Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dance, Dance, Dance

Today I participated in a Day of Dance sponsored by our local St. Luke's Hospital.

Although this was the first year for the Day of Dance in St. Louis, we joined over 70 other cities who were sponsoring the event today. It was billed as "an energizing and interactive healthy living event" where you could "learn easy dance steps for better health". In addition to dancing instruction, the hospital had physicians and health educators on hand to provide health screenings and education.

I didn't decide to go until the last minute, but it wasn't a problem. Although my name wasn't on the registration list, I was able to sign in at the door. When I turned in my registration form, I received a goodie bag, a raffle ticket, and a form to enter a drawing for several large prizes.

The event was held in several different rooms at the Frontenac Hilton hotel. Most of the activity took place in a large ballroom. A stage and dance floor took up one half of the room; the other half of the room had tables sponsored by several vendors and different departments of the hospital. There was a great breakfast station set up out in the hall with muffins, fruit, yogurt, and drinks. All the health screenings were being done in a separate conference room.

The dancing instruction included a wide variety of types: line dancing, hip hop, Zumba, belly dancing, hip-hop, hula, and belly dancing. I tried all of them (although I did better at some of them than others), but passed on most of the "party dances" (Hokey Pokey, Macarena, Duck Dance, Conga Line, Cha Cha Slide, and YMCA) they had in between each of the scheduled events. I used that time to chat with some friends I bumped into and gather information from the tables. The last session was a demonstration and Q&A session by two members of the Kansas City Ballet; the young couple danced part of a Twyla Tharp dance that was choreographed to Frank Sinatra music.

There were a lot of women in attendance; young, old, and middle-aged. I even saw some moms there with their daughters. There were also a few men, who looked a little bored. The day was very well organized and a lot of fun.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Improve Your Brain

I received an e-mail today that said:
Try this. You gotta pay attention!

http://flashfabrica .com/f_learning/ brain/brain. html
  1. Touch 'start'.
  2. Wait for 3, 2, 1.
  3. Memorize the numbers positions on the screen. You will only have about one second to do this.
  4. The numbers will go away but there will be circles where the numbers once were. Click the circles from what was the smallest number to the biggest.
  5. At the end of game, the computer will tell you the age of your brain.
When I clicked on the link, I was surprised to be taken to a page filled with a language that wasn't English! Turns out the page, Flash Fabrica, is a Japanese site for Flash games. There was an option at the top of the page to change the language to English. When I did that, I found there were actually many brain training games--including four brain age tests.

I played Brain Age Test 01-Instantaneous Memory. The concept was easy, but the game itself was challenging. There were ten rounds. Each round had somewhere between 4 and 8 numbers on the screen which appeared very briefly, then were replaced by circles. You had to click the circles in numeric order to get the round correct. I did a good job on the easy rounds, but messed up whenever there were more than five numbers I had to order.

At the end of the test your "brain age" will be posted on the screen. The lower your score, the better you did. I tried several times; my best score was 23, but the rest of them were about 30 (give or take a few years). However, that is substantially lower than my chronological age, so I should be happy.

Since brains, like the rest of your body, decline over time if not used, it's probably a good idea to keep the grey matter active. There were many other games on the Flash Fabrica site that looked like they might be fun and helpful for mind exercise.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Good Impression

I attended a job fair for a teaching postion earlier this month. A week later I got a call from the district HR department asking me to come in for an interview. After setting up a date and time, the woman said, almost as an afterthought, that the interview would be videotaped. Today I went to a job interview that was videoed.

As if going on an interview wasn't stressful enough, I also had to worry about how I would look on tape! I did some research on the ins and outs of being onscreen. The most common tips seemed to be:
  • Don't wear clothing with tight patterns or pin stripes, because it causes an optical illusion and looks bad.
  • Avoid wearing black, white, or red, because they don't show up well.
  • Wear makeup (foundation and concealer) to improve your skin tone.
I was in a quandary. My go-to outfit is a black, grey, and white striped pantsuit that I wear with a white top. Every time I wear it I get tons of compliments. Also, I never wear makeup other than mascara. I was 0 for 3 on helpful tips.

I tried putting together other combinations of clothes, but in the end I went with my old reliable outfit. I figured that it was more important to feel good than to worry about what I looked like.
I bought the smallest (and cheapest) bottle of foundation I could find, hoping it would do the trick.

I was asked to arrive fifteen minutes before my appointment to complete some paperwork, which turned out to be reviewing and signing the application that I completed online and completing a child abuse screening permission form. It looked like there were multiple interviewers working today; the district must have a lot of applicants!

My interview was held in a room just big enough for a round table and two chairs. After the interviewer closed the door, she asked if I was aware she would be videotaping, then she began reading from her script. Before she started with the questions, she formally asked my permission for her to turn the camera (a small camcorder on a tripod next to the table) on. The interview itself contained a standard set of questions; each applicant answered the same things. I guess that will make it easy for the hiring manager to use the videos to compare all the job candidates.

When the session was over and the camera turned off, I was told I would hear within a few weeks if I would be called in for yet another interview.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Our Daily Bread

I've been trying to cook with more whole grains lately, including the bread I make in the bread machine. However, it's a challenge. White bread flour has enough gluten to make a nice fluffy loaf, but whole grains tend to not rise as high. It's a matter of getting the proportions right. Overall I've had pretty good luck.

Monday I was making a loaf of caraway rye bread. I put all the ingredients into the bread machine in the proper order, hit the Start button, and left to run some errands. I returned home right as the bread finished baking. However, instead of a nice loaf, the bread looked like this:

The brick-like blob was about a fourth of the size it should be. It tasted ok (if you like super-dense, cakey bread), but certainly wouldn't work for the roast beef sandwiches I was planning on for dinner! In all the years of using a bread machine, I've never had a failure like this.

After I changed my dinner plans, I tried to figure out what to do with the nightmare loaf. I have a problem throwing out any kind of food, so that wasn't an option for this yeasty abomination. A little Internet research revealed a couple of alternatives. Today I made bread soup so I could avoid wasting my bread.

I found recipes for Bread Soup from both Portugal and Italy. All the recipes called for white bread, so I couldn't follow any of them exactly-the caraway taste in my loaf was pretty assertive, and probably wouldn't go well with the Portuguese cilantro or the Italian basil. I hardly ever follow a recipe exactly, though, so changing things around wasn't new to me. In the end, I used a Tomato Bread Soup from Mario Batali as my inspiration.

I cooked onion and garlic in some olive oil until onion was translucent. Mario recommended fresh tomatoes, but I added a can of tomatoes and cooked the whole thing until the tomatoes begin to soften and break down. I cut half my mutant loaf of bread into cubes, and added it to the pot with some vegetable broth. The chunks were a little slow dissolving, so I used a whisk to break up the cubes, then simmered it until the bread absorbed most of the liquid. To serve it, I added a handful of shredded cheddar cheese to each bowl before I ladled in the hot liquid.

The soup didn't look great, but it was edible. Since today was Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting, it was probably appropriate that my lunch not be too fancy!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

For Me!

According to
Intention: the person or thing meant to benefit from a prayer or religious offering
One of the a customs of the Catholic Church is for priests remember specific intentions during the celebration of a Mass, also known as "offering a Mass" for something. For my birthday in January, one of my friends gave me a Mass card, which means she requested that I would be one of the people prayed for on a specific day at our church. Today was my turn when the Mass was offered for me.

An intention denotes that the person (or persons) is remembered in a special way during the prayers. While a lot of the Masses are offered for deceased people, they can be offered for practically anything: birthdays, anniversaries, or in thanksgiving for something. The person requesting the intention usually makes an offering, called a stipend, to the priest in order to apply the Mass to a specific intention. At most churches, you receive a card that you can pass on to the person you're honoring.

Our church publishes the list of intentions in the bulletin each week. We have two Masses on normal weekdays (more if it happens to be a holy day) and six on Sunday; each has an intention. I did a double take when I saw my name in the bulletin, because I'd almost forgotten about Marianne's kind present.

Since so many of the Masses are offered for dead people, the church has started putting the word Living next to those of us who are still alive. Now my friends won't be wondering if they missed an important bit of information about my health!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Overcoming Obstacles

Today I made an obstacle course for my cats.

Did you know there are agility courses and competitions for cats? I didn't, but according to the Cat Fanciers' Association they're starting to pop up at cat shows all over the world. The stereotypical cat is lazy, napping most of the day, and certainly too aloof to perform on demand. Jackson and Pepper, my two cats, certainly live up to that stereotype. However, they also spend part of each day running around. One minute they're sleeping next to each other and the next they're chasing each other around the house. Why not channel some of that energy in an organized fashion?

Pepper was MIA, so I decided that Jackson would be the recipient of all the fun. He was napping on top of the sofa in the family room, but opened one eye to look at me when I started assembling materials. I decided to use things that were already there as obstacles, but also set a kitchen chair in the middle of the room. I used a flashlight as a guide, because Jackson loves to chase after the light.

Jackson didn't do bad for a first try. He followed the flashlight beam across the coffee table, down to the floor, and jumped up on the fireplace hearth. After a quick unauthorized stop to use his scratching post at the end of the hearth, Jackson continued to the far side of the room, jumped on and off the other couch, then leaped onto the kitchen chair. Next he sauntered back to his original starting point, but this time going under the coffee table. As a finale, he rubbed his chin against the edge of the table, letting everyone know he'd been there.

He seemed to be pleased with himself, but obviously had enough of structured activities. Running like a bat out of hell, he zoomed through the living room, around the corner, and up the stairs to the second floor. Several minutes later I noticed him back in the family room curled up on top of the couch like he never left.

I wonder if I could ever get my pets to perform as well as the cat in this video:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

One Of A Kind

There was an article about unusual museums in the Travel section of today's Post-Dispatch. Some of them were quite interesting:
  • The Devil's Rope Museum in McLean Texas, which has more than 1,000 varieties of barbed wire.

  • The Jell-O Museum in Le Roy, New York, that's all about the wiggly dessert.

  • Leila's Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri, where you can see locks of hair woven into intricate wreaths and displayed in frames.

    However, much as I would enjoy visiting these places, I don't have the time or resources right now. One of the museums, though, could be seen from the comfort of my computer chair. Today I visited an online-only museum.

    The Flashlight Museum includes the history and photos of flashlights dating to 1899. Stuart Schneider, the "curator", is quite the Renaissance man; the tagline for his Website is Unusual Museums of the Internet. You can find information on fluorescent minerals, cemetery ghosts, a Halloween museum, a Halley's Comet Museum, a Space Memorabilia museum and more. He's written several books and even manages to be a lawyer in his free time!

    However, I came to see the flashlights, so I clicked through to the Flashlight Museum. It was very interesting, containing galleries of antique flashlights and a very detailed history of flashlights and their uses. The information was arranged by category on several pages.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my "trip" to the museum today. There were no guards giving me dirty looks for getting too close to the exhibits. I could spend as much time as I wanted reading the labels and not have to worry about getting in someone else's way, and the "tall guy" that always seems to block my view of things wasn't there.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Whiter Than White

Tony and I are having some friends over for dinner tonight. We haven't seen them in quite some time, so we decided to go all out and eat in the dining room using the good dishes and silverware. Of course, that also calls for a tablecloth and napkins to complete the atmosphere.

I used a striped tablecloth and threw a bunch of beads down the center of the table in honor of Mardi Gras. As I was folding some plain white napkins to put at each place, I noticed that some them had yellow stains. That made me incredibly frustrated, because I know they were clean when I put them away! Before I went to the store to buy more, I decided to do a little investigation to find out if they could be cleaned. Today I used everyday products to remove stains.

According to Chef Noah, I could remove stains by using dishwasher detergent and bleach:
Mix one-half cup dishwasher detergent, one-half cup bleach, and one gallon hot water in a plastic bucket. Soak clothing in this mixture overnight, dump the solution and clothes into the washing machine, and wash as usual.
I mixed everything in a container, added the napkins, and left the whole thing in the laundry room. I couldn't completely follow the directions, since I needed the napkins tonight; after a few hours I threw the napkins in the washer. At the end of the cycle, I was pleased to see that five of the six napkins had no stains left, and the stain on the sixth was much less noticeable.

Chef Noah saved the day!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cozy And Comfortable

I know some people wear loungewear out in public all the time, but it just doesn't feel right to me. I wear nice clothes when I leave the house but I change out of them as soon as I get home. In the cold weather, I often slip on a pair of flannel pants. My favorite is a black and white plaid pair that I acquired from one of my boys a few years ago after they outgrew them. They're very comfortable: broken in, soft, and a bit baggy. The farthest they've gone from the house is a quick jog to the mailbox at the end of the driveway.

I got a call this afternoon from my friend jd asking if I wanted to walk. After we arranged a time and place to meet, I got busy working around the house. When it came time to leave, it was too much work to go upstairs and change my pants, so today I wore flannel pants out in public.

I slid my walking shoes on, grabbed a jacket and a headband for my ears, and hustled out of the house. When I first got to the park, I was afraid I was underdressed, because the wind was really whipping across the track. However, after a few laps I realized the flannel was the perfect weight; it stopped the wind, but weren't bulky. Since the pants had pockets, I had a spot to store my cell phone and keys. It didn't bother jd at all that my choice of clothing was a bit unusual.

It was also an advantage when I got back home; I was ready to jump into making dinner, and didn't have to stop and change my clothes first!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

No Reaction

I was making a big dinner tonight...turkey Salisbury steaks, stuffing cups, carrots, and chunky applesauce. I got busy and lost track of time; all of a sudden mealtime was imminent and I had to start working on everything at once. It was organized chaos!

My first task was to cut the apples. I didn't need to cook them till much closer to dinner, and I didn't want the apple slices to turn brown. I knew from past experience I had a couple of options to keep them from oxidizing. Fruit Fresh does a good job, but I didn't have any on hand. Lemon juice works really well, but I think it affects the taste, and I'd have to sweeten the applesauce at the end to compensate for the acid taste. Since I'm trying to avoid extra sugar, I discarded that option too.

As I was mulling over my options, I remembered a conversation I had with a caterer a few months ago. The apples on his fruit tray were sweet and beautiful, and I asked him what his secret was. He said he soaked them in lemon lime soda! Supposedly there is enough citric acid in Sprite or Sierra Mist so it will keep fruit from browning.

I decided to try soaking apples in soda to keep them from getting brown. I sliced the apples, put them in a small bowl, poured a can of soda over them, and covered the bowl. I let the whole thing sit for about an hour. At the end of the period I took the lid off and was pleased to see that the apples were still very fresh-looking. I poured off the soda and popped the bowl in the microwave to cook.

Even when the apples were cooked they were less brown than they usually are. The residual soda also gave them a nice flavor. I added a bit of cinnamon and set my experiment on the table with the other dishes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pour Some Sugar On Me

Last weekend when I was cleaning out the bird feeder, I scraped some of the skin off the index finger of my dominant hand. I tried to keep a bandage on it so the cut would stay clean, but the bandage kept getting wet and falling off every time I washed my hands and when I worked in the kitchen.

After four days my finger wasn't getting any better. When I was cleaning up after lunch today, I hit the cut and it started bleeding again. I needed to try a new tactic, so today I employed an old folk remedy and used sugar on a cut.

According to this article, sugar is a safe treatment for wounds. Sugar contains natural antibiotics, and it speeds the healing of the skin tissue. It's also cheap and easy to use. I cleaned my finger with soap and water, smeared some triple antibiotic on it, and sprinkled a little sugar on top until the wound was completely covered. After I wrapped the area with a bandage, it stung for a few minutes, then the stinging stopped and my finger started feeling better. Later in the afternoon I got the bandage wet while washing my hands. I took it off and noticed my finger looked less red and puffy, so I went through the whole procedure again.

I got my hands wet again cooking dinner (are you starting to see a pattern?) and needed a dry bandage. Much to my surprise, the scrape on my finger had healed more in a few hours today than it had in the last four days! The deep red had been replaced by pink, and it didn't hurt at all. I repeated the cleaning and sugaring process once more; it will be interesting to see what it looks like in the morning. That is, if I can keep my hands dry until tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Futoshiki Fever

I'm much better at reading and writing than math and logic. However, today I completed a futoshiki puzzle.

Futoshiki is a logic puzzle game from Japan. It's similar to Sudoko in that it involves numbers arranged in a square. A five-square puzzle (the most common size) uses the numbers one to five, which must be placed in each row and each column without any repeats. However, it's different because there are less than (<) and greater than (>) signs between some of the squares that have to be obeyed and factored into the number placement.

There was a futoshiki puzzle in the back of a magazine I was leafing through today. I decided to give it a try, so I grabbed a pencil and eraser and got ready to be frustrated; it usually takes me a lot of trial and error to get these types of brainteasers correct. This one must have been very easy, because much to my surprise I finished it in less than ten minutes!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Slap Shot

For Valentine's Day I got Tony tickets to a St. Louis Blues hockey game. Tonight we had an early dinner, and then went over to the Scottrade Center and saw the Blues beat the New York Rangers.

I got a great deal on the tickets, because of a promotion the Blues are running. The Fan Bailout Plan sells a portion of the tickets for each game at a reduced price. Our seats were about a dozen rows from the ice, at the end of the rink where the Blues attacked in the first and third period.

Although both Tony and I are casual hockey fans, we were excited; the Blues were playing the New York Rangers for the first time in St. Louis since 2005. The Blues aren't doing great this year (they're tied for last in their conference), but they seem to be on a roll, with a record of 7-2-4 since mid-January. They're only eight points out of eighth place, so they still have hopes of making it into the playoffs. The Rangers, however, seem to be slumping. They've had six straight road losses. I was hopeful that we'd see a winner tonight.

I haven't been to a hockey game for a very long time. After spending a little time this afternoon brushing up on the rules of hockey (I thought this site had good basic information), I was ready. We arrived at the stadium just before face-off and settled in to watch some hockey.

The Rangers dominated the first period, which ended with no score. After a couple of fights near the beginning of the second period, the Blues seemed to start playing better. They scored a goal; however, the Rangers scored in the second period too. The third period was pretty much dominated by the Blues. They scored the winning goal with about five minutes left to play.

We left feeling happy, because we'd seen a great game.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Going To The Dogs

St. Louis makes a pretty big deal out of the Mardi Gras season. Although the main parade isn't till next Saturday (the weekend before Ash Wednesday), today Tony and I bundled up and went to a parade that's new for us...the Beggin' Strips Barkus Pet Parade.

According to the Website, this was the 16th year for the parade, which is one of the largest pet parades in the world. I had no idea what to expect in terms of crowds, so we didn't even try to park in the Soulard area; instead we headed straight for the north side of Interstate 55 (where there was no problem finding a space), parked, and started following the crowd. It ended up being about a 15-minute walk to the parade site.

We staked out a spot at the beginning of the route a few minutes before the parade started, and ended up being right across the street from Johnny's Restaurant. They had a reviewing stand with an announcer that commented on people and pets as they walked by, and pet-themed music playing for the entire parade...such as "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window", "Walkin' The Dog", and "Puppy Love", which made the parade a lot of fun.

The event started right on time. For the next 40 minutes, we were treated to a stream of pets and their owners walking past us. Some of the animals were in elaborate costumes, and some just had on beads; the same thing could be said for the owners. There were a lot of beads thrown (and some candy, too). Tony's tall enough that he can catch beads as they're flying through the air, so we ended up with neckfuls. We shared some with the girls behind us, who wanted to collect one strand of every color.

It was a very family-friendly crowd. There were a lot of kids walking in the parade and watching it. There were also a lot of dogs on the sidelines, watching the parade with their owners. One person was handing out dog biscuits instead of beads, which the dogs seemed to appreciate more than the beads their owners were hanging around their necks!

Once the end of the parade passed us by, we left, so we didn't get to hear the announcement of the 2009 Beggin' Court, (king, queen, prince, princess and court jester). We also passed on the Weiner Dog Derby, which is a race specifically for dachshunds. Maybe we'll get to that next year!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Groaners

What would you have if everyone drove a pink car?
A pink car-nation!

What did the boy cat say to the girl cat on Valentine’s Day?
You're purrr-fect for me!

What do you call a very small Valentine?
A valentiny!

What did Frankenstein say to his girlfriend?
Be my Valenstein!

What did the French chef give his wife on Valentine’s Day?
A hug and a quiche!

What did the boy elephant say to the girl elephant on Valentine’s Day?
I love you a ton!

Do skunks celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Absolutely. They're very scent-imental!

Did you hear about the romance in the tropical fish tank?
It was a case of guppy love!

What did the letter say to the stamp?
You send me!

What did the vampire call his sweetheart?
His ghoul-friend!

What did the paperclip say to the magnet?
I find you very attractive!

Did Adam and Eve ever have a date?
No, but they had an apple!

What do squirrels give each other for Valentine’s Day?

What did the man who loves his car do on February 14?
He gave it a Valen-shine!

What did the boy rabbit say to the girl rabbit on Valentine’s Day?
Some bunny loves you!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Spice Of Life

When I was at Whole Foods today I picked up a magazine called Delicious Living. One of the articles in it was called Spice for your type; it was about spices and how they applied to Ayurvedic medicine. I was completely unfamiliar with the concept, so I did some research today about Ayurveda and how it relates to digestion.

According to Wikipedia, Ayurveda (the 'science of life') is a system of traditional medicine native to India. It teaches that good digestion leads to good health and poor digestion can bring disease; Ayurvedic treatments are primarily dietary and herbal.

There are three dosha, or Ayurveda mind and body types: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Since each type could benefit from specific spices, I figured I should know what type I was. I took the quiz at What's Your Dosha and found I was a Pitta.

Now that I knew all about my dosha, I was ready to go back and figure out what spices best represent me. According to the article:
In Ayurvedic medicine, spices normalize digestion, helping balance a person's physiology and personality.

The pitta dosha, containing strong elements of fire and bile, begets passionate personalities. Natural leaders, pittas have fair skin, warm hands, and average builds. This type requires spices that stabilize the body without overheating it. Use fennel and coriander to cool the body down and cardamom to balance your digestive system.

I don't know if I'm convinced that Ayurveda could make a difference, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to keep my new-found knowledge in mind.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Queen Of Thrifty

One redecorating project usually leads to others. Continuing the bedroom refurbishing saga documented here, here, and here, the bedroom is painted, the furniture is arranged, and it no longer looks like an adolescent boy's room. Since most of the room looks so nice, I realized that the windows looked naked without a covering of some type. Today I used creativity to purchase and hang a treatment that cost next to nothing.

Over the years I've used various materials for window coverings:
  • Some years ago in our last house, we were planning a surprise birthday party for my mother-in-law. The surprise was on ME when I tried to clean the patio door drapes; they completely fell apart the week before the party! Having neither the time or inclination to purchase new ones, I threw the old drapes away and bought 15 yards of clearance rack material from the fabric store. I draped the material creatively over the traverse rod, leaving it floor-length on one side to hide the draw cord. Two years later when we went to sell the house, the buyer liked the makeshift coverings so much they wrote them into the contract!

  • Our current house has a beautiful bay window in the family room. When we moved in, a specialty rod wasn't in the budget. A few weeks later, I noticed my neighbor was throwing out a kid's building set that contained lengths of colored PVC pipe and various types of connectors. After asking her permission, I carried them to my house. I went to the hardware store, bought 45° elbow connectors, and used the colored pipe pieces to assemble my own curtain rod. The pocket in the valance completely covered the unique components of the rod.

  • The master bathroom has two windows that come together in the corner. When we moved in, there was a corner rod installed. However, it was only an inch wide, and my treatment needed one 2 1/2" wide. A strip of cardboard cut to the correct length and inserted in the rod pocket took care of the extra width.
I was running errands today when I saw a promising-looking treatment at my local Goodwill store. The valance was quite long; cut in half it would easily cover the two windows in the bedroom. I purchased it (for the amazing price of $2), along with two matching pillow shams I wasn't sure that I needed ($2 each).

These windows had valances on them several decorating incarnations ago. Although the rods had been moved to the basement, the hardware was still secured onto the window frame. (Sometimes it pays to procrastinate!) I found the rods and re-hung them. They were much smaller than the valance's rod pocket, but there was a cereal box in the recycling bin that, when cut in strips and taped together, provided just the right amount of cardboard to complete my job.

I cut the valance in two pieces and sewed the raw edges under. Next, I slipped the cardboard and the rod into the rod pocket and hung the rods. VoilĂ !

I think I'll keep the shams, but after I buy pillows to stuff them with, that's IT for this room's least for now.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Heart Hunt

Valentine's Day came early to our house this year. It started tonight when I hid a memento for Tony to find.

I cut a heart out of red Fun Foam and wrote this note on it:
This heart is from me to you
but if you choose
to hide it too

Please don't say where it will be
I know I'll search
I guarantee

I hid the heart in his shaving kit so he'll find it first thing tomorrow morning. Knowing him, he'll have to top me and find an even better place to hide it. However, I have more ideas for nooks to conceal it in after I find it. I wonder how long we can keep the game going?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Whole Array

I start my day with readings from several daily meditation books that are stacked on my bedside table. Each reading is only one page long, so the whole process doesn't take long; however, it's time well spent because the messages I receive from the books help me cope with the problems of the day.

After I've showered and dressed, I grab my books, sit on the bed, and find the correct page in each book. I usually read each meditation just once, although I may re-read sections if they're really thought provoking.

The topic of one of today's readings was creativity. Among other things, it said
Creativity is... spiritual energy...a way to replace negative thinking with positive action.
Later on, it emphasized that anything we do can be creative, if we try hard enough to find a new way to do it; for example, eating something different, problem-solving, or creating something from scratch. Those ideas made sense to me. However, the next sentence really made me think...
Creative energy is within us and all around us, whether we are writing a masterpiece or folding the laundry.
Folding the laundry? Creative? As I thought about that (which I guess is creativity), I decided to be creative with the doing of the laundry. Here's my load of laundry, sorted by color:

I tried to arrange it rainbow-style, but wasn't sure where khaki fit into the spectrum. The project, which I did right before I threw the clothes in the washer, only took about thirty seconds, but it DID make this load of laundry more interesting.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Tonight we went to a funeral parlor for the visitation of a family friend. The young man had a lot of family and friends; the room was very crowded.

Although I knew the young man well, I had never met his family. Unfortunately, Tony and I were not able to speak to his mother. She looked exhausted, and left the room to take a well-deserved rest.

We signed our names to the guest book before we left, but I wanted to do more. When we got home, I went to the obituary Website and left a comment in the online guest book. It was nice to be able to express our condolences, and share some of our memories with everyone who would read it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Cover Up

When my parents got married in the 1940s, their bedroom set was Hepplewhite style. It consisted of a full-sized bed with headboard and footboard, a dresser, a highboy dresser, a wall mirror, and a bedside table.

In the 1960s my dad cut off the top of the footboard, making it the same height as the mattress so my mom could throw a bedspread over it. He also use an antiquing kit to paint the whole set olive green. It stayed that way for decades. When my mom passed away in the mid 80s, I acquired the set. We stored the pieces in the basement of two different houses, because I couldn't bear to part with it.

We moved to our current house in 1992, partly so each of the boys could have their own bedroom. We needed additional furniture for those bedrooms, so I stripped the bedroom set of its olive paint, stained it a dark brown color, and gave it a coat of polyurethane. Son Tony used it until he left for college in 2003; Son Donald moved into the room until earlier this year when he moved into his own apartment.

The now semi-antique furniture has stood up well all these years. However, its current finish is looking a little worse for wear. The top of the dresser is quite scratched and there is normal wear and tear on the bodies of each piece. Today I attempted to disguise some of the damage by using the meat of a walnut and a permanent marker.

I can't remember where I heard about using nuts to hide scratches, but it really worked on the shallow imperfections. I was able to cover some of the larger ones with a well-smudged brown Sharpie, but when I was done there were still several shabby-looking places where the polyurethane is chipping off. The tops of the dressers ultimately need to be refinished, but the room will get very limited use in the foreseeable future, so I don't want to put a whole lot of effort into it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Today I did two activities that brought me closer to my goal of getting a new job.

My first project this morning was a job fair. Several weeks ago I filled out an application for teaching. Part of the process was to submit a college transcript and letters of recommendation. After the HR department got everything, the next step was to have an initial interview. The job fair provided that opportunity.

I got there a bit before my appointed interview time, and watched people coming and going from the building. Most of them were female and much younger than me, probably new college graduates. However, I did see a handful of people closer to my age, and a few men.

The fair was well organized. After my credentials were verified, I was ushered into a room with tables around the perimeter. Each table had an interviewer sitting behind it. The interview consisted of about a dozen questions (straight from a sheet of paper; I'm sure all applicants were asked the same things). Thankfully I had done some research on the current professional terminology. I tried hard to remember everything I had learned and use the correct phrases. I must have done an acceptable job, because I "passed" the screening process. The interviewer told me to expect a call in the next week or so to set up a more detailed interview.

However, that job, should I get it, won't start until the fall. I need to have some extra income coming in now, so after lunch I went to another location and took the screening test to be a census worker.

Every ten years the United States government takes a census, and it needs hundreds of part time temporary workers to help make it happen this time. Right now they need people to knock on doors and verify addresses so a census form can be mailed next year. They also need workers to conduct interviews. The first step in the job process is filling out an application and passing a test.

When I signed up to take the test, I was told I should allow two hours. The testing portion only took 30 minutes of that; the rest of the time was filled up before the test with registration, verification of our employment eligibility (the test administrator had to individually sign off on each person's I-9 form), and test directions. Afterwards, we got to wait until the tests were graded so we could see our scores.

There were about 60 people this session. We had 30 minutes to complete the 28-question test of basic skills, which included following written instructions, reading, basic arithmetic, and map reading. I did pretty well; actually better than I did when I took the pretest at home.

The next step for this job is a background check. I have NO skeletons in my closet, so that shouldn't be a problem. There was no mention of if or when we'd receive a call about an actual job. However, since the job's hours are flexible, the pay is good, and most people work close to their neighborhood I'm willing to wait.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Mother Of Invention

The forecast today called for a high temperature in the mid-60s, not at all what you would expect for St. Louis in early February. After lunch Tony and I decided to take a walk and enjoy the nice weather. He had some paper to return to Office Depot, about 2 miles from our house, so we decided to make that our destination.

Tony chose to wear a windbreaker, but I decided that my shirtsleeves would keep me warm enough. Since Tony is the one who bought the paper, he got to carry it. He put it in a small day pack , hoisted the pack on his back, and we were off. There were a few piles of dirty snow from last week's storm blocking the sidewalk that we had to navigate, but other than that the walk was uneventful. Partway through the trip, Tony shed his jacket and carried it. I was glad I hadn't worn an outer layer.

When we got to the store Tony returned his paper, and then remembered we needed a box of file folders for the office. Unfortunately, the new purchase wouldn't fit in the day pack, and was pretty heavy for the store plastic bag, which wouldn't make the trip home without breaking. Tony put his jacket in the day pack, put that back on his shoulders, and carried the bag in his arms. We started walking; five minutes later I had an inspiration.

I asked Tony for his jacket and the bag of file folders. I spread the jacket on the ground, set the bag in the center of the jacket, and zipped it up. Next, I cinched the drawstrings at the hood and bottom of the jacket as tight as they would go, using the cord locks to keep them that way. I hoisted the whole thing over one shoulder, tied the sleeves into a knot across my chest and Presto! Instant pack!

I carried the box the rest of the way home. It was much easier and more comfortable this way, although it looked a little funny. When we arrived home, it was easy to "unconvert" the pack back into a jacket.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Here are some fun anagrams. I wish I could take credit for them, but they've been floating around the Internet forever. If you like these, check out the pages at the Internet Anagram Server for more.

  • PRESBYTERIAN...When you rearrange the letters it becomes BEST IN PRAYER
  • ASTRONOMER...When you rearrange the letters it becomes MOON STARER
  • DESPERATION...When you rearrange the letters it becomes A ROPE ENDS IT
  • THE EYES...When you rearrange the letters it becomes THEY SEE
  • THE MORSE CODE... When you rearrange the letters it becomes HERE COME DOTS
  • SLOT MACHINES...When you rearrange the letters it becomes CASH LOST IN ME
  • ANIMOSITY...When you rearrange the letters it becomes IS NO AMITY
  • ELECTION RESULTS...When you rearrange the letters it becomes LIES - LET'S RECOUNT
  • SNOOZE ALARMS...When you rearrange the letters it becomes ALAS! NO MORE Z 'S
  • A DECIMAL POINT...When you rearrange the letters it becomes I'M A DOT IN PLACE
  • THE EARTHQUAKES...When you rearrange the letters it becomes THAT QUEER SHAKE
  • ELEVEN PLUS TWO...When you rearrange the letters it becomes TWELVE PLUS ONE
  • FUNERAL...When you rearrange the letters it becomes REAL FUN
  • AN OLD SHOE...When you rearrange the letters it becomes HAD NO SOLE

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Color Talks

Everyone knows that red roses symbolize love. However, thanks to the Website Rose For Love, I learned today there's a meaning for every color of rose
  • Red --Love and affection, romantic and abiding love, true love, I love you, desire, courage and passion, congratulations, job well done, respect and appreciation, honest beauty, bliss to marriage
  • Dark Red--Deep passion, readiness for a commitment, unconscious beauty, dying love
  • Light Pink--Gentleness, joy and grace, admiration, sympathy and gentleness, harmony and warmth
  • Pink--Elegance, admiration for beauty and refinement, sweetness
  • Bright Pink--Appreciation and recognition, Thank You, gratitude, admiration
  • Lavender--Love/enchantment at first sight, regal majesty and splendor, wonder and impossibility
  • Purple and Dark Purple--Enchantment and magnetism, opulence and majesty
  • Blue and Turquoise--Mystery and ambiguity, the impossible or the unattainable, You are extraordinarily wonderful, mysterious beginnings of new things
  • White--Purity and innocence, reverence and humility, heavenly and honor, everlasting love, marriages and new beginnings, I am worthy of you, beauty and youthfulness, remembrance
  • Yellow and Gold--Friendship and I care, unbridled joy, promise of a new beginning, gladness, delight, warmth, good luck, welcome back, remember me, dying love
  • Peach--Modesty, closing of a new deal, great cheer, sincerity and genuineness, sympathy, gratitude and thankfulness
  • Orange--Fascination, passion and desire, enthusiasm and energy, pride, I'm so proud of you
  • Black--Farewell and sorrow, loss and mortality, death of old habits, beginning of new things or journey, courage and resistance, Halloween

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bloomin' Amazing!

Last spring I went to an anniversary party. Each table was decorated with greenhouse azaleas that had beautiful pink flowers. At the end of the event, we were encouraged to take a plant home.

I've never had luck keeping indoor flowering plants alive, but I thought I could enjoy the flowers and greenery while they lasted. I put the plant on the island in the kitchen, but soon had to move it to the fireplace mantel because the cats showed a big interest in it. The good news is that the cats can't make it up to the mantel; the bad news is that any plant there gets no sunshine. The azalea lost a lot of leaves and became very anemic looking.

When the weather got warm the plant was still hanging in there. I put the pot outside with no expectations. We had a wet summer, so it got plenty of water. It stayed in a protected north-facing alcove on the patio all summer, and went through a few frosts this fall because I forgot it was there. When it was still alive at the very end of the growing season, I decided to bring it in.

It looked unkempt, with branches sticking out at several strange angles. However, I gave it a place on the window seat in the kitchen, where it could get the morning sun. It immediately started showering leaves, and I was ready to throw it in the compost pile. After a couple of weeks, though, the leaf drop ended, and since the plant was in a six-inch pot that didn't take up a lot of room, I decided to leave it by the window as long as the leaves were green.

I watered the plant every couple of weeks, and occasionally remembered to put some extra water in a humidity tray, but that's all the attention it got. A couple of weeks ago I was surprised to see something that looked like a bud on the plant. The bud got bigger and bigger, and today I was amazed to see this beautiful flower:

Once I started looking at the plant closely, I discovered it was covered in buds. I'm so excited that I was able to keep it alive long enough to flower again!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chuck It

I had a pair of 3D glasses left over from yesterday (when I used them to watch the Monsters vs Aliens and SoBe commercials during the Super Bowl). I decided to use them again tonight when I watched the TV show Chuck in 3D.

I've never watched Chuck, so I needed to find out a little bit about it. According to Wikipedia:
the series is about an "average computer-whiz-next-door" who receives an encoded e-mail from an old college friend now working in the CIA; the message embeds the only remaining copy of the world's greatest spy secrets into Chuck's brain.
Each episode is about Chuck's adventures as uses his knowledge to help the government and thwart the enemy. In tonight's show, Chuck ends up being a bodyguard for a rock star who would rather party than hide from an assassin. There was also a subplot that revolved around a new employee at Buy More, the store where Chuck works.

The show was moderately funny, but 3D part was underwhelming, more of a gimmick than anything else. I shared my glasses with Tony, so I ended up using them for half of the hour. Without the glasses, there were fuzzy edges around objects on the screen that I assume would have been in 3D with the glasses on. However, that's much better than I remember old 3D movies; they were pretty much unwatchable without glasses.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fido First Downs and Puppy Penalties

Before this evening's Super Bowl viewing party, I watched a different type of "sports" programming--Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl V.

As the name would imply, is the fifth year the Puppy Bowl has been broadcast. It always happens on the same day as the Super Bowl; I've heard about it in the past, but never watched it. I had no idea what to expect when I turned on the TV.

In a nutshell, the show is just a bunch of puppies at play inside "Animal Planet Stadium", a model football stadium. At the beginning of each section of the show, five different "team members" were introduced one at a time as they came into the stadium. A graphic on the screen told their name, breed, and stats. As the puppies started romping around, an announcer gave commentary on their actions, using football terminology.

The puppies had chew-toys and bones to play with (including soft footballs), but mostly they just ran around and played with each other. A touchdown was called if one of the pups happened to drag a football into the end zone. The referee called penalties if one of the players was playing too rough or doing something they weren't supposed to. Timeouts occurred if the water bowl needed to be refilled.

I really liked the "bowl cam", which was a transparent water bowl built into the stadium floor with a camera that provided shots from underneath. Some of the puppies stood in the water, some played in it, and some even drank from it.

There was even a tailgate party outside the stadium that the cameras cut away to several times. It had several dogs sitting on chairs, watching the event on TVs, and cheering (barking) for the good plays.

Just like the real Super Bowl, the Puppy Bowl had a half-time show; it featured kittens. At the end of the second quarter, the stadium was reset with a huge scratching post and toys. A group of kittens played with the balls, swatted at the feathers, and wrestled with each other. They were very cute. The grand finale of the Half-Time Show was a confetti shower that seemed to scare most of the cats.

It was interesting to note that all of the animals came from animal shelters, so in addition to providing entertainment, the Puppy Bowl did a good job of showcasing pet adoptions.