Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick Or Treat, Smell My Feet, Give Me Something Good To Eat !!!

With Tony in Los Angeles, I'm by myself this Halloween. I decided to celebrate it by staying home and handing out candy. I really enjoy seeing all the different costumes and hearing all the corny jokes the trick-or-treaters come up with.

When we moved into this neighborhood 17 years ago there were a lot of young families, but as the subdivision is getting older, there are fewer kids. Last year we had about 100 come to the door; since tonight was Saturday night, I figured we'd get the ones from our subdivision and the other nearby ones.

I wasn't sure what time we'd start getting trick-or-treaters, so at 5:00 I opened all the bags of candy, poured them into a bowl, and put the bowl by the front door. I also added a folding chair and a fleece throw; my plan was to sit in the chair on the front porch once kids started arriving, so I wouldn't have to keep getting up to open the door.

At 5:30 no one had shown up yet. I was bored, so I decided to give myself a black rose spray fake facial tattoo. Later in the evening a girl told me it looked like I had a huge scar on my cheek.

When 6:00 rolled around without anyone ringing the doorbell, I looked out the front window to see if anyone was on the street. (There wasn't.) It was getting dusky, so I turned on the porch light and the foyer light inside the house. At 6:15 I heard a group of kids on the street behind us. I figured they'd be coming my way soon, but the cats (who hide upstairs at the first sign of action) didn't look too concerned. It turns out they were right. No trick or treaters.

At 6:30 I started computing how many calories I'd consume if no one came to the door all night and I had to eat all three 36-count bags of Snack-Size Now and Later.

FINALLY, at 6:43 the doorbell rang. A group of nine kids was arranged on the porch. After they all did their tricks (every one of them a corny joke), I handed out the candy and they ran down the driveway. They were followed a few minutes later by a second group. I debated whether I should move out onto the porch, but decided to wait until it got busier.

By 7:00 three groups had come to the door. I broke down and had some candy from the bowl. I didn't think I needed to worry about running out! At 7:15 I had some more candy. At 7:30 I had a stomach ache from too much candy.

We either don't have any small children left in the neighborhood, or they skipped my house, but we had more than our fair share of middle schoolers and high school-aged kids. Although the traffic never got steady enough to think about sitting outside, when I turned out the lights at 8:45 more than two-thirds of the candy was gone. My Halloween was officially over.


Best joke of the night: What is a cat's favorite color? Purrrr-ple

Best costume: A homemade Happy Meal. The young man cut a hole for his body in the bottom of a large square box, painted the box red, and glued on a McDonald's logo.

Worst costume: A preteen (maybe ten years old?) dressed in a skimpy outfit that would have been R-rated if she had any body curves at all.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Turn Off The Lights

Today was yet another rainy, gloomy day. It was less than conducive for running errands, but I couldn't put them off anymore. At my last stop, I pulled into a strip mall parking lot and parked next to an older sedan. There was no one in it, but the lights were still on.

I know that a lot of late-model cars have automatic headlight shut off systems, but this car didn't look new enough to have the fancy technology. There was no way to tell which store the driver was in, so I couldn't track them down and let them know about the problem.

I've accidentally left my car lights on before...once long enough to drain the battery. It's no fun to get in your car, turn the key, and get nothing but a clicking noise. I looked through the window at the car's dashboard and saw the light switch on the left side of the steering wheel. It would be easy to reach in to turn it off and save the person from any inconvenience.

I debated what I should do. The car might have an alarm; what would I do if I set it off? After thinking about it for a bit, I decided to take my chances. With trepidation, I opened up the door of the car.

No sirens started wailing, so I quickly turned the lights knob to the "off" position and closed the door. I looked around to make sure no one was watching me. I'd hate to perform a random act of kindness, only to have someone call the police because they thought I was breaking into the car!

If the shoe was on the other foot, I'd be happy if someone did this for me

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Today the students at my preschool put on their costumes and walked across the parking lot to the senior center next door for a Trick or Treat visit. Many of the senior center residents were giving out candy. Some were seated in the lobby, and some were in front of their apartments, so we got to travel down each hall on the first floor.

Each apartment had a small alcove outside the front door, and many of the residents had personalized theirs. It was interesting to see all the different things; some had seasonal decorations on the door or a table holding items. One man had a poem, along with a picture of his wife. I even saw one area that contained a painting of a fighter jet above a table that held a model plane.

The students looked wonderful. All of the girls were regal. There was a princess, a Queen of Hearts, and a Snow White. The boy's costumes were a bit more wide-ranging; a Spider Man, a knight, a lady bug, and a "Thing" from a Doctor Seuss book. One of the special needs children got agitated when we asked him if he wanted to wear his costume, so he just went in his street clothes.

I was less than impressed with the efforts my fellow staff members in the costume department. Half of the people didn't dress up at all, and the rest just had on some type of Halloween clothing or street clothes with a simple accessory like a wig or a headband with ears. I had decided I was going to wear a costume, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money. When I found a Hawaiian muumuu in shades of blue, green, and tan on a shopping trip to Goodwill I had my inspiration. I bought a lei at a party store, and dug out a plastic orchid from the Halloween box to pin in my hair. It was too cold to wear flip flops, but I put on a pair of hose and dug white sandals out of storage to give the outfit the proper island feel. Total cost was $7.00. An additional bonus was that the costume was quick to put on and take off -- I did it in less than five minutes--because I didn't put it on until I got to work. It was too cold to wear it in the car.

I brought my camera to take pictures, but in the busyness of the morning I didn't even pull it out! You'll have to take my word for it that I looked great in my costume:

Many of the students had nice things to say about my ensemble. The one I liked best was the girl who told me I looked "Hulaweeny". What a great summation!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Creature Comforts

I've been poking around looking for a suitable Halloween costume for a work event on Wednesday. My first stop was the "Halloween box" in the basement that contains our stash of things we've used over the years. As I was digging through the box, I realized it was long past time to clean it up a bit.

Over the years, the box has become an collection of costume pieces and accessories. Most of the items have made multiple appearances; it's amazing how you can get a "new" costume from something old just by adding some different accessories or using different makeup. However, there's no more trick-or-treating being done around here, so I felt safe culling our supply.

I kept the his-and-hers gaucho ponchos I made for an outdoor party Tony and I attended a few years ago, and the homemade capes (black polyester and a red felt models) that have been a part of vampire, ghost, devil, and generic monster outfits. The pirate swords and eye patches also made the cut, as did the white and black plastic gangster fedoras. A clown wig fit nicely inside the fedoras for storage.

I also held on to a few things for sentimental reasons. The toddler clown costume that each of the boys wore their first Halloween doesn't take up a lot of space, nor does the hula skirt and plastic-flower lei I wore as a dance costume in college.

However, I decided to get rid of an Old-Testament style robe and beard, and a knight's helmet that was looking a bit mangled. I also removed the last of the M&M costumes I made for the boys more than a decade ago. That year, I sewed the same costume in three different sizes and colors. Each was designed like a sandwich board-- front and back fabric circles each stuffed with fiberfill, with ribbons that went over the shoulders. I'm not sure what happened to the smaller brown and green models, but it was time for the red one to go, too.

I put the pillow-soft costume on the stairs so I could carry it up to the donation box the next time I went up. I turned my back, and next time I checked this is what I saw:

Yep, Jackson's a comfortable creature, all right!

I couldn't bring myself to disturb the scene, so I waited until he decided to move, then took the costume upstairs and put it where he couldn't use it again.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Art For Art's Sake

What do you do with a mall that has a lot of empty storefronts? You turn it into space for artists!

Crestwood Court used to be known as Crestwood Mall. It was built in the 1950's and at its peak had a Famous-Barr (AKA Macy's after the chain was sold a couple of years ago), a Dillard's, a Sears, and dozens of smaller stores. However, Dillard's left a couple of years ago and the Macy's closed this year. There's only a handful of retail stores left in the sprawling facility.

At some point the owners say the whole mall will be redeveloped, but they don't know when. While they're waiting, they decided to rent the vacant space to art groups. The storefronts are now home to painters, photographers, jewelers, dance studios, and theater groups.

I've been there a few times before, but the spaces don't seem to be open consistent hours so I couldn't see everything. However, tonight they had a special event and all the vendors were supposed to be there, so I made a trip to the ArtSpace at Crestwood Court.

About 2/3 of the stores have something in them-either a retail store or an artist's space. I picked up a directory of all the artists (there are more than 30), which listed the hours each space was open that will be good for future reference. It looked like all of the spaces that sold things were open for business tonight. Many of the theater companies and dance studios hadn't opened their doors, but it was still interesting to check out their display windows to get a sense of what they were about.

It was great to see how the stores were being repurposed. One store that had wooden floors turned out to be the perfect space for a tap dance and Irish dance studio. A place that used to be a beauty salon now had pieces of sculpture on the beautician's sinks and stations. There was a former jewelry store that still sold jewelry; however, it was now handmade out of glass beads and silver wire. Another jewelry store had the display cabinets filled with hand-made bowls.

I had fun talking with all the artists as I moved from space to space. They seemed eager to tell me about their work. Although I didn't spend any money tonight, I got some good ideas for Christmas presents.

There was also a bit of entertainment to be had. At one end of the mall there was a traditional country music band; the four middle-aged men wore Western-style embroidered shirts and cowboy hats. The other end showcased a blues group. Outside the Sears store a ballet studio had set up a portable stage to give demonstrations.

I believe that ArtSpace has this open house format once a month on Saturday night. If you live in the St. Louis area and haven't been there yet, you should go.

Friday, October 23, 2009

After Dark

It feels like autumn has really arrived here. We had cool temperatures a couple of weeks ago, but it was too early to be the real thing. The trees hadn't changed color yet, and it was still bright outside while I cooked dinner. Now the days are getting shorter, and the temperatures are getting cooler. There are a couple of places on my everyday driving route where a hillside of trees explodes with a wonderful array of red, yellow, and orange.

Tonight's gloomy weather and brisk temperature were probably better suited for staying home and starting a fire in the fireplace, but I hadn't had any physical activity for a couple of days and decided to take a walk after dinner. As I left the house I fired up the MP3 player and chose Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. I absolutely love the moody instruments and otherworldly vocals of the disc.

I wasn't too far from my house before it was completely dark outside. Yesterday's rain had knocked a substantial number of leaves onto the ground; I had to be careful walking on the damp masses covering the sidewalks. I followed my normal route through the subdivision. When I reached the end of the street, instead of turning and continuing in the regular direction I crossed over into another subdivision. I often travel through this one in the car, but tonight in the dark, on foot, it was different. The streets were completely empty, and the hypnotic sounds coming out of the speakers made the whole thing seem unworldly.

The mood continued for another ten minutes, until I circled back to the main road. The local high school was having a football game, and I got caught up in a bit of traffic. However, I turned the opposite way and soon the crowd noise was just a buzz in the distance. A light breeze started blowing; although I was warm in my hoodie, my face and hands were pleasantly cool.

The last leg of my walk led me up a steep hill, past a middle school and an elementary school, and through one more subdivision. I arrived home just as my CD completed. I felt invigorated and glad I had made the effort.

Here's one of the songs I listened to tonight:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Table For One

I ended up staying home from work today. Although I didn't have a fever, my throat was scratchy and I had a headache all night that didn't respond to any of the over-the-counter medicines in the closet. However, it was a complete waste of a sick day. By noon I was feeling pretty good, and a mid-afternoon nap made things all better.

After staying in the house all day I was ready to get out for the evening. I called a couple of friends, but no one could meet me for a spur-of-the moment dinner. I decided I'd go by myself. I wanted a nice meal--something other than fast food or carry out, so I changed my clothes and went out to dinner alone.

I chose Saleem’s West, a Lebanese restaurant that's tucked in the back corner of a strip mall on Manchester Road just two miles from my house. Over the years, there have been a couple of different Italian places there, but it's been open in its current incarnation for about a year. I drive by it every day, but somehow it's never made it to the top of the list when we're looking for places to eat.

I was so eager to get out of the house that I arrived a bit early for dinner; there was no one else in the restaurant. I was given a table by a window close to the front of the room. The dining room walls were painted a dark red, and Middle Eastern-inspired artwork was hung throughout. Exotic music was playing through speakers in the ceiling. Both the host (who I found out was Salim Hanna, the owner) and my waiter (his son) were friendly and made me feel at home. After I placed my order, it didn't take long for the first of my food to arrive.

My Greek salad had wonderful dark green Romaine lettuce, onion, tomatoes, and Kalamata olives. The salad was topped with two large slices of feta cheese, which was much nicer than the tiny crumbles I've had on some Greek salads. It contrasted nicely with the tangy house dressing.

I chose my entree from the "Light Menu" (half-size portions) so I'd have room for dessert. My lamb kabob was heavy on the meat; the perfectly cooked chunks of lamb with slightly charred edges were accented by a few pieces of red pepper and onion. The meal came with rice and a small bowl of an incredible pomegranate-tomato dipping sauce that they make in-house.

I was planning on having a piece of baklava for dessert, but when the dessert menu touted all the other homemade sweets I changed my mind. I'm so glad I did! The Lebanese ice cream started with a pita. It was deep fried into a bowl shape and covered with sugar and cinnamon. In the middle of the bowl was a large scoop of vanilla ice cream with a clear syrup on top. It was very sweet, very rich, and very delicious.

This meal was definitely the highlight of my day. I don't think this will be the last time I act as my own dinner companion.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Want To Have Some Fun?

In my original blog project, I spent an entire year doing a daily new activity. Today I revisited the concept of New Things when I learned How to Draw a Circle and Its Centre Without Lifting Your Pencil, thanks to WikiHow.

This afternoon my throat started to feel scratchy--was it the beginnings of the flu, allergies, or something else? I decided to stay at home and take care of myself tonight in hopes of running away from any germs that might be trying to find me. A bit of mindless Web surfing led to my discovery.

The challenge is to draw the figure on the right on a piece of paper without lifting the pencil. How do you do it?
  • Draw a large dot in the middle of the paper.
  • Keeping the pencil on the paper, fold over the top edge of the paper until it touches the pencil. Don't crease the paper.
  • Move the pencil up onto the flap of folded paper (you're now working on the back side). The line you make will be drawn on the flap; the longer the line is, the larger your circle will be.
  • Draw a quarter circle, which will bring your pencil back to the edge of the folded-over paper. Draw right down off the edge and back onto the front side of the paper.
  • Unfold the paper. You're now on the correct side of the paper, ready to draw the circle around the dot.
This trick works with many types of geometric figures. I tried it with a square, a rectangle, and a star. I'm not very artistically inclined, so I stopped there.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Baby Boomer Memory Test

This quiz showed up in my e-mail Inbox this morning; I thought it was fun and decided to share it with you. There are 20 questions. The average score is 12, but unless you're "of a certain age" you won't know a lot of these!

1. What builds strong bodies 12 ways?
A. Flintstones vitamins
B. The Buttmaster
C. Spaghetti
D. Wonder Bread
E. Orange Juice
F. Milk
G. Cod Liver Oil

2. Before he was Muhammed Ali, he was...
A. Sugar Ray Robinson
B. Roy Orbison
C. Gene Autry
D. Rudolph Valentino
E. Fabian
F. Mickey Mantle
G. Cassius Clay

3. Pogo, the comic strip character said, 'We have met the enemy and...
A. It's you
B. He is us
C. It's the Grinch
D. He wasn't home
E. He's really me and...
F. We quit
G. He surrendered

4. Good night David...
A. Good night Chet
B. Sleep well
C. Good night Irene
D. Good night Gracie
E. See you later alligator
F. Until tomorrow
G. Good night Steve

5. You'll wonder where the yellow went...
A. When you use Tide
B. When you lose your crayons
C. When you clean your tub
D. If you paint the room blue
E. If you buy a soft water tank
F. When you use Lady Clairol
G. When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent

6. Before he was the Skipper's Little Buddy, Bob Denver was Dobie's friend...
A. Stuart Whitman
B. Randolph Scott
C. Steve Reeves
D. Maynard G. Krebbs
E. Corky B. Dork
F. Dave the Whale
G. Zippy Zoo

7. Liar, liar...
A. You're a liar
B. Your nose is growing
C. Pants on fire
D. Join the choir
E. Jump up higher
F. On the wire
G. I'm telling Mom

8. Meanwhile, back in Metropolis, Superman fights a never ending battle for truth, justice and...
A. Wheaties
B. Lois Lane
C. TV ratings
D. World peace
E. Red tights
F. The American way
G. News headlines

9. Hey kids! What time is it?
A. It's time for Yogi Bear
B It's time to do your homework
C. It's Howdy Doody Time
D. It's Time for Romper Room
E. It's bedtime
F. The Mighty Mouse Hour
G. Scoopy Doo Time

10. Lions and tigers and bears...
A. Yikes
B. Oh no
C. Gee whiz
D. I'm scared
E. Oh my
F. Help! Help!
G. Let's run

11. Bob Dylan advised us never to trust anyone...
A. Over 40
B. Wearing a uniform
C. Carrying a briefcase
D. Over 30
E. You don't know
F. Who says, 'Trust me'
G. Who eats tofu

12. NFL quarterback who appeared in a television commercial wearing women's stockings...
A. Troy Aikman
B. Kenny Stabler
C. Joe Namath
D. Roger Staubach
E. Joe Montana
F. Steve Young
G. John Elway

13. Brylcream...
A. Smear it on
B. You'll smell great
C. Tame that cowlick
D. Grease ball heaven
E. It's a dream
F. We're your team
G. A little dab'll do ya

14. I found my thrill...
A. Blueberry muffins
B. With my man, Bill
C. Down at the mill
D. Over the windowsill
E. With thyme and dill
F. Too late to enjoy
G. On Blueberry Hill

15. Before Robin Williams, Peter Pan was played by...
A. Clark Gable
B. Mary Martin
C. Doris Day
D. Errol Flynn
E. Sally Fields
F. Jim Carey
G. Jay Leno

16. Name the Beatles...
A. John, Steve, George, Ringo
B. John, Paul, George, Roscoe
C. John, Paul, Stacey, Ringo
D. Jay, Paul, George, Ringo
E. Lewis, Peter, George, Ringo
F. Jason, Betty, Skipper, Hazel
G. John, Paul, George, Ringo

17. I wonder, wonder, who...
A. Who ate the leftovers?
B. Who did the laundry?
C. Was it you?
D. Who wrote the book of love?
E. Who I am?
F. Passed the test?
G. Knocked on the door?

18. I'm strong to the finish....
A. Cause I eats my broccoli
B. Cause I eats me spinach
C. Cause I lift weights
D. Cause I'm the hero
E. And don't you for get it
F. Cause Olive Oyl loves me
G. To outlast Bruto

19. When it's least expected, you're elected, you're the star today...
A. Smile, you're on Candid Camera
B. Smile, you're on Star Search
C. Smile, you won the lottery
D. Smile, we're watching you
E. Smile, the world sees you
F. Smile, you're a hit
G. Smile, you're on TV

20. What do M & M's do?
A. Make your tummy happy
B. Melt in your mouth, not in your pocket
C. Make you fat
D. Melt your heart
E. Make you popular
F. Melt in your mouth, not in your hand
G. Come in colors

Below are the right answers:

1. D - Wonder Bread
2. G - Cassius Clay
3. B - He Is Us
4. A - Good night, Chet
5. G - When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent
6. D - Maynard G. Krebbs
7. C - Pants On Fire
8. F - The American Way
9. C - It's Howdy Doody Time
10. E - Oh My
11. D - Over 30
12 . C - Joe Namath
13. G - A little dab'll do ya
14. G - On Blueberry Hill
15. B - Mary Martin
16. G - John, Paul, George, Ringo
17. D - Who wrote the book of Love
18. B - Cause I eats me spinach
19. A - Smile, you're on Candid Camera
20. F - Melt In Your Mouth Not In Your Hand

How did you do?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Totally Random

For a project next month, I need to assign 60 people randomly to tables that seat eight. While I know that there are a lot of computer programs out there that would easily do what I need, I have no budget to purchase one.

I tried doing a little research on my own, but when my efforts were unsuccessful, I turned to Son Brian, the family computer guru. With a little exploration, he found out that I could do the project with resources I already have, because Excel has a random sequence generator that will do the trick.

He found information about random sorting on the Mr. Excel Website. The page has excellent detailed instructions, but in a nutshell Column A is the list of things you need to sequence. Each cell in Column B contains the formula for the RAND function. You sort by column B to get a random sequence.

Here's my sample data chart:

When I do the table assignments, the first eight names in the column will be assigned to Table 1, the second eight to Table 2, etc.

I won't have the actual 60 names until much closer to the event day, but I've tried sorting a mock-up list multiple times; each time the names are arranged differently, so I must be doing it right.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Vegetarian Wheat Meat

I'm familiar with Chicken Cacciatore, which roughly translates as "hunter-style chicken", containing tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and bell pepper. However, when I was filling my lunch plate from the hot foods bar at Whole Foods today, next to the baked fish and beef fajitas, there was something I'd never seen before...Seitan Cacciatore.

I guessed that seitan was some type of vegetarian protein. The dish was attractive-along with small pieces of a brownish-looking substance I assumed was the seitan, there were big chunks of tomatoes, red peppers, and onions swimming in a red sauce. I'll try anything once, so I put a bit of the cacciatore on my plate along with my other foods. I paid for my lunch, sat at a table, and dug in. Much to my surprise, the seitan was not just ok, it was good; it was denser than tofu, with an interesting chewy texture. I had to know exactly what it was, so I came home and did a little Web research.

Turns out this is definitely an ingredient you want to avoid if you have a gluten sensitivity. Seitan (pronounced say-tahn) is an alternative to soy-based meat substitutes like tofu. According to Wikipedia:
Wheat gluten, also called seitan, wheat meat, gluten meat, or simply gluten, is a food made from the gluten of wheat. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch dissolves, leaving insoluble gluten as an elastic mass which is then cooked before being eaten.
Seitan was first developed in China several centuries ago, and is now often used instead of meat in Asian, Buddhist, vegetarian, and macrobiotic cuisines. Like tofu, it doesn't have much taste on its own, but can pick up the flavors of the foods with which it is cooked. Based on today's experience, I'd agree with that assessment. I'd definitely eat seitan again.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Battle Of The Discount Clubs

For quite a few years I've had a membership to Sam's Club. Although I used it a lot more when I was feeding three growing boys (regularly buying restaurant-sized containers of peanut butter, snacks, granola bars, and condiments) there are still a handful of food and household items I buy on a regular basis.

However, a Costco will be opening just a couple of miles from my house next month. My Sam's membership expires at the end of October and I'm trying to decide if I should renew it or wait, so tonight Tony and I drove down to the South County Costco to scope it out.

The stores look remarkably similar on the inside. All the regular warehouse store departments were represented. We wandered around and saw a plethora of things we never knew we needed. I brought a list of the things I buy at Sam's and compared prices. It was a wash; some things seemed to be a bit lower, but some were a bit more expensive. Although the bakery department was a bit picked over close to the end of the day, the meat looked fresh, and this Costco had a walk-in refrigerated room for produce, which I thought was pretty unique.

The membership costs are slightly different. At Sam's, a membership is $40 for 2-person household. On the other hand, at Costco the membership costs $50 for 2 people. However, for that fee you also get an American Express card that pays cash back on purchases. I doubt I would use the card except when shopping there, and at the rate I buy things at warehouse clubs, that would mean they could treat me to a cup of coffee at the end of the year!

I still haven't completely decided, but at this point I'm leaning toward Costco. It will be much closer to my house (5 miles round trip versus 10 miles and the stress of driving on Manchester Road), and they have a reputation of paying their employees a living wage, which I think is important.

I wonder if they'll be offering any grand opening discounts on memberships?

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's Here!

Today is the Willow Manor ball! Willow has outdone herself preparing her house for all her guests. The food looks marvelous, and she has every imaginable drink in the bar. My empty dance card is just waiting to be filled!

I didn't decide to attend until a few days ago, so it was hard to find the perfect dress on short notice. I decided on this vintage Halston silk charmeuse Grecian toga dress. The dress only needed a few alterations to make it fit; the tailor was able to do a rush job and get it back to me for today.

It was difficult, but I was able to get a last-minute appointment for my hair and nails. My gorgeous tan? Shhhh...don't tell anyone, but it's sprayed on. Much better for the skin than UV rays.

My triple loop earrings are from Harry Winston--a platinum setting with 78 round diamonds, approximately 4.45 total carats. Of course they're on loan from his store on Rodeo Drive! Tony and I drove by the place when we were in Hollywood last week. Please be careful with them because I have to return them tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I can't wear high heels any more (too much dancing till dawn!) However, don't you think these slides are elegant? They have Swarovski crystals on the buckle and heel. Now I'll be able to circle the dance floor all night long.

George Clooney graciously responded to my last-minute phone call, and cleared his schedule to escort me. Here's a still of him in his new movie, "Up in the Air". The movie was shot at several St. Louis-area locations this spring. Everyone who was involved said he was a really nice guy. I'm looking forward to comparing notes with him as we dance.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Shall We Dance?

Nancy at Life In The Second Half was nice enough to extend an invitation to the cyber event of the year--the second annual Willow Manor Ball on October 13th.

Willow, the owner of Willow Manor and ball hostess, indicates this is a formal affair. Last year, she wore a pale blue Christian Dior gown that was once owned by Princess Diana, and was escorted by Sir Anthony Hopkins. The guests were all accompanied by A-List celebrities. The food, drinks, and entertainment was all first class. If this year's ball is of the same caliber, we're in for a real treat.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I don't have a lot of time to find a dress, shoes, and accessories, and make arrangements to get my hair and nails done...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Very Vegetal

We may have our first frost of the season tonight. If it doesn't happen this evening, it will soon, so today I picked the last of the tomatoes and peppers and pulled up the plants. (I collected an entire salad bowl of immature grape tomatoes, so I guess I'll be making a large batch of green tomato salsa in the next few days.)

In addition to the pepper and tomato plants, back in the spring I also planted two broccoli plants, which were quickly destroyed. I'm pretty sure the culprit was a rabbit. Although I had hopes they'd re-grow, the plant closest to the front shriveled up and died. I assumed they both had succumbed, but today I saw this hiding under the tangled tomato plants:

I was amazed and delighted. Even though there's nothing to harvest yet, I know that broccoli is a hardy vegetable and it grows best during the cool part of the year. I think my garden is close enough to the house to shield the plant from a light frost; hopefully a broccoli head or two can grow before the first hard frost comes.

I'd like to think I outwitted Bugs Bunny and salvaged some of the produce from his all you can eat buffet.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tag! I'm It!

Sage at Wise Herb's Random Jottings was nice enough to send a Kreativ Blogger award my way. I'm honored to accept. The rules say that now I have to share seven things about myself that no one would know.

However, it's hard to find seven things that no one is aware of. I think my family and closest friends know many of these, but maybe they'll be surprised by or two. In no particular order:
  • I don't have a favorite color
  • I get annoyed if the newspaper is late and I can't read the comics while I'm eating breakfast
  • Eating shrimp makes me ill
  • Other than childbirth, I have never been admitted to the hospital
  • I like to put ketchup and mustard on my french fries
  • I took two years of Latin in high school, but didn't learn much
  • I prefer the toilet paper to roll off the top
Now I'm supposed to nominate seven other 'Kreativ Bloggers.' This is NOT easy. After looking at all the blogs that show up in my reader, I decided that I couldn't decide. If you want to participate in this, go for it. Leave me a comment and I'll be happy to link to you. If you don't have time for this right now, than I understand.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Say What?

I was composing an e-mail this morning, and used to find a synonym for "goodness". All the normal words were represented, such as benevolence, integrity, and kindheartedness. However, in the list of Related Words, I saw this:


What the heck did it mean? I had to know. Interestingly enough, the companion site to the thesaurus, didn't have any results for the word. According to, it is an obscure word that means good. I guess since it describes something, it would be an adjective

But how is the word pronounced? I turned to Google to find the answer. Usually I get thousands of search results, but this time I only got 21, and none of them had the information I was looking for. Since Google was no help, I was forced to fall back on the rules of of syllabication and pronunciation I learned way back when.

Based on that logic, I think you'd say:
  • eel (Like the fish)
  • logo (Something that would be on the chest of your shirt)
  • fus (I think this would be pronounced like "fuss", because in a closed syllable--when a vowel is followed by one or more consonants--the vowel is usually short)
  • ciou (Could be an "sh" sound, like in the word delicious)
  • hi (Like the greeting. This is an example of an open syllable, a single vowel at the end of a syllable; it usually has a long sound. )
  • pop (What some people call Coke)
  • po (Long o sound-another open syllable)
  • kun (A short u sound, rhyming with "run")
  • urious ("curious" without the "c")
However, we all know that English isn't always a logical language. If you're a pro at this type of thing, please leave me a comment and let me know how I did.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day Of The Sun

After yesterday's day of driving around the greater Los Angeles area, it was nice to not be so busy today. Tony has been attending Mass at a church in Anaheim for the past few weeks, and our big Sunday activity was going together. He had the bus schedule all figured out, so after breakfast we walked to a nearby street corner and waited at the bus stop. When the bus appeared, I bought a one-ride ticket, but Tony bought a pass so he could run some errands later in the day. It took about 15 minutes to get to our destination.

A young woman got off the bus at the same stop as us, and I struck up a conversation with her as we waited for the light to change so we could cross the street. She said she was in the choir, told us that today was their once monthly chant mass, and that we were in for a treat.

The choir did a great job. Our church occasionally uses chant form for some of the common prayers, but I've never been in a setting where so much of the ceremony was sung. The chanting was beautiful, but it was hard to sing along because I didn't understand the Latin words. For the most part, I just listened and took it all in. I did know a few of the prayers, and it felt good to sing those.

The church has Mass in three languages--English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The service before ours was in Spanish, and Tony told me they sometimes sell tacos. However, we were out of luck today, so on the way back to the hotel we got off the bus a few blocks early and stopped at a buffet restaurant for lunch. We walked the rest of the way to the hotel, and I only had ten minutes to get my things together and get outside for my airport shuttle.

The trip back home went well--there were no problems getting through security, the flight left on time and actually arrived back in St. Louis about 15 minutes early, and there was a parking garage shuttle waiting at the curb when I got out of the terminal. When I got to the house the cats were waiting for me, wanting to know where I'd been for the past few days. I tried to explain it to them, but I don't think they understood.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Driving In My Car

Saturday's California adventure started bright and early. Tony had e-mailed me some ideas for the day and I had chosen my favorites. I knew that he was going to rent a car for the day, but I was surprised (and quite pleased) when I found out these were going to be our wheels:

We were the "owners" of a red Mustang convertible for the day. Top down, we left the parking garage and started our exploits on a beautiful sunny day.

After a nice drive, our first stop was Venice Beach. We watched the surfboarders from the pier, then took our shoes off and walked on the beach. Even though I had my pants rolled up, they got a bit wet at the bottom from the waves. To get back to the car we strolled along Ocean Front Walk, which was full of vendors and entertainers. We browsed in a few of the stores, bought a painting of the circus-like boardwalk from a sidewalk artist, and saw the famous Muscle Beach. Back at our car, we started towards our next destination.

The Farmer's Market in Los Angeles is a landmark destination. We intended to get lunch there, but had trouble finding a place to park so we went across the street to a Whole Foods. After we ate, we walked across the street and spent a bit of time browsing through the market. Tony got a cup of coffee and I bought a container of golden raspberries (which we quickly polished off).

A tourist trip to Los Angeles probably wouldn't be complete without a stop in Hollywood. Our plan was to look at the outside of Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Kodak Theatre, see the Walk of Fame, then leave. However, a street vendor made us a great deal on a movie star home tour, so we spent a couple of hours in an open-air van seeing where the stars lived and other notable places in the city. Our tour guide was very entertaining and a full of information. I particularly enjoyed the drive on Mulholland Drive, which follows the ridgeline of the mountains and provided great views of the valley.

After we finished the tour, we had to head quickly to our last stop of the night in Huntington Beach. It was only 30 miles, but we ran into a bit of legendary Los Angeles traffic (the only time all day) and arrived just in time for our dinner reservations. Tony had chosen a Hawaiian restaurant located along the waterfront. We had a great view of the water, although the sun went down halfway through dinner. They only serve specific fish during certain seasons, so everything is very fresh. I had ono, which was new to me, and Tony chose barramundi. After we chose the fish, our waiter recommended the best preparation for it. Both entrees were wonderful.

I got an opportunity to drive on the way home. Even though it was too chilly to have the top down on the car, it was still a thrill to drive a vehicle with a lot of horsepower. Although we didn't really need to, Tony figured out a route that included a little bit of highway driving. Back in Anaheim, we stopped at a grocery store so I could buy some snacks for the trip home the next day. On our way back to the hotel, Tony realized that it was about time for the nightly fireworks from Disneyland, so we parked the car in a McDonald's parking lot, put the top down, and watched the action. Sadly, it was then time to take the car back. We dropped it off in the parking garage, locked it, then put the keys in the drop box in the hotel lobby. Adventure over.

But there's even more to come...

Friday, October 2, 2009

California Dreaming

Tony will wrap up his first chunk of job training next Friday, but this weekend I visited him at his home away from home in Anaheim, California.

My flight Thursday night was uneventful, although with the time change I arrived quite late. Tony was waiting for me when the shuttle dropped me off from the airport; it was great to see him.

Friday morning he had to get up and go to class, but I lounged around his room until mid-morning. Even though he's staying in a hotel, he's got a nice setup. There's a small refrigerator and microwave, and one drawer of a bedside table has become his "pantry"-there's a jar of peanut butter, bread, and snacks. For breakfast I had some grapes, a cup of cereal, and coffee. I ate while flipping channels on the TV, watching whatever I wanted!

After breakfast I got a map of the area from the concierge and discovered that Disneyland was only a twenty-minute walk away. Unlike the spread-out setup of Disney World in Orlando, the original park is quite landlocked and accessible on foot. I was meeting Tony for lunch so I had no time (or desire) to buy a park ticket, but I had a great time people watching in the entry plaza and seeing the decorations-here's Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse, and Goofy perched atop the entrance to the park.

It was getting a bit warm and my feet were getting tired, so I returned to the hotel to wait for Tony. We ate lunch in the hotel food court and I got to meet a couple of his co-workers. When they all went back to their classroom I had the afternoon free. I brought my book to the pool, sat in a chair in the shade and read for a couple of hours, then went back to the room for a nap.

When Tony was finished for the day we walked to a nearby restaurant that billed itself as "Contemporary California Cuisine". The temperature had cooled off, and it was wonderful to eat outside on the patio. After dinner we walked back to the Disney property, and browsed through the Downtown Disney shopping and dining promenade that's located next to the theme park. There were a lot of people there with Halloween costumes, some of them quite fancy. My favorite was a whole family (Dad, Mom, and two boys) dressed as pirates.

We ended the night with ice cream and a walk through another shopping and entertainment area on our way back to the hotel. I was exhausted and ready to fall into bed.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

Back in the summer I "friended" a young man from our neighborhood on Facebook.

I won't be available for the next few days to take care of the cats, so I asked this young man to fill in for me. Over the last few years, he's been our default cat sitter, and he does a great job. When I talked to him earlier in the week he agreed to do it; he informed me he still has a key from the last time. Because I didn't need to drop off any instructions, last night I realized that I hadn't given him my cell phone number in case he has any questions or problems.

I didn't have his cell phone number to pass on the information, so I did the next best thing. I left him a message on Facebook giving him the information. He seems to only check the page sporadically, so I called his parent's number (which I do have), and asked them to pass on the information.

Hopefully all my work will be superfluous and he won't need the number.