Wednesday, April 30, 2014

International Jazz Day

Did you know that today is International Jazz Day?

In honor of the day, here's a song by Arturo Sandoval, one of the world's foremost jazz trumpeters.  Hubby Tony and I were fortunate enough to see him in concert last Friday night.  He and his band blew me away!

Five years ago today: Enough, Already!

Monday, April 28, 2014


I see some crazy things from my perch at the mall Customer Service desk...

The other day I noticed three distinguished-looking middle aged men sitting in the armchairs closest to the desk.  They were all wearing nice business clothes--dress pants, ties, and blue blazers. I was too far away to hear, but I could tell they weren't speaking in English.

Each man had a suitcase in front of him, which didn't surprise me; there are several large office buildings in the area, and we often have people in the mall going to/coming from the airport. The men were taking items out of mall store bags and packing them into their cases.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the men slip off his dress shoes and take some tennis shoes and a pair of jeans out of his suitcase. I didn't think anything of it; I assumed he had to repack to make his purchases fit.

When I saw him take his belt off his dress pants, though, I started to wonder, and when he lifted his hips enough to slide his dress pants off I was completely floored! The arms of the chair and his blazer hid his body for the pants removal, but when he stepped into his jeans and briefly stood to pull them up there was a flash of his dark-blue underwear. He tucked his shirt in, then sat down to put on his tennis shoes.

It only took about 30 seconds for a Security officer to arrive. He tried to talk to the man, who shrugged his shoulders and acted like he didn't understand. With a 'don't do that again' the officer left. The men were laughing until they left five minutes later.

Five years ago today: Shake Your Moneymaker

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Flip It

The Internet is full of interesting things.  For example, if you want to see your writing from a new angle, the website Flip Text lets you turn your words upside down.  To use it, you type in your text (or copy and paste) and push the "Flip Text" Button. The words appear upside down and the order of the letters is reversed, but they lose their capitalization.

Here's a sample.  The "About Me" element on the right sidebar of the blog says:
Welcome! Thanks for visiting my blog. I live in Manchester, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis) with my husband and work at a mall Customer Service desk. Our three boys are all grown--two of them live out of town, and one is temporarily back home. We also have two cats who keep us amused with their antics.
When I flipped it I got:
˙sɔıʇuɐ ɹıǝɥʇ ɥʇıʍ pǝsnɯɐ sn dǝǝʞ oɥʍ sʇɐɔ oʍʇ ǝʌɐɥ osןɐ ǝʍ ˙ǝɯoɥ ʞɔɐq ʎןıɹɐɹodɯǝʇ sı ǝuo puɐ 'uʍoʇ ɟo ʇno ǝʌıן ɯǝɥʇ ɟo oʍʇ--uʍoɹb ןןɐ ǝɹɐ sʎoq ǝǝɹɥʇ ɹno ˙ʞsǝp ǝɔıʌɹǝs ɹǝɯoʇsnɔ ןןɐɯ ɐ ʇɐ ʞɹoʍ puɐ puɐqsnɥ ʎɯ ɥʇıʍ (sınoן ˙ʇs ɟo qɹnqns ɐ) ıɹnossıɯ 'ɹǝʇsǝɥɔuɐɯ uı ǝʌıן ı ˙boןq ʎɯ buıʇısıʌ ɹoɟ sʞuɐɥʇ ¡ǝɯoɔןǝʍ
I'm not exactly sure when I'd have a real-life use for flipped text, but it's good to know I can access it if I need it.

Five years ago today: Fīnis

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sheet Snob

Today was my twice-yearly bed renovation day. I took off the winter duvet cover and dust ruffle and put on the warm weather versions. I also removed the flannel sheets from the bed and washed the mattress cover. When it was time to re-make the bed I remembered I'd received a new set of sheets as one of my birthday presents back in January.

The beautiful new sky blue sheets came packaged in a sturdy plastic bag that had a zipper and a tassel.  When I took them out I was impressed at how soft and silky they were.  When I looked at the label I was surprised to find out that they weren't cotton, but brushed microfiber!

I've always used cotton sheets (percale in the summer and flannel in the winter), so the idea of microfiber was a little strange.  However, I try to be open to new ideas, so I washed the sheets and made up the bed.  The sheets came out completely wrinkle free.  I liked that the fitted sheet had a nice deep pocket, and elastic elastic that went completely around.  The flat sheet was long enough to tuck in securely at the foot of the bed.

I'll have to see how the new sheets wear.  If they're good, I may not go back to cotton.

Five years ago today: Create A Masterpiece, Feed A Family

Friday, April 25, 2014

"Around us, life bursts with miracles"

"Around us, life bursts with miracles, a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there."

--Thích Nhat Hạnh
Five years ago today: BUNCO!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Irritating Insomnolence

Most nights I wake up at least once.  About half of the time I can take care of whatever business I need to and go right back to sleep.  However, on the other nights I'm not so lucky.  I go to bed and slumber for four solid hours, then wake up and spend the rest of the night drifting in and out of consciousness until the alarm goes off.  

I blame the annoying insomnia nights on my crazy middle-aged hormones.  Sometimes I have to go to the bathroom.  Sometimes I wake up because I'm hot, or I'm cold because I kicked off the blankets when I got hot.  Sometimes there's a combination of issues.  Whatever the reason, it's very irritating to lie awake in the wee hours of the morning and think about trying to get back to sleep.

I try all sorts of tricks to relax my mind.  Sometimes they work.  If they don't I turn on the radio next to the bed, which is set to our local NPR station. Overnight they switch to programming by the BBC World Service.  I start to listen to the soothing British voices, which eventually lull me back to slumberland. 

However, until I get back to sleep I'm usually learning random things.  For example, after last night I'm pretty confident I know more about the current elections in India and the fighting in South Sudan than the vast majority of people who live in the Midwestern section of the United States of America.

Five years ago today: Data Detective

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure (Part 2)

Yesterday I told you the story of how we upgraded our weight bench in the basement, then needed to get rid of the old one.  I got some great comments on the post, including one from a.eye who reminded me that instead of sending the bench to the landfill it would be better to give it to someone.  I don't know why that didn't occur to me; I've regularly used Craigslist, Freecycle, and local online recycling forums in the past.)

Resolving to do the 'green thing', yesterday afternoon when I got home from work I carried the bench out to the curb.  I set it next to the mailbox, making sure the large FREE sign taped to the side was easy to see.  As I did, I noticed the bench was still structurally sound but the vinyl on the pads was cracking more than it used to.  It was looking its age.  I figured the worst that could happen is that the bench would still be there in the morning and I'd have to drag it back inside.  Several hours later when I was sitting in the family room watching TV I heard car doors in front of the house.  When I looked outside the bench was gone. 

I didn't realize until this morning  that today's Earth Day, so it's appropriate that the old bench never made it to the landfill.

Five years ago today: Walking Down Your Street

Monday, April 21, 2014

One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure

When Son Donald moved back home last year he brought his small collection of free weights.  He also returned the old weight bench I'd gleaned from a trash pile for him about five years earlier. He put everything in the basement, and when the weather was too hot/too cold or we didn't feel like going to the gym we'd use them.  However, the bench was rickety and missing a leg extension attachment on the end.  (Which was the same condition it was when it came into the house, so no surprises there.)

Last fall Hubby Tony noticed one of our neighbors had set out a weight bench with a big "FREE" sign on it.  It was much nicer than the one we had, so he brought it in the house.   We put the old bench in the unfinished area, where it was in the way any time I needed to get something off the shelves.

Twice a year our city has a bulk trash collection. The spring one is this week.  Guess what we're setting out to get rid of?

Old bench
New bench

Five years ago today: Appeal To The Masses

Saturday, April 19, 2014

If There Is A God, He Did Not Mean This To Be So

Moses: No son could have more love for you than I.

Sethi: Then why are you forcing me to destroy you? What evil has done this to you?

Moses: The evil that men should turn their brothers into beasts of burden, to be stripped of spirit, and hope, and strength - only because they are of another race, another creed. If there is a god, he did not mean this to be so.

 The Ten Commandments
Five years ago today: Root The Crown

Friday, April 18, 2014


Several years ago I started a Holy Week tradition of listening to the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar in the days leading up to Easter.  The two are a perfect fit, because the opera (one of the earlier works by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice) is loosely based on the Gospel accounts of the last week of Jesus' life. 

There are three versions--I have the rock opera one from 1970 (as opposed to the Broadway cast recording from 1971 or the movie soundtrack from 1973.)   When the album first came out my religiously traditional mother thought it was sacrilegious and banned it from the house. In her mind Biblical stories should not be set to rock music!  That just meant that instead of playing it at home I listened at my friends' houses. 

It wasn't until years later, though, when I got a copy on CD that I really began to appreciate the complex themes, lyrics, and music of the disc.  Now, driving around in the car I can crank up the volume and feel like I'm in my own personal concert hall.

The only problem with listening to the infectious songs, though, is getting them stuck in my head. At different times during the week walked around singing different snippets.  First it was "Hosanna" (Hosanna, Heysanna, Sanna Sanna Ho).  Next was "King Herod's Song" (So you are the Christ/You're the great Jesus Christ/Prove to me that you're divine/Change my water into wine.) and the latest has been "This Jesus Must Die" (What then to do about this Jesus-mania?/Now how to we deal with a carpenter king?/Where do we start with a man who is bigger/Than John was when John did his baptism thing?)

I could probably have worse things stuck in my head, though.

Five years ago today: It's Still Rock and Roll to Me

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Random Thoughts

Some random thoughts from my first grass cutting of the year:
--The bangs I got to go along with my new hairdo are now long enough to fall into my eyes, but too short to tuck behind my ears.  I'll have to get a haircut soon.

--I wonder what type of bird had sported the small pile of feathers I found scattered next to the maple tree, and what ate the rest of the bird?

--It's a shame the 'turf authorities' have deemed that violets and dandelions are weeds that shouldn't be allowed in lawns.  Their purple and yellow flowers go so well together.

--If they also reclassified chickweed and henbit as acceptable lawn additions, our yard would be one of the best in the neighborhood.

--I stepped on several fresh mole runs in the far corner of the back yard.  Someone once told me you'll only find moles in fertile soil with lots of earthworms.  Wonder if that's true?

--The neighbor's fence has wide cedar slats mounted on both sides of the rails.  One of the boards on our side has broken off and the piece is laying on the ground.  Would they appreciate me letting them know about it, or would they think I was fault-finding?  (If the shoe was on the other foot I'd want to know).

Five years ago today: Who You Gonna Call? FurBusters!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tax Day 2014

Am I the only one who hadn't realized the two spelling permutations?


Five years ago today: The Big Switch

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bloomin' Delicious

Photo by Greg Hume
I recently read an interesting article about native trees and shrubs that you can use for edible landscaping and was surprised to find out that I had one of them, a redbud tree, growing in my back yard.  The article said that the flowers of redbud trees were "tasty and attractive additions to salads, pancakes, and muffins".  Since the tree just started blooming a couple of days ago the timing was perfect to find out if they really were.

Tonight after dinner Son Donald and I went out and collected about two cups of redbud blooms and buds.  Our redbud tree is about 20 feet tall, but it grows right next to the deck and the branches are easy to reach. I sorted and washed the blooms and added them to my standard muffin recipe. When it was mixed the batter looked stiff and lumpy, but the finished muffins were dense and moist, with a vaguely fruity taste.

Wikipedia told me that Native Americans consumed redbud flowers raw or boiled, and ate roasted seeds.  There just might be another redbud project coming several months from now.

Five years ago today: Apologies In Advance

Saturday, April 12, 2014

April Showers

Last Saturday when I got home from running errands there was a plastic bag tied to my front door. It took me a couple of seconds to figure out why it was there, but then I remembered it was April Showers time!

April Showers is a service project for the local Girl Scout troops. They collect personal care items, then distribute them to local shelters and food banks to pass them out to their clients. (Did you know that things like toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo can't be purchased with food stamps?  Could you live without them?  I couldn't.) 

The project lasts for two weeks.  The first day troops go door-to-door distributing bags. A week later, they return to collect the filled ones. On Wednesday I took my empty bag to the store and filled it, then set it on the table by the front door so I wouldn't forget about it.  This morning I moved the bag to the front porch. A couple of hours later when I looked out it was gone.

What an easy way to do a good deed.

Five years ago today: Don't Throw It, Grow It!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Who Wants To Dance?

Several of my Facebook friends, as well as a couple of businesses that I've 'liked', were kind enough to point out that today is National Pet Day. 

One of them suggested that in honor of the day I might want to give my cats a big hug and dance with them.  I was pretty sure I wouldn't have any takers for that idea, but I think I might be wrong.  Doesn't it look like Pepper's be ready to boogie?  Jackson, not so much.

Five years ago today: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A couple of days ago Kenya G. Johnson wrote about her "men" eating all the hummus she'd bought for herself.  I commented that I have an easy hummus recipe, and she encouraged me to post it.  Here you go, Kenya!

Several years ago I found a recipe for "lite" hummus in the newspaper.  The first time I made it I knew it was a keeper.  Now I do it so much I started buying bags of dried garbanzo beans from the ethnic market, which I cook and store in the freezer in recipe-sized containers.

 If you have a food processor, it takes less than five minutes to put together a batch.  The only exotic ingredient is tahini (sesame seed paste), which you'll find in the Middle Eastern aisle of the grocery store.  It's pricy, but important; the combination of chickpeas and  tahini creates a dish with all the essential ammino acids for a complete protein.

This recipe is very versatile.   Sometimes I add a couple of handfuls of fresh parsley or cilantro.  Roasted red peppers make the spread a beautiful red color.  To give it some heat you can include jalapenos or a spoonful of  chipotle.  Any way you make it it's great!

The basic recipe:
• 1 16 oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans (2 cups)
• 1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
• 3-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on taste)
• 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
Drain chickpeas and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas and olive oil. Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.

Five years ago today: The Search Is On

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A True Survivor

There are several patches of common orange daylilies (AKA ditch lilies) in my yard. I like them because they're effortless.  It doesn't matter how much or little rain and sun they get, they pretty much grow themselves and the critters don't eat them.

However, sometimes they're too hardy.  Last week I noticed several sprouts coming up in an area under the deck.  This area is covered with a heavy plastic barrier and rock, but the sprouts found a way to get through.   I poured salt on the baby lilies, and most of them succumbed.  One of them, though, laughed at the harsh treatment and continued to grow:

I dumped some more salt on it today. Wonder if it will work this time?

Five years ago today: Walk This Way

Monday, April 7, 2014

Yay! Opening Day

Today was the baseball Cardinals home opener game. In St. Louis, where we love our baseball, this day feels like an unofficial holiday.  Tickets to the game have been sold out for weeks, but even people who don't have tickets rearrange their schedules so they can watch the game and all the surrounding pageantry on TV.

The official Opening Day hoopla started at 10 with a dedication ceremony for the Cardinals Hall of Fame & Museum. That was followed by a pep rally outside the stadium from 11-2, and pregame ceremonies inside at 2:30, leading up to the start of the game at 3:15. However, there were also quite a few unofficial events that started as early as 9 AM, and many downtown bars and restaurants were hosting game viewing parties.  

Today's rainy and chilly weather was less than ideal for baseball.  That didn't seem to matter to the people I saw from my seat at the mall Customer Service desk.  I took an informal survey before lunch; in a ten-minute period 2/3 of the people who walked by were wearing a red shirt or something with the team logo on it.  In honor of the day I got out the Cardinal earrings that had been packed away since October to wear with my uniform white shirt and black pants.  As the day wore on, though, there were fewer 'red' sightings.  The real fans were either lucky enough to have a ticket for the game or were getting ready to watch it on TV somewhere.

I got off work at 3:00, and made it to my car just in time to hear the end of the opening ceremonies on the radio as I drove home. The rain made the field too wet for the appearance of the Budweiser Clydesdales, but the rest went off as planned.  The motorcades of Hall of Famers and current players.  The raising of the 2013 National League Champions banner.  The National Anthem.  The ceremonial first pitch.  Finally, the game.

Hubby Tony got home from work about the time I did. He turned the TV on and we spent the next few hours watching the game.  The final score was Cardinals 5, Reds 3.

Five years ago today: Celebrate Poetry

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Happy Or Sad?

As I settled into my seat next to Hubby Tony before Mass tonight I heard noises coming from the pew behind me.  The people sitting there were either laughing and trying (not too successfully) to stifle it or crying.  At first I couldn't tell which, but after a couple minutes I realized there was something they found really funny.

The quiet giggling would stop for a couple of seconds, then start all over again.  I tied to concentrate on studying the week's readings, but I really wanted to turn around and see what they were up to.  That would be rude, though, so I refrained.

Once Mass began they stopped.  When I sat back down after the opening prayer I tried to sneak an unobtrusive glance their way, but didn't have any luck.  It wasn't until the Sign of Peace I could legitimately turn around and look behind me.  The people turned out to be a normal-looking older couple. We shook hands with no mention of what had transpired earlier.

Five years ago today: Hair Fun

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Elderly Exercise

As a mall Customer Service desk worker I get to see all types of physical activities going on every day.  The most common are the walkers (some who stroll and some who power walk).  A second type are the groups of mothers that exercise with their babies in the mall.   The young women aren't the only ones doing organized movement, though.  There's another, more sedate group of senior citizens that also gather to get in shape.

Unlike the mommies the elder group stays in one place, setting up shop by a seating area in one of the far edges of the mall.  I only see them if I get a chance to walk around the mall before I open the desk.  In addition to an instructor, there's usually between eight and ten men and women. Most look like they're somewhere between 68 and 80 years old.

The young mothers have been reported to be rough on the mall seating, but the golden-agers are very respectful of it. I've seen them holding on to the backs of the chairs as they do leg lifts and toe stands.  One day they were striking a yoga 'tree' pose, several of them leaning against the seat for balance.  Today I heard the leader telling them to sit on the edge of their chair for tricep dips.

I've never heard any complaints about this group, and based on what I've seen I don't think I will.

Five years ago today: While I Wasn't Looking...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ten Unsung Siblings

I got this from a friend.  Have you heard of any of these people?
  • Bleda the Hun, elder brother of Attila
  • Paula Hitler, younger sister of Adolf
  • Maria Ulyanova, younger sister of Lenin
  • Caspar von Beethoven, unmusical brother of Ludwig
  • Gebhard Himmler, eldest brother of Heinrich
  • Henrietta Marx, younger sister of Karl
  • Feodor the not remotely Terrible, younger brother of Ivan
  • Pierre d'Arc, younger brother of Joan
  • Mao Zemin, little brother of Mao Zedong
  • Omm Omar Hussein, little sister of Saddam

Five years ago today: Coming Soon To A Neighborhood Near You

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mary Kay On The Mezzanine

One of the groups I belong to sponsors a workshop, and this year I'm chairing the organizing committee.  We've already done a lot of the preliminary work through emails and phone calls, and last night we had our first meeting.  The people on the committee live in different parts of the metropolitan area, so we met at a centrally located grocery store that has a community gathering area on a second floor mezzanine.

The area is quite nice.  There's a bar area in the middle, and tables off to the side. In one far end, behind a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows there's a cooking demonstration area, and in another corner a counter with a microwave and sink.

I got to the store early enough to buy some snacks to set out, then headed upstairs to push tables together.  Once everything was set up I got out my laptop to pass the time until the others arrived.  Shortly after I staked out my territory a woman showed up and rearranged the rest of the tables in a long row.  Soon a second woman joined her.  She was pushing a grocery cart loaded with pink and black bags .  When they took their coats off I noticed they had on black aprons with pink trim and the initials M-K embroidered in pink. When they started talking about makeup I realized the M-K stood for Mary Kay. They were saleswomen!

More women showed up and joined them.  Soon all the chairs around the tables were filled. I couldn't tell if it was a facial party or a recruiting event for prospective new consultants, but when the women all lined up at the sink to use the water for hand treatments it looked strange.  I'd choose a less public place!

Once my meeting started I lost track of what the Mary Kay women were doing, but they were still going at it when we wrapped up and I left for the night.

Five years ago today: Observations