Sunday, November 30, 2014

Southern, Gothic, and Supernatural

Website
Hubby Tony and had a very interesting evening last night.  We attended a production of a new-to-me musical called Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

When I first read about Ghost Brothers in the newspaper a few weeks ago I was intrigued by its pedigree.  The show was written by Stephen King, had music and lyrics by John Mellencamp, and was produced by T-Bone Burnett.  The program billed it as "A southern gothic supernatural musical of fraternal love, lust, jealousy, and revenge."

In my experience plays and musicals have multi-night runs at a given theater.  However, this production was more like a concert; last night was the only performance in St. Louis. It was presented at the Peabody Opera House, a 1930's-vintage venue that was renovated and reopened several years ago.   Tony and I arrived at the venue about twenty minutes before the show started.  We walked past the two huge limestone bear statues that guard the outside stairs and into the beautiful marble lobby.  Once I had my purse checked we used the sweeping stairway to go up to the next level, where we entered the theater and took our seats. 

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County was one of the most unconventional musicals I've ever watched.  As you'd expect, the music was first-class and diverse.  There was some rock, some blues, and some roots songs.  The plot that Stephen King created was properly dark and creepy, and there were quite a few twists that I wouldn't have guessed were coming (especially the ending).  Tony and I spent most of the ride home discussing our interpretations of what had gone on.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mound City

When we heard that the high temperature for today was going to be close to 60 degrees, Hubby Tony and I knew we wanted to do something outside. He reminded me about the Groupon for Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site I had bought some time back that needed to be used. Just like that we had our day planned.

Cahokia Mounds is just east of St. Louis on the other side of the Mississippi River in Illinois, and is where the largest prehistoric Native American city north of Mexico once stood.  The 2,200 acre area is now a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that preserves the central portion of the city and about half of its mounds.

Our Groupon included audio tours, so Tony exchanged his driver's license for two iPod Touches and we set off.  We completed two of the tours, but ran out of energy after we walked up the 154 steps to the top of Monk's Mound (the largest Pre-Columbian earthwork in the Americas) and decided to come home.

Monk's Mound--Wikipedia
Five years ago today: Illuminate Me

Thursday, November 27, 2014

If You Open It They Will Come

Our Thanksgiving dinner gathering was smaller than usual this year, and by 6:30 everyone was gone.  Hubby Tony put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and I threw the tablecloth and napkins in the washer.  Then we went into the family room and pulled out our laptops to check in with our respective virtual worlds.

It was way too early to write off the night, but I'd eaten so much it was hard to move.  Jokingly, I mentioned that the malls were open if we decided we wanted to walk.  Tony took that thought and ran with it.  Soon he had me convinced it was a good idea.  We decided which mall to go to, put on our coats, and got in the car.

I've proudly never frequented a store on Thanksgiving Day, so I was amazed by the number of cars in the mall parking lot.  I wound my way around up to the top level of the parking garage and parked close enough to the door that we could leave our coats in the car. When we got inside I saw that the majority of the stores were open and ready for business.  Mall walkers like Tony and me were definitely in the minority.  Most of the people were carrying bags, and  some looked like they'd already made a large dent in their Christmas shopping. 

It was hard to maneuver around some of the large groups of shoppers, but we managed to do two laps of the first floor and two of the second floor.  As we headed back to the car we agreed our walk was a nice way to end the evening. 

Five years ago today: Slow Cooker French Dip

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Time To Scale Back


In our family Thanksgiving dinner is all about tradition.  It hasn't changed much in decades, and we like it that way.  There will be turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  Green bean casserole with french fried onions on top, and yams with a marshmallow topping.  Jello salad with cranberry sauce, crushed pineapple, and nuts topped with a mixture of cream cheese, Dream Whip, and marshmallows. Rolls with real butter.  Pumpkin pie with whipped cream and some type of chocolate dessert.  And that's just for one meal!  Who knows what the rest of the weekend will bring.

This year Hubby Tony and I won't have any overnight company, so we have more control over what we do to take care of ourselves.  Tonight we'll have something healthy for dinner, then hit the gym to burn off some pre-Thanksgiving  calories. If time allows we'll fit in a nice brisk walk tomorrow.  I'm ready, but just in case I'm getting out my most comfortable pair of elastic waist pants.  It never hurts to be prepared.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dreams Of Hope

I think you might have to live under a rock not to be aware of what's going on in Ferguson Missouri and the greater the St. Louis metropolitan area right now. Last night the grand jury in the Michael Brown case decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot him. Before he announced the verdict, the County Prosecutor detailed the work of the grand jury, and revealed how there were inconsistencies between some witness testimony and the physical evidence. He offered condolences to Michael Brown's family, saying that “No young man should ever die."

His words of consolation didn't help.  Almost immediately after the verdict was read peaceful protests began.  So did trouble.  We've had civil disturbance and rioting in several areas.  I spent a good part of the morning getting caught up on all the events, but when I found myself getting anxious and overwhelmed I decided to declare a temporary personal moratorium on any radio station, TV station, or website that was discussing the events. 

In the middle of all the chaos I decided to go through the posts in my reader.  When I got to Christine's Blog I realized her message of hope was just what I needed to see, and asked if I could share it.


Five years ago today: Giving Thanks

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lending A Hand

This afternoon I made an Aldi run to get produce for the week and pick up a few extra items I need for for Thanksgiving.  While I was there I also had the opportunity to do my good deed for the day.

If you're not an Aldi shopper, a little explanation is in order.  The store is busy on Sunday.  There's always has at least one cashier working, but they don't open additional registers until the lines get long. When I was ready to check out today two stations were open, but one had five baskets past the end of the belt,  The other had one.  I knew they'd eventually call an additional cashier up, but in the meantime I chose the shorter of the two lines.  When I got there I figured out why it was so short. Other shoppers were avoiding that line because the elderly man ahead of me had an overflowing basket, the fullest I've ever seen.

However, when I took a second look I realized the basket was filled with flats of canned vegetables (which the cashier would be able to ring up en masse) and bags of potatoes (which she could count and multiply by the quantity).  The man should get through the line pretty quickly.

While we were waiting for our turn we struck up a conversation.  The man explained he'd come in to get a couple of things for himself, but when he saw that the bagged potatoes were on sale he decided to get some for a local food bank.  Then, since he'd be going there anyway he decided to add the canned goods too.

When it came time for him to put his food on the belt I noticed he was having trouble lifting the vegetable flats from the cart.  I told him I was at a better angle and I'd help him.  He handed me the flats, and I put them on the belt.  (I'd like to say that my motives were completely pure.  However, I also figured that getting his things up quickly would mean it would be my turn faster.)

The cashier saw the man putting all the bags of potatoes on the belt, and told him to just leave them in his basket.  As I suspected, she made quick work of his large quantities of the same items.  After the man paid for his purchase, she turned to my things on the belt.  When she started to put my lettuce in the man's basket I realized she didn't know we weren't together.

Five years ago today: Hooray For Me!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Feeling Of Foreboding

I’ve been feeling a little apprehensive the past few days.

Every time I read the newspaper, turn on the radio, or watch TV, I'm confronted with the all turmoil related to the incidents in Ferguson, Missouri. Since August 9th when Michael Brown was fatally shot the area has been on edge. The original surge of violence and rioting died down after a few weeks, but there have been sporadic outbursts, mainly in Ferguson and Clayton (the county seat).

The grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case since late August. When they started, the county prosecutor opined they’d reach a decision by the end of November. An announcement was widely expected this weekend, but the group's still deliberating. The longer the deliberation goes on, the tenser things become.

Protesters have released a long list of possible places they’ll show up to demonstrate if the grand jury decides not to bring charges against the police officer, including government offices, businesses, cultural institutions, and malls. Stores in the Ferguson area are boarding up their stores in anticipation of more rioting. Earlier this week the Governor declared a state of emergency, which authorizes the National Guard to be deployed if necessary. One school district in the area announced they wouldn’t hold classes on Monday or Tuesday (it was already scheduled to close for Thanksgiving starting Wednesday.)

Everyone has an opinion, and all of the entities say they’re taking action ‘just in case’. I think they’re acting out of fear. Basing your actions on fear becomes self-fulfilling; if you think something bad is going to happen, it probably will. I don’t live close to Ferguson, so I don’t pretend to know what the people in that area are feeling. However, most of the people who are spouting (or posting right-wing or left-wing opinions to my Facebook page) don’t either. All they’re doing are fanning the fear, and the flames.

If you feel so inclined, would you please send some prayers or positive thoughts this way? We could use them.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Making A Plan

Hubby Tony and I are a long way from retirement, but some people we know have made the leap, and it's a popular discussion topic among our friends.

Right now we're both healthy, and expect to be around for a long time.  Based on a cool Life Expectancy Calculator Tony could easily live another 25 years, and I could have another 30.  That would give us a lot of years of freedom after we've stopped working.  I'm optimistic that we'll be able to tap into Social Security, but I've heard you should also have scarily large amounts of money put aside to supplement it.  We want to make sure we're covering all the bases, so today we had an exploratory appointment with a financial adviser to find out what advice her firm could offer us.

The adviser had given us a detailed questionnaire to fill out and bring with us.  Tony did most of the work, but he asked me for my opinion on some of the non-factual ones, like when I actually wanted to retire, and how much we wanted to budget for yearly travel.  Today the adviser went through the questionnaire with us and asked a lot of questions, filling up several sheets of a yellow legal pad with notes.  We also talked briefly about things like the pros and cons of long-term care insurance.

In a couple of weeks we'll get a written report from her and then figure out what direction to go in.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Just A Little Is Enough

Am I the only one who didn't know about Starbuck's secret menu?

A while back a friend told me about all sorts of drinks you can order that aren't shown on the official coffee shop menu.  For the most part they're crazy combinations of flavored syrups and toppings that I'm not interested in.  What perked my ears up, though, was the secret "short" drink size.  On the posted menu coffee comes in 'Tall' (12 ounce), 'Grande' (16 ounce) and 'Venti' (24 ounce) sizes .  If you ask, though, you can get a 'Short' cup (which is only 8 ounces).

Yesterday I was out running errands when I decided I needed a pick-me-up.  It was relatively late in the day, though, so I didn't want to load my body up with caffeine.  I decided to see if I could put my new found knowledge to the test and went into a nearby Starbucks.  When I got up to the top of the line I asked for a Short coffee.  The barista didn't blink; he just asked if I'd like room for cream.

And my smaller cup was just enough.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I'm Afraid It's Going To Be A Long Winter

Snow on deck

Yesterday we got a couple of inches of fluffy snow, which is pretty unusual for November in this area. A "normal" high temperature here for this time of year is about 55°. Today if we're lucky it might hit the mid-20s, but a brisk breeze will make it feel colder. The record low is 14°. We might break that tonight.

I'M NOT READY!!!!!

Five years ago today: Speak!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Scrub-A-Dub-Dub

All of a sudden it feels like winter here.  The temperature is dropping, and we had our first snow today (fluffy flakes that stuck to the grass and trees but not the street).  Since the cold weather's hit I've been having a problem keeping my hands hydrated.  I've tried all of the hand lotions and creams I have in the house, but nothing's worked more than a couple of minutes. Yesterday when I was folding laundry, my fingers felt annoyingly rough against anything made out of polyester.  It was time to take action!

This afternoon I exfoliated the dry skin off my hands and moisturized them at the same time with a homemade almond hand scrub.  It was easy to make, and made my skin feel great. The steps:
  • Grind up a couple of almonds in a spice mill until they're the consistency of coarse meal.  
  • Pour in a drizzle of olive oil.  
  • Mix everything together. 
  •  Massage it into your hands and let it set for several minutes.  
  • Rinse it off with warm water.
  • Enjoy the softness
Since I've treated my hands I've washed them multiple times and they still feel soft.  The natural ingredients are working much better than anything else I've used. Thanks goodness for smooth hands!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Party Time!

Once a month an organization that Hubby Tony belongs to hosts a party for adults 18 and older with developmental disabilities.  Tony and I volunteer when we get a chance.  Tonight was one of them.

For a small admission charge party goers are treated to a DJ and snacks.  Sometimes there are attendance prizes or a special guest  (like Santa, who will make an appearance next month), but I think most of the attendees come just to hang out with their friends.  There are people there in their late teens, some in their late 50s, and many others in between.  Tonight it looked like there were between 180 and 200 people.

Tony and I worked at the soda table for the first shift. The 'bar' opened at 7:15. Fifteen minutes before that people started looking for drinks. By the time we set out the first cans there was a group milling around in front of the table.  During the shift we had to work hard to keep a good variety of soda out, but not so hard that I couldn't bop around to the music as I was working.

The DJ played a nice variety. There were new songs ("Best Day of My Life"), standards ("YMCA"), and slow songs (“Once In A Lifetime”). Half of the people danced, but the rest preferred to sit at a table with their friends, or grab a seat along the wall by the dance floor.  After I finished my shift I had to go to the bathroom, which was at the far end of the room.  I had to weave my way through the throngs of dancers.  They all looked like they were having a lot of fun.


Five years ago today: I'll Have Mine With Milk And Sugar

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Your Garage Could Look Like This

When's the last time you thought about your garage door?

Ours is metal, has raised panels, and is painted the same color as the house. It doesn't have windows or any type of decorative features. Serviceable, but boring.  What if this is what you saw when you pulled into your driveway?


No, it's not a fancy car that will make your neighbors wonder if you've won the lottery or you're going through a mid-life crisis.  It's a 3-D vinyl cover for your garage door from a German company called style-your-garage.com.   They have dozens of styles or their website; you can choose from vehicles (including classic cars), aircraft, landscapes, animals, rooms, gates, and holiday versions. 

Realistically, I don't think I'll be getting one of these any time soon.  Unless they make one that shows a perfectly clean garage interior.  Then I could look at it when I rounded the corner instead of the cluttered mess that's really my garage.

Five years ago today: Hard Copy

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Errands And Evaluations

It's been almost a month since I stopped working for a paycheck. That doesn't mean I've been sitting around the house doing nothing, though.  Today was a good example.  I was scheduled to evaluate three places--two different branches of a women's clothes store, and then a quick-service restaurant franchise.  Shortly before 10:00 I left the house to drive east to the first stop, which was inside a mall.

When I got to the mall they had part of the parking lot blocked off because of a water main break, but I managed to find an alternate entrance and wind my way up to the second floor where the store was.  It took me 19 minutes and 32 seconds (it's very important to be detail oriented) to try on some clothes and see how well the salespeople measure up to the Corporate standards.  When I was done I wound my way back to the car and continued to the east.

The second store is outside in a plaza setting.  It doesn't have a parking lot, so I had to drive around the block once looking for a parking space.  Fortunately, right after I turned back onto the street there was a spot right in front of the store.  After feeding the meter I went inside and repeated the evaluation process.  I'm happy to report both stores did well.

Instead of going directly to the next stop I decided to make a slight detour, and went exactly one and one-half miles out of my way to shop at the Habitat for Humanity store.  I was looking for a nice piece of wood or decorative molding for an upcoming project. After digging through random pieces of millwork, I hit the jackpot!  I found a section of 4" wide base molding for only $2.  It would have cost ten times more than that at the hardware store.

After wedging the piece of wood into my car I retraced my steps, then kept going until I got to the restaurant.  It was located on the fringes of an urban area, and once again I had to pay to park.  At this stop I got to order lunch (for which I would be reimbursed) and check to make sure the staff jumped through all the hoops they were supposed to.  For the most part they did.

Belly full, I headed towards home, making stops at the bank, grocery, and drug store.  By time I got home today's To-Do list had been completed.  All I had to do is write a report on each store.  And start on tomorrow's To-Do list.

Five years ago today: You Never Know Where You're Going To Learn Something New

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Change In The Weather

What a difference a day makes!

Yesterday it was warm and sunny.  Hubby Tony took a vacation day, and we took advantage of the nice weather to picnic and walk through the collection at Laumeier Sculpture Park. I started off wearing a jacket, but soon ditched that and was comfortable with just a lightweight long sleeved shirt.


Today is completely different.  Like much of the country we had a cold snap come through overnight. This afternoon when I left the house I was wearing my heavy winter coat and could have used a hat to protect my ears from the brisk wind.




Five years ago today: For Those Who Served

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Signs Of The Season

Butternut squash ready to cook and pomegranate seeds ready to eat.



A stack of flannel sheets to go on the beds.



Yellow leaves on the maple tree in the back yard.



Jackson the Cat curled up in one of this favorite places next to the front door (where he has a good view of everything going on and can enjoy the heat coming up from the vent right underneath the table)


Five years ago today: Disappearing Act

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Finished Product

I can't believe I haven't show you pictures of our finished master bathroom!  Thanks for your patience.

Of course you've read about the room's shower, bathtub, and accessories.  When it came time to take of photo the complete room, though, it was hard to get a decent shot without glare from the windows (or reflections from the lights).  I tried on multiple days, but in the end I decided to go with the best of what I had.

Here's a view from the doorway.  Shower and toilet on the left, tub straight ahead, and vanity on the right. Still looking for a few more accessories, but they'll come when they come.


A better view of the sink side, showing the mirrors and light fixtures (and cat bowls).  The vanity is higher than the old one, and has way more storage.  The vanity is made from cultured marble with integrated sinks, but the contrasting color of the bowls makes them look like they're separate.  One of the two old sinks was cracked; we were told that was caused by hot water usage (i.e., what Hubby Tony does every morning when he shaves).   The new one should last for as long as we're in the house.


Five years ago today: It Can't Hurt

Thursday, November 6, 2014

No Tracking Allowed


A couple of weeks ago I was doing a Google search for bathroom accessories. The next day I started getting sidebar ads for the items on my Facebook page, and Amazon sent me emails about soap dishes and waste cans. I thought that was really creepy!  I mentioned my annoyance to Son Donald, who told me he'd switched search engines and now used one called DuckDuckGo. He recommended I try it.

I'd never heard of Duck Duck Go before, but I did a little research. I found out it's been around since 2008.  Their tagline is The search engine that doesn't track you. According to the company's privacy policy, it doesn't collect or share personally identifiable information of its users.  I liked that idea, so I gave it a trial run and after a few days I made a permanent switch.

The only disadvantages to the new search engine I've found so far are minor. Duck Duck Go's images aren't as robust as Google's, and their maps aren't quite as easy to use.  Those two things are a small price to pay for freedom from tracking.

Five years ago today: Non-Corporate

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Punnies

Some days you just need a little laugh...

  • I changed my iPod's name to Titanic. It's syncing now.
  • When chemists die, they barium.
  • Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
  • I know a guy who's addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop any time.
  • How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.
  • I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.
  • This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore.
  • I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can't put it down.
  • I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.
  • They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a Type-O.
  • PMS jokes aren't funny; period.
  • Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.
  • We are going on a class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there's no pop quiz.
  • I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
  • Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?

Five years ago today: Forecaster-In-Chief

Monday, November 3, 2014

All Choked Up

When I was a newlywed I was a very adventurous cook. I had subscriptions to Bon App├ętit and Food & Wine magazines, and read them cover to cover.   I made quite a few of the fancy recipes--main dishes, side dishes, and desserts. 

Fast forward to today.   My recipe ingredients are simple and I don't bother spending a lot of time on elaborate preparations.   However, when I saw a nearby store had fresh artichokes on sale I couldn't resist.  For the first time in about 30 years we had whole steamed artichokes for dinner

I used the cooking directions from Better Homes and Gardens.  The steps:

  • Wash
  • Slice off the stem ends
  • Remove outer leaves
  • Remove the tops
  • Trim leaf tips
  • Boil or steam
  • Eat!
While the artichokes were cooking I made a dipping sauce with butter, water, garlic, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard.  When the artichokes were done I put each one on a plate along with the rest of the food, and set a large bowl in the middle of the table to hold the discarded leaves. 

There were three of us for dinner.  Hubby Tony and I showed Son Donald (who had never had an artichoke) how to break off one leaf at a time, dip it into the sauce, then draw the base of the leaf through his teeth to remove the tender portion.  After he got down to the base, he figured out how to scrape off the inedible prickly "choke" and expose the heart.

When we were done there was a large pile of discarded leaves in the bowl, and not much else.  I know I enjoyed mine, and I'm pretty sure everyone else did, too.

Five years ago today: Blowout

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Tale Of Two Routes

If you live in Missouri and someone says they're going to "the Lake", more than likely they're talking about Lake Of The Ozarks. The central Missouri lake was built in the 1920s to provide hydroelectric power, but over the years it has also become a popular tourist destination.  This weekend I attended a  meeting at a convention hotel in the area.

I've been going to these meetings for the past three years. Every other time I had someone to carpool with, but even though I put out several feelers, this time no one wanted to leave at the same time I did.  At first I was disappointed that I'd be making the three hour journey by myself, but I decided to make the best of it.  On my way there Friday I detoured a few miles out of the way to meet a friend for lunch, and on the way back today I treated myself to an adventure.

There are two ways to get to the Lake.  You can head west on Interstate 70 and then southwest on a state highway, or go southwest on Interstate 44 and wind your way over and up on state roads.  For some reason I've always taken the first route.  This morning I decided to change things up and go the other way.

I didn't have to consult with anyone else to see if that suited them;  I just headed the opposite way out of the hotel parking lot.  Even though I was unfamiliar with the turns I had to make, everything was clearly marked and I made it to the Interstate without any problems.  Unlike 70, which is flat and lined with farm fields (mainly corn and soybeans), 44 has a lot of tree-lined rolling hills and many of the fields are planted in grapes.

It was a great day to be on the road.  The sun was out and only an occasional puffy cloud floated across the sky. Along the way I channel surfed radio stations, changing every time a commercial or a song I didn't like came on.  I stopped for breaks and food when I wanted to and there was no one to second guess my decision.  The exits came and went until I entered St. Louis County and knew I was almost home.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sadly, It's True

Today I was at a meeting at a hotel conference center.  When I walked outside during a break I heard "I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas..." coming out of the speakers.

I couldn't get away from the area fast enough!


Five years ago today: A Celebration Of Those Who Have Gone Before Us