Thursday, September 30, 2010

I WON'T Be Dancing All Night

Last year was the first time I attended the Willow Manor Ball, hosted by Willow of Life at Willow Manor.  It was great fun finding just the right outfit to wear, accessorizing it with fabulous items, and scouring the Internet for the perfect date. That night I had a great time eating, dancing, and chatting with the other guests.  When Willow announced the date for this year's event, I made sure it was on my calendar.

Don't you just hate it when life gets in the way of your plans?  I realized a couple of days ago that I wouldn't be able to attend the ball.  I had to put my beautiful new ball gown back in the closet, and return the jewels to the store.

I'd like to be doing this tonight

But instead I'll be doing this.

If you have some free time tonight, feel free to stop by Willow's.  Tell her I sent you, and make sure you have some of the great food and drink she's provided.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Clean As Mud

"Clean Mud" was one of the activities on this week's preschool lesson plan.  What an intriguing concept! Isn't mud by definition dirty?  I found out today that clean mud is a lot of fun.

The recipe uses Ivory Soap, toilet paper, and water: You grate 3 bars of soap, tear up 2 rolls of cheap TP, and put them both into a large tub. Next you gradually add hot water and mix until you get a nice "muddy" consistency.

The lead teacher prepared the ingredients ahead of time and had the students help her make the mud yesterday, but I got to get it out and play with it today. I put the tub on the floor, opened the lid, and sat down next to it.  Not all the children come every day, so anyone not there yesterday had no clue what was in the container.  The idea was to have groups of children squish and squeeze the mud and talk about it.  Some of them did, but quite a few were hesitant.  However, I thought it was great fun.  I scooped up a handful, smoothed it into a ball, then flattened it into a patty.  I asked the hesitant students to smell it and touch it with one finger.  A few did, and they found out it wasn't so bad.

When I was finished, I had "mud" between my fingers and under my fingernails. Cleanup was easy.  All I had to do was rinse my hands under the faucet; there was already soap on them!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Powers Of Observation

There are several routes I can take to get to work, but I usually end up taking the fastest one. Since I'm always going the same way, it's easy to get into a rut.  Often I do zone out; I start thinking about other things and I'm surprised when  I turn into the parking lot.

Today was different, though.  Something about the brisk fall air and the perfectly blue sky without a hint of a cloud lent itself to being in the moment.  I decided to really notice what was going on:
  •  I saw a tree that had lost the leaves at the top, with a huge bird of prey perched on the pinnacle.
  • I drove by a plain tract house with a beautiful new wood door with a leaded glass insert.
  • When Neil Young's song "Harvest Moon" came on the radio I turned the volume up and rolled down the windows.  What a GREAT way to start the day!
  • I passed by the house on Clayton Road that has a totem pole in front of it.  (This isn't a new observation, but it makes me smile every time I remember to notice it).
  • Just before I pulled into the parking lot, there was a huge oak tree just starting to show some color.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

King Garlic

Son Brian and DIL Nicole were coming into town last night, and we were trying to figure out a place to go for dinner.  We thought we had it figured out, but then I got an email from Saleem's West restaurant that reminded me they were in the middle of a special event, their 27th annual Garlic Festival.  This weekend they were offering a special price on a kabob combo plate dinner and all you could eat roasted garlic heads.  Suddenly we had our dinner plans finalized!

When I dined at Saleem's West by myself last year it was so good I was sure I'd be back there soon.  That was almost a year ago. Where did the time go?  The restaurant is tucked away in a corner of a strip mall on Manchester Road in Winchester.  When you walk in, the Middle Eastern music, dark walls, and exotic decorations make you feel like you're suddenly far away.  The four of us were escorted to a table in the back.  I sat against the wall where I could see the entire room.

This weekend they were only serving the kabob special and appetizers. We ordered some hummus and a Greek salad, and the waitress said she'd also bring four heads of garlic.  I've roasted garlic heads and extracted the cloves to use in recipes, but I don't remember ever eating garlic just for the sake of it. It's easy to do, though; you use a knife or your fingers to squeeze the cloves out of their skins. You can eat as is or spread it on pita bread.  We quickly ate our four heads and ordered a couple more before our dinners arrived.

By the time I'd eaten my dinner (one beef kabob, one chicken kabob, and rice) I was quite full.  Evidently everyone else agreed, because no one wanted to order dessert.  The waitress said that's what usually happened.  We paid the bill, and exited the restaurant.  The scent of garlic followed us.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air
--Nathaniel Hawthorne--

I love fall!  The mornings and evenings are chilly (don't forget the jacket!), but the middle of the day is warm enough to shed that jacket and run around in a t-shirt.  However, the nice weather will be coming to an end soon, so I made the most of today.

Thursday is the last day of my work week. When I left the preschool parking lot at 12:30 the sun was shining and the sky was completely blue, which put me in a great mood.  I had a few errands to run on my way home.  Instead of being a chore, today it was fun. At one strip mall, I was able to cross two things off my list, walking across the parking lot from one store to another. It didn't even annoy me to get behind a slow-moving pickup truck.

I got home and fed the cats, then decided to finish disassembling the garden for the year.  I'd removed the tomato plants a few weeks ago, and never got around to planting fall crops, so all that was left was a few sad-looking green pepper plants.  I carefully removed the remaining fruit from the stems, then gave each plant a pull.  They came out roots and all and I tossed them in the yard waste trash can.  I pulled up the stakes attached to the chicken-wire fence, and rolled it up, then did the same thing with the string trellis that held up the snow peas in the spring.

After I finished in the garden, I took the newspaper out to the front porch, which faces west. The angle of the sun was such that it reflected off the front wall of the house, so I was getting warmth on my front and my back.  It felt wonderful.  I sat and read the paper from cover to cover.  By that time, things were already cooling off a bit and it was time to come back inside.

To use up the peppers, I decided to make Inside Out Stuffed Green Peppers, which is pepper stuffing that has the chunks of  peppers mixed in and cooked in a casserole dish.  I started some rice, cooked a pound of ground turkey, then seeded and cut up the peppers.

I went to the deck and snipped some chives from the pot I keep out there.  (That pot will go under the deck, buried in a bigger pot of leaves, right before the first freeze of the season, so I don't know how much longer I'll be able to enjoy them this year.)  The chives went in a mixing bowl, along with the rice, turkey, peppers, frozen corn (for color) and a jar of spaghetti sauce.  Just like that, dinner was put together.

Tony was working late tonight, and I planned to eat with him, but as soon as dinner was made I realized I was hungry.  I scooped some of the casserole in a bowl, heated it in the microwave,  poured myself a glass of milk, and took my first bite.  I savored the last hint of warm weather in my meal, just as I had enjoyed it the rest of the day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Social Media

How do you get a blogger's attention?  Appeal to their ego.

The email in my Inbox said:
...The Social Media Club is hosting an event on Social Media + Family on Thursday 9/23 in St. Louis and I've been put in charge of reaching out to the prominent moms and dads who blog about parenting in your area. 
Me?  Prominent? (Who knew?)

Even though I was pretty sure this message was sent to a lot of bloggers, I was flattered.  I checked out the event and the people who were already signed up. It looked like many of them made their living in promotions, marketing, or writing.  I wasn't sure how I'd fit in, but it's been a long time since I've challenged myself by doing a "new" thing.  I didn't have anything on the calendar for Thursday night, and they promised appetizers and drinks, so after giving it some thought I signed up.

What to wear?  Given the event's start time and the fact that many of the attendees were probably coming from work, I figured I should find something other than my normal work clothes of t-shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes. I dug around in my closet and found something that looked acceptable.  As it turned out, most of the people were dressed in business casual, but there were also people in jeans.

The event was held in a downtown office building.  I parked in the building's garage and took the elevator to the lobby, where there were people waiting to direct me.  I checked in, got a drink, and headed towards the conference room. It's been a long time since I've entered a room not knowing anyone, but I introduced myself to some nice people and chit-chatted about blogs, blogreaders, and Facebook until the event started.

Chris Heuer, the founder of Social Media Club and the night's moderator, talked about the club's mission and purpose, then introduced the panel's four parent bloggers-two women and two men. Three of them had infants, toddlers, or elementary aged children, and one had grown children and grandchildren. Chris asked a series of questions, and allowed each of the people to answer. The panel was streamed live, and some of the questions came via Chris' phone from people listening in.  Because of the ages of the panelists' children, a lot of the discussion was about young kids, which doesn't apply to me, but the discussion was interesting and thought-provoking.

After the panel discussion ended, there was more time for mingling.  I was able to talk to some more nice people before I left.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Do you know about HeroicStories?

Their tagline is Restoring Faith in Humanity...One Story at a Time.  The media is quick to report bad news, but they often ignore positive and uplifting stories.  HeroicStories began in 1999 to remind us that people are good, and that individuals and individual action matter.

When you subscribe to HeroicStories, you'll receive an email issue once a week.  Each issue is a single uplifting story about regular people who go out of their way to help someone else without expecting something in return.  The stories are short  (between 400-500 words) and only take a couple of minutes to read.  I always feel better after I've finished reading them.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Isn't this graphic cool?  I was doing a craft project and wanted my words to be in a circle.  I used Microsoft Word and WordArt, a feature that inserts decorative text in a document

The steps (I was using Word 2007):
  • Click on the "WordArt” icon on the Insert command tab, which will bring up the WordArt Gallery dialog box.
  • Choose the style from the Gallery that suits your project.  
  • The Edit WordArt Text dialog box will appear
  • Type in the text you want (choosing the font and text size) and click OK.  
  • The text is displayed in your document.  The Format command tab on the ribbon shows all the available formatting options...styles, fills, outlines, shadow effects, and 3D effects  I chose a simple circle from the almost three dozen different shapes. 
  • The program arranges the text in very flat oval shape, which can be resized with the "Size" option on the far right.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Last school year I ate lunch at 11:15 or 11:30, but this year it's closer to 12:30.  I was having trouble finding breakfast foods that would stick with me that long, but I've finally got a set of go-to items that work.  One of them is yogurt with some type of whole-grain cereal and fruit. I'm going through a lot of the stuff!  Last time I was walking with my friend Dani, she said yogurt was easy to make, and she'd email me some information.  Sure enough, a couple of days later she sent me a link for making yogurt in a crock pot.

I was excited to try out the easy-sounding recipe.  The ingredients for plain yogurt were simple: a half gallon of milk and a half-cup of store-bought live culture plain yogurt (I used Whole Foods store brand, since I happened to be there for lunch on Friday). Although it's not technically an ingredient, the recipe also called for a thick bath towel to keep the crock pot warm during the resting process.  The recipe may be easy, but it's time consuming, with a lot of "sitting around" time.  I started it before dinner, then messed with it mid-evening and again before I went to bed.

 The half gallon of milk fit nicely into my 3 1/2 quart crock pot.  (Like the stylish harvest gold and brown motif?  The cooker was a wedding present 30 years ago.  It still works, so I'm not inclined to replace it.)

The first step is to pour the milk in the crock pot and heat it on Low for 2 1/2 hours, then unplug it, leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.  (Dani suggested I add a cup of powdered milk at this point, because she said it makes a firmer yogurt and adds nutrients.)

After the 3 hours passed, I scooped out 2 cups of the warm milk, put it in a bowl, and whisked in the prepared yogurt. I added the bowl's contents back into the crock pot and stirred it in. (This is where the recipe said I could add an optional packet of unflavored gelatin to the mix to help the yogurt thicken.)  Then I put the lid back on the crock pot, wrapped it in a heavy bath towel for insulation, and went to bed.

The recipe suggested it needed to sit for 8 hours. After a good night's sleep I came downstairs, carefully unwrapped the towels, and opened the lid.  A delightful "yogurt-y" smell emanated from the crock, so the milk definitely fermented.  Unfortunately, it was very thin, more like a yogurt sauce then what I'm used to buying at the store.  I spooned some on my breakfast granola (it tasted wonderful) then poured the rest into a coffee-filter-lined colander and let the extra liquid strain out to thicken it up.

When it was thick, I spooned it into two containers and put it in the refrigerator. The recipe says that the yogurt will last 7-10 days, but I suspect it will be gone long before then. If I decide to make more, I'll save 1/2 cup as a starter for the new batch.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

(Night Time Is) The Right Time

Twice a year the St. Louis County Parks Department puts out a magazine listing their activities for the next six months.  I always thumb through it to see if anything looks interesting; that's how Tony and I ended up hiking at Creve Coeur Park last night after dark.

The hike, led by a park ranger, was cheap at only five dollars a person. We were told to bring a flashlight, water and insect repellent.  It was a challenge figuring out how to dress for this adventure. The forecast called for 73° at the start of the hike and 66° by the end.  I chose to wear jeans and a short sleeved shirt.  Just to be on the safe side, I grabbed a lightweight jacket too, which I wore standing around waiting for things to start.  Fifteen minutes into the hike the extra layer was too much.  I ended up taking it off and tying it around my waist.

We didn't start until 8:30. Not so long ago it would have just been getting dark.  Last night, however, it was completely black long before then. It's been a long time since either Tony or I had been to Creve Coeur Park. It took longer to get there than I would have thought, and was a bit challenging in the dark.  We pulled in the parking lot at 8:27.  Our registration form told us to meet at a set of restrooms, but the park ranger was actually in a pavilion on the other side of the trail.

Although the hike was advertised as "any ages", I figured the late start would keep away very small children. I was right.  Besides the two of us, the group consisted of a Sixth Grade Girl Scout troop and their two leaders, a mother-and-grown-son combo, and a family with a girl that looked like she was about nine. The ranger was very friendly, sharing facts about the park and stories of her daily job.

The hike was on a paved running/biking path around the lake.  A good portion of the route was treeless, but for a short while we were in a forested area with tall trees on each side.  At one point we walked under a  bridge that carried the Page Extension into St. Charles County.  Even though the road traveled hundreds of feet above us, I could still hear a bit of traffic.  On the far side of the lake the path ran parallel (and quite close) to Marine Road.  The parks brochure said we'd be walking three miles, but the "Lakeview Loop" Trail we took was closer to four. My feet started getting tired 20 minutes before the end.

On the way out of the park, we drove a different way and ended up on Marine, right past the path we'd just walked on.  It was interesting to see things from a different (and faster) perspective.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Of Memories

Four months ago our family expanded when Son Brian and Nicole got married.

Their agreement with the wedding photographer included digital rights.  Shortly after the wedding they made a beautiful album for themselves, and they gave us a CD containing the images to use as we wished. I had a  new family picture printed for the hall.  I kept putting off getting any more pictures, though, until I received an email from Borders a couple of weeks ago.  One of their affiliate partners is Shutterfly, an Internet-based photo publishing and printing service, which was offering a free hard cover 8x8 photo book.

I'd never done anything like this before, but I decided to give it a try.  I just got the finished product:

Shutterfly offers two ways to make a book.  The Simple Path method, which I chose, makes the book for you out of your images. You can choose from more than 20 styles that have preset backgrounds and layouts.  This method allows 1-4 pictures per page; you can edit the pictures and enter short captions.  (The second way is the Custom Path, where you do everything yourself.)

The first step was to upload my pictures to the Shutterfly Website. There was a bit of a learning curve to their program, but once I had the process figured out it was easy.  Once I uploaded all the pictures, the Website put them together in album for me.  However, I wanted a different layout, so I changed the background and added, deleted, and moved pictures around until it was just right.  I had so many images to choose from it would have been easy to get carried away.  I tried to remember that the finished book was small, so I didn't try to overload each page.  The final result had one or two photos on each page, which worked out really well.

After I had the book the way I wanted, it was time to add it to my cart and proceed to the checkout.  Even though the book itself was free, I DID have to pay shipping and tax, which ranged from $7.99-$21.99, depending on how quickly I wanted it.  Shortly after I completed the order, I got an email that it had been received, and when the book was shipped I got another with tracking information.  When I came home from work on Monday, there was a small orange box under the front doormat.

The book looks like something you'd find in the library.  It has the title on the front cover, and again on the spine, white textured paper front and back cover pages, and sturdy photo pages. The only quibble I have is that the glossy cover shows fingerprints.  (Maybe there are so many because I've been carrying the book all around to show to my friends!) 

Monday, September 13, 2010


I have a new weekly activity.  I'm teaching a PSR class!

In the Catholic Church, Parish School of Religion (PSR) is a religious education program for children who attend schools without formal religious education (i.e. public schools).  I'm teaching a Special Needs student each Monday night this school year.  She made her First Communion in the spring, so I'll work on reinforcing what she learned last year and try to go a little bit deeper into the topics.

Unlike the standard PSR classes, which are parish-based, the special needs students come from throughout the area.  The sessions are held at the same time as the regular program, but in a different building on the church campus.  Lessons are tailored to the abilities of each student. Sometimes a "class" is an individual child, and sometimes several are grouped together, but for the most part there's one teacher for each student. 

Tonight was the first class.  Since I was unsure exactly what my student likes and can do, I wanted to have a variety of activities planned--a review of  prayers she learned last year, some activities about yesterday's Gospel reading, and an art sheet.  In case any of those flopped, though, I wanted to have some backup.  That's why this afternoon I found myself in the children's section of the library for the first time in a couple of decades, because I wanted to get some books that we could read together. 

I'd forgotten just how low the shelves are there; I had to sit on the floor to be able to see the book titles, but I found three that I think would be appropriate to what we're talking about today.  I set my room up with my huge pile of goodies and waited for my student to arrive.  And waited.  And waited.  Just when I thought she might not be coming she arrived.  Thank goodness I had prepared a lot of activities, because I want through all of them in 30 minutes.  At the end of the evening all of the students and teachers gathered in a large room for prayer and songs, then it was time to go.

I've already gotten a bit of a start on next week's lesson, but it needs a lot of work between now and then!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back To The Future

This weekend I did something "new but old" when Tony and I went to the Black River Lodge in Lesterville.  The place has been around since the 1940s. I vacationed there with my parents a couple of times as a kid in the 1960s, and then again with Tony and the boys in the 1980s. Some people have been going to Black River Lodge for decades.  My friend Debbie, who I've known since elementary school,  is one of them. She meets her family and friends there for a week each summer.  This year they added a weekend in the fall, too, and she invited us to join them.  We made the reservations, and for the next few weeks Debbie and I exchanged emails and phone calls to work out the details.

It takes about two hours to get to Lesterville, and it's well worth the drive.  Half of the trip is typical Interstate driving, but once you leave the highway the road curves and dips through rolling terrain, and passes close to Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point in the state.  After a couple of easy-to-find turns you're ready to cross the bridge over the Black River and enter another world.

That bridge used to be scenic, one-lane (and a bit rickety). You knew you were there when you crossed it. Sadly, a couple of years ago they demolished it and put up a standard-issue concrete and chain link fence model, which was so nondescript I almost missed the Black River Lodge entrance. However, once we made the turn I knew exactly where I was.  Our first stop was the office, where they gave us our cabin name and our table number for meals.  We didn't get a door key, because there are no exterior locks on the doors.  It's that kind of place.

Each of the cabins is named after a bird.  The Finch, where we stayed, was at the far end of the property.  As we made the drive back past the fire ring, the playground, and the pool, I was filled with memories of my previous stays.  Most of the cabins contain multiple units.  Ours was a duplex, although we were the only tenants this weekend.  I think most of the cabins date back to my youth.  They're old and rustic, but the air conditioner worked, the mattress was firm, the pillows were fluffy, and the room was cleaned for us each morning.  What more do you need?

The vast majority of people come with a group.  Even if you don't, you quickly make friends. There are optional planned activities each morning and evening.  We played Bingo (I won a game and split the pot of a cover all),  played in shuffleboard and miniature golf tournaments, and participated in a campfire singalong and wiener roast.  The group we were with also brought games; we played three-hole washers, beanbag toss, and pickleball, a new-to-us game played on a badminton court with a large whiffle ball and wood paddles.  If outdoor games aren't your thing, the lodge-style Rec Hall contains a small selection of video games, ping pong, pool, and air hockey tables.

Although Debbie said it's not always possible to float on the river in mid-September, I was hoping it would happen.  For a while it looked like it wouldn't. Storms earlier in the week had raised the river level, but by lunchtime on Saturday dropped enough to make it safe to go.  We rented inner tubes and joined a group of people for a float.  The river was running fast; the float which usually takes 2 1/2 or 3 hours was over in an hour.  Half of the group chose to go again, but once was enough for me.

Of course it wouldn't be a vacation without food.  Our weekend included three family-style meals on Saturday and two on Sunday. People start gathering outside the dining hall shortly before mealtime waiting for the door to open; when the bell rings they politely line up to file inside and find their table.  The meal experience was a step back in time.  I don't think they've updated the menu in decades (not necessarily a bad thing, unless you are a stickler for healthy eating).  I remembered, and was looking forward t,o the huge, dense biscuits they served at breakfast with bacon and eggs, and the fried chicken we ate for lunch on Sunday.  Our group of 18 sat at two long tables.  The food was served on large communal platters and bowls, and the waitress kept it coming until everyone was full.  Lunch and dinner always included some type of dessert.

The time went too quickly, and after lunch today it was time to pack up the car and head home.  I pulled into our neighborhood almost exactly 48 hours after I left feeling tired but relaxed.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Silly Song Survey

This has been floating around forever, but when a friend sent it to me I thought it might be fun to try it out.
1. Put your iTunes/iPod/MP3 on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get the answer.
3. You must write that song name down no matter how outrageous it sounds!
My Guy (Mary Wells)

Don't Leave Me This Way (Thelma Houston)

Crazy Love (The Allman Brothers)

Southern Man (Neil Young)

Alas for You (Godspell Original-Off-Off Broadway Cast)

Baby, I Love You (The Ramones)

Come Back to Us Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard (John Prine)

Answer Me (Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings)

Forgiven (Alanis Morissettee)

El Pussy Cat (Roland Alphonso)

Angel Band (The Stanley Brothers from the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack)

Devil's Haircut (Beck)

I Can't Stand Losing You (The Police)

Down By the River (Crazy Horse)

Prayer in Open D (Emmylou Harris)

Celebrate Me Home (Kenny Loggins)

Needle in a Haystack (The Velvelettes)

Hey Lady Luck (7 Shot Screamers)

Brick House (The Commodores)

Rock with You (Michael Jackson)

Coming Out of the Dark (Gloria Estefan)

Fortune Teller (Alison Krauss)

Honey, Honey (Amanda Seyfried from the Mama Mia movie soundtrack)

I was amazed that my shuffle feature worked as well as it did.  I'm big on soundtracks and compilation albums; even though the list has a couple of "double dips", no individual artist showed up more than once. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hair, Hair, Hair, Hair, Hair, Hair, Hair

I tend to get my hair cut on the short side, forget about it until it starts looking unkempt, then go and get a couple of inches cut off.  Hubby Tony likes to keep his short.  He decided a while back that rather than go to a barber he was ok with me buzzing it with an electric trimmer every couple of weeks. It's easy; I turn the clippers on and run them all over his head until everything is the same length. Over the years the boys have had different looks, from "little boy" cuts to skater cuts to long locks. 

Son Donald came over for a visit last night.  His hair wasn't particularly long, but he decided it was time for a change.  His regular barber (AKA his roommate) wasn't available, so he asked me if I'd do it.  I was surprised he trusted me, but said I'd give it a try and we went to the "salon" in the basement bathroom.  Donald sat on the closed toilet, turning from side to side as directed.

Our hair clipper has guides that slip over the teeth and regulate the length of the cut hair.  They're measured by the eighth of an inch: 1/8", 2/8" (1/4"), 3/8", and 4/8" (1/2").  I learned long ago that you ask for a haircut length using the clipper guard number, as in "Give me a number 4 on the top and 2 on the sides".  Donald asked for a 3 all over, the longest length I've ever done.  However, no matter what the length the procedure is the same. I figured I couldn't mess it up too badly.

When we started Donald's hair was longer on the top than on the sides, but at its longest point it was about four inches, too long for the clippers, so I started by cutting the excess hair off with scissors. It was fun to whack at his locks indiscriminately. When I was done he had strange tufts sticking out all over his head.  Then I put the guard on the clipper and went to work.  Donald has really thick hair, and a couple of cowlicks, so it took quite a few passes to get all the recalcitrant strands.

Afterwards there was hair everywhere.  I asked Donald clean it up and throw the trimmings in the compost pile. I'm used to Tony's pile of leftover hair being quite small, so I nearly lost it this morning when I went to toss the coffee grounds and saw something that looked like a hairy critter:

After I got over the initial shock, I realized it wasn't a critter. Just hair. I'll have to make sure the mass gets dispersed through the pile.  I'd hate to find this buried under layers of vegetable peeling and yard waste months from now.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day

The calendar says that the seasons change in mid-September, but we all know that the unofficial end to summer is Labor Day.  It's not as dramatic of an ending as it used to be around here; people wrapped up their vacations last month and all the schools started a couple of weeks ago.

I woke up this morning with the beginnings of a head cold, and decided to spend the day futzing around the house. It turned out to be a wonderful way to end the summer.
  • At lunch we took our sandwiches out and sat on the shady front porch. I saw a hummingbird stopping by to get some nectar from a canna flower a couple of feet away.
  • I put away the clothes that screamed "summer", including the white pants, capris, and sandals, and got out some lightweight pieces in fall colors.  (Just because I've declared summer over doesn't mean the temperatures will cooperate.)
  • In the afternoon I spent time outside--deadheading flowers, weeding, and working on eradicating some invasive plants--and came inside with a half-dozen mosquito bites!
  • For dinner Tony barbecued chicken and hamburgers; I made potato salad, cooked corn on the cob, and grabbed summery nectarines and plums for dessert. We ate on the deck, then drank iced tea and talked.
  • After dinner we walked to the drug store so I could get some more cold medicine.  I noticed that the sun was getting low in the sky quite early, and it was completely dark by 8:00.  Summer really is over.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I Want To Ride My Bicycle

Just in time for the holiday weekend the weather turned beautiful.  Today is sunny, with a high of 73°. Time to get outside!

Last weekend was my first attempt at riding a bike in many years.  I passed, but just barely.  Tony suggested another ride today, but on the nice flat surface of the Ulysses S. Grant Trail (also known as Grant's Trail), a "rails to trails" route through south and southwest St. Louis County. Since it used to be a railroad track, there's not much of a grade.  Hills were my downfall last time, so I figured this ride would be a lot of fun.

Today was the first time we transported the bikes. We were gifted with a trunk mounted rack that holds both, which has to be used on Tony's car (because of the design of my CR-V's rear door). The carrier worked well, although my bike had to go on at a weird angle because I have a woman's style frame without a horizontal top tube.

The entire Grant's Trail is 8 miles long.  We've walked on the northern parts of it before, so the plan was to park such that we could ride to the southern end.  There's an Applebees close to the 6.5 mile marker that was the perfect place to start.  Based on the number of cars in the lot at 10:30 in the morning, before the restaurant opened, we weren't the only ones using the lot.

Grant's Trail is quite interesting.  We passed by the Budweiser Clydesdale Stables, Grant's Farm (where there was a long line of people waiting to get in, and an even longer line of cars waiting to park), several parks, and an athletic complex.  There were residential and industrial areas and a lot of green space.

I saw people walking, biking, skating, and using scooters. There was even a man using a hand-powered recumbent bike. There were babies in strollers and bike carriers, and pull-behind bike trailers. Kids from small to large were riding, some on tandem bikes with their parents (even a bicycle built for THREE). There was an older woman taking a walk with her hair set in curlers, and another pushing a stroller that contained three small dogs.

We made it to the end of the trail and turned around.  Towards the end of the ride I was starting to get saddle sore and my legs hurt a bit. After we made it back to the starting point, we decided to eat at Applebees. However, the bike rack outside the restaurant was filled up, so we put our bikes back on the car and drove around to the front of the restaurant so we could keep an eye on things while we ate.  Lunch never tasted so good!

Friday, September 3, 2010


For many years I had to feed two adults plus three growing boys on a limited budget, so I'm used to buying the cheapest of everything.  Now that there's just two of us in the house, though, I can occasionally splurge a bit. I've been receiving blog and email reminders for the past few weeks that Whole Foods was having a sale on ground grass-fed beef today. It was $3.99/lb (which is $2 less than usual).  Grass-fed beef is supposed to be healthier and taste better than meat from cattle that have been fed grain.  I was excited to give it a try.

I go to Whole Foods most Fridays for lunch. Today, in addition to my other purchases, I stopped by the meat department and requested two packages (one pound each) of ground beef from the case. With gloved hands, the clerk scooped up a handful of meat and set it on the scale. He added small bits until it measured exactly one pound, and wrapped it in butcher paper.  After repeating the process, he handed both packages to me.

When I got home, I froze one package and decided to use the other one for stuffed peppers. This week the garden produced a bumper crop and I had seven small peppers-six green and one red-sitting on the counter waiting to be used.  I started some brown rice, and opened the package of meat.  The raw beef was pinker than the stuff I usually get, and looked fresh.  I crumbled it into a container, added a lid, and put it in the microwave.

Grass fed beef is supposed to be leaner, but the package label indicated this was 85% lean, which is what I'm used to buying. After the meat was microwaved, I strained the juices into a measuring cup. There was a substantial layer of fat that rose to the top.  When it got hard, I took it off and threw it away.  The remaining clear juice had a pure beef taste.

When the rice was done I mixed in the meat and the juice.  I sauteed onions and garlic and added them, along with two small finely-chopped tomatoes, a squeeze of BBQ sauce, and a can of tomato sauce. After parcooking the peppers, I stuffed them and spooned more tomato sauce on top:

When Tony called to say he was coming home I put the pan in the oven to heat and cooked some frozen corn.  Dinner was served.

These were the best stuffed peppers I have ever had!  Even though I ate until I was stuffed, there are enough left over for lunch tomorrow.  I can't wait.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I'm Covered

The shirts I wear to work have the logo of the preschool on them.  I get to pick the style myself; they're all cotton knit and predominantly t-shirts. Every morning I choose one from the supply hanging in the closet.

I try to keep the shirts in good shape, because they only do the logos a couple of times a year.  I wash them carefully, and hang them up to dry.  The oldest shirts have been around for an entire year, and I'd like them to last as long as possible.  However, my clothes take a beating each day.  I never know what's going to end up on a shirt--dirt, paint, marker, or food.  Now that I'm working with two and three year olds, someone is often wiping their tears or runny nose on my shoulder.  At the end of the day, the first thing I do is drop the dirty shirt in the laundry basket.

I decided I wanted to wear a white t-shirt today, but I was a bit paranoid.  The last two times I've worn it, I've had to change before I even left the house.  One time I dribbled coffee down the front, and the other I noticed a big splotch of something unknown at the bottom.  I decided to throw on an apron to protect it while I ate breakfast and did my "morning jobs". 

There are two aprons hanging in the laundry room that were a Christmas present from my Sister-in-law many years ago.  The one I chose today is purple, with a large applique of a cherubic toddler holding a puppy.  Underneath the picture she wrote "Kathy's Kitchen' with puffy paint, and drew flowers and vines around the picture and words.  The apron is well-loved; the paint is cracking and coming off in spots and there's several stains that won't come out in the laundry

Thanks to my apron, I made it through breakfast without any mishaps, and managed to stay clean when I took the coffee grounds out to the compost pile. When I was watering some plants I managed to spill the accumulated water from the saucer.  If I hadn't had the apron on, the shirt would have been a dirty mess!

Time got away from me. I had to gather my things and leave the house quickly so I wouldn't be late to work. I pulled into the parking lot with seconds to spare, and was in the process of grabbing my purse when I realized that something didn't feel right.  I looked down and saw the apron, which I had forgotten about.  I thought about wearing it into the building for weirdness, but it covered up the shirt logo, so I took it off and threw it on the passenger seat.