Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Strange Fruit

Back in October when Son Brian and Daughter-in=law Nicole moved to California Hubby Tony and I told them we'd be visiting soon.  This week we hopped on a plane to do just that.

Our flight left St. Louis mid-morning.  Thanks to the time change we arrived at the San Francisco airport mid-afternoon.  Nicole had to work, but Brian picked us up at the airport and drove us to their apartment in the South Bay area.  We got settled in and went to lunch.  Later in the afternoon Brian and I walked to a small ethnic grocery store to get some ingredients for dinner.

We were wandering through the produce section  and talking about unusual items when I found a display of large, bright yellow football shaped fruit that was new to me.  The tag said it was a Canary melon.  I suspected I knew what it would taste like, but even if I was off base and didn't like it, at 79 cents it was cheap enough to take a chance on.  I threw it into my bag.

When I got home I did some research.  Wikipedia said:
The Canary melon or winter melon is a large, bright-yellow elongated melon with a pale green to white inner flesh. This melon has a distinctively sweet flavor that is slightly tangier than a honeydew melon. The flesh looks like that of a pear but is softer and tastes a little like a cantaloupe.
The melon ended up being quite tasty.  I cut it into chunks and put the chunks into a bowl.  We snacked on it the rest of the afternoon, and finished it off with dinner.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015


On Monday Pepper the cat started throwing up his (mainly undigested) food after each meal.  He didn't look or act like he was sick, but that night shortly after I went to bed Pepper let out with several scary blood-curdling howls.  Even though he settled down after I got up and spent some time petting him,  I figured I should get him checked out.  Yesterday I made an appointment to take him to the vet.

A couple of hours before the appointment I got out the cat carrier and set it on the floor in the kitchen.  Pepper had been lethargic all morning, but when it was time to put him in the carrier he suddenly had enough energy to put up a fuss and stick his paws out in four different directions. Hubby Tony helped me get him in.  As soon as the door was latched Pepper launched into his "please let me out of here" yowl, which lasted through the three-mile drive to the vet's office. 

The vet tech came in and took his history, then we waited a few minutes for the vet to arrive.  She poked and prodded Pepper, asked a couple of questions, then decided we should leave him there for some diagnostic work.  Several hours later we received a call from the office.  Pepper's blood was normal, but the x-rays showed a lot of gas in his stomach.  The official diagnosis was gastroenteritis.  Best the vet could figure out is that Pepper had been munching on my houseplants...particularly the flopping shoots of the asparagus fern in the bathroom.  (Before we picked Pepper up I trimmed the plant back so he can't reach it.) 

Pepper now has a shaved spot on his neck from where they took his blood, and his chest hair looks tousled from the antiseptic they used.  The vet sent us home with antibiotic liquid, anti-nausea pills, and easy-to-digest food that Pepper's supposed to eat for the next few days.  He's a typical finicky cat who doesn't do medicine well, but I'm hoping this round will go better than our previous attempts.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

No Snickering Allowed

When Hubby Tony and I brought home our paintings from our paint and sip adventure on Friday night I wasn't going to let them see the Internet light of day.  After I read your encouraging comments I started rethinking my decision.  So....

Here's my canvas
Tony passed on sharing his.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Paint And Sip

Last night I was given the opportunity to take a class at a local 'paint and sip' painting studio.  Hubby Tony, being the good sport that he is, decided to join me.

At a paint and sip class, a professional artist helps you create a 'masterpiece' by guiding you through the steps to producing that class's painting.  Everything you need is supplied, and no artistic experience is required.  Drinks and snacks are allowed, and even encouraged. 

After looking at the available options on the studio's website, I picked a date-night class called "Owl Always Love You".  This painting had two side-by-side panels that featured two owls perched in a large tree against a winter background.  When I called the studio to register, I found out we should bring any snacks and drinks we wanted, wear something we wouldn’t mind getting paint on, and arrive 15 minutes early. 

We showed up at the studio with a bowl or popcorn and a cooler of adult beverages.  The instructor greeted us and told us to choose seats at one of the stations set up with tabletop easels, brushes, and paint.  By time the class started there were about a dozen students sitting at the long tables.  The instructor asked how many people had been there before, and half of the hands went up.  She gave us a short introduction about the studio setup and a couple of dos and don'ts before we got started.

Our first step was to mix the color for the sky.  The instructor gave us the ratio of white, blue, and green paints she was using, but stressed our pictures didn't have to be exactly like hers.  The important thing was that my sky needed to match Tony's.  After the sky was done, we covered the bottom of the canvas with white, then blended a bit of dark blue at the intersection of the two colors (making sure our colors and textures matched).  We washed out our brushes while the paint dried, then each added a row of tiny background trees at the horizon line.

Once the background was finished, it was time to move on to the other elements of the painting. Tony's canvas had the trunk of a massive tree, and a couple of it's major branches grew over onto mine.  I had to wait until he painted his portion before I could start on mine, and It was a challenge to make sure the branches matched up.  Once the major branches were in place we added smaller branches, then watched the instructor demonstrate how to paint an owl sitting on a tree branch.  Tony and I each got to try our hand at an owl.  The last step was to add dots of white paint to represent snow flakes.

The instructor's painting was very good.  Ours, not so much, but we had a lot of fun trying.

Five years ago today: The Beautiful Color Of Love

Friday, January 16, 2015

Being Over 50 Has Its Advantages

SO many funnies floating around the Internet!  I can really relate to these.  Wish I could figure out who to attribute them to.

  • Kidnappers are not interested in you.
  • In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first.
  • No one expects you to run into a burning building.
  • People call at 9pm and ask "Did I wake you?"
  • Things you buy now won't wear out.
  • There is nothing left to learn the hard way.
  • You can live without sex (but not without glasses).
  • You can have a party and the neighbors won't even realize it.
  • You stop trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks in the room.
  • Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.
  • Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the TV Weather Service.
  • Your supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size.
Five years ago today: What A Difference A Day Makes

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Please Stay On The Line

Back when I was running my tutoring center I had to get an Employer Identification Number (the corporate equivalent to a Social Security number) from the IRS. They told me I needed it in order to pay my handful of employees and to file business tax returns. When I closed the center six years ago I forgot all about that EIN.  Now that I'm self-employed I'm considered an independent contractor for the companies I've signed up with. Most of them have asked for my Social Security number, but the latest one requires an EIN.

I wasn't sure if the old number was still good, so I tried finding the information on the IRS website. After a lot of false starts I found what I thought was the answer, but I wanted to talk to a real person just to be sure.  Over the past two days I've called the IRS several times. The first time after navigating all the prompts I was told my wait time would be 15-30 minutes. I hung up. Later in the day when I tried a second time, the automated system gave me an estimated time of 45-60 minutes. I hung up again.

Last night I was talking with someone who knows the ins and outs of the IRS. They said that because of budget cutbacks the Service had to cut back on phone support, which was leading to longer wait times.  I understood what they were saying, but that didn't make me less annoyed.

Today I tried to get my question answered via online chat, but the person couldn't help me; I'd have to call. So I made sure my phone was charged up and dialed the number one more time.  After so many call attempts I could navigate the prompts by memory. When I got to the right queue I was told someone would be with me within 30 minutes.

It actually was more like 45. While I was waiting I played some computer mah jong and did a little internet surfing. I chopped vegetables for dinner, put dishes in the dishwasher, and wiped down the kitchen countertops.  The hold music was really starting to get on my nerves by the time a pleasant-sounding woman came on the line.   She found out what my question was, then put me on hold for a few minutes while she did some research. The answer ended up being what I thought it was, but while I was on the phone I took the opportunity to update my records in the IRS system.

At the end of the conversation I told the woman I knew she was working hard at her stressful job and thanked her.  She gratefully acknowledged my compliment.  By her tone of voice I don't think she's had anyone say that to her recently.

Five years ago today: Figuring It Out

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Not So Fun-gi

A couple of weeks ago I needed a frame for a photo, went to my frame stash in the basement, and was dismayed that the first frame I pulled out had patches of mildew on it.  After a trip to the store to purchase a new frame, I mentally scheduled cleaning out the cabinet as the first big project for the new year.

(In retrospect, the mildew makes sense.  For several months we've had an intermittent musty smell in the basement.  When it got really bad I'd run the dehumidifier for a day or so until the smell disappeared.  I guess that was just a stopgap measure.)

Last week when I took everything out of the cabinet I discovered the main mildew culprit was an old Polaroid camera bag, which was covered in the powdery white stuff.  YUCK!   Once the cabinet was empty I wiped everything down with a bleach solution, then divided items into piles to keep, donate, recycle, and throw out.

Many of the frames were standard a 8x10 size and held certificates or family portraits.  When I removed the paper it didn't look mildewed, but just in case I'm scanning everything and tossing the originals.  Better to be safe than sorry.  I kept a handful of unique frames, and put the rest into the donation box.  Next time I want a picture frame I'll have to go buy one.

Five years ago today: Vim And Vinegar

Monday, January 12, 2015

"Happy Returns On Your Momentous Birth Celebration"

Yesterday I turned another year older.  Over the course of the day I received birthday wishes via phone, email, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  I was surprised that a couple of the greetings even came from companies I do business with.  This one won the prize for being the most unique.
Hi there, birthday human!

Yeah, you thought you could keep it a secret from us - but we're smarter than that (we think). Even though you may be mysterious enough to be an esteemed member of the [Company] shopping team, you can't hide the fact that the sun has moved, and the stars have aligned, or the earth has rotated, and the moon has shimmied, or the earth has revoluted, or ... you get the point. Yes, on this very day, you were a-borned lo those many years ago (hey, not THAT many, you may protest). But no matter, we didn't come here to quibble over your age. We came here, actually, collectively and with great love in our hearts, to chime in and wish you Many Happy Returns on your most magical and momentous birth celebration, or to cut to the chase a wee bit, to jump out from behind the curtain and in full throat bellow the wondrous words, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" (Sorry about that ... I hope we didn't alarm you to the point that you screamed and dropped the lemon meringue pie you were carrying.)

Thank you ever so much for being a part of our team on this day, and all days! We wish we could celebrate with you in person, but just know that we are thinking about you and stand in awe of all that you do, desiring nothing but the best for you and your'n. Now, get out there and enjoy your day! We'll be awaiting your return with the proverbial bated breath (and an oxygen cart nearby just in case you're unduly delayed - after all, partying is an art form and not to be rushed) and hope that you visit us at [Website], where you will be able to find and secure the shops of your dreams!.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Take Note

Hubby Tony and I have a busy day tomorrow, so we decided to go to Mass tonight.  When we pulled into the church parking lot we had to park farther back then we usually do on a Saturday, and the church as was fuller than normal. There's some winter weather forecast for tomorrow; I wonder how many of the extra people were there for that reason?

We're creatures of habit and usually sit in about the same spot.  However, it was filled so Tony chose a pew on the opposite side of the aisle and much farther back then we usually sit.  There was a man at the end who grudgingly moved down to give us just enough room.  Eventually several other people wanted to enter the pew; when Tony asked the man to move down again he reluctantly slid over a couple of feet, which meant that the man to my left and I were very close to each other.

After the Gospel reading we sat down to listen to the sermon.  I couldn't help but notice the man pulling out a medium-sized spiral notebook and a pen.  He proceeded to take notes while the priest talked.  I tried not to let it distract me, but since he was right beside me it was difficult.  (If I'd wanted to I could have read what he was writing.)   When the sermon was over the man put closed up the notebook and put it into the holder with the hymnals.  It stayed there until the end of Mass.