Wednesday, July 31, 2013

If You fill It Will They Come?

A year ago I got a nice metal mesh finch feeder, filled it with food, and hung it from my deck rail next to a redbud tree. The birds never came.

A friend told me the tiny nyjer seeds I was using would get stale quickly and the birds would then snub them, so I dumped the old stuff out.  The second time I only put in an inch of seed, then waited for the birds to discover the new batch.  Nothing.  I tried it several more times with the same results.  The seasons changed, but the feeder continued to be unused. I got tired of emptying out the uneaten seed about the time cold weather came, and left it hanging all winter with its layer of bird seed.

When the weather warmed up I dumped out the old seed, thoroughly cleaned the feeder, refilled it, and crossed my fingers that the new year would bring the flocks of birds I hoped for. Nothing. A couple of months ago I wondered if I should take the feeder down; that week a few chickadees came by, and one or two sparrows. I got excited but after the initial spurt things went back to normal.

Last weekend I heard a rustling of tree leaves on the deck. I looked out the kitchen window and was ecstatic to see a large bird hanging on to the feeder's wire mesh. (At first I thought it was a woodpecker but after research I decided it might have been a nuthatch.)  The bird moved around the feeder scaring off the other birds that were trying to take a turn.  Yes, I had a bird feeder queue!

The next day I was THRILLED to see a goldfinch grabbing a quick seed meal.

After that spurt, though, it's gone back to normal.  I don't know what I did (or didn't do) right, so I'm having trouble doing (or not doing) the same thing again.

Five years ago today: New Thing #202--Can You Read This?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Happy Monday!

I know today is Monday, and you assume it’s going to stink, but according to statistics, there will be over 5,000 weddings, 10,000 childbirths, and 42 million hugs occurring today throughout the United States.
Today there will be at least 4 people that will win the multimillion dollar lotteries, and 600 people will get promotions at work. There will also be 600 dogs adopted, 35,000 balloons sold, and 800,000 Skittles eaten. Plus, the words “I love you” will be said over 9 million times.
So again, I know today is Monday and you assume it’s going to stink, but just smile, because according to statistics, it should actually be a really nice day. 
Five years ago today: New Thing #200--Bag It

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It Was Twenty Years Ago...But Seems Like Just Yesterday

Twenty years ago this week the Mississippi River reached 49.58 feet at St. Louis, the highest level ever recorded.  “The Great Flood of 1993” affected the entire upper Midwest; in our area that was the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, as well as tributaries like the Meramec and River des Peres .

The problem had started months earlier. A rainy fall in 1992 led into a winter with above-average snow; when the rainy spring season started the ground was already saturated and the rain had nowhere to go. It kept raining through the summer, especially in Iowa to the north and South Dakota to the west.  Our state wasn't spared the summer rain, either.  In Kansas City they got more than six extra inches of rain in July, and We had about an inch more than average.  Rivers started overflowing their banks, and the mess headed our way.

In July 1993 there were daily requests on the radio and TV stations for emergency volunteers.  That summer my boys went to a camp several mornings each week.  Whenever possible I'd drive to the closest sandbagging location after I dropped them off and put in a couple of hours helping out before it was time for them to come home.  We also held a garage sale with another family and donated the proceeds to the Red Cross.

At the worst of the flooding some friends and I took our kids downtown to see the mess from the grounds of the Gateway Arch.  It was awe-inspiring.  The Arch sets high above the Mississippi, with a Grand Staircase on the east side of the grounds down to the river levee. There are 64 steps in the staircase. In 1993 the water rose halfway up them:

They're not as close to the water as it looks

Five years ago today: New Thing #199--Pet Theory

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Chopped Hummus Salad

I've been trying to eat well, but when I have to dine on the run it can be difficult.  I was getting tired of a steady diet of sandwiches so I started searching for other ideas.  A while back I came up with a "recipe" that's simple and healthy. For want of a better name I call it Chopped Hummus Salad.

Although most stores sell hummus now I think it's just as easy to make my own.  It takes about 10 minutes in the food processor, using chickpeas (AKA garbanzo beans), garlic, tahini paste, lemon juice, and olive oil. The resulting puree is high in fiber and low in fat. It really fills me up, especially if I use vegetable sticks as dippers.  That can be really messy to eat in the car though--like on Tuesday when I have a short time to get a meal in between the gym and work, but if I dice the vegetables and stir in enough hummus to coat them, the resulting mixture can easily be eaten with a spoon (and a napkin spread over my lap). 

The dish never turns out the same way twice because I use whatever vegetables I have on hand.  Sometimes I add a little extra salt and pepper or a couple of dashes of hot sauce to the blend.  Sometimes I don't. It's always good.

Carrots, green peppers, and zucchini
Five years ago today: New Thing #198--A Street Runs Through It

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I Love Happy Endings

The forecast today called for a high of only 80 degrees instead of the mid-90s we've been suffering though.  I wanted to stay outside and play all day instead of going to work, but I knew my boss wouldn't understand.  After lunch I put on my clothes and got in the car for the drive to the mall.

I started off in a lousy mood and my drive didn't do anything to make it better.  Thanks to a traffic jam on the highway, a longer-than-usual line of cars waiting to turn into the mall parking lot, and a driver who couldn't decide which way to go in the parking garage I almost ended up being late.  I really wasn't thrilled about being cooped up inside the climate-controlled building for hours, but it soon turned into a good day when I got to do a good Customer Service Desk deed and reconnect a lost phone with its owner.

About a half hour into my shift two customers brought me an iPhone in a girly-looking case they’d found lying on a bench upstairs. After they left I called Security and told them what I had. The dispatcher said she’d send an officer by to pick the phone up, but it might be a while because they were busy. (That was fine with me, as long as they knew I had it).

While I was waiting for Security I decided to take a look at the phone. I unlocked it, activated it, and got the password screen.  Nothing else I could do. (I've been through this before.  If a phone doesn’t have a password I’ve been known to make a call to the first number on the call history log and ask that person to contact the phone’s owner to tell them it’s been found. I’ve never have anyone get angry with me for doing it.)  Even though I couldn’t make an outgoing call I could see there’d been two missed calls; one from “Dad” ten minutes earlier, and another from “Mom” two minutes after that. Someone was trying to track it down.

I set the phone in an inconspicuous place on the desk and promptly forgot it was there. A buzzing sound surprised me until I remembered the phone.  When I looked at it another call was coming in from “Mom”.  I answered the phone and explained who I was. The lady asked me where the Customer Service desk was located and said they’d be there in a few minutes. A few minutes was more like 15, but I looked up to see a family group (“Mom”, “Dad”, and two teenaged daughters, one of which was on crutches) headed straight towards me. They were all smiling hopefully.

The older teenager asked me if I had her phone. Just to be sure I had her tell me what the case looked like. She nailed the description, so I handed the phone over. Both she and her mom looked like they were about to burst into tears of joy. They thanked me profusely and went on their way.

Another happy ending in mall world.

Five years ago today: New Thing #195--Take Action

Monday, July 22, 2013

Size Does Matter

A couple of weeks ago we went to a Cardinals baseball game. They were having a promotion that day, giving away a Matt Holliday replica jersey.

Isn't it nice?
We got to the stadium just as the doors were opening and waited in line to have our tickets scanned.  Just past the entrance there were people handing out the plastic-bagged jerseys.  There was no choice of sizes--you took an extra large or left empty handed. 

I liked the shirt, but it was way too big.  The shoulder seam hung at mid-bicep, the sleeve hem came down past my elbows, and there was about three inches of extra material on each side.  Rather than put the shirt straight into the donation pile I  decided to resize it to fit me.

I've done this before, so I was familiar with the process.  Last week I put a stained t-shirt in the rag pile.  Two days later I took it out and cut it into pieces to serve as a pattern.  Once I had the pattern pieces I removed the sleeves from the huge shirt and used the smaller ones to make them the right size.  The body of the smaller shirt bacame the template for the arm holes on the new one.  I purposely left the sides of the shirt alone, because I wasn't sure just how wide I wanted to make it.

It took me several tries to get the sleeves right; I almost got frustrated and chucked the whole thing out before they went smoothly into place.  After some thought I decided to angle the side seams so the bottom was the original width.  I can wear the shirt open and floppy, with a tank top underneath which will be cool in this hot weather.

The back of the right-sized shirt
Hubby Tony and I are headed to another game tomorrow.  I'll be wearing my new creation.

Five years ago today: New Thing #193--Wax On

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Stars Told Us To!

It's not often the stars are so aligned in Hubby Tony's and my horoscope, but this morning was different.  His horoscope said, in part...
Tonight: Go off to a favorite restaurant.
Mine read....
Tonight: A fun dinner out.

Chili Rellenos

We went to a Mexican place.  We couldn't disobey the stars

Five years ago today: New Thing #191--Game On

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Racoon Eyes

I enjoy mowing our grass in the spring and the fall. In July and August I grit my teeth and get the job done as quickly as possible.

It's been normal St. Louis summer hot for the past week, but the grass hasn't gone into summer dormancy.  It's still growing, and the weeds are growing even faster.  When I left for work today I noticed there were so many clover blooms we could host the city bunny convention, and the nutsedge leaves were sticking up far above the grass blades.  It was time to cut.

After dinner tonight I filled the mower with gas and started the job.  I didn't see anyone else outside.  They were smart.  The temperature was still over 90 degrees, but a slight breeze helped make it bearable.  I started in the west-facing front yard, mowing back and forth.  It was satisfying to see the short, freshly cut lawn appear behind me.  When I was finished in the front I moved to the back.

The back was completely shaded, but there's a slight incline in the yard  and it takes more work to push the mower.  Halfway through the sweat began dripping down my face; I wiped it off with the sleeve of my t-shirt before I remembered I still had on makeup from work which would leave a nice tan smear.  The makeup didn't show on my bright orange shirt, but there were smudges of mascara near the shoulder seam.

I'm trying a new type of mascara. The old one lasted all day but came off easily at the end of the night.  The new one makes my lashes look long and full, but is harder to remove.  I thought that was a good thing, but when I finished cutting and came in to look in a mirror, there were huge blotches of mascara under my eyes that made me look like a zombie lady. I'm glad there weren't any neighbors outside!

Five years ago today: New Thing #189--A Day at the Races

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tasting Event

Tonight after dinner Hubby Tony and I got in the car and drove to our local St. Louis Bread Company (AKA Panera) for their MyPanera Tasting Event.

MyPanera is the bakery-cafe's loyalty card.  If you use it enough, they'll reward you with discounts or even free items.  Although tonight's event wasn't free, it was very reasonable.  When we walked in we were directed towards the check in station.  After we paid the cashier handed us plastic plates and cups and told us to take advantage of all the stations that were showcasing the seasonal menu items.

Our first stop was the bread station, where we wrote our names on a piece of parchment paper and got a hunk of dough.  We stretched the dough into a mini-baguette and scored it with a knife, then put it in the "to bake" area. At that station they were serving avocado crostini and Cinnamon Crunch scones.

The next station held samples of soups and salads: Chilled Shrimp & Soba Noodle Salad, Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad, and Vegetarian Summer Corn Chowder, along with plain and avocado crostini. We added some of everything to our plates, then headed toward the cold drink area to choose from urns of plain and flavored iced tea and iced coffee.

Everything tasted great; I went back for a second scone to split with Tony; while I was there I snagged another avocado crostini. After we finished our food we sat and chatted. On our way out we stopped and picked up our bread, now bagged and waiting for us by the door.

I don't know what I'm going to make for dinner tomorrow, but the menu will include that bread!

Five years ago today: New Thing #188--Whee!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thoughts to live by‏

  • Accept the fact that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue.
  • Keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.
  • Read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.
  • Drive carefully... It's not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.
  • If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague
  • If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
  • It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.
  • Never buy a car you can't push.
  • Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.
  • Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.
  • Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.
  • The second mouse gets the cheese.
  • When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
  • Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.
  • Some mistakes are too much fun to make only once.
Five years ago today: New Thing # 187--Is It Real?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hospitable Hosts

Compared to our normal hot, humid July temperatures, the past few days have been a nice change. The days are sunny and warm (with low humidity), and once the sun goes down it's delightfully cool. Last night Hubby Tony and I decided to take advantage of the wonderful weather and see South Pacific, this week's show at The Muny, from the free seats.

The Muny is a St. Louis institution; an outdoor musical amphitheater that's been offering Broadway-style musicals every summer for more than 90 years. A season consists of seven shows, each running for a week.  The huge theater in Forest Park holds 11,000 people, and for each performance there are 1,500 free seats available in the last nine rows of the theater on a first-come, first-served basis.

When the boys were young we took advantage of them on a regular basis. I'd pack a picnic lunch and get there a couple of hours before the gates opened at 7:00, (an hour and fifteen minutes before the show started) to make sure we got good seats. We'd eat dinner while we were waiting, and bring cards or games to pass the time. However, last night as long as we got seats I wasn't too particular about where I sat, so we aimed for being there a little bit before the gates opened.

Tony and I left home three hours before that, though. Our first stop was Subway, where we got a sandwich for dinner and stowed it in a cooler along with the rest of our food and a few snacks. Next we went to Mass at the New Cathedral. After church we drove to Forest Park, parked the car, and walked until it was time to retrieve our food and get in line.

There are two free seat entrances, one on each side at the back of the theater. Both of the lines were very long, but we veered to the left and got at the end. While we were waiting we talked about what we'd do if we didn't get in, but I wasn't too worried.  After the gates opened it took a while for our portion of the line to start moving. We were still waiting when we were approached by a man who asked if there was only two of us. If so, he'd like to offer us a pair of tickets!  He explained we'd be sitting with him and his wife; their friends had something come up at the last minute and they couldn't find anyone else to use them.

Tony and I looked at each other for less than a second before we agreed that we'd love to have the tickets. We continued to wait in line until we reached the gate where we had our bags checked, then saw our hosts at the rear of the theater waiting for the main gates to open. We passed the time chatting.  I found out that they lived on a lake where Tony's parents had a weekend cabin years ago, and had children about our age.

When the gates opened we followed our new friends to the seats, which ended up being about halfway to the stage. After we got situated we pulled out our sandwich and ate it, then waited until the show started right on time at 8:15.

Summer nights in St. Louis can be brutal. The Muny has large fans at the sides which circulate the air, but previously they had to be turned off when the show started. This year, though, they've installed new fans that are so quiet they can be left on. The night was so cool, though, it was hard to tell how well they worked.

South Pacific is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein's great shows, and it has a lot of wonderful songs. The first act flew by.   During the intermission we chatted with our hosts until the house lights dimmed again. The second half went equally fast. All too soon the play was over and streams of people were heading for the exits. We said goodbye, and one last thank you, then went our separate directions.

Five years ago today: New Thing #185--On My Side

Saturday, July 13, 2013

How Exciting!

Yesterday when I opened the mailbox there was one bill, three pieces of junk mail, a magazine for Hubby Tony, and a bubble mailer with my name on it.

I was pretty sure I knew what my package was.  A couple of weeks ago Betsy from My Five Men  hosted a pedicure party.  She offered a prize for entering; I won.  Inside the mailer, wrapped neatly in tissue paper, was her award: two bottles of nail polish and a "4-in-1 Foot Wand".

Thanks, Betsy for letting me borrow your picture.
Soon, I'll be using the foot wand to scrub, rasp, pumice, and buff my feet into softness, then polishing my nails a beautiful color. (Or should I use two colors?  I can't decide).  

Five years ago today: New Thing #184--Gimme A Hug

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Dozen Canons Of Conduct In Life

From Thomas Jefferson:
  1. Never put off to tomorrow what you can do to-day.
  2. Never trouble another with what you can do yourself.
  3. Never spend your money before you have it.
  4. Never buy a thing you do not want, because it is cheap, it will be dear to you.
  5. Take care of your cents: Dollars will take care of themselves.
  6. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.
  7. We never repent of having eat too little.
  8. Nothing is troublesome that one does willingly.
  9. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.
  10. Take things always by their smooth handle.
  11. Think as you please, and so let others, and you will have no disputes.
  12. When angry, count 10. before you speak; if very angry, 100.
Five years ago today: New Thing #183--Dear Me

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

All The Excitement Happened In The First Half-Hour Of Work Today. Then It Went Back To Normal.

When I entered the mall this afternoon I noticed the “plant people” (AKA the company who services the greenery) were changing out the shabby-looking plants. Fifteen minutes later, when I’d clocked in for my shift at the Customer Service desk, a customer came up and asked how to get to one of the loading docks. The plant people had told her the plants were getting tossed out there, and she wanted to take some home.

I don’t know anything about the behind the scenes parts of the mall, but I asked someone from the cleaning department who happened to be walking by. She had some information, but said a security officer would know much more. In the midst of all this, a second customer came and asked the same question. I explained if she could hang on we were working on getting an answer.

An officer came and explained that for security reason customers weren’t allowed in the dock area without permission from the mall office. (People sometimes do it, but it’s unauthorized.) I called the office, who verified what I'd been told; the customers were out of luck. They said they’d follow up with the plant people so they weren’t giving out the wrong information.

I could tell the customers were irritated--as I would be. The officer said if they could wait a bit he’d finish his task and then accompany them to the dock. He didn’t say it, but I knew he was going WAY over and above his job description. The customers got comfortable in the nearest seating area and waited. It looked like they were having a great conversation.  Eventually I got a call from the officer, who asked me to send them to the nearest exit where he was waiting for them.

I suspect the story had a happy ending, but I'll never know.

Five years ago today: New Thing #181--Skivvies

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Credit Reports

Identify theft is the fraudulent misuse of credit cards, bank accounts, or other personal information. It affects millions of people every year.  Hubby Tony and I haven't had any problems, but there have recently been a few close calls.  Earlier this year Schnucks, a local grocery store chain where I often use my debit card, reported that their system had been breached and more than two million credit and debit cards were affected. Last month Tony got a letter from one of his credit card companies telling him that his number may have been compromised.

Because of all the potential issues, several years ago we set up a system to check our credit reports on a regular basis.  Did you know that there are three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and you're entitled to a free credit report from each of them once a year through the Website  I get reports in March, July, and November.  Tony does three different months, which means we're checking six times a year.

It takes about fifteen minutes to enter the information and get the report, which tells you all the accounts (credit card, auto loan, mortgage, etc) that have been opened in your name, the date the account was opened, the credit limit or loan amount, the account balance, and your payment history.

The peace of mind I get from checking my credit reports is definitely worth the time it takes to do the project!

Five years ago today: New Thing #180--What's For Dinner?

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Last fall I brought home a bromeliad plant from the mall.  I knew it would eventually die, but before it did it would send up the beginnings of new plants ("pups") which I could repot.

The mother plant lasted longer than I thought it would, though, and three new shoots appeared at the base.  Although the leaves got quite floppy they stayed green until a couple of weeks ago.  I finally cut them off, and waited for a day when I had time to deal with the rest of the project.

I took the pot outside and did my work in the grass so I wouldn't have to clean up any mess.  Here's a 'before' picture:

You can see two of the three new shoots

 First I turned the pot upside down and dumped the plant out. The shoots were pretty small, but I went ahead with my project anyway.  I used a steak knife to cut the pups away from the dead mother plant, leaving a bit of a stem on the new pup.

pups repotted and fertilized
I put all three pups in the same pot. (If they all end up living I'll deal with the crowding later.) The last step was to give the pot a good soaking of fertilizer before I brought it back in and set it on the window seat in the kitchen where it will get the morning sun.

It would be awesome if I got new plants from this, but I don't have high hopes.   As I said in my original post, "The plant will either thrive, or it can go in the compost pile"

Five years ago today: New Thing #178--It's Only Rock and Roll

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Even though it's Independence Day the mall I work at was still open for business and I had to be there; on  Thursdays I open the Customer Service desk and work until mid-afternoon.  Since I didn't have plans until the evening (walking up to our city's park to watch fireworks) I didn't bother to ask off.

The mall wasn't very busy today; I directed people to stores and the bathrooms, and answered the phone and told callers what our hours were for the day. As the day dragged along with a lot of free time in between questions I decided to update my phone to reflect the patriotic nature of the day.  The phone (and case) is blue, so it provided a nice frame to this picture on my lock screen:

I also changed the phone's background from black to white, and changed my Live Tiles to red:

Yes, the Facebook tile stayed blue, but I think it makes
a nice contrast, don't you?

Five years ago today: New Thing #175--Picture It

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Just Another Day At The Mall

When  I left for the gym this morning at 9:30 a light but steady rain was falling.  It continued the whole drive there and was still raining when I came out. As I drove to work the rain didn't let up, and when I walked into the mall to start my work shift I had to dodge the raindrops.  According to the forecast, it would be wet all day.

I think that everyone who lived in the vicinity of the mall and had outdoor plans cancelled decided to come browse today. The parking garage was packed, and there were three times as many people there as yesterday. Many of them came to the Customer Service desk and asked me questions. Most of the questions were the straightforward ones I can answer in my sleep--Where is the bathroom/specific store/movie theater? However, I also got quite a few off the wall queries:
  • Where can I get balloons/gourmet cupcakes/a henna tattoo? (None are available in the mall.  I did a lot of Google searches during this shift!)
  • What company services the plants in the mall? (I don't know, but they wear green shirts)
  • Where's the closest independent bookstore and how can I get there by public transit? (I gave the person a couple of names and a Metro brochure)
  • Do you know the name of the [jazz instrumental] song that's playing over the intercom right now? (No)
The craziest thing that happened, though, involved a 20-something man who asked for a wheelchair for a friend.  Our policy is to have the person leave some type of ID, which we hold until the chair is returned.  The man didn't have anything on him.  His friend was moving slow, but was on his way. Could he take the wheelchair to him?  I sadly explained the boss wouldn't let me do that.  He needed to leave something with me.

The young man was covered in bling--two rapper necklaces with sparkling pendants, big diamond ear studs, and several large diamond-encrusted rings.  I suggested he could use a piece of his jewelry as collateral, take the wheelchair to his friend, then come back with the ID.  He acted like I'd asked him to cut off his arm and relinquish it to me.  I smiled and didn't say anything.  When he saw I wasn't going to change my mind, he reluctantly removed one of his rings and handed it over.  Before I could put it in a secure location, though, his friend hobbled up and handed over his ID.  Ring was returned.  Problem solved.

Five years ago today: New Thing #173--Two Trillion Methods