Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Create A Noble Moniker

The Royal Wedding Name Generator is a cute activity that's been making the rounds on Facebook.  To come up with your name:
  • Start with either Lord or Lady.
  • Your first name is the name of one of your grandparents.
  • Your surname is the name of one of your first pets, hyphenated with the name of the street you grew up on.
Following these rules, I would be Lady Loretta Cindy-Wintergreen.  What's yours?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wildwood Walk

It's been rainy here for the last week.  I was planning on going to the gym after work, but when I left for the day the sun was peeking out of the clouds.  Thoughts of walking on a treadmill within a artificially-lit building flew out the window. I did NOT want to be inside!

Before I left the parking lot I tried to think of outdoor places I could walk.  Many of the park trails I use aren't paved, so they'd be a muddy mess (and not worth it).  Then I remembered the asphalt trail I'd seen paralleling Manchester Road in Wildwood, a city several miles west of where I was.  I decided to try it out.

When we moved to the city of Manchester 25 years ago the area that's now Wildwood was predominantly farm land.  Now there's quite a bit of development, but they've made an effort to keep the green space, too.  I wasn't sure where the trail started, but when I saw a black pedestrian bridge over Manchester I knew I was close.  I parked the car in a far corner of a strip mall lot, found the trail, and headed west.

The trail was a ribbon of asphalt with not much shade.  It would be hot in the summer, but today it was perfect.  The sun was in and out of the clouds. A stiff breeze was blowing, which created extra resistance for my exercise.  At first I was walking at street level, but eventually the trail sloped up an incline so the trail looked down on the road.  There were a couple of streets that intersected the trail, but there was no traffic at any of them so I didn't have to stop.  The side of the trail contained the normal roadside and field weeds, but in the distance I saw manicured lawns and dogwoods blooming.  Even the critters seemed to be enjoying the nice weather.  I spied butterflies flitting among the spring blooms, and a single deer in a clearing.

I walked about a mile and a half, then turned around and backtracked to the starting point.  At one spot on the way back no one else was around to see, so I stopped and leaned against a pole to do some triceps presses and a few leg stretches before I continued.  That way I could say I did all my exercise, not just the aerobic part.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Storm Of Destruction

You may have heard about the little weather disturbance we had in our area last Friday...

In addition to the dramatic destruction at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, the tornado damaged more than fifteen hundred houses in a 22-mile long swath close to the airport.  By shifting flights around to different concourses, the airport is almost back to regular service, but it will take a very long time till everything is back to normal

Tornadoes are funny things.  We're only 20 minutes away from the airport, and our area has absolutely no evidence of the storm.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Egg Hunt

Happy Easter! For the family and friends who won't be at our house this year to find real eggs, here's a virtual egg hunt from Scratch.
DIRECTIONS: The green flag at the top right starts the game, and the red circle pauses it. Click on the easter eggs to collect them. When you are done click the brown door, which will take you to an exit screen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

"The Green Thing"

I received this from a friend in honor of Earth Day.  No author attributed, but there's a lot of truth in it.

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

That's right, they didn't have the green thing in her day. Back then, they returned their milk bottles, Coke bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed, sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

But they didn't have the green thing back in her day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks.

But she's right. They didn't have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby's diapers because they didn't have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts - wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right, they didn't have the green thing back in her day.

Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house - not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a pizza dish, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything for you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she's right, they didn't have the green thing back then.

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty, instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled pens with ink, instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But they didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus, instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

It's a crying shame that we didn't have "the green thing" back then!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Never A Dull Moment At Work (Part Deux)

Two days ago I was asked to move a computer at work and connect it to the building's network.  I got part of the job done-all the parts of the system made it to the new location, but I got hung up because a power strip wasn't available to plug everything in (and when I got one, the plug section wouldn't fit through a hole I'd made in a partition).

When I got home on Tuesday I assembled some things that would help complete the job, putting our drill, several bits, and an extension cord the car so I wouldn't forget them. Yesterday I used the drill to expand the hole and threaded the power strip plug through.  It worked!  The new computer station had electricity.

However, there was another issue I hadn't noticed the first day.  The shelf above the desk holding the CPU was flush with the wall, so there was nowhere to run the cords.  I could think of two solutions--drill a hole through the shelf, or take it off the brackets, move it forward enough to slide the cords behind it, then nail it back down.  In my opinion the second option would work better, but I couldn't find the appropriate size nails in the preschool's minuscule hardware area. I sent the director an email telling her the project's status and left everything as it was.  Last night I grabbed a few nails from our collection in the basement and added them to my "go to work" pile.

This morning I went to the staff room and used a rubber hammer to remove the shelf.  It popped up easily, and I had time to remove the nails before classes started.  At the end of the day I got back to the project.  It was easy to re-hammer the shelf in its new position, although the people in the staff room were a little surprised to see me up on a step stool wielding a hammer.

It only took a few minutes to run the wires behind the shelf and plug the monitor, keyboard, and mouse into the tower, since I'd labeled everything as I took it apart.  Holding my breath, I turned on the computer and monitor.  IT WORKED!

Part two of the project was getting the computer on the network.  In the computer lab it was connected to the router with a cord, but the other systems in the staff room use a wireless adapter.  There was one waiting for me.  I opened the adapter box and read the instructions, which didn't seem so hard on paper.

The job was tougher than it looked.  I installed the software and plugged the adapter into the back of the computer, then hit a roadblock; I could see the network, but it wouldn't let me connect.  After trying a couple of different things, I decided I'd had enough.  I left a message for the director letting her know where things stood, then cleaned up my things and left.

I wonder who will finish the project?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Never A Dull Moment At Work

Even though the preschool where I work holds sessions four days each week, very few of the students in my room attend all of them.  Some days there are more than others, but the group on Tuesday is one of the smaller ones, and today there were two children absent; our morning circle was more of a small arc.  The preschool director must have looked in the window and saw how small our group was, because she came in and asked me if I'd help her with a computer project.  Even though I didn't have much of a choice, I willingly said 'yes' to the chance to do something different.

I anticipated typing, or working on a spreadsheet, but that's not what the project turned out to be. Our staff room used to have two computers for teacher use, but one of them recently kicked the bucket.  My task was to move a computer from the computer lab down the hall and set it up in a cubby along the wall.  And get it connected to the network.

I was confident I could do the first job but not so sure about the second, and I told the director so.  She was undaunted, so we set off toward the computer lab to figure out a plan of action.  Our lab has three computer stations; we decided I'd take the center one.  The director left and I got to work.  Before I disconnected the bird's nest of cables behind the monitor, I labeled each cord with a piece of masking tape, then took everything apart.  It took me three trips to carry everything to the staff room, then I went back to the director for my next set of instructions.

We walked back to the staff room and took a good look at the computer's new home. It needed a power source, but the only outlet was on the other side of the cubby wall.  We decided to put a power strip in the cubby and make a hole through the wall for the cord.  I would have used a drill, but the director had her own idea-she got a hammer and used it with a screwdriver to poke a small hole through the wall, then used the shaft of the screwdriver to widen it.  After a couple of minutes, she turned that job over to me and went in search of a power strip.  Not finding one, she sent her assistant to the store.

While I waited for the essential power source, I worked on enlarging the hole and figuring out where all the computer pieces would go.  The cubby has a desk surface and two shelves--the lower one at eye level.  The top shelf was too high for the CPU tower, and there wasn't enough room on the lower shelf.  The director had a solution; we'd just remove the top shelf!  She got her hammer again and tapped the underside of the shelf, which came off easily.

The assistant returned with the power cord. Sadly, it had a plug that wouldn't fit through the hole I'd made and there wasn't time to work on it before the session was over for the day.  I don't know if someone else will tackle the project tonight or it will be waiting for me tomorrow...

Monday, April 18, 2011

In Honor Of Tax Day

This cartoon from 1967 was new to me.  The Beatles dream they are back in the time of Merry Olde England, and try to pay Ringo's huge tax bill with the help of Robin Hood and Little John.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yard Work-As Viewed From Heaven

(Overheard in a conversation between God and St. Francis):

God: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature; what in the world is going on down there in the United States? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistles and the stuff I started eons ago?   I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow In any type of soil, withstand drought, and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees, and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of color by now. All I see are patches of green.

St. Francis: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. They are called the 'Suburbanites'. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

God: Grass? But it is so boring, it's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, bees or birds, only grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want grass growing there?

St. Francis: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it has grown a little, they cut it...sometimes two times a week.

God: They cut it? Do they bale it like hay?

St. Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

God: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

St. Francis: No sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

God: Now let me get this straight...they fertilize it to make it grow and when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

St. Francis: Yes, sir.

God: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

St. Francis: You aren't going to believe this Lord, but when the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

God: What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep the moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves become compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.

St. Francis: You'd better sit down, Lord. As soon as the leaves fall, the Suburbanites rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

God: No way! What do they do to protect the shrubs and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

St Francis: After throwing the leaves away, they go out and buy something called mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

God: And where do they get this mulch?

St. Francis: They cut down trees and grind them up to make mulch.

God: Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

St. Catherine: "Dumb and Dumber," Lord. It's a really stupid movie about...

God: Never mind--I think I just heard the whole story from Saint Francis!

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Gotta love St. Louis weather.  Last Saturday it got up to 88 degrees.  We had all the windows in the house open, and I was concerned that it might be too hot to sleep at bedtime.  Today, a week later, the temperature is a whopping 48. We turned the furnace back on.

Since it feeels more like winter than spring, this afternoon I was looking for something to warm me up.  Instead of just taking a shower, I decided I needed a little pampering.  Looking around the bathroom, I found just the right thing.  When Tony returned from a business trip last week, he brought me home a basket full of bathing goodies... a large pink scrub puff, along with containers of bath salts, bubble bath, and bath oil, and glycerin-dipped rose buds that look too pretty to use.

The basket also a jar of something that was new to me, sugar scrub cubes. Reading the label, I found the cubes were made from sugar, emulsifing wax, jojoba oil, shea butter, and vitamin E.  That sounded like just the indulgence I needed, so I brought the jar of scrub into the shower with me.

The last time I used a sugar scrub I mixed it together myself using sugar and hand lotion.  It did the job, but it was messy; the sugar granules were all over by time I got done.  It looked like these cubes might work better, though.  My first step was to stand under the hot water until the shower enclosure got nice and steamy.  I put one of the 1 inch sugar scrub cubes in my hand and kneaded it in my palm with a bit of water until it made a paste, then used the paste to scrub my body (paying particular attention to the rough, dry spots).

I could immediately feel the moisturizing ingredients starting to work.  When I turned off the water and toweled off, my whole body felt smoother.  It looks like there were about a dozen cubes in the jar, so I think  there will be quite a few more pampering sessions in my near future.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Poem In Your Pocket

Did you know that according to the Academy of American Poets, April is National Poetry Month and April 14 is Poem In Your Pocket Day?  The Academy suggests you select a poem you love, then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends.

I browsed through the extensive list of poems on the Academy's Website to select the one I wanted to use for the day.  After reading quite a few, I chose "Tomorrow" by David Budbill, because I liked its carpe diem theme.

we are
bones and ash,
the roots of weeds
poking through
our skulls. 
simple clothes,
empty mind,
full stomach,
alive, aware,
right here,
right now. 
Drunk on music,
who needs wine? 
Come on,
let's go dancing
while we still
have feet.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pay It Forward

A couple of weeks ago Betsy at My Five Men wrote about kindness and friendliness being passed around the world with the idea of "paying it forward".  She offered several of her readers a chance to receive a Pay It Forward package, and I was lucky enough to be one of the lucky winners.  Today I received a cushioned envelope in the mail; when I opened it up I found a short note, a teabag (Earl Grey, one of my favorites), and two bite-sized chocolates.  How fun!

 I've seen other bloggers who've committed to sending out handmade gifts when they participate in this activity, but Betsy changed the rules such that anything goes. It's the thought that counts, right?

Part of my responsibility in accepting Betsy's package is offering something to my readers, who will in turn pass on something to others for a never-ending chain of goodwill. Last week I had a coupon for the Fanny May store at the mall, which I used to pick up some "Happy Spring" milk chocolate bars.  I'll give one to each of the first three people who leave a comment and indicate they want to participate in a Pay It Forward.

If you're interested, leave me a comment saying you want to participate.  I'll get your address (via email), then put your gift in the mail.  When you receive your gift, enjoy it, then post your own Pay It Forward on your blog.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Bank Account Of Life

I hope I can always have this positive attitude:
A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, perfectly shaven and hair fashionably combed (even though he is legally blind) moved to a nursing home today. 
His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready. 
As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window. "I love it," he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

"Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room; just wait." 
"That doesn’t have anything to do with it," he replied. "Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged … it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it.  
"It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.  Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away.. Just for this time in my life." 
Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories!
Author unknown 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

For The Birds

Yesterday I found out that my dryer lint shouldn't be put out for birds to use for their nests.

Teri of Gone Walkabout 2 left a comment on the post, which said:
I like to get an really obnoxious bright yarn and cut it into pieces around 4" - 6" long. I spread it on branches around the yard for the birds. Then in the summer I look for the nests that used it. It is amazing how far away from home you'll see that yarn!
I remembered her idea when I was at a thrift shop today, and looked in the craft section to see if they had any yarn.  There were two large plastic bins filled with a potpourri of ribbons, bags of pom poms, buttons, and skeins of pastel colored yarn.  However, as I dug around, in the bottom of the bin I found a small  package of  "Sun Orange" latch hook yarn.  Bingo!

By the the style of the font on the package and condition of the plastic bag I figured it was vintage yarn. Even thought the strands were shorter than what Teri recommended (only 2 1/2 inches) I figured the birds wouldn't be too picky.  The bag was priced at a quarter, but when I got to the checkout I discovered I only had twenty-three cents and a ten dollar bill. The cashier discounted the price and took my change.

When I got home I draped a handful of the bright orange stands on the barberry bushes by the front door, then laid some in the forks of the branches of the redbud tree in the back yard. The short pieces almost looked like worms crawling over the stems:

When I checked several hours later some of the yarn was gone.  I can't wait to look again tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

No-No Nesting

The birds are coming back from their winter homes.  I'm seeing a wider variety of species at the feeder, which I'm filling up every morning after breakfast.  This morning I woke up a few minutes before my alarm went off.  I took the opportunity to stretch out in bed and enjoy the beautiful symphony of bird calls outside my window.

Now that the birds have returned, they're working on building nests. Someone told me I could put dryer lint out for birds to use in the construction process. I used to take each dryer load's clump of lint out to the compost pile individually.  Over the holidays I came up with a better idea, and hung a small bag in the laundry room for it. The lint's been accumulating since Christmas and the bag is getting full.

I took the bag outside and dumped it in a flowerpot.  In addition to the normal grey and white lint, I found lint from the aqua-colored flannel sheets we received at Christmas and some wool fibers from my felting experiment.  I left the mass there while I came inside and researched the best way to present it to the birds.

There are lots of things you can do with dryer lint.  Unfortunately, I found out that offering it to birds to build nests with is NOT one of them. Lint hardens after getting wet, so it provides a poor nest surface for baby birds.

 I tossed the lint in the compost pile, along with some grass clippings and a layer of leaves.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

One Day Without Shoes

What do Charlize Theron and I have in common? Today we both went shoeless for a good cause. One Day Without Shoes is sponsored by the TOMS Shoe company, and helps raise awareness of the impact a pair of shoes can have on a child’s life.

TOMS was founded by Blake Mycoskie in 2006.  While traveling in developing countries, he discovered there were many who didn't own shoes.  Now when someone purchases a pair of TOMS, the company donates a new pair of shoes to a child in need.  In developing countries not wearing shoes can lead to many problems.  It increases the chance of contracting a soil-transmitted disease. There's also a higher likelihood of getting a cut that becomes infected.  Many times children can't even attend school because shoes are a required part of their uniform.
There were several One Day Without Shoes activities planned in my area, but nothing that fit into my schedule, so I decided to make my own small commemoration.  I decided it wouldn't be appropriate to go shoeless at work; I was subbing in another classroom, and didn't know what that teacher would think.  Besides, it would be quite chilly when we went outside for recess today!

I decided to lose my shoes for my post-work workout at the gym.  However, I was reluctant to go completely barefoot. Who knows what germs had been left by the previous shod users?  I chose to leave my white athletic socks on--it was crazy enough that if anyone asked what I was doing, I could tell them why.  After I changed into my exercise clothes, I took off my shoes, stowed them in the locker, and locked everything up.  I walked through the locker room and to the bank of elliptical machines in the back of the room in my stockinged feet.

I thought the exercise session would be easy,  but I found out the elliptical foot pad has a raised ridge running down the center of it that made it uncomfortable to my shoeless feet.  I decided I was done after 20 minutes and moved on.  In this gym the machines are right in the middle of the room. I figured that if anyone was going to notice my feet, this would be the time, but I completed a whole circuit without drawing any attention.  When I was finished, I walked back to the locker room to retrieve my belongings.  Before I put my shoes back on I took a look at the bottom of my socks.

EWWW!  They were quite black.  I guess wearing shoes is a good idea.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Out, Damn'd Spot!

I made a pot of coffee this morning, then took the grounds out to the compost pile. To get to the back yard, I can go downstairs and use the basement door, or walk through the family room and use the door that leads to the deck.  Today I chose to use the family room door so I could fill the bird feeder that hangs on the deck

I had the basket of coffee grounds in one hand; when I reached to open the door the basket slipped.  I watched in slow-motion horror as it took flight, spewing grounds all over the carpet.  I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a spoon, and quickly scooped up as much of the mess as I could, but I was left with an ugly 18-inch long stain in front of the door.

I quickly Googled "Getting coffee stain out of carpet", clicked on the first result, for Mrs Clean, and read her cleaning advice:
  • The first step was to clean up as much as possible with a white paper towel.  I don't keep paper towels in the house, and the paper napkins had a small blue border, so I was careful not to rub the colored part on the carpet as I mopped up the stain. So far, so good.
  • Next, she suggested applying a mixture of white vinegar and warm water to the stain.  I mixed the liquids together in a cup, sprinkled it on the stain with my fingers, then blotted it up with a rag.  Much to my amazement, a good amount of the coffee residue lifted off, but I could still see a faint dirty area.
  • Mrs. Clean anticipated this, and told me to try a solution of dishwashing detergent and warm water.  I dumped out the last of the vinegar and substituted fresh water with a squirt of detergent to the cup.  I poured the solution on the stain, rubbed it in with my fingers, then blotted it again.  At this point the carpet was pretty wet, and it was hard to tell if any coffee remained.  I left for the day.
When the carpet dried it looked like my stain fighting might have been successful, but I know from experience that the dirt may reappear in the next few days.  If it does, I'll follow more of Mrs. Clean's suggestions, which include moistening the area with hydrogen peroxide.  She's been right on the money so far!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Best Of The Fools

 Almost everyone had an April Fools joke or story today.  The folks at the Whole Foods blog outdid themselves and posted four ideas that had just enough credibility to make me think they could be true, until I realized what day it was. I thought this was the funniest one:
Save Big with Refurbished Spices by Ginger Renood 
Instead of buying new spices, refurbish your old ones! Honestly, can anyone get through a full bottle of cloves before the expiration date? We worked with a team of scientists in Amsterdam to develop the Hoopensifterfreshentoner™ — a familiar looking tool that strengthens our team member’s core muscles while freshening your spices. To use the Hoopensifterfreshentoner™ we slowly pour the old spice into an extra large hula-hoop. Then we add hemp seeds, which circulate with the old spice to fluff and freshen it. Finally, one of our team members hula-hoops for 20 minutes to refurbish the spice. It’s an easy way to keep our team members fit, and prevents trillions of spice particles from clogging our landfills. Bring in your expired spices ready for refurbishing and you’ll receive a coupon for 20% off your purchase from our new gently used spice line. We have a wide selection of gently used spices that we’ve freshened up, repackaged, and are now selling for pennies on the dollar. Buy as little or as much as you need.