcorn and hung it outside for the birds.

We had some caramel corn left from a house party on Friday. I used dental floss and a needle with a large eye. Some of the kernels cracked as the needle went through them, and my hands got all sticky from the caramel. It took about an hour to use all the kernels and produce a string about 12 feet long.

The cats helped by checking out all the popcorn that fell on the floor:

Here's a picture of the finished string:

I hope the birds like it!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

New Thing #8--Ni hao (Hello)

Today I drove to University City to pick up a pair of shoes I'd ordered. Tony came with me.

There's now an unofficial Chinatown along that stretch Olive Boulevard. We shopped in a Chinese grocery store called the Olive Farmers Market. Everything was well-marked in Chinese and English. Their fish department featured fresh whole fish, crabs that were still moving, and live conch.

We sampled some steamed buns, and Tony bought some to cook for dinner tomorrow night. I bought a huge bottle of Sriracha hot sauce for Donald, because our bottle at home was almost empty.

As we were checking out, I thanked the cashier in Chinese (one of the two words I remember from our trip, the other being "hello").

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Thing #8--Hi, my name is Kathy

I am part of a Twelve-Step fellowship, which I attend on a regular basis. I've found that although I started attending the meetings because of a crisis, following the spiritual principles has been very helpful in all aspects of my life.

Occasionally the group will have a speaker who tells why they became a member of the group. Today was my turn to tell my story.

Even though I knew everyone in the room, I was really nervous. It was very different facing the group instead of sitting with them. When I was finished, the audience was polite enough to clap! I felt really good about doing this for the first time.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Thing #7--If the shoe fits

Today I wore shoes that were 2 different colors, to see if someone would notice.

I have 2 pairs of skimmers--one pair is black and the other is blue. For my fashioned-challenged male friends, here's an example:

I wear the shoes year-round, even though my feet get pretty cold in the winter. Today I put one black and one blue shoe on when I left for work at 12:30, and wore them till I got home at 5:00. Much to my surprise, NO ONE commented on my strange sense of fashion!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Thing #6--The Power of Pine

According to weather folklore, pine cones can predict the weather. They react to atmospheric changes and "open up" or "close up" more with a change in humidity. And changes in humidity can indicate a change in the weather.

Since it's supposed to rain (or snow!) in St. Louis later tonight, I wondered which would be more accurate, a pine cone or the meteorologist on the local TV station. I set up a simple weather station with a pin stuck into a dry pine cone and indicated the angle of the pin on a piece of paper behind the pine cone. This is what it looked like:

As of 6:30 p.m. the pin hasn't moved. I'll check again tomorrow morning and update the post if there are any changes.

Note: Nothing happened to the pine cone overnight, but there was no indication of snow or rain at my house either!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New Thing #5--Happy Birthday to YOU!

The inspiration for today's New Thing came when I was laying in bed listening to the radio the other morning. The DJ was reading a list of celebrity birthdays for the day. That announcement moved me to send a birthday card to a celebrity.

Thanks to the Internet, finding a list of famous people who have birthdays in January was easy. I wanted to allow about a week for mail time, so I decided to send my card to Robin Zander from the band Cheap Trick. His birthday is January 23rd. I've enjoyed their music ever since they started recording in the late '70s, and it's one of the few bands I've seen in multiple decades (in 1978 with REO Speedwagon at the Checkerdome ) and almost 30 years later (in 2006 at Live on the Levee).

I found the address for his management company and sent the card off. Hopefully he'll receive it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

New Thing #4--It's a Mystery to Me

I love mystery books. In all good mysteries, there are clues hidden in plain sight that the protagonist has to uncover to solve the crime. Usually they find the clue just in the nick of time and save the day.

Today I channeled my inner villain and made a hollow book to hide valuables and secret things. The directions were on wikiHow, a Website I'd never visited before I started coming up with my list of things to do. The book was pretty easy to make, although I guess I got too generous with the glue because some pages stuck together that weren't supposed to. Both my box cutter and Exacto knife were pretty dull, which made for some interesting cutting.

Here's the book with my treasures in it:

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Thing #3--A Fine Fig

My friend Sydney lives in southern Georgia. We've been friends since high school, but she left St. Louis shortly after college. We still manage to keep in contact. Syd always sends the best Christmas packages, and this year was no exception.
Among other gifts was a jar of her home-canned peach fig jam. I've had Fig Newton cookies, but I've never eaten recognizable figs. I could see round pieces of the fruit through the clear glass jar.

Last night I started a loaf of bread in the bread machine and woke to the great smell of fresh bread. We cut the loaf, opened the jar of jam, and dug in. Today I can say I ate a new food I've never tried before.

I did some research about figs. Did you know:

The edible fig is one of the first plants that were cultivated by humans.

For many years the fig has been used as a coffee substitute.

The fruit contains an enzyme that is considered an aid to digestion.

Becaue of its high alkalinity it has been mentioned as being beneficial to persons wishing to quit smoking.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New Thing #2--Flexibility is Good

Today I replaced the cabin air filter in my car. It was really dirty! I also learned how to reset the annoying "Maintenance Required" light in my car that should have been done by the service center last month when I actually had the maintenance done. If you want to know how to change the air filter, here's a clip that explains it:

However, that wasn't what I planned for today's New Thing; my original plans fell through. I was going to donate blood. I tried to give blood years ago, only to be turned down. Since then, I've trotted out all the old excuses about how it's inconvenient and time consuming, and passed on all the opportunities I've had to do it. So earlier in the week, feeling virtuous and energetic, I made the appointment for today. However, I only lasted 30 seconds in the screening room. Turns out that the remains of the cold I got on Monday were enough to kick me out as a donor. I'm now 0-for-whatever as a blood donor.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to me.....

Today's the big day! I went to bed last night as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve, and was laying in bed awake when the alarm went off.

I was looking for something with visual impact for my first New Thing. I decided to wear a hat. I've read articles in fashion magazines that proclaim the hat is back, but not in my crowd. We're more baseball caps and warm sensible hats in cold weather.

I bought a maroon felt hat awhile back when I was feeling adventurous, but it ended up in the back of my closet. When I took it out the brim was bent on one side, so I figured out how to steam it back into shape (another New Thing!) so it would be ready to wear.

I got an incredible amount of compliments from people I talked to during the day; when I explained why I was wearing it I got a lot of Happy Birthday wishes too.

Me wearing the hat (with son Donald):

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Everyone has ideas...

The most interesting thing I've found in talking to people about this project is that everyone has done different things in their life. Some people's idea of an adventure is old hat to me; some can't believe I've led such a sheltered life.

Things I've already done
taken a train trip
swam with stingrays
walked on the Great Wall of China
listened to Bosnian music
participated in a mystery dinner theater
volunteered at a soup kitchen
watched a foreign movie with subtitles
walked with the early-morning mall walkers
eaten cactus (the second time voluntarily!)
stayed up all night on New Year's Eve
walked to work

I've never...
ordered room service in a hotel
been to the opera
worn cowboy boots
gotten my eyebrows professionally waxed
worked at a fast food restaurant
lived in an apartment (except on vacation)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Almost time

I've got three days to go until my project starts, and I'm so excited! Everyone I've talked to has commented on what a good idea it is. I've also had some volunteers to go with me on some of my adventures, so Tony will only have to do what he wants to.

A year is a long time, but I've already got ideas for almost half of it, and I'm thinking of more every day. However, I'm also trying to be flexible, and will welcome unplanned opportunities, surprises and spontaneous decisions.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Suggestions so far

I've gotten some great ideas so far from hubby Tony and friends Dani, Kathy C, and Patti, among others. Some of the best so far are:
  • wear two different shoes on purpose
  • attend a public rally
  • learn to crochet
  • email or meet with an author of something I enjoyed reading
  • start my memoirs
  • wear pajamas to work
  • serve dinner for breakfast
  • have a breakfast time picnic
  • wear a hat to the grocery store
  • go to a roller derby meet
  • go to a big college lecture hall lecture
Please keep the ideas coming!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The beginning...

I heard a really interesting thing on NPR yesterday.

They interviewed a woman who did something she's never done before every day for a year, starting on her 29th birthday. It made me think...in a little less than a week I'll turn 49, so I'm going to try to do the same thing!

I'm not looking to do big or bizarre things (at least not every day)! I'm more interested in small, interesting weird things. I'm looking for suggestions; hoping to hear your ideas soon.

I'll keep track of the project via posts on this blog.

Oh, BTW, here's a link to In the New, the blog that provided me the inspiration: http://jen365.blogspot.com/. It's great. You should check it out.