Saturday, January 31, 2009

Creative Currency

Today made a shirt out of a one dollar bill.

I used directions from wikiHow to complete the project:
  • The first step was to fold the sides of the bill in to make the body.
  • Next, the corners on one end got folded down to make the collar.

  • After the collar was made, the bottom of the bill was folded up to make the body the correct length.

  • The last step was open up the bottom a bit, fold the sleeves out, then snuggle the bottom under the collar to hold it in place.
The project was pretty easy, although my bill was not very crisp; I couldn't get nice folds, which made my "shirt" a bit crooked. If I was going to give this to someone (the directions suggested this would be a creative way to leave a tip), I'd start with a new bill.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Kind of Blue

I heard on the radio the other day that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue album. Officially, the album was recorded on March 2 and April 22, 1959 and released August 17, 1959.

When I was a child, Kind of Blue was the only jazz album in my parent's collection. I thought it WAS jazz. As a teenager (during my hard rock period) I scorned it; it was't contemporary enough. However, as an adult I've come to love the relaxed melodic sounds of Miles' trumpet and how it interacts with the piano, saxophones, bass, and drums of the other musicians.

In honor of the anniversary, enjoy this video:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cat Tales

It's funny how each of my cats, although they're litter mates, has different personalities.

Jackson is quite friendly when people are in the house. Pepper hides at the first sign of company. When the weather gets cold, Pepper is always seeking out a lap to sit on, but Jackson doesn't want to have anything to do with it.

Tonight I was using the computer in the kitchen when Pepper decided he needed some attention. He usually does this by walking in front of the monitor, then sitting right where he blocks most of it:

However, tonight when that didn't work he decided to climb from the desk into my lap. I was surprised; he's never tried anything like that before. Once he had all four paws on my lap, I started rubbing his belly. He flopped down and started purring. How could I make him leave? I moved my mouse over to the left side of the desk, the better to pet him. He started purring even louder and flexing his paws.

Pepper stayed curled up on my lap for about ten minutes. My back was starting to hurt, and I had to shift my position; I disturbed him enough that he got up, stretched, jumped onto the floor, and left the room.

He took up a sentinel position right outside the kitchen, waiting for me to finish in the kitchen and go sit down in the family room. His favorite place to nap on cold evenings is on a lap!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Perfect Potion

I'm rarely sick, but I went to bed with a scratchy throat Monday and started coughing yesterday; the cough got worse throughout the day. Last night I kept waking myself up with all the hacking! When I wasn't any better this morning, I knew I needed to do something, so today I explored natural remedies for my cough.

In the past couple of days I've tried all the OTC remedies that were in my medicine cabinet, and I didn't want to make a trip to the drug store to get something else. Besides, I don't like the side effects of some medicines. I figured something that came from my pantry would be better for me, so I tried...

Remedy #1
Good old honey and lemon. I mixed it in a cup of tea; it made me stop coughing while I was drinking it, but I started again as soon as the cup was finished. Time to try something else. A little research revealed...

Remedy #2
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp water

I mixed everything together and sipped it over the course of a half hour. It tasted pretty nasty, but I didn't care what it tasted like if it worked. At first nothing happened, but all of a sudden I felt better; my cough wasn't so dry or frequent. Alas, the effects of this remedy were only temporary, too.

After spending another hour coughing, I asked a friend for advice, which was...

Remedy #3
Tea with ginger. Skeptical, I made yet more tea (herbal this time), added sweetener and some ginger from the spice cabinet, and stirred everything together. After the first sip I realized this tea had an unexpected spicy kick to it from the ginger! About 15 minutes later, I became aware that my cough was less intense and my nose wasn't dripping anymore.

I had to know why it was working. According to this Website, the warming effects of ginger make it a natural decongestant as well as an antihistamine, making it the perfect remedy for colds.

The benefits lasted for about two hours for me; when I started feeling bad again it was easy to make, and drink, more ginger tea. I wonder...if I drink some right before I go to bed, will I be able to sleep through the night?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Put A Shine On It

I only use the "good" silverware a couple of times a year. We have a motley collection of patterns--most were obtained from my mom, but other pieces came from Tony's mom and random relatives that gifted pieces to us. As our family has grown, there are more people at our formal dinners. This Christmas I had plenty of forks and spoon, but not enough knives. I've been checking thrift shops for a few more, but I haven't had any luck finding them.

When I was looking for something else on a shelf in the basement, I found a coffee can full of cutlery. I have no idea when or how they got there, but upon closer review, I discovered all the pieces were silver! They were completely black with tarnish, but I knew that could be fixed. Today I brought a handful of knives upstairs, researched ways to easily clean tarnished silver, then did the actual job.

The picture on the left is the knives when I started. Some of them had beautiful details on the handles that were obscured by the heavy layer of tarnish. I knew I could take an entire afternoon sitting at the kitchen table using elbow grease, a bottle of silver polish, and rags to shine them, but I was looking for a lazy way to do it. I found a How To Clean Anything book on my bookshelf. It had several ideas, but I decided to try the "aluminum foil, baking soda, and salt" method. According to the book, a chemical reaction between the baking soda and foil would remove the tarnish from the silver.

The method:
Cover the bottom of a pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, add enough water to cover the knives (about 3 inches), 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the water to a boil, add the silver, and boil it for three minutes.
When the time was up, I removed the knives one at time and buffed them with a soft cloth. A LOT of the tarnish came off, but not enough. I used baking soda and water to rub off the rest of the tarnish. It must have been loosened by the first process, because it came off quite easily. Here's a picture of my shiny knives right before I put them away in the chest in the dining room. Since I usually polish all the silverware before I use it, I'll remove the last of the offending tarnish then.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Writing On The Wall

My painting adventure continues...

Several years ago Son Donald wanted to paint his room, because he wanted a change from the generic off-white walls. After a bit of negotiation, we settled on a medium grey color, which actually worked out pretty well; it did a good job of hiding the dirt that an adolescent boy inevitably carries in. However, now that the ceiling was clean and pristine, the rest of the room looked shabby. Today was the day to paint the bedroom walls, and since I got to pick the color this time, I decided to return the walls to a more neutral tan color.

After breakfast I assembled all my materials and got ready to start. As I did the first cutting in, I noticed what a significant color difference there was between the old paint and the new. That inspired me to add a bit of graffiti to the middle of the longest wall:

(KG is me and TG is Hubby Tony.)

The snapshot is the only evidence of my work. Like most graffiti, this decoration was temporary; after the wall was completely cut in, I grabbed the roller and put a fresh coat of paint over the whole thing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What A Romantic!

In honor of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns (the national poet of Scotland), here's my favorite Burns poem:

A Red, Red Rose

O my Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June:
O my Luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' 'twere ten thousand mile!

Although there's at least one Burns Day celebration in our area, we'll be passing on it. No haggis for us!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

The headline in yesterday's Post-Dispatch was intriguing:

"Wanna act with Clooney? No experience? No problem!"

This morning I (and thousands of other people) showed up at Crestwood Court (aka Crestwood Plaza) to attend an open casting call for a chance to be an extra in a George Clooney movie.

The plot of "Up In The Air", according to IMDb:
A professional who specializes in "career transition counseling" (a euphemism for firing people) looks to accomplish his two main goals in life: to accumulate 1 million frequent flier miles, and to land a job at a mysterious management company called MythTech.
The movie is going to be filmed around St. Louis in March and April. According to the article, there were roles for for about 2000 people, especially people with airline and hotel industry experience. I didn't have either of those, but I thought I might have a chance as a generic traveler, businessperson, or "Midwest type".

I arrived at the mall about 9:20 (forty minutes before the posted start time) only to find a line of hundreds of people ahead of me. However, the whole process was well organized; I was given a ticket and told to come back at 10:30.

While I was waiting I decided to get some exercise and walk the mall. I fell in with a nice gentleman who was obviously a regular mall walker; he waved to several other people as they went by. We made about 2 1/2 trips around the mall before we went out separate ways, because it was time for me to get in line.

The queue moved slowly but steadily; while I was waiting I had fun talking to all the people around me. There was a pair of retired women who had been friends for over forty years, a pair of 20-something men who kept cracking each other up with horrible puns and jokes, and a group of travel agents dressed in Hawaiian shirts.

Eventually, I got to the top of the line and was ushered into the room. I turned in my form, complete with snapshot, was asked a few questions, and thanked for coming. They'll call me if they're interested.

As a side note, while I was waiting in line a man came through asking if anyone lived in West County or South County and would be willing to be interviewed for the Suburban Journal paper. When I expressed interest, he led me into an empty storefront, took out his video camera, and asked me a few questions. I may not end up on the silver screen, but I will most likely be on a computer screen soon!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Makes Scents

One of the new things I grew last summer was a pot of lavender. I kept it on the deck, right outside the kitchen and family room. At the end of the season, I picked the flower spikes, hung them in the laundry room to dry, then rubbed the flowers off and used them for sachets. I bundled up the stems with burlap twine, which I knew would be safe to burn, and set them aside to use in the fireplace this winter. Tonight I added fragrance to a fire for the first time.

We have a nice wood-burning fireplace in our family room. It's always so cozy to sit in front of it and watch the flames flicker. However, we don't use it very often. A good fire takes all night, and we don't usually have that big block of time to devote to it. It requires a lot of work to get a good blaze started. Once it's going, it always needs attention--a new log, or a poke to reinvigorate the embers.

Tonight turned out to be the perfect night for a fire; the forecast called for cold, windy weather. We had no plans for the evening except a friendly game of cards, which we could easily play in the family room while we watched the flames.

Tony did the fire lighting honors tonight, using some fatwood for kindling. The logs had been in the fireplace since the beginning of the cold weather, so they were dry and caught easily. After the fire was blazing, I added the first of the bundles of lavender. The stems emitted a fragrant aroma for the five minutes it took for them to burn. I spaced the rest of the bundles out over the course of the night, so we'd have intermittent fragrance. Each time the scent of lavender wafted through the air, I took a deep breath and enjoyed the smell. It made me think of the warm weather that will eventually be here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Watching Paint Dry

After removing the Sticky Tack from some of our bedroom ceilings, it was time to paint. I HATE painting ceilings because:
  • My neck always hurts when I'm done as a result of continually looking up.

  • I end up covered with paint. (Even my glasses get covered in tiny specks.)

  • It's hard to see what you're doing since you're putting new white paint over the existing stuff. I always miss spots and have to go back and touch them up.
My goal today was to paint the most stained ceiling. There was a partial gallon of ceiling paint from the last project that I thought would be enough, but I underestimated and it ran out when I was about two-thirds of the way through. Grumbling, I changed my clothes for a trip to the hardware store. As I surveyed the brands of paint available at my local big-box store, I saw something I've never seen before-color changing ceiling paint. It didn't cost any more than the regular white ceiling paint. I had to try it!

The paint label said..."Paints On Purple-Dries White. You Won't Miss A Spot!"

When I opened the gallon of paint, the light purple tinge was obvious. I poured some in my paint tray, grabbed the brush and roller, and started on the side that went paintless the first time. I have to admit the purple color made it easy to see if I was covering the ceiling well. It didn't take long for the purple hue to fade, though. By time I finished the first section of the room, the purple was much less obvious, but there was enough color left to allow me to
see where I'd already painted. I went up and down the room rolling the paint evenly across the ceiling.

After I was finished, the first section of the ceiling was almost entirely white in color.
An hour later, when I went in to do some cleanup, there was no remnants of purple left.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thanks for the memories

My digital picture frame died over the summer, and I received a new one for Christmas. The gift included a memory card already loaded with some pictures, so I could immediately start using the frame.

However, tonight I wanted to add more photos to the mix. With my old frame, it was easy; I could import new images (which I have archived on my computer's hard drive) from a flash drive. I read the instructions for the new model several times; there was no mention of importing. I was at a loss. How could I move pictures from my computer onto the memory card? A little Internet searching revealed a cumbersome but workable solution.

The first step was to exchange the frame's memory card for the one I already had in my camera. I connected the camera to the computer in the usual way, and opened up a folder to view the camera's files. Then instead of moving photo from my camera's memory card to my hard drive, I went backward and moved the files to the memory card!

It's great to have more pictures in rotation on my frame.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Today I, and a good chunk of America, sat down to watch Barack Obama take the Presidential oath of office and give his inaugural speech.

This is the first time I've been able to listen to an inauguration speech as it's given; every other time I've been working or otherwise unavailable. The speech was pretty good--a patriotic pep talk, asking people to "...pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

I turned on the TV about a half-hour before the swearing-in was scheduled to occur, so I got to hear the political analysts talking about dignitaries as they were seated on the platform. It was fun watching the masses of people that journeyed to Washington D.C. to see the whole thing live. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, even though it looked very cold.

After the inauguration ceremony was over, I turned the TV off. I had no desire to have an analyst tell me what I just heard!

Because I comprehend better when I read things (as opposed to hearing them), later this afternoon I searched the Internet for a transcript of the acceptance speech. Not surprisingly, every news organization had a page devoted to it. Just for fun, as I read the speech, I kept track of the key words he used on a card from BingObama.

From their Website:
There's no doubt that Barack Obama gives a good speech. After a while you start to notice he uses a lot of the same words. To make things a bit more entertaining, use BingObama to generate a bingo card to use during the next Obama speech you are watching.
The directions were easy; I just had to check the words he said during the speech. The site could generate new cards with the click of a button, but one was enough for me!

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Kicked My Science Teacher In Line At The Bank Because I’m NOT Crazy

This made me laugh when I read it at Transylvanian Dutch:

Pick the month you were born:

January-----I kicked
February----I loved
March-------I karate chopped
April---------I licked
May---------I jumped on
June---------I smelled
July---------I did the Macarena With
August------I had lunch with
September--I danced with
October-----I sang to
November--I yelled at
December---I ran over

Pick the day (number) you were born on:
1——-a birdbath
2——-a monster
3——-a phone
4——-a fork
5——-a snowman
6——-a gangster
7——-my mobile phone
8——-my dog
9——-my best friends’ boyfriend
10——my neighbour
11——my science teacher
12——a banana
13——a fireman
14——a stuffed animal
15——a goat
16——a pickle
17——your mom
18——a spoon
19——a smurf
20—--a baseball bat
21——a ninja
22——Chuck Norris
23——a noodle
24——a squirrel
25——a football player
26——my sister
27——my brother
28——an iPod
29——a surfer
30——a homeless guy
31——a llama

What is the last number of the year you were born:
1——— in my car
2 ———on your car
3 ———in a hole
4 ———under your bed
5 ———riding a motorcycle
6 ———sliding down a hill
7 ———in an elevator
8———-at the dinner table
9 ——– in line at the bank
0 ——– in your bathroom

Pick the color of shirt you are wearing:
White———because I’m cool like that
Black———-because that’s how I roll.
Pink———–because I’m NOT crazy.
Red———–-because the voices told me to.
Blue———–because I’m sexy and I do what I want
Green———because I think I need some serious help.
Purple——--because I’m AWESOME!
Gray———-because Big Bird said to and he’s my leader.
Yellow——-because someone offered me 1,000,000 dollars
Orange——because my family thinks I’m stupid anyway.
Brown——-because I can.
Other——--because I’m a Ninja!
None——--because I can’t control myself!

The sentence you make is the title of your blog post if you choose to continue this meme.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Isn't this a cool poster? I made it at the Big Huge Labs Website.

The site's tagline is Helping you do cool stuff with your digital photos since 2005. There are dozens of utilities on the Website; the one I used, Motivator, is one of them. As the Motivator page says:
"Create your own customized motivational posters. Armed with a digital camera and that non-stop wit of yours, you now have the power to turn a simple photograph into a humorous or inspirational message."
The first step is to upload a photo. (I used one from last summer's garden, to help me remember that warm weather will be back!) Next you choose colors for the wording and the background, then add a title and motivational text. After I clicked the Create button, it only took a couple of minutes for my poster to be displayed.

There are many options for the finished creation. You can order hard copies, save it to your hard drive, upload it to Flickr, or email it to a friend. If you register on the site, you can store your uploads on their site, save your work there, or create high-resolution versions.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Do The Jerk

When I got a food dehydrator for Christmas, one of the things I really wanted to make was jerky. Son Brian is a consummate jerky culinarian; he experiments with the type of meat and the marinades so it's different each time, but it's always good.

Tucked inside the dehydrator box, along with the instruction manual, were two packets of spice/curing mix, and instructions for using them with ground meat. Yesterday I bought a package of hamburger, and today I made my first beef jerky.

According to the instruction book:
"Jerky is a favorite snack for school, lunch, on the trail or just about anywhere! ...The finished product is a protein-rich exercise in chewing and ever so delicious!" It went on to say that "...ground meat jerky is easier to make, dries faster, and is less expensive and easier to chew than jerky slices."
The recipe for Easy Homemade Jerky called for a pound of ground meat, one packet of jerky spices (the spice and curing mix) and time. After mixing the meat and seasonings together, I used my cookie press to extrude the meat into strips onto several dehydrator trays, stacked them on top of each other, topped them with the lid that contains the heating element and the motor, and started the whole thing up. It only took about ten minutes before wonderful smells started emanating from the kitchen.

Per the instructions, I set the temperature to 155 degrees F; the directions indicated the drying time could range from 4 to 15 hours, depending on the thickness of the meat, the amount of meat on the trays, and the humidity. I started mine about 8:15 and it was done at 12:30, when the pieces looked like very well-done hamburger:

At the end of the drying time, the instructions said to wrap the jerky in paper towels and let it stand for a couple of hours so the excess grease would be absorbed; that extends the shelf life. I couldn't let it sit on the counter, because I knew the cats would get into it, so I put it in the switched-off microwave while I left to run some errands.

The recipe indicated that one pound of meat would yield about 1/3 pound of jerky. Storing the completed jerky shouldn't be a problem, although anything that is stored un-refrigerated will start to go rancid at room temperature after 3 or 4 weeks; I don't think mine will last anywhere that long!

Friday, January 16, 2009


Many Christmases ago, my boys got a package of glow-in-the-dark stars for a present. They were so excited to stick them to their bedroom ceilings! After consulting the dictionary, and deciding which constellations to use, they installed the stars using Sticky Tack.

Fast forward a couple of years. The Sticky Tack starts losing its "stickyness" and the stars start falling from the ceiling. However, a permanent reminder of the project remains; remnants of the orange Sticky Tack, along with an oily stain on the ceiling. However, by this time the boys were teens. They didn't mind the overhead mess, and didn't want me in their rooms cleaning things. It was easy to ignore the whole thing.

The boys are long gone from home. With all my newfound free time, I decided it was time for me to tackle the ceiling job. I had Tony carry the ladder up to the second floor, grabbed my equipment, and cleaned the Sticky Tack from the bedroom ceilings.

Before I got started I surveyed the project. There were several groups of orange dots; I assume at one time they were all discernible constellations, but I didn't recognize most of them. However, here's the Little Dipper depicted in Sticky Tack:

My goal was not to go for perfection with the removal, but to get the ceilings ready for a new coat of paint. I figured if I could get most of the solids off the ceiling, and repaint them with quality paint, any residue would be unnoticeable. I scraped off as much of the Sticky Tack as I could, using a blunt knife. The ceilings have a bit of a texture, which made the job harder; I tried to remove as little sand as possible, because I didn't want to have to redo that, too.

Once I had most of the solids off, I used lighter fluid to remove the residue. When the job was done, there were no orange gobs on the ceiling; they had been replaced by larger orange smears. However I hope a little TSP, a little Kilz, and a new coat of paint will take care of the remnants.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Apply Yourself

When I closed my tutoring center at the end of last year, my plan was to do a little deferred maintenance around the house--painting and organizing--before I looked for a new job. However, the economy didn't check with me to see what my plans were! I realized that it was time to start the search process, so today I filled out an online application for a job.

Last month, a friend asked if I wanted to work part-time in her office, but the offer was contingent on one of the current employees leaving. In the end that didn't happen, so I was out of luck. All of the retail stores and restaurants in the area that had Help Wanted signs up a few months ago have taken them in. I decided that maybe it was time for me to dust off my college degree and put it to work. I have several teaching certifications (fortunately for me, they're lifetime), but haven't worked full-time in the classroom for decades. My most current experience is a bit of substitute teaching in our parish elementary school several years back, and the work I did with teens the last four years.

My first stop was the Website for Special School District of St. Louis County. The whole application process was done on-line. It was easy except for the fact that the terminology has changed quite a bit since I graduated; it was difficult to match up the (now somewhat politically incorrect) certification phrases with the current ones.

The next challenge was to find people who could be references. Since I didn't have a supervisor in my last endeavor, I had to go back several years to find people who could vouch for me. Fortunately, I was able to come up with the required number of people; after getting their permission, I mailed off the Reference Report forms to them.

I don't expect to get a full time job with my current experience. My plan is to do some substituting, as a teacher or teacher's assistant, so I have more up-to-date knowledge. I'm also going to fill out an application at my local school district and see what happens.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Don't Believe Everything You Read On The Internet

A couple of weeks ago, when I started planning the food for my birthday celebration, I checked several Web sites to figure out how much to buy. I knew about how many people would be coming, and I wanted to make sure we had enough; nothing is more embarrassing than running out of eats.

I ended up bookmarking one site that seemed to have all the information I needed. There were pages for sandwiches, veggie trays, fruit trays, and beverages. I made my list and purchased my food and drinks accordingly.

I'm not sure who this woman was feeding, but my guests ate much less than hers. We had trays of leftover mostaccioli, bags of veggies, pounds of meat and cheese, and dozens of hoagie rolls. Some of the non-perishable things went straight into the pantry, but what to do with the things that wouldn't last?

We've eaten mostaccioli several days in a row, and I sent some home with son Donald. I couldn't let it go to waste, but I just couldn't bear the thought of having another plate of it tonight, so I came up with a new recipe to use leftovers. The pasta already contained a red sauce; I made a cheese sauce (with leftover cheese, of course!) and mixed the two together. I also made a salad with the remaining radishes.

However, enough is enough. I froze the rest of the pasta (several meals worth) for later.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

So Good To See You

You found me! I'm delighted you're here.

In my first attempt at blogging, Kathy At 49, I documented my year-long project to do something new every day for a year. Now that's finished, but I've decided that my blogging wasn't.

Here you'll find an account of my further adventures. Some things will be new, some will be further explorations of things I've done before and enjoyed. I may even throw in a random joke or two! However, I won't necessarily be posting every day; I'm aiming for quality, not quantity.