Sunday, August 31, 2008

New Thing #233--The Stroll

We went to a picnic today at Oak Knoll Park in Clayton. The picnic started at 4:00, but we didn't arrive until closer till 6:00 because we went to church beforehand.

The picnic was with a group of friends that has been meeting at Oak Knoll Park twice a year- the Sunday before Memorial Day and the Sunday before Labor Day- for almost 40 years. Tony's been going longer than I have, but after we got married we started attending together. There are now three generations at the picnics. It's great to see this group of people, many of whom I see only at these gatherings

When the group started to break up a little after 7:30, Tony and I weren't ready to go yet. After everyone else left, we locked our picnic things in the car and walked through a park after hours.

Although there was a bit of light left in the sky when we started walking, it soon became completely dark. We passed one person going in the opposite direction walking a dog, but didn't see anyone else in the entire park. The only sounds were from the traffic driving down the road that parallels the park.

At the southeast end of the park there's a little pond that was renovated a couple of years ago. The city put a fountain in the middle of it; the fountain was lit at the base and provided a very romantic atmosphere. There is an original stone path that circles the pond and some steps at one end. I sat on the steps, took off my shoes, and stuck my feet in the water; Tony joined me. The water was VERY cold, but felt great on my legs. We sat there for about 10 minutes watching the water and enjoying the quiet atmosphere, then put our shoes on and started walking again.

Unlike the path leading from the parking lot to the pond, the path along the back part of the park was unlit. We walked through this section quickly, noticing all the things that have changed since we started coming there, made it back to the car, (which was the only one in the lot), and drove away.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

New Thing #232--Rivals

Son #1, Tony, is a University of Illinois graduate. Brian, Son #2, attends the University of Missouri. Tonight when the schools played each other in football, we watched as a family and I was able to watch a football game where I could say that "my" team won no matter what the outcome.

We turned the TV on right at kickoff time and claimed our seats. It was a very interesting game to watch. Depending on which team was doing well, one or the other side of the family room was cheering. I got to cheer for BOTH teams.

The beginning of the game was a see-saw scorewise, but at the half Mizzou was ahead 31-13. Illinois had a couple of good possessions (and one touchdown) in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Illini were down by 17 points before scoring another touchdown. The game ended with a score of Missouri 52, Illinois 41, but the final score didn't matter to me.

I can't wait till the teams play each other again next year!

Friday, August 29, 2008

New Thing #231--Rhythmic

In response to a comment about rap music I left on South City Confidential a while back, I got this e-mail:
"If you want to ease into good hip hop, try Common or Lupe Fiasco."
I know nothing about this music style; except for thing that have crossed over to mainstream radio I've never really been exposed to it. I took Kelli's suggestion and it helped me with today's Thing. Today I listened to a rap album all the way through.

I went to the library Website and searched for Common. There were several CDs available; I chose "Thisisme Then: The Best of Common" and requested it. When I picked it up today, the librarian pulled it off the shelf, looked at me and then at the Parental Advisory sticker on the cover and joked that she certainly didn't need to check my ID to see if I was old enough! I guess she doesn't see many middle-aged white ladies checking out rap music.

I came home, put the disc in the player, and started reading the liner notes. The compilation draws from Common's first three albums, released between 1992 and 1997. I have to say that on first listen, none of the songs did much for me, although I did see differences between the early songs (that had sing-songy lyrics with lots of pop culture allusions) and the later ones that were more lyrical and had more grown-up themes. The second time around a couple of the songs were a bit better; if I gave the CD multiple listenings I bet it would grow on me.

However, I still have a problem with the nasty language that rappers feel compelled to use, and I don't think I'm ready to set up a Rap section in my music collection.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Thing #230--(Do the) Mashed Potato

I haven't cooked a real dinner all week, and tonight's dinner was another easy one-- leftover brats from the weekend, fresh green beans, mashed potatoes, and homemade bread from the freezer. I felt like being creative, though, so I formed the mashed potatoes into sculptures and baked them.

I used instant mashed potatoes to save time, but I added an egg to the liquid to make them richer. I pulled out my cookie cutters (which I haven't used for quite a few years) and picked out some open-backed ones that didn't have any narrow areas to use for molds. There was an elephant, a sailboat, a boot, and a pig. I greased the molds well with shortening, set them on a cookie sheet, and filled them all with potatoes. Holding my breath, I slowly pulled the molds away. Voila! Beautiful little mashed potato figures.

I baked the figures in the oven, and they came out looking like twice-baked potatoes. They tasted great.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Thing #229--Reuse It

Today I asked a stranger for some magazines she was going to recycle.

We're fortunate that we can throw our glass, cans, plastics, newspaper, cardboard in a bin and put it out at the curb on trash day. We take the office paper and magazines to a collection site at church. There's very little that we can't recycle in our neighborhood.

The one exception is phone books. I still have to take those to a city recycling center (not my municipality) about 20 minutes away from my house. The center is first class; they have bins to separate glass (by color), tin cans, aluminum, and plastics. In a separate section they have enclosed bins for newspaper, office paper, magazines, and phone books.

I have been known to look into the magazine container and "borrow"something if it looks interesting. I figure if I read something and then re-recycle it, it's actually better for the environment than if I went out and bought it first. However, tonight there was a sign on the container sayng that the contents belong TO the city and couldn't be taken away. I dumped my phone book and was getting ready to leave when a woman and her son came up with a recycling bin filled with paper and magazines. One of the magazines on top was interesting, so I asked her if I could have it to read if I promised to recycle it when I was done. She said "yes" and let me take it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Thing #228--Word Of The Day

I love reading the Urban Dictionary. It's a slang dictionary that anyone can add to. According to the site, there have been 3,254,545 definitions submitted since 1999. Although I like to browse the entries, I don't incorporate them into my vocabulary. However, today I used a word from the Urban Dictionary, and added to its definition.

My new vocabulary word was destinesia, (a combination of destination and amnesia) which is defined as:
  1. When you get to where you're going and forgot why you went there, or

  2. The act of spawning a new web browser window or tab and immediately forgetting where it is you were going to go, thus instilling a sense of panic as you know it was something very important you needed to do.
The older I get the more I find this happening to me! I often go into the kitchen for something and when I get there I can't remember what it was I needed to get.

As I read the second definition, it made me think of another way I exhibit destinesia. Since anyone can add to the dictionary, I submitted my alternate definition to the editors; I got an e-mail back that my submission is under review. There may be yet another definition for the word soon!

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Thing #227--Who, Meme?

So I was minding my own business this morning and clicking through to blogs I enjoy from the St. Louis Bloggers site. Lo and behold, I read that I was tagged for a meme (the Internet equivalent of a chain letter) by Gregg at One Dad's Life! Today, for the first time, I completed a meme.

Four place I go to over and over: work (four afternoons a week), Gold's Gym (almost every weekday and on Saturdays when I can guilt myself into getting up early), church (weekly), and Schnucks for groceries.

Four people who e-mail me (regularly): Everyday I get two daily spiritual readings and three e-mails from DearReader.com (similar to an online book club). Hubby Tony is always sending me things I need and want to know. I get excited when I see any of my childrens' names or my friend Dani's name in my Inbox.

Four places I would rather be right now: visiting son Tony in Tulsa, visiting son Brian in Columbia, sitting at a sidewalk cafe sipping an iced tea, or taking a walk somewhere with big shady trees.

Four TV shows/programs that I watch over and over: I'm not really a TV watcher, but I will turn it on if I'm in the family room at night. At this time of year, the Cardinals game is usually the default evening choice, but last week it went back and forth between Fox Sports and the Olympics. I enjoy anything on the Food Network, and HGTV if there's no one else at home to make fun of me.

Four things I have for breakfast: I'm so boring! Always fruit, coffee (with dry milk added because I don't like the way skim milk makes the coffee look), and some type of carb. Favorites are homemade muffins or bread when I have them, off-brand frosted shredded wheat (eaten dry, because they get too soggy in milk), waffles, french toast sticks, or pop tarts.

Four animals I like best: Cats have to head the list. I like dogs, but haven't had one since I was a kid. The "young" version of anything that's cute and fuzzy. Butterflies (I like to sit and watch them fly; I find it very relaxing.)

Four beaches I've been to: Lake of the Ozarks (the most recent), Coco Cay (a Royal Caribbean private island for cruise passengers), Tampa Bay, and Grand Cayman.

If I understand the rules of the game correctly, I'm now supposed to tag four other people (Sage, Collette, Jackie, and KC) to complete this activity. However, in the interest of full disclosure this is probably the first and last meme I'll ever complete, so if you pass I won't be offended at all.

Gregg, thanks for the easy activity for the day!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Thing #226--Super Supper

Our oldest son, "Tulsa Tony" went away to college, but came home during the summers. The second, Brian, attends classes out of town, but has chosen to work in the same city during the summers, so he hasn't really lived at home for four years. During the time they've been away, their "parentals" (Tony and I) have tried to visit occasionally. The visits always involve meals -- usually eaten at restaurants. When we were planning today's visit to see Brian it was the first time I went to a BBQ at one of my children's houses.

We decided to take the scenic route to get to Columbia, Missouri, and took Highway 100 west through Gray Summit, Washington, New Haven, and Hermann. Our first stop was the Swiss Meat & Sausage Company (in Swiss, Missouri, south of Hermann on Highway 19). They have fabulous sausages; we discovered the store several years ago and always said we should made a stop on the way to visit Brian sometime. Today was that day. We purchased several packages of sausage, a couple of pounds of bacon, and some summer sausage. After carefully putting everything in the cooler, we started driving again, this time north on 19 and west on Interstate 70. After getting off the highway, we made one more stop, at a grocery store near Brian's house, to get the rest of the things we said we'd bring for the dinner.

It was great to see Brian and his dad sharing the BBQ pit at Brian's duplex. With two cooks, the meat got done in record time! They brought in their masterpiece, added it to the other food that was set out, and everyone started eating. The group included Brian's roommate, his girlfriend, and his girlfriend's mother. There wasn't a spare seat at the table! After a great dinner and dessert, we were able to move to the living room and chat. It was so much nicer than being at a restaurant!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New Thing #225--Virtual Style

In today's Post-Dispatch, they had an article about online clothes shopping. Although I buy most of my clothes in stores, I'm slowly getting more comfortable about shopping online. I have a small group of brands that I know fit me well, so if I order from them I'm comfortable not trying things on. In the article, they mentioned an online company that does what a personal shopper would do--pick the clothes that suit someone's taste and body. It sounded interesting to me, so today I created an account at myShape.com.

The first step in creating an account was to answer questions about my personal style and shopping preferences (brands I like, my dressing preferences, and types of fabrics I wear). There were a wide variety of choices, and you could check as many as applied.

Step two contained questions about my fit preferences, such as the size range I usually wear, how tight or loose I wear my clothes, what size heels I usually wear, and types of skirts and tops I like. Again, I could check as many of the options as I wanted.

The last step was to come up with my measurements. There were about two dozen different body measurements. Some I knew--height, waist, hips, chest-- and some I'd never figured out before--like armhole circumference and front of waist. Based on your measurements, proportions, and fit preferences you're given one of seven body shapes...M, Y, S, H, A, P, or E. That shape is the basis for all the clothes they recommend. I was surprised at the shape they assigned to me.

After all the questions are answered, the site shows clothes in your personal shop that should fit well and flatter your body. You can even filter the selections by color palate and price to make it even easier. The site did a good job of guessing my style preference; I would wear all the clothes they picked for me. However, many of them cost substantially more than I spend for my wardrobe pieces, so I'm not sure if I'll be anything to my shopping bag soon.

Friday, August 22, 2008

New Thing #224--Art Show

Today I did something that I've wanted to do for a long time when I went to an art show opening.

Last week I heard on the radio that Brother Mel Meyer, who belongs to the Marianist religious order, was celebrating some significant events this year: he turned 80 in June, he’s been a religious brother for 60 years, and he’s been an artist 50 years. Tonight was the opening of his retrospective show.

The gallery is in Kirkwood on the campus of St. John Vianney High School. Over the years I've stopped in the gallery a couple of times when I happened to be at the school. Brother Mel works in metal, handmade paper, acrylic, and watercolors. Some of his art is religious, but some isn't. Some hangs on the wall, some is designed to be set on a shelf, some on the floor, and some pieces are so big they have to be placed outside in the grass around the gallery.

I was really surprised at the number of people who were at this event. There was a tent set up outside the building where they were serving drinks, and folding chairs scattered around. However, the vast majority of people were standing. Tony and I went inside the gallery; it was not as crowded, but it was still difficult to get close to some of the works. I tried to pick out my favorite pieces, but it was really hard. I liked them all!

After we walked through the gallery we went outside and looked at the larger sculptures. There were more than I remembered from my last visit--more than two dozen pieces. Although I was pretty sure we could see a couple more if we crossed the road, it was getting dark and hard to see so we left.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Thing #223--What's The Call?

As I was driving home from the gym today, I saw a late-model car pulled halfway around the corner of the main street and a side street with the flashers on. The driver was sitting with an angry but resigned look on his face.

I didn't really think much about it; most people nowadays have cell phones and would make a call for help themselves. However, as I drove away my conscience bothered me. What if the person didn't have a phone, or had forgotten it today? The police make fairly regular patrols through the area, but if the shoe was on the other foot I would like help sooner rather than later. TodayI called 911 and reported a stalled car.

I actually wasn't sure if a stalled call was a real emergency, but I decided that I'd let the dispatcher make that decision. It was rainy, and the pavement was wet. If another driver wasn't paying attention, they could drive right into the stalled car. I gave the cross streets of the car, and made sure the dispatcher knew that there was no one hurt. She said that she would send someone right away.

I drove away feeling like I'd done the right thing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New Thing #222--Special Care

When I got out of the shower this morning, both of my cats-- Jackson and Pepper--were sleeping on my bed. They barely acknowledged me when I sat down to put on my shoes. I decided it would be fun to see how long they'd put up with it when I gave my cats a massage.

It's a sad reflection on how busy I am that I hardly ever pet the cats for extended periods of time. Most often they just get a short scratch on the head in the morning when I'm heading downstairs to start my day, or a quick cuddle as I'm filling their food bowl.

I started off the session with Jackson. First I scratched him on top of the head between his ears, then rubbed his ears. He opened one eye halfway and stared at me. Since he hadn't run away, I was encouraged.I scratched the sides of his face, below his whiskers, and under his chin. This is his absolute favorite. He closed his eyes and started purring.

I slowly massaged down the length of his back. The vet said he needed to lose a bit of weight last month, so I think I could feel his backbone a bit easier now that he's been on a diet. I rubbed his legs from the top to the bottom, and then moved on to each of his paws. He flexed them and started purring even louder!

It was very relaxing to watch Jackson enjoy his massage. However, after about five minutes he'd had enough. He slipped away from me, stood up, stretched and jumped off the bed. He sat on the floor about six feet away and started grooming himself.

But Pepper was still sleeping on the bed, so I transferred my attention to him. I basically followed the same procedure for the massage, but added a belly rub when he flopped over on his back. I swear I heard him saying "ahhhhhh" as he was purring.

Pepper decided he was finished after a couple of minutes and jumped off the bed to join his brother. I'd been dismissed; my job was through.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Thing #221--Here or To Go?

My plans for tonight had me going to a section of the county that I don't often get to. When I left work, I realized there was no time for me to put something together for dinner from the house; I'd have to get something from a restaurant.

Usually when I'm eating out it's with Tony and we use an Entertainment coupon book--partly for the discounts, but also to help us discover new places to eat. However, the vast majority of the coupons are for Buy One, Get One Free entrees. Since there was only one of me tonight, I used a restaurant coupon for a free entree and carried out my "free" meal".

There were several coupons for restaurants in the area I was going to.
However, the first one I picked was no longer in business, and a second one was open only for lunch, so I settled for a "fast casual" chain restaurant. I placed my order at the counter. When they asked where I was dining, I said "one for here...one to go". The cashier didn't blink an eye!

When my food came out, tonight's dinner was arranged nicely on a plate, and the extra was boxed in a sturdy carry-out container for lunch tomorrow. I put the container in the cooler I'd brought in my car so it would stay cold.

Monday, August 18, 2008

New Thing #220--Electronic

Last time I was at the library I picked up a brochure about the e-media services they offer. I was surprised to read that the St. Louis County Library has recently added the ability to download eAudiobooks, eBooks, and videos if you have a library card.

It sounded interesting to me. Today I browsed through their selection of videos. There weren't a lot of blockbusters or new releases available. However, some of the instructional videos caught my eye, so today I downloaded a video from the library.

There are several media providers listed on the library Website, and they all seem to operate slightly differently. I used OverDrive, the only company that offered videos.

The downloading process was easy. First I downloaded the OverDrive software, then picked my video (an exercise video called "Soul Sweat"), and downloaded it. Even though I have a fast DSL connection, it still took about an hour to finish the download, so I did some housework and kept checking on the progress. After it was completed, I clicked "Play", and my video immediately started!

The video can stay on my hard drive for seven days, then it expires. If I had chosen an Audiobook or eBook I could keep it for 14 Days; some of the other providers have different rules about downloads.

I've mentioned in the past that I think it's weird to watch something on a small computer screen; that was certainly a disadvantage of this format. The quality of the video was pretty good, and the music was ok coming out of my dinky monitor speakers.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

New Thing #219--A Weed By Any Other Name

As Tony and I were out walking tonight, I decided to pick a fuzzy weed to twiddle in my fingers as I walked. Instead of one stem, I got two. As I was observing them, it occurred to me that they were really cool looking, and would look interesting in a vase. That was the inspiration for today's Thing. Today I picked weeds and arranged them in a bouquet.

Once I started looking, there were materials everywhere. My selection was mostly grasses, but I added color with a trumpet flower, a daisy, Queen Anne's Lace, and some purple clover flowers. Each of the plants had its own unique texture.

Tony managed not to laugh at me as I zig-zagged back and forth picking things that looked interesting; as a matter of fact, he started helping me look for things, and he even ventured into a particularly weedy section of common ground to pick the daisy for me!

I came home and arranged my finds in a small vase . The grasses gave the arrangement vertical height and an airy feeling. I set the vase on the island in the kitchen, and it really classed it up!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Thing #218-How Long?

I woke up today feeling great, but as the day wore on I developed a headache and body aches, and all I wanted to do was sleep. Since I wasn't in perfect health today, it was probably ironic that I played the Longevity Game.

The introduction to the game states:

"Sneak a peek into your potential future. How long can you expect to live? We developed the Longevity Game to give you a peek into your future by identifying the factors that can lead to a healthier, more productive life."
The game consists of a series of twelve questions about your weight and body mass index, your drinking and smoking habits, use of drugs, how you handle stress, and your driving record. The Age Tabulator starts at 74, and the number goes up or down as each question is answered.

The cutest part of the game is a little avatar that's generated depending on how a question is answered. Here's mine:

According to the report card at the end of the game, I'm living a 5-star healthy lifestyle, and I should live a long life.

Friday, August 15, 2008

New Thing #217--Connected

I have two bracelets that I wear continually on my right wrist. They are fisherman bracelets that I received on retreats--the first one when I was a retreatant in 2005, and the second one in 2006 when I was a member of the team that presented the retreat to other women.

The bracelets are composed of interlocked snap swivels, a kind of fishing tackle. The snaps open and close like a safety pin, and are difficult to close with one hand.

When I was running errands today, I felt something tickling my wrist. I looked down and noticed that one of the two bracelets had come unclasped and was hanging loose. I could have taken the whole thing off and put it in my purse, but instead I put it back on my wrist and I asked a stranger to fasten my bracelet.

There was a young woman with a toddler who was in the same aisle of the store as me. She seemed to be glad to do it, and had no trouble fastening the clasp. Soon I was on my way, glad to know my bracelet was safe.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Thing #216--Cap It

The summer sun and heat have really done a number on my hair and scalp. Both were dry and needed a deep conditioning. I bought a jar of conditioner at the drug store a couple of weeks ago, but never got around to using it because the directions said it needed to be left in (under a shower cap) for an hour to obtain the maximum benefit. Today I decided the job had to be done so I glopped the conditioner in my hair, put on the oh-so stylish plastic head covering, went outside, and did yard work wearing a shower cap.

According to my beauty sources, I needed to use the plastic cap to hold in heat on my head to allow the conditioner to penetrate deeply. It did indeed hold the heat in; even with today's below-average heat and humidity, the cap made my head very hot. I could feel the humidity building up inside the cap.

We live on a very quiet cul-de-sac street. There's never a lot of people coming through, and today was no exception. My neighbor, who teaches piano in her home, had some students come for a lesson, but I was on the other side of the yard and they didn't look my way. A delivery truck drove down the street when I was pulling some weeds in the front yard. I was tempted to move to the side of the house so they wouldn't see me, but I stayed right where I was!

After the hour was over and I rinsed the conditioner out, my hair felt great. I cleaned off the shower cap and put it and the conditioner away. Who knows when I'll want to repeat this activity?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Thing #215--Orange Crush

Today I performed an experiment, and I crushed a soda can using steam and atmospheric pressure. Or more precisely, I partially crushed the can so the experiment was a partial success.

The experiment's steps:
  • Empty a can of soda, wash it thoroughly and let it dry.

  • Put a small amount of water in the bottom of the can.

  • Get a dish that's wide enough to allow the can to sit in it easily. Fill it with cold water.

  • Get some tongs and a gas heat source. Hold the can with the tongs over the heat. Heat the can until you see steam come out, telling you the water has begun boiling.

  • Quickly flip the can upside down (mouth down) into the ice-cold water. The can should collapse in on itself.
That's how it was supposed to work. However, since I have an electric range, I had to make some modifications. I put the soda can (with the water) in a pan containing a small amount of water, and put both on the stove. I figured that when the water in the pan boiled, the water in the can would be the same temperature. I guess my assumption was inaccurate, because nothing happened when I took the can out of its water bath and turned it upside down in the cold water.

I tried again, but this time I let the soda can sit in the boiling water for several minutes before I removed it. This time I got a partially crushed can (see the picture at the top). I would hardly call it the implosion that my source said would happen, but I decided to be satisfied with my partial success.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New Thing #214--Divine Energy

I belong to a very large parish, with a wealth of activities; too many to do them all. Today I participated in one that's always fascinated me-the Twin Hearts Meditation for World Peace and Personal Healing.

The Planetary Meditation for Peace (Meditation on Twin Hearts) was developed by Grand Master Choa Kok Sui, the modern founder of Pranic Healing and Arhatic Yoga. It uses the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi to project blessings to all people on the earth. Twin Hearts refers to the activation of both the Heart and Crown energy centers (chakras). The Heart Center focuses on compassion, joy, affection, consideration, and mercy. The Crown chakra is the center of illumination, divine love, and oneness with all.

One of the parish priests, Fr. Krings, led the meditation. There were about a dozen people there when we started. The first step was to do exercises for about five minutes to open and cleanse the body. After the exercises, everyone sat in a chair, closed their eyes, and placed their hands palms-up on their legs before the meditation CD began.

The first part was to think about happy experiences to activate the Heart chakra. Next, we visualized the earth the size of a small ball, held our hands up in front of us (facing out), and used the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi to bless the Earth and all the people.

The second half of the meditation concentrated on personal healing. We were told to visualize white light enveloping different parts of the body to heal it. The meditation touched on every part of the body--each organ was named, the arms, legs, shoulders, etc. I really tried, but I had trouble holding my concentration during this part; I had an itch on my neck, then one on my arm that needed attention. Fortunately, that was close to the end of the meditation, so a good chunk of it was fruitful for me.

After the meditation CD was over, we repeated a shorter series of exercises (including something similar to a yoga detox), discussed our experiences, then it was time to go. The whole thing only took about 45 minutes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

New Thing #213--The Release

I was getting ready to mail something to a friend. I sealed and addressed the envelope, added a stamp and was walking out to the mailbox when I realized that part of what I needed to send was still sitting on my desk! I didn't want to walk downstairs to get another envelope and waste a stamp. Instead, I steamed the envelope open.

I put a pot of water on the stove. When it boiled, I held the envelope over the steam (flap-side down) for about 15 seconds, then tried to lift the flap. It didn't work, so I steamed it for 15 seconds more. This time the glue was soft, and half of the flap came loose. However, when I got to the middle of the flap it started tearing. I put the envelope back over the steam, checking the glue every so often. It took longer than I expected, but after a minute or so the glue finally released and I was able to open the flap completely.

I added the missing papers to the envelope and sealed it up again with some glue. The flap of the envelope was all wrinkled when I was done. If I ever want to have a career as a spy, I'll have to work on my steaming skills.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

New Thing #212--Move Along

We had to end our Georgia adventure today. After breakfast with Sydney and her husband Mike, it was time to get on the road.

Syd lives about 3 hours south of Atlanta. Our flight out of there left mid-afternoon; since we were unsure if we'd run into to construction traffic on the Interstate we allowed plenty of time. As it turns out, we got to the airport about an hour early.

Atlanta's airport is huge; it has five concourses, with a tram that runs between them. We were departing from a gate in Concourse A, which is closest to the terminal. We chose to get on the tram and ride the short distance to our concourse. As we reached the next tram stop, since we had time to kill before our flight, we decided to ride an airport tram from one end to the other, then ride it most of the way back.

Our adventure was just like this video, repeated multiple times:

Saturday, August 9, 2008

New Thing #211--Can You Find It?

When we were planning our trip to Georgia, Debbie asked me if she should bring her GPS system. She has recently taken up geocaching, and wanted to know if I would like to learn. It sounded great to me, so today I went geocaching.

According to Wikipedia, "Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world."

Before we left, I printed the coordinates--latitude and longitude--and cross streets for several caches that were close to Sydney's house, based on her zip code. After breakfast we started on our adventure.

The first cache we tried to find was somewhere at the football stadium for the local high school. My job was to program the coordinates into the GPS system. When we got as close to the area as we could in the car (thanks to Syd's directions) we got out and started walking. The GPS told us how many feet we were away from the cache (within a 15-20 foot margin of error). Debbie had explained that the caches are well hidden; this one was a "microcache" about the size of a 35mm film canister. I looked for about 5 minutes, using the GPS as my guide. I wasn't making any progress, so Debbie took over; she had no better luck. We broadened our search area, we looked in the trees, under rocks, in indentations in the stadium wall. Nothing, although it looked like there had been some recent landscaping, which may have disturbed things. After about 15 minutes we decided to try a different cache.

The second one was hidden in an alley behind a building in the town's downtown area, close to the courthouse. There was some confusion about the exact area to park, but once we got out of the car and started walking there was even more confusion. We were unable to locate the exact location of the cashe with the GPS; Debbie attributed it to reception problems related to building interference since we were in an alley. After about 15 minutes of walking back and forth, we came away empty handed again.

Despite not finding either of the caches we were looking for, geocaching was a lot of fun.

Friday, August 8, 2008

New Thing #210--TXT

One of the biggest current technological generation gaps, I think, is whether or not you use your cell phone to send text messages. ALL of the young people I know are very proficient in texting; most of the adults in my circle do not use the feature. Today I sent my first text message.

Although I know a text message can be a quick, convenient way to communicate a short message, it annoys me. I can TALK to my family for free, since we all have the same cell phone carrier, but I have to PAY for text messages, since we've chosen not to buy a messaging package. Because I'm not proficient with using the phone's keypad to type words, it's much faster for me to leave a voice mail then laboriously type the message before I hit Send.

However, even Pope Benedict XVI is sending text messages now. It was time for me to learn. A little bit of time reading through my phone's manual told me everything I needed to know.

This was a great weekend to put my newly-learned texting skills to use. Debbie, a high school friend, and I flew to Georgia to see a third school friend, Sydney. When we arrived at our destination, I pulled out my phone and composed a short text message to Tony letting him know I had arrived. I hit the Send button and sent it over the airwaves.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

New Thing #209--Wax On

I have really blond eyebrows; you can't even see them. That's good because I usually don't do anything to them. No pencils, no coloring, nothing at all. I only get rid of the stray hairs when I have a big event coming up. Since this weekend I'll be seeing a friend for the first time in many years, today I got my eyebrows waxed.

I went to a beauty school that's not too far from me. Although I've only been there for haircuts before, the students do a great job, and it costs less because they're practicing on you. The student who did my wax had only been in school since February, but said she had been doing brows for a LONG time.

I went back to one of the waxing stations, and laid on a table similar to a doctor's examination table. The student gave me a little scalp massage before wrapping a warm towel around my hair and forehead. Of course, I had to take off my glasses, so after that point I couldn't see exactly what was going on. However, it was pretty straightforward.

The first step was to clean my skin with a cotton ball saturated with something that smelled antiseptic. Next she applied very warm wax over the parts of my eyebrow with excess hair, placed a strip of linen on top and massaged it into the wax. She asked if I was ready, pulled my skin taut, and ripped the strip (with the hairs stuck to it) off. I'd heard this was the painful part, but it was no worse than having a bandage ripped off quickly. She repeated the process again to get the hairs in between my brows, applied some aloe gel, and I was ready to go!

I had to go to the bank afterward. As I was waiting in the drive-through lane, I looked in the mirror to check out my new brows. I had bright red lines over my eyes, where she had pulled off excess hair! No one told me that this would happen. However, after I came home and showered, I used some witch hazel and antibiotic ointment on the areas she had waxed. The redness went away in an hour or so. My new brows make my face look very different.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

New Thing #208--Shop From Your Couch

I'm on vacation this week, with no big plans. I felt really lazy today, and decided not to even leave the house after I got back from the gym this morning. My laziness put me in the family room after lunch today, where I watched shopping channels on TV.

I have never voluntarily watched more than a couple of seconds of one of these channels. If I fall asleep on the couch with the TV on at night, there's usually an infomercial on when I wake up. That's my clue to get upstairs into bed! If I'm going to buy something, I like to be able to research it ahead of time and compare prices at several places. I can't imagine ever buying something that's been advertised "as seen on TV".

I couldn't believe how many shopping channels were listed in my Program Guide! I flipped back and forth among five different channels, which I picked because the title of their shows was something other than "Paid Programming". What I watched (in order of entertainment value):

  • GemsTV--By far my favorite channel to watch. The host, Lyndsey, had real personality. She seemed like a salesperson I would find in a real jewelry store. This channel used a "reverse auction" system-a start price was quoted, but it kept dropping until people started calling in to buy. Usually the selling price was just a small fraction of the original price!

  • QVC--Coincidentally, this channel was also featuring jewelry. The show was called Epiphany Platinum Clad Silver Diamonique Jewelry. Fake diamonds, pretend platinum jewelry. However, the hostess was personable

  • HSN--The show was called Home Solutions. During the time I watched, they sold a "top of the line" Singer programmable sewing machine, a Hoover vacuum cleaner, and a shower water filter system. There was a product "expert" and a show host that worked together to sell the product.

  • CRTV--The show was called Scrapbooking Made Easy. They were selling a personal electronic cutter that cut intricate shapes without a computer. The most notable feature of the show was a crowd of scrapbookers cheering and shouting out the name of the cutter.

  • Celebrity Shopping Network--This seemed to be a standard infomercial for a drink to cure arthritis pain. I gave it 30 seconds, then moved on.

I'm glad I've spent some time watching the shopping channels. Now I'm SURE I won't be giving any of them my charge card number any time soon.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New Thing #207--A Preview

Today I went to an advance screening of a movie.

The movie, which was shown at the Plaza Frontenac Theater, was called Man on Wire. I got passes by submitting an e-mail to the theater. A while later I received a message that I was invited to tonight's screening.

I've seen many of my favorite movies at Landmark Theatres (Plaza Frontenac and Tivoli) . I was completely unfamiliar with this movie, but based on past films I've seen at Landmark, I was pretty sure I'd like this one too. The Website Rotten Tomatoes gave me a synopsis of the movie:
August 7, 1974--A young Frenchman named Philippe Petit steps out on a wire suspended 1,350 feet above ground between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. He dances on the wire with no safety net for almost an hour, crossing it eight times before he is arrested for what becomes known as “the artistic crime of the century."
We were told to arrive early because seating was on a first-come basis, so we got there about 6:00 for a 7:00 show. However, there were quite a few empty seats in the theater, so it wouldn't have been a problem.

The movie was very good. I'd recommend it. Even though you know what's going to happen in the end (because it's based on fact), there was a great deal of suspense surrounding Philippe's exploits.

Monday, August 4, 2008

New Thing #206--Fun With Desiccant

Today I dried flowers. And other things.

I purchased a bag of silica gel at the craft store. On the way home I tried to figure out what I had in the garden that I could dry. Since I wasn't coming up with much, I started looking for wildflowers on the side of the road. I saw Queen Anne's lace and picked some of it, but couldn't find anything else.

I used the silica gel in the microwave. The directions were:
  • Cover the bottom of a container with 1/2" of silica.
  • Separate flowers in silica gel face up
  • Cover completely with gel
  • Microwave for two minutes, then check to see if the flowers are dry. If not, microwave for one minute increments until dry
  • Let cool
  • Carefully remove flowers
I experimented with the Queen Ann's Lace. Sure enough, in two minutes it was dry. However, it's very fragile and fell apart a bit when I took it out. I went out to the garden and picked some coneflowers, tickseed coreopsis, and yarrow. Several minutes later I had some beautiful dried samples.

I wanted to do more! I went outside again and searched all around the house, but there were slim flower pickings. Even though I knew I'd probably be disappointed, I tried to dry vinca and impatiens blooms. As I suspected, they were too fragile and completely fell apart. I didn't have any more flowers available, but I tried a spider plant and a sprig of holly. Both of these worked well; the holly would be beautiful later in the year when the berries turn red.

I'd finally run out of specimens, ambition, and time, so it was time to clean up the project. I found out the hard way that the silica is HOT when it comes from the microwave, and it will stick to your skin! It bounces out of the bowl when you don't pour it slowly and the tiny little beads roll quickly. I think I'll be finding silica gel for weeks.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

New Thing #205--Oh Give Me A Home

Today I went on a road trip to see Buffalo Grass.

Buffalo Grass, if you're not familiar with it, is a type of native grass. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about having problems with erosion in my subdivision common ground. The Trustees (of which I'm one) are trying to get the problem fixed. The company that currently maintains the area for us suggested overseeding the area (yet again!) with fescue. That hasn't worked in the past, so I volunteered to investigate alternatives.

I talked with a Private Land Conservationist for St. Louis County, who sent me information about native plants and grasses. However, nothing compares to actually seeing and feeling something, so before I reported back to the other trustees I wanted to see buffalo grass in person.

According to their Website, the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area in St. Charles has buffalo grass planted at their headquarters building. Tony jumped at the chance to come with me; he actually volunteered to make a picnic lunch for us to eat there.

The conservation area is just a couple of miles from the intersection of 40 and 94. Although a good portion of the area is forest, it's probably known more for its fishing lakes. I didn't even know there was a visitor's center there. The building was situated close to the entrance of the park. Unfortunately, there was a sign that said it was closed on weekends.

I started walking around the exterior of the building, which was very nicely landscaped with many native plants. I saw what I thought was buffalo grass. Although I'd read it can grow 6"-8" tall, this had been cut short, just like a regular lawn. I sat on it and it was very soft. However, it had quite a bit of crabgrass and other annual weeds growing in it, which made it unattractive. Since there was no one in the office to answer my questions, we found a picnic table to eat lunch at, then moved on.

I like the idea of using native plants whenever possible, but they may not give our common ground the manicured lawn look people expect around here. After I get all the information, I'll present my findings to the Trustees so we can decide which way we want to go with the project.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

New Thing #204--Roll With It

Tonight I crossed one of my original Things off my list when I went to a roller derby meet.

The Arch Rival Roller Girls is a flat-track roller derby league that has three teams in St. Louis. This is their third season. Tonight's meet featured the M-80s vs. the Smashinistas.

The doors opened an hour before the meet started. I couldn't believe how many cars were already in the lot when we arrived! However, there were a lot of good seats available--at either end of the track--by time we made our way inside. We ended up in the M-80s section, and sat at a tall table with bar stools in the back. The crowd was a good mixture of young and old, with some families also in attendance.

Since I'd never been to a roller derby meet, I was unfamiliar with everything about the game. However, there was a great explanation of the rules in the program, along with a list of illegal moves and a chart of referee signals.

All of the players had stage names, many of which were horrible puns. My favorites were "Chokehold Chanel (whose number was No 5)", "Riddle Lynn (number 30 mg)" and "Overland Offender (her number was 63114-the zip code for that area)". The Smashinistas uniforms were cammo with pink accents, and the M-80s wore uniforms that were red and black. All the players wore helmets and knee pads. Once the meet started, the players skated so quickly that the uniform was sometimes the only way to tell the teams apart. After a couple of minutes, though, I figured things out and could intelligently root for my team.

The M80s fell behind quickly, but rallied and won the game. They get to play in the league championship in October.

Friday, August 1, 2008

New Thing #203--Pay Attention

Sometimes, New Things need to be little, particularly on a day like today. At noon the temperature was 88°F, but the heat index was 98°F. Today was Errand Day, with lots of stops. At every stop, when I stepped out of the car it felt like a sauna. I couldn't wait to get home and hibernate in the air conditioning.

After I put my car in the garage, I walked down to the mailbox to retrieve the mail. I saw this in the middle of the driveway:

The worm was at least ten inches long. I'm not sure how or why it decided to travel across the driveway on a hot sunny day, but it was definitely moving to the other side. I was concerned that it wouldn't make it, so I picked up a worm, moved it to a flowerbed, then watched it burrow into the ground.

When I set the worm down, it laid on top of the mulch for a couple of minutes, then it slowly started moving again. It burrowed into the mulch by contracting its muscles. Soon half of its body had disappeared:

All of a sudden it stopped, then backed up so that it was back above-ground! It moved about six inches further into the flower bed, then started burrowing again. Two minutes later it was completely gone.