Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Thing #324--You're Invited...

I've started to plan for a celebration for the end of this project. Today I created an Evite invitation.

Evite is an online personal party planning service. Although I was familiar with the invitation component because I've received them in the past, I was surprised to see that the Website also has entertaining tips and party planning tools (a budget estimator, a drink calculator, and a checklist for tasks). Everything in one place!

There were hundreds of invitation templates to choose from, arranged by category. After I picked one, I customized it with the location, date, and time of my event, and included a message at the bottom of the page. It was a bit of a pain to add e-mail addresses to the guest list (evite wouldn't play nicely with my personal e-mail contact book), but with a bit of cutting and pasting the problem was solved.

After I had the draft finalized, I sent it to myself to see what it looked like. In addition to the invitation, there's a spot to RSVP, and a guest list. The website keeps an updated list of who's attending and who's not.

I still have a couple of email addresses to gather before my invitation is ready to go out, but it feels good to have most of it done. I'm looking forward to receiving my first replies.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

New Thing #323--Creative

I completely stole today's Thing from Jen at Everyday Giving when I created my own Pringles can.

On the Pringles Pop Art Website, you start with a white can containing only the "Julius Pringles" logo. There are options to choose the label background, text, and images; you can even upload your own pictures! When you're done, you can choose to save it (which donates $1 to the Children's Miracle Network), download the image, or print the label to use on your own can.

This was a quick, easy way to do a good deed and have fun at the same time.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New Thing #322--Adults

All the boys came home for Thanksgiving...and will stay until the end of the weekend. It's been great having them all here.

Tonight Tony and I went out to dinner at Jake's Steaks on Laclede's Landing with Brian and his friend Nicole, then we all went to Lumiere Place Casino for the first time. This is the first time I've gone gambling with any of my children. As we approached the gaming floor, I stopped and thought about how old my "babies" are getting.

After we entered we all went our separate ways, agreeing on a time and place to rendezvous. Since I visit the casino very infrequently, and I'm quite the low roller, I found a penny slot machine to sit at. That way I could get a lot of gambling for a little bit of money.

On a penny slot machine you can bet one cent for a single line, or add more lines for a higher bet. My 20 lines cost me 20 cents for each spin. At one point my "return" on my initial dollar investment was pretty good; I was able to play for a long time with my winnings. However, that money disappeared, as did a bit more of my bankroll. I was more than happy to quit when it was time to meet up with the group.

The young people wanted to play a bit longer, so Tony and I left the casino and walked over to the Four Seasons Hotel that's attached to the casino. It was quiet compared to the bustle of the gaming floor. There was a cozy fireplace and a wonderful view of the skyline from the reception area. When it was time to return, we exited at the lobby level of the hotel and walked back to the casino.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

New Thing #321--Negotiation

A while back I wrote about my decision to close my tutoring center. Not knowing exactly when I would be completely finished with it, I've not been looking too hard for a new job. However, I got a lead on one last weekend; it would be working with an acquaintance in her office.

The process has been very informal. There was no interview; I got first crack at this opening, and all of the communication has been by e-mail. In the latest message, I was asked what my salary requirements were. I know that's a commonly-asked question, but one I've never had to think about before. Today I discussed my salary requirements for a job.

My job history:
  • In high school and college I worked at minimum-wage jobs in retail or service positions.
  • After graduation I taught for several years, and got paid according to the salary schedule.
  • I took a verrry long break from paid employment after my children were born. When I eased back into the work force, it was at our local parochial school doing playground duty and substitute teaching. There were set amounts for each of these
  • Next I worked part time in an office. Each of the people working there were part-time, and we all received the same hourly wage.
  • I started working with a friend at the tutoring center (for a set monthly amount) that I later took over (my compensation depended on how many students were enrolled)
I sent an e-mail asking what the salary range for the job was, then checked a few Web sites to find out what the averages for the type of job I'd be doing. When I got a response back with the minimum and maximum amount they were willing to pay, I was able to let them know the reasons I was worth an amount closer to the higher level, but that I was willing to be flexible.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Thing #320--Write On

The One-Minute Writer was a Blogger Blog of Note for November. Although I've read it on a semi-regular basis since then, none of its ideas appealed to me until today, when I participated in a One-Minute Writer Prompt.

The blog's premise:
Who's got the time to journal daily? You do.

1. Read the daily writing prompt.

2. Push "Play" on the timer on the right side of the screen.

3. Spend 60 seconds or less writing a response to the daily prompt.
Beth, the blog's author, offers a daily prompt to help inspire creativity. Today's was Transportation: "Describe your primary mode of transportation. Do you wish it was different?"

Because I wanted to write my response here, I used two screens (one for each blog) so I could still take advantage of the timer. It was quite challenging to write when time was literally ticking away.

After thinking about the prompt for a while, I started writing. This is what I came up with:
My primary mode of transportation is my car.

I don't have to drive very much; many days all I do is go to the gym (5 miles round trip) and work (3 miles round trip). I try to do errands once a week, and plan them to minimize driving.

I wish my area had better public transportation so I didn't have to always rely on my car, but our area defeated a tax increase earlier in the month, so if anything there'll be fewer buses running.
I have to admit that when I was composing, I didn't worry about spelling or punctuation; I went back and cleaned things up in my selection after the minute was up.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Thing #319--Contribute

Sometimes new Things just drop into your lap...

I got an e-mail today from Marijean, the STLWorkingMom, which said in part:
I'm writing to invite you to contribute to a wiki -- if you haven't done it before, it could be your new thing for the day. The site is: http://thanksgivingfavorites.wetpaint.com and it's been created to collect Thanksgiving recipes, ideas and memories for family and friends.
How could I refuse the invitation? Today I contributed to a Wiki.

A wiki is a collaborative Web site that anyone can edit; Wikipedia is probably the most well-known (and the only one I've used). Marijean's Wiki was all about Thanksgiving. Wetpaint, the hosting service, allows anyone to create a site, and provides templates to make it easy. They state that there's been over one million social Websites created.

After I registered, I added my contribution. The whole thing was very easy (although at first I had my recipe in the wrong section). There's not a whole lot of entries in Marijean's Wiki yet, but I'm looking forward to checking to see what's there later.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Thing #318--Experiment

I generally put my music CDs in a sleeve or jewel box, so I don't have to worry about them getting messed up. However, accidents happen; today I found a disc floating loose in my car. Turning it over, I noticed it was dirty and had several scratches on it. I tried playing it, but it wouldn't play.

Cleaning it didn't work; the imperfections remained on the surface. The disk wasn't essential to my collection, but I wanted to try to fix it. I remembered a friend telling me about a radical repair for malfunctioning media. Today I boiled a CD to remove the scratches.

I put a couple of inches of water in a pan on the stove, let it boil, then added the disc. After approximately 10 seconds I took it out with a pair of tongs, set it on a towel, and patted it dry carefully.

I put the disc in my computer's drive, opened the media player, and hit start. It worked great now! No skipping.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New Thing #317--Well Read

The retreat ended this morning. We left the retreat center and drove back to the church to attend Mass together. During the service, I served as a lector, reading in front of the entire congregation.

The lector reads two passages from the Bible, as well as intercession prayers, while standing at a lectern (called the ambo) and looking out at the crowd. I didn't have to do the entire job today; another woman did the first reading, and a deacon took care of the intercessions.

At this church, both lectors approach the altar at the same time, bow, then head towards the lectern. I sat off to the side during the first reading; it was my turn when the other lector came and sat beside me. As I approached the ambo, I realized I've read for classroom-sized groups before, but never for this many people, and never with a microphone!

Before I started, I picked out a few familiar faces to look at directly; this wasn't difficult because the women I had spent the weekend with were sitting right in front. I took a deep breath and started, trying to read slowly and sound confident. After I had finished we returned to our seats.

As we were leaving the church, one of my retreatant team members came up to me and told me I did a good job!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Thing #316--Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

I'm still in the middle of my weekend experience.

When the retreatants arrived, one of the announcements the director made was that they would have the gift of a "timeless weekend"; they were asked to give up all electronic devices until they left on Sunday morning. Of course, the members of the retreat team can't have timepieces, or the effect would be lost.

Most of the activities are done as a group, so we rely on the directors to tell us where to go and when to be there. When necessary, someone rings a bell to signal gathering times. I never thought about how the directors kept things on track!

One of the activities I'm leading had to end after a certain amount of time. My first plan was to use background music, and listen for the end of a selection to know when the time was up. However, it was decided that the activity should be done in meditative silence.

When I asked how I would know when the time was up one of the directors told me, "look at a watch!" Today I used a watch when it wasn't technically allowed.

I certainly couldn't have the watch on my wrist, but I put it in my pocket until I needed it. During my activity, I sat in the back of the room and surreptitiously glanced at it now and then. Nobody was the wiser!

When the correct amount of time was up, we moved on to the next activity.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Thing #315--Extreme

I'm in the middle of a very jam-packed weekend, with early rising times and late bed times. I knew from past experience that I'll get tired just when I need to have my energy pumping, so today I used an energy drink.

Not just any energy drink; I drank an Extreme Energy™ 6-Hour Shot. According to the packaging, it's "The World's Most Extreme Energy Shot!" It contains many vitamins and herbs that are believed to be energy-enhancing, but it doesn't contain sugar.

According to the Website Energy Fiend, a 2 ounce bottle of Extreme Energy 6-Hour Shot contains 220 milligrams of caffeine, substantially more than the Diet Mountain Dew (55 milligrams) or Diet Pepsi Max (69 milligrams) that I usually drink when I need a cold pick-me-up.

The directions on the package said:
For maximum-impact rapid energy: Drink entire 2-oz bottle at one time. For optimal 6-hour duration: Drink contents of half the bottle and reseal. Drink the remainder three hours later.
I was REALLY dragging, so I downed the entire bottle at once. It tasted similar to cough syrup, with a vaguely orange flavor followed by a nasty aftertaste that lasted until I chewed some gum.

The shot allowed me to function well for the rest of the afternoon (actually more than the stated six hours), and they were right-I didn't get a shaky sugar-crash feeling.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Thing #314--In The Beginning

I'm off today for a weekend adventure.

Since the middle of August, I've been part of a team that has been planning a woman's religious retreat. I've attended this same retreat, and served on a planning team before, but both have been at my parish. This time it's been for a different church, at a different retreat facility.

I'm actually in charge of a small part of the weekend experience. At the beginning of the planning process, I received a notebook with summaries from several past leaders. They were quite detailed, describing how each activity should flow and how each room should be set up.

As my group was planning for our activities, we consulted the notes; they were very helpful. However, our plans still have holes because we need to decide how things will be set up. Today I get to set something up for the first time.

This morning we get to take a look at the rooms and figure out how to arrange them. Which way the chairs will face? Should we incorporate decorations? Should we use small or large tables?

At the end of the weekend, we'll write a summary detailing what we did. I wonder if future leaders will follow the way we decide to set things up today?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Thing #313--Don't Slurp!

Today is a very busy day, with several projects that have to get done. The morning flew by in a flurry of e-mails, housework, and yard work. All of a sudden I realized I was hungry; I looked at the clock and it was lunchtime! I didn't want to stop for a real meal, so I surveyed the pantry to see what was quick.

I found some ramen noodles on a shelf near the back. I'm not a big fan of ramen, but I knew it would be an easy meal. I looked around for a container to microwave them in, and found a carryout bowl from a Japanese restaurant that seemed appropriate.

What goes with a Japanese-style bowl? Chopsticks! However, I didn't want to take the time to dig out a pair. Looking through the drawer, I found something that served the same purpose. Today I ate ramen using a pair of straws.

It actually worked out great. I could use the straws like chopsticks to pick up the noodles, or put the bowl to my mouth and shovel them in. I didn't need to get a spoon for the juice; I just used a straw!

To complete the meal, I added turkey lunch meat to the noodles, and carrot sticks on the side. Meal finished, I moved on to the next thing on my to-do list.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Thing #312--Neighborly

I'm a Trustee for my subdivision, because last year at this time a friend who had the position asked me if I would consider taking her place. She had served for several years and wanted to move on.

The job isn't time consuming. We've met a couple of times over the past year to talk about issues, mainly related to the common ground that surrounds a retaining basin. However, the subdivision indentures mandate one yearly meeting that's announced to all homeowners in advance. Tonight I took part in our subdivision's annual meeting as a trustee.

The meeting is held in the courtroom of our municipality's city hall (which is where the Board of Aldermen also meets). The building a restored theater; the courtroom is on the second floor, and there are stairs at the back of the room leading up to a balcony. The dais for the judge (or the Aldermen) is at the front of the room, with tables in front of it; they probably serve as attorney's tables.

Our group sat at the tables, facing the gallery, set out the sign in sheets and agendas, and waited for the homeowners to arrive. Sad to say, we didn't get a large group, although the mayor and one of the Aldermen for our ward stopped by and answered questions.

We quickly went through all the items on the agenda, and asked for comments from the floor. With a small audience, that didn't take long, and the meeting was soon concluded.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Thing #311--Contest Central

Today I entered a recipe in a contest.

I chose one sponsored by the California Walnut Board. The contest was called "Smart Holidays Menu Makeover". According to their Website:
The holiday season is celebrated by people of all cultures who share traditional foods and festive times with those they love, but it’s also when they pay less attention to their nutritional intake. The California Walnut Board is encouraging all families to makeover their favorite holiday dishes in a smart way that embraces the taste and tradition of holiday meals while improving their diet.
As stated in the contest rules, the Grand Prizes for the contest are stand mixers, but randomly-picked submissions receive an apron, and every entry receives a promotional grocery bag. Any of those prizes sounded good to me, so I went through my recipe files to find an appropriate one to submit.

I chose a recipe for a quick bread that my Mom used to make every Christmas. Her recipe was loaded with butter and sugar. Over the years, I've decreased the sugar and butter, and swapped out some of the white flour for whole wheat. I still think it tastes good with the changes.

I submitted my recipe online; it showed up on the Website in just a couple of minutes. I guess it's now up to the judges to decide if its prizeworthy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Thing #310--Preaching and Teaching

Today I heard a friend (who happens to be a layman) preach at Mass. This was most unusual, because in the Catholic church, it's usually the priest who does the preaching.

We met Joe and Donna a couple of years ago, through a group that our children were involved in. They attend a church in South St. Louis, and have invited us to come with them several times over the years; when we heard that Joe would be preaching we decided that today would be the day.

The neighborhood where the church is located was about a half hour drive from our house. The church (which is more than 100 years old) is housed in a beautiful old building, but the inside had been remodeled; the building still has stained glass windows lining the walls, but the sanctuary area was simple, decorated with a crucifix and fall decorations.

The parish is considered fairly liberal; lay preachers aren't the only visible sign that this church is different. Every time God was referred to with a masculine pronoun (He, Him, His) in a prayer or a song, it was changed to something gender-neutral. During the Eucharistic Prayer, a section where the congregation usually kneels, we continued standing. At the end of the General Intersessions, which are petitions offered by the priest and the members of the congregation, a parishioner prayed for someone who was ill and starting cancer treatments. She sent around a prayer shawl for the woman and asked each person to pray over it as the Mass continued.

A Sunday Mass has three readings from the Bible. The first two readings were done by laypeople, which I'm used to, but after the priest read the Gospel, Joe got up and started speaking. He did a great job of relating today's readings to everyday life, even including anecdotes from his work life which emphasized his points.

At the end of Mass the priest publicity welcomed all of the visitors (about a half-dozen of us), and asked them to stand up and introduce themselves. We tried to remain anonymous, but Joe spoke up and pointed out me and Tony.

All in all, it was a very interesting morning.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New Thing #309--Out, Damned Spot

Since we have cats in the house, I'm used to them regurgitating on a semi-regular basis. They spend a lot of time grooming themselves and each other, so they're usually hawking up hairballs, which are accompanied by yellow stomach bile and sometimes undigested food. When it happens, I pick up the solids, then use some carpet spotter that we got the last time the carpets were cleaned; the mess comes right up.

However, when I came home a couple of days ago I saw that one of the cats had nibbled on a houseplant and upchucked all over the stairs. The mess looked like a big grass stain; it was dark green with bits of undigested plant in the middle. (As usual, neither cat would admit to doing it!) I tried to clean it up the usual way, but to my dismay the spotter didn't do much for this mess.

You can see the stairs right when you come in the front door, so the ugly stain was predominant. Tony was hosting his poker group tonight, and I wanted to make sure the stairs were clean.

Unlike a piece of clothing, I couldn't put my carpet in the washer, so it was more difficult to find something that would successfully remove the stain. A little Internet research revealed several options. Today I removed a grass stain from my carpet with normal kitchen ingredients.

eHow suggested I make a paste from equal parts salt and cream of tartar plus a few drops of water, let the mixture dry, then brush it off. I had both ingredients in the spice cabinet. I stirred everything together in a custard cup, spread it on the stain, and left for the grocery store.

When I returned I checked out the stairs. Much to my surprise, the concoction worked! The stain was not completely gone, but it had disappeared substantially. I repeated the process again and the splotch was even lighter in color; it could hardly been seen.

I vacuumed up the dried salt and cream of tartar and decided the job was a success.

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Thing #308--Fascinating!

I've been seeing this commercials on the Food Network a lot:

I had no idea what it were talking about, so today I learned about umami.

When I was in school, I learned that the human tongue could identify four tastes: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. However, they've now added a fifth taste that's called umami.

According to the UMAMI Information Center, umami is "a pleasant savory taste imparted by glutamate, a type of amino acid...which occurs naturally in many foods including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products." A Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda coined the word umami in the early 1900s, although it wasn't officially recognized until this decade.

Some sources of umami (compliments of The Nibble):
  • foods made from fermented beans or grains like soy sauce
  • foods made from fermented seafood such as anchovy paste and Asian fish sauces
  • condiments like bouillon cubes, ketchup, MSG, steak sauce and Worcestershire sauce
  • dairy products such as aged cheeses, blue cheese, yogurt and sour cream
  • cured pork products like bacon, ham, ham hocks, salt pork, and sausages
  • fish and fish products like anchovies, dried shrimp, and seafood broths like bouillabaisse, gumbo, and Japanese dashi
  • meat stocks, particularly beef and veal stock
  • mushrooms, especially dried
  • tomatoes and tomato products
***Although it's not technically a food, monosodium glutamate (MSG) has a strong umami taste

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Thing #307--Ponderous Pedestrian

I came home from an appointment this morning and noticed that the tree in the back yard had shed a substantial number of leaves since I mowed the grass a week ago. In my opinion, it’s a whole lot easier to mow over the leaves than it is to rake them up, so I wanted to pull out the lawn mower and take care of that section of the yard today; the forecast calls for rain tomorrow, followed by colder weather.

I didn't want to walk into the house and go all the way upstairs to the bedroom to get my nasty green-stained grass cutting shoes, so I grabbed the pair that Tony keeps in the garage and put them on. I used them to walk in someone else's shoes while doing yard work.

Tony's feet are substantially larger than mine. Even though I hitched the shoelaces on his shoes up as tight as they would go, I still felt like a clown when I tried to walk. By the end of my fifteen-minute chore I was starting to get blisters on my feet. I was glad to put his shoes away and go back to my comfy ones.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Thing #306--Transformation

Today's Thing is compliments of Kathy at Available Light. When I read her post a while back, I thought it was interesting, and filed it for future use. Today I made an inkjet transfer picture.

According to Kathy, I had everything I needed:
  • an inkjet printer (mine's geriatric, but serviceable)
  • a good image to work with (or the best of what I've taken!)
I chose a picture from a couple of months ago. Son Donald had been growing his hair out for awhile. He was going to cut it in preparation for a job interview, but wanted a radical style for a day or so before he went "corporate". His brother Tony gladly agreed to assist him; they grabbed the scissors and clippers and went out to the garage. I have a whole series of pictures of the process. This is the first:

After I had chosen my picture, I needed a sheet of inkjet address labels--but just the glossy backing sheet with no labels on it. When you print on the glossy surface, the ink doesn't adhere, but beads up on it; it can then be transferred to a sheet of paper to make the print.

I inserted the backing sheet in the printer, and printed out the image on the glossy side. While the picture was printing, I dampened a sheet of paper. When the printing was finished I pressed the two pages together. The last step was to carefully pull the pieces apart; most of the ink was now on the damp paper.

My first try was very blurry, so I tried again. I wiped the excess ink off the backing sheet and ran it through the printer again. This time I barely dampened the printer paper, and I tried really hard not to smudge the transfer when I removed it from the backing sheet. Here's the result (a mirror image of the original):

I'm not sure if the poor quality can be attributed to my picture taking, my printer, or the fact it was my first time attempting this. It was a very interesting project, though, and I think I'll be trying this again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Thing #305--Good Manners

(In the interests of full disclosure, I got this idea from Sydney of Adventures in the Extraordinary, who got it from a Seinfeld episode.)

Today was one of those things were nothing was going according to plan.

I decided that chocolate would go a long way towards making me feel better, so I bought a bar (on clearance) as I was running errands this afternoon. I came home, unwrapped it, put it on a plate, then I ate a candy bar with a knife and fork.

Not just any chocolate, but a Choxie Dark Chocolate Cocoa Nib Truffle bar. From Target. I had no idea you could get good chocolate there. The label says the bar is, "a trifecta of dark chocolate filled with dark chocolate truffle and even more chocolate in the form of tasty cacao bean nibs". If one kind of chocolate is good, three kinds should be glorious!

I took a good look at the bar on the plate before I started eating. It was a little ashy (probably why it was on the clearance rack), but I knew from past experience the appearance wouldn't affect the taste. I cut it into bite-sized pieces, picked one up with the fork, and put it in my mouth. It tasted fine. The dark chocolate wasn't too bitter, the truffle added a nice smooth texture, and the cocoa nibs gave the bar a bit of a crunch.

By cutting the candy with a knife and using a fork to carry it to my mouth, I had to eat slowly. I was able to savor the chocolate, and I was satisfied when the bar was gone.

It's still cold and gloomy outside, and I still have too much to do, but my elegant snack helped me feel better.

Monday, November 10, 2008

New Thing #304--Do Your Pants Hang Low?

Sagging is a "fashion" trend that doesn't seem to want to go away. Most of my male students wear their pants a size or two too large, so they rest on their hipbones instead of their waistline. How do I know this? They wear shirts that are normal length, so when they raise their arms you can see a portion of their boxers sticking up above their pants.

Since the whole point of sagging seems to be to get adults to roll their eyes, maybe if "old people" banded together and joined in with this fashion, the kids would decide it wasn't cool. Today I wore sagging pants.

From my observations, there are two parts to a successful sag: colorful boxer shorts and too-big pants. Since I don't have anything in my closet that meets the criteria, I was forced to be creative. My "boxers" were striped cotton pajama shorts. The outer layer was a pair of black knit ankle-length pants that I pulled down about eight inches so they were correct pant length. That made the pant's seat and the crotch come down proportionally, and showed the top of the shorts . I wore a white dress shirt that hung down and covered the exposed "undergarment". The stripes could be seen through the shirt if you looked hard, though, and when I raised my arms, the shirt rose up enough to show the top of the shorts.

My pants fit snugly around my hips. I definitely didn't have to worry about them falling down! Walking around was uncomfortable, and going up and down the stairs was a real challenge. The pants pocket, which normally sits at the hip on these pants, ended up being halfway down my thigh; it was very annoying when I put my cell phone in there.

I was glad when I got home and was able to swap out my "sags" for normal pants!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

New Thing #303--Pile It On

I was craving a bite of something sweet tonight after dinner. Rummaging through the pantry, I found a bag of marshmallows (mmmm....pure sugar!) that we'd bought for roasting last month and didn't use.

I opened the bag and took a marshmallow out; before I put it in my mouth I took a good look at it, and realized it looked a bit like a building block. I wondered how they would stack, so today I made a stack of marshmallows, then ate them.

I thought this would an easy activity, but it was surprisingly difficult. Most of the marshmallows weren't completely flat on top, so they didn't stack nicely. I found that if I pushed down on the top, then released them, they became a bit flatter. They also got a bit sticky, and adhered to each other better.

After several tries, a stack of three marshmallows was only a little wobbly, but a stack of four would only stand up for a second before it fell over. However, unlike blocks, the marshmallows stayed stuck together after they fell over.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Thing #302--Run, Run, Run

When the kids were young, we had a family membership to the St. Louis Science Center, and went multiple times each year. I haven't been been there in a long time; when Tony suggested we go today it sounded good to me.

They've done some remodeling since my last visit. In the lobby, there was a fascinating display. The Energizer Ball Machine is a huge kinetic sculpture that's three stories tall and almost as wide as the lobby. It has balls that move up and down through spirals, funnels, loops, and slides. The machine is powered by kinetic energy that's supplied by a treadmill that resembles a giant hamster wheel. It looked like anyone could take a turn walking on the wheel, so I got in line to operate the Energizer Ball Machine at the Science Center.

Tony decided not to join me in my adventure, so I felt a little strange. I was the only adult in the line; everyone else was under 10 years old. When it was my turn I joked with the attendant how I was decades older than anyone else. I felt better when he indicated that there was no age limit to participate.

Operating the machine was harder than I thought it was going to be. The "wheel" was about six feet in diameter, and had a bar to hold on to as you ran. I easily started the wheel spinning, but after about 30 seconds I was winded and ready to stop. I was happy to step off and give my place to the next person in line.

Friday, November 7, 2008

New Thing #301--A boost?

I woke up today sensing that I was "coming down with something"; my symptoms included a scratchy throat, a vague headache, and a feeling of tiredness. As the day wore on, I started feeling worse, so I decided to go home and take care of myself.

On the way home, I stopped by Whole Foods to buy some tea and see what they had supplement-wise to boost immune systems. I know there's conflicting reports about the effectiveness of herbal cold and flu remedies, but I have friends that swear by them. Whole Foods had a SECTION devoted to immune system boosting! Who knew? I must have looked lost, because an associate came by and asked if I needed help. In response to my question, she pointed out several products, one of which caught my eye. Today I bought a product to boost my immune system so I wouldn't get sick.

The product I chose was Emergen-C Immune Defense. From the Website:
When your immune system needs a boost try this extra power-packed Emergen-C drink mix. It starts with 1,000 mg of Vitamin C and key B vitamins, then adds a full day's supply of Zinc, Vitamins A & D, Selenium, Hibiscus extract and Elderberry concentrate. All in a soothing blend of natural fruit and honey flavors you mix with water. .. Since when was pumping up your immune health such a pleasure?
Although Emergen-C was packaged in boxes that contained 36 packets, the packets were also sold individually; I could sample the product without a big money commitment. I added several packets to my bag. When I got home I followed the package directions and added the packet to 4 ounces of water and stirred it together. The powder fizzed in the cup, and dissolved completely. The Ruby Lemon Honey flavor was very tasty.

I wish I could say that my symptoms disappeared immediately, but they didn't. However, I hope that I'm back to normal faster than I would have been on my own.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Thing #300--The Burn

Today I created a playlist and burned it onto a CD.

You're laughing! No, I've never done this before.

I love music, but I generally listen to it on the radio. My CD collection is just middlin', and the music on my MP3 player is many of those same albums that I've ripped to my computer; I spend most of my time listening to the best radio station around, KDHX, which comes in strong and clear in my area.

Last year I wanted a mix of love songs to give to Tony for our anniversary. I compiled the list of songs and handed it and the CDs to son Donald who did the actual burning. However, Donald doesn't live here anymore, so I was on my own. I need some meditative music for an event later in the month; after much searching, I couldn't find exactly what I needed so I decided to make my own.

I went through my library picking out appropriate songs. I ended up purchasing some new downloads, and used some songs already on my hard drive. Some selections had vocals, and some were instrumental, but they all fit the mood I was looking for.

I made a playlist, then listened to it on the computer. Some of the segues weren't quite right, so I played with the arrangement of the tracks, then listened to the whole thing once more before I was ready to burn it onto a CD. When I looked around for blank media, I discovered we didn't have any; I called Donald, who was happy to supply me with some from his stash.

After the CD was burned, the last step was to listen to it in my car to make sure there weren't any skips. It was perfect!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New Thing #299--"Born A Mutt, Died A Prince"

Tucked away at the end of a quiet street close to my house is a very interesting place. Memory Park Pet Cemetery has been around for a long time, but I'd never been there before today, when I visited a pet cemetery.

I'm a animal lover, but I've never felt the need to formally entomb any of my pets. However, there must be a lot of people who do, because there were thousands of graves at Memory Park. The dates on the tombstones ranged from the early 1960s to the present day.

I was the only person in the serene area this afternoon. Huge oak trees dotted the space; their leaves were falling quietly to the ground. There were two sections of the cemetery, separated by a small pond. Each part had benches to sit on.

It was very interesting to wander around and look at the tombstones, which fell into several categories. Some had just the pet's name, but most included the year of birth and death. A good chunk of them also had an epitaph; my favorite became the title for this post. On some stones, the cherished pet became a member of the family (i.e., "Sparky" Smith). There were also some stones that had an engraved graphic of the animal, or an actual picture of their pet covered in plastic and attached to the stone. A good number of the graves had decorations on them; some had permanent vases installed so visitors could easily add flowers or other mementos.

As I left, I wondered about the people whose "furry kids" were buried at Memory Park. I hope they're happy that their pet is in this special place.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New Thing #298--Goodies For Voters

Today I voted (NOT a New Thing), but then I got rewarded for voting by getting a free cup of Starbucks Coffee for proving that I voted.

My voting experience this morning was quick and painless, despite all the media predictions. I made an adventure of casting my ballot by walking to my polling place, counting all the political signs I saw along the way. When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see there was no line to speak of. I had to wait behind one person at the processing table, and then for about five minutes for a machine after I'd received my ballot. I'd done my research, so filling out the ballot was easy. When I finished, I received an "I Voted" sticker. I walked home in the beautiful fall weather satisfied I had done my part in this historic election.

Later, when I was reading the newspaper, an article caught my eye. It was about places where you could get "freebies" for proving you voted. That's how I found myself at Starbucks after work, along with a couple dozen other people, the vast majority there for the same reason I was.

The atmosphere was festive. We exchanged stories of our voting experiences while we waited to reach the counter. Although the baristas were cranking out the promotional coffees (no choices allowed--a Tall Coffee of the Day), it took almost as long to receive my drink as it did to cast my ballot!

My schedule won't allow me to leverage my voting sticker for any other free items today, but it's sure nice of all the companies to acknowledge people who exercise their rights.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New Thing #297--Plug It

When I came home from work today, there was a horrible noise coming from the basement. Upon investigation, I found that the alarm for the computer backup battery was emitting a high-pitched wail. I attempted a couple of quick fixes on it (which didn't work) then I had to start working on dinner.

The noise from the basement was really annoying, even in the kitchen. I tried turning up the radio; that helped some, but I could still hear the shriek of the alarm in the background. It was really aggravating, so to take care of it I wore ear plugs.

I looked around the house for some of the disposable yellow ear plugs that Tony used to take on Boy Scout camping trips, but I couldn't find any. I tried to think what other things I had in the house that would work. Suddenly I remembered that when I had earaches as a little girl, my mom used to put in ear drops then plug up my ear canal with cotton. I decided to try cotton balls to block the noise.

I grabbed two pieces of cotton from the container upstairs, rolled them into cylinders, and pushed them into my ears. The first try was very uncomfortable, but after I took the cotton out and rolled the pieces a bit thinner they felt fine.

Turns out that cotton makes great earplugs for light-duty use. I could hear the kitchen radio, and even the oven cycling on and off as dinner cooked, but no more alarm from the basement. I left the plugs in until Tony's car pulled into the garage, then took them out. It probably would send the wrong message if he saw my ears plugged up when he walked into the house!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

New Thing #296--Par-tee

Today was beautiful for early November; it was sunny, the temperature was in the mid-70s, and the trees were at the peak of color. It was a perfect day to be outside.

Son Donald, Son Brian, and Brian's friend Nicole were visiting for the day. We decided to play a round of miniature golf at a course not too far from the house. On the drive there, we talked about our respective skills. None of us were accomplished golfers, so I knew it would be a nice friendly game.

We paid the fee, picked out our balls and scorecard, and headed to Hole #1. Most holes on this course were Par 2 or Par 3. Through the first nine holes I only made par a couple of times. On many of the holes I hit the maximum number of strokes allowed without even sinking the ball!

When we got to the back nine, I started to get a more consistent with my shots. Then, much to my amazement, I shot a hole-in-one! Even more amazing, I shot three consecutive hole-in-ones on a miniature golf course. I was astonished at my good fortune. The holes weren't particularly easy; others in the group were hitting above-par or maxing out on strokes.

After my three miracles my play returned to normal. However, my incredible feat allowed my to come in second place, one stroke back of the winner.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

New Thing #295--Clean The Canines

Do you know how long it should take to brush your teeth?

I didn't, but when I recently learned that dentists recommend a minimum of 2 minutes twice a day, I decided to see how my brushing measured up. Today I brushed my teeth for two minutes.

I'm lucky to have good teeth. My biannual visits to the dentist usually end with the hygienist telling me I don't need to come back until the next cleaning. However, I've been trying to treat all parts of my body better, so I grabbed my toothbrush and used the second hand of the clock in the bathroom as my timer.

Turns out that two minutes is a very long time! I did my normal brushing, then had to repeat the procedure two more times in order to fill up the allotted period. However, when I finished my teeth and gums felt really clean.

If you spent the minimum recommended time brushing your teeth, you'd do it:
  • Four minutes a day (2 minutes morning and evening)
  • 8 minutes a week
  • 24.3 hours a year
  • 77 days in a lifetime
That's a lot of brushing!