Sunday, August 30, 2009

Stick To It

One day recently when I got to work I saw that my favorite cup, a Sylvester the Cat coffee mug, had been broken. The handle was knocked off and laying on the shelf next to the mug. I could have thrown it away, but I kinda like seeing the crazed-looking Sylvester looking back at me as I drink, so I figured I'd try to glue the handle back on.

However, what glue would work best? Fortunately, I had just read a post on Girls Guide to the Galaxy that addressed the very topic. That was how I came to visit the Website This to That. Their tagline is: Because people have a need to glue things to other things, and it claims it can help you choose the right glue for any surface.

The Website was easy to use. Both the "This" and "That" side have about a dozen choices of surfaces. After I picked Ceramic as the choice for both sides and hit the "Let's Glue" button, I got the answer that I should use one of four products: Krazy Glue, Super Glue, Zap, or Zap-a-Gap (if the item had gaps to fill).

I went to my local drug store, bought a double pack of Super Glue, and followed the directions to attach the handle back to the cup. It only took a few seconds to glue the handle back on. However, I got a bit of glue on my finger and had to get out some fingernail polish remover and scrub it a bit until the adhesive came off.

The fix wasn't invisible, but it doesn't look too bad. I put the cup by my pile of work stuff to take with me when I leave the house. Sylvester and I will be "bonding" again over a cup of coffee tomorrow. (Sorry!)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Walk This Way

Our plans tonight weren't special, but they were new to us.

First we had dinner at Fox's Pizza Den. Our East Coast style pizza Supreme pizza was good, and we brought enough home to eat for lunch tomorrow.

Afterwards we went to Bluebird Park in Ellisville to walk. After we got out of the car we couldn't find a park map, so we looked around and saw a sign that indicated a "nature trail" and decided to follow it. I've not really explored the park before, but it has a lot of activities crammed into the part we were in. In addition to the nature trail, there was a fitness trail and a disc golf course.

I don't know if if we missed a turn or if the name just changed, but all of a sudden we were on something called the Klamberg Trail, which was quite hilly. We had this part of the trail to ourselves, and it was easy to pretend we were far from civilization. The trail ended at a subdivision; we spent a while walking through it, then turned around and backtracked to the car.

After we got home, I did a little research to find out where we had been. Turns out all the Ellisville parks are connected by a trail system that's seven kilometers long. If we'd known where to turn in our subdivision walk, we would have been well on our way to the next park.

I sense another walking adventure brewing...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mother May I?

I'm part of a group that's organizing a women's spiritual retreat that will take place later this fall. The group has a Music committee that's in charge of all things musical for the weekend, but a small portion of the team (including me) was also asked to find a song that has a special meaning for them to share with the entire assembly.

The first thing that came to mind was something I heard at a similar retreat a couple of years ago. The song was written by a deacon at my church. Although the song's melody is nice, it was the lyrics that really moved me, and I thought it would be nice have the song's words printed out for everyone to take home with them.

However, our team is trying to follow copyright laws scrupulously and not use anything without the composer's consent. I've heard that can difficult to get, but since I know the person I figured he would help me out, so today I asked for, and received, explicit written permission to use and print the lyrics to a copyrighted song.

It only took a couple of hours to get his consent. The composer sent me a copy of the lyrics with a footer indicating that I have permission to use it for this specific event only. I'll include that information on all my photocopies. Hopefully that will keep anyone else from using them without asking first.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

WHAT'S Your Name?

I read about this Web-based anagram maker somewhere a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, I can't remember where.

The site, which is titled Find your name's best anagram, is incredibly simple--just a box to type your name in and a "Find It" button to sent the information through cyberspace Below the box are these directions, "For a more hilarious anagram you could try your middle name too or maybe a nickname in the middle".

I anagramed my first, middle, and last name as well as those of Tony and the three boys. Say hello to our family:
  • Darling and Daft Necrosis
  • Enjoy and Sporting Thrashes
  • Darn! Hot Enjoy Sharp Jesting
  • Genial Handshake Threatens, and
  • Brainsick, Retardant Pig
Yep, we're a pretty colorful group.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

King and Saint

On Sunday, Tony and I went to Mass at the Basilica of Saint Louis, the King (popularly known as the Old Cathedral). Founded in 1771, it's the first Catholic Cathedral west of the Mississippi. The current building was completed in 1834. Because of the historical significance of the church, it was left intact while all the other buildings in a 40 block area were demolished to make way for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and Gateway Arch along the riverfront.

In the bulletin, they indicated that today (August 25th) is the feast day of Saint Louis, King of France, patron saint of my city and county. Here is his story (as found on American

Louis IX, King of France (1214-1270)

At his coronation as king of France, Louis bound himself by oath to behave as God’s anointed, as the father of his people and feudal lord of the King of Peace. Other kings had done the same, of course. Louis was different in that he actually interpreted his kingly duties in the light of faith. After the violence of two previous reigns, he brought peace and justice.

He was crowned king at 12, at his father’s death. His mother, Blanche of Castile, ruled during his minority. When he was 19, (and his bride 12) he was married to Marguerite of Provence. It was a loving marriage, though was not without challenge. They had 11 children.

Louis “took the cross” for a Crusade when he was 30. His army seized Damietta on the Nile but not long after, weakened by dysentery and without support, they were surrounded and captured. Louis obtained the release of the army by giving up the city of Damietta in addition to paying a ransom. He stayed in Syria four years.

He deserves credit for extending justice in civil administration. He drew up regulations for his officials which became the first of a series of reform laws. He replaced trial by battle with a form of examination of witnesses and encouraged the beginning of using written records in court.

Louis was always respectful of the papacy, but defended royal interests against the popes and refused to acknowledge Innocent IV’s sentence against Emperor Frederick II.

Louis was devoted to his people, founding hospitals, visiting the sick and, like his patron St. Francis, caring even for people with leprosy. (He is one of the patrons of the Secular Franciscan Order.) Louis united France—lords and townsfolk, peasants and priests and knights—by the force of his personality and holiness. For many years the nation was at peace.

Every day Louis had 13 special guests from among the poor to eat with him, and a large number of poor were served meals near his palace. During Advent and Lent, all who presented themselves were given a meal, and Louis often served them in person. He kept lists of needy people, whom he regularly relieved, in every province of his dominion.

Disturbed by new Muslim advances in Syria, he led another crusade in 1267, at the age of 41. His crusade was diverted to Tunis for his brother’s sake. The army was decimated by disease within a month, and Louis himself died on foreign soil at the age of 44. He was canonized 27 years later.

Louis was strong-willed, strong-minded. His word was trusted utterly, and his courage in action was remarkable. What is most remarkable was his sense of respect for anyone with whom he dealt, especially the “humble folk of the Lord.” To care for his people he built cathedrals, churches, libraries, hospitals and orphanages. He dealt with princes honestly and equitably. He hoped to be treated the same way by the King of Kings, to whom he gave his life, his family and his country.

He is the Patron Saint of barbers and grooms.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Season's Greetings To You

I dropped into my local Goodwill store to shop for a few things. I didn't have any luck finding the items on my list, but when I was leaving I saw a sign indicating they were having a 50% off sale on all their CDs; I had to stop and look. The regular price is only $3, so they were practically giving them away for $1.50!

As I reached the bins at the front of the store, I saw a man walking away from the area with a dozen jewel cases in his hand. I don't know if he took all the good music or if he had different tastes than me, because I thought there were mighty slim pickings. I found a Wilco CD and a Christmas recording that looked like it might be worth taking a chance on.

I made my purchase, left the store, and got into my car. I needed to check my new music to make sure it wasn't scratched and played properly, so I popped a disc into the CD player and turned the volume up. As the sounds of "O Christmas Tree" surrounded me, I realized not many people listen to Christmas music in August. However, it sounded pretty refreshing. I'm usually tired of carols by New Year's Eve; today they sounded fresh and new.

Before I knew it I was singing along in the car...

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!

I'm glad the car windows were rolled up. Not everyone might feel the way I did about my music.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Be Our Guest

Earlier in the month I received this invitation in the mail:
BECAUSE YOU LOVE PERFORMANCE. You've been selected from an exclusive group of drivers to put the all-new Hyundai Genesis Coupe through its paces.
I thought it was funny because I'm anything but a car enthusiast; I have no idea where they got my name. I drive a Honda CR-V that's from the early part of this decade. It gets me where I need to go with relatively good gas mileage, which is all I expect a car to do. But the invitation promised I would be able to turn the coupe loose on a custom-designed closed course and get a gift (and no sales pressure) at the end of the experience. I also got to invite a guest, so today Tony and I participated in the Hyundai Genesis Coupe Adrenaline Tour.

Hyundai is a Korean automaker that's been selling cars in this country since the late 1980s. Son Tony bought one a couple of years ago and has good things to say about it. According to the Adrenaline Tour Website, the tour was making stops in eight different parts of the country this summer. It was scheduled to be in our area yesterday and today. I RSVPd and received my first choice of time slots.

Although Hyundai's been producing the Genesis sedan for a few years,the Coupe is a new model for 2010. The Website says the car has all sorts of performance-car features, such as:
  • FRONT-ENGINE, REAR-WHEEL DRIVE for straight-line punch and ultimate handling precision
  • ALL-ALUMINUM 306-HP1 3.8L V6 or 210-hp1 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder
  • BREMBO® BRAKING SYSTEM2 as found on the world's fastest performance cars
  • TORSEN® LIMITED SLIP DIFFERENTIAL2 for enhanced acceleration and cornering dynamics
  • 5-LINK INDEPENDENT REAR SUSPENSION for an unwavering sense of control
I didn't know what to expect when we pulled into Gateway International Raceway, but it was easy to find the event tent in an empty parking lot. As we got out of the car, I heard the unmistakable sound of tires squealing on asphalt, and I started to get excited. After having our driver's licenses checked and signing wavers Tony and I got in line to drive. They had about a dozen cars circling the course. There were manual and automatic transmissions, 4- or 6-cylinder engines, and several colors available. We got to decide which one we wanted to drive.

Each car came equipped with a Hyundai associate in the passenger seat to answer questions and explain what to do. The course was a" custom" cone style track around the parking lot. There were a few straight sections where you could test the car's acceleration (it can do 0 - 60 mph in 5.5 seconds) and some tight curves to test its handling. It only took a couple of minutes to complete the course, but we were allowed to get in line again for a second turn. Even though I didn't drive in an aggressive manner--no screeching tires for me--it was an awesome experience. Before we left we filled out a short survey and got a fold-up car "junk" carrier and a nice chamois. Both were emblazoned with the car name. The gift was a nice touch, but being able to pretend I owned a performance car, if even for a few minutes, was the biggest gift of all.

The base price for the car was pretty reasonable, but of course the cars they brought to this event were top of the line, with lots of bells and whistles. If I was in the market for a sporty car I'd definitely consider this one.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

You may remember I dropped our cat Pepper off at the vet Wednesday night for a teeth cleaning appointment on Thursday. Thursday morning, our other cat Jackson was much more affectionate than he usually is. He's usually nowhere to be found when I get up, and sometimes I don't see him at all before I leave for work, but he seemed to enjoy rubbing up against my legs while I was sitting at the desk in the kitchen. He also pranced after me when I went upstairs to brush my teeth. I figured he missed his brother, so I gave him a lot of attention.

When I got off work Thursday afternoon, I headed to the vet's office to pick Pepper up. The front desk person indicated he woke up from his anesthesia very easily, and he was more than ready to leave. The doctor came out and told me he'd cleaned Pepper's teeth and found one small cavity, which he filled. (I didn't even know that cats could get dental work done!) While I paid the bill, someone got Pepper in his carrier and ready to go home.

Pepper wasn't any more excited by this car trip than he was the day before. He cried the entire way, only stopping when we pulled into the garage. I figured Jackson would be waiting in the kitchen since it's always dinner time when I get home from work. Sure enough, he was right by the door with his tail sticking straight up in the air. I set the cat carrier on the floor, opened the cage, and stepped aside to watch what would happen.

I thought the cats would greet each other and do a little commiserating ("So, how bad was it? Glad you're back home.") but I was surprised when the opposite happened. They got a couple of feet from each other, then Jackson hissed and backed away. Pepper looked confused, and I thought it might be a good time to distract them by offering food. They regularly get fed in different parts of the house; today the separation allowed for a nice cooling off period. Afterwards, Pepper tried to approach his brother and got rebuffed again. The cats ended up going different directions for their after-dinner nap.

When I checked up on them later in the evening, they were laying on separate sides of my bedroom, occasionally sneaking furtive glances at each other. Jackson looked like he was ready to run under the bed at the first sign of anything amiss. When Pepper came over to see me, Jackson hissed at him. I could think of two possible explanations for the behavior. Either Jackson decided he liked having the house all to himself and wasn't happy about sharing it again, or Pepper carried some type of "hospital" smell that triggered memories of his visit to the animal emergency room for an abscessed bite a couple of years ago.

When I woke up today Pepper was stretched out at the end of the bed and Jackson was nowhere to be found. I came downstairs and saw that he had taken the prime sunny spot in the family room. The cats seem to be co-existing, but not much more. If one enters the room, the other leaves. They take turns drinking from their communal water bowl, but as the day's gone on there's less and less antagonism. I'm hopeful that soon the drama will all be over and things will be back to normal.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Look Mom...No Cavities!

A couple of weeks we took the cats in for their annual checkup. After she took a look in his mouth, the vet told us that Pepper needed his teeth cleaned. I wasn't surprised, because he and Jackson are the same age (they're litter mates), and last year we had Jackson's teeth done. If you've ever had a cat's teeth professionally cleaned, you know it's a big deal. Since a cat won't voluntarily open up his mouth and say ahh, the dental cleaning involves general anesthesia. While Pepper is sedated he'll have an oral exam and have his teeth scaled and polished.

Tomorrow is the big day. When I called to make the appointment they told me I'd need to drop Pepper off before 9 in the morning and leave him there all day. Just like if I was having a procedure that involved general anesthesia, he can't have anything to eat or drink after midnight tonight. Pepper would have made everyone miserable tomorrow morning if he didn't get his breakfast at the scheduled time, so I chose to drop him off tonight for his big adventure tomorrow.

Here's Pepper in his carrier looking extremely stressed out. He cried piteously the entire four mile trip to the vet's office.

Before I left Pepper with the front desk staff at the vet, I had to sign a form giving them permission to do the procedure. I handed the carrier to the receptionist, said goodbye to Pepper, and left. The car felt very empty when I drove away.

Even though they usually spend a lot of time together, Jackson doens't look too concerned about his missing brother:

Pepper will have his procedure tomorrow and I'll pick him up on my way home from work. My teeth always feel so good after a professional cleaning. I don't know how much Pepper will appreciate it, though.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

No Disadvantage

The gym I go to has two showers in the women's locker room. One is a standard model that's in a small room with a door so you can shower and change in private. The other one is handicapped accessible with a roll-in entry, handrails along the side, and a seat at one end. It looks like there's plenty of room for someone who is showering and a wheelchair. I've never seen its shower head up close, but from a distance it looked strange and intimidating. This shower doesn't have a private changing area.

Every time I shower at this gym I choose to use the separate setup. Even though there's rarely anyone else in the locker room at the time I'm changing, I just like having the additional privacy of the closed door. Today there was someone else in "my" shower after I finished my workout, so I had a dilemma. I could either wait for the room to be available, or try the other bathing facility. I didn't have a lot of time to spare, so today I used the handicapped-accessible shower at the gym.

The shower turned out to be really nice. The seat folded up against the wall to make the stall very spacious. The shower head turned out to be adjustable and removable. It slid up and down on a bar to make it higher or lower, and the head could be used as a hand-held. I was afraid the water was going to leak out all over the floor (since there was no lip at the entrance), but the stall was big enough that everything stayed contained. I'm not positive, but it seemed like the water pressure was better in this one!

After I finished showering, it was time to dry off. I chose to keep the shower curtain closed while I toweled off, then opened the curtain and stayed in the far corner of the locker room while I quickly put my clothes on. I shouldn't have worried, though, as the room was completely empty.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer's Bounty

Yesterday Tony and I went shopping at the Kirkwood Farmer's Market. Among other things, I was in search of "cheap" tomatoes to use in my dehydrator. Most of the booths were showcasing organic or heirloom tomatoes, but that wasn't what I needed. These premium tomatoes are expensive, but worth it if you're looking for fruits to be eaten straight up. However, if you've ever eaten a sun-dried tomato, you know that the drying process intensifies the flavor and makes even normal varieties taste wonderful. I was looking for quantity, not quality.

At the far end of the market, I finally found what I was looking for. Standard homegrown tomatoes. I asked the person staffing the booth if he grew them himself, and learned that they came from his farm outside of Jefferson City. There were piles of slicing and Roma varieties; all were deep red and shiny, but not too perfect, so you knew they were indeed homegrown. The tomatoes were priced at $1.25/lb or 10 pounds/$10.00, but the salesperson offered to sell me 20 pounds for $15.00. He gave me a box so I could select the ones I wanted. Romas are better for drying, because they have fewer seeds and are less juicy, but I also picked some slicers for variety. I added some yellow squash and a few peppers to my order, paid for everything, and graciously let Tony carry the box to the car.

When we got home it was time to start the drying process. I blanched the tomatoes, dumped them in an ice bath, and took the skins off while Tony sliced the peeled fruits and arranged them on the dehydrating trays. My instruction book told me they would be done in 6 to 12 hours (depending on the size of the slice and the amount of humidity in the air). Sure enough, at the six-hour mark some of the pieces were ready to come out. The first specimens didn't even make it to a storage container; I popped them in my mouth and savored the intense burst of tomato goodness.

Every hour or so I'd check the trays and take out the slices that were dry. It takes 20 pounds of tomatoes to make one pound of the dried variety, so there's a lot of shrinkage! Tony joined me in eating a few of the slices, but the majority of our labors went into a Tupperware container for later use.

We used about half of the tomatoes I bought to fill up the dehydrator trays. Here's the result:

We're repeating the process again today. More tomato-y goodness coming soon!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


We waited until after dinner tonight to do yard work, but it was still extremely hot and humid. I was trimming some bushes in the front yard, and by time I was done I had sweat dripping off my nose and running into my eyes, and my clothes were soaked. I put the tools away, came inside, and took a shower.

I didn't feel like starting over with a new outfit just a couple of hours before bedtime, so I put on a pair of pajamas. The top of this pair is styled like a chemise, with an empire waist...similar to this picture, but mine is made from a pink cotton-blend material and has yellow trim around the top edge. The bottom of the set is styled more like underwear, though, so I added a pair of shorts to walk around the house in. If someone came to the door, I wouldn't want to traumatize them!

After I came downstairs from the shower, I was still dehydrated from sweating so much; I realized that a frozen drink would really hit the spot. The Cardinals had scored six runs in last night's game, so Mobil On The Run was having their quarter drink promotion today. I decided I was dressed well enough to run to the gas station, so tonight I left the house wearing pajamas.

There were several people who also taking advantage of cheap drinks, so I had to wait my turn to get a slushy. I felt a little underdressed in my pajamas, but nobody in the store gave me a second look.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Birds of Prey

We were sitting down to dinner on the deck tonight when I heard a loud ruckus coming from a bush in our neighbor's yard. The whole thing shook violently, then a huge bird flew out of the bush and into a nearby tree.

Twenty minutes later the bush started vibrating again, but after a few seconds the bird flew out of the bush and away from our house. I was able to get a glimpse of its dark body, large wings, and a large horizontally-striped striped tail. I knew it was some type of bird of prey, but since I don't know a whole lot about them, today I researched Missouri's raptors.

There was actually a great article about the subject in the Missouri Conservationist magazine earlier this year. I learned that:
"Cooper’s, merlins and sharp-shinned hawks have adapted to wooded suburbs and are attracted to concentrations of small birds, including those around bird feeders. These hawks are swift and agile, able to catch birds in flight."
However, I wanted to know specifically which bird I'd seen tonight and this article didn't have pictures of the different types of suburban raptors, so I kept researching. Another Webpage from the Missouri Department of Conservation called Eagles, Hawks, Kites and Osprey did. It also had great information about the habitats and diets of each bird.

After all my research, I concluded I'd seen a Sharp-shinned hawk. It was the bird's tail that helped me decide. The one I saw was definitely squared-off, which is a characteristic of the Sharp-shinned.

I know our neighborhood has a plethora of birds, bunnies, and squirrels, so I'm guessing the hawk is finding plenty to eat. You never know what's living in your neighborhood!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

(Party Like It's) 1979

When I was in high school and college oh so long ago, my radio preset buttons were set to stations that played progressive rock and disco. It was a strange combination, but it took care of any type of music mood. Guitar-based rock was great for sitting and listening, and the thumping bass and beats of the disco music were great for when I wanted to move! Today my music repertoire has expanded. I listen to almost every type of music. However, I really enjoy going back to that first music.

All the way home from work today I was treated to a set of classic disco on the radio. First there was some Love Unlimited Orchestra, then "Car Wash". Next came "Good Times" by Chic, then the classic Boz Scaggs "Lowdown". As I was pulling into the garage the song "Tell Me That I'm Dreaming" by Was (Not Was) came on. This song came out a little later than the others, but it's still disco-worthy. When I got out of the car, I left the door open, turned the radio all the way up, and danced down to the mailbox. Then I came back and did a little dancing in the garage.

Here's the song, if you feel like getting your groove on, too:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Younger or Older?

“You are never too old to become younger!”~Mae West

Today I took the RealAge test.

The Tagline of the RealAge Website is "Live Life to the Youngest". The basic concept is that your biological age is not necessarily the same as your chronological age; it can be higher or lower depending on your family history and lifestyle.

The test has 132 questions divided into the categories of Health, Habits, Relationships, Diet, and Fitness. It took a little over 15 minutes to complete. When I was done, they sent me an e-mail with a link to the test results. I was amazed to find out that my RealAge was a little over four years younger than my calendar age! I guess my lack of bad habits pays off now and then.

My plan did suggest I should take more vitamins and eat more fish, but eat less red meat. I guess nobody's perfect...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fine Dining

Tonight we went out for a fancy dress-up dinner at Mosaic Restaurant on Washington Street. It was one of the places that had a special menu for Downtown Restaurant Week. We've participated in the promotion a couple of times, because it's a great way to try places we wouldn't normally get to. Most of the restaurants offer a special menu of 3 courses for $25, but since Mosaic is a fusion restaurant that specializes in small plates, we got five courses for the same price!

Since parking on Washington on a Saturday night can be tough, the restaurant's complementary valet parking was a nice touch. We didn't have to wait for a table, and the waitress quickly appeared for a drink order. When she came back with the drinks, we were ready to place our dinner order; since we were ordering from a limited menu, there weren't a whole lot of choices!

Soon after the waitress left, a server came with the amuse bouche, which was served on a Oriental soup spoon. There was a small piece of scallop on top of a clear liquid that tasted like rhubarb. The scallop was topped with a tiny square of jalapeno, and a beautiful bit of orange flower petal crowned the whole thing. It was literally one wonderful bite.

The second course was soup. There were three on the menu--butternut squash soup, Asian style sweet and sour consomme, and cherry-tomato gazpacho. I chose the gazpacho and Tony went with the butternut squash soup. My soup was good, but the butternut squash (their signature soup) was one of the best I have ever tasted. We ended up trading cups halfway through.

After the soup came the salad; only two choices so we each picked one. My flatbread panzanella had less bread than I would have expected (it was more like croutons than a main ingredient), but the dish was very good. The flatbread was mixed with greens, Kalamata olives, cucumbers, and bacon, and dressed with a wonderful vinaigrette. Tony's fresh mozzarella caprese had layers of tomato and mozzarella and pieces of mango, cucumber, and toasted hazelnuts. The salad came with two droppers: one contained basil vinaigrette and the other balsamic reduction.

We got to choose from beef, salmon, or chicken for the main course. Tony chose a New York strip steak served with three large smoked corn and peekytoe crab ravioli. The meat was a bit rarer than he would have liked, but quite flavorful and tender. My achiote roast chicken came with butternut squash, candied sunflower seeds, and two cumin “tots”. The boneless breast of chicken had a small bit of crisp skin still attached. The exterior of the chicken was a beautiful red color from the achiote, but the interior was milky white. It made for a beautiful contrast. The small squares of squash were perfectly cooked and the "tots" was more like mashed potatoes that had been shaped, coated, and fried. The sunflower seeds added a nice crunchy contrast.

For dessert, we received a plate with a medley of deserts. There was a panna cotta topped with blueberry compote, two bite-sized lemon cakes (more like a cupcake) with red glaze on top, and two cookies containing wafers, layers of caramel and chocolate, covered in yet more chocolate. As we drank coffee and polished off the desserts, I realized that we'd just had a fabulous meal.

Downtown Restaurant Week runs from August 3-9 this year, so it's almost too late to take advantage of it. However, this was the fifth year the promotion has taken place, so there's a good chance you can look for it again next year.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Getting Nailed

I usually don't "do" my nails, because it's not worth the effort; the polish always peels or chips within a day. Last weekend, though, I was gifted with a certificate to a nail salon. My friends say that professional polish lasts longer, and I was looking forward to a little pampering, so today I got a manicure and a pedicure done at a nail salon.

The nail salon was located in a small storefront at a mall close to my house. I took my chances and didn't make an appointment, and there was no one else there when I arrived. I didn't even have to sit in the waiting area. The nail technician, Lily, spoke limited English, but she was a pro at her job.

My first task was to pick out a polish from the hundreds of bottles they had on display. The choices were overwhelming, so I quickly picked the first neutral pink color I saw, thinking the light color would help hide the inevitable chips. Lily led me to a large chair with a basin at the end and told me to sit down. The basin was filled with warm water, which felt great when I inserted my feet. All of a sudden I felt rollers moving up and down my spine. I was sitting in a massage chair! The wonderful massage continued while Lily worked on my lower extremities.

My feet soaked in the basin of warm water for a few minutes, then Lily got to work. Going back and forth between my right and left foot, she cut and shaped my toenails, applied cuticle lotion, pushed back all the cuticles and trimmed off the dead skin around the toenail edges, then rubbed each foot with a pumice stone to remove the dead skin. At this point she let the water out of the basin, dried off my feet, and used a buffer stick on each nail.

I was in heaven, already trying to figure out how often I could include this luxury in my budget.

Lily left and came back with a heated towel that she set on my lower legs for a few minutes. She removed the towel, applied lotion to my feet and legs, and massaged it in. After cleaning my nails with a bit of alcohol, she put a pair of bright yellow flip-flops on my feet and inserted foam forms between my toes to keep them apart. It was time for the decorative touches. After a base coat, two coats of colored polish, and one coat of clear topcoat, my feet were finished. I walked stiffly over to the other side of the salon where the manicure stations were.

The manicure procedure was similar to the pedicure, but without the awesome back massage. Lily looked over my nails, used a file to shape them, then soaked them in a small dish of soapy water. One at a time, she removed my hands and took care of the cuticles, then used a buffer to take care of the ridges I have on my nails. After she rubbed some lotion on my hands and wrists, she wiped the lotion off my fingernails, then asked if I wanted to pay her for the services. At first I didn't understand, but then it made sense; I wouldn't be fiddling with my wallet with wet nails and risk messing them up.

I handed over my gift certificate and a tip. It felt weird to tip before the job was done. What if I didn't give her enough? Would she do a bad polish job? Luckily, she seemed to be happy. She did a great job on my nails--base coat, two coats of polish, and a top coat. The last stop was the drying station. Both my hands and feet went under fan-like machines that blew warm air on the new polish. When the machines went off, I was done.

Alas, one of my newly-polished nails got nicked as I was getting into my car. The perfection didn't even last a half-hour! I enjoyed my pampering though. I don't think this will be the last time.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Interesting Times

I've been off work this week, and I haven't done much but eat, read trashy fiction, and spend too much time on the computer. Today I realized that I let the week get away from me without having any adventures. (I never work on Friday, so tomorrow will be a "normal" day, doing all the things I do on Fridays.) I was irritated with myself until I read this in one of the books I have on my nightstand: "Today there are wonders all around me, if I open my eyes and enjoy them...I'll notice interesting an arrangement of clouds". It made me realize that if I changed my attitude I could make my own adventure; I didn't need big elaborate plans.

The front porch was still shady after lunch, so I took the newspaper and went outside to sit. There was a nice breeze blowing and not a lot of humidity. I ignored the grass that needs to be cut and the bushes that are getting overgrown, took off my shoes so my bare feet could dangle over the side of the chair, and concentrated on all the interesting things that were happening around me.

I saw big white and fluffy clouds, but I also saw bees of all different sizes buzzing in and out of the flowers and white and yellow butterflies flitting about. I took some time to admire my across-the-street neighbor's flowers that I never see when I'm in my car. I heard the hum of air conditioners, a woodpecker beating on a tree somewhere, and cicadas droning in the distance. I also heard the cats pawing at the dining room window telling me it was time to eat, but I ignored them.

I picked up the newspaper and started reading, and was halfway through the second section when I heard a strong buzzing sound. A hummingbird had stopped to feed on a red canna about four feet from where I was sitting! I was so close, I could have reached out and touched it. The bird spent a minute moving from blossom to blossom. Each time it moved, it made a chirping sound. Just like the bird, the sound was diminutive. If I hadn't been paying attention I would have missed it.

All of a sudden my feet started getting hot. I looked down and saw that the sun was starting to encroach upon my sanctuary. It was time to go, so I gathered all my things and headed inside, but not without a last glance at the beautiful clouds that were my inspiration for the day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Must See TV

Now that I'm working with young children on a daily basis, I realized my preschool cultural references are woefully out of date. Today I researched some current children's show characters.

I'd forgotten how prevalent commercial characters are on young children's backpacks, lunchboxes, and clothing. The handful that I'm familiar with come from Sesame Street and Disney, although even there I'm fuzzy on some of the newer ones. Fortunately, the important Disney icons in the classrooms I'm assigned to seem to be of the princess variety (Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel, and Beauty), or Cars-related (Lightning McQueen). I've seen all those movies, so I'm good there.

I've heard of shows like Dora the Explorer, Blue's Clues, and Sid the Science Kid, but that's about it. This is what I learned from my research (both reading and watching):
  • Dora the Explorer is about a bi-lingual Latina girl and her friends--Boots the Monkey, Backpack, and Map. Another main character is Swiper the Fox, who's always trying to steal Dora's things. In each episode Dora has an adventure, which is divided into several sections, and the episode always ends on a positive note. The show is interactive; all the characters ask questions and viewers are encouraged to respond back, and the viewers are invited to participate in the adventure through movement.
  • Blue's Clues is a mix of animation, live-action, and puppetry. There's a live-action host, a bright blue puppy named Blue, and Blue's friends. In the show, viewers enter into a computer-animated storybook world to help solve puzzles. Just like in Dora the Explorer, the characters in this show break the fourth wall and ask questions they want the viewer to answer. This show hasn't produced any new episodes for a few years, but it still seems to be popular.
  • Sid the Science Kid is about a group of four-year olds: Sid and his friends Gabriela, Gerald, and May, along with Susie the teacher. Sid is always trying to figure out why things work the way they do. The show is based on a preschool science curriculum, and every episode is built around a specific scientific theme or concept. The show uses computer-generated puppets, and is produced by Jim Henson Productions. [Somehow that just seems right; all the time I spent watching Sesame Street decades ago has come full circle.]
It was strange to be watching all these preschool shows with no young people around the house, but the information will come in handy next time I play a game of "Dora The Explorer" dominoes!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Salsa Verde

Summer produce season is in full swing. For the past two weeks we've had an overflowing bowl of tomatoes and peppers on the kitchen countertop, and I can go out on the deck and harvest all the fresh basil, oregano, and chives that I need.

I've seen a few signs of pilfered produce, like a half-eaten grape tomato on the deck stairs, so the critters must be getting a bit, too. I don't mind sharing our bounty (within reason), but every morning when I go out to pick the ripe fruits I find one or two green ones laying on the ground. Something is making them fall from the vine. The fallen tomatoes have unblemished skin and they're never rotten, so I know they haven't been there long. I bring them inside and wash them, then pile them in the bowl next to their red brothers.

The green tomatoes were starting to take up too much room in the bowl; I had to come up with a use for them. They were too small to fry, so I decided to try using them in salsa. This is what I came up with (all measurements are approximate):

2 handfuls green cherry and grape tomatoes (about 1 cup chopped)

1/2 green pepper and 2 banana peppers (totaling about 1/2 cups chopped)

2 moderately-hot or hot peppers--I used Fresnos (approximately 1/4 cup chopped)

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)

1/3 cup vinegar (I used red wine)

1 clove garlic, minced

Water (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and stir frequently over high heat until mixture begins to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a fork to mash any big chunks of tomato. Add water as needed if salsa is dry.

Transfer mixture to container with a lid. Refrigerate overnight to let flavors blend
As part of the kitchen cleanup I took some scraps out to the compost bin and found yet another small green tomato laying on the ground. I brought it in and started a new pile...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Burn, Baby, Burn

For the first time this summer I put on a swimsuit and Tony and I went to our municipal pool. Before we left, I slathered on sunscreen, especially on the parts of my body that are usually covered by clothes--the tops of my legs, my shoulders, and my back. Tony also brought an extra tube of sunscreen to the pool for us to use. We were not going to get burned!

After an hour of playing in the pool and sitting in a deck chair, I applied more sunscreen. I noticed that the stuff from Tony's tube was slightly yellow and oily, but I attributed it to the fact it was a different brand than I'm used to using. Later, when I went to use the bathroom, I noticed that my legs looked a little red. I moved the swimsuit strap to the edge of my shoulder and there was a definite mark where it had been before. My sunscreen had malfunctioned!

I threw the offending tube of sunscreen away, but the damage was done. Now, several hours later, my back, chest, and shoulders are burned. Usually we have a bottle of green goo sunburn reliever in the closet, but it seems to have disappeared, so today I researched natural remedies and home concoctions for sunburns.

I found out that there are literally dozens of suggestions for treating sunburn. Many of them involve ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen or medicine cabinet:
  • Aloe Vera – Break off a leaf of the plant, open it up lengthwise, and apply it to the burn. This works better than any gel you can buy.
  • Apple cider vinegar – Apply vinegar with a spray bottle. It helps reduce inflammation and will relieve some of the pain.
  • Aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen – Over the counter pain relievers will help lessen the pain and inflammation. Plan on taking them according to the package directions for at least the first day.
  • Baking soda – Baking soda is cooling and will help the skin retain moisture. Dissolve baking soda in water and make a compress using a clean cloth, or add 1/2 cup of baking soda to a cool bath and soak in it.
  • Cornstarch – Make a paste with cornstarch and water and apply to burned skin. Or add a cup to a cool bath and soak in it.
  • Cucumber – Slice a fresh cucumber into thin slices and gently pat it on the sunburn.
  • Epsom salts – Dissolve Epsom salts in water and make a compress using a clean cloth.
  • Milk – Make a compress of cool (not cold) whole milk and apply to the burned area with a clean cloth for 20 minutes; repeat every two to four hours. The fat content of the milk is soothing for burns.
  • Tea – Apply cool tea directly with a spray bottle or soak a small towel in the tea and drape over the burned areas. It instantly cools and relieves the burn, and the tannins in the tea will help the healing process.
  • Witch hazel – Apply with a compress.
  • Yogurt – Apply a small amount of plain yogurt, let it stand for a few minutes, leave on until the cooling action stops, then rinse off with cool water.
With all the natural ingredients I've applied to my body, I'll be going to bed tonight smelling like a salad. I wonder if I'll wake up hungry?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Stay In The Lines

I should have posted this earlier, but I've been having too much fun.

A few days ago Kathy, the author of Journey to Flow suggested that one way to deal with life's challenges is to honor the artist child inside you. She went on to say one way to do that is to buy a box of crayons and color.

I thought that was an awesome idea. I haven't used crayons for years, so I took myself to a local discount store to buy one of those familiar green-and-yellow boxes. I picked the right time to do it; I found a box of 24 crayons for only 25 cents in the back to school department. It was fun wandering through the section and reminiscing about all the years I hurried through with school lists in hand, trying to get it all done as quickly as possible. This year I could take my time and smile encouragingly at all the harried mothers.

When I got home I opened the box and looked at the sharp, perfectly intact crayons that were aligned according to color. I took a deep breath and took in the wonderful smell, then closed the box back up and set it on the kitchen table for a bit. I needed something to color ON.

When the boys were young we had a cabinet in the kitchen filled with paper, coloring books, crayons, markers, and assorted other craft items. However, those things are long gone. A little Internet research showed me, though, that you don't need to have a coloring book any more. I downloaded and printed out some pages to use, carried them upstairs, and sat down at the table.

At first I didn't want to start, because I didn't want to ruin the perfectness of the crayon box. Soon, though, I grabbed the red-violet and started on my geometric shape design. I finished the first page and began a second. Because the shapes on my pages were subject to interpretation, I could use my imagination to make patterns and designs.

If you walk into our house next week, you won't find my artwork stuck to the refrigerator, but I guess there' s no age limit to relaxing while coloring.