Saturday, August 31, 2013

White After Labor Day?

When I was a kid I learned from my mom that you only wear white between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Now, many decades later, the fashion world is more relaxed about what colors to wear when, but I still follow my mom's rule.  After Monday the white items will get washed, folded, and put into storage until next year.  So will the white sandals and loafers.  I only make exceptions for t-shirts and tennis shoes.

Tonight Hubby Tony and I went to church and dinner.  In honor of the end of the summer season I wore a pair of white cotton pants and a coral linen shirt.  Those lightweight materials were perfect, since the hot weather we didn't get in July and early August has come back with a vengeance. For the last week we've had a heat advisory. The normal high temperature is 86°. Yesterday and today it was over 103°, tying the record.

After dinner we stopped for frozen custard at an outside stand.  It was so hot the custard melted and dripped all over my pants.  Instead of waiting until Labor Day to wash them, they went into the laundry when I got home.  Their season's over.

Five years ago today: New Thing #233--The Stroll

Friday, August 30, 2013

Mix and Match

Betsy at My Five Men is having her second Pedi Party of the year today.  Since I was lucky enough to wind the prize she offered for the last one (a foot scrubber-rasper-pumice-buffer and two bottles of polish--"Turquoise Paradise" and "Midnight Swim"), I figured it would be poor manners not to participate this time, too.

I've never used blue polish before; it took some getting used to, but in the past two months I've had light blue toes and dark blue toes.  The latest configuration is a nod to this summer's manicure trend with one nail painted a different color than the rest.

Although my feet are encased in shoes when I'm at work, I enjoy seeing my colorful toes when I'm wearing my flip flops around the house. I've also discovered that the accent nail makes a good focal point during my Piyoga class.

Five years ago today: New Thing #232--Rivals

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Cats Weren't Too Wild About The Idea...

This morning the cats had their annual trip to the vet, their least favorite day of the year.

Last night I closed the door into the basement and most of the bedroom doors so the cats couldn't disappear for their morning naps.  As I left my bedroom this morning I closed that door, too.  The strangeness put the cats on edge, but they eventually stopped being suspicious and stretched out in a patch of sun in the family room.  The sun lulled them into complacency, and when it was time to leave an hour later it was easy to grab them and put them in their carriers.

The vet's office is four miles away.  The cats start crying the minute the car leaves the garage, and don't stop until we enter the office.  Fortunately there wasn't much traffic today and it was a quick trip.  We were ushered into an examination room, and the technician extracted the cats from their carriers one at a time to weigh them.

Jackson's weight tends to yo-yo.  Four years ago he was chunky, so we put him on a diet.  Over the next year he'd lost the equivalent of 27 pounds.  Last year he'd "found" some of those pounds, so we tightened up his diet again.  Pepper's always been thinner than his brother, but a few months ago we noticed he was looking a little chunky around the midsection, so he started getting a few less kibbles in his food bowl each day.  Our work paid off.  Both cats weighed less than they had last year.

When they were finished being weighed, the cats voluntarily sought the shelter of their carriers until the vet came in.   He examined Jackson first, and commented that he had quite a bit of tarter on his teeth.  I thought they'd been cleaned just a few years ago, but turns out it had been five years and needed to be done again.  The vet recommended leaving Jackson with him; he'd clean his teeth and give him his rabies shot while he was anesthetized.  I agreed.  The vet put Jackson back into his carrier and moved onto Pepper.  His teeth weren't as bad as his brothers, but still could use a good cleaning.  I ended up leaving both cats there.

It was strange driving away without howling noises from the back seat, and the house seemed curiously empty. I thought about them all day.

I got a call from the vet's office as I was leaving work--the cats were ready to go, and I picked them up on my way home.  They were very quiet in the car.  When I opened up their carriers in the house and watched them stagger out I understood why--they were still loopy from the anesthesia!

They rebounded nicely, though, and had a few kibbles to snack on.  They'll get their regular meal before bed, once we're sure they're fully recovered.  The vet called to check on them, and commented that "they'd had a very busy day".  I bet the cats would agree

Five years ago today: New Thing #230--(Do the) Mashed Potato

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

See The USA

Last week I was on duty at the mall Customer Service desk when a man came up to ask me a question.  As soon as the first words came out of his mouth I knew he wasn't from our area; by his accent I assumed he was from Australia.  I was close.  He told me he and his wife were visiting from New Zealand.

They had brought their computer into one of the mall stores to have some work done on it.  The work wasn't going to be finished until the next day, and he had a request to make.  They were traveling in an RV, and he wanted to know if they could stay on the mall's parking lot for the night.

A phone call to the Security office led to a call to the Management office, and permission was granted.  The man thanked me profusely and left.

The next day he appeared again, this time accompanied by his wife.  They'd picked up the computer and were on their way out of town.  While the man went to use a nearby ATM I chatted with his wife and learned about their interesting adventures.  They were international snowbirds who'd been coming to the USA for several Southern Hemisphere winters.  They'd bought the RV so they could easily get around the country.

This year they were traveling through several Midwest states; when it was time to go home they'd store it at a storage facility until they came back next year to repeat the process in another section of the country.

Five years ago today: New Thing #229--Reuse It

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Hubby Tony and I went to 11:00 Mass today.  After communion I was meditating, using the crucifix behind the altar as my focal point.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a black spot moving across the short white hair of the older man kneeling in front of me.  I took a closer look, and discovered it was a gnat, which then landed on the man's head.

Try as I might, there was no more meditating for me after that.   I spent the next few minutes watching the tiny bug climb from one strand of hair to another.   Occasionally it would rise up and fly a tiny distance, then settle back down.  While I watched I pondered if I should say something to the man.  Would he want to know, or would he be embarrassed?  

The issue took care of itself without any help from me; when the man sat back in his seat after communion was completed the bug flew away.

Five years ago today: New Thing #227--Who, Meme?

Friday, August 23, 2013

It's All Good

Today I went to the doctor for an annual physical.

I'm pretty healthy, and left to my own devices would only have a physical every couple of years. However, last year I changed doctors; the new guy's office sent me a card reminding me that people of 'my age' should check in once a year.  I called and made an appointment.

In preparation for the big event, last Friday I stopped in at a lab (after having fasted overnight) to have blood work done so the results could be incorporated into my office visit.  The past tests have always been normal, so I didn't spend a lot of time wondering about what they'd show this time. 

When I entered the doctor's office today the nurse practitioner performed the standard weight-blood pressure-health assessment questionnaire.  She left, and I waited for the doctor.  I've only met this doctor one other time, but he seems like a nice enough person.  He asked me about my diet (which is better than last year--less processed foods and more "whole" ones) and exercise habits (not quite as good--if I were being graded on them, they'd be about a B). 

I was pleasantly surprised when he told me that my diet changes outweighed the exercise slips. My "good" cholesterol had increased from just acceptable to five points higher than that.

Now I just have to figure out what I've been doing so I can continue it.

Five years ago today: New Thing #225--Virtual Style

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Song For Cleaning

We have some family coming through town tomorrow.  They're spending the night, so today I've got the music cranked up so I can clean the cat hair off the beds and dust the furniture in the spare bedrooms.

Do you remember this song?  It was the number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 list fifty years ago this week, and Stevie Wonder's first hit.  He was 13 at the time.

Five years ago today: New Thing #223--What's The Call?

Monday, August 19, 2013

If You Can't Trust A Nun, Who Can You Trust?

I answered the phone last week at the mall Customer Service desk. The woman on the other end introduced herself as Sister Susan, an employee of a local home health care company. She was here in the mall with a client; did we have any wheelchairs available for them to use?

We did, and I explained to her where the desk was located. Five minutes later a trim middle-aged woman appeared. By her serene countenance I had no doubt she was the person I'd talked to.

Sister Susan explained she'd left her client sitting on a bench outside Macys and needed to get back to her quickly. Per our desk procedures I asked for an ID before I handed over the wheelchair. Sister started digging through her small shoulder bag and came up empty-handed. She explained she'd left her larger purse in the car; the best she could offer me was a business card.

Our desk has pretty stringent regulations, but we also have some flexibilty. I decided to use my judgement and let Sister Susan have the chair. If you can't trust a nun, who can you trust?

Five years ago today: New Thing #221--Here or To Go?

Sunday, August 18, 2013


The other day I was at the grocery store picking up a couple of things, one of which was a bag of fresh spinach to replace the one I'd taken from Son Donald's refrigerator shelf.  I usually get my bagged spinach at Aldi, where there's one brand and two choices-take it or leave it.  However, this store had an overwhelming selection of alternatives.  Did I want a bag (multiple sizes) or a clamshell? Organic or conventional?  What brand?

I visualized the label of the bag I'd used.  The ones that were displayed on the eye-level shelf weren't right--they weren't big enough, or mixed with other greens.  I found what I was looking for tucked away on the bottom shelf.  It was a 9 ounce bag with the word SPINACH predominantly printed on the cellophane.  I checked the shelf price tag to see how much I'd be paying for it, and was startled to read I was getting something called "teenage spinach".
WHAT?!?  I'd never heard of teenage spinach.  Is it impulsive and hormonal?  Does it sleep all day and prefer to hang out with its friends?  

Of course not; it's just a categorizing term.  Spinach is typed according to how long it's grown before harvest.  Baby spinach has small leaves that are picked early (usually about a third of the time it takes to mature).  Teen spinach grows a little longer and has larger leaves.

Still, the idea of impulsive, hormonal greens makes me smile. 

Five years ago today: New Thing #220--Electronic

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Perfect Friday Afternoon

What do you do on a perfect 70-degree afternoon after a busy morning of errands, meetings, and outside chores?  I voted for ignoring the rest of my To Do list and taking a nap on the family room couch, where I could listen to the cicadas and feel the breeze coming in through the windows.

I wasn't the only one.  Fortunately the couch is long enough to share.

Five years ago today: New Thing #218-How Long?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Sad Thing Is, I Think He's Seriously Happy

Email received from the mall Customer Service desk boss:
I have a very important announcement to make.  Santa is scheduled to arrive on Saturday, November 16th at 10 am.
Five years ago today: New Thing #215--Orange Crush

Monday, August 12, 2013

Do You Copy?

A couple of weeks ago the mall Customer Service desk was gifted with a two-way radio so we could communicate with the maintenance, cleaning, and security people more easily.  At first the sturdy black box intimidated me; my kids had toy walkie talkies years ago, but I'd never used a real one.  Now every morning when the desk opens we remove the radio from its charging station and set it on the desk. 

I've only had a few opportunities to use the radio, but I've discovered that when it's slow at the desk it's is a good source of entertainment. I just listen in on what's going on everywhere else in the mall!  There's a whole set of lingo that goes along with walkie talkies and CB radios, but the system here is pretty informal. Every officer/department has their own numerical identifying code.  Depending on who's is talking I might hear:
  • Come In (Are you there?)
  • 10-4 (Okay)
  • Roger (Understood)
  • Over (I’m done talking)
  • Negative (No)
  • Affirmative (Yes)
  • Do you copy? (Can you hear me?)
Each department seems to have their own uses for the radios. Maintenance is usually silent unless someone reports a burned out bulb or a needed repair.  Cleaning mainly discusses floor spills (wet and dry) and who's going to clean what up. The most interesting exchanges, though, come from the security department and occur when the officers are watching someone do something they're not supposed to in the mall.

Five years ago today: New Thing #214--Divine Energy

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Folks In Heaven

This poem has been making the rounds on my friend's Facebook walls.    I think it has a message worth remembering...
Folks In Heaven
I was shocked, confused, bewildered
As I entered Heaven's door,
Not by the beauty of it all,
Nor the lights or its decor.

But it was the folks in Heaven
Who made me sputter and gasp--
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
The alcoholics and the trash.

There stood the kid from seventh grade
Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
Who never said anything nice.

Bob, who I always thought
Was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
Looking incredibly well.

I nudged Jesus, 'What's the deal?
I would love to hear Your take.
How'd all these sinners get up here?
God must've made a mistake.

'And why is everyone so quiet,
So somber - give me a clue.'
'Hush, child,' He said,
'they're all in shock.
No one thought they'd be seeing you.'

~ J. Taylor Ludwig ~
Five years ago today: New Thing #212--Move Along

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Classic Country

On our Friday night in Nashville Hubby Tony and I went honky tonkin'. I had a good time, but the rowdy "party" music the bands were playing wasn't what we came to the area to hear.  We were looking for classic country the kind with steel guitars and mandolins.  On Saturday we got our fix.

Saturday morning when we were sightseeing we asked the concierge at one of the hotels for music recommendations.   She said there were a couple of places on Broadway we could go, but the music we wanted to hear tended to be played more during the day.  In the evening we had two choices--the Grand Ole Opry or The Station Inn.

I'd already researched who was playing at the Opry, and wasn't interested in paying the (somewhat hefty) ticket price for that evening's program.  When the heard that the cover charge at The Station Inn was about a quarter of the Opry's our plans were set!  The concierge said we'd need to plan on being there when the doors opened (almost two hours before show time); admission was first come, first served, and sometimes there was a line to get in.

We thanked her for the information and continued on our way.  After a fun-filled morning and early afternoon of sightseeing we went back to our condo for a nap, then headed out again.

Our first destination was Robert's Western World, which specializes in traditional country music. We grabbed seats at a table to the side of the stage and small dance floor.  The room had a wonderful patina of age and a retro atmosphere.  In the afternoon there's no age restrictions, and the crowd ranged from tweens to seniors.  Many people were drinking, but the waitress didn't bat an eye when I asked her to bring me a cup of coffee.  We ordered a basket of fries to share, but passed on the fried bologna sandwich and fried pickles.

This country music is what we came all the way to Nashville to see!  Before most songs, the band leader would ask, "who wants to hear some [insert classic country music singer--Merle Haggard, George Jones, Buck Owens, Chet Atkins, Conway Twitty]". The crowd would whoop, and they'd start.  I can't say I knew all the songs, but it was still great.

We left in time to walk to a church several blocks away for Mass, then hopped on the shuttle bus for a ride to the Gulch area several miles away.  When we got off the bus we turned right instead of left and walked several blocks out of the way before we realized our mistake and turned around.  There was no line in front of The Station Inn, so we went for a quick dinner and returned when the doors opened.

The Station Inn bills itself as "Bluegrass and Roots Music’s premiere listening room", and it's been around since the 1970's.  The dive-y looking cement block building has no windows. Inside, the dark-painted walls and exposed ductwork on the ceiling made it feel like we were in someone's basement, and long rows of tables lined with mismatched chairs added to the atmosphere.

We took our seats as the musicians (the Keith Tew Band with Don Hill, Jon Martin, Randy Holland and Sam Jackson) were finishing their sound check.  After they left the house music came on and Tony and I chatted while we waited for the show to start.  We also struck up a conversation with a woman at next table.  It was that kind of place.

The band came on stage right at 9:00.  A traditional bluegrass band consists of guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and upright bass.  The instruments weren't amplified, but there were microphones on the stage so the sound could carry across the room.  The band played fast songs and slow songs, and there was plenty of time for each member to solo.  The audience wasn't rowdy--you could tell they were there to listen, not party--but there was plenty of hand clapping and cheering when something caught their fancy.

Unfortunately we couldn't stay to the end of the show, because the last shuttle bus headed back to the downtown area at 11:00.  A long walk would have been a sad ending to a great day.

Five years ago today: New Thing #210--TXT

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Day Tripping

Friday night in Nashville Hubby Tony and I bar hopped and listened to music.  It was fun, but on Saturday we wanted something different.

Before we left home we had done research and figured out some things we wanted to do.  In addition, earlier in the week I'd been talking with some of the regular mall walkers at work.  When they found out my weekend plans they offered some ideas.  On their next trip past the Customer Service desk they gave me some more.  We left town with a long list of activities to choose from.

Saturday morning after breakfast we gathered our things and left the condo.  Our first stop was the five-star Hermitage Hotel, which for many years was "the" place to stay in town. It opened in 1908 and cost a million dollars to build. We walked inside and took a look at the lobby's beautiful vaulted stained glass ceiling and ornamental plaster domes.  They were setting up for an event in the lobby, so we didn't stay long.  We did talk to their Concierge, who wasn't assisting any hotel guests, and got some music suggestions for later in the day.

Next we headed a couple of blocks over towards the State Capitol. The building is easy to find; it sits at the top of a huge hill. We walked through the War Memorial Plaza, which contains an open space in front of the War Memorial Building (unfortunately closed) and monuments. We climbed a long flight of stairs to reach the Capitol. It was closed, but we walked around to the other side and took in the impressive views.  It started sprinkling, and we took shelter under the building's portico while we talked about what rain would do for our plans for the day. Thankfully it only lasted a couple of minutes and we moved on to the next activity on our list, the Farmer's Market.

On our way into the market we passed through Bicentennial Mall State Park and stopped to admire the row of 31 "Rivers of Tennessee" geyser fountains (one for each of the state's rivers). The market had two large covered sheds for produce vendors, an enclosed food court area, and a flea market section. As we wandered through the market we realized we were hungry. We noshed our way through the food court and market (soup from a Chinese stand, tamales and rice from another, and a homegrown tomato for dessert.)

When we were finished at the market we decided to take one of the free shuttles, which run every fifteen minutes, to get back to the condo . We stood at stop closest to the farmer's market for about five minutes, then decided it would be quicker to walk. On the way we ended up finding the Public Square Observation Deck, which had a nice view of the city's skyline.

By this time it was almost 2:00 and time to get back to the condo for a power nap.  There was a lot more to do! 

Five years ago today: New Thing #209--Wax On

Monday, August 5, 2013

Honky Tonking

When we realized this year our wedding anniversary was on a Friday, Hubby Tony decided to take a vacation day so we could go on an adventure. He came up with a list of places we could get to in the car within 5-6 hours. We talked it over, and decided on Nashville.

"Music City" was a natural place for us to go.  Tony and I like to listen to a wide variety of music.  Country is one of them, specifically classic country and bluegrass. It's hard to find them performed live around here, but if we went to the country music Mecca there'd be plenty to see.

Mapquest said the drive from St. Louis to Nashville could be done in as little as 6 hours, but our trip took a couple of hours more than that.  We went out of the way for lunch, then took scenic, but lower-speed state roads across Illinois to Paducah.  Once we headed south on Interstate 24 we encountered road work which slowed us down even more.  We finally pulled into Nashville about 5:00 

Our first stop after we parked the car was a visitor's center.  We came out of the center with maps, tourist information, and restaurant recommendations, collected our suitcases from the car, then walked to our condo, which was in a converted warehouse building right in the middle of everything we wanted to do.   After we unpacked our bags we read the visitor information and made our evening plans.

Crowds on Broadway
For dinner we went to Demos' Restaurant , which was recommended by the clerk at the visitor center.  Their specialties were spaghetti and steaks.  We sampled both, along with salads and fresh-from-the oven rolls.  Everything was good, and I walked out of there feeling like I wouldn't need to eat again for a very long time.

After dinner we walked up and down Second Avenue and Broadway, where there are dozens of places to hear music.  They all had their doors open (and none had a cover charge). If we heard something we liked from the sidewalk we'd go in, then move on to the next place as the spirit moved us. Most places were playing "new" country or rowdy country party music, and both the bands and the audiences were having a good time.

Each block also had street musicians who'd set up shop on the sidewalk. Sometimes we'd stop and listen and sometimes we'd walk right by; I had a stash of dollar bills in my pocket to tip the ones I liked best.

I knew it was time to call it a night when I started falling asleep sitting on a barstool while loud music played around me.  Tony and I listened to the last of the night's music as we walked past the honky tonks on the way back to our condo. 

Five years ago today: New Thing #207--A Preview

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Our wedding anniversary (number 33) was Friday.  Instead of spending just a day celebrating it, we took a whole weekend!

After breakfast Hubby Tony and I packed up the car for a weekend trip to Nashville, Tennessee.

Nashville is approximately six hours from St. Louis.  There are two primary ways you can get there.  The most direct is through Illinois and Kentucky (going east then south on Interstates 64, 57, and 24).  An alternate route, and the one we chose to take, goes south on Interstate 55 before heading east to Paducah then south again.

Why did we take the longer route?  So we could stop at Lambert's Cafe in Sikeston, home of "throwed rolls".

The parking lot at Lambert's was disturbingly full, but we only had to wait about fifteen minutes to get a table. We ordered our meals (a hamburger for me, fried chicken for Tony) and waited for the fun to begin.  We were lucky; it didn't take long for the roll thrower to wheel out a cart of large yeasty rolls.  We waved our hands so he'd send one our way.  There's butter and honey available on the table, but you can also get sorghum molasses or apple butter from the person walking around with a huge metal can.

It doesn't take long for our meals with sides to arrive, but in addition to the food that came from the kitchen we also got to have the pass-arounds: fried okra, macaroni and tomatoes, black-eyed peas, and fried potatoes, which are carried around the restaurant in metal bowls and doled out with large spoons.  You can get as many servings as you want.

Lambert's offers dessert, but we were too stuffed to take advantage of it.  We made a bathroom stop, (but passed on the gift shop on the way out of the building) and hit the road.  Nashville was waiting!

Five years ago today: New Thing #206--Fun With Desiccant

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Overheard After Dinner Tonight...

Hubby Tony: I really like this fritatta you made.

Me: Thanks. It was easy to make yesterday before I went to work, and quick to reheat last night and again tonight. Now that you've eaten it, do you want to know the secret ingredient? Or would you prefer to stay in the dark?

Tony: Let me try to guess.  Of course it had eggs.  I also tasted corn, zucchini, greens, onion, and cheddar cheese. Was it a spice?

Me: Not exactly.  Those greens you ate came from outside.  They're dandelions.

Tony: Ummmm.....

Me:  Don't worry.  It's all good.   Yesterday morning I was weeding and trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Something clicked when I saw three monster dandelions growing in the ground cover outside the back garage door.  I know you can cook dandelion greens just like any other green.  We've had kale, chard, collard, turnip, and mustard, so what's one more type?  Besides, I once made myself a salad of dandelion greens and lived to tell.  Just to be sure I did a Google search, which led me to an article in the Huffington Post that talked about people actually getting dandelion greens in their CSA baskets. 

There was no way I could get a shovel in there to dig out the whole plant so I did the next best thing and pulled off individual leaves.  Some of them were a foot long!  When I was done I had a couple of cups.  Not enough for a side dish of greens, so I had to think (even more) creatively.  The Huffington Post article said:
"Because the greens are bitter, they pair perfectly with rich flavors: think goat cheese, egg yolk, bacon, potatoes."
We didn't have any bacon or potatoes in the house, but there are always eggs, and we had lots of cheese in the freezer. A fritatta sounded perfect.  I washed the dandelion leaves twice, then dried them, chopped them, and dumped them into a baking dish along with one ear of corn, most of the zucchini in the vegetable drawer, a half of onion, and a clove of garlic.  Mixed everything together, baked it, then when the vegetables were done added the beaten eggs and cheese and baked again until the top was nice and brown.  That's it.

Tony: (Still not looking completely convinced) Well, it did taste good.  Did you write a blog post about it?

Me:  Great idea!

Five years ago today: New Thing #203--Pay Attention