Sunday, August 20, 2017

From One Cat Lover To Another

Do you remember just a couple of days ago, when I showed you pictures of my cats as tiny kittens?   Strayer, of Cat Eyes---A Cat Woman's Photos commented that "I'd love to see side by sides of your cats as kittens, then as they are now."

Post more photos of my 'boys'? Twist my arm!

I wanted to come up with just the right images, though.  First I asked the cats nicely if they would like to recreate their earlier poses. They declined. Next  I tried to catch them off guard with my camera, but they weren't having any of that, either.  Finally, I dug into my archive of cat images.

So Strayer, here you are.  Cats young and mature.

Pepper on the left, Jackson on the right

Five years ago today: Mouthy

Friday, August 18, 2017

I'm A Guardian of Magnificent Wisdom

Monday, of course, is a solar eclipse in much of the United States. In honor of the day, here's a cute meme that can help you find your Eclipse identity.
Five years ago today: My Favorite Walk Yet!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Age Has Its Privileges

Today was Pepper Cat's and Jackson Cat's annual vet visit.  They don't enjoy leaving the house, and getting them there is always a big deal (you can read about the procedure here and here), but this year went smoothly, thanks to Son Donald's assistance.

Once they made it into the examination room the tech scooped them out of their carriers (which they were quite reluctant to leave) and weighed them, then let them retreat back to their solitude while we waited for the vet.  The vet did the dirty work of poking, prodding, and vaccinating.  At the end of each cat's exam, she pronounced them in good shape "for as old as they are." 

Where did the years go?  We brought the cats home in June, 2002, shortly after they were weaned, and arbitrarily decided that their birthday was May 15th.  That means they're now 15 years old! 

Back in the day
I was curious about how a cat's age correlated to a humans.  I asked the vet, who said there's no hard and fast rule. That surprised me, so I came home and did some Internet research. Animal Planet told me:
An indoor cat's world is a safe, cozy haven, with tasty meals dished up on time, and protection from the changeable weather. Her only experience with a predator is probably a zealous owner who wants to groom her coat or trim her claws. Life with a clean litter box, a private place to catnap and attention from one or more humans who offer affection and care -- what more could a cat want for a stress-free existence? If she's grown up indoors, she'll likely have no interest in exploring the great outdoors, especially with stimulating playtime and toys to keep her stalking instincts keen. With routine vaccinations and vet checkups, plus a spaying or neutering can cause an indoor cat to easily thrive into her teens or beyond. The average life span is 12 to 15 years.
Wow! I guess my cats deserve the extra time it takes them to get up the stairs now and then. Our previous cat lived into his 20s, though, so I'm hopeful we'll have Pepper and Jackson around for a long time.

Five years ago today: The Choice Is Mine

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Cheap! Cheap!

Last night Hubby Tony and I decided to go downtown for a Blues at the Arch concert. Because there was also a baseball game scheduled we knew there would be a lot of people trying to find a parking space.  The parking garages would have their higher event rates in place, so our plan was to first try and find a parking meter. 

We get downtown several times a year, and know the drill.  A lot of the streets have rush hour parking restrictions, but those end at 6 PM. The parking meters are operational until 7 PM.  So, if you're lucky enough to find an empty spot it doesn't cost much to use it.

We arrived in the area at 6:15, and Tony only had to drive up and down a couple of blocks before he found that magic empty spot and pulled in before we realized that neither one of us had change to feed the meter.  However, the fancy new ones the city recently installed accept charge cards, so I told him I would take care of it.

I found the pay station, input the parking spot number, and inserted my card to pay.  It wasn't until I got the receipt that I realized just how cheap our parking would be:

Yes, I put a whopping twenty five cents on my card.  I looked around, but there was no explanation of why there was a 6:30 expiration time.  Maybe it was my lucky day?

Five years ago today: What a Crock

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Last night St. Louis Cardinals were playing the Kansas City Royals.  In the sixth inning of the game a bit of future baseball lore unfolded. The Cardinals were down by one run, but the bases were loaded.  Somehow, a cat got onto the field as Yadier Molina was at the plate. Yadi pointed his bat towards the cat, and play stopped. It took a couple of minutes for the kitty to amble across the field and get captured. (It was none too pleased to be carried out; the grounds crew member got clawed and bit in the process.) Once the game resumed Yadi hit a grand slam right towards where he had been pointing his bat. The Cardinals won the game.

Just to make sure that our out of town children had heard about the event, this morning I sent out a link on our family chat group, titling it "Yadier Meowlina". Then I left for the gym. My phone dinged a couple of times while I was driving. I ignored it. When I came out of the gym this is what awaited me:

I guess they thought my link was the cat's meow.

Five years ago today: Who, Me? Not Me!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Driving The Future

Every once in a while I get to do something really cool. Recently I was invited to drive a Tesla electric car.  I thought about the invitation for approximately three and a half seconds before I said 'Yes'.

Electric cars are getting more and more popular, but they're still a novelty on the roads in my neighborhood.  The sedan I drove, a Model S, came with all the bells and whistles.  On the outside there was a automatic keyless entry system, retracting lighted door handles, and folding heated side mirrors. The space where the engine would be on a conventional car was extra trunk space.  Inside, in addition to the normal goodies that new luxury vehicles have, like USB ports, power outlets, hands free talking capability, and backup cameras, this car had Internet connectivity, voice activated controls, and streaming radio.

When I sat in the twelve way power adjustable, heated driver's seat, the first thing I noticed was the giant touch screen in the center of the control panel, which controlled everything in the car.  In addition to all of the normal information you'd expect to find on the instrument panel, you could also see how long you could go until the next charge.

I got to drive on both surface streets and highways.  On the highway I was able to try out the autopilot, which uses sensors and cameras to steer the vehicle.  It was creepy to let the car control itself, and I didn't do a good job of it.  Instead, I kept turning the steering wheel such that the autopilot would disengage.  I bet with practice I could get used to it, though.  At the end of my drive I got to try out the car's perpendicular auto-park feature.  I pulled up to a spot, put the car in reverse, took my hands off the wheel, engaged the auto-park, and watched in amazement as the car maneuvered itself into the spot.

If I had enough money I would head straight to the nearest Tesla dealer to purchase one for myself.  Unfortunately, my bank account balance says that won't be happening anytime soon.  However, if the car's price ever comes down I'd certainly think hard about it.

Five years ago today: Bike Maintenance Basics

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Wonders All Around

Today in one of my meditation books I read:
"This is a day which God has given into my hands...I will notice interesting things."
And in the next paragraph, it said:
"Today there are wonders all around me, if I will open my eyes and enjoy them."
Reading those words of wisdom gave me the motivation to be extra observant.  I'm glad I was.  Otherwise I would have missed the small bunny scurrying to hide in a hole under the front porch slab.  And the two spotted fawns frolicking in a yard while during my evening walk.  And the beautiful patch of Black-eyed Susan I saw growing though a fence.

Five years ago today: Now That's Service!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Texas, Thanks To Tony

This week Hubby Tony had a training class scheduled in Dallas, Texas, and asked me if I wanted to join him for part of it.  I flew out of St. Louis Tuesday morning and arrived back home this afternoon.  Thanks to some new-to-me work assignments I also picked up along the way, it was a whirlwind two and a half days.

All of the people in town for Tony's training class stayed at the Magnolia Hotel. The beautiful historic building was originally the headquarters for the Magnolia Petroleum Company. The company trademark was a Pegasus,  and this was the first thing I saw when I walked into the lobby:

Tony told me there were about two dozen people in his class.  They weren't the only group, though.  We got to share the hotel with swarms of Mary Kay Cosmetic ladies, who were in town for their annual convention.  Everywhere I looked there were representatives.  Even if they weren't wearing their official convention lanyard it was easy to spot them, because most had on distinctive apparel or branded items.  The ones I talked with were very friendly, but I didn't want to get too close, for fear of being roped into a sales presentation.

I enjoyed spending time with Tony at breakfast and after work hours, but he wasn't the only family member I got to hang out with.  You may remember that Son Tony now lives in the Dallas area, and Son Donald (who finished his university summer semester and is free until the next classes start in mid-August) was there paying his brother a visit.  It was an unplanned mini family reunion!

Five years ago today: The Art Of Sleeping In Public

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Do Nothing Challenge

When I try to do too much on the computer I get grumpy and out of sorts.  That's when I know it's time to Do Nothing For Two Minutes.

The URL takes you to a screen with a photograph of the ocean at sunset and the sound of waves crashing on a beach. It asks you to relax and listen to waves for 2 minutes. The site's developer takes relaxation seriously.  If you touch your mouse or keyboard the time starts over.

If you try it, let me know how you did.

Five years ago today: Birthday Bash 2012

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Virtual Rack Woes

How was I supposed to make a word with these letters?

Hubby Tony and I are usually pretty well matched at Words With Friends.  This game, though, I had rotten luck the entire time and he ended up winning by more than 100 points. I was so glad to have it be over!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Concentated Banana Goodness

Yesterday at the store they had some bananas for fifty cents a bunch.  A bunch jumped into my bag.

My default need-to-eat banana recipe is bread or muffins, but when I got home I realized that it was really too hot to turn on the oven.  I started thinking creatively, and wondered if it was possible to dry the fruit for later.  A quick Google search revealed that not only was it possible, it was easy.

I started out by weighing the bananas to see what I had... a little over 3 1/2 pounds of gooness:

After I peeled and sliced the fruit, I tossed it with lemon juice and arranged the slices on dehydrator trays,

then started up the dehydrator and waited.

The process took longer than I anticipated.  At bed time the bananas were still moist.  Before I turned in I lowered the dehydrator thermostat as far as it would go (so the slices wouldn't finish in the middle of the night).  This morning things were still dampish, so I turned the thermostat back up.  Two hours later I had this:

These slices are chewier than banana chips (which are actually fried) and have an intense banana flavor.  I put them in a container in the pantry, but since I've already gotten into it several times I suspect it won't take long before the bananas are gone.

Five years ago today: The Same, But Different

Sunday, July 23, 2017

No Ice Cream For You!

This morning Hubby Tony and I put the bikes in the car and drove to an organized bike ride in Edwardsville, Illinois. The ride had four options (14 miles, 23 miles, 41 miles, and 50 miles).  They all started at the same place and ended up at an ice cream store.

Right after we checked in, a man standing next to the table asked if we would like to join a group that was riding together. Tony and I had planned on doing the 14 mile route.  This group was riding 23 miles, but we agreed. It's always nice to meet new people.  After everyone was ready we headed out.  Eventually some of the group decided they wanted to go faster and left, but Bill, the organizer, was nice enough to stay with me and Tony the entire way.  

Most of the ride was on nice, flat reclaimed rail lines.  The street riding in between the trails was on safe quiet streets. There were only a couple of hills, and they were doable. It should have been a very easy ride.  However, last night a strong storm had come through the area, and the trails were scattered with tree debris.  We had to dodge several large branches dangling over the trail, and carry our bikes over a pile of greenery that completely covered it.

However, very close to the end of the ride we came upon a pile of branches over the trail that was about three feet tall.  We stopped and looked at it, looked at each other, then decided to turn back.  Bill was familiar with the area, and told us about a different ice cream store we could drive to.  We thanked him for the information, but instead, on the way home we stopped at a cafe/donut store for lunch and a different kind of sweet.

Five years ago today: Don't Worry

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Worth Getting In The Car

I work as an Independent Contractor for multiple companies.  That means that if I want money to come into my bank account first I have to find the jobs to do.  Sometimes that's easier said than done.  Especially this week, when the extreme heat and excess humidity has sapped all my ambition:
Yesterday I saw an assignment that looked appealing.   However, it was halfway across town and didn't pay enough to justify the driving I'd have to do. Another company had a job just a couple of blocks away from the first, but (again) the pay wasn't enough to get me in the car.  This morning I sent an email to both, explaining that I would do the work if it could be assigned to me for tomorrow.  It took a couple of hours, but I eventually got responses from both companies that the jobs were mine.  Success!  I added another errand along the way and all of a sudden the day was looking productive.

Productive, but not filled up.  I'm going to continue to look; you never know when opportunities could present themselves.

Five years ago today: It Might Be...It Could Be...

Monday, July 17, 2017

Deals And Steals

What do you do when you find a pair of Clarks sandals at a thrift store for six dollars?

You buy them, come home, and do a happy dance in your very comfortable new shoes.

Friday, July 14, 2017

I Remember You! Do You Remember Me?

My high school years were a very long time ago.  How long?  Last weekend I attended my 40th high school reunion.  It was an interesting experience.

Our class has had reunions every ten years. I went to the first two, but skipped the 30th.This one has been in the works for a while.  A year ago the planning committee created a Facebook page and website to share reunion information.  Eventually I found out the activities would stretch out over two days...a mixer on Friday, a group photo and tour of the school Saturday morning, and the main event Saturday night. In late June I sent in my registration (Hubby Tony didn't go).  Then I waited.

The week before the event the committee published a list of attendees. There were about 800 students in the graduating class, and approximately 100 of them planned on being there. There were just a few people I knew well, and large handful that I would consider acquaintances.  The rest of the names meant nothing to me, and I started second guessing my decision to go.  But then I decided this would be a good time to practice stepping out of my comfort zone.  I looked in my closet, planned my outfits, and got mentally ready.

On Friday night I walked into the very crowded event room of a local bar and saw a bunch of faces I didn't know.  Then some of them started looking familiar.  When I looked at people's name tags some of the names started to ring a bell.  I chatted with classmates I hadn't seen in decades.  Several people were nice enough to tell me I looked the same as I did forty years ago.

The group photo and school tours on Saturday were interesting, and helped me to talk with even more people.  By the time I entered the restaurant banquet room where the reunion was being held Saturday night I felt pretty comfortable. There was no way I could get around to everyone, but I was proud of the fact that I didn't spend the whole night just talking to people I knew. I even had conversations with people I had never crossed paths with in high school.  There was little discussion of jobs or accomplishments.  Instead, we chatted about if we still lived in the area (and if so, where) and if we had kids or grand kids.

At the end of the night the head of the organizing committee announced that from now on there are going to be yearly informal get togethers.  I think if my schedule permits I will attend.

Five years ago today: Course Of Action

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Forward And Backward Or Backward And Forward

It was brought to my attention today that this week every date (if you write them as month/day/year) are palindromes and read the same forwards and backwards

Five years ago today: Pain In The Neck

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Garden Beauty (The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017)

The last port of call before our Alaskan cruise finished was Victoria, British Columbia.  However, since the ship didn't  arrive until 7 PM (and departed at 11:59 PM) we  had another full day at sea.  In the morning Hubby Tony and I took a galley tour through one of the kitchens.  We got to see some of the staff working on menu items for that night's dinner and some impressive fruit carvings.

After lunch we packed our suitcases in preparation for the next day's debarkation.   Fortunately, all of the souvenirs fit easily into the bags, although we did have to expand the to their maximums.

The dining room opened early for dinner so people could eat and move on to their evening's activities.  Tony and I signed up for a bus trip to Butchart Gardens. I was really looking forward to my visit. We tried to go the gardens when we were in Vancouver in 2010, but at the last minute decided it was too far away.

When the boat docked, we left the ship and joined the stream of people heading off the dock.

There were a lot of people taking the same tour we were, and they filled several buses.  As each bus filled they left the parking lot.  Ours was the last in the caravan. The drive to the gardens was approximately an hour.  Along the way the driver told us a little bit about the history of the city. She promised that on the way back she would drive through the Chinatown area, where she would share more history.

At the garden the driver got out and picked up our tickets and garden brochures.  She handed them out as we exited the bus, and we followed the stream of people to the entrance.  Once in, we followed the suggested walking route through the beds.  Over the course of the night it got dark, but there was adequate lighting along the paths and the lights set among the plants gave the areas an exotic feel.

At the appointed time we headed back to the bus and took our seats.  Right on time the driver headed back to the dock.  However, by time we got to the Chinatown area it was dark and the stores were all closed.  That was OK, though.  I was tired and ready for my bed.

Five years ago today: Add A Little Irish To Your Game

Friday, July 7, 2017

All Aboard! (The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017)

On Thursday, our Alaskan cruise ship docked in Skagway, where Hubby Tony and I took an awesome train trip through old gold rush territory on the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad.

Train depot as we were pulling away
Our tour bus was waiting for us when we got off the ship. After everyone was aboard, the driver (a gentleman who looked to be in his late 70s who told us he had been coming to the area for the past five summers to be a seasonal driver) who took us to the train depot where we boarded a restored passenger coach and settled in for the almost five-hour ride. 

Before the train got started the narrator gave us some directions and safety instructions, including how to access the platform of the rail car..  Then we were off!  We quickly gained altitude as the train wound up the mountain. The scenery was spectacular. 

Lake Bennett

Along the way the narrator told us about the history of the area.  He also alerted us to things to look for out of the windows.  I learned that the railroad began construction in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush. It stopped operations in 1982, but reopened for tourists in 1988.

The train made a stop at Bennett, British Columbia, which was a thriving town back in the gold rush days. Now there's an interpretive center,and a short self-guided walking tour.  Shortly after we got back on the train lunch arrived--turkey sandwiches, chips, fruit, and a blondie.

Because we were crossing into Canada, at the border the train stopped to let Customs agents board and check passports.  (On the return trip the bus driver also stopped at the border, but the officials only wanted to see his paperwork.)

Our trip ended at Carcross, Yukon, another gold rush town. The small area around the train depot had a handful of tourist stores mixed in among the historical buildings.  At the appointed time we found our bus driver, who had driven up to meet us, and began the trip back.  When we got back to Skagway the driver offered to drop us off so we could see a little bit of the city.  I enjoyed walking around the vintage Skagway business district.  We stopped in a couple of stores and bought souvenirs before walking back to the ship.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

At Sea And On Land (The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017)

The Wednesday of our Alaska cruise was unique. In the morning we sailed through a fjord. Later in the day, we docked in Juno, Alaska, where Hubby Tony and I went on a whale-watching adventure (complete with a salmon dinner) and got to see a glacier up close.

View from our balcony when I woke up
We didn't want to miss anything, so we ate breakfast early.  After breakfast we did a few laps on the ship's Promenade Deck, multitasking by getting exercise while watching the scenery go by. This was the only time I used my winter coat, but I was glad I did.  The wind was brisk, and it was cold enough for icebergs.

Iceberg calf
Originally the plan was to sail into Tracy Arm Fjord. However, several weeks before the cruise that changed because Tracy Arm had too much floating ice.  Instead, the ship was diverted to Endicott Arm. I just wanted to see the area up close, so the specific fjord didn't matter to me (and I doubt I would have been able to tell the difference).  While we sailed into the fjord the naturalist was on the ship's bridge, talking about what we were seeing.  You could hear her remarks from the speakers on several decks, but  they were also broadcast over the ship's TV.  Because we were fortunate to have a balcony, we saved the open decks for those without one, turned up the TV volume, and left the door open so we could hear.

The ship sailed in as close as it could get to the Dawes Glacier, where it turned around for the trip back out.  However, before it did the passengers who signed up for a glacier tour got off onto tender boats and we watched them sail away.  The naturalist had promised the ship would do a 360 degree turn so everyone could see everything.  However, it was a 540 degree turn to get the ship bow pointed in the right direction.

See the glacier in front of the mountains?
After the ship turned around we went back inside, and the rest of the morning and early afternoon was more 'at sea' time.  We docked at Juno mid-afternoon.  Tony and I had signed up for a tour that included a salmon dinner, whale watching, and a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier.  We left the ship and did some shopping before it was time to get on the shuttle bus for our tour. 

The bus drove us to a dock where we boarded a whale watching ship large enough to hold several dozen people.  Our first stop was Orca Point Lodge, where we had a lovely grilled salmon dinner.  Then we got back on the boat and headed out to find some whales.  The tour guaranteed we would see some, and offered a refund if they couldn't find any. At first it was slow going (and I was afraid we would be receiving the refund), but all of a sudden we came upon a pod.  The first indication was seeing a spout of exhaled air from the whale's blowhole, followed by its arching back, and then the fluking, where the tail rises up out of the water as the whale dives.  The whole procedure is awe-inspiring.  I was sad that I wasn't quick enough to get a good photo of the event.

After we returned to the dock it was time for the third part of our adventure.  Because of changes to the ship's schedule, we knew that by the time we arrived at the Mendenhall Glacier the visitor center would be closed, but we were still able to walk down to an observation point for some photos.  I have never seen a glacier in person, but now I can cross that off my bucket list.

Glacier selfie
Five years ago today: Sew It Then Throw It

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Ketchikan (The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017)

The first port of call on our Alaskan cruise was Ketchikan, the south-easternmost city in the state.  The city is known as the 'Salmon Capital of the World', for its many Native American totem poles, and for the Creek Street area, which in the first half of the 20th century was a red-light district.  Now it's an arts and crafts shopping area. The buildings are built on stilts over a beautiful creek.

Creek Street buildings
This may be the only time we get to Alaska, so to make the most of our time in the ports Hubby Tony and I purchased tours through the cruise line. In Ketchikan the tour was a walk at a rain forest sanctuary.

This was the only day we got rain--a fine mist.  I left the ship wearing a rain coat, but when we got off the bus at the sanctuary I was a little concerned that if the rain started coming down harder the phone and camera in my purse would get wet.  Before we started our walk the guide offered plastic ponchos.  Tony and I took advantage of them.

Stylish, right?
After we got off the bus we divided into groups of approximately a dozen.  Each group went with a different guide.  The walk on the gravel trail was less than a mile, but took almost an hour.  I was surprised to learn that this area of Alaska was a coastal temperate (as opposed to tropical) rain forest. The guide pointed out the different trees and plants. We saw banana slugs and evidence of large mammals.  Eventually the trail left the forest and ran through an elevated boardwalk over an area of grassy wetlands.  The area contained a salmon hatchery; I learned that salmon born there are imprinted to return to the same place to spawn.  We saw several eagles, and an aerie.

The sanctuary used to be a logging area, and some of the sawmill buildings are still in place.  One of them held a small raptor center, where we got to see several birds up close.  In another building a Native totem pole carver was hard at work. Examples of his finished poles were on display outside the sanctuary's gift shop.

Totem poles

Officially, the tour bus was supposed to drive us back to the ship.  However, when the driver asked if anyone would like to get off on the edge of Creek Street (several blocks away from the dock) most of the people took advantage of the offer.  Tony and I browsed through some shops, bought some salmon to bring home, then walked back to the ship for lunch.

This was a great way to start the trip to Alaska.

public art outside the port

Five years ago today: Sweltering Stroll

Monday, July 3, 2017

Asea (The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017)

Our Alaska cruise on the Emerald Princess started at Seattle, then headed north to the Inside Passage. Along the way we stopped at Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway (the northernmost point). After that the ship came back south. The last port before returning to Seattle was Victoria, British Columbia.

Monday and Friday were days at sea. In my experience you can be as busy or as lazy as you want to on a cruise. Hubby Tony and I are in the first group. Each day we received a list of all the activities taking place on board the ship. In years past it was all on paper; this time there was also a phone app you could access via the ship's wi-fi. Each morning we'd go through the list and pick out the things that appealed to us. (Most of the time they were the same.) Then we just had to remember to be at the right place at the right time.

This cruise had a naturalist on board, who gave several presentations during the week on the flora and fauna of the area. She also broadcast live from the bridge the day we sailed up the fjord.  Otherwise many of the activities were similar to our last cruise.  Tony and I didn't play anything in the casino, but we participated in several trivia contests.  Each night there were shows in the theater and music in the lounges.  The dancing in the disco started about the time I was turning in for the night and I could never make the Zumba and ballroom dancing classes fit into my schedule, but I did do some line dancing.  For the most part Tony and I stayed out of the on-board shops.

On the balcony
But would you be surprised if I told you that one of our biggest activities was eating? 

I've found that over the years cruise ship dining options have changed. In 1980, when we took our first cruise, you could go to dinner at the formal dining room at a specific time, grab lunch in a sit-down dining room, get hamburgers and hot dogs on the deck at lunch time, hit up the buffet, or order in room service. Now, in addition to those options, there's anytime dining (where you show up in the dining room when it fits your schedule), specialty restaurants (which require an additional fee), a 24-hour small-bites cafe, and a pizza and ice cream bar. There was also a very popular specialty coffee bar where (for a price) you could get espresso-based coffee and iced tea fusion drinks.

On this cruise we signed up for the early dinner seating, and shared a table with two longtime women friends in their 80s, a young lady who had just graduated from high school and her aunt, and a couple about our age.  It was great getting to know them over the course of the week. For eating in the casual areas there were very few two-tops, but we took that as an opportunity to sit down and already-occupied tables and talk with other people.  Because we purchased our cruise so early, one of the promotions was two vouchers to a specialty restaurant.  We chose the steakhouse, where I ate the best hunk of beef  I've had in a long time.

The at-sea days were also formal dinner nights. On different cruises I've had different interpretations of the term. At my age I'm not particularly trying to impress anyone. so this time I brought two knee-length dresses and one pair of shoes. The dresses were sleeveless, so the black shrug I threw in at the list minute came in handy. 

Five years ago today: Let It Wave

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The East St. Louis Riots of 1917

One hundred years ago today a fascinating (and gruesome) event took place in East St. Louis Illinois, just across the river from St. Louis.  The East St. Louis riots have been described as one of the worst race riots in U.S. history.

Today the city is a high-crime, high-poverty area, but in the early 20th century it had a strong industrial economy.   Between 1900 and 1920 more than 100 manufacturing plants opened in and around East St. Louis. Companies began to recruit black workers from Southern states in an effort to flood the labor market, keep wages low, and weaken unionization efforts.  As a result, racial tensions began to increase.

In May, 1917 white workers attacked several blacks; the black residents organized to defend their neighborhoods.  Resentment on both sides continued to grow.  On July 1, a black man attacked a white man.  In retaliation a group of whites fired randomly into black homes from a speeding car. An angry crowd of black residents gathered. When two detectives arrived to investigate, the crowd mistook them for the gunmen, opened fire, and killed them.

Thousands of whites went on a rampage the next day. They mobbed the black section of town, burned entire sections of the city, and shot or lynched black people as they escaped the flames. The police and National Guard stood by and did nothing (and several accounts say the Guard even joined in the rioting). Thousands of blacks fled across the  Mississippi River bridges to St. Louis.  The violence lasted for three days.  Officially, 39 blacks and nine whites died in the riots (but the toll may have been much higher).  Some news accounts at the time say as many as 250 blacks died.

This week there have been newspaper and magazine articles, television and radio programs, and ceremonies commemorating the event.  Hopefully all the publicity will help educate people so this important event isn't forgotten.

Five years ago today: Feeding Finches Revisited

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mar·i·time (The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017)

The day after all the graduation party celebrations were over it was time for us to go our separate ways. Son Brian and family left for the airport before Hubby Tony and I rolled out of bed. It was strange to walk around in a quiet house. Tony and I dressed, ate breakfast, and put our things in the car. On our way out we detoured to a nearby church for Mass, then let Google Maps direct us to the car rental facility. Once the car was returned we took the shuttle back to the airport. However, our ultimate destination was not a plane. Instead, we walked over to a cruise ship desk and checked in for the shuttle to the Emerald Princess, our cruise ship home for the next week.

Right after we purchased the airline tickets we started talking about what else we could do while we were in the area.  We had visited Seattle and Vancouver in the summer of 2010 and felt like we had 'done' those cities.  However, an Alaska cruise has been on my bucket list for years.  When I threw out the idea Tony thought it was an excellent one.  I emailed our travel agent friend for suggestions, and a week later we were booked.
Tony and I have been on five other cruises.  The first one was in 1980 (for our honeymoon).  There were two with the entire family in the 1990s (organized by our travel agent friend), and two this decade (one with Son Brian and DIL Nicole, and one for our 35th anniversary). But they never get old.
Sailing away (thanks, Kenya!)
The transfer from the airport to the ship went smoothly. By 2:00 we were checking out our room, then we left the room to explore the ship.  That was easy, because this was not a new ship to us; we had cruised the Mediterranean on it in 2015!  Somewhere along the line it had re-positioned itself.

When we got back our luggage had arrived and it was time to unpack. I'm proud of the fact that I travel light, but even though I brought clothes that could mix and match, this time I toted a very full suitcase, since I had to bring clothes (and shoes) for pre-cruise events, casual ship time, formal nights, and chilly port excursions.

Based on what we've learned from previous cruises, I brought extra hangars, Ziploc bags, and dollar store laundry hooks for hanging the clothes I washed out in the sink.  Because I remembered that the room was short on electrical outlets, Tony brought a power strip to charge our electronics.  The room had plenty of storage areas for two people.  We divided the closet and closed storage areas in half.  Tony set his things out on the small bathroom shelves, but my toiletries were in a bag that could hang on the closet rod when not in use.

This cruise had four stops: Ketchikan (Alaska), Juneau (Alaska), Skagway (Alaska), and Victoria (British Columbia).  We also spent one morning sailing up a scenic fjord.   Surprisingly, the week before we left I found out that Kenya Johnson of Sporadically Yours was going to be on the same ship the week before us.  During her trip she sent me helpful emails from different ports giving us some tips on what was good to see and do.  Now that she's back I've enjoyed reading her posts on her experience.  (You should check them out.)

Five years ago today: Who Needs A Sauna...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Celebrations All Around (The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017)

Originally Hubby Tony and I thought we would be the only members of our family attending our niece's college graduation in Olympia.  We booked a flight into Seattle, and Tony arranged for a rental car at the airport and reserved a generic chain hotel in Tacoma ( halfway in between the two cities).  However, at the beginning of April we were thrilled beyond words to find out that Son Brian, DIL Nicole, and Grandbaby Jay were also planning to be there. When we received a text from Nicole letting us know they had found an Airbnb house big enough for all of us right on Puget Sound we quickly cancelled our generic digs.

We left for Seattle on Thursday night. The flight was scheduled to arrive at 9:30 PM, and we figured we'd be at the house a couple of hours after that.  However, nothing went according to plan, and we pulled into the parking area at 1:45 AM.  Everything was dark and it was a little tricky to find the right door to go in, but once we figured that out it didn't take us long to fall into bed.

The house was arranged on two levels, with Brian and family on the floor above us.  A staircase connected the two.  That meant we could all have our privacy, but still spend as much time as possible cuddling with this cutie:

There he goes!
The college's original plan was to hold the graduation on campus in Olympia, but at the last minute thy changed the location to a stadium in Tacoma.  That worked out well for us, since it was a lot closer to our house.  However, there wasn't enough room in the lot for all the cars and we had to park several blocks away.  The line to get into the stadium was long, and once we got inside we couldn't find the other family members who were saving us seats.  But it all worked out, and we were able to watch Michelle walk across the stage and accept her diploma.

Because of Jay's schedule we passed on the after-graduation group dinner, but were able to find a good Mexican restaurant not too far from the house.  The graduation party wasn't until Saturday night, so we had most of the day to relax.  The celebration was hosted by the parents of one of Michelle's friends (and fellow graduate).  The family is Hawaiian by heritage, which gave the event an exotic feel.  In addition to large pans of white rice and macaroni salad, the buffet line included:
  • Kalua pua'a (roast pork)
  • Chicken Long Rice (almost like a soup with noodles)
  • Lau Lau (steamed pork wrapped in taro leaves)
  • Poi (boiled taro root mixed with water until it reaches a smooth consistency)
  • Poke (bite-sized pieces of raw fish garnished with salt, onions, and sesame oil)
  • Squid Luau (squid and luau leaves cooked in coconut milk and pureed)
  • Lomilomi salmon. (small pieces of salmon mixed with tomatoes and onions)
I'm an adventurous eater, so I tried a little bit of everything.  Some I really liked; some I can cross off my bucket list and not eat again.  After dinner a small band of relatives played Hawaiian tunes, then a group of hula dancers got up and performed several numbers.

When the show was over the graduates cut and served the cake. By this time Jay was getting tired, so we said our goodbyes.  It had been a very full weekend, and wonderful first part of our adventure.

Five years ago today: Half Baked

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017

For the past four years our niece Michelle has gone to college in Olympia, Washington (just a couple of hours from Seattle).  Last Christmas she reminded Hubby Tony and me that she would be graduating this June, and extended an invitation to attend the ceremony.

Tony and I talked about it, decided it would be a good idea, and at the end of January booked our flight.  Since the tickets to Seattle were a little pricey we started talking about other activities we could do while we were in the area.  Soon a plan began to take shape......

Five years ago today: Save Some Time To Dream

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Virtual Crayons

Some time back I decided I needed an adult coloring book app for my iPad. There were almost a dozen in the App store, so I randomly chose one (appropriately) called Adult Coloring Book to download. I'm sure all the other options are equally fun, but I'm happy with my choice.

Several nights a week I open up the app when I'm zoning out in front of the TV.  There are multiple books to choose from, and also a special Daily Design. The app is easy to use. You pick a color and then tap the shape to fill it in. There's an undo button if you don't like the results.  Another handy option is the ability to zoom in, which makes filling in very small shapes easy.

When the picture is finished you can add a texture or a frame.  There's an option to share your creation via text or email, and a gallery where you can see how other artists have colored their pictures.  The app itself is free, and comes with a set of what they call 'Essential Colors'. You can subscribe to unlimited access to all the books and the color palettes, but I didn't bother.  Every once in a while I'll open up the app and be surprised that they've thrown an additional set of  colors my way.

One of my latest masterpieces
Five years ago today: Hot In Herre

Friday, June 16, 2017

Frog Fear

The other day I was moving around the potted plants that summer on the deck.  The large container of ginger sits on plastic feet, which raise it about a half inch off the ground.  When I picked up the pot this guy was underneath:

The frog looked at me.  I looked at him, then I pulled out my camera.  He posed nicely while I took his portrait. The photo is deceptive; this little guy was only about an inch long.  I went on about my moving plants business and the next time I looked he was gone.

After I finished my work I came inside and posted the photo on Facebook.  One of my friends made a comment that if she had seen the frog she would have "freaked and dropped the pot, because (even though she doesn't mind snakes, spiders or bugs ) she was petrified of frogs".  I'd never heard of frog phobia, but I  know there's a name for everything.  It only took a couple of seconds for Google to tell me that a fear of frogs and toads is ranidaphobia.

Now we all know.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Thanks For The Help, But I'm Good

I decided not to plant a garden this year, but when I was buying my annuals one grape tomato plant jumped into the basket. I came home and put the small plant in a five-gallon bucket.  Now that the weather has heated up it's been growing nicely, and has a dozen small green fruits and many more flowers.

Originally I thought the plant was going to be a bush variety, but yesterday I noticed it was getting tall and gangly, which means it's an indeterminate type that will keep growing taller all season. I staked the stems, and briefly thought about removing the highest growing tips so the plant would bush out, but I was short on time.  This morning I noticed 'something' had done the topping for me!

Those stems used to be a lot longer

The damage was over three feet off the ground, but based on the nice clean cuts I suspected a rabbit. This isn't the first time Bugs has noshed on our plants, so I was ready. I pulled out a spray bottle of a natural garden pest control, which contains a lovely combination of putrescent egg solids, castor, garlic, and fish oils, and urea.  The mixture stinks to high heaven but does the trick.

I sprayed the mixture heavily to the leaves and stems. The smell will be undetectable to a human nose after several house, but the spray has an ingredient that allows it to stick to the plant surfaces.  That means that going forward, even if the smell doesn't deter the critter the taste will.

Five years ago today: Size Me Up!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Six-Tea Day

June 11 is always a big day for Hubby Tony, but this year it was extra special; the clock rolled over into a new decade for him.  When we woke up I asked Tony how he felt.  His reply was "At least a day older."

Two organizations that Tony belongs to both scheduled breakfast at the nearby American Legion post after Mass today.  Before we left church a 'little bird' told one of Tony's friends that it was his birthday.   During breakfast that person announced it to the entire room, who sang Happy Birthday to him. Then, for the next 45 minutes people took the opportunity to wish him a good day.

For a present I bought Tony tickets to a St. Louis Symphony concert entitled "Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and the Ladies of Swing".  The event started at 3:00, so after we fed the cats we got in the car and drove to Powell Hall.  We followed the stream of people into the beautiful hall and took our seats.  The concert was wonderful!  I think I enjoyed it as much or more than Tony did.

Earlier in the week I had told Tony to pick a restaurant to go to for dinner.  It looked like he had a great time researching options and finally making a choice.  After the concert we drove in that direction, got lost, then pulled up the information on Google and discovered the restaurant was closed on Sunday anyway.

We ended up at an Ethiopian restaurant in Grand Center, where we shared an appetizer of sambosas and  a vegetarian combo plate.  At the end of the meal, when the waitress came by and heard it was Tony's birthday, she announced, "We celebrate".  Several minutes later she returned carrying a piece of baklava drizzled with chocolate sauce, holding a single lit candle. When she reached the table she put the plate in front of Tony and we sang in his honor.

Tony's "card"

Five years ago today: Comments, Please

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Am I Blue?

The internet is filled with diversions. Today it told me What Is The True Color Of Your Personality?

Like every web-based  test I've taken this one had several 'pick which you like the best' questions.  After I told them everything they wanted to know, the answer came back that I belonged to the Blue color family.

Their explanation:
The color psychology quiz tells us that like those blue colors that you subconsciously most relate to, you're deep, comforting, emotional and naturally intuitive. You've always had a sixth sense or gut feeling that never leads you astray. Rely on your intuition; it will never fail you! But, you probably already know that. Others may perceive you as overly emotional, and you may even have a reputation for being a bit sensitive or touchy, but you actually just have an incredibly high emotional intelligence. You can be a bit melancholy at times, and you need time and space to recharge your emotional energies.
Were they right in their assessment?  I'd give them a 50%.  However, I really liked the photo that accompanied it!

Five years ago today: The Sights And Sounds of Nature

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Walking Is Just Slow Running, Right?

I learned from Shirley that today was Global Running Day.  The holiday was new to me, but according to the Global Running Day website, it is "a day for people around the world to celebrate the joys of running."  To participate, all you had to do is take part in some type of running activity.  Shirley changed up the requirements by substituting a nice brisk walk.  Reading her post, I realized that based on her standards I had celebrated too.

Today I had some jobs that took me to the Central West End, a beautiful old neighborhood that has a nice mix of restaurants, retail, and stately mansions dating back to the early 1900s. After I parked my car (at the parking garage of a historic hotel) I walked down the street, people watching and admiring the elegant clothes featured in the boutique windows I passed. The weather was beautiful--in the high 70s, with a sunny sky and low humidity.

In one of the stores I stopped to try on the most beautiful shirt I had ever seen.  It was pale striped rayon crepe with a high-low hem which hit me at just the right place in the front and the back.  The front had a half placket with delicate-looking buttons.  The back was gathered at the bottom of the yoke and draped just right.  The long sleeves were just right for rolling up or leaving down. The only downside was the cost...the shirt was definitely selling for a designer boutique price.  More than I've ever spent for an item of everyday clothing.

Of course the sales associate told me the shirt looked fantastic on me, and went out of her way to highlight all the ways I could wear it.  It could be dressy!  It could be casual!  It would look great with a tank under it when the weather got cool!  She threw so many suggestions at me that they started to make sense, and I decided to throw my budget to the wind and buy the shirt.  The sales associate followed me to the cash register, where she rung up my purchase, wrapped it in tissue paper secured with a fancy sticker, and placed it in a tote bag.  On my way out the door she said she was confident I would love the shirt.

As soon as I left the store I started regretting my purchase.   I spent twenty minutes walking up and down the tree-lined streets pondering what I should do.  On the one hand, the shirt was very versatile.  But did I really want to be seen wearing the same thing at every event?  For the money I had spent I could buy three or four nice non-designer shirts.  Eventually I took the shirt out of the bag to see it again, then lifted up the bottom hem to look at the care label (something I had neglected to do in the store) and learned that this shirt was Dry Clean Only. 

That sealed my decision.  I backtracked to the store, and told the sales associate I didn't want to be 'that woman' but I would be returning the purchase I had just made.  She was nice enough to say she understood, but I still felt bad.  The only positive on my end was the almost 7,500 steps I got.

Five years ago today: Funnies

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Old Shoe, New Shoe

Two summers ago I found a pair of New Balance flip flops at a discount shoe store. They had the best arch support of any summer shoes I've ever worn, and I slid them on whenever the weather was warm enough to go sockless.

This spring I noticed that the flip flops weren't as comfortable as they used to be. When I took a good look at them, I realized that the soles had deep foot indentations and the outside edges of the heels were showing a lot of wear.  It was time to find another pair.

I browsed at all the big box shoe stores around my house looked for  pair of comfortable flip flops or sandals, but couldn't find anything just right.  Last Friday I found myself within five miles of a dedicated New Balance store.  It was worth a slight detour to see if they had what I was looking for.

I walked into the store, briefly pursued their selection of warm-weather shoes, and selected a Renew Thong to try on.  Except for a couple of cosmetic differences they looked just like the ones I was replacing. The clerk brought out my size, along with a pair of sanitary socks.  I tried them on (a little difficult, because the socks didn't have a toe split), and ten minutes later I left the store with my new summer house shoes.

When I opened up the box at home I noticed a tag hanging from the right shoe strap that touted all the benefits of this style-good arch support, a flexible forefoot, heel cup, and gender specific foot bed.  The tag also said that since the foot bed fit like an orthotic there should be a break-in period. (It suggested two hours the first day, and then 1-2 additional hours each day.)  I figured that since I was used to the shoe I could ignore their suggestion.

I thought wrong.

I had greatly underestimated just how much the old pair had lost their support. At the end of two hours the both the ball and arch of my feet ached and I couldn't wait to take the new shoes off. But the instructions were spot on. Yesterday I wore the shoes all morning. Today the only time I took them off was when I put on shoes to go for a walk.  They were that comfortable

Based on my past experience, I'm looking forward to a long period of happy feet.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Good Concept, Bad Execution

I think that AMBER Alerts (the name is officially a acronym for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) are a good thing. They allow authorities to quickly get the word out about child abductions. However, the methods for getting that word out could use a little tweaking.

The alerts are distributed through radio stations, TV stations, and some social media websites.  At the beginning of  2013, they also started being sent to cell phone users that have the capability of receiving Wireless Emergency Alerts.  It's still all good, but the chosen alert method for cell phones is an extremely loud and blaring alarm.  It doesn't matter if you have the phone on Silent or Do Not Disturb; the sound still comes through.  The first time I heard it I was terrified.

In my area an AMBER alert is only issued once every few months.  The latest one happened in the middle of the night Tuesday, during the 2:00 hour. My phone was downstairs in the kitchen. The loud, piercing sound traveled down the hall, up the stairs, across another hall, and into the bedroom. I woke up in a panic when I heard it, but when I realized what it was I rolled over and went back to sleep. (The next morning I found out the alert had been issued for a possible abduction about a hundred miles to the southwest from my house. Fortunately, the girl was quickly found.)

In the past I've tried poking around on my phone to find a way to lower the alert volume, but I didn't have any luck. This time I decided to research the issue.  Sadly, I found out the alerts are all or nothing.  The only option is to disable the alert. 

After thinking about it for a while I decided that when future alerts are issued I'll hear about them through other channels, and turned off the AMBER alerts on my iPhone.  The process was simple.
  • Open Settings, then click on Notifications
  • Scroll all the way to the bottom to the Government Alerts section
  • Toggle the switch for AMBER Alerts OFF
I hope that sometime in the future they'll update the notification settings to make the alerts less strident.  If they did I would gladly turn them back on.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

In The Summertime

Monday was Memorial Day, the unofficial start to summer.  If this song doesn't scream "carefree summer relaxation" I don't know what does:

The song is the biggest hit for Mungo Jerry, a British rock group. (Fun fact-their name was inspired by the poem "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer", from T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, more than a decade before Andrew Lloyd Webber turned the same poem into a song in his musical Cats.)

Five years ago today: If You Don't Know Me By Now

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Walk of Trust

Before 2014 very few people outside of our metropolitan area had ever heard of Ferguson, Missouri. Then Michael Brown was shot and that changed forever.

Although since that time there have been commissions studying the issues and a Department of Justice investigation, things are not completely settled.  Robert Carlson, the Archbishop of St. Louis, had the idea to invite members of the TaizĂ© Community (an ecumenical monastic order in France) to help plan a weekend long Pilgrimage of Trust. As part of the pilgrimage they sponsored a Walk of Trust for people of all faiths and backgrounds this afternoon.  Hubby Tony and I were there.  It was an awesome experience. 

According to the event's website:
The Walk of Trust is an important display of the unity and solidarity we need to begin healing the many divisions present in our community.
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, where we started, was the second stop on the walk.  Right as the church bells were ringing at 2:00 the people gathered outside started walking.  The group moved slowly but steadily around the neighborhood, picking up more walkers at the Second Presbyterian Church and the Galilee Baptist Church. It stopped at the Daughters of Charity Province Office for prayer and song, then continued on to the West Pine Mosque and the Clock Tower on the St. Louis University campus (where we stopped for more prayer and song).  Next we walked towards the school's Chaifetz Arena, where we gathered for more prayer before heading inside.

Several hundred people filtered into the arena for a prayer service.  There were short homilies by Archbishop Carlson and the Reverend Traci Blackmon, a member of the Ferguson Commission.  After more prayer, meditation, and song, the walk officially ended.

I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon.  It was great to talk with people from all different parts of the metropolitan area, and several from other states (and even Canada!) who had come specifically for the Pilgrimage. I learned something from each and every one of them.

Five years ago today: Memorial

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trash Can Composter

In the summer of 2011 I installed a new compost bin in the back yard. The recycled black plastic bin had a removable lid and a sliding door at the bottom to remove the finished compost.  It worked great for a while, but last year the weight of the material inside the plastic bin warped the runners and one side of the door came off and hung awkwardly.  I tried to fix it a couple of times, but didn't have any luck.  I decided that this spring it was time to start over with a new bin.

The last few weeks I've searched the websites of Amazon, some local specialty retailers, and all the hardware stores in our area looking for something that was sturdy, durable, and less than $100.  Much to my surprise, even the ones that cost close to the maximum price only got fair reviews.  I did not want to spend that kind of money to have something that wouldn't last!

Son Donald is only going to be home for one more week before he goes back to college for summer session classes  I was counting on him to help me with the manual labor of emptying the old bin and filling the new one, so time was of the essence.  This morning I had an inspiration.  Would a trash can work?  A quick Google search revealed that yes, it would indeed.

On the way home from the gym I stopped at a big box hardware store and bought the cheapest black plastic trash can they had. Using the directions for a Trash Can Composter I found on the Whole Foods blog, I measured out where I wanted to put the air holes (marking them with dabs of bright pink fingernail polish), then put a spade bit on the drill and bored out all the holes.  I also drilled a hole in the lid and attached it to the can's handle with a piece of rope so it wouldn't blow away.

Donald had emptied the old bin and had the site all ready to go when I was done.  I set the holey trash can in place and used a level to make sure it was straight, then put a landscaping brick in the bottom of the can so the critters couldn't tip it over. We used a shovel and a pitchfork to fill the new bin with partially decomposed food and garden scraps. 

The purpose of compost, of course, is to help amend garden soil, so while we were at it we also dumped several wheelbarrows full of finished compost on a perennial bed and spread it around.

The finished product
Five years ago today: What A Rebel!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

NOBODY Will Be Getting That Data

Several months ago my very geriatric laptop (a Christmas present back in 2010) stopped working.  When I turned it on I could hear the computer start, but the screen remained black.  At its age I decided it wasn't worth trying to repair it. 

I rarely saved files on the laptop (preferring to network to the desktop computer in the kitchen, so everything was in one place). To the best of my recollection all that was the dead unit were a few clip arts. However, on the off chance I was wrong I didn't want to just recycle the computer as it was, and decided to remove and destroy the hard drive.

 I asked Son Donald if he knew anything about the insides of laptops. He didn't, but was happy to take on the job of researching and completing the removal project. It took him 15 minutes, and at the end of it he handed me the small rectangular hard drive.  While I was trying to figure out what the next step should be I set the hard drive on the kitchen island. After a couple of days it got buried by some papers. Today I moved those papers and saw the hard drive anew and decided it would be a good day to finish the project. 

The WikiHow article How to Destroy a Hard Drive was a fun combination of practical (how to wipe the data) and witty (shooting the drive at a firing range) information. I wanted a fast and easy approach, so I choose the article's second method, which was Hammering the Hard Drive.

I took the drive and a hammer outside to the back patio, then started pounding vigorously on the cover.  After several blows Donald, who had come out with me, decided he wanted to get involved, too.  I watched him have fun banging on the drive until the cover separated into two pieces.  He removed the magnet and gave the shiny platter a couple more whacks until it was completely shattered into small pieces. 

The final step of the project was to clean up all the tiny shards that had flown to all corners of the patio and throw them away, knowing that my information was safe. 

Five years ago today: Have Helmet Will Travel

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Waterless WC

This morning when Hubby Tony and I rolled out of bed it was sunny and almost 60 degrees...a beautiful day for outdoor activities.  He suggested a walk, but when I reminded him we hadn't been on a bike ride yet this year he quickly agreed.  After breakfast we loaded the bikes into the car and headed towards Grant's Trail. I like riding there, because as a former railroad right of way it's nice and flat.  When we reached the trailhead parking lot we got the bikes ready to ride.  But before I started I decided I needed to use the rest room.

It's been several years since we've been on that section of the trail.  My recollection was that the restroom was actually a port-a-potty, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was now a real building with separate Men's and Women's sides.  When I entered the single stall room the first thing I notices was the interesting-looking lavatory.  The sign on the wall told me it was a composting toilet.

According to Wikipedia, a composting toilet is a type of waterless system that uses a predominantly aerobic process to treat human excreta by composting. As befitting a waterless system this toilet had no water tank.  Instead, the seat with attached lid was placed directly on top of a large tank. A sign on the wall told me not to put bottles, cans, trash, cigarettes, cigars, or matches in the toilet, and to close the lid when I was done.

A small plastic trash can filled with wood shavings was attached to the wall next to the toilet.  There was a scoop attached to the can with a long cord.  No instructions were included, but I knew from my experience with composting that in order to keep a pile from smelling you need the right ratio of "greens" (fresh nitrogen-rich materials) and "browns" (dry or woody carbon-rich materials).  So when I was done I added a large scoop of shavings to the toilet before I closed the lid.

Five years ago today: Time To Eat! Now!!!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

In Any Language, It's Still Dinner

Last week Son Donald finished his college semester. Over the weekend he came home with a car full of clothes, bedding, and books.

Tonight we had our traditional end of studies family celebration dinner.  Hubby Tony brought home carry out Chinese from a restaurant close to his office.  The food was good and plentiful. It wasn't until I was cleaning off the table that I noticed the slip of paper that was in the bag.  As much Chinese food as I've had over the years, it's never come with a bi-lingual receipt.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Wide Spectrum of Mothering

My niece posted this on her Facebook page. I thought it was powerful enough to share.
The Wide Spectrum of Mothering

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year–we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stain–we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment—we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms–we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children–we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children–we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year–we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother–we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood–we are better for having you in our midst

To those who have aborted children–we remember them and you on this day

To those who are single and long to be married and moth ering your own children–we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who stepparent–we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, yet that dream is not to be–we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year–we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption–we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising–we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.
By Amy Young
Five years ago today: Strawberries In Tuxedos