Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Are YOU Listening To?

My commute to work takes between ten and fifteen minutes.  While I'm driving I usually listen to music on The World's Greatest Radio Station, KDHX, or flip over to an AM channel if I want the news headlines or a weather forecast.

Today, though, I wasn't getting music that fit my mood.  It happens.  Every show is unique, since the programmers pick all their own songs.  I decided to see what was in my car's CD changer, which  I haven't browsed in quite a whole.  What an interesting collection!  I had something to fit any occasion:
  • Mama Mia! The Movie soundtrack
  • The Charlie Daniels Band -A Decade of Hits.
  • 100 Days, 100 Nights by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
  • Ramones Greatest Hits
  • I Told Ya I love Ya, Now Get Out by Anita O'Day
  • Sky Blue Sky by Wilco

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


At the gym I go to, the group exercise room is enclosed by glass walls on two sides, which makes the room open and airy.  Outside the room there's a wide walkway, then the first of several rows of exercise machines.

Today in the middle of my Zumba class, I noticed a man (I'm guessing about 20 years older than me) sitting at the leg press machine almost directly behind me.  Nothing unusual there. The machine gets a lot of use, which I see because I like to stand in the back left corner of the room directly under a ceiling fan. However, the man kept sitting there for five minutes after he had finished his repetitions.  Was he resting?  Thinking?  Surely he wasn't watching the group of middle-aged women shaking their booties behind the glass walls of the group exercise room!

I like to pretend my body moves as well as it did when I was in my 20s.  However, that fantasy lasts until I look into the mirrors that line the other two sides of the room, which brings me back to reality pretty quickly.

At some point, he moved on and the class ended.  I headed for the locker room to shower and get ready for work.  Although I looked around the gym when I left, I didn't see the man anywhere.  That's probably a good thing.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Last night Tony and I went to our first stadium concert in decades.  The Eagles and Dixie Chicks were in town.

When the concert was announced several months ago, I thought the tickets were pricy (the "cheap seats" were $50), but they announced a half-price promotion last month and I quickly bought a pair.  The Eagles' music was a big chunk of the soundtrack for my teenage years, and I was excited to revisit that time period.

 We've been to Busch Stadium so many times it wasn't a problem finding a place to park or navigating our way to the gate. On the street outside the stadium was an interesting lineup of radio station tents...I saw classic rock, country, and soft rock popups right in a row. They were all packing up when we got there, but it occurred to me that if they'd all been broadcasting live earlier it would have been quite a cacophony!  The stadium chose not to open all of the gates, so the line to enter was quite long, but it moved quickly.  We used the escalators to move up to the top level and found our seats in the last row of a section just past third base, in front of the wheelchair seating area.

The stage was set up in center field. Everything except for the infield (which was fenced off) and the warning track (which was the main walkway) was covered, and folding chairs were set up for the people sitting on the field.  The field also contained three huge speaker towers, a tent for the sound people, and a couple of portable concession stands.  All of the seats between the foul poles were roped off and empty, but the rest of the stadium was pretty full.

There was some confusion about when the concert started. The tickets said 6:00, but on the way home from work I heard they'd changed the time to 6:30. When we were waiting to enter the stadium I heard 7:00.  An opening band was playing when we got there, but the Dixie Chicks actually started at 7:15.

I'm not very familiar with the Dixie Chicks, but I enjoyed their set. The lead singer, Natalie Maines, apologized for starting late, and said they'd do less talking and more singing. They did. Except for a brief stop to acknowledge Katie, a Make a Wish girl who was supposed to be there but had to be hospitalized, it was nonstop music.  They played for about an hour, with one encore, then the roadies got busy setting up for the main act.

The Eagles started a little bit before 9:00.  We were so far away that the people on stage looked like ants, but there was a huge monitor on either side of the stage that provided excellent close ups. What a show!  Over the course of the evening there was only one song I wasn't familiar with. Everything else was classics that I could sing along to. And I did.  I've often thought that if I could purge my brain of trivial information (like complete sets of song lyrics) I could be really smart. "Hotel California".  "Lying Eyes".  "Witchy Woman".  All the different parts of the band's discography were represented.  In addition to the Eagles hits, they let Don Henley and Joe Walsh showcase some of their own songs (in Joe's case also a couple of James Gang tunes, too).

We couldn't have had a nicer night to be outside.  The full moon, a nice breeze, and the low humidity were wonderful.   As we expected, the crowd was predominantly middle aged and pretty sedate, but there was a contingent of 20-somethings in our section that seemed to be having a great time dancing and being crazy. I suspect it was more than the show on the stage, and the large quantities of beer they had been drinking were also a factor.

In addition to the four members of the band, the stage included several other backing musicians and an awesome horn section.  There wasn't a lot of improvising during this concert.  For the most part, the songs were just like the recorded versions, and that was ok. The exceptions were a nice trumpet solo before the beginning of "Hotel California" and a horn riff in the middle of "Funk #49", a James Gang song.

After a three-song encore the band waved their goodbyes and left the stage.  When the roadies came out, we knew the show was really over and started heading for the exit.  The crowd riding down the escalators was in a great mood--they'd just seen a wonderful show.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Type Are You?

The other day I read about a quick personality test at Maggie's Secret Garden.  It sounded interesting, so today I took the Jung Typology Test™.  After answering the 72 yes-or-no questions, I found out that I'm a  ISFJ (Introverted Sensing Feeling Judging) type.  About ten percent the population falls in this category.

  • Tend to be quiet and reserved, generally preferring to interact with a few close friends instead of a wide circle of acquaintances.
  • Tend to be more concrete than abstract, focusing their attention on details rather than the big picture, and on immediate realities rather than future possibilities.
  • Tend to value personal considerations above objective criteria, often giving more weight to social implications than to logic when making decisions.
  • Tend to plan their activities and make decisions early, because they feel that predictability leads to a sense of control.  
I'm in good company; Mother Teresa, Jimmy Carter, and Maria Shriver all have my personality type.

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Sunrise, Sunset

    The season of summer started today at 6:28 AM.   The Earth tilted on its axis towards the sun at the maximum of 23° 26', which means that today has the longest period of daylight for the year.  The Summer Solstice is actually just an instant in time--the exact moment the maximum tilt is reached--but I found out it's possible to celebrate it all day long.

    It was bright and sunny when my alarm went off this morning, but an hour later clouds had rolled in. That wasn't a bad thing; it was only moderately hot when I went out to fill the bird feeder.  I admired the colorful plants in the back yard: a swath of orange day lilies under the deck, and the combination of red bee balm, pink yarrow, and purple coneflowers mingling together in a bed next to our neighbor's fence, accented by the chartreuse of the creeping jenny groundcover.

    By mid-morning, about the time I got to work, the sun was back in force.  The combination of heat and humidity made it feel  like a a huge sauna.  After lunch and quiet time my preschool class lines up and goes outside.  They were actually excited to go.  The adults were counting the minutes until we could return to the air conditioned building, but none of the kids complained about playing outside.

    Later in the day, after I had moved over to the Extended Day program, the electricity went out in the building, and it quickly began to heat up.  Fortunately, I got to leave a half hour later, and I was grateful that the air conditioner in my car works quickly. 

    Many cultures, both ancient and modern, have ceremonies to mark the summer solstice. Most involve outdoor activities...bonfires, festivals, and dancing. However, because of the hot weather (at 6:00 the temperature was still 95°) I chose to celebrate inside.  For dinner I concentrated on using ingredients that are synonymous with summer.  We had a soup that included fresh corn, diced tomatoes, the first green pepper from the garden, and basil from the pot on the deck. I washed my meal down with a big glass of iced tea, and later in the evening I treated myself to a snack of frozen watermelon cubes.  They were cold and refreshing, a great way to celebrate the day.

    What's a celebration without music?  Check out the '80s clothes and hairstyles on this one:

    Saturday, June 19, 2010


    Play with fire.

    That's what they say at Third Degree Glass Factory, which Tony and I visited last night. The third Friday evening of each month they have an open house, complete with glass blowing demonstrations, food, drinks, and music.  I've never been there before, but when I heard about it on the radio we jumped in the car and headed towards the city.

    Third Degree Glass Factory opened in 2002. According to their website, they are the largest public glass art center in St. Louis, offering classes, studio rentals, and pieces for sale.  They're trying to develop a glass arts community, and  based on the number of people we saw at last night's open house, I think they may be succeeding.

    Once we got into the neighborhood and found a place to park (which was a tiny bit difficult, because a lot of people were doing the same thing we were) we followed the other people to the entrance.  The industrial-looking building was a service station in the 1930s, but it's been completely renovated.  The inside of the building was divided into several distinct sections.  The first room is a gallery.  There were large paintings along the walls, and display pillars throughout the room held glass art pieces.  A bluegrass band was playing in one corner, with several chairs arranged in front of them.

    Beyond this room was a second huge area divided into several sections--an information desk to the right, a gift shop area to the left, and the studio section straight ahead.  There are dedicated studios for
    glassblowing, flameworking and kilnworking, the three different types of glass making.  Rows of chairs were set up in front of the demonstration area, and everything was also projected onto a large screen so the people in back could see all the details.  We stood off to the side and watched a couple of different demonstrations, then walked over to the gift shop to browse.

    There were some amazing pieces of glass!  If it could be made out of glass, it was there.  Simple and complex plates, bowls, and platters.  Cups and pitchers.  Vases large and small.  Paperweights, coasters, and flowers.  All were arranged along one long side of the room.  A selection of  jewelry was available by the information desk.  Niches along the wall held some of the more elaborate pieces.   I had a great time trying to pick out my favorites.

    After a while nature called and I had to make a trip to the bathroom.  Even the bathrooms in the building are glass showcases!  The ladies room had beautiful glass wall tile, unique vessel sinks, and faucets made out of glass.  Tony said the men's room was similarly decked out.

     On the way out, I picked up a class brochure.  They have an interesting collection of classes year-round in all of their  studios.   This might not be my last visit to Third Degree Glass.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    What A Deal!

    The past few weeks I've had several friends and acquaintances recommend Groupon, a deal of the day website.  Today I signed up.

    Each day, Groupon offers a deal that will save you money at a local business in one of almost 100 different cities. After you sign up (which was a very easy process),  you get daily a email notification of their deal of the day.  If enough people join that day, everyone receives the discount.  However, if they don't get a minimum amount of interest (the "tipping point" ) the offer is canceled. I've been assured that rarely happens; as a matter of fact sometimes the discounts are subject to quantity limits and they run out.

    Unlike some other discount and coupon sites I've used, the deals at Groupon don't seem to have too many hoops to jump through.  I don't know how many Groupon deals I'll be interested in, but from now on I'll get to decide each day!

    Monday, June 14, 2010


    Today is Flag Day, which commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States by the Second Continental Congress in 1777.

    The day has an interesting history.  President Woodrow Wilson issued the proclamation that officially established June 14th as Flag Day in 1916. In 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.  I was surprised to learn that the day is not an official government holiday, but must be proclaimed by the president each year.  Can you imagine the political fallout if it wasn't?

    In honor of the day, here's some flag trivia:

    Why were the stars displayed in a circle on the first U.S. flag?  So no one state would be above another.

    What residence flies a new American flag every day?  The White House

    A vexillologist is an expert in what?  The history of flags

    Who cut the American flag into pieces and was honored for doing it?  Robert Peary, who left pieces of the flag scattered along the way on his trip to the North Pole  He also placed a flag sewn by his wife AT the North Pole.

    In 1777, what European nation was the first to officially recognize the new American flag?  France, which had done everything possible to encourage American independence from England.

    Is it ever appropriate to fly the flag upside down?  Yes, but only in an emergency. It's considered a sign of distress.

    When draped over a casket, where should the American flag's stars be?  Over the body's left shoulder.

    Where was the first fifty-star American flag raised in 1960?  Over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, site of Francis Scott Key's writing of "The Star Spangled Banner".

    Who "flew" the American flag in space?  Neil Armstrong placed it on the moon in July 1969.

    The American flag first flew over a foreign fort in what country?  In 1805, over Fort Derne in Libya, on the shores of Tripoli.

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    (It's) For The Birds

    The critters are at it again.

    Last spring I used hot pepper in the bird feeder to keep squirrels out of it.  It worked quite well, but this year they're back again, and they've brought their friends the chipmunks.  The uninvited guests are real bullies.  They take over the feeder so the birds can't get to it; if the birds are there first they scatter when the animals show up.

    Last month I went through an entire 40 pound bag of birdseed.  I fill up the feeder in the morning, and by mid-afternoon it's empty.  Part of the problem is my fault.  It's easy for the agile animals to reach the feeder, which hangs from the deck rail by a shepherd's hook. I don't want to move it, though, so I've declared war on the rodents. 

    Red pepper is effective because mammals have taste buds (birds don't), so they can experience the effects of capsaicin, the ingredient that makes chili peppers hot.  I followed the same procedure I used last year and mixed a batch of seed with cayenne pepper and hot sauce, which makes the pepper stick to the seed.  The finished concoction had a reddish tint, and it smelled hot.  I poured the seed into the feeder and hung it on the deck.

    Several hours later I looked out the kitchen window and saw this:

    The squirrel was sitting on its haunches merrily snacking from the feeder.  Just my luck... a foodie squirrel!  After a couple of minutes I decided to move him along by going out on the deck.  He jumped off the feeder, but sat on the deck rail and looked at me, only scurrying away when I got close.  Later on in the day I saw a bushy-tailed critter indulging in my culinary masterpiece again.

    However, today the feeder food level is going down more slowly.  Maybe all the varmints had a taste of my culinary masterpiece and decided to go somewhere else to get their food.  I can only hope.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    Take A Walk

    Another day, more errands and shopping.

    Our family has several birthdays coming up, and we've been invited to two weddings, so in addition to my normal stops I worked on getting ready for all the summer gift-giving events. As I was battling the heat and traffic on the way to the first place, I wondered what would happen if I parked as far away from each building as I could?  I started at

    THE LIBRARY.  Our local library has a huge parking lot with two long rows that's usually not even close to being filled, but it was particularly empty today.  I drove to the end of the lot, twenty-five spaces away from any other car.  This section was shaded by trees, one of them sporting a large wild grape vine.  The vine's tendrils reached out over the blacktop; they looked a bit creepy swaying in the breeze. After I finished at the library, I drove down the street to the

    GROCERY STORE. I always park in the same section of this lot.  Today I parked on the opposite side,  at the far end.  As I got out of the car, I saw a panoramic view of the road below.  This road was improved about a decade ago, and the small trees they planted are starting to look pretty nice.  I also noticed the store's drive-through pharmacy, which I didn't even know was there.  I bought my groceries, and put the cold items in a cooler in the back seat.  My next stop was a

    BIG BOX LINEN STORE. I drove to a strip mall on Manchester Road, navigated the traffic waiting to turn into the shopping area, and found a spot on the lot that overlooked Manchester.  The car was shaded by the center's sign, so I made sure my groceries were on the shady side so they'd stay cool.  After I did some research in this store for potential presents, I got back in my car and drove to a

    DISCOUNT CLUB. Even though this store is in the same shopping center as my last stop, I moved my car to a new spot.  The discount club is on the third level, and the thought of a long walk carrying things was completely unappealing.  I parked against a rail at the southernmost section of the lot, close to the loading dock.  There were a lot of cars around me, so I suspect it was the employee section.   I had a nice view here of the store on the level below; I could see the huge white roof (which I didn't know was there).  It's nice to know the store is doing its part to be  environmentally friendly.  As I walked to the discount club entrance, I passed hundreds of yellow day lilies planted along the side of the building.  And one maroon plant.  I wonder how it got mixed in?  I did my shopping and took advantage of all the samples they were giving out, then returned to my car for a trip to a

    MASS MERCHANT STORE. I drove several miles west on Manchester and pulled into the lot of a mass merchant store.  There used to be two stores that shared the lot, but one of them is long gone.  I pulled into the deserted part of the parking area and parked in a handicapped space in front of the empty building.  (What a rebel!)  Since there were three empty rows of parking between my car and the next closest one (and then three more rows to be right in front of my target building), I didn't think anyone would care.  Walking up to the store I caught sight of some employees in the "smoking area", a bench partially hidden in an alcove to the left of the door.  There was absolutely no shade, and the people there looked miserable. After I made my purchases, it was time to continue driving west.  I needed to stop at the

    MEXICAN GROCERY STORE to pick up a couple of specialty ingredients for tomorrow night's dinner.  This was the one place I couldn't park far away; the store shares a narrow lot with several other storefronts.  I didn't mind, though, because the day had gotten hotter and more humid, and walking was no longer appealing.  It didn't take long to find what I was looking for, and I was congratulating myself on a job well done, when I realized I was missing one key meal ingredient.  What a drag!  I completed my list at

    GROCERY STORE #2, which was right along my route home.  However, here parking far away from the store meant being close to a temporary garden shop greenhouse, so after I got done in the store I spent some time browsing through the plants.  They had a sale on all their remaining inventory, because they're getting ready to close for the year, but I managed to get back to my car without buying anything.

    When I got home I was hungry, hot, and thirsty.  Thank goodness it was only a couple of steps from the garage into the house.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Watch This

    I was supposed to work today, but many of the students in my classroom are on vacation.  There weren't going to be enough there to justify the normal lead teacher and two aides, so I got to take the day off.  What could I do with a bonus day?  I checked with all my friends, but no one was free to play.  I had to make my own plans. 

    When the alarm went off this morning I didn't want to get up.  However, I remembered I didn't have to go to work and that changed everything,  I jumped out of bed, ready for the day's adventures. After breakfast, a little housework, and a bit of Internet surfing, I left the house loaded down with a purse, my gym bag, and lunch. But no work bag.  That felt good.  My first stop was the ATM for some cash. The second stop was the gym for a Zumba class.  It felt deliciously decadent to put on regular clothes (instead of a work logo shirt) after my shower.  When I got in my car after the gym I was hungry, so I ate lunch as I drove.  It wasn't even 11:00, but this was MY day.  I could do whatever I wanted!

    I decided I wanted to see a movie.  By myself.  I've never done it before, but I could see a couple of advantages to going solo.  There would be no one to approve or veto my choice of films, no one to dispute my seat choice, and no one to share my popcorn.  I drove to the theater complex closest to my house, a huge 14-plex. As I pulled into the lot, I realized I've never seen it so empty.  I parked right in front of the box office.  One of the two ticket windows were closed, so I was able to stand there while I figured out which movie I wanted to see.  I ended up picking Letters to Juliet, because it was the next one to start.

    The story, according to the movie's Website:
    Letters To Juliet is an enchanting love story -- a tale of encountering new sparks and rekindling old flames. When Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), a young American, travels to Verona, Italy -- the romantic city where Romeo first met Juliet -- she meets a group of volunteers who respond to letters written to Juliet seeking romantic advice. Sophie finds and answers a letter that has been lost for 50 years, and is stunned when its author Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) arrives in Italy with her handsome but overprotective grandson (Christopher Egan) to find the fiance she left decades before. Fascinated by Claire's quest, Sophie joins them on an adventure through the beautiful hills of Tuscany searching for Claire's long lost Lorenzo. The journey will change their lives forever, as they discover it's never too late to find true love.
    I entered the building, got a bag of popcorn with butter, and headed to the theater.  It wasn't hard to find a seat; when the lights dimmed there were a dozen women and a group of teenage girls in the audience.  After all the commercials and trailers were finished, I settled in for the main event.

    The movie was completely predictable.  Based on the TV commercials, I could have told you the entire plot ahead of time, but I really enjoyed it.. There were some scenes of gorgeous Italian scenery, and a lot of wonderful music, much of it in Italian.  The happy ending made me tear up (I'm a hopeless romantic), and I left the theater red-eyed.  If I'd been with someone else I would have been embarrassed, but since I was by myself it didn't matter.  I just made sure I didn't make eye contact with any of the other people in the theater!

    Sunday, June 6, 2010

    Easily Entertained

    Tony was out tonight, so I ate dinner on my own, then decided to take a walk.  A stroll through the neighborhood sounded dull, though, and I tried to think of some way to make it exciting as I gathered the newspaper to throw it in the recycling bin.  The travel section was on top of the pile, and on the front page there was an article about old-fashioned games for road trips.  One of them was car bingo. That made my mind start working...I wonder if I could come up with a walking "bingo"?

    I started making a list of things that you might see on a typical suburban walk.  Soon I had two dozen items, and I set out from the house to see how many I could find.  My route tonight took me down several subdivision streets and through a high school and middle school grounds. I ended up finding more than half the things, and looking for them made my walk go quickly.

    My list and the results:
    •  A For Sale sign…There were several along my route 
    • Someone walking a dog…It was a great night for dogs and their people to be out.
    • Someone cutting the grass…I saw a few people, and heard several more lawnmowers
    • A kid riding a bike on the sidewalk…There were no kids anywhere on my route
    • Wildlife (other than birds)…One rabbit nibbling on some clover
    • A van or SUV with a decal on the back window…I saw one high school and one college cling
    • A police car…Heard a siren in the distance, but didn't see one
    • Road kill…Sadly, there was a bird that had been dead for quite some time
    • Old newspaper in driveway…Several houses had one of these
    • Beer or soda can…I saw three. Why do people need to throw their trash all over?
    • Fast food trash…Again with the trash!
    • A pizza delivery car…Not tonight, even though it was dinner time
    • Portable storage unit…Someone at the end of my street had one delivered the other day.
    • Orange road construction cones…Yes. It's street repair season!
    • A baby stroller…Surprisingly, I didn't see any babies
    • Sprinkler…Yes, and it was spraying right down the middle of the sidewalk!<
    • A car blasting loud music…None…I was pleasantly surprised
    • Old garage sale sign…Left over from yesterday's neighborhood sale
    • Someone I knew…Not one, but two. Stopping to talk added twenty minutes to my walk.

    Friday, June 4, 2010


    Now that June is here it really feels like summer. The hot, humid weather is making my tomatoes and peppers grow quickly.  One of the pepper plants already has a fingernail-sized fruit!

    I usually meander by the "garden" (a 4-foot wide strip adjacent to the patio and deck stairs) a couple of times a day, because it's also next to the compost pile. Several days ago I saw something poking up from the newspaper-and-grass-clipping mulch that hadn't been there before.  I leaned down to take a look at it.  It was small; a set of "baby" leaves and a first set of true leaves that were miniature versions of the ones on the tomato plants farther down.  It was a volunteer plant! I guess a tomato fell on the ground last year and the seeds survived the winter then sprouted when the soil heated up.

    I didn't have time to do anything about it then, so I left the plant undisturbed.  The next day another set of leaves had appeared. The tenacity of the rogue seedling was endearing, and I decided to keep it.  However, it needed to be moved to a different part of the garden.

    I dug up the small plant, which didn't have many roots, and whisked it to the other side of the bed. I made a deep hole and planted it so the stem was buried all the way up to the first leaves. (Did you know that tomatoes will root along the entire stem?  By burying it deep it sprouts more roots which helps it grow.) I gave the young plant a good watering and walked away. It would grow or not. Later in the day when I checked on it, it was laying limply on the ground. The next morning half of the plant was limp and the other half was standing up. Today it looks like this:

    (See the white alyssum the background?  That's a volunteer plant too. Years ago I planted some in the front yard.  At the end of the season I threw the spent plants in the compost pile; the seeds survived the winter and grew wherever I used the compost the next spring.  Now I just let the flowers do their thing and they come back each year on their own.)

    I grew a variety of tomatoes last year, so there's no way to know what kind I'll get from this plant.  From the looks of things, though, it is NOT a bush variety. At the rate it's growing I'll need to stake it soon.

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    Bright and Shiny

    The carpet cleaning guy came this morning to take care of the wall-to-wall on the main level. He arrived promptly at 9:00, and was gone by 10:45.  Afterwards, I hauled our two box fans and the dehumidifier up from the basement and turned them on to help remove the moisture from the damp carpets.  Soon the humming of all the motors sounded like a runway with a plane ready to take off.

    I decided to stay around the house and move the fans every once in a while so things would dry as quickly as possible.  Since I was stuck at home, there were a bunch of household chores I could tackle.  However, most of them required me to walk across the wet carpet, so I was pretty much relegated to the kitchen.  I sat at the kitchen table and thoroughly read the newspaper, heated up some leftovers for lunch, then decided to tackle an overdue job-cleaning the stainless steel appliances.

    Shortly after we installed our new kitchen countertops we got a new range and microwave, replacing the ones that were original to the house.  I decided to go with stainless steel, even though they have a reputation as a fingerprint magnet.  I've been happy with my choice, but today I noticed the dirt and smears on them and decided to do something about it.

    First I tried wiping the surface with soap and water.  That got rid of most of the food residue, but now the stainless was dull.  How could I shine it up? An Internet search brought thousands of suggestions.  One of the first sites I visited suggested car wax.  That made sense. It does a good job of shining up metal on a car. Why wouldn't it do the same for my stove?

    I had a container in the garage from the time I polished my kitchen countertops with car wax. First I tried it on the oven door.  After applying a bit of wax I let it dry, then rubbed it with a clean rag in the direction of the grain. And rubbed.  And rubbed some more. It was amazing how much dirt came off the newly-cleaned surface, but when I was finished the stainless looked mottled and streaked, not the effect I was going for. Thinking that maybe I didn't get all the dirt off, I applied a bit more wax and repeated the process.  The results were better, but still not good.  Time to try something else.

    The second Website I visited suggested using vinegar.  We use a vinegar and water solution to clean the bathrooms, and mix it with baking soda to get the stinky smell out of the kitchen sink drain, so why not try it for stainless steel?  I moistened a rag with a bit of plain white vinegar and started rubbing the oven door.  This time there was no dirt left to make the rag dirty, and  I got yet another rag to polish with.  Success!  The oven gleams like the day it was delivered to the house.  I did the same thing with the outside of the microwave, and while I was at it I gave the inside a cursory clean.

    So for a while I have shining appliances.  As an added benefit, my kitchen smells like salad dressing.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010


    A St. Paul sandwich (which has nothing to do with the city in Minnesota) is a St. Louis Chinese food specialty.  It's an egg foo young patty between two slices of white bread, topped with dill pickle slices, mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato. They don't serve it at fancy restaurants, and you can't get it in all parts of the metropolitan area.  It's only available at carryout joints, and until recently nowhere in my neighborhood.

    I remember the first time I had a St. Paul sandwich almost 30 years ago.  When we got married, we lived in a house in North County.  The closest food place was a counter-only Chinese establishment.  The fried rice there was good and cheap, but something called a "St. Paul" didn't cost much more.  One day when I wanted something different I gave it a try, and from then on the sandwich was one of my regular orders.  I haven't had one since we moved from that house almost 25 years ago.  Every once in a while I'd try to find a place that served them, but never had any luck.  Last month I got a menu in the mail for a new Chinese restaurant in Valley Park (the city directly to the south of my house) and saw that they had what they called a St. P Sanwich.  I was excited, and filed the menu for future reference, planning to go there some day.  I'm on vacation this week, so I decided that today was the day to put my plan into action..

    The distance from my house to this restaurant was less than four miles, but I passed by three other Chinese places on the way "regular" a half-mile from the house, and two others in strip malls along the way.  They're all tiny family run type places that cater to the people who live within a couple of miles. The place I was going was in a mostly-vacant plaza right off Route 141.  There were quite a few cars in that part of the parking lot, so I was surprised to see I was the only one in the restaurant. Since they weren't busy, I got quick service from the woman behind the counter.  My Vegetable St. Paul only cost three dollars, so I added an egg roll to my order. The whole thing came to less than five dollars. 

    After she took my money, the woman shouted something in Chinese back to the kitchen, and I heard pots start to bang around. Ten minutes later the cashier handed me a small brown paper bag and I got in the car to drive home.  I hadn't even left the parking lot before the wonderful smells got the better of me.  I pulled out the egg roll and opened it up at a stoplight.  It was obviously freshly-cooked, crisp, not a bit greasy, and long gone by time I pulled into the garage.

    When I got home it was time for the main event.  I spread the paper bag out on the table in lieu of a plate and grabbed some napkins.  In the old days they'd wrap my St. Paul sandwich in a  piece of waxed paper, but today it was in a foam clamshell.  There's nothing healthy about a St. Paul sandwich, but this restaurant tried.  My patty had the traditional bean sprouts and onions, but there were also strips of carrot and small pieces of broccoli.  It was fried perfectly; not greasy, with wonderful crispiness all around the edges.  There was just enough mayonnaise, and the iceberg lettuce, slice of tomato, and pickle chips made it taste just like I remembered.  Halfway through my meal, the bread started to disintegrate, and the last few bites were pretty sloppy.  However, I managed to finish the whole thing without making too much of a mess. 

    The restaurant had tucked a fortune cookie into my bag of food.  When I broke it open, I read, "Plan for many pleasures ahead".  I wonder if that includes more St. Paul sandwiches?