Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Thing #263--Strike A Pose

One of the things I read this morning said, in part...
look for ways to enjoy life...explore something new...
Maybe today I'll try standing on my head to see if I like the view...
That made me think. I could never stand on my head when I was a kid, but I'm in much better physical shape now than I was then, so maybe I could do it now. Today I tried standing on my head.

I tried to find a place in the house where I wouldn't cause too much damage if I fell over. I decided to perform my experiment in the family room, with the couch as my "spotter". Much to my surprise, I remembered the first part--the tripod, where you're on your head and hands, with your knees on top of your elbows. After a few tries, I could do that. However, much as I tried, I couldn't get past that point.

Although this obviously isn't me, I'm sure it's how I looked:

To add insult to injury, I gave myself a headache! I don't know if I'll be trying this activity again.

Monday, September 29, 2008

New Thing #262--Safeguard

I have a wide variety of entries on my Blogroll; I'm not even sure how I found some of them, but I enjoy reading each one. Scribbit is a blog about motherhood in Alaska. Michelle Mitchell, the author, writes about a wide variety of topics. I was particularly interested in what she had to say on September 23, when the topic was How to Protect Your Blog and Your Copyright.

Now that my daily readership is in the double digits (HAH!), my ego hopes that some day something that I write will be good enough to tempt someone to use it. I try to attribute everything I use, but I know that not everyone does, so I wanted to be ready in case there was a problem. Today I took steps to protect my intellectual property.

I was surprised to learn from Michelle that anything I produce is automatically copyrighted. The copyright symbol can be compared to a "Beware of Dog" sign; it lets people know that I recognize my intellectual property rights, and will take steps to protect them. I followed the advice and checked two places to see where my posts may have appeared in cyberspace:
  • Technorati lists links to my blog. While I was there I actually found someone I admired who'd added me to her Blogroll without letting me know. I felt honored!
  • I used Copyscape to search for copies of my page on the Web. The site searches for words matching text in any of my posts. Although I didn't find any exact duplicates, there was actually someone who did a Numerology quiz (which I did on September 12th) who had the same answers as I did. Great minds think alike. There was also a flurry of posts from people who used the obscure words (September 24th) that have been proposed for deletion from a dictionary; as we were all using the same list of words, there was a great deal of overlap.
All was good; however I decided to be proactive and head off any problems that might occur in the future. I placed the copyright symbol at the bottom of the site, and in the footer for RSS feeds. I also set up Google Alerts for terms I wanted to monitor. I chose to keep an eye on my URL and my blog name. If these items appear anywhere on the Web, I'll get an email telling me.

Michelle had a whole section in her post about what to do when someone does plagiarize your work, but since I'm not there yet I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Thing #261--By Request

An e-mail from a friend arrived in my Inbox last week. It was sent to me, along with about a dozen other people. It said:


My 60th birthday will be here soon, and I have a special request. I want a scrapbook with a page from each of you. The scrapbook page should contain something from you - not necessarily a birthday message or an ode to me - rather a graphic or written presentation of some special time that you and I have spent together - a fond memory, a time we shared with our kids, some great conversation we had........

I'll be sending a scrapbook page to each of you with a return envelope...I am waiting enthusiastically for the scrapbook page that you'll make for me.

I didn't have to wait for the mail; I saw my friend later in the week and she gave me a envelope large enough to almost cover the passenger seat of my car. In the envelope was one large (and very blank!) scrapbook page. I'm not particularly good at this kind of thing, so I spent a couple of days pondering just what to include in my project; today I made a scrapbook page for a friend's birthday.

I've done personal and professional activities with this friend, some of them with children and some without. I was able to break the activities into four main categories, so I divided my page into four sections. Each section's background pertained to the category. For example, we've done a lot of walking together, so that section's background contained walking shoes. When I wasn't able to find what I was looking for at the store, I created some of the backgrounds by using clip art (copying and pasting it multiple times to get the effect I was going for).

I couldn't find any pictures of my friend and me together, so I relied on mementos, computer graphics, and a few 3D objects to create some texture. Tony even got into the act, giving me some great suggestions when I came up short (amazingly, I could NOT find clip art of two women walking for exercise!) and printing out a couple of things for me.

I had all the pieces spread out on the island in the kitchen, and one of the cats decided that it would be a great idea to sit on top of my work; I told him that wouldn't be a good idea, and decided to keep everything in the bag when I wasn't working directly on it. Eventually the page was done, and I was able to slide it in the envelope one last time.

I can't wait to deliver my scrapbook page!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

New Thing #260--Recipe for Repotting

In a few weeks it will be time to bring my plants in from the deck. In the cold weather they're on the window seat in the kitchen just surviving, but when I put them out in the spring they go crazy. The one that grew the most this year was my schefflera tree. It got about a foot taller, and the top is now so bushy that the pot (and root system) wasn't big enough to stabilize it; it kept falling over every time a strong wind blew.

I wanted to re-pot it in something bigger, but when I checked the shelf in the garage, I didn't have enough potting soil. However, I realized I had a good amount of ready-to-use compost in the bin in the back yard. I usually add the compost to the garden, or in a hole when I'm planting something outside. There are usually worms wiggling around as I'm digging it in, and probably other creepy-crawlies too. Since my plant would ultimately be coming inside, I knew I didn't want bugs or diseases coming into the house, so today I pasteurized my own compost and used it to repot a houseplant.

I went out to the garage and found a pot that was larger than the current one. I took the pot out to the compost pile and filled it halfway (making sure that all the worms stayed outside-I didn't want any dead ones on my conscience), then came in and dumped the compost into the big roasting pan. I figured that I'd wash the pan in the dishwasher afterward, so I wasn't worried about contaminating it.

The next step was to figure out exactly HOW to do the project. My friend Google had tens of thousands of suggestions for me. At the first site, I learned that I didn't want to sterilize the compost (which kills virtually all the microorganisms), but pasteurize it (which heats it to a temperature that kills harmful organisms, but leaves the good ones alone). I checked several sites; there was a difference of opinion on the temperature and length of time needed for pasteurization. The source I chose recommended heating it in an oven to at least 120C for about an hour. I've never really gotten the hang of Celsius temperatures, so I needed a conversion guide. I Googled this topic, too, and chose this site.

I put the pan into the oven and set the timer. About forty minutes into the baking process, a funky smell started coming from the oven. I took the pan out, stirred the compost, and put it back in. The smell didn't get better; I was glad when the time was up and I could take the pan out of the oven. I put it outside so I didn't have to smell it while it cooled off.

When I came back outside later the compost was cooled off; I was ready to repot. I decided to strain the mixture to remove some uncomposted twigs and a few rocks that had made their way in. Since I knew I was going to be running the dishwasher anyway, the easiest thing to use was the strainer from the kitchen, so it came outside too.

I combined the strained compost with the potting soil, and repotted the tree. It took every bit of the soil mixture I'd made. I put the new pot in its place on the deck and got a bucket of water. Since the soil mixture was completely dry, it took an inordinate amount of watering (almost the complete bucket) to moisten it.

I brought all my kitchen things inside, put them in the dishwasher, and went back to admire my newly-potted plant.

Friday, September 26, 2008

New Thing #259--Alfresco

Today was another beautiful day, weather-wise. The high was a little over 80 degrees, and there was very little humidity.

I picked the last of the eggplant from the garden this afternoon, and combined them with zucchini and tomatoes from the refrigerator to make a pot of ratatouille. I cooked some rice to serve with it, and pulled out some homemade bread. I thought it would be nice to take advantage of the wonderful weather, so tonight I served dinner on the picnic table that I'd set with china, silver, and crystal. I also dressed for dinner on the deck.

Our picnic table has seen better days. One slat sticks up higher than the rest, so dishes don't always sit flat, and I've gotten an occasional splinter from the seat. Even so, it's the only outside seating we have, so I decided to make it work. All the tablecloths in the dining room buffet were pretty wrinkled, but I found one that was acceptable, grabbed some napkins from the same drawer, then went to the kitchen to get dishes. I chose the china that was easiest to get to, and added bowls and bread plates to my pile. Then it was back to the dining room for silverware (knives, forks, and spoons), glasses, and a candle. (Even though the sun was still out, dinner's always nicer with atmosphere!) I even pulled out a cut-glass pitcher for the iced tea.

Here's the table (before the napkins went on):

After I set the table, I went upstairs to dress. In this case, "dressing" just meant taking off my shorts and flip-flops and putting on the skirt and shoes I'd worn earlier in the day. I kept the same t-shirt, but put my hair up in a clip and put some earrings on.

When Tony got home we took the food outside. We turned the stereo on loud and opened a window in the family room so we could have mood music. I lit the candle; the wind blew it out, but it stayed lit the second time.

An uninvited mosquito had HIS dinner from my arm while I wasn't paying attention, but otherwise everything--the weather, the company, and the food-was wonderful. All too soon the sun was setting and it was time to come inside.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Thing #258--Are You Up To The Challenge?

There was an article in yesterday's POST-DISPATCH about the challenge of staying within a food stamp budget.

According to the article, a disabled person in Missouri receives $25.38 a week, or about $3.62 a day in food stamp assistance. It went on to mention how the director of the local Food Outreach and several area politicians are challenging themselves to eat for a week on that allotted amount. I don't think I'm up to that kind of challenge, but I was curious how my food budget stacked up, so I calculated the cost of the food I ate for an entire day.

Here's what I ate today:

  • 2 homemade chocolate whole grain muffins (oatmeal, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, flavored with cocoa powder)
  • banana
  • homemade mocha java (brewed coffee mixed with nonfat milk powder and sweetner)
  • egg scramble (2 eggs scrambled with green pepper and served with salsa)
  • 2 slices bread machine bread sprinkled with cinnamon sugar
SNACK (one during work and one when I got home)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 serving generic "Triscuit" crackers
  • toasted cheese sandwich on whole-wheat bread with generic "Veleeta" cheese
  • sliced tomatoes
  • frozen corn
    (Note-I would normally have a glass of milk with dinner, but discovered we were out)
  • watermelon
This was pretty representative of my daily diet. We rarely eat big honkin' pieces of meat, and we're trying (somewhat successfully) to eat lower on the food chain. I try to cook whenever possible, and don't buy a whole lot of processed food. I'll occasionally indulge in a bag of chips, some ice cream, or cookies, but I try to keep the waistline-expanding junk out of the house for my own safety.

I made a little spreadsheet to figure out the cost of my food. I actually tried to figure out the "per serving" cost of the basic ingredients I used for the muffins, which necessitated a trip to the grocery store to check out some prices. I weighed the tomato to figure out its cost per pound, but guessed on the banana, apple, and watermelon.

When I added up the cost of all my food I was AMAZED (and pleasantly surprised) that it came to exactly $3.62, or what the paper said the hypothetical disabled person would receive per day. As noted, I didn't have the milk I usually have; that would have pushed me over the limit.

I have no desire to continue the experiment for more than one day, but it was an eye-opener to see what that small amount of money can buy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Thing #257--Save The Words!

A friend sent me a link to this article from the Times Online. Collins English dictionary has a list of words that are so little used that they may not appear in the next revision of the book. However, the words will be included in the new volume if people use them; they must appear at least six times in Collins' corpus (a database that records word usage in printed, broadcast and online media) before next February to be included.

I love a challenge, so today I wrote using a list of obscure words. I felt like I was back in sixth grade and the assignment was to use my spelling words in sentences, but these words were much harder. The obscure words made my Spell Check go crazy!

Here's what I came up with (in case you're not familiar with the words, either, the definitions follow):
I sat down to write, wanting to use as many words on the Collins list as possible. I have to admit that many of the words embrangled me, because I don’t have them in my everyday vocabulary. However, the article said they’d be dropped from the dictionary if they were no longer used, and I didn’t want that article to be fatidical.

As I was typing, one of my pets, Pepper, came and sat on my desk. He is a beautiful griseous shorthair cat. All of a sudden he walked right in front of the monitor, blocking my view. I gave a malison, and shoved him out of the way. He just looked at me with vilipend.

The other cat, Jackson, sauntered into the kitchen and jumped up on the window seat. When he sits in a certain way he looks quite fubsy. It may be time to put him back on a diet. Something outside fascinated him, and I looked out to see some birds flying away; the skirr of their wings was quite loud.

Pepper came over and started grooming Jackson. His abstergent tongue did a thorough job of exuviating Jackson’s excess hair. I’ll vaticinate that there will be an olid hair ball in the next couple days; I’ll have to clean up the mess and toss it with the rest of the recrement in the trash can.

Pepper must have done something to anger his brother, because Jackson’s mansuetude quickly turned oppugnant. Jackson chased Pepper out of the room.Pepper ran under the coffee table in the family room and sat there for a while in a niddering manner.The “safe” area must be a roborant for him, because after a few minutes he shot out of there to chase Jackson. However, their activity was over as quickly as started. It always amazes me how compossible they are. Their apodeictic affection for each other is amazing!

After I had spent a few minutes watching the cats, it was time to get ready for work. I decided to wear a necklace with a nitid periapt. I enjoy wearing jewelry; I guess that’s part of my muliebrity, because I don’t know many males who feel the same way.I opened my closet door and flipped the light switch. The bulb chose that moment to burn out. Despite the caliginosity of the closet I was able to find what I was looking for. I don’t want to leave the house looking agrestic. People might question my caducity.

Abstergent Cleansing or scouring
Agrestic Rural; rustic; unpolished; uncouth
Apodeictic Unquestionably true by virtue of demonstration
Caducity Perishableness; senility
Caliginosity Dimness; darkness
Compossible Possible in coexistence with something else
Embrangle To confuse or entangle
Exuviate To shed (a skin or similar outer covering)
Fatidical Prophetic
Fubsy Short and stout; squat
Griseous Streaked or mixed with grey; somewhat grey
Malison A curse
Mansuetude Gentleness or mildness
Muliebrity The condition of being a woman
Niddering Cowardly
Nitid Bright; glistening
Olid Foul-smelling
Oppugnant Combative, antagonistic or contrary
Periapt A charm or amulet

Recrement Waste matter; refuse; dross
Roborant Tending to fortify or increase strength
Skirr A whirring or grating sound, as of the wings of birds in flight
Vaticinate To foretell; prophesy
Vilipend To treat or regard with contempt

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Thing #256--Tattoo You

I will NEVER get a tattoo. I just don't see the point. No one in my social circle has one either (or if they do it's on a part of their body that never shows!). I can't imagine what my children would say if I came in sporting fresh ink.

However, one of the things I thought would be fun to do this year is get a henna tattoo. A month's commitment, but then it fades away. I realized yesterday, however, that I was running out of time. Cold weather will be coming soon, and whatever I'd put on my skin wouldn't be visible. What's the use of doing it if people wouldn't see it?

I don't even know of any place close to me where I could get a henna tattoo, so today I moved even farther down the permanence chain and I applied a temporary tattoo to my ankle.

I went to my local drug store to see if I could find what I needed. Since it's coming up on Halloween, they had a display in the cosmetics section that included false eyelashes, body paint, and packages of "body art". I did a little more searching and found a less expensive package of "Realistic Tattoos" in the costume aisle. The designs weren't quite as sophisticated, but were acceptable for my purposes.

Here's the design on my ankle:

It will probably only last a couple of days, but I think the black "ink" against my fair skin should be pretty noticeable until it peels off. I think I'll save the 5-inch wide butterfly and use it as part of my Halloween costume, though.

Monday, September 22, 2008

New Thing #255--Are You Interested?

Some of the people on my blog roll receive compensation for their writing, but I think the majority of them, myself included, are just doing it for fun. I get my satisfaction from completing each new activity, and then documenting it each day. (However, I have to admit it increases my satisfaction when I see that someone's read and commented on my posts!)

A while back Gregg at One Dad's Life posted about an email he'd received from a casting producer of a reality TV show, looking to see if he was interested in applying to the show. I figured that if people were soliciting him it meant that Gregg was an "A-List" blogger. If I used the same scale for myself, I'd probably be on the "D-List".

However, I might be moving up in the blogosphere social hierarchy, because today I received an invitation to do a paid review on my blog.

When I logged into my e-mail account this morning this was waiting for me:

I'm the webmaster of [a Website]. I wanted to know if by any chance you would be interested in doing an unbiased review of our site on your blog.

If you agree you can choose between receiving a product sample or receiving a payment. If you choose the product sample instead of the payment the sample is yours to keep and you don’t need to send it back.

Please let me know if you are interested. Thank you.

I didn't know if I should be excited that I might be joining the big leagues, because some system somewhere chose me, or insulted, because I'm pretty sure the e-mail was randomly generated. I'm not sure what keywords they were looking for, but their product had nothing to do with the theme of my blog. Moreover, I wouldn't be interested in using the product in a million years.

In the end I politely declined my invitation, and sent my response on its way. However, I didn't close the door on future review proposals; I subscribed to the company's list. There may be a paid ad in this blog's future.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Thing #254--Step on a crack...

Even though the Autumnal Equinox isn't for a couple of days, today felt like a perfect early fall day. Tony and I walked to church, about a half-hour each way. On the way home I walked without stepping on a crack in the sidewalk.

When I walk, I normally just worry about avoiding piles of dog dirt, dodging low-hanging tree limbs, or tripping on the raised edge of a sidewalk. I've always heard the superstition, "step on a crack, break your mother's back". However, it's never occurred to me to worry about the negative effects of putting my foot right on top of the sidewalk seams. Since my Mom is long-deceased, I didn't have to worry about this happening:

While I made a conscious effort to avoid the sidewalk cracks along the way, I was still able to walk pretty normally. The biggest difference is that I had to look at the ground more often than I would otherwise. The sections of sidewalk that I traveled are fairly new; they were mostly symmetrically in size, (which made it easy to walk without stepping on the seams). However, some sections (particularly at the bottom of the driveways) were larger and harder to navigate.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

New Thing #253--Extra Credit

Today I did not one, but TWO New Things!

The first was in response to a magazine article I read a while back. George Hutchings (aka the Kenya Shoe Man) is trying to collect 100,000 pairs of shoes. He sells them to a used clothes processing company, and is using the money to fund a water drilling operation in Kenya.

There are several places in the area that have volunteered to be drop-off points for the shoes; they all sport bright yellow signs that say "Kenya Shoe Drop-Off". I see one of the signs almost every day, which has kept the project at the top of my to-do list.

The only problem is that I didn't have any shoes to donate. The boy's closets were cleaned out long ago, and Tony and I tend to wear our shoes till they're falling apart. Today I bought shoes at a garage sale specifically to donate, then donated shoes to the Kenya Shoe Man.

The first garage sale I went to had only a small selection of shoes, and I thought they were overpriced. However, I hit the jackpot at the second! The sale was raising money for a soccer team; a sign proclaimed that sixteen families were participating! There was a large selection of very reasonably priced childrens shoes that were in great shape. I explained why I was buying the shoes, and got two plastic grocery bags. I filled the bags with a selection of shoes, not caring about the size or the style. I let some of the soccer players help me pick out the shoes, but threw in a couple of pairs just because I liked the way they looked.

I took my bags to the nearest shoe drop off point and left them in the lobby with about two dozen other pairs of shoes. Driving away, I felt good because I helped out two groups today!

Friday, September 19, 2008

New Thing #252--Get Well Soon

Today I sent a get well card to someone I've never met.

Another thing-a-day blogger (Jen S, whose blog is Everyday Giving) has had a couple of posts about Christian and Stephanie Nielson, who were in a horrible plane crash back in August, and have third degree burns over much of their bodies (See her posts AOK #253 on August 28th and AOK #271 on September 16th.)

As I was reading Jen's posts, I noticed that she had linked to another blog, c jane enjoy it. c jane (Courtney) is the sister of Stephanie Neilson. She and her husband, along with their extended family, are caring for the four Neilson children, who are all under the age of 6, while their parents recover. I got sucked into reading c jane's blog; she's an excellent writer and has posted frequent updates.

In Jen's post, she suggested sending cards to the Neilsons in the hospital. The whole story touched me, and I put a card in the mail. I hope it brightens someone's day.

If you'd like to send a card, they can be mailed to:
c/o cjane
2250 N. University Pkwy #4876
Provo, Utah 84604-1590

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New Thing #251--Assurance

My manual can opener stopped working a couple of weeks ago. The gears no longer meshed, and the handle wouldn't turn. Although I didn't think it was that old, I just went to the store and bought a new one. As I was taking the new one out of the package, I noticed that it had a "lifetime" warranty. It made me stop and think about all the inexpensive doodads I buy that have a guarantee-until you read the fine print and discover it's not worth doing anything but tossing them.

I'm sure the companies who offer doo-dad warranties don't expect many people to cash in--what are the chances that someone would keep the receipt and documentation, and jump through all the hoops to mail something away for replacement? I usually just toss the packaging and receipts for things I buy, unless it's a big-ticket item, but I randomly keep receipts for small things. We have a bulging file cabinet downstairs that's become the repository of all types of paperwork. That worked to my advantage today when I was able to find a warranty and receipt and return an inexpensive gadget to the manufacturer that was under warranty.

I decided to wade through the warranty file in the cabinet. It was a mish-mash of paperwork for big-ticket items and little devices. I tossed several sets of papers associated with long-gone electronics and household gadgets. However, close to the bottom of the file, I found the packaging (more like a hang tag) for the old can opener with the receipt attached to it. The receipt indicated I bought it less than a year ago. The opener had a "one year hassle-free replacement" warranty, WHICH HAD NOT EXPIRED! What are the chances of that?

I put the broken can opener in a box with the receipt and took it to the post office. I declined to insure my broken can opener. If it makes it there, fine; if it doesn't I'm ok with that too.

Note--On October 10th we got a package from the UPS man. Inside the package was a replacement can opener. It's good to know that the company stands behind its guarantee.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Thing #250--Not Just For Kids!

I was out running errands today and started feeling hungry. I didn't want a lot of food, but I needed to eat something, and I knew there wasn't much waiting for me in the refrigerator at home, so today I went to a fast food restaurant and I ordered a kids meal for myself.

I've only bought a handful of kids meals over the years. When my boys were young, I rarely bought them; instead I'd buy the burger and fries (sometimes a soda), and pass on the fancy packaging or junky toy that came with a meal. Once they developed adolescent-sized appetites, we didn't even consider the smaller size sandwiches and sides, but moved over to the "Super Size" side of the menu, because they would need to consume several kid meals before they were satisfied!

For my meal I stopped at the drive-through fast food restaurant closest to my house. The menu had a special section that proudly announced their selections "Just For Kids!" Since I was ordering from the car, there was no way for anyone in the restaurant to know who would be eating the food, but I still felt guilty placing the order.

Since I haven't even looked at the kids side of the menu for many years, I was surprised at all the choices--definitely more than there used to be. A meal consisted of one of several sandwiches, fries or other (healthier) side dishes, and a plethora of drink choices (white milk, chocolate milk, juice box , slushy , or soda). I ordered my meal--declining all of the healthy alternatives--and sat back to wait for it to come out.

After I got my food, I drove home. The food looked like I expected it to; the small sandwich, fries, and diet soda were about right for practicing portion control. I added some leftover zucchini and carrot sticks from the refrigerator to make the meal even healthier. When I was done I realized that I'd had just the right amount of food!

The prize that came with this meal wasn't much. It was a cube that folded out in several different directions with trivia facts on each face. An enclosed piece of paper, obviously targeted for the adults buying the meal, talked about the importance of developing children's educational knowledge. If I were a kid, I'd think the "prize" was pretty lame.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Thing #249--Bangle

Today I made a bracelet out of paper and clear packing tape.

What I did:
  • I cut a strip of paper 1/2" wide and a little bit longer than my wrist. I used purple, as it's a fashionable color this season...

  • Next, I cut a piece of 2" wide clear packing tape a bit longer than the paper.

  • I centered the paper over the tape lengthwise, carefully lowered it onto the tape, then cut off the excess tape at the ends of the paper strip.

  • Then I turned the tape over and folded the tape over the back side of the paper, enclosing it.

  • I put the bracelet around my wrist, and used a small piece of tape to secure the ends together.

It looks like a wristband that I would have gotten at a concert!

If I did this again, I'd use patterned paper, or add some decorations before I taped everything up. However, the color did coordinate perfectly with the rest of my outfit...

Monday, September 15, 2008

New Thing #248--Garden Garments

Today felt like the first day of fall. In honor of the cool weather, I pulled out a skirt I hadn't worn since last year, added a polo shirt and a strand of vintage jade beads. I even wore nylons for the first time in several months!

I got to work, finished setting up for the day, then sat outside and enjoyed the weather. One by one, each of the students called to say they'd be late. All had a valid reason, but that still left me with extra time before I had to start work. I wanted to do something with my time, so I decided to do a good deed. Even though I wasn't exactly dressed for it, I pulled weeds while wearing work clothes.

I went around to the street side of the building. My tutoring center uses the basement entrance, so I don't often see the front. There is a walkway leading up to the door, and a small bed covered with gravel and planted with monkey grass that runs the length of the walkway. There were quite a few weeds growing in the empty areas--crabgrass, a lot of nutsedge, and a couple of yellow clover plants. There were also a few tree saplings that had sprouted over the summer.

The weeds were easy to pull because of all the rain we've had the past few days. The saplings even pulled right out, too; they hadn't developed much of a root system yet. The only thing that I couldn't budge was a maple tree that was about a foot high. It had branched out quite a bit; I pulled as hard as I could, but it wouldn't move. I went inside, got a knife, and cut the branches back to the ground.

As you might expect, my hands got pretty dirty, and I got mud under my fingernails. After I finished, I came in, washed my hands, and got all the crud off. I tried to keep my clothes clean and neat during all this work, and for the most part I succeeded. I did get one smear of dirt on the hem of the shirt, but I got most of it off and the shadow it left wasn't too noticeable.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Thing #247--Step It Up

We got a new garage door opener several years ago. The new model had all the current (and new to us) safety features, such as a photo-electric garage door sensor that senses if anything is blocking the door. If anything is in the way, the door will stop and reverse. The sensor consists of two electric eyes, one on each side of the garage door frame.

The feature works well, for the most part. Even though we don't have small children at home any more, I like knowing that if something was to be directly under the garage door when it was closing, it wouldn't get trapped.

The sensor does have one disadvantage, though. When the garage door is open, if something breaks the sensor beam, the overhead light will come on, and stay on for several minutes. On days like today, when I was continually in and out of the garage doing yard work, that turns into a real pain. After I had set off the light several times, I entered the garage by stepping over the motion sensor beam.

It wasn't too hard. The eyes are mounted about six inches above the floor. I was carrying a trash can full of yard waste; I lifted it up to waist height, then did some high stepping up and over the sensor. It was so easy, I put down the trash can, repeated the process empty-handed to go out of the garage, then marched back in again. The light remained off the whole time!

After my mini stepping session, I went into the house.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

New Thing #246--Hummer

I was outside pulling weeds today, when I looked up and I saw a hummingbird feeding at a flower in my garden.

I love hummingbirds. Earlier this year I put a hummingbird feeder in a tree off my deck. Although I've religiously kept it clean and filled, there's been no evidence that any birds have used it. I'd just about written the little birds off.

I was stooping down by a bed next to the garage getting the last of a dandelion plant out of the bed. I'm not sure why I looked up just as I did, but the hummer was feeding at a canna blossom about five feet away from me! According to Hummingbirds.net, I'm pretty sure it was a female Ruby-throated. It was not as colorful as a male would be, but had the typical hummingbird long beak. I could hardly see its wings, they were moving so fast.

I stood up, trying to stay as still as possible, but I must have scared the bird, which flew up onto a tree in my neighbor's yard. It looked very tiny sitting on the branch. It occurred to me that in all the pictures and videos I've seen there's never been a hummingbird at rest. After a few seconds, it flew off into the distance.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Thing #245--What Does It Mean?

Today I had a numerology reading done on my name.

According to Dictionary.com, numerology is..."the study of numbers, as the figures designating the year of one's birth, to determine their supposed influence on one's life, future, etc."

When I Googled the topic, there almost six million hits; I chose one entitled What Your Name Means (Numerology). The site told me to enter my full name, and warned me that "most authorities agree that the full birth name as recorded on your birth certificate is the name that must be used for all calculations involving name. Nicknames, changed names including marriage name changes do not dilute the importance of the name given to you by your parents.
" I submitted the information and sat back to wait for the results.

This is what I learned:
There are 19 letters in your name.
Those 19 letters total to 81
There are 7 vowels and 12 consonants in your name

Your number is: 9

The characteristics of #9 are: Humanitarian, giving nature, selflessness, obligations, creative expression.

The expression or destiny for #9: The expression that you exhibit is represented by the number 9. Your talents center in humanistic interests and approaches. You like to help others as you were intended to be the 'big brother or big sister' type. You operate best when you follow your feelings and sense of compassion, and allow yourself to be sensitive to the needs of others. You work well with people, and have the potential to inspire. This suggests that you could successfully teach or counsel. Creative ability, imagination and artistic talent (often latent) of the highest order are present in this expression. It's possible that you're not using or developing all of these capabilities at this time. Some of your talents may have been used at an earlier time in your life, and some may still be latent. Be aware of your capabilities, so that you can make use of them at appropriate times.
I suspect there's no real truth in my reading, but it was fun.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Thing #244--The Missing Link

I was sitting at the kitchen table, fixing a broken necklace chain, when I dropped the link I needed. I heard it clink on something hard. Grumbling, I checked the kitchen table. Nothing. I looked on my chair and the chair next to me with no luck.

Expanding my search, I looked at the floor immediately under my chair. All I could see were a couple of crumbs from breakfast (distinctive red sprinkles from my Pop Tart) . Finding the tiny piece of the chain looked like it was going to be tough. I grabbed the broom from the laundry room and started sweeping carefully. When I was done I examined the dirt from the kitchen floor.

The floor hadn't been swept for a couple of days, so there was a big pile of debris. Although I saw:
  • a lot of hair (both mine and the cats)
  • assorted food crumbs (from under the table)
  • cat litter (from the laundry room, where the litter box is)
  • pieces of eggshell
  • a piece of a wrapper from sugar-free mints
  • strands of corn silk (from last night's corn on the cob)
  • a staple (when I saw the silver color, I thought I'd found the piece I was looking for)
there was no chain link. I have no idea where it could have gone. I suppose it will show up weeks from now, after I've taken my chain to the store to get fixed and I've swept the floor multiple times.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Thing #243--Watch Your Language

Missouri is rolling out new license plates this year. However, they have a grammatical mistake; the hyphen is missing in the state’s nickname, “Show-Me State.” I'm not an English teacher, but according to some references I checked, if you have a compound modifier before a noun, it should be hyphenated.

The mistake is bad enough, but the state isn't planning on fixing it. According to the Department of Revenue, they won't fix the mistake because that’s how the sample looked when voters chose it (from three options) in an online contest. Two million plates have been produced so far, but another 10 million have yet to be made. The department could reorder the remaining plates with the correct hyphenation, but it doesn't plan to do so.

I won't get my new plate until next spring, but Tony's already got his. Today I corrected a grammar mistake on a license plate.

I used a Sharpie to make the small dash in between the two words on the front and back plates. The dash was only about an eighth of an inch long, and hardly noticeable from a distance, but I have the satisfaction of knowing it's correct.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Thing #242--Build A Better Mousetrap

"Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door"
Ralph Waldo Emerson

All of the students at my tutoring center are working on a correspondence curriculum that leads to a high school diploma; although each is at a different point in the program, none of them enjoy the class they're currently doing. Yesterday they were looking for any possible distraction to keep from working.

Halfway through the day one of them went into the kitchen area and thought he saw a mouse. I assumed he was making it up, so I walked into the kitchen; a couple of seconds later a mouse ran across the room and under the refrigerator! I tried to be cool about it but I gave a little scream. Pandemonium ensued. Each student had a theory of how to take care of the mouse, all of which involved some type of violent death. I tried to get everyone to sit down, but that wasn't working. All of a sudden the mouse darted out from under the refrigerator, made a circuit around the room and went under the stove. That was enough for me!

I told them all to call their parents to let them know that sessions were canceled for the day. I called the office, told them about the problem, and suggested they do something right away. As the students were cleaning their things up, I kept making furtive glances into the kitchen. The last thing I did before I locked up for the day was put a new bag in the trash can; when I opened the drawer to get a bag, there was evidence the mouse had been there too.

Today I bought mousetraps for work. I hope that the problem will be resolved already when I get there, but my serenity is going to rest on making sure the mice are gone. I went to the local drug store to see what was available. Much to my surprise, there was a small section devoted to mice extermination.

The biggest percentage of the section was devoted to baits (rodenticides in technical language). There were small boxes, larger boxes, and something that looked like the silica packets that are enclosed in boxes to take care of moisture. These were the least expensive options, but I passed on them. Mouse poisons take time to work, and there is a risk that the mouse could die (and decompose, then stink) while inside a wall. Not a risk I want to take.

There were also several types of mousetraps. In addition to the old-fashioned spring-loaded bar mousetrap, there was something called the "Better Mousetrap" which looked like a large plastic chip clip with a heavy-duty spring inside. It looked like it would be easier to set than the standard type. However, all mice traps have the same basic problem: at some point there's a dead critter to take care of! I chose to purchase something that was billed as "no view, no touch" traps. You bait them, set them (with a little mouse entryway on the side), then check them. If the entryway is closed, there's a mouse inside, and you toss the entire trap! They were more expensive, but worth it to me.

I'm putting the traps and some cheese in my work bag and taking them to work with me. I'll add my traps to whatever the janitorial staff felt inclined to put in the area; hopefully the mouse won't make another appearance!

Monday, September 8, 2008

New Thing #241--Single or Double?

My friend JD is the editor of the crochet page at the Craftgossip Blog Network. She was one of my first supporters when I started this project, and promised to give me a crochet lesson. We never seemed to find a mutually convenient time to get together; when I reminded her last week I was still waiting she suggested that we do it right away. Today I learned how to crochet.

We met at a nearby coffee shop. JD brought yarn, a hook, and an instruction book for me and her own hook and skein of yarn to demonstrate. I've always admired her ability to work on a project and chat at the same time. She makes crocheting look easy, so I was looking forward to getting started.

However, not everything went smoothly. The first problem was that I am left-handed and JD is right-handed. I recalled my one (and only!) knitting lesson with my mom when I was a teenager. We had the same hand dominance issue, and I could never learn how to knit. After we figured out that sitting across from her made everything a mirror image (which worked for me), JD started with the concepts of properly holding the yarn and the basic chain stitch. Although my chains weren't exactly all the same size, I soon got the hang of the concept and was ready to move on to single crochet.

JD showed me the stitch; I understood the concept, but I had trouble doing it. When I wrapped the yarn around the hook (yarn over in technical terms), I either wound it too much or not enough, and I'd often get the hook caught up on loops when I pulled the yarn through them. After several ripped-out stitches, JD took my sample and quickly got me back on the right track. Although I was ready to give up, she kept saying I was doing great.

After I got to the end of the row I was deemed ready for double crochet. This involves extra yarn overs and pulling the hook through different combinations of two loops at a time. Again, my fingers didn't do what my brain was telling them to do. When I finally finished a stitch, it was either too tight or too loose compared to its neighbors. Again, JD was kind enough to say that everyone had those problems when they started.

The last thing JD demonstrated was the half double stitch--yet another combination of yarn overs and pullthroughs. After I muddled through a couple of these, our time was up. JD let me take the hook and yarn home, and invited me to a meeting of her crochet club. I think, though, that I'll need LOTS of practice before I'm ready to crochet in public!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

New Thing #240--A Fancy Figure

Today was my turn to vacuum. It's a pretty big job--we have carpet in almost every room except the kitchen (which has vinyl) the dining room (where hardwood peeks out from under a large rug) and the bathrooms. Even the finished part of the basement has carpet.

I love the look of a freshly-vacuumed room, but I don't like to put a whole lot of effort into the job. There's something nice about a carpet with visible vacuuming marks on it, but the effect only lasts until the first person walks into the room. When I vacuum, I usually try to finish the job as quickly as possible, but today I vacuumed patterns in the carpet.

I started on the second floor, but passed on doing the boys' vacant bedrooms. I vacuumed the hall in the normal way, then began my project in the master bedroom. First I went over the whole carpet as usual to get up the dirt, then I vacuumed concentric rectangles around the bed. By time I got to the edge of the room, there were four sets of lines (with a bit of extra unlined carpet at the far edge of the room).

I moved on the main floor and tackled the family room. Again, I did the normal vacuuming, then I went back to the center of the room and I radiated lines off to each side from the middle (like a palm frond). The last room was the living room. I put less work into this room, but tried to vacuum pretty abstract designs on the carpet. I got the camera and tried take a picture of my work; although the designs were visible to the eye, I couldn't capture them in a photograph.

When I was finished, I put the vacuum cleaner away in the basement. I came upstairs, and saw that one of the cats had already walked across the carpet; there was a series of paw marks from one end of the room to the other. This was quite the transient project !

Saturday, September 6, 2008

New Thing #239--Read All About It

St. Louis is a great sports town. We have professional baseball (Cardinals), professional football (Rams), professional hockey (Blues), as well as a good handful of minor professional sports and college teams. This week we also have professional golf; the BMW Championship, a stop on the PGA tour, is being played at a local country club (Bellerive). Although I usually barely look at the sports section of the newspaper, in honor of the local connection today I read about a sport I have no knowledge of.

I come by my lack of knowledge honestly. I have never played a game of golf--miniature golf is as close as I've come. The rules, scoring, and handicapping of the game are a complete mystery to me, as are the vast majority of the competitors.

There have been a few newspaper articles leading up to this weekend's tournament, and a pull-out section of the paper a week or so ago that I ignored. The only thing I knew was that Tiger Woods wasn't going to be playing.

The tournament was supposed to start on Thursday, but it was rained out. Yesterday's play, which was reflected in today's paper, had one player in first place at 5 under par and a five-way tie for second place. There was going to be two rounds (36 holes) today to make up for Thursday's cancellation.

Other than the summary of play story, there were several other articles about the tournament:
  • one about how the rain has affected parking--it's at an off-site facility about 15 minutes away (with shuttle service to the course)

  • one about a local golfer (Jay Williamson) who is playing in the tournament

  • a page of statistics, tee times for today, and scores

Friday, September 5, 2008

New Thing #238-- All Cracked Up

I have to go to an all-day event tomorrow. Earlier in the week, the organizers asked everyone to bring one ingredient that will get tossed together to make a communal salad for lunch. My contribution is a dozen hard boiled eggs, sliced.

I know from past experience that older eggs are easier to peel than fresh ones. If I know that I'm going to be hard boiling them, I try to get the eggs a couple of weeks in advance. Since I didn't have that luxury this time, today I researched the best way to make and peel hard boiled eggs.

According to the American Egg Board, there's a reason that older eggs are easier to peel. There's an air cell, or empty space between the white and the shell at the large end of the egg. As the egg ages, moisture and carbon dioxide leave through the pores of the shell, air enters to replace them, and the air cell becomes larger. Because of the larger air cell, older eggs are easier to peel.

I Googled Hard Boiled Eggs and clicked through to several sites. There was a lot of different advice. Some sites mentioned adding salt to the cooking water. Others said that a splash of vinegar made all the difference, while yet others said that cooling the cooked eggs in cold water would make the peels slip right off.

I decided to try the combination approach (otherwise known as "do them all"). I put the eggs in a pot, added water to cover them, then added a teaspoon of salt and one of vinegar. I boiled the water, removed the pot from the heat and let the eggs sit in the hot water the prescribed amount of time. When the eggs were done, I put them in a bowl of ice water and put the bowl in the refrigerator for several hours.

When it came time to peel them, I took the bowl out of the refrigerator, dried off the eggs, and cracked the shells. The first egg wouldn't peel; small pieces of the white came off with each piece of eggshell. The second one wasn't much better-it broke in half as I cracked it on the countertop. I was thinking that all the information on the Internet was wrong!

The next seven, though, peeled like a dream. I started to get cocky, thinking that I had the system down. Big mistake! The next two were almost unpeelable. When I finally got the shells off, they looked like moon rocks, they had so many craters. If I didn't HAVE to have the eggs, I probably would have tossed the whole project. The last egg was pretty obliging, though, slipping its shell off almost in one piece. My serenity returned.

The moral of the story? It doesn't matter how you cook or cool your hard-boiled eggs. They'll do whatever they want to.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

New Thing #237--Size Does Matter

Back in July when we visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, we became museum members--partly for the premiums. I got a great t-shirt that I counted as my souvenir for the trip. The only problem was that the shirt was a men's XL, about two sizes too big for me. I came home and immediately washed it, hoping it would shrink a bit, but it didn't.

I've worn the shirt a few times, but I got tired of shoulder seams halfway to my elbows and floppy sleeves down to my forearms. Today I pulled out my scissors, pins, and sewing machine and I resized a tee shirt.

The first step was to grab an old shirt from the donation pile to use for a pattern. Holding the two shirts together, I noticed that the biggest differences were the size of the armholes and the length of the sleeves. I cut the sleeves off the old (red) shirt, then crossing my fingers and hoping I didn't make a mistake, I cut the sleeves off the good (black) shirt. Here's a picture of the results--the shirt body is at the top, and the sleeves are underneath.

I used the red shirt pieces to cut the black ones to size. I left the neckband intact, and I used the original hems of the sleeves. I didn't take any fabric off the bottom of the shirt, because I like to wear shirts long. I carefully cut the armholes to the correct (smaller) size, but I didn't cut into the sides of the shirt (which didn't have side seams). Instead, I carefully sewed seams in the correct place, making the shirt narrower.

The hardest part of a shirt, in my opinion, is putting in the sleeves. I sewed the underarm seams on the sleeves, then held my breath and carefully pinned the new sleeves to the new armholes, first at the top, then down both sides to the bottom seam. They fit perfectly! I sewed the sleeves in and tried the whole thing on. Unfortunately, now that it was slimmer through the torso, it was too long. I cut several inches off the bottom, turned a hem and sewed it on the machine. I didn't even have to turn in the raw edge, since t-shirt material doesn't fray.

After a quick press with the iron, here's the result. For good measure I threw the shirt in the washer and dryer to set the seams. I'm looking forward to wearing the me-sized shirt.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

New Thing #236--Towering

Today I stacked a coin tower of quarters.

To start the tower, I put three quarters on the counter so that they formed a triangle, then I put a second layer of coins on top (corkscrewing them a little bit). After that, I kept adding layers of coins; each layer was offset a little bit from the one below it. As the tower got higher, it started to lean to the side; I had to stop and straighten it out a couple of times. I was going for a spiral effect, but it didn't quite come together that way.

I repeated the process with all the quarters that were available. The final tower was 36 rows high, and used 108 quarters ($27.00)

Here's my creation:

When I was done I put all the money back in the box. As I was putting the box away, it occurred to me that if there's that many quarters it might be time to cash them in!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New Thing #235--Move It

As far as I'm concerned, the Labor Day weekend was one big eating festival. I went to a BBQ on Saturday, had a meal out with the family and a picnic on Sunday, and another picnic on Monday. I did spend a lot of time sitting and eating; I did not spend any time exercising. Bad combination for me.

I'm a gym rat. I like the extra energy I get when I exercise on a regular basis. I try to get to the gym most weekdays (and sometimes on Saturday), and usually take some type of group exercise class. If I'm left to my own devices, I decide after 20 minutes or so that I've done enough sweating and it's time to leave. If I'm in a room with other people I'm too embarrassed to leave and stick it for an hour.

At my gym there are two classes each weekday morning--one at 8:00 and another at 9:00. I pick one or the other to attend. There is a small subset of exercisers, though, who stay for both classes. They are predominantly middle-aged females who are very fit and wear the latest workout fashions (just the opposite of my baggy shirts and shorts) . Because I felt the need to compensate for my sloth over the weekend, today I joined them and I completed two classes at the gym, for a total of two hours of exercise.

Both classes were held in the same room. The first was Pilates, a blend of strength and flexibility exercises that somewhat resembles what I did in Freshman gym. Although it's tough and a good workout, I didn't even raise a sweat. However, the next class was Cardio Dance; I was completely drenched when I left the gym to come home and shower.

However, I was completely wiped out for the rest of the day. I don't know how they do it!

Monday, September 1, 2008

New Thing #234--Will There Be a Talent Category?

When I was at the store buying cat litter today, I saw a flyer for a Cute Pet Contest at our city's Homecoming festival next weekend. All you had to do to register was submit a picture. Everyone always says how cute our cats are, so today I entered my pets in a contest.

The City has been having "Cute Kid" contests for many years, but this is the first I've heard of the pet contest. If both contests have the same rules, people can vote for their favorite pictures by depositing money (which goes to a local charity) in a container under each picture. Whichever picture earns the most money is the winner.

Now that the kids have left the house, I think that approximately half the pictures I take are of the cats. Although they're opposed to posing for the camera, I usually try to catch them doing something cute before they decide to move. (Probably not coincidentally, I've also deleted more than my share of cat butt pictures as they sprint away.)

For the contest, I submitted a picture of the cats from a few years ago where they were curled up symmetrically on my bed. I used this picture as my computer desktop wallpaper for a while; the picture never failed to generate an "aww" from people that saw it. A short time after I sent my picture, I got an e-mail back verifying my entry; part of the body of the message said that my cats were "just precious!" Although they probably say that about all the pictures they receive, it made me feel good.

I might have to start saving my change so I can go to the contest and stuff the ballot box!