Sunday, May 31, 2015

First Name Game

Back in November of 2009 a friend challenged me to complete the Last Name Game. It was a fun challenge to come up with answers to the game categories that started with the first letter of my last name.  Fast forward to today, when I received a similar invitation.  However, this time the answers had to start with the first letter of my FIRST name.  Most of them were easy to come up with,  but I really had to think about a couple.

If you try it, let me know how you do.
  • First name: Kathy
  • An animal: Kangaroo
  • A boys name: Kyle
  • A girls name: Kristen
  • An occupation: Kindergarten Teacher
  • A color: Kelly Green
  • Something you wear: Khakis
  • A drink: Kombucha Tea
  • A type of food: Kale
  • Something found in the bathroom: Kleenex
  • A place: Kathmandu
  • A reason to be late: Keys Missing
  • Something you shout out: Kirbibble!
Five years ago today: To Market, To Market

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wet Grass. Bare Feet. Marvelous!

All day long I did adult things...I scheduled work for the next couple of weeks, cooked lunch and cleaned up, did laundry, and attended a meeting with Hubby Tony to plan an event that's happening this fall.  After the meeting we came home and I shredded a pile of papers for Tony, who's been cleaning up the filing cabinets in the office.

Each time the bin filled up I took it outside and spread the shreds around the tomato and pepper plants that constitute my garden this year.  The intermittent rain we've had the past two days was coming down once again. During the last trip I walked out to reach the far corner of the garden strip, and the moisture oozed in between my flip flops and my feet.  It felt really good, and made me realize I hadn't walked in the wet grass for a very long time.  Tonight would be a great time to change do just that.

I came inside, dropped off the shredder bin, and told Tony if he was looking for me I'd be outside.  I left my shoes by the front door, then stepped back into the natural world.  

The past week has been perfect for growing things, and the grass (and weeds) were tall and luxuriant.  I walked across the front yard, stopping to pull up a couple of tiny maple tree sprouts, then headed to the back.  The yard was soft and spongy, and made a squishing noise as I walked across it.   I strolled along a mole run, which felt really strange with bare feet.  When I reached a molehill, the mud squeezed up between my toes.  it felt so good I did it a second time.

The area by the sewer tends to be wetter than the rest of the yard.  Tonight it was saturated!  I stood in a large puddle of water for a couple of minutes, then headed back towards the house.  When I reached the front door my feet were wet and covered with mud and grass clippings.  Since I was returning to the adult world, I stopped to remove the mess before I went back inside.

Five years ago today: Stand For Stan

Thursday, May 28, 2015

When They Said Seven Days They Meant It!

For Mother's Day this year I received a bouquet of flowers from ProFlowers. The arrangement of pink tulips and blue iris was beautiful, and guaranteed to last for seven days.  I cared for them according to the directions, but in the middle of the week the iris looked past their prime and the tulip petals were falling off left and right.  I threw the stalks into the compost pile, then sent an email to the company letting them know.

The next day I was pleasantly surprised to receive a response from their Customer Care department, which indicated I could get a replacement for the original order, a different item of equal or lessor value, or a coupon to use at one of their related brands.  It took me a couple of days to decide what I wanted. The original bouquet was no longer featured on their website, so I decided to go with a arrangement of 20 multi-colored tulips.

My new order was delivered yesterday.  When I opened the long, skinny box I found all of the tulips were in bud form (just like they were the first time). I placed the the bouquet in a vase with water and waited. This is what they looked like today:

The pastel colors look great on my kitchen table. I hope this arrangement lasts as long as it's supposed to.

Five years ago today: If The Shoe Fits

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Gutters, Gutters, Who's Got The Gutters?

It was the first week of April when our area had a massive hail storm, and a month later when we received a check from our insurance company for some minor house damage from that storm.  Since that time I've been looking for gutter, painting/staining, and carpentry contractors to do the repair work.

For each type of work I contacted several companies that had good reviews on Angie's List, then waited for them to get back to me with estimates.  It's the busy season for outdoor home repair and many of our jobs were small, so it was a challenge to find someone who was willing.  Finally I got a gutter company, and when one of the painters agreed to take care of the carpentry, too I jumped on his offer.  Last week I signed both contracts. Each company told me the jobs would be scheduled around the weather; on average May is the wettest month in our area, and in the past week days without any chance of rain have been hard to come by. None of the work was critical, though, so I was in no particular hurry.

This afternoon the doorbell rang.  When I answered it I saw a man, wearing a t-shirt with the logo of the gutter company, who told me they were here to do the work.  I was pleasantly surprised, but also annoyed that the main office hadn't called in advance.  Fortunately I'd already done all my errands for the day and had the afternoon free to stay at home.

The installers parked their large truck right in front of my driveway, set up their equipment behind it, and got to work.  Three hours later the old gutters were gone and the new ones were pretty much installed.  Unfortunately, they'd discovered a rotten board on one of the front eaves and couldn't hang that portion of the gutter. They'll have to make another trip to replace the board and finish the job.  However, there's a 50 percent chance of rain tomorrow and a 60 percent chance on Friday so I don't know just when that trip will happen.

Five years ago today: Handy Laundry Guide

Monday, May 25, 2015

One Project, Two Hacks

I love reading about household tips or hacks that let you do things easier.  Today I came across the post 21“Sweet” (Non-Food) Uses for Sugar at One Good Thing by Jillee. Some of the uses I already knew, but others were new to me. For example, I learned that you could clean a coffee or spice grinder by grinding sugar in it.  The theory is that the sugar will absorb and clean out the oil that has built up in the machine.

Hubby Tony got a new coffee grinder last Christmas. We only treat ourselves to bean coffee on the weekend, so the grinder doesn't get heavy use, but as far as I knew it hadn't ever been thoroughly cleaned. I decided to give the sugar treatment a try.  It only took a couple of minutes to run a scoopful of sugar through the grinder, but in the interest of getting the innards really clean I disassembled the grinder and used an old toothbrush on the crevices.

When I was done I had a container of dirty sugar that smelled just like coffee:

Clean grinder - dirty sugar
Instead of just throwing it away, I decided to incorporate the sugar into a scrub and use it on my cracked heels. I decided to do the exfoliation outside to cut down on the mess, so after I carried everything to the back patio I mixed a little olive oil into the sugar, massaged it all over my heels, then rinsed it off with water. It made my heels feel and smell great.

Ready to go!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

'How To Make Mistakes And Miss The Voice Within'

This afternoon I was tidying up my Inbox, getting rid of some emails and moving others into folders.  Tucked way back on the third page I found a message that contained words of wisdom from Sacred Threshold: Crossing the Inner Barrier to a Deeper Love by the spiritual writer Paula D’Arcy.  The words were so inspiring I thought I'd share them with you:
Guaranteed Ways to Miss the Hidden God (or, How to Make Mistakes and Miss the Voice Within)
  1. LIVE your life at high speed. No exceptions. Run hard.
  2. STAY scattered and distracted. The more clutter and activity, the better.
  3. TAKE everything personally. Never evaluate. Agree.
  4. USE blame liberally. It's so invigorating. I wasn't responsible, you were. Everything's your fault.
  5. DON'T laugh, especially at yourself.
  6. STAY tied to your past. Elevate it to greatness. Live remembering and longing. Or missing. Why do it halfway? Go for it.
  7. USE the word 'because.' 'I can't change, because.' Because is so little appreciated as a solvent for responsibility. Try using because. This will work.
  8. NEVER question or think for yourself. Just keep moving and accepting. (Refer to #1 and #3.)
  9. CONTINUE to think of God as invisible and distant. Surely not present in this room. At this moment. Not while I'm reading a book.
  10. REINFORCE the belief that your life is going to happen soon. This is not it, not yet. But one day. Maybe when I finish reading.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Howdy! Welcome!

A friend of mine is on the planning committee for a convention this weekend.  Her schedule is jam-packed with last minute details, so she asked me to pick up one of the convention speakers at the airport today.

I have no idea what the woman looks like, so I'll be standing just outside the secure area holding up a sign with her name on it.  I see that all the time when I'm in airports, so it must work.

Five years ago today: All Done

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


After breakfast I was supposed to be gearing up for today's house-window-washing extravaganza, but instead I was getting distracted by all the new things waiting for me online.  (Ten new emails in my inbox!  Eighteen new blog posts in my reader!  Thirty one new status updates on Facebook!)  I justified my preoccupation by telling myself I was just waiting for the angle of the sun to change so the kitchen windows didn't get all streaky when I clean them, but I knew that really wasn't true.  I was just having trouble getting motivated.

As I scrolled through all those new Facebook updates I saw that several friends had posted their results from a test called Which Side Of Your Brain Is More Dominant?.  I decided it couldn't hurt for me to see what it was about, too. (All in the interest of knowing more about myself, right?  Definitely not to waste more time!) The quiz had questions about a turning figure, choosing colors, picking out the most appealing picture from an array, which picture was similar to another, which direction I crossed my hands and legs, and which eye was dominant.

Based on the quick test, I found out that neither side of my brain is more dominant; I use both sides equally.

The information interesting but try as I might I couldn't figure out how to apply the results to my cleaning task for the day, so I reluctantly moved away from the computer and got to work.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

How Do They Know?

The weather's finally warmed up here and there's no more danger of frost, so today I planted the canna bulbs I'd dug up last fall.

Ever since a co-worker gave me a couple of bulbs from her garden seven years ago I've been following the same routine.  After the first fall frost kills the plant leaves, I cut the dead foliage off just above the soil level, dig the bulbs up, shake off as much dirt as possible, then put the bulbs in an old recycling bin. I carry the bin down to the basement (which is the coolest and darkest place in the house), where I stash it on top of the freezer.

During the winter I do nothing to or for the bulbs.  Every spring when I bring them outside I find out that somehow they knew it was time to get growing:

See the sprouts?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Fences, Sewers, and Dog Doo

In the far southeast corner of our back yard where four properties come together there's a large storm sewer. The two houses to the south have cedar fences which skirt the sewer's cover, leaving about two feet on each side.  The neighbor behind us does not have a fence, nor do we.  Because of the position of the sewer and fences we maintain one exposed side by running our mower in between the sewer and a fence, and our neighbors does the same thing on their side.  Once of twice a year I cut down the weeds and tree sprouts that grow between the sewer and the fences.  The system works pretty well.

Earlier in the year when I did my first grass cutting I noticed a large pile of old dog feces that had been piled next to my neighbor's side of the sewer.  I could tell by its color and consistency that it had been there for quite some time. I didn't know who put it there, but our house is the only one of the four that doesn't have a dog so Hubby Tony and I shouldn't be the ones cleaning it up!

I only thought about the mess when I was in that part of the yard once a week or so.   Last week we had a lot of rain, and when I cut the grass on Tuesday I noticed the moisture had re-hydrated the excrement and it was pretty smelly back by the sewer.  Without knowing who put the pile there I didn't know which neighbor to approach about removing the mess, but yesterday I saw my back yard neighbor mowing  I went outside and greeted him when he stopped the mower, then mentioned the pile of poop by the sewer.  He took a look at it, decided that perhaps his son had piled it there last time he cleaned up the yard, and said he'd take care of it.  Later that night when I went outside to pull some weeds it was gone.

Thank goodness.

Five years ago today: Chocolate Heaven

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Just For Me!

On Sunday Son Tony called me from Phoenix to wish me a happy Mother's Day. As we were chatting about different things he mentioned he was experimenting with roasting his own coffee beans.

Today there was a box waiting for me on the front porch when I went to get the mail.  Inside the box was a Mason jar filled with coffee.  The bag wrapped around the jar told me Tony had roasted the Ethiopian Agaro beans from the Nano Challa Cooperative on Mother's Day.

I can't wait to try them!

Five years ago today: Blow Baby Blow

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

One Person's Trash is Another Person's Treasure

Back in March when I was cleaning out the office I ended up with a substantial stack of used CDs. I hate to throw things away, so I investigated places that could reuse or recycle them.  After a little research I discovered that the St. Louis Teacher's Recycle Center at Chesterfield Mall about twenty minutes away from my house would take them, so I put the stack where I'd remember to take them the next time work or errands took me that way.

There was only one small problem--the center's only open on Tuesday (afternoons) and Saturday.  It took until today for my schedule to align with theirs, but after I fed the cats their afternoon meal I jumped in the car and headed towards the mall.  The center is located on the lower level, around the corner from Sears and right next to a mall exit.  I was happy to see that it was indeed open when I walked towards it.

The small store is packed to the gills with all types of interesting items.  One section holds dry goods such as fabric, ribbon, and yarn, and related sewing notions.  The 'hardware department' has a selection of nuts, bolts, washers, wire, and tiles.  In the paper goods area there are stacks of foam core, scrapbooking papers and supplies, white and colored paper, and card stock.  The office supplies section contains all types of school art and teacher supplies.  There are also several racks holding books, magazines new and vintage, and promotional materials.  Then there are the multitude of miscellaneous things that don't fit into categories -- containers of corks, juice lids, puzzle pieces, shells,  jewelry, baby food jars, metal coffee cans, and juice lids.  And more.  I enjoy browsing through it because you never know exactly what you're going to find.

I thought the store was doing me a favor by taking my discards, but it turns out they benefited from my junk donation, too.  The store associate told me she'd just had a request for CDs and had to turn the person down because they didn't have any in stock. 

I love win-win situations!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Better Late Than Never

We all know that cats march to their own drummer, so somehow it seems appropriate I received this cute poem today, the day after Mother's Day.

From the Cat

I thank you for the food you bring,
and for my little squeaky thing.

I thank you for your friendly talks,
and when you change my litter box.

I thank you for the naps we share,
and putting up with tufts of hair.

I thank you for these things you do,
but thank you most for being you.

So as I'm sat upon the mat,
Happy Mother’s Day from me, the cat!


Five years ago today: Map It

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Blooming Beautiful

Although I wasn't able to see some of my children in person for Mother's Day, that didn't mean they weren't thinking of me.  Yesterday afternoon there was a knock on the front door.  Son Donald answered it and came back holding a long cardboard box emblazoned with the logo of an e-commerce florist.  

The box was addressed to me!  Inside there was an arrangement of tulips and iris wrapped in florist cellophane nestled inside a vase, with a small box of chocolates next to it.  The card from Son Brian and DIL Nicole wished me a happy Mother's Day.  A sticker on the cellophane sleeve told me how to take care of my new gift:  cut the flower stems and remove the lower leaves, then put them in the vase with room temperature water (leaving the plastic sleeve on for eight house to support them while they absorbed the water).

I kinda followed the directions, but I was so excited to see my blooms I pulled the cellophane partway down:

In the beginning the tulips were open a tiny bit, but the iris were completely closed.  This morning both were nicely opened:

My flowers are guaranteed to last for seven days.  So far the cats have shown no interest in them, so there's a fighting chance of that happening.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Insurance Claims and Action

Right after last month's big hail storm roofing company signs started sprouting like mushrooms‏ in my neighborhood.  I wanted to make sure we didn't have any hail damage, so I called our homeowners insurance agent's ofice if and asked if they had a list of recommended companies. Their list contained one name, so I called that company.

That evening two representatives of the company (the 'boss man' and a crew leader) stopped by after dinner. The crew leader used a ladder to climb onto the porch roof, then from there accessed the higher portions, and the boss did his observing from the ground.  It took about ten minutes for them to finish, then the boss knocked on the front door and asked me to come outside.

They told me that not only was our roof damaged to the point of needing to be replaced, but we also had other issues the insurance company should address:
  • The gutters were dented.  
  • The paint was chipped on one side of the house.  
  • All of the screens on the front needed to be replaced. 
  • A gable vent in the back of the house had some bent slats.  
  • Our air conditioners needed the evaporator and condenser fins straightened. 
  • The deck stain was ruined; it needed to be power washed and re-stained.
The boss offered to call our insurance company for us and start the claims process. As he did that the crew leader hand-wrote out a contract and asked us to sign it. He explained that the insurance company would send out an claims adjuster to take a look at the house. If I let their company know when that appointment would happen they'd also be there to discuss their findings. After we got the insurance company's approval (and check) we could schedule the work.

The area had so many claims, the insurance company sent in a dedicated storm team. A week later an adjuster from the team, along with a roof specialist, came to the house. True to their word, the roofing company representatives were also there. After introductions were made, I went back inside the house.

Forty minutes later the doorbell rang. It was the adjuster, who asked if he could come in. He started the conversation by saying he had both good and bad news. The good news was that although there was some minor damage he'd be giving us a check for, overall our house looked good. The bad news was that, although many of our neighbors would be getting a new roof, we did NOT need one. He explained that he believed the roofing company was overly aggressive when they told us our roof was ruined (and he used some unattractive terms to describe their business practices). When I expressed concern that I'd gotten their name from my agent's office he said he'd be talking to them about the matter.

The adjuster left me with a detailed breakdown of everything that needs to be fixed, and a check to cover the cost of the work and materials. Now we're working on finding reputable contractors to do it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


I like to think I do a pretty good job of recycling my old clothes, but an article in last weekend's Post-Dispatch entitled "Give Old Clothes New Life" really opened my eyes. In it, I learned a couple of interesting facts: 
  • the average person gets rid of more than 70 pounds of clothes each year
  • according to the EPA, 95 percent of textiles can be recycled, but only about 15 percent actually are
We keep a donation box next to the closets in the master bedroom to throw our unwanted items in, but I've always assumed there's some things that Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul does NOT want, like our holey socks and underwear with stretched-out elastic.  I assumed wrong. The article said they'll take everything, although the nice thing to do is segregate the unwearable items and indicate they're damaged. That will save the store personnel from having to go through them.

What happens to those damaged items? They're sold to businesses that sort, process, shred and export textiles, with the money going to the charity's programs and services. The items might be turned into industrial wiping cloths, or get shredded and turned into automotive insulation or seat cushion stuffing.

This morning I placed a small bag next to the donation box to hold the less-prime things, then added some cloth napkins that I was going to throw away.  Wonder where they'll end up?

Candidate for recycling

Five years ago today: Countdown To A Wedding

Monday, May 4, 2015

Surplus and Survival

A project I'm doing later this week requires me to wear a safety vest.  Not knowing where one bought safety vests, I started my search at the closest big box hardware store.  I found out that although it had an extensive online selection, only the very expensive models were carried in their stores. The others had to be ordered.  Since I didn't want to pay a lot of money and didn't have time to wait for anything be delivered, I moved on to other options. 

A quick Google search told me that a nearby camping/military surplus gear store carried safety vests.  Although I hadn't been there for many years, as soon as I saw the store name I knew exactly where it was. When the boys were in Scouts we got a lot of their camping equipment there, and when Son Tony was in high school he bought fishing crickets there to feed his gecko.  I've always enjoyed browsing the store's aisles to see their eclectic collection of merchandise.

This morning I was there shortly after the store opened.  When I walked in a friendly associate showed me where to find their selection of safety vests and said to let her know if I had any other questions.  It didn't take me long to pick out what I needed, then I decided to look around the store.  As I browsed I noticed the product selection had changed since I'd last been there. 

Now there is less recreational outdoor equipment and more survival gear.  The camping cast iron cookware was still there, but it was surrounded by boxes of military MRE food and emergency rations.   I didn't see any of the paintball guns and ammunition that used to hang on the wall, but there was an aisle devoted to bulletproof vests.  The selection of  hiking boots was about a quarter of what used to be, replaced by racks of military surplus gear.

I looked around for a couple of minutes, then headed towards the cash register.  When I passed the counter where the cricket cage used to be I didn't hear anything.  The cashier verified they didn't carry crickets anymore, but if I wanted to I could still get a cup of fishing worms.

Five years ago today: Faves

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Singular Sign

This weekend is the biannual statewide business meeting of an organization I belong to.  Friday afternoon three of us piled into a car for the trip halfway across the state.  We arrived at the hotel and checked in, then immediately left again for dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant.

The rest of the night passed uneventfully.  This morning I had time to take a walk through a nearby condominium complex before the meeting started.  I've been in the area before, and every time I see this offbeat speed limit sign it makes me smile:

I've always wondered how well this unusual sign keeps down the actual traffic speed.  Does it make people slow down to take a look at it?  This time I had a chance to figure out that the answer is no.  I was walking along the side of the road when a car came barreling around the corner.  Thank goodness I was moving against the traffic and could see it coming to get out of the way.

Five years ago today: Plants Like Fresh Air, Too