Monday, June 30, 2008

New Thing #171--Flapping in the Breeze

I usually try to get my laundry done in the most efficient way. My laundry room is right off the kitchen, so I can put a load in the washer, listen for it to be done, immediately put it in the dryer, then take it out right away. However, I also love the smell and feel of crisp bedsheets dried outside, so today I hung my sheets on a clothesline.

Normally something like this wouldn't be a big deal, but our neighborhood indentures say no clotheslines! Technically I could have gotten in trouble with today's activity, so today I also struck a blow against stupid regulations.

When we moved into our house and found out we couldn't line-dry our clothes, I wasn't too concerned. At the time I was doing laundry for five people, and it would have overwhelmed me to hang it all. However, I now realize that the regulation is really absurd. People in our neighborhood should be able to make their own decisions about this topic. As I was doing research, I found out that there are actually "Right to Dry" laws in several areas, and a group - Project Laundry List, that's dedicated to promoting simple ways of saving energy--such as line drying. Their website states that by hanging your clothes you can save money, conserve energy, and make your clothes last longer.

I didn't want to put a lot of effort into making a clothesline today since it wouldn't be put to permanent use, so I strung the line on the deck from one side to the other and back, using the deck railing to support the line. The sheets were flopped over the line on either side of the picnic table, and the pillow cases were placed on the end by the stairs. When I needed to take some things to the compost pile, but couldn't get there because there was laundry in the way!

The other problem I realized I had partway through my project was that I had no clothespins. I improvised and used binder clips from my desk. They worked fine, but if hanging the laundry turned into a more-frequent activity, I'd have to invest in the correct tools.

I left the sheets on the deck all afternoon when I was at work. It clouded over a few times, and I was afraid it was going to rain. When I came home and brought them in, the cats really investigated the unusual smells.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

New Thing #170--Road Trip

Months ago, son Brian asked if we'd be interested in going to Kansas City to see the Cardinals play there. It sounded like a great idea, so we purchased tickets. Today I went on a road trip to Kansas City see a baseball game.

We've been to Chicago before to see the Cardinals play the Cubs, but this was my first time watching the two in-state teams duke it out. I've NEVER been to the home stadium of an American League team; I knew they'd be using a designated hitter (which I've never seen in person).

Because we didn't want to get up incredibly early today, we drove to Columbia last night, stayed in a hotel, and met up with Brian (and his girlfriend Nicole) this morning. You can't have a proper road trip without food, so we decided to get some BBQ for lunch before the game. We ate at a restaurant in Blue Springs called ZardaQ. It was very easy to get to from the highway, and the food was great. Son Tony, who drove in from Tulsa, joined us for lunch and the game.

The drive to Kansas City was easy, but there was a HUGE traffic jam to get into the stadium parking lot! Unlike the stadium parking in St. Louis, there is only one parking lot for Kauffman Stadium. We got into the stadium in the bottom of the first inning, and I was struck by how many red shirts I saw. It seemed like the Cardinals had as many fans as the Royals did.

The Cardinals haven't done too well against Kansas City so far this year, but they won last night and we were hopeful they would do well again today. They won; the score was 9 to 6. Albert Pujols, who was serving as the Designated Hitter, hit a homer for the Cardinals, and came about a foot from a second home run. Because the Royals scored a run in the sixth inning, we were able to get a free hot fudge sundae at Sheridan's Frozen Custard by showing our ticket stub.

We drove home happy that we enjoyed a great game.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

New Thing #169--Can You Read It?

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  • Orfay ordsway atthay eginbay ithway onsonantcay oundssay, ovemay ethay initialway onsonantcay orway onsonantcay usterclay otay ethay endway ofway ethay ordway andway addway "ayway."
  • Orfay ordsway atthay eginbay ithway owelvay oundssay (includingway ilentsay onsonantscay), implysay addway ethay yllablesay "ayway" otay ethay endway ofway ethay ordway. Inway omesay ialectsday, otay aidway inway onunciationpray, anway "hay," "way" orway "day" isway addedway otay ethay uffixsay.
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So, could you read it? This is what it said:

Today I'm writing my post in Pig Latin. I'm using a cool Website that I found on the Wikipedia entry for "Pig Latin".

Although I dabbled in speaking Pig Latin when I was a kid, I've never before written in it. The same rules apply:
  • For words that begin with consonant sounds, move the initial consonant or consonant cluster to the end of the word and add "ay."
  • For words that begin with vowel sounds (including silent consonants), simply add the syllable "ay" to the end of the word. In some dialects, to aid in pronunciation, an "h," "w" or "d" is added to the suffix.
For people who have too much free time, Wikipedia also has a link to a page where you can Google in Pig Latin!

Friday, June 27, 2008

New Thing #168--It Can't Be Christmastime Already?!

Our extended family has gotten older and bigger. All of my children are now in their 20s, and with only two exceptions, all of my nieces and nephews are too. Some of the "younger generation" have significant others who also come to family parties.

It was getting difficult to get meaningful Christmas presents for everyone, because I don't see all of them on a regular basis. Because of this, we're modifying our Christmas celebration. We decided that this year we would have a Rob Your Neighbor game at our family get together. Since most of the young people don't have a lot of money, we settled on a $5 limit for the presents.

Ever since then I've been keeping an eye out at garage sales and clearance sales for the perfect present. I wanted something cheesy and funny, but not sleazy. Today when I was at Hobby Lobby buying garden decorations I noticed that they had a clearance section. I browsed, and I found the perfect white elephant Christmas gift.

Of course, I can't post a picture of it, or even give any clues. I'm pretty sure that it will be unique, though. I also think I'll be really happy come December, when I don't have to shop for this present!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Thing #167--Quilt It

Today I finished the project I started on Monday when I quilted a patchwork block pillow.

Yesterday, I stopped at the fabric store to get the materials I needed for the project. The directions called for a half-yard of quilt batting, and a half-yard of muslin for the quilt back. The batting and muslin both came in widths much wider than I needed, so I knew I'd have a substantial amount of each left over. I picked out the least expensive kind of each, had them measured, purchased it, and brought it home.

Today I cut squares of batting and muslin the size of my pillow block, and pinned them all together like a sandwich-quilt block, batting, and muslin. The directions said I should quilt along each seam line, to make concentric squares. After some trial and error with hand-quilting, I gave up and used the sewing machine.

The last step was to add a back to the pillow. The original pattern had directed me to cut out two pieces of blue material for the back. (They overlap on the pillow like an envelope, then the pillow form slides in.) I put a hem on each of the pieces, and pinned them to the quilt right sides together. I sewed a seam around the entire perimeter, turned the pillow inside out, and admired my work:

The directions told me the finished squares weren't supposed to be symmetrical; I'm glad they told me that, because as you can see, they aren't.

I was pessimistic about the results of the project, so I didn't buy a pillow form to put inside it...I'll have to make another trip to the fabric store to get it, then find a spot in my house to put the pillow!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Thing #166--"Disney World For Foodies"

The title comes from an article in last week's POST-DISPATCH about the opening of a new Whole Foods Market in Town and Country. I've been excited for this store to open; it's only a 10 minute drive from my house. Before today, the closest Whole Foods was a half-hour away, and trips there were reserved for special occasions, or when I happened to be in the area. There have been ads for the last week touting today's opening ceremonies, so today I went to the grand opening of a store.

I wasn't sure what to expect at a "Bread Breaking Ceremony", as the store called it. I arrived about 20 minutes early, and there were already a couple of hundred people there! The store served snacks to the people in line, and we got free tote bags. I could hear (but not see) the bagpipe band that was playing near the front door; I heard occasional applause from the front of the line, so I suspect there was the usual compliment of store officials and politicians speaking as the doors were opened. The line had almost doubled in length by the time they let us in.

It actually took about 10 minutes to get in the store once the line started moving--people had to stop and get shopping carts, which slowed everything down. I was planning on just looking today, as I figured the checkout lines would be swamped, so I just gathered my goodies in my tote bag.

The store is huge (55,000 square feet), but it was very hard to navigate with all the people who were there. They had lots of free samples-every department had something they were showcasing. I tried to make it down every aisle to see what the store's inventory was like, but it was so crowded it was hard to browse.

Partway through my shopping, I noticed that my tote bag was turning my arm red! I found an associate, who explained to me that the ink (that was either plant- or water-based) probably was reacting to my sunscreen. I swapped out the tote for another one, and went to the bathroom to clean the ink off my arm.

As I was leaving the parking lot, there were still a lot of cars coming in. They actually had an associate directing traffic! I bet the store will be very busy for the rest of the day.

I'll still shop at a variety of stores for my food (price is important to me, as is shopping at the hometown chain grocery stores), but I'll definitely include Whole Foods as one of the stops.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New thing #165--Sensible

The Website SensibleUnits.com has the tagline "Convert boring units to real objects as you type!" When I input my weight, it told me I was the equivalent of:
  • 41 average physics textbooks (I wouldn't know; I never took physics)
  • 14 average domestic cats (my favorite!)
  • 9.4 men's shotputs (this is probably appropriate with the Olympics coming up)
  • 3.8 microwave ovens (REALLY heavy ones-over 40 pounds each!)
I was also:
  • 68 kilograms
  • 10.7 stone
  • 6.94 hyls
  • 5.36 quarters
  • 4.66 slugs
  • 1.5 hundredweights (short)
  • 0.068 tonnes (metric)
  • 0.067 tons (long)
Who knew there were so many ways to measure something!

Monday, June 23, 2008

New Thing #164--Patchwork

My friend Dana gave me the suggestion to make a quilt block for a Thing. I thought it was a great idea, and added it to my list. I was at Borders over the weekend, and I came across a quilting kit. I remembered Dana's suggestion, so I purchased the kit and brought it home. Today I made a pillow-sized quilt block.

The Quilt-It Kit included 15 project cards and patterns (and fabric for the project I made), a how-to-booklet, and needle and thread. The quilt batting and backing for my project were not included, nor was the pillow form for the finished pillow.

My project was the Back to Square One Pillow. The first step was to enlarge the pattern sheet to the correct size (200% larger than what I was given). I went the copy store, and after some trial-and-error came up with an acceptable pattern. I came home, cut the pattern pieces apart, and pinned ALL 17 OF THEM to the fabric. After I cut them all out, the rest was easy. The pieces went together like a big puzzle a layer at a time. It was really satisfying to see all my work come together.

The next step is to buy the materials and do the actual quilting. Hmmm...sounds like another Thing to me. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

New Thing #163--Dream House

I live in a very nice area of St. Louis County, in a great house in a nice neighborhood, and I have no desire to have anything bigger or fancier. However, today Tony and I decided to see how the other half lives, and we toured a multi-million dollar house.

Several neighborhoods in the metropolitan area have very expensive real estate. Tony and I decided to visit one, Town and Country, that's slightly to the east of us. I found a list of Open Houses in the newspaper, and we selected our target house. We arrived a bit too early-the house wasn't open yet-so we doubled back to the main road and followed a sign to another Open House. This one, while nice, was "only" $999,000. I wanted to see what you got if you had significant money to spend on a house. We drove back to our target house and went inside.

WOW! The house was listed at a little more than 2 million dollars, and was probably worth every penny. It was almost 40 years old, but was immaculate. The house sat on a 1.5 acre lot, was 8,800 square feet, and had 19 rooms, 5 bedrooms, and 7 bathrooms. You could fit several of my current house in this house's footprint. I'd need a map just to navigate its three stories!

In addition to the tricked-out kitchen, bedrooms, baths, and closets you'd expect of a house in this price range, there was a game room on the main level that was big enough for a pool table, a lower level with a media room, and an outdoor area that had a fireplace, a pool (including a spa with a waterfall), and a shuffleboard court.

The agent showing the house was really nice, and didn't seem to mind that we weren't serious buyers. My next house is going to be SMALLER, not larger, but it was worth taking the time to check this one out.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

New Thing #162--The Road Untraveled

I've seen a lot of changes in my area of St. Louis County in the 20 plus years I've lived here. Most of the green space and farms are gone; there are many more subdivisions and a lot more traffic. The county has gradually improved the roads to carry the extra cars. Now there's only one last unimproved section of Big Bend Road, and that's in the process of being widened.

Today I was driving home and saw that asphalt had been poured (adjacent to the current road) for the "new" Big Bend. Although the new section was closed, there was a small jog each end so vehicles could get into subdivisions. Past the subdivision entrances, there were "Road Closed" sign at both ends. I decided that closed roads only applied to vehicles, so I parked my car and took a walk on a road that hasn't been opened.

It was a spontaneous decision, and I quickly turned left into a small neighborhood. I parked the car and started walking. There's a lot of grade changes in the new road. They leveled out some of the inclines, and filled in some of the low spots, so the pavement is flatter. At 10:00 on a humid Saturday morning, the asphalt really radiated the heat, so I finished my adventure in about 15 minutes and returned to my car.

Friday, June 20, 2008

New Thing #161--Something To Do

My plans for this afternoon changed when the carpet cleaning technician showed up an hour and a half late for my 11:30 appointment.

To amuse myself while the carpets were being cleaned, I created an online outfit collage.

The site I used, Polyvore, lets you mix and match images from anywhere on the Web. You can create outfits, interior designs, or any kind of collage. For outfits, you can choose dresses or separates, then add purses, shoes, jewelry and other accessories, and backgrounds. There are about 50 Websites to choose items from; the items can be all be gathered from a specific site, or all sites, and can be narrowed down by color. If there aren't enough items in their database, you can import any medium or large sized image on a Web page that is publicly accessible.

I called my collection Rainy Day in June, and added an umbrella to it as the sound of thunder got closer and closer to the house.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

New Thing #160--More Than Coffee

I'm a creature of habit. Mornings are about a quick breakfast, a trip to the gym, and home to shower before the next set of activities. I rarely deviate from this schedule; however, today I changed my routine and stopped at an independent coffee shop.

Not just any shop, either. Sam Malek, the owner of More Than Coffee, is a celebrity in the St. Louis area. Sam, who has cerebral palsy, has been running his store for almost a year now. He was born in Egypt, came to the US as a child and was helped by the Shriners. In appreciation of all the help he's received, he donates a portion of the sales each month to local charities. He also hires people with special needs to work in the shop.

Back in the fall some of his patrons organized Sam's Day to honor him and his ideas. According to the local media, thousands of people came on that day. I wanted to go then, but didn't, then somehow never got around to it (even though I drive by the kiosk every day).

When I drove up to the kiosk today, there were several cars in the drive-through lane waiting for their order. I decided to get out of my car and approach on foot. The workers couldn't have been nicer! I was asked what I wanted in my coffee (cream and sweetener), and it was prepared perfectly. Sam started telling me all the options I had if I came at lunchtime, and I started getting hungry even though it was only 9:15 in the morning!

This may have been my first visit to More Than Coffee, but it won't be my last.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New Thing #159--Fold It

I bought an Origami Fold-A-Day calendar back in January and set it on my dresser. After a while I stopped noticing it was there. A little later something got set on top of it, covering the box up. When I cleaned up my bedroom today, I discovered it again. Tonight, I folded origami.

The calendar came in a box with instructional guides and paper. Each piece of paper had diagrams for a folded figure. If you were going to do a fold each day, you'd use the previous day's page to fold tomorrow's origami. However, I just picked several figures to fold (in different colors). The picture doesn't do justice to the figures--there's a penguin, a cup, an ice cream cone, a frog, a table, and a "cootie catcher".

Some of the figures were easy to put together, and some of them were harder. I have hundreds more figures I can learn to do next time I get a chance!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New Thing #158--Dark Eyes

I went to the eye doctor yesterday to get my eyes dilated. Because it was still sunny when I left, the doctor gave me some shades I slid behind my regular glasses to protect my eyes from the sun. I thought they were pretty stylin, so today I wore eye dilation glasses when I ran all my errands.

I found out the official name for the inserts are Slip-In Post Mydriatic For Glasses. (Mydriatic is the technical term for dilation.)

I usually don't wear sunglasses at all, so these almost made things too dark (especially in the shade). One of the stops I had to make today was Petco. When I was there, I saw an acquaintance with her dog. I bent down to pet the dog, and the stupid inserts fell off! Other than that, there weren't any problems.

Monday, June 16, 2008

New Thing #157--Big Meal of the Day

I usually eat a quick, light breakfast on my way out the door in the morning. If I eat fruit, milk, coffee, and some type of carbohydrate (a muffin, cereal, frozen waffles, or oatmeal), it lasts me until lunch time. Today, however, I had to wait around for a repairman and didn't have any reason to leave the house quickly. The leftovers from yesterday's big meal were calling to me. Instead of waiting until later in the day to enjoy them, I ate dinner for breakfast.

While the coffee was brewing, I microwaved a potato. I heated up the last of the French Dip and made myself a sandwich. I added some salad to my plate, poured my drink, and sat down at the table to eat.

The meal was wonderful. When I was finished, I treated myself to dessert-a piece of apple pie, also leftover from yesterday. YUM-O!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

New Thing #156--Birthday Bash

Today we started a new family tradition--the Annual Birthday Blowout Bash.

Between June 11th and July 2nd, our family celebrates three birthdays and Father's Day. When all the kids lived at home, it was hard enough to make sure that everyone got the proper recognition of their special day (or days, for Tony. He has both a birthday and Father's Day) Now that that two of the kids (Tony and Brian) live out of town, I realized it was impossible to have multiple celebrations. Thus, a new tradition was born.

Today worked the best for everyone's schedule, so our bash coincided with Father's Day. There were no decorations, party games, or traditional party activities. The only thing we planned was sitting around and talking, and eating.

Since I wasn't able to cook everyone their favorite meal, as I have done in the past, I made an executive decision on the menu. No one complained. After lunch, there was a pile of presents almost as big as the one at Christmas. We passed on the birthday cake and candles. Brian's girlfriend Nicole made her award-winning apple pie for dessert; she served it with ice cream.

All too soon the day was over and everyone had to go their separate ways. However, I'm certain the Bash will be back next year.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

New Thing #155--Surprise!

Tony and I were invited to yet another 50th birthday party tonight. This one, however, had a twist. Tonight I attended a costume party.

The party was a surprise for our friend Annie. Her hubby Bill went all out. The invitation said
Please join us for Annie's 50th Birthday. One of her favorite shows was the Love Boat - so let's show her some love. We would like everyone to come as your favorite "B" actor from the 70s.
There were a wide variety of costumes. Annie was the Special Guest Star of the evening. There were characters from the Love Boat, and some who hadn't been on the show. After much discussion, Tony and I decided to go as Oliver Wendell Douglas and Lisa Douglas from Green Acres. We had a great time figuring out our costumes. I did my best to style my hair like Eva Gabor's in the show, and wore ruffles, pearls, rhinestones. Tony did his best gentleman farmer imitation, and even carried a pitchfork for a prop.

Here's the real thing--

Here's our interpretation--

The party was a hoot! Bill had everything well planned. He had the guests announced as they met Annie at the main doors. After a great dinner, there were contests--musical chairs, the stroll, and the limbo, with prizes for the winner of each. Bill had his computer set up to play music throughout the night.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANNIE! Hope it was a good one.

Friday, June 13, 2008

New Thing #154--From Point A to Point B

Today I had to pick up the bed rail I dropped off at a furniture repair store across town last week. Unlike last week, though, I wasn't planning my whole day around the errand. I thought I'd take the most direct route there, do my business, and come back towards my neighborhood.

As I was driving east on Interstate 44, though, I remembered that Kingshighway, the road I had to take, was being repaired last week. I had to drive for a couple of miles on pavement that was scarified last week. I HATE driving on grooved roads, so I decided to take an alternate route to get to my destination.

Note: If this had been in my own neighborhood, this Thing would have been a non-event. My sense of direction is ok, but not great. I know West County like the back of my hand , and know two or three different ways to get anyplace. However, I don't know South St. Louis at all.

I got off the highway at Hampton (one exit early) and headed south. I knew I'd eventually need to turn left. I had to get to Arsenal, a fairly major street, so I thought I'd just look at every street with a stop light and know when to turn. However, when I came to a street without a visible sign I took a chance and made my turn; a block later I was happy to see that I actually was on Arsenal.

When I reached the intersection of Kingshighway and Arsenal I knew exactly where I was, and how to get to the furniture repair shop. After I had completed my errand, I wondered if I could find yet another route that would keep me off Kingshighway. Much to my surprise, I could! I turned at Tower Grove, where there was a stop sign, and wound my way through Tower Grove Park, past the Botanical Garden, and followed the signs back to the highway.

After I made it back home, I checked a street guide and found even more ways I could have gone.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Thing #153--Clothes Make the (Wo)man

Tony gave me a book for my birthday back in January called 2,001 Things to Do Before You Die. It had some really great suggestions that I added to my list of things to do. One of the ideas was to wear stripes, florals, and plaids in the same outfit. I used that idea for my inspiration today when I dressed in clothes that completely clashed.

I couldn't quite pull off all three textures in the same outfit, because I don't have all of them in my summer wardrobe (maybe it's time to go shopping?), but I think I followed the spirit of the idea. I started with a blue and white plaid sun dress, with a red and white dotted blouse underneath it. My hair was pulled back with a lavender barrette, and I accessorized with turquoise earrings and brown Keds that have tiny polka dots on the sides.

So out of the three students today, how many do you think commented on my outfit? If you said 'none', give yourself a pat on the back!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New Thing #152--The Wave

When I'm walking in my neighborhood, inevitably someone I know drives by in a car. They usually honk and wave, and I wave back. Sometimes I can't see who the person behind the wheel is; I usually acknowledge them with a wave anyway. That way I can't be accused of being stuck up if it really is someone I know.

Oddly, when I'm driving I usually don't see anyone I know, so I don't get to be on the giving end of the wave. The other day I decided it shouldn't matter whether or not I knew a person. The friendly thing to do would be to honk anyway. Besides, I thought it would be fun to see what people did. Today on the way home from work I honked and waved at all the pedestrians I saw.

I got a variety of reactions. Some people waved back, some people looked confused, and some (including all of the children) just ignored me. I think the guy with the i-pod wire running from his pocket to his ear probably didn't even hear me!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New Thing #151--Watch It On the Web

Someone sent me a link to a video - 72nd to Canal -- A Web Sitcom a while back. I left the message in my Inbox till today, when I followed the link and I watched an episode of a web-based show.

I don't watch a lot of video in general, but if I'm going to do it, I prefer to be in the family room, parked on the couch, viewing the big screen TV, not in front of my computer in the kitchen with the small computer screen and the relatively uncomfortable desk chair. I've only used my computer monitor for watching very short video clips, and never anything that had a plot.

The show was pretty interesting. I'd probably give it an R rating for the language, though-- mainly the F-word. The episode was divided into four parts, each less than eight minutes long. I started out watching the first section, got sucked into it, and ended up watching the entire episode.

This was the pilot episode, and I couldn't find any other episodes on YouTube--just some promos and teasers for the show. However, a search of YouTube told me there are hundreds of other Web sitcoms. I'm sure I'll be watching some of them if someone I know personally recommends them to me.

Monday, June 9, 2008

New Thing #150--It's in the Stars

Every day the newspaper has a list of celebrity birthdays and the horoscope for each of the zodiac signs. I only look at these about once every couple of weeks. However, today I read, and acted on, the information in my horoscope.

The paper has a disclaimer that "Astrology is to be used for entertainment purposes only." I know that people who take astrology seriously come up with a unique horoscope for EACH person, based on their specific time and date of birth. The column in the paper, if one believes in astrology, is a lowest common denominator type. Nevertheless, I tried my best to apply the predictions I was given.

The forecast from the newspaper is in blue, and my actions are in black.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19) ***** (A five-star "wow" day-the highest ranking!)
  • Take the high road and head in another direction. I overheard someone this morning use an off-color racial remark. I chose to ignore them and change the subject.
  • Listen to news that heads your way. At work I was a "fly on the wall" and listened to the kids as they discussed their weekend and what they had on their minds.
  • You might want to do your own sleuthing. I'm still owed some money this month. I think I'll make some phone calls and find out where it is.
  • Accept an opportunity or potential travel opportunity. I have to go to a meeting tonight, and a friend's offered to carpool. I think I'll take her up on that.
  • Read between the lines. The students that were grumpy today weren't really mad at me, they just didn't get enough sleep.
  • Tonight: See new vistas. Since Julie was driving, I had no choice but to accept her way of doing it. I enjoyed the "different" way.
So, I successfully navigated through my day using my horoscope. Maybe I'll try reading it more often.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

New Thing #149--Puppy Eyes

I was at the mall today looking for a pair of shoes. Near the end of my shopping, I walked by the pet store. I hadn't been inside there since the kids were little. The "dog store" was always one of their shopping highlights--they would get to go inside and look as a reward for good behavior. We never let them get a puppy out...we were never in the market. However, today, for old times sake, I went in and asked to look at a puppy at the mall pet store.
[NOTE: I would never actually buy any type of a pet at the mall store. I've never had any desire to contribute to the problem of pet overpopulation. Our cats came from our sister-in-law, after her cat had a litter; otherwise we would have gone to the Humane Society to adopt. Back in April, Oprah had a show on the "Hidden World of Puppy Mills". Lisa Ling went undercover and was able to secretly film what actually goes on in the mills. It was horrendous!]
There were several sets of parents and children watching the pets in the store's front windows, but the inside of the store wasn't busy. The teen aged clerk seemed happy to have something to do when I asked for assistance. Many of the puppies in the crates were sleeping, so I picked a yellow Lab that was awake and alert. She was soft, cute, and cuddly.

I finished my visit, thanked the clerk, and walked away.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

New Thing #148--Rock and Roll Up Your Sleeves

I don't have to be embarrassed anymore--today I successfully donated blood!

I've tried to give blood before. Really. I know it's an important thing to do. Every time I've attempted to donate, though, I've been turned away. When I was younger the problem was usually that I didn't have enough iron in my blood. I've never worked for a company that has on-site blood drives, and it just never made it to the top of my list to search out a drive on my own. In January, I showed up for an appointment at my parish's blood drive, only to be sent home because I had the remains of a head cold. I decided to try again today, but my expectations were low after all my failures.

All the volunteers and Red Cross workers at the drive were very nice, and there wasn't a long wait to enter the screening area. After I answered basic questions, I had my temperature and blood pressure checked. No problems there. The next step was donating a drop of blood for an anemia test. Since this is where I'd been thwarted in earlier attempts, I held my breath until the technician pronounced my iron level acceptable.

The health questions were simple Yes/No, and computer-based. Most of the questions had an obvious "acceptable" answer (i.e., you could figure out the answer that would raise red flags for donating). Every time I had to answer one of the questions the "wrong" way I figured that would be enough to send me packing. However, after the technician quizzed me more about those questions I passed the screening! She printed out my paperwork and sent me to the next station.

The rest of the process was easy. Even though I've never donated blood, I knew how the system works. As long as I don't watch the needle being inserted into my arm, I'm ok. After I finished, I got to go to the canteen, eat snacks, and talk with the other people there who had given blood.

I even received a cool t-shirt that has this cool logo on it, and got entered to win a platinum album donated by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Sweet words to an old baby-boomer like me!

Friday, June 6, 2008

New Thing #147--Don't Get in a Rut

I only work 4 days a week, and let all the errands pile up for Fridays, the day I'm off. That makes my day off pretty busy and regimented. Because I'm a creature of habit, all my Friday stops are along a small section of Manchester Road--all the stores I need are there. Today I did the things on my to-do list, but at a location different than the one I'm used to.

The impetus for this idea was my decision to have a broken bed rail repaired. The rail (from Donald's bed) broke several months ago; he decided that putting the box spring and mattress on the floor was acceptable. Now that he's gone, I decided that the frame should go back in the room.

The furniture repair company is located in South St. Louis (about 20 miles from my house). They have great prices, and their service can't be beat. It's worth the trip. After beginning my plan of action for the day, the next thing was to find a meeting of the Twelve-Step fellowship I attend every Friday. Fortunately, there was one about five minutes away from the repair company at a time that was convenient. Everything else was easy; thanks to the wonders of chain stores and branch offices, I could easily recreate all my other stops.

I Mapquested everything out...first the meeting, then dropping off the bed rail. After that stop, I started to meander my way west on Interstate 44 back towards home. There was a branch of my bank in Sunset Hills, where I made a deposit and closed a no-longer needed savings account.
I hit a snag on the next couple of stops. I tried to buy ramen noodles for work at a big-box discount store-they didn't have the flavor I needed. I had a coupon I was itching to use from the discount shoe store in the same plaza, but came away empty-handed when they didn't have anything I liked in the right size. To add insult to injury, I ended up getting caught up in a traffic jam when I got back on the road!

A quick stop for ice cream calmed my nerves. I stopped in a grocery store that was on my route, and was pleasantly surprised when the ramen I needed ended up being on sale. I made it home just as the skies opened up and the rain started coming down.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

New Thing #146--Chalk It Up

I was getting the glue gun out of the "craft cabinet" this morning, and I saw a container of sidewalk chalk I forgot was there. Channeling my inner child today took it outside and I drew with chalk.

When I say I "drew", I'm giving myself too much credit. On a scale of 1 to 10, my drawing ability is about a 2 1/2. I'm great at stick figures and loopy flowers, but not much else. However, if you need someone to compose something that doesn't need to look realistic, I'm your girl!

I have several houseplants that are summering on the patio outside the garage. I arranged them up against the wall, drew swooping parallel lines across the width of the patio, and colored some of them in. As I was finishing, the sky started to cloud up. According the MSN weather, there's only a 5% chance of rain, but with my luck it will rain and wash all my work away!

Here's my "masterpiece":

Note: The clouds went away; the rain never came. I wonder how long the chalk will last?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New Thing #145--Bittersweet

Yesterday my youngest son Donald signed a lease for an apartment. He's moving out of the house, and moving in with Matt, a friend from elementary school. When I woke up this morning in an empty house I realized that I'm an empty nester!

"Tulsa Tony" will be 24 next month, Brian is 22, and Donald almost 20. I've been a "mommy" for a really long time. When I observe mothers with young children, I'm always grateful that that's not me anymore. I'm ready to move on to the next phase of my life.

Donald's been planning on moving for some time. However, that was with a different friend. This opportunity presented itself less than two weeks ago, and took me somewhat by surprise.
Even though he's really self-reliant, and I know he'll do just fine living on his own, it's weird knowing that he'll be residing in a different place.

Last night Donald and his dad filled his car and my CR-V with as many of his possessions as he could fit. We followed him to his new place and got the grand tour. The apartment is really spacious and backs to some nice common ground. It will look great when all their things are moved in and they get organized.

I'm sure Donald will be back several times before he's completely out of here; unlike Tony and Brian, who both live out of town, Donald will only be about 15 minutes away. He left several "essentials" in his room here (including his computer!) and told us he'd be back very soon to get them!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

New Thing #144--Tropical

When I was looking for something else in the basement today, I came upon part of a costume I used back in the day when I danced with a dance studio as a teenager.

The routine was Hawaiian-themed, and involved audience participation... the dancers "hula'd" out; each dancer found a man out in the audience, brought him on stage, made him put on a ridiculous costume and dance as part of the line. It was usually pretty funny.

The costume consisted of a two-piece swimming suit, long "grass" skirt actually made out of fringe and sequins, and plastic flower lei, hair flower, and wrist corsage. The swim suit is long gone (as is my svelte body!), and never in a million years would I be able to get the skirt around my hips, but I wore the plastic flower lei and hair flower to work. Considering the humidity in the atmosphere today, I might as well have been in the tropics!

The only person who commented was one of the other tutors, and only after I mentioned that my flowers could blend in with the pattern on his Hawaiian shirt.

Monday, June 2, 2008

New thing #143--Vegetable Gold

As part of our adventure on Saturday, I shopped at Penzeys Spices. They have a great selection of all types of herbs, spices, and seasonings. I bought one that has always fascinated me and used it in tonight's dinner. Today I cooked with saffron.

Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus. Each flower has three threadlike filaments called stigma. The stigma are harvested by hand, dried, and become the spice that we buy. It is the world's most expensive spice, because it takes approximately 150 flowers to yield 1 gram of dry saffron threads.

They had three grades of saffron at Penzeys. I chose Spanish Superior, because it was the cheapest of the three. As the Penzeys catalog notes:
Spanish Superior Saffron is the most widely available saffron and is a very good crop. Spanish Superior Saffron has a bit of the yellow style material left attached to some of the saffron stigmas so it is not quite as strong as Spanish Coupé or Kashmir Indian Saffron.
My gram of saffron-less than a tablespoon-cost me about $9.00. The small plastic zip-top bag was secured inside a spice bottle. However, the package label indicated that the spice was so potent that I needed only a pinch. There was a recipe for rice on the label, so I made that to accompany a pork roast.

The recipe:
Classic Saffron Rice
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 cups water or chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon finely minced onion (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small pinch saffron, crumbled

Place butter and onion in a heavy quart saucepan. Saute over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add rice, saffron, water or stock and salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed (12-15 minutes).

The recipe was right. It only took a very small pinch of saffron. One of my fingertips is saffron-colored because I used my fingers to crumble the threads; some of it got under my fingernail.

Here's the beautiful result:

Sunday, June 1, 2008

New Thing #142--Can You Read This?

I am typing thispost without looking at it. I DON'T like to have typos in my work, so this is a real challenge for me. I'm actually typing while my monitor is turned off so I won't be tempted to look. I figured out what I was going to type in advance so I didn't have to concentrate on composition AND typing. I will turnt he monitor on after I'm finished to see how I did.

I used to be a pretty accurate typist when I worked in an office, but I've noticed that my skills have disintegrated since I don't do it all the time. I always use Spell Check before I print or publish something I've typed. I also rely on looking down on the screen to see if I need to correct something.

I added the graphis to this post before I started typing, because I couldn't do that without looking. To help me to keep my fingers in the right position, I'm using the little raised dashes that are on the "f" and the "j" key. I never noticed they were there before today. I'm working much slower than I usually do, and concentrating on typing accuracy.

I may or nmay not translate this once I look at it.

Update after I looked: I didn't do too bad! My old typing teacher would be proud.