Monday, June 30, 2014

Sneaky, Sneaky, Sneaky!

The other day on my way to work I saw a plain 'muscle' car (probably a Dodge Charger) parked haphazardly on the shoulder. There was a spare tire laying on the ground behind the car.  It looked like a disabled vehicle until you got close and saw the searchlight folded against the vehicle next to the side mirror and the radar gun sticking out of the window. It was a police car!

Even though I gave up my gas pedal lead foot several years ago and now make an effort to drive at the speed limit I still nervously glanced at the speedometer.  When I realized I wasn't going too fast I relaxed.

That officer was darn pretty sneaky.

Five years ago today: Need For Speed

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Art Can Be Anywhere

Earlier in the month I noticed a large colorful box at a corner of an intersection along Manchester Road, a major county arterial not too far from my house. It had been decorated with large sunflowers against a blue sky and fluffy white cloud background.  Then a couple of days later I saw another box which featured a river winding through a green fields with a huge yellow sun in the corner, and then a third box that had a huge hummingbird sipping from a flower.  There was no explanation of how or why they came to be there.

A couple of days ago when I was leafing though a copy of a community newspaper I came across an article that explained the new works of art.  I found out that the six traffic signal boxes had been painted as part of a public art project.  

This morning Hubby Tony and I walked along the stretch of Manchester (which is about a mile long) and looked at all the boxes.  Five of the six boxes were on the north side of the road.  When we reached the last one, we crossed the street and doubled back on the south side.  The artists really did a good job of classing up the plain grey metal surfaces.

Fish box
Five years ago today: Plant or Weed?

Friday, June 27, 2014

When Grandma Goes To Court

A friend sent this to me.  According to Snopes, it's a legend (attributed to British author Charlie Walker), but even if it's not true it is funny.
When Grandma Goes To Court

Lawyers should never ask a Mississippi grandma a question if they aren't prepared for the answer.

In a trial, a Southern small-town prosecuting attorney called his first witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand. He approached her and asked "Mrs. Jones, do you know me?" She responded, "Why yes I do know you since you were a little boy, and frankly you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think your a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you'll never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes I know you.

The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?

She replied, "Why yes I do. I've known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem, He can't build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him."

The defense attorney nearly died.

The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice said:

"If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I'll send you both to the electric chair."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Got Futbol Fever?

Today the USA soccer team played Germany in their third World Cup tournament pool game, which  determined whether the Americans would go home or proceed to the next round.

In the United States soccer doesn't have as many fans as other professional sports, but Sunday night's game against Portugal broke a TV watching record.  St. Louis, where I live, has a rich soccer history; according to Wikipedia  every U.S. team in World Cup history has included at least one St. Louisan on its roster.  Many area churches have CYC youth teams, there are dozens of select teams available, and the indoor fields are doing a booming business with youngsters, teens, and adults.  

Today's game very conveniently started at 11:00, when many people were eating lunch--or could take a longer-than-usual break.  Right at 10:00 I had someone asking where they'd be showing the game. I checked with the sit down restaurants, who all said they'd have it on in the bar area.  (Later I heard that a couple of the stores were also streaming the game.)

At this time of year the mall isn't busy when the stores open, but usually foot traffic quickly picks up. Not today. The shoppers strolling by were few and far between.  As one woman told me when she came up to ask about viewing opportunities, this game was "a matter of national pride".  Although I didn't watch the game at the Customer Service desk, I had a browser tab open, and updated it on a regular basis so I could keep up with the score.  All in the interest of customer service, of course!

There were all types of scenarios under which the USA team could move on, so even though they lost today there will be another game. They'll play Belgium next Tuesday at 3:00.  I'll be at work again. Wonder how many people will be in the mall?

Five years ago today: Be Cool

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Grid Perfection

My newspaper runs a page of puzzles every day of the week.  The page includes two crosswords-one from the New York Times and one by an unidentified constructor.  I usually see how many squares of both puzzles I can fill in.  Some days I have better luck than others.  (Did you know that the New York Times crossword becomes increasingly difficult throughout the week, with the easiest one on Monday?)

I prefer to do my answering in pencil, but if one's not available I'll use a pen and write over the incorrect letters as necessary.   Sometimes when I get done there's so many corrections it's hard to figure out the actual answers, but since I'm the only one looking at it so it doesn't matter.

It's not often I can finish a puzzle with NO changes, but it happened today.  In ink.  I was pretty pleased with myself.


Five years ago today: Public Service Announcement

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rain On Me

Does your neighborhood need rain?  If so, maybe you should invite me to come and do my outdoor activities at your house, because the last few days I seem to be doing a good job of making it soggy here:
  • Friday after dinner Hubby Tony and I decided to go to Dairy Queen for ice cream, a 30 minute walk.  About halfway there the sky started to cloud up, and as we ate it continued to darken.  Despite a few ominous thunder rumbles, when we finished we decided to head home.  The raindrops started to fall as we walked across the parking lot.  We made it to a Walgreen's two block away, where we stood under an awning and called Son Donald to come get us.
  • Saturday night we went out to dinner in Clayton, a city about a half-hour east of the house.  We planned on strolling through a nearby neighborhood after we ate.  Once again, the sky started to cloud up (this time right after we ordered our pizza).  However, when we finished eating it didn't look too bad, so we decided to modify our walk and stay on streets close to the car.  Over the next half hour we watched the sky darken.  We were five minutes away from the car when  the wind picked up and we picked up our pace, getting back to the car just as the first drops came down.  
  • Sunday morning I woke up and decided it would be a good day to get out on my bike.  I could even incorporate a trip to the grocery store for a couple of things we needed for dinner as part of the trip.  I put on appropriate clothes and came downstairs.  My plans were changed by the  rumbles of thunder I heard.  The sun eventually came out, but by then I wasn't in the mood for an extended ride (although Tony and I did bike to the grocery store for the missing ingredients).
  • Yesterday Tony had a meeting and didn't come home after work.  I ate dinner, then decided to do yard work. The sky was cloudy, but I checked the hourly forecast and saw there was only a 40 percent chance of rain.   Can you guess what happened when I got outside?  As soon as I started working the drops started falling.  I went inside.   It stopped, so I tried again.  It started again.  This time the rain was more of a drizzle, so I kept working and didn't bother to come in.
My area isn't usually this rainy in June, but there's a good chance for more precipitation later in the week.  What outdoor activities should I plan?

Five years ago today: Geographically Challenged?

Monday, June 23, 2014

How Sweet It Is

Last week I was at a garden shop looking through the plant clearance section where all the small pots of herbs were on sale.  One of them was a very leggy stevia plant. I knew that stevia is a sweetener that's showing up in more and more food and drinks, but that's where my knowledge of it ended. The price was right, though, and I decided to buy the plant, thinking that I could experiment with producing my own sweetener.

I came home and did some research, which revealed that Stevia rebaudiana is a tender perennial that's native to Paraguay and other tropical areas of the Americas where its use goes back to ancient times.  In our area it's treated as an annual. Stevia the sweetner is derived from the plant. It has zero calories and can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar.

After I learned about the herb's needs I repotted my plant into a larger pot and set the pot in the back yard between the compost bin and the tomato plants. To encourage it to branch out I cut off the long stems, then decided to use the prunings as my first foray into making stevia. I bundled the stems together and hung them upside down in the laundry room to dry. When they were dry I stripped the leaves off, ground them in a spice mill, then pressed them through a sieve.

The resulting green powder looked fine enough, but instead of dissolving in my coffee it unattractively floated on top. Instead of giving up I decided to try making liquid stevia. I added water to the powder and let it steep for a day, then poured the liquid through a coffee filter. The brownish liquid was sweet enough, but I thought it had a chemical aftertaste which reminded me of the Sweet and Low liquid my dad used back in the 1960s.

I couldn't figure out why my stevia sweetner tasted so much different than what I'd had in the little green packets, but then I learned that some stevia brands aren't all herb-they contain fillers and added ingredients that make them taste more like sugar. Pure stevia sweetner is an acquired taste.  Since my plant is thriving in our hot, humid summer weather I should be able to harvest more leaves and see if I can acquire that taste.

Five years ago today: Drink Up

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Making Pasta For Fun

A couple of weeks ago I cleaned out the cabinets under the island and found my old hand-cranked pasta machine.  When I showed it to Son Donald he said he'd really like to try making fresh pasta.  Today we did.

Check out the vintage packaging!
I'm not sure exactly when I acquired the pasta machine, but I know it was before the boys were born when I had time to be a really adventurous cook.  Back then I subscribed to Bon App├ętit and Food and Wine magazines and a Time-Life book series called The Good Cook. I'd read each of them cover to cover, then try out the concepts and recipes that sounded interesting.  Eventually I had less time and inclination to put together elaborate meals so a lot of the doo-dads and accessories got donated or shoved (like the pasta machine) to the dark corners of the kitchen. 

Today Donald and I used a pasta recipe from Mario Batali which calls for two ingredients: flour and eggs. I did the initial mixing, then divided the dough into two sections so both Donald and I could knead. After the kneading was done we set the dough aside to rest. 

I clamped the machine to the table and turned the dial to the widest setting while Donald divided the dough into sections. We took turns feeding each section through the machine several times, then began to roll them thinner by turning the dial to progressively narrower settings. We were having so much fun that Hubby Tony got in on the act, too.

The finished product
After everything was the correct thickness we used the blades to cut the pasta into fettuccine noodles, laid them on a cookie sheet, and set the sheet in the microwave to dry (because I was concerned that the cats might like to sample our work.)  When it was time for dinner I cooked the noodles in salted water for five minutes, then sauced them with a simple crock pot sauce of jarred marinara, stew beef, green peppers, onions, garlic, and canned tomatoes.  We passed the Parmesan and a marinated broccoli salad at the table

The noodles were thick and chewy, almost like an egg noodle dumpling.  It was very good, but next time we'll choose to roll it thinner.  And according to Donald, there   will be a next time!

Five years ago today: Why Not?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Just Another One Of The Crowd

A while back son Brian sent me a link to a website called NamePlayground, which is a fascinating look at first names in the United States since the 1800s.  One of the things it allows you to do is search for a specific name.  Thanks to the site (which uses information compiled by the Social Security Administration), I learned that the average age of women named Kathy is 54.64. The name's popularity peaked one year before I was born, when it was the 14th most popular name in the country.  After that it went downhill pretty fast; less than three percent of women under the age of 30 share my name.

What about you?  Is your name common or unique for your age group?

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I was at my post at the mall Customer Service desk today when a boy in his late teens or early 20s walked by tapping a white cane--the international symbol of blindness. Every so often he'd stop, cock his head, and listen to what was going on before he started walking again.  Trailing behind him was a man with a clipboard. Whenever the boy would stop the man would ask him a question, referring to the cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west) in relation to where the student was standing.

The man with the clipboard looked over my way, then came and said hello.  I learned he was the boy's mobility specialist who was helping him learn the skills he needed to be independent and get around on his own.  One of the things his student had to do was learn how to ask for assistance, so the next time the boy walked by his teacher told him the next task was to find a specific ATM in the mall; how would he go about doing that?  After a short period with no response the man continued that there was a desk nearby with a person who could give him the answer.

The boy shyly asked me where to find his destination.  I gave him directions, trying to use the same directional words I'd heard earlier, and referred to the pretzel store that would smell good as he passed by.  However, I have to admit I also used my hands to point, which of course was useless to a blind person.  The boy thanked me and was on his way.  His instructor told him he was confident he could find it and he'd be there in a few minutes.

Later in the afternoon when a teenage girl holding a cane came up and asked me where she could find the same ATM I knew what was going on.  Sure enough, after I'd given her directions (this time with much less pointing) and she was on her way I saw the mobility specialist.  He stopped and asked me if I'd seen his client, then continued the same direction she'd gone.

Five years ago today: Hallmark Moment

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

White And Bright Nails

I did some weed pulling tonight after dinner and came inside with dirt lodged under my fingernails and ground into my cuticles.  Even after I washed my hands my nails looked dingy.

Rather than put up with shabby nails I decided to treat myself to a quick homemade nail brightener.  I made a slurry using three teaspoons of baking soda and two teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide.  I dipped my nails into the mixture until they were covered, and made sure it also got underneath the nail tips.  After I massaged the gritty baking soda into my nails and cuticles I let it set for five minutes, then rinsed it off.

When I was done the nails were much cleaner and brighter, and (as an added bonus) my cuticles had also been exfoliated.

Five years ago today: Dehydration

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Phone Vs Phone

Eighteen months ago when I got a new phone I switched from an iPhone to a Windows operating system.  After a short learning curve I grew to like the phone. It had a bigger screen, but it fit nicely in my purse and was easy to hold in my hand. Syncing my Outlook calendar to my phone calendar worked spectacularly. (Since both the phone and the software came from the same company that was to be expected.)

Strangely enough, though, after a couple of months syncing became problematic.  My computer wanted to send everything through the 'cloud' first and somewhere along the line the information got misplaced and didn't come back down to my phone properly.  I chatted online with a couple of Microsoft technicians, and posted my problem on a forum, but never got a definitive answer from either source.   Things got better, then they got worse again. Several months ago I stopped trying and figured I'd grin and bear it until my contract was up, but when I fell and broke the phone screen last month getting a new phone became a priority.

Son Brian came to my rescue. He was upgrading to a newer phone for work and over the weekend he gifted me his iPhone 4. I stopped into the phone store last night, where they transferred the SIM card and moved my contacts from old phone to new.  When I got home I plugged the phone into my computer and restored and updated the information and apps that had been waiting patiently for me on iTunes, then synced my calendar to the phone. This morning I started a Words With Friends game with Hubby Tony. (The game didn't have an app for the Windows phone. We'd tried playing online, but the process was clunky and I gave up.)

Despite the calendar issues and the paucity of apps for the Widows phone there are some things I really liked. I'm already missing the start screen resizeable tiles and the multiple options for customizing the screen, the keyboard auto-complete which is much more intutitive with word suggestions, and the 'back' arrow, which is more like what I'm used to on my computer.

I'm betting that soon the Windows phone experiment will be a distant memory.

Five years ago today: Cushioning

Monday, June 16, 2014

Deliberately Discourteous

“No one is more insufferable than he who lacks basic courtesy.”― Bryant McGill

I was working at the mall Customer Service desk today when an expensively-dressed man bustled up to me.  He was holding a phone in his hand and rudely asked where he could get it looked at.

I glanced at the phone and noticed it was an Android model from a carrier that doesn't have a store or kiosk in the mall. As I was trying to think of a polite way to tell him we wouldn't be able to help him, he looked at me like I was simpleminded and asked in an insulting voice where the Apple store was.

I wasn't going to be rude back to him, so I just smiled as I pointed him towards the Apple store.  Without a thank you he turned on his heel and was on his way. I would have liked to have heard the conversation between him and the Apple associate who had to point out his mistake.

Five years ago today: Not-So Brown Bag

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Grocery Bags Can Carry More Than Food

Yesterday I bought several packages of meat at the grocery store.  At the checkout I had them put the meat into the reusable bag I'd brought in with me.  One of the packages hadn't been wrapped well and some meat juice seeped onto the nylon bag.  Normally when that happens I just spot-wash the bag well with soapy water and let it dry, but when I realized it had been a while since any of my bags had been thoroughly cleaned I decided to throw them all into the washer and take care of the job all at once..

Did you know that reusable grocery bags get dirty?  I didn't until I heard about a 2010 study from the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in California that found food-borne bacteria like E. coli in as many as in half of the bags they sampled.  Some sources recommend you wash the bags after each use; others recommend weekly or monthly cleanings.   My bags hadn't been done within even the longest time frame.

I have a motley collection of bags (which I store folded inside a tote bag) that I've acquired from a variety of sources.  The ones that are shaped like paper bags with flat bottoms and sturdy handles get used on every shopping trip.  Several others are pulled out on big grocery store runs, and a couple of them hardly ever get unfolded.

Half of the bags are made out of polypropylene, and I turned those inside out as I threw them into the washing machine. The rest of the bags are cotton or cotton blends. I didn't bother turning them. When the load was done the natural-fiber bags went in the dryer. I hung the others outside on the deck chairs. The weather was warm, and it didn't take long for them to dry.  I folded all the bags and put them back into the car, where they're waiting for tomorrow's grocery shopping trip.

Five years ago today: Gluten For Pun-ishment

Friday, June 13, 2014

Trying To Herd Cats?

I watched this video of a mother cat trying to keep her kittens from going down the slide the other day.  It was the funniest thing I'd seen all week and gives new meaning to the phrase 'trying to herd cats'

Five years ago today: Wide-Ranging

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Clean And Pristine

The carpets in our house were already due for a cleaning when Jackson the Cat had a misadventure a couple of weeks ago that led to a cracked nail on his front paw.  As a result of his injury there were tiny cat blood spots in my bedroom and on the stairs, and the job moved up to the top of the house To-Do list.

One of the main reason I hadn't had the job done was time. With my work schedule it's hard for me to come up with a long enough block of it during the week (and even though they'd come on the weekend, I didn't want to use my free time being stuck inside the house). To solve the issue I usually have the job done in two parts-the lower level and stairs in one appointment, followed down the line by a second appointment for the upper level. However, Hubby Tony volunteered to work from home one day and quarterback the cleaning so I gratefully took him up on his offer.  He set up an appointment for the whole house to be done yesterday.

Tuesday night we removed as much of the furniture as we could. The cats were fascinated by all the changes, especially the tables we stacked in the dining room. They were less captivated when we interrupted their morning nap on Wednesday to carry them down to the basement. When we closed the door behind them they tried to escape, but we assured them they'd want to be out of the way once the cleaners arrived with their loud machine.

The technicians were scheduled to be there at 9:00, but they were knocking on the door fifteen minutes before that. right as I was leaving for work.  When I came home six hours later the house was closed up and the ceiling fans in the family room and bedrooms were running to circulate the air. I reminded Tony about the two box fans in the basement, which he brought up and set in different spots on the main level to get additional ventilation. They're very noisy, and you could hear the rumble all throughout the house.

The cats were out of the basement.  They were annoyed by the indignity of getting their paws wet on the damp carpet, and the rumbling background noises had them on edge. Tony and I solved the noise problem by going out to dinner and running a couple of errands. When we arrived home the 'boys' weren't any happier. When we went to bed we moved the box fans upstairs and set each in a spare bedroom, where their rumbling had ME on edge.

I know from experience that it takes a long time for the carpet to be completely dry, so having the whole house done during the warm weather may not have been the best idea. In the middle of the night I woke up (and had trouble getting back to sleep) because my skin felt sticky from all the humidity in the air. The moisture also meant that this morning my towel was still damp from yesterday's shower, as were the knee-high hose I'd washed and hung up after work yesterday.

The spare bedrooms were pretty dry, so I moved the fans back down to the main level before I left for work today. When I got back home most of the carpet was dry; I placed the fans back downstairs to finish the job off.  I can't wait to vacuum the carpet and start putting things back where they belong.
A side note--yesterday when I came home from work I went upstairs to change my clothes and saw both cats were in the bedroom. One of them (as usual, the culprit wasn't confessing to the deed) had left a hairball on the bedspread. I guess the carpet was too wet.  Either that or he did it out of respect for my feelings because he knew how frustrated I'd be to see it on the pristine carpet.
Five years ago today: Official?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Service Is Denied

After I ate my breakfast I sat at the computer to check emails, Facebook, and all the blog posts that had accumulated overnight.  I got through the first two just fine, but when I tried to refresh Feedly (my news aggregator) nothing happened.   I tried a couple more times and got the same result.

A quick Google search told me why.  They'd been attacked!  As their blog explained:
"Criminals are attacking feedly with a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS). The attacker is trying to extort us money to make it stop. We refused to give in and are working with our network providers to mitigate the attack as best as we can."
The post went on to say that as soon as the attack is neutralized they'll be up and running again.   I'm glad Feedly's not giving in to the 'bad guys', and I hope it doesn't take them too long to come out on top.

Five years ago today: No More Indoor Dust Storms

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Muted Movement

It's been three weeks since I sprained my wrist.  Now it's pretty much back to normal, but once or twice a day I'll do something that reminds me it still isn't completely healed.  The chiropractor told me I should move the joint on a regular basis, so I researched wrist exercises and I'm trying to do them a couple of times each day.

Yesterday and today have been very slow at the Customer Service desk, and I decided to take the opportunity to do some discreet wrist strengthening.  If you had walked by at the right time you would have noticed me flexing my fingers, rolling my wrist, and doing wrist stretches with my eyes peeled for anyone walking my way.

Five years ago today: Nibble And Nosh

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tear It Up

Hubby Tony is helping to organize an event at church that will take place next month.  Last week he created a registration form and submitted it to the office for publication.  When I opened up the bulletin on Sunday his form was on the bottom half of the left middle page.  I know he hopes everyone will register right away, but just in case the form will also appear on the parish website, and for the next few weeks he'll have extra copies in the office and church vestibule.  He's making it easy for people to sign up!

This afternoon I did a double take when he walked in the door carrying a huge stack of church bulletins.  I asked him what was going on; he said he realized that instead of making copies he could take his form out of the extras that were going to be recycled.  That would save money and be 'green'.

After dinner he left for a meeting.  I was looking for a mindless activity to do, and decided to help him out by tearing out the page he needed.  Soon I had an assembly line going.  First, open the bulletins and lay them face down.  Next, rip the whole thing in half. Put the correct page in one pile and put the rest in another.  Repeat.  I was almost done with the job when Tony got home.  With his help the job was finished quickly.

Now all he has to do is cut each page in half and put the copies in the right places.

Five years ago today: The Famous Question

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bathrooms and Budgets

 Our house is about 25 years old.  We've already done a couple of upgrades to it, and the next one in the queue is renovating the master bathroom.

Some of the room's issues are cosmetic The polished brass finish on the light fixtures, faucets, and shower frame is starting to wear off.  One of the two integrated sinks in the cultured marble counter top is cracked, and the vinyl floor has a couple of stains.  However, the shower needs some major work. The pan is permanently stained, the grout between the tiles is cracking, and a few of the tiles are coming loose.

One day last month after a trip to the gym I stopped at a nearby kitchen and bath showroom to look around.  There were so many options I left more confused than when I walked in!  The store has a monthly kitchen and bathroom renovation seminar which I thought it might help unconfuse me, so I signed up to attend.  Yesterday morning Hubby Tony and I were sitting in the company's classroom along with about a dozen other people. 

The (very interesting) seminar covered things that would be applicable for someone doing either a kitchen or a bathroom--types of cabinet woods, counter top materials, and cabinet construction.  It was eye-opening in terms of expected cost and job completion time.  Did you know that according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association you should budget 5-10% of your house's value on a bathroom renovation?  It was shocking news to me; we'll be spending much closer to the lower amount.  I thought since we wouldn't be doing anything crazy in the room it would be an easy job, but I learned that things like replacing a shower and counter tops pushes the job into the 'major' category, which could take three to four weeks!

Based on what we learned yesterday, we're taking some baby steps toward getting the job done.  I've started browsing home improvement websites to get an idea of what we want in the room and we'll set up an initial appointment with the showroom to get their input, although I'm not sure we'll use their services.  The job will get done when it gets done; we've lived with the room as it is for so long, I don't know that a month or so more will make that much of a difference.

Five years ago today: Nighty Night

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Happy National Chocolate Ice Cream Day!

Did you know that June 7 is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day?  In honor of the event, Hubby Tony stopped for cones after our trip to the gym.

Coconut Chocolate Almond and Chocolate Peanut Butter

Five years ago today: Tower of Goodies

Friday, June 6, 2014

Instant Garden

It's been a crazy spring for planting around here. I usually aim for getting the few tomato and pepper plants that pass for a 'garden' in the ground around Mother's Day.  We were busy that weekend and it didn't happen, which is a good thing.  The next day the temperatures took a tumble and for the next week it was much cooler than average. About the time it warmed back up again I sprained my wrist and couldn't do any digging in the dirt.

I had resigned myself to having nothing growing this year, but earlier in the week I noticed the temporary garden store next to Aldi was having a 'buy one get one free' sale (their sell-off before they close for the year).  By time I got there yesterday things were already pretty picked over.  However, at the far end of one of the greenhouses they had some healthy-looking tomato and pepper plants growing in 8" pots.  The original price of five dollars seemed a bit steep, but at half that I could get nice large specimens that already had tiny fruits:

See the baby tomatoes?

I bought two pepper plants and two tomatoes (one each standard and cherry).  I also got some small geraniums (they were buy one get THREE free).  When I got home I decided I wanted more, so this morning I went back for two more tomato plants.  After lunch Son Donald helped me ready the ground and plant everything.  Now, if I can fend off the critters I'll be harvesting yummy produce later in the summer.

Original purchase waiting to be planted

Five years ago today: Mow, Mow, Mow Your Lawn

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


An organization I belong to is doing outreach to let people know what we're about. They had informational bookmarks made and asked anyone who was interested to hand them out, or place them in public areas where people could pick them up.  I took a few and made a game of figuring out who to give them to and where to put them.

Soon I was down to just one, which I decided to locate somewhere in the mall.  I just had to figure out where.  The cleaning people do a great job of keeping the mall clutter-free.  If I set my bookmark on one of the tables or in the bathroom it would be quickly tossed out; they wouldn't even look at it. After a little thought I realized that the soda machine that I walk by on my way into and out of the mall would be a good choice.  Two days ago on my way into work I stuck the rectangular piece of card stock in the chute where the bottle comes out. iI would be easily visible there to anyone purchasing a soda.

I congratulated myself of my cleverness, but when I left work today the bookmark was still there. It looks like I underestimated the popularity of bottled sodas.  I guess most people get their beverages in cups from one of the mall food vendors.

Five years ago today: The Search Is Over

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Computer Assistant

Pepper the cat thinks any computer project goes a little bit better with feline help.

Five years ago today: Get Your Kicks

Monday, June 2, 2014

Java On Ice

I have two cups of coffee each day--one with breakfast, and a second mid-afternoon (or after I get home from work).  During the summer, instead of having the afternoon cup hot I pour it over ice.   That does the trick, but the result is nowhere as good as coffee-shop quality iced coffee.

Last week I found a recipe for cold-brewed coffee, which is made specifically for iced drinks.  The recipe looked easy (there were only two ingredients) but time consuming (twelve or more hours of setting time, plus extra time to filter out the grounds).  I finally got around to making some last night,  strained it this morning before I left for work, and put it in the refrigerator to chill.  This afternoon I made a glass using skim milk and agave.  YUM-O!  My drink was smooth, rich, and flavorful. 

I can't wait to have another cup tomorrow.

Cold-Brewed Coffee

For coffee:
3/4 cup Ground Coffee
3 cups of room temperature water

For serving:
Milk, half and half, or water
Sweetener (simple syrup, agave, or honey)

Place the coffee grounds in a pitcher, add the water, and stir to combine. Cover and let set at room temperature for 12-24 hours. (The longer the time, the stronger the finished result).

Fit a coffee filter into a fine sieve and place sieve on top of a clean pitcher. Slowly pour coffee through the filter, then discard the grounds.

Chill until ready to serve. For each cup, pour 1 part coffee and 1 part milk, half and half, or water  over ice.  Sweeten to taste.

Five years ago today: Be Careful What You Wish For-You Just Might Get It

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Weekend Updates

In case you were interested in the outcomes of a few of my past subjects:
  • Two months ago I was at a baby shower where I received a miniature rose bush for a party favor.  I had to put it in the family room so the cats couldn't get to it.  It didn't get any sun there. After just a couple of days the bush wasn't thriving, so I moved it to an east-facing windowsill in the kitchen.  With all the heat there it needed to be watered frequently.  I forgot to take care of the job before I left town for a weekend, and when I came back the plant had died.  It went into the compost pile.
  • The neighbor's cedar fence had a broken board that had fallen into our yard.  Since they wouldn't be able to see it I wondered if I should say something.  I eventually decided I'd wait until I saw someone outside at their house.  It took several weeks, but I finally relayed the message.  They thanked me for letting them know.
  • At the end of April I took off the flannel sheets and put new microfiber sheets on the bed.  Several people (including me) wondered if they'd be comfortable once the weather got warm.  Right after I made the switch, the nighttime temperatures dipped back into the chilly zone, but last week it got warm enough to turn on the air conditioner.  So far the sheets have been comfortable, but I'm hoping we don't have any really hot weather this summer to test them.
Five years ago today: Hand. Hand. Foot. Foot.