Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter Mass And More

I've only been in a different city for Easter twice.  This year was one of them.

Because Son Tony knows the Phoenix area much better than Hubby Tony and I do, we asked for his suggestions for a church.  He was busy on a series of business trips, so he punted the job back to us, saying it would be nice for him to visit a new church, too. Hubby Tony took charge of the project, and after several back and forth emails we decided on St. Francis Xavier, about 30 miles from his house.

Church decorated for Easter

After Mass we headed for a non-traditional Easter lunch at a nearby Mexican restaurant, then came back to Tony's house to relax. After an hour or so of watching TV, though, Tony's friend Ie threw out the idea of going to the Bruce Munro: Sonoran Light exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden. After a little discussion we decided to make that our plans for the night.

We got to the garden early enough to walk through some of the displays while it was still light out.  There were more varieties of cactus and other desert plants than I've ever seen! As the daylight faded the walkways got very crowded.  Many others had the same idea we did.  The exhibition had eight light-based installations and more fiber optics strands than I'd ever seen. The highlight was called Field of Light, which had 30,000 lit spheres cascading down a hill.

After we'd seen all the installations we left the garden and headed for a nanobrewery (which produces beer in even smaller batches than a microbrewery).  Although they had an interesting-sounding list of brews on tap, I was there for the food, which Son Tony said was very good. I can vouch that it was.  The Salmon BLT came on a fresh wheat bun and had thick pieces of applewood smoked bacon and a house-made aioli.

My body kept telling me it was still on Central Daylight Time and it wanted to go to bed.  I wasn't the only one tired after a long day, so we piled in the car and headed back to Son Tony's.  More adventure awaited the next day!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Our Bags Were Packed...

We were ready to go!

Last Saturday night Hubby Tony and I got on a plane to visit Son Tony in Phoenix, Arizona.  We'd been planning the trip for more than a month, but when I saw this horoscope in the Saturday morning paper I knew it was meant to be: 


It wasn't until we got home and I shared photos with Son Donald that he pointed out that the top four initials on the right spelled out his brother's name.  Crazy!

On the way to the airport we stopped at the grocery store and got enough cheese, bread, and deli turkey for two people to eat on the plane.  I put it all in my duffle bag and didn't think anything more about it until the bag got flagged by the machine going though security.  That triggered a manual check and bag swabbing by a TSA agent. When she opened the bag and saw the contents she chuckled, did her job, and sent me on my way with our 'suspicious' dinner.

Five years ago today: Play Ball!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Knuckle Down

In doing research on the benefits of my new lemongrass essential oil  I learned it could be good for  
sore joints or muscles, so yesterday when I developed a weird ache on my right knuckles I decided to give it a try.  Right before I went to bed I massaged a drop of the oil on the achy area, then settled in for the night.  Sadly, the ache wasn't completely gone this morning (although I think it was a little less intense), so I can't call my experiment completely successful.
 
Although the oil didn't do much to take away the ache, I did noticed two things:
  • When I'm falling asleep I curl up with my hand next to my face. The lemon-y scent was too stimulating for bedtime.
  • The cats did NOT like the smell!  Which gave me an idea...
Each year I overwinter a philodendron plant on the window seat in the kitchen. The cats like to eat on the leaves, and by the time spring comes the plant looks pretty raggedy. When I brought the plant in for the season I placed the pot inside a large clear produce bag to protect the leaves. It kept the cats out but didn't look great.

This morning I added a couple of drops of the oil to a cotton ball and nestled it among the leaves.  Bet they'll stay away now.

Five years ago today: Yikes!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Cake Pan Purging

My plans to meet with a friend today got cancelled when she was called into work.  That left me with NO commitments for the entire day!  When my alarm went off this morning I was tempted to turn it off and go back to sleep, but instead I got up and got dressed for a trip to the gym.  Today I did a Zumba class, then drove home via the scenic route.  After a long shower and a hot lunch it was time to figure out the rest of the day.

I haven't worked on the basement decluttering project for a couple of weeks (I've been using my free time to do things in the yard and garden instead), so I decided to go downstairs and clean.  When I started the decluttering project in January I was attached to each and every thing in the room, and never thought I'd be able to get rid of anything.  However, each time I start a new session I'm able to let go of something else.  Today it was my collection of cake pans, which I started gathering in the late 1980s after I took a basic decorating class.  For several years I was the family's go-to for fancy cakes, but then the kids got older and I decided to stop.  The pans had been boxed up (actually in two large boxes) on a shelf ever since.

I opened the first box and discovered some of the pans had patches of mildew, so I carried them all upstairs for a good washing.  When I was done the counter top was completely covered.  There was a fancy Bundt pan, two sizes of round pans, three types of hexagons, miniature Easter egg and heart shaped muffin tins, and six shaped pans (Christmas tree, heart, stand-up lamb, dinosaur, rocking horse, and cross).  I boxed up the clean pans for the next thrift shop donation trip. 

Without the boxes of pans there was a large empty space of the shelf, so I rearranged items enough to make room to slide the wet vac and wheelbarrow on the floor underneath.  The room is looking cleaner and cleaner.

Five years ago today: How I Spent My Spring Break (Part 2--Flexibility)

Monday, March 21, 2016

That's A Winner

Two weeks ago I entered a contest over at Fluid Pudding had a contest. I usually have horrible luck when I enter things, so I was surprised when Angela emailed me and said I had won a bottle of Better Essentials Lemongrass Essential Oil.

The package came today:


So, now that I had the bottle of oil I had to figure out what to do with it. I turned to the the Better Essentials website, which told me that in addition to smelling good, lemongrass oil has a bunch of therapeutic properties. It is an analgesic, has antibacterial, antidepressant, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, astringent, and deodorant properties, and is an insect repellent.  Sounds like a miracle product.  I'm really looking forward to using it.

Five years ago today: How I Spent My Spring Break (Part 1--The Beginning)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

It's The First Day Of Spring. Really!

Last week we had weather nice enough to turn off the furnace and open up the windows.  Then the temperatures fell back to normal and we closed the house up again.  Today the calendar said it was the first day of spring, but winter didn't get the memo.  This morning the sky was filled with large snowflakes.  They melted as soon as they hit the street and sidewalk, but the grass and deck got covered with a light layer of white stuff. 


The snow didn't last long; at lunchtime the temperature was above freezing and by mid-afternoon it was in the mid-40s.  Winter isn't ready to leave yet, though.  There's a freeze warning for tonight, which means bad news for the blooming trees and plants.

Five years ago today: My Bags Are Packed...

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Take A Book, Leave A Book

About 2 years ago a free lending library popped up in front of a house in the next subdivision. The aqua green box is attached to a sturdy wooden pole and has a sign that reads “Take a book, leave a book”.

Most of the time I go by it it I'm in my car, but if I happen to be walking I'll stop and take a look to see what'sin  there.  At first the library contained mainly children's books, but over the months it's morphed into a collection that's a little bit of everything. There are fiction and non-fiction books for adults, teens, and children.  Paperback books predominate, but there are usually a couple of hard covers too.  Although the library has a wide variety available,  I've never found anything that was worth carrying home.  Until today.

This afternoon after I fed the cats I decided to get out and get some steps in.  I meandered up and down streets and eventually ended up at the mini library, then walked over and opened up the glass front to take a good look at what was inside. There were so many books they were double stacked on the shelf.  After digging thought the selection  I found a young adult book about the presidential election process.  Considering that we're in the middle of an election cycle I thought it would be an interesting read, so I tucked the book under my arm as I walked away.

Of course, by taking a book I was also committing to adding one of my own.  Tomorrow I'll choose one out of my collection and walk it over.  Gotta keep the cycle going.

Five years ago today: Bag It

Friday, March 18, 2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Wonders Of Wi-Fi

A couple of weeks ago I received an email that contained a restaurant coupon good for two dollars off an online order.  I left the message in my Inbox, where it promptly got buried and forgotten.  On Monday I got a reminder that the coupon was about to expire.

Last night when I was planning my route for today I decided to take advantage of the offer.  I pulled up the restaurant website and figured out what the most convenient location would be.  Their system allows you to order food hours in advance (you just have to tell the restaurant when you want it to be ready) so in theory I could have arranged for my lunch before I'd even had my breakfast.  I wasn't sure exactly how long my errands would take, though, so I didn't want to commit to a time.  Instead, I came up with an alternate plan.

This morning I got done with my last task about 11:00 and drove to the restaurant.  I pulled into the lot and picked a parking space close enough to hook into their wi-fi network, where I placed my order from the comfort of my car. I asked for it to be ready as quickly as possible, which they said would be ten minutes.  After I received confirmation that my order was being prepared I walked across the parking lot to the bank and cashed a check then went back to the restaurant, used the bathroom, and my food was ready to pick up.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sun Up, Sun Down

Around here Daylight Saving Time began yesterday at 2 a.m. When Hubby Tony and I went to bed on Saturday night I reset the clock on my side of the bed, but couldn't remember how to do the one on his side.  It was disconcerting when I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't remember why there was a difference in the times.  However, the time change positive was that the cats slept in and didn't demand their breakfast as early as usual. 

The first day of Daylight Savings Time always feels strange to me. Yesterday the afternoon felt 'off', with the normal Sunday activities done in more intense sunlight than what I've been used to.  Sunset came a little after 7:00, but the last light didn't disappear until a little after 7:30  We were able to ete dinner by natural light, and after dinner Hubby Tony and I took a walk.  Instead of the semi-darkness we would have had just a day before, this time it was nice and bright.

The downside of Daylight Savings Time is that this morning the sun didn't come up until an hour later. When my alarm went off at 6:30 it was still so dark I had to turn on a light to pick out my clothes (which I haven't had to do lately). It will be a couple of weeks until the day lengthens enough to counteract the time change.

Friday, March 11, 2016

One And Done

Do you remember last Saturday night, when I got to get all dressed up for a special event and banquet?  When I got home that night it was late, so I tossed my dirty dress in a corner of my closet and said I'd get around to laundering it later. 'Later' turned out to be Monday morning.

The cute new dress was red polyester patterned with black flocking.  The instructions on the label said to turn it inside out, hand wash it in cold water, and lay it flat to dry, so I put detergent and water in a bucket, added the dress, and started agitating with my hands.  At first the water turned slightly red, but after ten seconds it got blacker and blacker.  I finished washing the dress and dumped the soapy water out into the bathtub, then filled the bucket again to rinse the dress out.  When the wash water finished running down the drain it left a hazy black residue on the bottom of the tub.  I rinsed out the dress and dumped the water again.   This time even more residue was left behind.

Several hours later, after the dress had dried, I figured out that the residue was the flocking, which had come off of much of the fabric.  Thank goodness I still had the receipt, which allowed me to return the damaged dress to the store and get my money back.  I was really sad to see it go!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Mapquest Maximized

Today I had three locations to visit for work. Last night I plugged the addresses into Mapquest to figure out exactly where they were located,  I thought I knew what the best itinerary would be, but just before I hit the button to get the directions I saw a new-to-me toggle button that said:
"Should we re-order your stops to get the most optimized route?"

Out of curiosity I decided to turn the button on and see what happened. It turns out that Mapquest was smarter than me when it came to  driving efficiency. Their way was eight miles shorter than mine. In addition to being shorter, their optimized route was designed such that most of the turns I made were to the right (and all but one of the left turns happened at a stop light with an arrow).  That saved me a lot of time sitting in the left lane waiting for a break in traffic so I could turn.

I left the house at 9 in the morning, did my tasks, and was back home by noon.  I think this will not be the last time I take advantage of this feature.

Five years ago today: Purr-forming

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

No, Thank You. I'm Not Interested. Really!

Today my work and errands took me to another part of town.  While I was there I decided to go to a class at a different branch of my gym.  At the gym I swiped my card at the front desk, then walked over to the group exercise room area to wait for the previous class to end.  There were two other people standing by the door.  One of them (a middle aged woman) asked my name, offered her hand, and introduced herself.

After some chit chat about what I could expect in the class she asked what kind of work I did or if I was retired.  Then she inquired if I'd heard of the company she worked for, which sold a greens supplement product that offered a day's worth of fruits and vegetables in a convenient powdered form.  I said I hadn't.   At this point the other class was over and we started to go into the room,

While we were walking I told her I agreed that people needed to get a lot of nutrients each day, but I preferred to eat the real thing. She countered by telling me her product was good for those days when they were inconvenient to prepare.

We claimed spaces in the fitness room.  Because I didn't want anyone to watch me in the unfamiliar class I chose the back corner over to the right .  The woman stopped in the center of the room, but then walked over to me to continue the conversation.  Even though I'd tried to indicate I wasn't interested in her product,  she continued, asking if I'd like a sample or one of her business cards. I declined both.  Fortunately, at that point the class started.

After the class was over I went into the bathroom, then got ready to leave.  The woman was standing outside the building talking to someone else, and I didn't break my stride as I said goodbye.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Fish Heads And Potato Scraps

The business section of last weekend's newspaper had an interesting article with the catchy title of Save money with fish heads and potato scraps, which was about shopping and cooking so as to not waste food

I learned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a family of four throws out roughly $1,500 worth of food each year.  I guess our family is helping to keep that average down, because I think I do a great job of using up the food I buy. Any savory food scraps and peelings I have go into a bag to make broth.  Fruit remains go into the compost pile, as does the occasional piece of rotten produce from larger bags or packages. However, I figure I can always learn how to do even better, so I was interested in some practical tips (and a few that I thought were offbeat) that came from chefs and restaurant owners:
  • Fish heads: You can debone the head and make lettuce wraps with the meat.  (I don't think I've ever bought a whole fish, but this is good to know)
  • Carrot tops: If you mix them with leafy tops from other root vegetables, carrot tops can make the foundation of a pesto.
  • Potato scraps: Are good for making potato pancakes.
  • Kale stems: Can be turned into kale fries.
  • Citrus juice: Makes a good kitchen cleaner, because it's biodegradable, nontoxic, and a good degreaser.
  • Bones: Use to make soup.
  • Plant scraps:  Instead of throwing them into the broth bag, if you chop them they can become a veggie burger.. Or, if you have some wildflowers or leftover herb cuttings from your garden, you can add them to a jar of honey to flavor it.
  • Protein trimmings: Extra meat trimmings can go into enchiladas, tacos or on top of homemade pizzas.
Five years ago today: Too Much!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Granola

I woke up this morning with a taste for yogurt mixed with homemade granola.  However, there was no granola in the pantry and I had to settle for something else. So that I wouldn't have to disappoint myself again tomorrow, I added making granola to my list of activities for the day. Before I could get around to the job, though, I learned that today was National Cereal Day.  There are no coincidences--now I had to do the job!

I've been using the same basic granola recipe for years.  Like most of my go-tos, this one is open to a lot of improvising.   The basics are old-fashioned oats, wheat germ or flax seed, a dry and a liquid sweetener, an oil, and water. Then you add extra ingredients (think dried fruits, nuts, coconut, chocolate chips) to make it yours. This dish does have a lengthy baking time, so I always double the recipe.  It keeps for up to two weeks in an airtight container, although it never lasts that long around here.

The granola is still soft when it comes out of the oven, but it crisps up as it cools.  Tonight I didn't wait for that to happen.  Instead, I scooped some of the fresh-from-the-oven goodness immediately into a bowl.


Simple Granola
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats (Do NOT use quick oats!  You won't like the result.)
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ or ground flax seed
  • 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar (Or light.  The recipe isn't picky)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup extra ingredients (I usually use a cup of raisins and a cup of dried cranberries because we always have them in the house and there's no cutting involved)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I've also used honey or molasses with equally good results)
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 Tb. water (If you want bigger granola clusters, increase the water and squeeze the cereal to form clumps before you put it in the oven.)
  • Flavoring, if desired (Most times I add a shake of cinnamon, and sometimes ginger.  Citrus zest and/or an extract work well, too.)
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Mix oats, wheat germ or flax seed, brown sugar, salt and extra ingredients (except dried fruit) in a bowl. Measure syrup, oil, water and any desired flavoring into a small saucepan and heat over low heat until it simmers.  (Alternatively, you can add the ingredients to a 2-cup measuring cup and heat 60 to 90 seconds in the microwave.). Mix well, pour over oat mixture, and stir to combine. Pour mixture onto prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Stir in dried fruit. Continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

I Don't Know How Superman Did It!

A fraternal organization that Hubby Tony belongs to had a big ceremony yesterday, and he decided to take part in it.  The main event happened in the afternoon, followed by an evening banquet.  While the big activity was going on there was a meet-and-greet and luncheon for the spouses that I decided to attend.

The parts of the outfit
In the morning we went our separate ways. Tony carpooled with some other people in the organization and left a couple of hours before I did. Shortly before lunch I got in the car.  I was wearing nice business casual clothes, and had a satchel with me. There wasn't a posted dress code for the banquet, and I could have gotten by wearing the same thing all day, but I don't have the opportunity to get dressed up often enough.  This event provided a perfect opportunity.

A couple of weeks ago I found a red and black sleeveless sheath dress on the clearance rack at Kohls.  When I saw it I knew it would be perfect.  I already had black heels and a black wrap to cover my shoulders if the room got chilly.  At the cash register the dress rang up at an even higher discount that I expected, so I knew it was meant to be.

After my afternoon activities were over it was time to change. The only place I could find was the bathroom.  Thank goodness it wasn't busy in there.  I'm used to being able to spread out when I'm dressing, and it was difficult to maneuver around in the small stall.  Five minutes later I was done, though, and ready for the next part of the day.

Five years ago today:  Resume For Parents

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Launching

A little over two years ago I volunteered to do some behind the scenes work on an organization's website. My job of keeping a database current takes me somewhere between 15 and 45 minutes a month, and then I forward the files to someone else for uploading. We've been a good team. However, I found out a several weeks ago that the other person is moving away. She asked if I would be willing to take on both parts of the job until the end of the year. After some thought I said yes.

In the middle of all of this I found out that because the current website wasn't playing well with some older software we use a third member of the organization was developing a new site from the ground up. It's been fascinating to sit on the sidelines and watch things take shape. I've been able to add bits and pieces (mainly to 'pretty' the site up), and I've learned how to add information forwarded to me by other group members.

This weekend is the big changeover from the old site to the new one. I've already been advised that (with a lot of assistance) I'll be the one clicking the buttons to make it happen. I'm excited and apprehensive at the same time.


Five years ago today: Offer Without Obligation