Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Smart Forecast

Tonight Hubby Tony and I were talking about what time sunset would be, so I opened the Weather Underground app on my phone to check. Just above the sun and moon information, I saw a feature I had never noticed before called Smart Forecast.  After clicking around on the screen I learned that the feature lets you choose the weather conditions you'd prefer for different activities (running, biking, landscape photography, walking, fishing, star gazing, hiking, kite flying, gardening, sailing, surfing, and wildflower photography) and the app will tell you when those conditions are met.

I decided to try making a walking forecast.  I chose the acceptable and ideal ranges for the temperature, wind speed, chance of precipitation, air pollution, and the acceptable times for doing the activity. Next I chose one of the seven different color options and hit 'Done'.

The result was an interesting graph:

However, in the next five days the conditions will often be acceptable, but they will never be ideal.  I guess I'll have to wait until the temperatures cool off to see if there's an additional notification for that.

Five years ago today: Tasting Event

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Last Of The Family Fun (California, Summer 2018)

The day after our jaunt to Sacramento was the Fourth of July.  Daughter-in-law Nicole had a previously scheduled bike ride, and was already gone when the rest of us woke up. Son Brian had done some research and suggested that the San Jose Rose, White & Blue Parade would be a good morning activity for the rest of us. After breakfast he packed a bag with snacks and drinks for Grandson Jay and made sure the stroller was in the car before we left.

The parade started at 10:00. For almost two hours we saw floats, Scout groups, bands, antique car clubs, dance groups, service organizations, and groups of pets go by. There was a festival area at the end of the route, but  Jay was getting tired, so we walked back to the car and drove to a Panera close to the house, where we met Nicole for lunch. Then it was back to the house for nap time.

Brian and Nicole had invited some friends over for dinner. They arrived about four o'clock, each bringing a dish to share. Brian and Nicole provided ribs, baked beans, cole slaw, and chips. Tony and I threw in a bag of Belly Flop jelly beans. After dinner we sat outside. As it got dark Brian offered Tony and I the chance to go watch fireworks. We declined. However, their house was close enough to the city's display that I heard the boom of the show for an hour after I went to bed.


On Thursday, the last day before Tony and I few back home, Brian and Nicole took the day off and we made a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Brian and Nicole are members, and their extra guest passes got me and Tony in for free. We spent a couple hours there, concentrating on Jay's favorite displays-the habitat exhibits with lots of fish, the penguins, and the children's area.

Before we left the aquarium we ate lunch in the cafe (where I thought the food was surprisingly good for a cultural institution).  After lunch we walked a couple of blocks for ice cream, then got back in the car and headed home. It took Jay about five minutes to fall asleep, and he napped for the entire  drive.

Brian had after-dinner plans, so Nicole, Tony, and I took James to the park, where he had a great time climbing, sliding, and digging in the sand.  At bedtime we gave Jay extra hugs and kisses, because we didn't know if he would be awake the next morning when Brian drove us to the airport.

Five years ago today: Hospitable Hosts

Friday, July 13, 2018

Extended Family Fun (California, Summer 2018)

When Hubby Tony found out we were going to have some time to ourselves on this trip he contacted his cousin Jean (on his mom's side) to see if we could visit with her. Although they are cousins, Jean is about 30 years older than Tony. She lives in Sun City Lincoln Hills, a planned senior community  a half hour north of Sacramento.

We rented a car for this trip. Tony called the rental office Monday morning to arrange for them to pick us up. The person he spoke to wrote down the time wrong, and the shuttle driver ended up arriving a half hour late. However, to make up for their mistake they gave us a slightly bigger car and waived the return gas fill up requirement, a nice bonus.

Our drive started out the same way as our previous route, but this time we went farther north on Interstate 5. We passed through Sacramento and kept going. When we arrived at Jean's we were greeted by her son Nick, who lives with her. Jean was right behind him. Although frail-looking, she gave both me and Tony a firm hug and invited us in. We chatted for several hours. Jean was able to answer many of Tony's questions about some of his long-deceased family members. I took notes so Tony would be able to remember all the details.

At the end of the visit Tony and I drove to a nearby Starbucks, where we used the wi-fi to research hotels in Sacramento. It was the beginning of rush hour when we got back on the road, but we eventually made it to our destination. We checked in, dropped off our bags, and immediately searched for places to go to dinner. Yelp directed us to a nearby Thai restaurant, then a ice cream parlor for dessert. When we returned to the hotel it was time for bed.

Then next day we relied on Yelp again to find a great coffee shop for breakfast, then headed to the Old Sacramento State Historic Park, a historical landmark that was once the western termini of the Pony Express and first transcontinental railroad.  Many of the historical buildings have been repurposed into stores and restaurants.  We walked around for a couple of hours, had lunch, then started back towards "home". This time we took a different route, which allowed us to visit the Arboretum at University of California-Davis. For part of the walk through the grounds we were escorted by a pair of turkeys:

Our last stop was in Fairfield, where we visited the Jelly Belly factory.

Jelly Belly factory
The plan was to take a factory tour, but the wait to get in was 30 minutes. Both Tony and I were tired, so we settled for visiting the gift shop, where we stocked up on Belly Flops (irregulars that didn't make the quality cut) and got back on the road again. I'm glad we did; thanks to a couple of accidents traffic was really bad heading back into the Bay area.  We had to be back at the rental car office by 5:30, and made it just in time.

One more set of adventures awaited us before we came home.

Five years ago today: How Exciting!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Family Old And New (California, Summer 2018)

Son Tony and his fiancee Ie live in Dallas, but she grew up in Central California. When Hubby Tony and I figured out we would be babysitting, we asked if there was any way we could get together to meet some of Ie's family. Eventually we heard there would a casual barbecue get-together at one of Ie's sister's houses.

After Hubby Tony and I left Grandson Jay with his parents we left for Manteca, a city approximately 75 miles away. Thanks to some heavy traffic it took close to two hours to get there.  We moved from Interstate 880 to 680 to 580 to 205, then got onto a state highway for another ten minutes.

Ie comes from a large family. Her mother and all but one of her siblings were there, and with spouses and children there were about 30 people! I did my best to remember names and family groups, but joked that I hoped there wasn't a quiz at the end.  Most of the people there had never been to the Midwest, so we spent some time talking about the differences in our areas.

Ie is a first generation Asian-American, with parents that came to this country in the late 1970s. The buffet meal contained dishes like barbecued meat and vegetable skewers, tossed green salad, and tortilla chips with salsa. Next to those were green papaya salad, egg rolls, and spicy pickled greens. Dessert was tasty Nab Vam (Tapioca in Coconut Milk), a mixture of chopped fruits and tiny boba swimming in a sweet liquid.

Nab Vam - Pinterest

After several wonderful hours of socializing and eating, Hubby Tony and I left to drive back to Santa Clara.  Everyone else in the house was asleep when we got in, so we quietly climbed into bed to get ready for the next day.

Son Tony and Ie were combining family time with personal vacation time. Sunday afternoon they stopped by Son Brian and DIL Nicole's house for lunch and socializing!  It was great to have most of the family together. (The only one missing was Son Donald, who was back in Missouri working and taking university summer classes).  Eventually Tony and Ie left for their next commitment.

After dinner Hubby Tony and I packed up our suitcases for the next adventure.

Five years ago today: All The Excitement Happened In The First Half-Hour Of Work Today. Then It Went Back To Normal.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

All In The Family (California, Summer 2018)

Shortly after the new year started Son Brian and DIL Nicole approached Hubby Tony and I about babysitting grandson Jay while they flew to the East Coast to attend a wedding at the end of June. We quickly agreed. The plane tickets were purchased in April, and then it was a matter of waiting.

Tony and I flew into San Jose on Tuesday afternoon. Brian picked us up from the airport, and we were just getting settled into our bedroom when Nicole and Jay arrived home from day care. We talk with the family via Face Time most weeks, but it still took Jay a little while to get used to us in the flesh.  At the end of the evening we watched his night time routine (so important for a 20-month old). On Wednesday we shadowed Brian, learning the morning routine and day care drop off and pick up.

A great day for a game
While Jay was at day care and Mom and Dad were working we drove to the nearby San Jose Earthquakes stadium, where they were showing World Cup games on the huge video screen. We watched Brazil beat Serbia in Group E play and got some great food truck lunch. After dinner that night Brian and Nicole left for the airport, leaving Grandma and Grandpa in charge for two and a half days.

Chalk is always fun

I was proud that we successfully navigated the first bath and bedtime without a hitch, and when Jay briefly awoke in the middle of the night he accepted my glass of water, then laid down and went right back to sleep.

We took Jay to day care both Thursday and Friday, then spent the days exploring the San Jose and Santa Clara area.  
Carmelite Monastery, Santa Clara

Del Monte Park, San Jose

In the evenings after dinner we read books, played with balls and bubbles, and took walks around the block. On Saturday morning we pushed Jay in his trike to the local strip mall. Brian and Nicole got home Saturday afternoon. We handed Jay back over to them, and borrowed Nicole's car for the next part of our California adventure.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Welcoming Weather

Ten days ago Hubby Tony and I left for a trip to Northern California. While we were there we visited with nuclear family, extended family, and new family. We were also able to get some time for ourselves. The weather was beautiful the whole time.

Our plane got in mid-afternoon yesterday, and we walked out of the airport into a typical hot and humid St. Louis day. It took ten minutes for the parking lot shuttle bus to arrive, and by the time I got on my shirt was sticking to my sweaty back. The rest of the day was filled with playing with the cats, unpacking, organizing, and laundry. After dinner Tony cut the very long grass and I made a quick grocery run. We went to bed early, not even bothering to watch the local news.

This morning we continued our catching up activities. I did more laundry, and put it all away. Downloaded photos from my phone, Tony's phone, and the camera. Caught up with work emails and scheduled some jobs for the upcoming week. After lunch I realized I had some errands that had to be run, so I got ready to leave the house. When I walked out into the garage I realized that the weather had changed from the previous day. It was really nice--almost the same weather we had left behind on the West Coast!

When I got home from the errands I opened up the windows so the fresh air could come in. Based on tomorrow's forecast we'll be closing the house up again tomorrow, but I'll take the nice weather when I can get it.

Five years ago today: Bromeliaceous

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Feelin' Fancy

The other day I had some work in a posh part of town. Wanting to fit in, I wore a casual tan linen skirt, a navy polo shirt, and my real-looking fake diamond studs. The job took about a half hour, and when I was finished I didn't feel like going straight home.  Instead, I decided to head to the closest mall.

This mall is small, but very posh. It's anchored by the area's only Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus stores. My original plan was to get some steps in by walking the common areas, but somewhere during the first lap I veered into the Talbots store, seduced by the clearance racks visible from the front door.  Besides, the store has two entrances so by going in one and out the other I was still technically continuing my lap.

After that I decided to stop in every clothes store that struck my fancy, including the two anchor stores. When the associates wanted to know if I needed any assistance, I cobbled together a story (which was almost true)  that I was looking for white shorts or capris for an upcoming casual event with some Very Important People.  For the most part I didn't find anything that struck my fancy and I was able to keep going.  However, in Neiman Marcus the associate showed me some Eileen Fisher shorts and capris and I decided to try them on.

That's one fancy dressing room!
She walked me to the fitting room, unlocked the door, and indicated I should go inside.  Holy cow! The room was the largest I had ever seen.  Two walls were covered in mirrors, the better to see both back and front of what you were thinking about buying. In addition to plenty of room to try things on there was a chair and a small couch. The associate hung my items up on a rack and left, saying she would be right outside if I needed her.

I tried on and quickly discarded the capris, but fell in love with the shorts They were made with thick but smooth linen, relaxed legs, and an elasticized back.  And "only" $188.  Not even remotely within my budget. Sadly, I hung them back up and left everything in the dressing room. On the way out of the department I thanked the associate, who gave me suggestions for several other stores I might try. I did go in a couple of them, and even tried on a few things, but after those perfect shorts everything else was disappointing.

When I left the mall I drove to a nearby upscale charity thrift shop, where I found a white golf skirt for $5. The stretchy cotton material was a far cry from the soft linen, but the price was right. I could get it and have enough to buy dinner that night.

Five years ago today: Bowls Of Morning Goodness

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Undesirable Expounding

They're at it again. The spammers and their comments, that is.

I let anyone comment on my blog, but remarks on posts older than 21 days are moderated. That means I get to approve them before they see the light of day. If someone I don't know leaves a comment I visit their blog to see what's on the other end. I've 'met' some of the nicest folks that way, and I end up adding their blog to my RSS reader. However, sometimes the link leads straight to a Google+ page with no real content, in which case I'm not interested. And sometimes the comment comes from someone who just writes nonsense; those go straight into the trash can.

For several weeks the spam comments have been attaching themselves to the same three or four very old articles on my blog, and I ended up closing those posts to additional comments. I hope that doesn't deter someone who is truly interested in what I have to say.

The newest tactic is for a spammer to post the same comment on several of my posts at the same time. The subject matter is usually completely off topic, and often off color. When I find them guess where those comments go?

Five years ago today: Sweet Feet

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Motor Driven Two-Wheeler

Last week I got an email from the store where I bought my bike that told me about their electric bike promotion. The message said that if I came in and took a test ride I would get a scratch-off card prize. The idea of an electric bike fascinated me, so today I stopped in to see what they were all about.

After asking me where I rode and what type of riding I did the associate gave me all sorts of stats and specs about the electric bikes, most of which went in one ear and out of the other. However, I did learn that:
  • There are electric bikes designed for commuters, trail riders and dirt bike riders.
  • The bikes in the store were regular bicycles that included pedal-assist, which meant that when you need assistance a small motor engages and gives you a boost.
  • Most bikes offer three levels of assistance. Their battery range is 20-60 miles, depending on the power mode and terrain. Not surprisingly, the more you pedal the farther you can go (because pedaling conserves the battery).
  • Recharging the bike is easy and takes three to five hours. You just take the battery off the bike and plug it into a standard wall outlet.
After I chose a bike to test the associate lowered the seat to the correct height and gave me a loaner helmet.  Before I left the store she gave me a suggested route (behind the strip mall) where I could test out the bike's speed. Then it was time to ride!

Once I was outside I turned on the battery and started peddling. The battery and motor made the bike significantly heavier than the one I already have, but it was still easy to maneuver. In my short ride the bike was very comfortable, with a nice wide seat and upright handlebars that had me sitting up straight.  I stayed in Eco, the lowest level of assistance. The electric motor made a light humming sound as I rode. I could feel the motor helping me along, and could go much faster than I usually do. When I looked down at the speedometer it told me I was going 16 miles per hour!

I went to the end of the strip mall, then turned around and came back the same way. The whole thing took less than five minutes and I was a little disappointed I couldn't ride for a longer time. After I turned in my helmet I got to pick my prize from a stack of cards in a small box box. I scratched off the center section and learned that I have $20 credit to spend in the store, which will be good for a small accessory.

As you might expect, electric bikes cost substantially more than conventional ones. I would have to save my pennies for a long time to be able to afford one. It sure was fun, though.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Into Time

My random Internet searching tonight led me to the website Into Time. The site is the creation of Rafaƫl Rozendaal, a visual artist "who uses the internet as his canvas". Wikipedia says that Rozendaal also founded BYOB, an open source exhibition concept, and is is one of the first artists to sell websites as art objects.

The simple Into Time site only has one page, a screen that changes color every few seconds. Every time you click on the screen it cuts the section in half and each of the rectangles begins its own color changing. After a while the screen is a riot of shifting colors.

Five years ago today: Butter Me Up

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day 2018

Earlier in the week, I was at the drug store trying to find the perfect Father's Day card for Hubby Tony. It seems like every year they expand the definition of what a "father" is, but it still surprised me to find cards from the family pet.

Looking closer, I saw a nice selection of greetings 'from the dog', but the slot that held the one cat card was empty.  I thought that was a funny metaphor for a cat's behavior and decided to turn it into my own greeting. I took a photo of the display, then walked over to the photo department and uploaded my file into their system. It took me more time to scroll through their selection of borders and choose one then it did for the photo to print.

Five minutes and fifty three cents later I was on my way home.  I designed the front cover with enough room to glue the photo in the center, added an appropriate inside message, and printed both on card stock.  The last step was to use double-sided tape to stick the photo on.

Five years ago today: It's Hard To See In The Rain

Friday, June 15, 2018

One Of The Mysteries Of The Universe....

Is why I sometimes can't sleep. Like last night. I woke up at 4 a.m., went to the bathroom, got back in bed, and laid there. Rolled over from my right side to my back to my left side and back again.  Nothing was bothering me and I didn't have anything on my mind, so there was no reason for me to be awake. Eventually I turned on the radio for something to listen to.

Our local NPR station broadcasts a BBC stream overnight, and the soothing voices often lull me back to dreamland. This time it didn't work, but I learned that 40 years ago tomorrow (June 16, 1978) the film version of Grease was released in theaters. According to Wikipedia, the movie is the fourth highest-grossing live action musical. In case you've been living under a rock for the past 40 years here's an example of why the film deserves that recognition:

Five years ago today: Mums The Word

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

As Good As New

On Sunday I put a load of wet clothes in the dryer and turned the timer knob. Instead of clicking into place the knob just spun around loosely. The first dryer cycle was about ten minutes long. I tried again, and this time it worked for three minutes before the buzzer went off. The third time the dryer wouldn't even start.

I was frustrated, but since it's summer hot outside at least I had an option.

Our subdivision indentures don't allow for a clothes line, so I carried all the wet clothes outside and draped them over the deck rails and furniture. It only took an hour for even the heaviest items to be completely dry.

Lovely, isn't is?
We've used the same appliance repairman for decades, the dad of one of Son Donald's friends, but the last time he came out he told me he was getting ready to retire. However, on Monday morning when I searched through Angie's List for a replacement company his name was the fourth hit down on the first page. I called, and he told me that he had decided to hire a technician to do the actual work.

The earliest he could get here was today, and he offered me a slot from 10 am-2 pm. I accepted. Today I was finished with my errands and back home shortly before 10. While I waited I did some computer work and kitchen projects. I lost track of time until the cats reminded me it was almost time for their afternoon meal (which happens about 2). I called the technician to find out what was going on. He told me his paperwork said my slot was from noon-4:00. I was irritated, but I decided to make the best of it and continued on with my day.

At quarter after three I got a call the technician was on his way, and he showed up a half hour later. It took him less than a minute to figure out that the issue was a cracked knob. He told me he could sell me a new knob, but they cost $50 and then he'd also have to charge me for a service call. Instead, the technician swapped the broken knob with the one from the signal shaft, took a pen and scribbled over my paperwork, shook my hand, and left.

Five years ago today: A-Peeling

Monday, June 11, 2018


I find it hard to believe, but Son Donald will be turning 30 this week. When each of his brothers reached that age I memorialized them with a "through the years" photo album on Facebook, and will do the same thing this time, too. I've had a great time going through all of the boxes of snapshots to pick out just the right ones. Once I decided on the photos, it was time to scan them into the computer.

Our all-in-one printer/copier/scanner is downstairs in the office. My computer, where the files would end up, is in the kitchen. Several months ago the flatbed scanner decided it wouldn't start from the button on the machine, but it will run from the control center software on the computer. Now scanning is a multi-step process of walking downstairs to put the item on the scanner, upstairs to start the process, then back down to retrieve it. Normally I'm only scanning one or two items at a time and I just consider it part of my day's exercise. Tonight was not normal.

Curious to know just how many flights of stairs I'd be climbing, I took a before screen shot of my exercise stats for the day. Thanks to a couple hours of yard work and then some house cleaning they were looking pretty good:

Then the scanning started. I tried to do a couple of photos each time, but they often became crooked when I put the lid of the scanner down and then I'd have to redo them (which led to even more trips). When the job was done I saw that I had gotten almost 1,000 more steps and 16 extra flights of stairs:

Thank goodness my creaky knee was behaving itself today!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Fresh Facing

Our house was built in the mid-1980s. Except for a partial brick veneer on the front it's covered in Masonite siding. About eight years ago I noticed some of the siding boards were swelling on the edges. I did some research and figured out we weren't the only ones who had a problem. There had been a class action lawsuit against the siding manufacturing company, and in 1996 the courts had approved a $150 million settlement fund. However, when we looked into getting reimbursed for our house repair we found out the settlement money was pretty much gone.

We found a company to replace the damaged boards. They did a great job and when the new siding was painted you could barely tell the repair had been made. Every couple of years when we see more damaged boards we have the company come out and take care of it for us. 2018 is one of those years.

Several weeks ago a company representative came out, walked around the house, and gave us an estimate. We accepted the bid, made a deposit, and waited. Eventually I received a call that the crew would arrive early on a Wednesday morning, and be done three days later.

The 'crew' ended up being one hardworking man named Alex. Alex didn't say much, but when he did he spoke with a heavy Slavic accent. After introducing himself Alex got to work. At the end of the day all of the damaged siding boards were removed. Rain was forecast for the next day, so the work continued almost til sunset.

Back of garage and second story above kitchen

Overnight the rain came as predicted. And not just light showers. It came down hard all day Thursday and Friday. I checked with the company about the exposed walls. They told me it wasn't an issue, and they would be back when the ground had dried out enough to set up the ladders. That was on the next Tuesday. Once again Alex worked by himself, and at the end of the day had most of the new siding put up.

Almost done, and looking good
The next day was all about painting. Alex taped plastic sheeting over the doors and windows, then used a sprayer to apply a coat of paint. He cleaned up his things and left.

Job completed
Five years ago today: C. O. L.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Too Soon

Last Friday started out normally, but mid-morning I received a call telling me my 29-year-old niece had passed away. Suddenly everything changed. The errands I had planned to do were no longer important. There were phone calls to make, a schedule to clear, spare bedrooms to make up for company, a house to toddler-proof, and extra food to buy and prepare. It was nice to be busy, though, because that meant I didn't have to think about the horrific situation. I only had to focus about the task at hand. In between jobs I read the tributes that were being written about my niece on Facebook.

On Tuesday both Hubby Tony and I made a trip to the airport. Son Brian and Grandson Jay arrived mid afternoon (DIL Nicole was in the middle of a serious prior commitment and couldn't come). Son Tony and fiancee Ie got in after dinner. Wednesday, the day of the viewing, Son Donald came in from school. It was good to hang out with everyone, and a couple of times I almost forgot what had brought us all together. All too soon, though, it was time to get ready to drive to the funeral parlor.

The viewing was traumatic. My sister in law and the young lady's siblings looked shell shocked. There were a couple of pleasant moments, though. I got to see my six month old great-nephew and talk with several people I hadn't seen in a long time. Somehow we all made it though the night and headed home. Donald headed back to school because he had a morning class to prepare for.

This morning everyone else got up and ate breakfast. Jay had a large group of adults to play with while his dad got their things packed up. When it was time for them to I drove them to the airport. Later in the day Tony and I made another trip to the airport. We stopped for dinner on the way home, then I started the process of getting everything back to normal. My heart isn't in it, though. At the rate I'm moving it will take me much longer to undo the work than it did to do it.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Interesting New Dog Breeds

Have you heard about the newest dog breeds?
  • They crossed a Collie and a Lhasa Apso and got a Collapso, a dog that folds up for easy transport.
  • They crossed a Spitz and a Chow-Chow and got a Spitz-Chow, a dog that throws up a lot.
  • They crossed a Pekingese and a Lhasa Apso and got a Peekasso, an abstract dog.
  • They crossed a Labrador Retriever and a Curly Coated Retriever and got a Lab Coat Retriever, the choice of laboratory researchers.
  • They crossed a Pointer and a Setter and got a Poinsetter, a traditional Christmas pet.
  • They crossed a Irish Water Spaniel and a English Springer Spaniel and got an Irish Springer, a dog fresh and clean.
  • They crossed a Newfoundland and a Basset Hound and got a Newfound Asset Hound, a dog for financial advisors
  • They crossed a Bloodhound and a Labrador and got a Blabador, a dog that barks incessantly.
  • They crossed a Malamute and a Pointer and got a Moot Point, owned by….oh, well, it doesn’t really matter.
  • They crossed a Collie and a Malamute and got a Commute, a dog that travels to work.
  • They crossed a Deerhound and a Terrier and got a Derriere, a dog that’s true to the end.
  • They crossed a Bull Terrier and a ShihTzu and got an....uhh.....I’ll get back to you on that…
Five years ago today: Any Reason Will Do...

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Am I Right, Or Are You?

In the past couple of weeks I've talked about cell phones with sales associates at several stores. When speaking about the newest iPhone I refer to it as the Ten, with the X standing in for the Roman numeral. However, I've noticed that most of the associates call it the Ex, as in the alphabet letter.

Normally I would expect someone who works in a store to be the expert so the first time it happened I was taken aback. When I got home I researched the topic and discovered that (according to the Apple website) I was correct. Now when someone calls the phone by the wrong name I roll my eyes and pretend they pronounced it the right way. Life is too short to worry about things like that.

Five years ago today: What Are The Odds? (Big Apple Chronicles-Day 5)

Sunday, May 27, 2018


Today Hubby Tony and I participated in the a group bike ride that also visited four different Mexican restaurants. At each location we got a taco (along with chips and salsa at some of them). It was a lot of fun.

When we go on rides Tony and I like to stay together. (It's like a date on bikes.) That's sometimes hard to do in a group situation. In the past if I've gotten too far ahead of Tony I was constantly looking behind to see where he was. That's led to some potentially dangerous situations, like the time the person in front of me came to a quick stop and I almost ran into them.

I had seen other people using rear view mirrors while riding, and thought it might be a good idea for me. Last week I stopped by my neighborhood bike shop and asked about them. I learned there were three types--handlebar, helmet, or glasses mirrors. I'm hard on my bike when I hang it up and put it in the car, so I didn't think the handlebar would be a good place for a mirror. The same with my helmet-I tend to toss it around when I take it off. That left the glasses type.

Not too stylish, but plenty functional
Today was the mirror's first big test. Before the ride started I hooked it onto the side of my glasses. The two tabs on the outside and one on the inside of the temple held the mirror securely in place.

Once it was on I adjusted things so I could look behind me with only a slight turn of my head. That was really nice. Not only could I see the bikers behind me, I could see the cars too, and make sure to give them plenty of room to pass me. I guess the mirror will now be a permanent accessory for bike rides from now on.

Five years ago today: The City That Doesn't Sleep (Big Apple Chronicles-Day 4)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Watery Closet

Last night after dinner Hubby Tony and I headed out to start the weekend. Our destination was the Schlafly Art Outside Festival, which says it aims to "raise awareness and appreciation of art and music created in our very own community".

The festival had about 60 artist booths showcasing all types of media. After we'd seen everything Tony and I decided we wanted some dessert. However, Schalfy is microbrewery, and most of the non-art booths were beer related.  The only food was savory, and not what we wanted. We decided to take a scenic walk back to the car while we came up with ideas. That section of Maplewood is filled with beautiful older houses, and we had a great time looking at them. It was just a coincidence that we ended up close to the Mauhaus Cat Cafe.

The last time we were there it was wall to wall people. I suggested it wouldn't hurt to walk by the front window, look at the cats, and see how busy it was. There were no people visible, so we were pretty sure they could accommodate two drop ins. We were right. The admission for the cafe included a credit for food and drink. Tony and I each chose a bar cookie and an herbal iced tea.

We had a great time playing with the cats. When it was to leave I decided I needed to use the rest room. I walked into the room, closed the door, and was surprised to see the strange-looking toilet in the room. Upon closer inspection I realized it had a sink mounted on top of the toilet tank! However, a sign explained that the combination was designed as a way to save water. Instead of using clean drinking water to fill up the toilet tank for flushing, the water you used to wash your hands with took its place.
When it was time I pushed the flush button and a strong stream of water came out of the faucet. The stream continued until enough water had flowed into the tank to fill it up. Then the water shut off.  What a concept!

Five years ago today: New York By Day (Big Apple Chronicles-Day 3)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Let's Dance

Hubby Tony and I are always looking for new things to do. A while back he asked if I would be interested in taking lessons to improve our social dancing skills. Figuring I would agree, he had researched facilities and found out there was one just a couple of miles from the house which offered group drop in lessons. Wednesday night was Swing Dance, which he thought would be the most fun. It took a couple of weeks for us to get there, but last night we participated in our first Beginners class.

The whole thing was remarkably low key. Tony found out we could dress in anything comfortable, so I chose cropped jeans and a pair of comfortable shoes. When we arrived I checked out the other couples and found everything from dress clothes to business casual clothes to shorts. Several people we talked to said it was their first time, too. Right at 7 pm the instructors walked us down the hall to a large mirrored studio. They made sure the sound system was working correctly then announced it was time to get started.

Years ago Tony and I went to a ballroom that had waltz instructions before a scheduled dance. That night did not go well. There were too many people for the instructor to give everyone individual attention and Tony and I never got the hang of it. This time it was different. The two women leading the class did a great job of breaking down the moves into small sections. They had the men stand on one side of the room and the women on the other so we could see exactly how our feet were supposed to move. We did each section without music and then again with the music. As we danced the teachers moved around the room, giving pointers to each of the couples. The last ten minutes of the class we traded partners. The first man I danced with was new like me, but the second had been dancing for a while.

While we were finishing up people started coming in for the next class, which was Intermediate Swing Dance. They sat on chairs in the corner waiting their turn. I would have liked to see just how much progress a dancer needed to make to move up, but at the end of the class all of the beginners gathered up their things and filed out. As we left one of the instructors gave us a sheet that contained information about the steps we had learned.

Will Tony and I be back? More than likely, when our schedule permits. And after we master Swing, we might branch out to the Fox Trot, Waltz, and Salsa lessons they have on Monday nights.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Is There A Space For Me?

I had some business to do at a downtown bank today. It wasn't until I finalized everything that I learned the baseball Cardinals were playing a game that started just after noon today at the stadium on the south edge of downtown. That meant that in addition to all of the normal daytime parking people there would be hundreds (thousands?) of extra cars vying for spots. The bank did not offer the option of a garage. Lovely!

I had a 9:00 appointment at the mechanic's for an oil change and tire rotation, and it was 9:45 when I got on the road. It took a half hour to get downtown, which I thought would give me plenty of time to find a spot on the street, but when I got there two hours before the game the area around the stadium was already a sea of red. There was no on-street parking to be had, and the garages were charging twenty dollars or more.

I decided to try my luck on the north end of downtown. However, I ran into several streets that were closed due to road work. Eventually I decided to head west and call the walk to and from the bank my exercise for the day. The first meter I stopped at was change only (and I didn't have enough in my wallet), so I drove a couple of blocks farther away to snag one that would take a charge card.

Next I had to guess how long I would be parked there. I've been in enough downtown banks to know that it sometimes takes a while to get service, and I also had to factor in the eight block walk each way. It was only a dollar an hour to park, so I paid for two hours, locked my car up, and started walking.

Just my luck that today the bank was completely empty except for the bankers. My business was wrapped up in ten minutes. Even factoring in a twenty minute walk each way half of the time remained on the parking meter. As I was getting ready to drive away a car started to pull into the empty space behind me. I got the driver's attention and told him he was welcome to my space and free-to-him parking when I left. He smiled and agreed to wait.

Five years ago today: I Like To Eat, Eat, Eat (Big Apple Chronicles--Day 2)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Downright Departed

For years we've had a small bird house hanging from the front porch eave. It was made from a kit by one of the boys when they were in Scouts. The last time we had the house painted I slapped a coat of the same colors on the bird house-a light tan on the sides and the blue-grey we used for the front door and shutters for the roof.

Most years the birdhouse is nothing more than a decoration, but every few years we'll be blessed with a pair of birds. This year was one of them. One day a couple of weeks ago I heard chirping from that general area. With a little observation I soon learned that a pair of chickadees had claimed the bird house for their home. Eventually the chirping calmed down as the babies grew and got ready to fly out.

Saturday night I was doing yard work in the front and saw fluttering in the hole. I figured it was a baby fledgling and didn't think any more about it. However, yesterday morning when Hubby Tony and I went out the front door on our way to church I saw a bird hanging from the hole. It wasn't moving at all and I feared the worst. When we got back it was still there.

After lunch I put on a set of gloves, grabbed a plastic newspaper sleeve and rag, and went outside to investigate. Hubby Tony came with me to provide moral support. The bird was indeed dead. It was harder than I would have thought to remove the tiny limp body, because its foot was tangled in some of the nesting material.  What a horrible death it must have had!

I dug a hole next to the maple tree in the back yard and buried the bird. I felt awful about the whole thing, but I hope the tiny bird body will enrich the soil in that area.  While I was doing that Tony took down the house for cleaning. I removed the screws holding on the bottom, shook out the nest that was inside, and brought the house inside for a thorough washing. I think that when it dries I'll give it another coat of paint before I rehang it.

Five years ago today: New York, New York (Big Apple Chronicles--Introduction)

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Any (Facebook) Friend Of Yours Is A Friend Of Mine

Ever since my high school class celebrated the fortieth reunion of our graduation last summer I've gotten quite a few Facebook friend invitations from fellow classmates. Some of them I knew well back in the day, some I knew slightly, and some I barely knew at all. (I my defense my class was huge. There were approximately 800 graduates that year.)

Whenever I get a Facebook friend invitation from a name I don't know I check out the person before I accept by going to their page to see if we have any friends in common. If we do I accept the request. Usually if it's a long-lost high school acquaintance I see the same overlapping list of Class of 77 Alumni. The latest request was different, though. This time, in addition to the high school ties there were several mutual real-life friends not connected with high school.

Some of the ties had a commonality, but others had me scratching my head. I finally gave up and sent a message to the person asking how they knew So-and-so. After some back and forth we figured out that the mutual link was a program for teenagers some of our children were active in fifteen years ago. The other common friends were business associates of hers that I knew from a retreat program Hubby Tony and I have participated in the past few years.

I guess it just goes to show it's a pretty small world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

No Reaction Whatsoever

David Teie, a cellist and composer released Music for Cats in 2015. The songs are scientifically designed to appeal to cat ears and brains.

I listened to the song and enjoyed it, then decided to play it for my cats and see what they thought of it. Pepper was already laying on the couch. He showed no emotion. Halfway through the song Jackson sauntered into the room, paused to listen for a few seconds, then continued walking.

Maybe they're not music connoisseurs?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ventilation Competition

The gym I go to offers group classes in the morning and evening. If there's nothing else on my schedule I'll try to make one of the morning ones. But lately, there have been a lot of things on my schedule and I've been far from regular. This week is pretty empty, and I've made it there yesterday and today; now I'm two for two on my exercising.

Today's class was Zumba. Because the aerobic dancing makes me hot and sweaty, I like to get there early enough to stake out my favorite spot--in the back row right underneath one of the ceiling fans. When I arrived five minutes before the class start time there was only one other person in the room. I claimed my preferred location and waited. Just before the class started two women arrived together and took places to my right. I smiled at them as the music started playing.

There was plenty of space in the room, but as the first song segued into the second I sensed that the woman to my immediate right was getting closer and closer to me. I was torn between being polite and scooting to the left to give her more room or staying put under 'my' fan. After all, I had made sure to get there early for it.

I wrestled with my decision for another song, then decided that today, self-interest would win out and stayed put.Selfish? Maybe. But it was my decision and I don't feel bad about it.

Five years ago today: Convinced By Cats

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Winery Fun

My friend Denise had a milestone birthday this week.  She chose to have a party at one of her favorite wineries, where we enjoyed a great afternoon of friends, food, wine, and music.

You didn't know that Missouri was a wine hotbed?  It is. According to the Missouri Wines website there are 36 wineries within 50 miles of my house. Add another ten miles to that and there are 53. The country's first wine region is actually just west of St. Louis. The rolling hills and temperatures  reminded the mid-19th century Rhine River valley German immigrants of home, and the soil was perfect for growing grapes. They planted vineyards and created a vibrant wine culture. All of the wineries had to shut down during Prohibition, but they began to reopen again in the 1960s.

Now, Wikipedia says:
The area along Route 94 between Defiance and Marthasville has so many wineries that the highway has been nicknamed the Missouri Weinstrasse (wine route). It runs parallel to much of the Katy Trail, built in former railway right-of-way. This area has the highest concentration of wineries in the state. Many of these sit high up on south-facing bluffs above the river.
Shortly before lunch Hubby Tony and I loaded up the car and headed west.  Once we got off the interstate, Highway 94 was a scenic two lane drive.  Each winery we passed had a sign along the road.  The well-known ones were quite predominant; smaller locations had 'blink and you'd miss them' signage. Our destination was Blumenhof Vinyards and Winery in Dutzow.

Denise and her husband had arrived early and nabbed tables right in front of the band stage. They provided sandwiches, non-alcoholic drinks, and cake.  Everyone else brought a side dish. Before we ate we took turns guarding the tables and visiting the tasting room. There were bottles purchased for the birthday girl and for general consumption. I'm not a big wine drinker, but the weather (which went from not quite spring to summer overnight felt more like mid-July than mid-May, and white wine/lemonade slush was the perfect drink for the heat.

Five years ago today: Ma, Mommy, Mom, Mum

Friday, May 11, 2018


It's a shame I didn't learn about National Eat What You Want Day until it was bedtime. I think I'll put the commemoration on next year's calendar so I can plan in advance.

Five years ago today: Garlic Paradise--UPDATED

Monday, May 7, 2018

Closet Changing Season

Spring weather has finally arrived!  Time to put away the heavy clothes and celebrate the new season.

I actually started the job a couple of weeks ago when I moved the heavy flannel shirts from their prime real estate in the front of the closet and shoved them in the back. They stayed there until I got out the plastic bins that hold the off season clothing. I removed the summer items from the bins, then restocked them with the clothes I won't wear for months. (I left out some light color, lighter weight transitional tops for the cool days we inevitably get during the middle of the summer.)

It was a pleasure to remove the winter boots, loafers, and booties from the closet and replace them with flip flops and sandals.  Next, I packed up the cold weather accessories and replaced them with items that will work with the lighter weight clothes.

After I got finished with my clothes I moved on to the winter coats.  I washed both mine and Hubby Tony's.  They're now hanging neatly in the hall closet with all zippers, Velcro, and snaps fastened.  The gloves and scarfs are washed, matched and ready for next year.

Now that my personal things are straightened up I can move on to the rest of the house and the outside chores that need to be done.

Five years ago today: Cute Clothes

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Pepper On Pillow On Bed

After dinner Hubby Tony took a ten minute power nap after dinner before he left for a meeting.  When he got up he left the pillow awry.  Pepper the Cat decided that the plain bed wasn't good enough for him...he obviously needed extra cush for his early evening snooze.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Pop Up Pallet

Spring has finally sprung. Our weather the past few days have been beautiful...a light jacket in the morning and evening and shirtsleeves in the middle of the day. The flowering trees are a riot of color, and garden centers are doing a booming business.

When the weather warms up I start thinking about spring cleaning. Yesterday I removed the flannel sheets from my bed, and today I tackled the spare bedrooms. I scrubbed the soap scum off the glass shower doors. I put the first of the house plants outside in a sheltered place to acclimate them before they move to a place on the deck. I also went through an accumulation of photos I had emailed to myself. I must have thought they were worthwhile months ago, but today, not so much. However, there were a few keepers. Down near the bottom of the folder I found evidence of one of my recent redecoratings.

The upper level of our house has four bedrooms. The master bedroom is the biggest, but the two in the front of the house are both large enough for a full sized bed. The fourth isn't, and has always had a twin sized bed. Son Donald, being the youngest, got stuck with that small room. However, as soon as Son Tony left for college in 2003 Donald immediately moved his things into the empty space.

I did some redecorating in the vacated room, pushing the metal frame bed against the wall and adding a spread and bolsters to turn it into a day bed. Last fall when Donald went back to school he needed a bed for the house he was renting with some friends. With my permission he took the metal one with him, and it was time to find another option.

The family continues to expand and we needed more beds, so I decided that a trundle bed would best suit the space. I religiously checked Craigslist and the Facebook marketplace looking for one. It took several weeks, but one day I saw a post offering a basic frame along with pop-up trundle and two mattresses. Hubby Tony and I went to look at them, and after a little haggling purchased everything.

Ironically, I was able to use the same bedding, which looks even better on the new set. Last Christmas the entire family was here, and the first trial for the trundle. When both beds are in use the room is pretty cramped, but it does the trick.

Bed closed and opened up

Five years ago today: Tuesday Archive Link Up

Friday, April 27, 2018

25 Signs That You Have Grown Up

Clip Art Mag
  • Your potted plants are alive. And you can't smoke one of them.
  • Having sex in a twin-sized bed is absurd.
  • You keep more food than beer in the fridge.
  • 6:00 AM is when you get up, not when you go to sleep.
  • You hear your favorite song on an elevator.
  • You watch the Weather Channel and carry an umbrella.
  • Your friends marry and divorce instead of hookup and breakup.
  • You go from 130 days of vacation time to 7.
  • Jeans and a sweater no longer qualify as 'dressed up.'
  • You're the one calling the police because those darn kids next door don't know how to turn down the stereo.
  • Older relatives feel comfortable telling sex jokes around you.
  • You don't know what time Taco Bell closes anymore.
  • Your car insurance goes down and your car payments go up.
  • You feed your dog Science Diet instead of McDonald's.
  • Sleeping on the couch makes your back hurt.
  • You no longer take naps from noon to 6 p.m.
  • Dinner and a movie - The whole date instead of the beginning of one.
  • Eating a basket of chicken wings at 3 a.m. would severely upset, rather than settle, your stomach.
  • You go to the drugstore for Ibuprofen and antacids, not condoms and pregnancy test kits.
  • A $4.00 bottle of wine is no longer 'pretty good stuff.'
  • You actually eat breakfast foods at breakfast time.
  • "I just can't drink the way I used to," replaces "I'm never going to drink that much again."
  • Over 90% of the time you spend in front of a computer is for real work.
  • You don't drink at home to save money before going to a bar.
  • You read this entire list looking for one sign that doesn't apply to you.

Five years ago today: The Coffee Forecast

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

In The Zone

I belong to a gym that has a couple of dozen locations in the metropolitan area. A little over a week ago I was shocked to find signs on the front door of the one I go to saying it would be closing in June. (Word on the street is that the strip mall the gym is located in is doing a big renovation and that section of the building is being torn down.) 

Hubby Tony and I have been going to that location for about ten years. It's convenient to our house, has a nice selection of cardio equipment, resistance training equipment, and free weights, and offers group classes in the mornings and evenings. Some other branches of the gym have extras like smoothie bars, massage studios, and tanning beds. Mine doesn't, and while I might take advantage of the extras I don't need them.

My membership will be transferred to the next closest location, which would take twice as long to get to. I may very well decide to stay with  this chain, but during the next six weeks I'm going to be looking around for a new exercise home.

Today I had the opportunity to attend a class at a heart-rate based studio. It was intense, but fun. At this studio you wear a heart rate monitor to track how efficient your workout is.  The workouts are HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) based, which means bring your heart rate up, then let it fall back before you tax it again.

I had to show up at the studio a half hour early.  After going over my exercise goals and physical issues with the front desk person I signed a waiver, then I received a heart rate monitor to strap on directly on my skin underneath the bottom elastic of my sports bra. 

Since this was my first time the instructor gave me a quick tour of the class room before everyone else came in.  There were sections for treadmills, rowing machines, and weight room exercises. I got a quick lesson and pointers about the use of each and learned how to find my name on the large screens in the exercise room that would show my heart rate and exertion levels.  After all that the instructor asked if I had any questions.  I confessed I felt pretty overwhelmed, but the instructor said I would do great.

I went back out to the lobby to wait with the other people who had arrived for the class.  There were approximately 30 fit-looking women, most substantially younger than me.  I wondered how well I would manage compared to them.  It turns out I was too busy huffing, puffing, and sweating to notice.

 During the class we rotated through each of the areas. The rowers and exercisers moved back and forth between those stations as directed, and the treadmill users stayed with those until it was time to move to the other machines.  The instructor did a great job of calling out instructions and keeping people on track.  He checked in with me several times to see how I was doing, and gave me a couple of pointers to make my workout more efficient.

At the end of the hour we had a quick stretching session, and then the trainer explained my results to me.  The front desk person gave me information about joining, but wasn't hard pressure when I said I'd have to think about it. 

The class was a great workout, but I can already tell that I'm going to have some very sore muscles tomorrow.

Five years ago today: Unknown Familiar

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Floral Design On The Cheap

Son Donald was in a friend's wedding last night. This morning I came down to the kitchen and noticed a mass of flowers above one of the kitchen cabinets. When Donald woke up he told me that the bride and groom were tossing some of the flowers at the end of the night. He and a friend each decided to take some.  (Once home, he put them up high so the cats couldn't get them.)

The long, low arrangement was a beautiful combination of ranunculus, iris, delphinium, babies breath, and greenery that had been a table centerpiece. Donald was right; the flowers were too pretty to be trashed. I decided to disassemble the arrangement and see if I could reuse it (like I did here and here).

Knowing the flowers had been around for a while and wouldn't last a long time I didn't put a whole lot of work into the task, but I like the way they turned out. Many of the stems had been cut short, so I arranged them in canning jars. The taller stems went in a glass vase. Everything got set on the fireplace mantel to keep the cats away. Those darn cats!

Five years ago today: Shared Responsibility

Saturday, April 21, 2018

I Never Thought About It That Way

I was sending a thank you text to someone tonight and wanted to fancy it up with a GIF. Tucked among the cascading hearts, dancing animals, and animated characters was this one:


So creative!

Five years ago today: How Heavy Is Your Glass?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Have A Ball

Yesterday I was at the post office to mail a package for work. After I took care of that I decided to buy some stamps. I like non-traditional ones, so when I looked at the poster of commemoratives the cute collection of sports balls stood out.  Not only were they colorful, but the shape was really unique. I decided to get them.


The clerk asked if I had seen them before.  When I told her I had not, she pointed out the that they were textured and invited me to feel them.  Sure enough, the baseball stitching, tennis ball and basketball seams, soccer ball and volleyball panels were raised, and the and golf ball, football, and kickball were nubby.

I'm going to have fun putting these stamps on my envelopes.

Five years ago today: No Grow

Monday, April 16, 2018

33 Ways To Stay Creative

      Break The Rules

Five years ago today: In Honor Of Tax Day...