Monday, June 29, 2015

Enough. Already!

Dave Murray on FOX 2

Yesterday our area broke the previous record for rainfall in June. Now 2015 is the wettest on record.

I'm thankful that our neighborhood isn't affected by the flooding the low-lying areas are experiencing.  However, between the critters and Mother Nature my garden isn't looking so good.  Just a couple of days after the plants went in the ground, something ate the top off one of the pepper plants, then came back for another plant later in the week.  Next they went after the eggplant leaves, leaving just a stub in the ground where I had envisioned picking large shiny fruits.

Now my plot consists of one sad-looking pepper plant at one end of the area and four tomato plants clustered at the other end.  Because of all the rain the plant leaves are turning yellow, and the lack of sun is keeping the tomatoes from growing.  If it stopped raining and dried out I think the plants might have a chance, but the weather app on my phone shows that there's a chance of precipitation every day for the next ten days.

Enough. already!

Five years ago today: Weird

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Life Is Like A Train Ride

At birth we boarded the train and met our parents,
and we believe they will always travel on our side.
However, at some station our parents will step down
from the train, leaving us on this journey alone.

As time goes by, other people will board the train,
and they will be significant--our siblings,
friends, children, and even the love of our life.
Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum.
Others will go so unnoticed that we don't realize
that they vacated their seats!

This trip will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy,
expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells.
Success consists of having a good relationship with all
passengers...requiring that we give the best of ourselves.

The mystery is that we do not know at which
station we ourselves will step down.
So, we must live in the best way - love, forgive,
and offer the best of who we are.

When the time comes for us to step down
and leave our seat empty we should leave behind
beautiful memories for those who
will continue to travel on the train of life.

~Author Unknown~

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hurting Head

Two days ago the top right side of my head hurt like I'd bumped it.  I hadn't.  The sore spot was still there yesterday, and the right side of my throat was also a little achy.  Last night I had trouble sleeping on that side.  When I woke up this morning the sore area was larger, and the pain was sharper.  In addition, the entire length of the right side of my neck hurt when I pressed on it.  I tried calling my doctor's office for advice (but found out it's closed on Thursday), so I decided to go to an urgent care center.

Amazingly, there was no one ahead of me in the waiting room, and once I moved back to an examination room the doctor came pretty quickly.  After listening to my symptoms and looking at my head she diagnosed a scalp infection.  I left with a prescription for an antibiotic, a recommendation for an over-the-counter medicated shampoo, and instructions to apply warm moist heat to the sore areas and stay away from any hair products for the next few days.

The heat part of the equation would be easy to take care of.  (The no hair products in the very humid weather we've been having?  Not so much, but that's another story.)  I have a long, skinny field corn heating pad provides great moist heat. When I got home I threw the pad in the microwave to heat it, then folded it in half and wrapped it around my neck for the prescribed time. It worked like a charm.  However, when I re-heated the pad and tried to set in on my head it fell off. Because of the location of the sore spot I had to hold the pad on with my hand, which made me look pretty dramatic and made it impossible to get anything done.

I don't do well sitting and doing nothing, so I really tried to work. First I pecked at the computer keyboard with one hand (which wasn't acceptable at all), then I tried to read the newspaper (which worked until I needed to turn the page).  About the time I resigned myself to the fact that I couldn't do any type of task the time was over.  

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Five years ago today: Classics

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Family Fun

Son Tony is in town this week to attend a friend's wedding.  While he was here, he wanted to do some 'tourist' things and eat a few of the local specialties he can't get at home. This afternoon all of us (me, Hubby Tony, and Sons Tony and Donald) piled into the car and drove to the Anheuser-Busch InBev brewery just south of downtown.

 We had reservations for a "Day Fresh Tour", which stopped at the Budweiser Clydesdale stables, the beer aging cellar, the historic brew house, and the Bevo packaging facility.   Son Tony had interned on the production line there when he was in college, so he was interested to see the changes that had been made in the last decade.

The last stop of the tour was the Biergarten, where we were able to sample some of the company's products.  After that we piled back in the car for a short ride to the Soulard neighborhood, where we had picked out a restaurant where we could get toasted ravioli.

"Toasted Ravioli"
Toasted ravioli (which is really breaded and deep fried) is an appetizer that can be found on the menus of restaurants all over town. Meat or cheese is sealed in pasta dough, then breaded and deep fried until the pasta turns golden brown. It's served with a container of marinara sauce for dipping.

We ordered both meat and spinach artichoke 't-ravs', along with entrees for each person.  There were no leftovers.  Although we talked about how full we were, there was one more stop to make.  It was time for dessert!

"Ted Drewes"
And not just any dessert. Our destination was the Ted Drewes on Chippewa Street (which is designated as a section of historic U.S. Route 66), because Son Tony wanted a concrete.  A concrete is thick frozen custard blended with add-ins, served in a cup with a spoon. The mixture is so thick that when the cup is inverted the spoon doesn't fall out.

The lines can often be long at Ted Drewes, but we were lucky tonight.  It took longer to look at the menu and figure out what each of us wanted than it did to order.  Just a couple of minutes later we got our sweet treats and found a place in the shade to eat them.  When they were gone we agreed they'd been very good, but there'd be no more eating the rest of the night.

Five years ago today: What Type Are You?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Celebrations All Around At Our House!

Sandra Boynton

Happy First Day of Summer to you!  It was a typical hot and muggy day here, more typical of late summer than the beginning of it.

Since the day coincided with Father's Day we paid tribute to Hubby Tony.  We also celebrated all the June and July birthdays.  There was food involved, and lots of presents. 

Five years ago today: Sunrise, Sunset

Friday, June 19, 2015

Bring Up To Date

Today I was stuck at home without a car, so I decided to tackle some long-overdue blog maintenance. The first task was updating the sidebar blog list.  Every couple of months I  take a look at the list, add my new favorite blogs, and delete those who've stopped publishing on a regular basis.

This is the way it works. On the design screen you click the Edit button, which brings up a popup called Configure Blog List. Close to the bottom of this popup is an Add to List link. That shows a box to put the URL in. You save it, then voila!, the changes show up on the blog.

However, today when I clicked on the Add button nothing happened.  I tried several times, and got the same result.  When I searched the Blogger Help forum I found out I wasn't the only one having the problem.  I added my comments to a discussion, and over the course of the day several more people chimed in complaining about the same issue.  Finally, late in the day I heard that the Blogger team was working on the issue, but it might not be fixed until next week.

I guess I have no choice but to wait.

Five years ago today: Glassy

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"I Live In A World Of Wonders‏"

Those words were part of a reflection that showed up today on my daily meditation calendar.   I read them, thought they were nice, then moved on with my day.  After a chiropractor appointment I was dropping my car off at the shop to get some work done.  My plan was to walk home (about two miles, which would also take care of the day's exercise) then tackle a list of things around the house.

It's been raining for days, but when my alarm went off the sun was shining and I thought maybe we'd get a chance to dry out.  However, by the time I left the house at 8:45 it was drizzling again.  I grabbed a backpack from the closet and threw a travel raincoat and a water bottle in it.  I put my drivers license, charge card, and a couple of dollars in one shorts pocket and my cell phone in the other.  As I left, Son Donald told me to call him if I decided I wanted a ride home.

The rain was still coming down in a steady drizzle when I dropped off my car at the shop, but that didn't stop me.  I put the  raincoat and started  on my way.  It only took me a couple of minutes to realize that the coat's plastic coating that kept the water out kept the body heat in.  Since it wasn't raining hard I took the coat off and let the drops fell where they would.

I took a shortcut through a park, and listened to some kids having a great time playing in the rain.  As I walked under some large trees I was surprised to see that the ground underneath them was still dry.  I exited the park, went down a hill, and turned left onto a large street.  At first this street is lined with houses fronted by nicely-tended yards, but it quickly changes to a new section they installed fifteen years ago  (when they removed  two 90 degree turns and a narrow bridge over a small creek from the original road).  The new section has sidewalks, a long concrete retaining wall, and a modern bridge.

In this section the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street morphed from nicely tended to natural.  Because I was walking instead of driving I was able to notice all of the wonders.  The green was a mixture of crabgrass and annual weeds, with some of the weeds showing their colors.  There was white clover and red clover.  I passed a few dandelions and the tiny yellow pompom flowers of black medic, and saw some lovely Queen Anne's lace and my first chicory blooms of the year.  If I hadn't been paying attention I would have missed the tiny red fruits of wild strawberry weed and the pink blooms of smartweed.

After I passed the retaining wall and went over the bridge I walked by a section bordered by a tall chain link fence on the left.  There was a small wild grape vine winding its tendrils around the links, and another mature one drooping over the top.  A large trumpet honeysuckle was covered with beautiful coral blooms, but some aggressive bush honeysuckle was right next to it.   Once I passed the fence the landscaping went back to suburban.  I turned off into my subdivision and finished the trip home.  The temperature was in the mid-70s, but the humidity made it feel much warmer.  When I got home my clothes were damp, as much from sweat as from rain.  However, it was all 'wonder-ful'.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Little Seed Of Squash

On the way home from the gym today I stopped at a produce market to get some inspiration for dinner.  I grabbed a beautiful head of lettuce from a local grower, but nothing else called to me until I saw a display of butternut squash, with a sign that said it was only 99 cents a pound.  After I paid for my items and left the store, I realized I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to incorporate both ingredients into a meal, but I was confident I'd come up with something.  I always do.

When I got home I did an internet search.  There were a lot of good-sounding recipes, but I ended up using Martha Stewart's Chili-Lime Roasted Butternut Salad as a springboard. Her recipe called for romaine lettuce, Cotija cheese, and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). I used leaf lettuce and roasted chickpeas in place of the cheese, but I was at a loss for a substitute for the unavailable hulled pumpkin seeds. There were walnuts and almonds in the pantry and sesame seeds in the spice cabinet, but none of them came close.  It wasn't until I was cutting up the squash that I had an inspiration. Squash and pumpkin are similar, and I've substituted the flesh of one for the other a couple of times. I wondered if squash seeds would be any good?

I decided to try.  The first step was a quick internet search, which gave me several different options.  I decided to follow the steps in the first link.   I put the seeds in a coffee cup, covered them with water, and nuked them for 30 seconds in the microwave.  Next I drained them, then rolled them in a towel to dry them off.

When I started the hulling process I realized that it might have been a better idea to toast the seeds first to crisp them up, but I worked with what I had. I used the 'sunflower seed' technique--hold a seed between your thumb and index finger, then apply pressure to the most prominent part of the edge until the pointed part of the hull splits open. However, unlike sunflower seeds the squash shells were soft and peeled off in small pieces. But come off they did.

When I was finished I put the seeds into a small skillet and toasted them on the stove. They made a nice accent to the top of the salad.

Pepitas are hard to see, but they're there

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Messy No More

Last Saturday I was in the middle of typing up a work report when the batteries on my cordless keyboard gave out.  I spend a couple of minutes rooting around in the mess of our electrical junk drawer (and comping up empty handed) and decided it was past time for the drawer to get a good cleaning.

Today was the day.  Over the years the drawer has become the landing spot for old phones and chargers. all types of batteries, the cats' combs and nail clipper, and miscellaneous bits of things.  The first step was a 'before' picture:

The photo doesn't do justice to the mess!
I dumped everything into a laundry basket and started sorting.  Batteries went into a bowl.  Cords got thrown into a roasting pan.  Cell phones were piled off to the side.  All of the miscellaneous items went into their own stack.  Next I paired up as many cords as possible with their item, then laid everything out for an inventory.  There were four bar and flip cell phones with chargers, five extra chargers, and two car chargers.  It all went in a bag for Hubby Tony to take to the next municipal electronics recycling.

When the purging was done I repurposed some boxes to make drawer organizers until I can get to the store and get something nicer.  Here's the final result:

Much better!
Five years ago today: What A Deal!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Hoopla And Hoop Blah

This is celebration season at our house.  Between June 11th and July 2nd three people in the family turn a year older.  Add Father's Day to the mix and there's a lot going on.

Years ago, we made a big deal out of birthdays.  The guest of honor got to choose a special meal and dessert, and then they opened their presents after dinner.   Now that the the boys are grown up and two of the three live out of the area, things ave changed.  We have one large celebration (the past few years have been on Father's Day) devoted to presents, but each person still gets a meal in their honor on or around their day.

Hubby Tony's day was Thursday. He gave me some general ideas of what he wanted for his dinner, then I pulled up a few recipes online and on my computer (where I save any "keeper" recipes I've tried that I want to make again). He liked all of them, but I ended up making Teri's Ethiopian Lentils. Dessert was decadent ice cream and fresh cherries.  There was enough lentils for leftovers on Friday, and I finished off the remainder yesterday.

Son Donald turns another year older tomorrow, but tomorrow will be busy so we scheduled his meal for today.  He requested "Mom fried rice", which  is a made-up concoction I came up with years ago when my wok wouldn't hold the quantity of rice I needed to serve the whole family.  Although the dish turns out slightly different every time, the basic framework is easy.  I toss brown rice (cooked the day before, so it's cold) with a little oil and soy sauce, then put it in a large pan and place it in a 425 degree oven. I stir it every 15 minutes or so, and at the 45-minute mark pour a bag of frozen mixed vegetables (thawed) on top and stir it again. Ten minutes later I add beaten eggs and stir them in. When the eggs are done it's dinner time!

Donald has been telling me all week how much he was looking forward to his dinner.  This morning when he was rooting around in the refrigerator at breakfast time he saw the bowl of rice I'd cooked yesterday and came out with a big smile on his face.  Mid-afternoon, though, he said his stomach was hurting.  At dinner he ate a small amount of rice,  then said he was going to lay down in the family room (where he promptly fell asleep).  I sealed up his special dish so he could enjoy it later.

Five years ago today: Flag

Saturday, June 13, 2015

First Place On The Right

Hubby Tony left for a boy's road trip this morning, so today and tomorrow I'm on my own.  This afternoon I went to church, then started thinking about where I wanted to go for dinner. (The Saturday night tradition is to eat out, and I didn't see any reason to change that just because I was solo.)  I didn't want to drive too far, but none of the neighborhood 'usuals' sounded good.  I wanted something different.

As I left the church parking lot I came up with an unusual way to find a restaurant.  I would go west on Manchester and eat at the first place on the right that was new to me.  I drove for about three miles.  During that time I passed:
  • two sit down Mexican restaurants 
  • a sit down wing restaurant
  • a sushi restaurant
  • a Chinese carryout 
  • a pizza carryout 
  • a deli
  • a smoothie store
  • an ice cream place
  • and six fast food places
None of them met my criteria, though.  Just when I was starting to wonder if I'd have to change the rules of my game I saw the St. Louis Taco and Pita Grill.  The restaurant, which is housed in a building that used to be a KFC, has only been open a few months.  Success!

I skipped the drive through line and went inside and took a look at the menu.  There was something for everybody... predominantly Greek and Mexican items, but you could also order hamburgers, hot dogs, seafood, or wings. I  asked the man behind the counter if he thought I should get a gyro or a Mexican item.  He recommended the gyro, so that's what I ordered.  I got my food to go, then drove to a nearby park where I sat in my car and ate.

The restaurant had put the sauce on the pita before they added the lettuce, tomatoes, onion, feta, and meat, which helped make it less messy, but I've never gotten through a gyro without something falling out.  Sure enough, this time I had a large piece of sauce-coated onion end up on my shorts. 

It was worth it, though.

Five years ago today: (It's) For The Birds

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Distractions", Indeed!

This afternoon I was supposed to be cleaning the kitchen, starting with the kitchen table.  However, when I picked up the newspaper to put it in the recycling bin the puzzle page (including this Wonderword puzzle) beckoned.  I decided the cleaning could wait.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Please Pass The Mustard

Last month I saved a section of the food section of the newspaper that had recipes for homemade condiments.  We don't use much ketchup or mayonnaise, but everyone in this house is a big fan of mustard.  I thought it would be interesting to make it from scratch; this week I did just that.

I had most of the ingredients for Classic Dijon Mustard in the house, and the others were easy to find.  The recipe was time consuming but easy, except at the end when I was supposed to press the cooked mustard through a fine-mesh sieve to make it smooth.  I discovered my sieve was falling apart so I chose to leave it grainy.  The pieces of seeds will make it more spicy, but we like it that way.

We had some of my creation at dinner tonight, mixed into a stir fry.  It tasted almost like a Chinese mustard, but according to the recipe will mellow after several weeks.

Classic Dijon Mustard (Yield: About 1¾ cups)

1½ cups brown mustard seeds
1 cup mustard powder
1 cup water
1 cup distilled vinegar
¼ cup dry white wine
7 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon mace
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. In a nonreactive (non-aluminum) pot or jar, combine the mustard seeds, mustard powder, water, vinegar and wine. Cover and soak for 48 hours, stirring once per day. Add additional water, vinegar and wine in the correct proportions if needed to maintain enough liquid to cover the seeds.

2. Pour the seeds mixture into a food processor, add garlic and process until the mixture turns to a creamy mixture flecked with seeds, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add additional water, vinegar and wine in the correct proportions if needed to keep the mustard very creamy during processing.

3. Add the mixture to a slow cooker and cook on low heat, covered, for 3½ to 4 hours. Stir the mixture about 3 times the first hour (beware of the fumes, which are quite strong), then whenever you think of it for the remaining time. Do not allow the mixture to come to a simmer, which will create a bitter flavor.

4. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, allspice, sugar, salt, turmeric, white pepper, mace and cinnamon. Run through the food processor again, and then press through a fine-mesh sieve. The flavor will become softer and more mellow over the first 3 to 4 weeks. Mustard may be kept in airtight jars in the refrigerator for several months.

Recipe from “The Mustard Book,” by Jan Roberts-Dominguez
Five years ago today: Watch This

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Aid And Assist

Tonight after dinner I was working a crossword puzzle.  One of the Across clues was "Mayday!"  My first thought was that the answer was SOS, but the word I was looking for had four letters.  It only took a couple seconds for me to figure out the answer was HELP.

While I wrote in the answer I realized I had no idea where the word mayday had came from, and decided to do some research.  Wikipedia provided the answer:
The word Mayday originated in London in 1923. Frederick Stanley Mockford, a senior radio officer, was asked to come up with an easily-understood word that would indicate distress in an emergency. Since much of the traffic at the time was between Croydon Airport and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, he proposed the word Mayday (from the French "m’aidez" which translates to: help me!). Before the voice call "Mayday", SOS was the Morse code equivalent of the Mayday call.
Got it.  But then I wondered where SOS had come from, so I turned to Wikipedia again.
The SOS distress signal was first introduced in Germany in 1905. It was specified as a continuous Morse code sequence of three-dits/three-dahs/three-dits (· · · – – – · · · ). There was no mention of any alphabetic equivalents. However, since in International Morse Code, three dits comprise the letter S, and three dahs the letter O, it soon became common to refer to the distress signal as "SOS". It does not actually stand for anything, and is not an abbreviation.
Now I know.

Five years ago today: Easily Entertained

Friday, June 5, 2015

What Would You Call It?

Today I was filling out a form that had several questions about a salesman I'd talked with at a store.  A couple of the questions were about his description.

I could look the man in the eye, so I knew he was about my height.  It was pretty easy to estimate his age range, but when it came to his hair and its color I was stumped.  I had a drop-down list to choose from, and the selections were pretty standard.  The choices for color were Blonde, Brown, Red, Black, and Grey.  I could pick from Short hair, Long hair, or Bald.  However, this salesman didn't neatly fit any of the choices.

The gentleman was bald on top, but there was a nice thick fringe of hair on the sides.  I could tell that he had originally been brown,  but now there was plenty of grey mixed in.  

I know some men are sensitive about their hair, so I didn't think Bald was a good answer, but he certainly didn't have a full head.   And would he take offense at being called Grey?  I consulted with Son Donald, and he thought that the best answers would be Short and Brown.  That's what I went with.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pepper On Purse

Pepper the Cat goes likes to rotate his sleeping spots every couple of weeks. This is his latest...curled up on top of my purse, which I keep on the kitchen island.

His new habit is making it hard for me to get out of the house.  I'll be glad when he changes to a new place!

Five years ago today: Bright and Shiny

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Loyal Customer

Last week, Shirley's comment on my post about fresh flowers brought back a long-forgotten memory.

In the fall of 2000 Son Tony was a sophomore at an all-boys high school. One Thursday night he came home and told me one of his classmates had asked for a favor the next night.  The classmate was going to a dance at his girlfriend's school.  The girlfriend had a friend that needed an escort.  Would Tony do it?  Being a nice guy, he said yes.

It was Tony's first high school dance, and he was oblivious about the etiquette involved. When I asked him if he'd thought about a corsage for the girl, he just shrugged his shoulders. Of course, since he didn't know his date I knew he had no clue what color her dress was. I didn't want him to show up empty-handed, so I told him I'd take care of getting a corsage the next day while he was at school.

The next morning I went to a nearby grocery store that had a nice floral department. When I asked the clerk if they could make a simple corsage for that night, she said, "Not unless you ordered it ahead of time.  We've got all the orders we can handle". I pleaded with her, but she refused to budge.  I came home, got out the phone book, and started making calls. The first two tries yielded the same result. However, the third call, to a small independent florist, had a more positive result.  They said if I'd accept the flowers they had in stock they could put something together.   Later in the day I picked up a beautiful corsage, accented with translucent ribbon that would coordinate with any color dress.

That florist been my go-to shop ever since.