Wednesday, June 29, 2016

(Not Too) Risky

Today I'm participating in the Six Words compilation over at Coach Daddy.  This month's prompt was:
"June is National Safety Month. Tell us about something you did decidedly unsafe – in six words. It could be from any time in your life. Think “Rode Big Wheel off garage roof,” or “Wore Georgia gear in Florida section.”
It was a hard prompt, because I'm not much of a physical risk taker. (You should go check out some of the other responses. Those people are real daredevils!)  However, Eli's invitation brought up a long-forgotten memory from my childhood. 

I was nine or ten, and had been gifted with a pair of Sears white high-top roller skates. The first thing I did after putting them on was skate over to the house of a friend who lived a couple of blocks away. It was hard work, because the street inclined up and her house was at the top.

My friend admired my skates, then put hers on and suggested we skate down the hill. Down sounded better than up, so I agreed. After a couple of round trips, she wondered out loud if it would be possible to do the same thing backwards.  Remember how I told you I wasn't a risk taker?  She was so confident that it wouldn't be hard to do that somehow she talked me into doing it first.

Going past the first house wasn't too bad, but then I started gathering speed. However, before things got out of control instinct kicked in and I started doing an exaggerated snowplow, spreading my legs out and pointing my heels together.  It took me the distance of another house to start slowing down, but I managed to come to a stop without losing face (or falling on it).

End of story.

Five years ago today: Ooh! Shiny!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Shred It

Over the past week Hubby Tony has been making a renewed effort to rid our office of unneeded papers.  I've been his right-hand woman on the project.

We've tackled portions of the job several times.  This round it was a pile of bank statements (from our current bank, and a smaller pile from a previous incarnation of the same bank) and investment company statements.  Altogether, there was about five years worth of papers taking up valuable space in a file cabinet drawer.  Starting with the bank statements, Tony divided the pile in half.  We scanned through each one to make sure there wasn't anything important on it, then it went into the shredding pile.

Our shredder works well, but slowly. It says it can handle six sheets at a time, but depending on the thickness of the paper you get better results if you only feed piles of two or three.  I set the machine on top of the kitchen island, with the pile of papers next to it.  It didn't take me long to get into a rhythm.   I took a break approximately every five minutes so the shredder didn't overheat.  When the shredder bin filled up I'd transfer the mess into a paper bag, packing the shreds down.  When it was packed to the brim I'd close it up, throw it in the recycling bin, and start a new bag.

After the bank statements, Tony tackled a backlog of statements from past 401(k) plans he participated in.  Some of these had colorful logos, graphs, or charts, which lent a little accent to the boring white shreds.  The last thing to go was a pile of checks, which added a large pop of color to the pile. 

Two days and three large bags of paper later the project is done.  Until the next time we decide to tackle it.

Five years ago today: My First Day

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Thundering

It's been very hot and dry around here this month, but tonight as Hubby Tony and I got in the car to go to church the sky darkened and the wind started to pick up; we agreed it would be wonderful if we got some much needed rain.  As we pulled into the parking lot it started looking more and more ominous, and as we entered the sanctuary a flash of lightening caused the electricity to flash off for a few seconds.

The Gospel reading for the week was Luke's account of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem. The deacon read the section about the group not being welcomed into a Samaritan village, and then James' and John's reaction to the event (they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?") As soon as the last word left his mouth there was a loud BOOM from a thunderclap.  The entire congregation broke up, and it took the priest quite some time to pull himself together. He was still chuckling as he started his homily.

(Sadly, the thunder was the highlight of the weather event.  We got a couple of sprinkles but the big rain never came.)

Five years ago today: I Am The Luckiest Person In The World

Thursday, June 23, 2016

In The Pink

All other things being equal, why not let the Internet tell you what to wear?

When I got home from the gym today I had an email from a jewelry store telling me that today was National Pink Day. Of course they wanted me to shop (and buy) their fancy (and expensive) pieces, but instead I just ran with the idea of wearing a pink shirt.


Five years ago today: Audio Walking

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summertime


Happy First Day of Summer 2016!

According to my phone weather app the sun rose at 5:06 am and will set at 8:29 pm (with the last light at 9:01 pm). The actual solstice (when the sun’s rays reached their northernmost position) occurred in my area at 5:34 p.m.   I was eating dinner, and I paused to raise my glass of ice water to the beginning of the new season. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Garage Door Woes

Friday night Hubby Tony and I had a night that didn't quite work out the way we thought it would.  Right after he got home from work he changed his clothes, grabbed a baseball cap and a water bottle, and we left the house. First we dropped his car off so he could have some service done the next day, then we walked a half mile down Manchester to Joey B's restaurant for dinner.  The restaurant is only about a mile and a half from the house, so after dinner we worked on getting our steps for the day by walking home.

During the walk we had a nice time catching up on what had gone on during the week, but the temperature was in mid-80s and by the time we turned onto our street I was hot and tired. My feet hurt and I was looking forward to a big bowl of frozen watermelon on the couch in front of the TV. As we walked up the driveway it occurred to me we'd been having some problems with the garage opener keypad and neither one of us had brought a house key. Sure enough, when I tried putting in the code nothing happened. Then Tony tried and got the same result.

We checked every door into the house. All were locked. Tony didn't like my suggestion to use a rock to break a window, so we had to come up with another plan.  I threw out that the keypad battery maybe needed to be replaced, so we walked to Walgreen's (adding another mile to our total).  Tony borrowed a screwdriver from a neighbor and we took the old battery out, installed the new one, and crossed our fingers as I punched in the code. Still nothing.

Son Donald had a house key, but he was at work for another four hours.  Our cat sitter has a key, so I called his cell phone. The call went to voice mail and I left a message. I called the cat sitter's mother at their house number and had to leave another message. By this point I was getting really grumpy. Just about the time I was ready to go break a window myself my cell phone rang. It was the cat sitter, saying his mom would be at the house with the key within 15 minutes.

While I waited I researched garage door keypads and figured out we might have a reprogramming issue.  The fix sounded easy--if you had access to the inside of the garage.  The cat sitter's mom was right on time, and both Tony and I thanked her profusely.  When I walked in the house the cats woke up from their nap and wanted to know if anything exciting had happened while we were gone.

The next morning it took us about 45 seconds to fix the keypad problem.  Even so, if I'm on foot it will be a while before I don't triple check to make sure I have a way to get back into the house before I leave.

Five years ago today: Dear Old Dad

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Same, But Different

Wednesday was Son Donald's birthday, but that night he had a commitment that wouldn't get him home until long after dinner.  I knew he'd be hungry when he arrived, so I asked him if he'd like me to fix something special that could be waiting for him to heat up.

I've lost track of how many years in a row he's requested Oven Fried Rice on his birthday, but I wasn't surprised when that's what he asked for this time.  However, we've been eating a lot of brown rice, so with his permission I changed things up and substituted barley.  I also added a bag of frozen edamame to give the dish a little more protein.

It wasn't bad, but the barley got a little dried out in the oven.  Next time I'll knock ten minutes off the baking time.


Five years ago today: Tea For Way More Than Two

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

It's The Monkees!



I turn up the radio every time I hear this song starting.  It's from The Monkees new album, Good Times!

Five years ago today: Evening Thought

Monday, June 13, 2016

Bang!

Last week I had the opportunity to cross an items off my bucket list.  I got to shoot a gun.

Several days before the big event, I made an appointment with an instructor at a nearby indoor shooting range.  When I arrived for the session John was waiting for me.  I signed a waiver while he picked a pistol from the rental selection and put it inside a soft sided case.  He added a box of ammunition to the case and asked me to follow him.

Before I could enter the range, John walked me through the fundamentals of safe handgun handling and shooting procedures. First I learned about the rules of gun safety:
  • Always assume a gun is loaded
  • Always keep the gun muzzle in a safe direction
  • Always keep your finger off the trigger until the gun sights are on the target
  • Always be sure of your target and what’s beyond it
Once he was sure I understood John introduced me to the Smith and Wesson M&P 22 semiautomatic compact I was going to use.  He demonstrated how to grip the gun (emphasizing the importance of keeping my thumbs out of the way of the gun recoiling slide), how to line up the front and rear sights with my dominant eye, and how to squeeze the trigger.  Next he showed me how to put the gun magazine in, take it back out, and put ammunition into the magazine. I learned how the ammunition feeds into the gun and where the brass comes out. 

After each section John asked if I had any questions, telling me that if I forgot anything when I was in the range area he'd be there to remind me. When he was sure I was ready he told me to choose my target from their selection. Many of the pages featured zombies or silhouette body torsos (which looked too much like a person to me), so I picked a sheet with six classic bulls-eyes.

It was time to enter the range area.  John said that my prescription glasses were adequate eye protection, but we both donned electronic ear muffs (so we could hear each other talk).  The range was behind two layers of doors.  When I entered the large room there was a faint smell of burnt powder. John set me up in a shooting lane, attaching my target to a hanger and moving it back seven yards.  Even through the gun magazine could hold ten bullets, he told me to start with five.  My hands were a little shaky as I loaded the bullets in the magazine and put the magazine in the gun.  Then John told me to go ahead and fire.

Not too bad for the first day
For a millisecond I wondered just what I thought I was doing, then excitement kicked in.  I did my best to hold the gun the way I had been shown, lined up the sights, took a deep breath, and slowly pulled the trigger.  There was a "bang", the gun recoiled against my hands, and then I could see a hole on the paper.  I did it! 

Two out of my first five rounds hit the target area.  Based on my results, John gave me some pointers and I'm happy to say that the second time all five hit the target!  I got better each time. By the  fourth round John had me putting all ten bullets into the magazine, and by the time my box of 50 shells was gone I even had two bulls-eyes.

When all the ammo had been used John showed me how to clean up the spent shells and where to dispose of them.  Before we left the range area he asked if I wanted to take the target home as a souvenir.

Of COURSE I did.

Five years ago today: Your Presence Is Requested

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Every. Stinking. Time

Today I was wearing my t-shirt from last August's Moonlight Ramble.


During the day it's easy for me to forget that all of the white portions of the circular logo glow in the dark.  However, when it gets dark every time I walk into an unlit room the phosphorescence still startles me. Wouldn't you think I'd be able to remember?

Five years ago today: You'll Never View Vacuuming The Same Way Again

Saturday, June 11, 2016

I've Got The Blues

Today was Hubby Tony's birthday, so he got to choose  the day's activities.  After a lot of  deliberation, he told me he wanted to go the National Blues Museum, which just opened a couple of months ago.

The museum is located in downtown St. Louis, not too far from the convention center.  We arrived about 12:30.  There was a concert going on  (which was included in the price of our admission), but when the volunteer working outside the room said the band would be taking a break soon we decided to explore the museum first.

The National Blues Museum showcases the history and influence of blues music in America.  According to the museum's website:
"Few forms of American music can claim a history as long, as tradition-rich, and as complex as the Blues. Since its origins in the Deep South long ago, the Blues has been a bedrock for virtually all American popular music of the last hundred-plus years."
The exhibits were in roughly chronological order, but there were also sections organized by geography and genre.  They showed how the blues could be tied into just about every genre of music-- jazz, folk, rock and roll, pop, country, and rap.  The walls were filled with explanations of periods, events, and  people, and large display cases held artifacts.  There were also several interactive exhibits.  My favorites (multiple stations scattered throughout the displays) allowed you to make pieces of music, then compile them into a song in a studio and email it to yourself.  When I got home my album (including the title and blues name I gave myself) was waiting in my inbox.

My "legendary" album.  It would never win an award, but was fun to do.
In between looking at the displays and listening to the concert we spent 2 1/2 hours at the museum. When the band finished up we decided it was time to leave.  However, this won't be our last visit; we had so much fun we decided to purchase a membership, which means we can get free admission for the next year.

Five years ago today: Punny!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Another Day, Another Adventure

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and the Tuesday after Memorial Day was our last full day visiting Son Brian and Daughter in Law Nicole in California.  Nicole had to work, but she invited us to have breakfast with her in the company cafeteria before she started.  After breakfast Hubby Tony, Son Donald, and I piled into Son Brian's car for one last adventure and headed for Palo Alto and Stanford University.

On the way we stopped at Brian's office, where he gave us a quick tour.  Next we drove past the "Birthplace of Silicon Valley", where in 1938 William R. Hewett and David Packard developed their first product.  There was a historical plaque in front of the house, and you could see the garage.


Our next stop was downtown Palo Alto, where we parked the car and walked up the beautiful Palm Drive, the mile long, tree-lined entrance to the university.   When we reached the campus we walked around the main quad, stopping to take a photo of the Memorial Church.



Because classes were out for the summer the main quad was empty. Brian had a website on his phone that listed some of the campus highlights, which he read to us each time we stopped.  We found the Memorial Union building and stopped in to use the bathroom.  Because everyone was getting hungry we took a shuttle back downtown, where we ate a late lunch at an Israeli restaurant.

After lunch it was time to go back to the apartment and wait for Nicole.  When she got home we walked to one of Brian and Nicole's Thai restaurants for dinner. We made an early night of it, though, because some of us had to get back and pack.

Five years ago today: Que Sera, Sera

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

I do now. (Or at least I know how to get there from Son Brian and DIL Nicole's apartment.)

Monday morning of our latest California adventure the entire family piled in the car and we drove to Willow Glen, one of the city's neighborhoods for lunch.  Afterwards we got back in the car again and went to the Winchester Mystery House, where we bought tickets for a tour.


According to Wikipedia:
The Winchester Mystery House is a mansion in San Jose, California, which was once the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester...the Queen Anne Style Victorian mansion is renowned for its size, its architectural curiosities, and its lack of any master building plan.
Ever since the construction commenced in 1884, the property and mansion were claimed by many, including Winchester herself, to be haunted by the ghosts of those killed with Winchester rifles. Under Winchester's day-to-day guidance, its "from-the-ground-up" construction proceeded around the clock, by some accounts, without interruption, until her death on September 5, 1922. 
While we waited for our tour to start we wandered through the beautiful gardens and peeked into a few of the outbuildings.  When the PA system said it was our turn we moved to the gathering area.  Before we could enter the house, each group was arranged in front of a green screen for a quick photo.  The first thing the guide told us was to stay with the group or they could get lost.  As we began to walk through the labyrinth of rooms and hallways I understood the warning.

Our hour long tour took us through 110 of the 160 rooms.  Along the way our first-rate tour guide told us stories about the building of the house.  He pointed out secret passageways, doors that opened into blank walls, and a staircase from the floor to the ceiling.  I was impressed with the beautiful hand-laid parquet floors, art glass, and wall coverings.  I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

After the tour was over everyone was tired, so we drove back to the apartment to rest up for our dinner excursion at a nearby hot pot restaurant.   It was close enough to walk, which was a good thing, because after I ate all my food I definitely needed the exercise!

Ready for cooking

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Birthday Bash (West Coast Version)

On Sunday morning of our California visit everyone went their separate ways.  Hubby Tony and I walked to church.  Sons Brian and Donald joined us for part of the trip, then broke off so Donald could see the city's downtown area.  Daughter In Law Nicole went to the gym, came home to collect Brian, then they went to the grocery story.  Everyone rendezvoused back at the apartment for lunch, then we hung out and waited for the rest of the family to show up.

We'd found out a couple of weeks before our trip that Son Tony and his girlfriend (who both live in Phoenix) were visiting with her family not too far away from the San Francisco area.  When they heard that we were going to be there they rearranged their schedule to join us.  They arrived mid-afternoon, and the rest of the day was a whirlwind of cooking, eating, and catching up.
One of the amenities of Brian and Nicole's apartment complex are gas grills in the public areas.  Ninety minutes before it was time to eat, we walked down to the pool area to snag some tables, and Brian chose a nearby grill.  However, he soon found out that the steak, sausages, and vegetable skewers couldn't all fit on one, so he spread them out onto two and recruited more help.

Dueling barbecuers

When the food was ready we sat down to eat.  After dinner we sat around talking, then moved to the hot tub for more conversation.  As the sun went down we moved inside for our mega birthday celebration.

Summer is a busy time for celebrations in our family--between June 11 and July 2 there are three birthdays, and when you add in Father's Day it's just one big party.  When everyone was living at home they each got their own meal, dessert, and ceremony.  As the boys moved away after college we decided to roll everything into one big observance, but now with two of the three living a plane trip away, even that started being impossible.

I was really happy that we could all be together this year.  Nicole put candles on the cake, we sang Happy Birthday to all, then she served the cake and passed a tub of ice cream to go with it.  After dessert there was a flurry of present giving, opening, and thanking.

Five years ago today: This Is Why I'm Spending All My Time Inside...

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Down In Monterey

We started our Saturday California adventure with breakfast at Brian and Nicole's apartment, then packed some snacks and piled in the car.  They've only lived in the area for 18 months and still have a lot of things on their bucket list, so they used our visit as an excuse to cross off some of them.  Today's destination was the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is located in the Cannery Row section of the city on the site of a former sardine cannery.

Many of the aquarium's displays can be seen from multiple levels, and it was interesting to compare the view from the top and the bottom.  The aquarium pulls in 2,000 gallons of fresh ocean water from the bay per minute, circulates it through the more than 100 exhibit tanks, then pumps it back out into the ocean. We saw all of the major displays:
  •  Each of the six habitat areas.  
  • The kelp forest, one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world.  
  • The octopus and squids. where the Giant Pacific Octopus climbed its way along the display glass using its tentacles. 
  • The sea otters, penguins, and areas where you could touch plants and animals.
In the jellyfish exhibit I took a photo with my phone that made a great wallpaper and free souvenir:

I see these jellyfish every time I use my phone
Halfway through our aquarium visit, we left and went to a nearby Mexican restaurant, then stopped in a few shops on our way back to see more.  Cannery Row was the setting of a couple of John Steinbeck's novels, and it's now a tourist attraction.  Many of the former cannery buildings have been turned into restaurants, hotels, and stores.

When we were finished at the aquarium we got back in the car and drove to Seventeen Mile Drive, a scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove.  For a while the road was adjacent to the coast and had several scenic turnouts. Even though it was jacket weather, at the first beach Hubby Tony and I took off our shoes and walked into the ocean long enough to get our feet wet.  At many of the stops there was no beach.  Instead, the rocky shores met up with the ocean.

The Lone Cypress at Pebble Beach
Eventually the road left the coastline and wound through the Del Monte Forest, where we could see glimpses of huge houses on either side.  We did about half of the 17 mile drive, then left the area to drive back for dinner at the apartment.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The City By The Bay

Friday, May 27 was the first official day of our San Francisco Bay adventure. Sadly, Daugher-In-Law Nicole had to work and couldn't join us.  After taking care of a minor car maintenance issue, Sons Brian and Donald, Hubby Tony, and I piled in for a drive into San Francisco (approximately an hour away).

Just before we arrived at the city, we got off the interstate and made our way down the Great Highway which runs along the Pacific coast, then turned into the Golden Gate Park and drove around.  The large green space reminded me of our local Forest Park.  We got out of the car for a short trail walk, but then decided we were hungry and headed to Fisherman's Wharf.

Brian parked the car, and we walked to Boudin Bakery on Pier 39, which is famous for their sourdough.  We ate outside, then wandered over to see the sea lions:


We strolled around the pier, browsed in a few stores, then started meandering south along the Embarcadero right next to San Francisco Bay. When we got to the Ferry Building we stopped to use the bathroom and get a cup of coffee, then continued on our way.  After a short detour to see the corporate office of Son Brian's company, we made it to AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play baseball.

That day the park was holding a graduation ceremony for San Francisco State University.  The sidewalks were filled with thousands of graduates and their entourages.  Many of them were wearing leis along with their graduation robes, which was a new to me tradition.  We sauntered around the stadium looking at the plaques and statues, then walked over to the Caltrain station to meet Nicole who came into the city after work.

A short train ride brought us back down to Pier 39 for dinner at the Fog Harbor Fish House. My linguine with clam sauce (garnished with fresh clams) was the best I've ever had.   I was tempted to lick the bowl clean, but settled for getting out the last drops of sauce with a tasty piece of sourdough.

After all that adventure it was time to head home. My feet said it had been a very long day. My phone app agreed, registering 21,163 steps and 8.5 miles.

Five years ago today: Climb High

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Great Time Was Had By All

Hubby Tony, Son Donald, and I just returned from a wonderful trip to California to visit Son Brian and DIL Nicole.  And, to make the visit even more special, during part of the time Son Tony and his girlfriend Ie were able to be there, too!

Last Thursday afternoon we loaded up the car and headed for the airport.  Because the past few weeks the story du jour has been long lines to get through the TSA security checkpoints, we allowed extra time.  Of course, that insured we breezed through and had way too much time at the gate.  While we waited, we ate dinner, charged up the electronics, and people watched.

The men shared one large suitcase.  I brought one that I could potentially carry on, but chose to pay the $25 to check it.  Of course, that meant that at the gate they announced they needed people to gate check their bags for free, but it was nice not to have to fight for an overhead bin.

Our 4 1/2 hour flight got into San Francisco right on time.   After we got our bags Brian and Nicole were waiting for us.  And so the adventure began.

Five years ago today: The Clear Choice

Wednesday, June 1, 2016