Saturday, January 30, 2016

Make a Snowflake

I used the fun, easy to use website Paper Snowflake Maker to create this virtual snowflake.

To "cut" the paper you use the mouse to draw polygons (closed shapes) that represent scissor cuts. After a polygon is closed, you can edit it by dragging any of the vertices, and there's an Undo button in case you make a mistake.  There are options for multiple background colors, and you can choose if you want the result shaded or not.

When you're done you can download your snowflake or share it on Facebook.

Five years ago today: Weather Armageddon?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Kale, Yeah!

A while back I bought this from my local Aldi:

The salad kit had chopped kale with slivers of red cabbage and carrots.  There was a small bag of sunflower seeds, and a pouch of tangy dressing.   I added a couple of handfuls of dried cranberries, mixed everything together, and called it a meal for Hubby Tony and me.

Five years ago today: Handsfree

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Chair Massage Like No Other

I often have problems with a creaky lower back, so yesterday I popped into a shop that specializes in products for back support.  When I walked into the small store I was amazed at their large selection of merchandise big and small--office furniture, chairs, bedding, and a nice selection of small healthy living accessories

I explained to the friendly salesperson what I was looking for, and he gave me a couple of suggestions. They were interesting, but not in my price range.  As I was turning to leave, he asked if I had time to experience what he called "the world's best massage chair".  I didn't have anywhere to be, so I agreed.  I expected something like a masseuse would use to give a chair massage, so I was intrigued when he lead me over to a large, hulking piece that looked more like a machine than a chair.

After I took my shoes off and sat down the salesperson showed me the slots for my arms and legs, and made sure my feet were snugly nestled in the foot holders.  He adjusted the headrest, pushed the start button, and told me to enjoy.

First I heard a series of beeps, which I later learned was the chair's sensors scanning my body to find out where the pressure points were.  Then for the next fifteen minutes I was treated to various combinations of a roller moving up and down my spine, something that felt like fingers poking at my back, airbags that inflated and deflated around my upper and lower arms, thighs, and legs,  a nice manipulation of the soles of my feet from a small roller, and a comfortable neck stretch from the headrest.

 When the session was over I felt completely refreshed.  I asked the salesperson just how much the slice of heaven was, and wasn't surprised to learn that I'd drop almost $10,000 if I decided to bring one into my home.  That's not going to happen, so on my way out of the store I joking asked the salesperson if I could  come back next week for another demonstration.

Five years ago today: Have Paint, Will Redecorate

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Box At A Time

At the beginning of 2015 I decided that my goal was to de-clutter the house. I jumped in with both feet, and completed a large project in January, February, and March. Then spring came, I turned to outside tasks, lost momentum, and the decluttering project came to a halt.

With the start of another year I rededicated myself to the job, starting with the most ambitions and challenging project of all...the basement storage room.

The area is a real mess.  Over the two decades we've lived in the house it has become a catchall for all  the things we didn't need or want upstairs.  There are sturdy wood shelves attached to the wall on two sides of the room, and three free-standing metal shelving units on a third wall.  All are overflowing.  The empty wall s have items stacked against them.  In the center of the room there's a large table that many years ago held Son Brian's model train set. Now it's stacked with boxes of paper, photos, and miscellaneous stuff.  An old chair and extra coffee table are pushed next to the furnace (and of course they have items piled on top of them). 

Even with my good intentions it's taken me a while to get started on this project.  Two weeks ago I got produce boxes from the grocery store to hold all the things I was going to get rid of.  I put the boxes in the office, where I looked at them every time I walked outside to take something to the compost pile.  On Wednesday I finally got motivated, and filled five boxes with home decoration nick-knacks that I thought I might reuse some day,  old Boy Scout camping items, and several small appliances.  That night Hubby Tony and I dropped the boxes off at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. Since then, I've tried to work in the room for an hour or so each day, and today I was able to drop off another seven boxes.

The recycling bin is brimming with discarded paper and cardboard, and the trash can is filled with items that weren't good enough to donate.  Trash day is on Tuesday, and then I'll be able to start filling them again.  Because I've only made a small dent in the room.  There's a lot more to do! 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Brain Exercising

It rarely happens, but today I solved the newspaper Jumble puzzle on the first try!

Five years ago today: A Pie By Any Other Name

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Let's Call It Soup

Whenever I go to an ethnic grocery store, I like to walk up and down the aisles to see all the exotic things they have on the shelves.  The last time I shopped in an Oriental market a bag of dried bamboo shoots jumped into my basket and asked to come home with me.  It sounded like a good idea, however, after one attempt at cooking with them the bag ended up in the back of my pantry. The problem was that the dried shoots took a long time to reconstitute and cook, and I'm more of a spur-of-the-moment cooker.

Monday night when I was looking in the pantry for something else I came across the bag, and decided to use them as my inspiration ingredient for Tuesday's dinner.  Having learned from my last experience, I dumped the bamboo shoots in a plastic container and covered them with water to let them soak.  Tuesday morning I searched the Internet for appropriate recipes.  Nothing jumped out at me, but I did find some handy information about cooking the shoots at Viet World Kitchen.  I got busy and it was after lunch before I resumed my search for a dinner recipe.  When I couldn't find anything I liked I decided to come up with my own concoction.

Even after a lengthy soaking it took two hours for the bamboo shoots to cook. During the first hour they simmered in water, then I drained them, waited for them to cool off, and cut them into pieces.  In the second hour of cooking I added vegetable broth. At the end of the cooking time the shoots were soft, but not very flavorful, so I threw in some dry soup base, chopped onions and garlic, and reconstituted dry mushrooms (with their soaking liquid), and let everything simmer some more.  Twenty minutes before it was time to eat I put in some chopped colored peppers, and fifteen minutes after that I added chopped spinach and avocado.

It's not the prettiest dish I've ever made, but it tasted good, and after all the flavors melded together tonight's leftovers tasted even better.

Five years ago today: It Might Be....

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

It's Popcorn Time!

When I learned this morning that today was National Popcorn Day I was able to forget about it.  When the information came across my desk after lunch I was able to ignore the urge to indulge. However, when I read about the holiday yet again after dinner I lost the will to resist.

I went into the pantry and broke open the box of microwave pop corn Hubby Tony bought from a neighborhood Cub Scout, nuked a package, and divided the kernels into two bowls so Tony could join me, too (because if you're going to break your 'no snacks after dinner' pledge you should drag someone along with you.).

Five years ago today: Keeping Warm

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Cultural Challenge

I listen to, and enjoy, most types of music, but for some reason classical is close to the bottom of my list of preferred genres.  Every once in a while, though, Hubby Tony and I like to do something completely different. Last night was one of them, when we attended a performance of the St. Louis Symphony.

Our night started early and had three distinct parts.  After parking the car close to the symphony hall, we walked a couple of blocks to St. Louis University's St. Francis Xavier (College) Church for mass. Unfortunately, the beautiful sanctuary of the English Gothic church was closed, and signs directed us to a temporary location in the downstairs ballroom. Despite the utilitarian setting the liturgy was inspiring.

Next, we walked a couple blocks in a different direction for dinner. Our first choice of restaurants had a long waiting list, so we went a little farther and got a table at a sports bar. My grilled chicken sandwich with french fries was simple, but perfectly cooked, and Tony's large salad and cup of chili looked great.

After dinner we walked back to Powell Symphony Hall, where we stopped by the Will Call office to pick up our tickets.  We arrived early enough to hear the end of the music director's commentary.  After that was over we staying in our seats, watching the auditorium fill up.  The evening's program was unique, and a first for St. Louis-a performance of Des canyons aux ├ętoiles... (From the canyons to the stars...) by Olivier Messiaen. 

This work (which had been commissioned for the U.S. bicentennial) was inspired by Messiaen's trips to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks.  In addition to the musical performance, last night we got to watch images of nature projected on a large screen behind the orchestra.  It was interesting, but maybe too avant garde for orchestral rookies like Tony and me.

The piece was divided into twelve movements. Some of them were melodic and simple, but others were dense and complex. There was a lot of percussion and unusual rhythms, and long periods of silence between the movements.  Even though I didn't understand everything that was going on musically, I'm glad I went. It's always good to challenge yourself.

Five years ago today: The Winter Zoo

Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Trash Is Your Treasure

Earlier this month we had a new door installed between the garage and the house. Unlike some other projects we've had done, this one seemed to involve quite a bit of  nickle and dimeing.

Of course, we paid for the cost of the door, the storm door, and a new doorknob and lock set.  There was an installation fee (which I expected) but there was also an additional charge to have someone come out and measure the opening before they actually let us purchase the doors.  Then the installation company added a small amount for materials.  And then they asked us if we'd like to pay to have our old doors taken away!

I politely declined the last opportunity, because I had a better plan.

On New Door Day, when the installer was finished he set both doors against the garage wall, with all the old door jamb pieces and trim work stacked behind them.  It took me a few days to get around to my part of the project, but on Thursday I posted my items on a local recycling group.  Less than an hour later I got a response from "Bob", who told me he could pick them up the next day.  I agreed.

Yesterday afternoon Bob was there right when he said he would be.  It took him ten minutes to put on a pair of work gloves, load everything into the bed of his pickup truck, and thank me as he left.  

Five years ago today: What does a cat sleep on?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Time To De-Lurk

I didn't realize until I read it on Snoskred's blog that today is National De-Lurk Day, which is set aside for people who read but don't comment on blogs.  On this day you're supposed to come out of the woodwork and leave a comment to let a blog author know you're there.

De-lurking was actually one of my New Year's resolutions, and I'm doing a better job of remarking on writing that interests or moves me, but I have more than 150 sources in my reader.  When I get busy I tend to read what's there and move on.  Or I'll save posts as unread, and after a couple of days I figure it's too late to click over to the source material and let the author know what I thought.  

If you're a lurker, too I challenge you to reveal yourself.  Tell me how you found my little part of the internet, or about someone else's part that you think I'd like.  Tell me what things are going on in your neck of the woods.  Tell me anything

Comment on.

Five years ago today: Second Hand Bags

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Easiest Houseplant Ever

Last January when I was browsing through the greenhouse area of a garden store on a cold, snowy day I came across a display of tillandsias (otherwise known as air plants). I stopped to look at them, and a nearby store associate pointed out one plant that was getting ready to bloom. It was cold and gloomy outside, and the plant only cost a couple of dollars, so I bought it.

I brought it home and placed it in a small glass dish next to the kitchen sink.  Several weeks later I found a small piece of wood to set next to the plant, which made it look more substantial.  When we were on vacation this summer one of the couples that we ate with gave us a large shell as a memento.  I think the plant looks nice inside it.

This plant is the easiest one I've ever grown.  I mist it daily (when I remember) and give it a good soak in a glass of water once a week.  That's it.  The plant gets the nutrients it needs through the leaves

Five years ago today: To Keep or Harvest?

Monday, January 11, 2016

An Edible Tribute

I heard about the passing of David Bowie first thing this morning. For the rest of the day, multiple bloggers and Facebook friends posted videos and reminiscences about the man that Wikipedia refers to as a "singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, arranger, painter and actor". The radio was also filled with disc jockeys playing their favorite Bowie song (or songs).

Tonight Hubby Tony, Son Donald, and I went out to dinner at Sugarfire, a local barbecue restaurant.  I had looked at the menu online ahead of time and thought I had my order figured out, but when I saw their specials board I knew I'd be changing my mind and getting a "Brisket Bowie.  Just because.

The sandwich was deliciously messy.  Just like good barbecue should be.

Five years ago today: The Ones

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Is It Soup Yet?

This morning I did my good deed for the day by donating blood at a local blood drive. When I came out of the building the air was filled with fat snowflakes. Nothing was sticking on the ground, but the day's forecast called for a couple of inches.  The general gloom made me want to go home and hibernate. All thoughts of doing the day's errands disappeared, and when I left the parking lot I turned left instead of right and headed home.

The snow was coming down pretty hard, and I felt like I was driving through a white tunnel. Once the car was safely in the garage I came inside and made myself a cup of hot tea.  Lunch was more than an hour away but the inclement weather made me want to piddle around in the kitchen. I decided to make some soup. 

The basic cooking liquid came from the freezer-- the marinade/cooking juices from a Cuban pork roast.  After I thawed the juice in the microwave I poured it into a pan and added chopped onion and set the pot on the stove.  Ten minutes later I dumped in a bag of frozen vegetables and a container of garbanzo beans. While I waited for that to come to a boil I opened a can of diced tomatoes and a can of black beans and added both to the pot, then let everything simmer together.  About that time Son Donald came downstairs. I told him I'd provide lunch if he let me use his bag of turkey I'd seen in the refrigerator. He agreed. Twenty minutes later Hubby Tony was home and the soup was done. 

Donald had made brown rice a couple of days ago. He pulled it out of the refrigerator, and we added some of that to our bowls. The 'on the fly' soup was so good I forgot to get a photo before it disappeared. 

Five years ago today: A Big Fat Greek Wedding

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Over The Doorstep

Back in mid-December Hubby Tony and I decided to replace the door from the garage into the house. Over time the basic solid flat wood slab had shrunk, and cold air was getting in.  We went to a big box hardware store intending to buy the cheapest insulated one they had available.  The salesman informed us that the building code had been changed and we had to get a fire-rated model. We did, and while we were at it we also purchased a new screen door so the entire entrance would look nice.

We had to wait until this Monday to have the door installed.  (There must have been a lot of people doing the same thing we were.)  I set aside the whole day for the project. The installer had a two hour window within which to show up, and then the job could take as long as four hours. 

It's not often I don't leave the house, and I made the most of it-cooking, cleaning, and organizing.  The interior garage door opens into the laundry room, and there's an interior door at the other end of the room.  The installer closed the second door to keep the cold air out, so I couldn't see his progress.  However, I could hear him sawing, drilling, hammering, and nailing.  When he was done he came into the kitchen and said that adhesive he'd used to attach the door threshold needed two days to dry, so we needed to step over it until it was cured.

I knew no one in the family would be able to remember that, so I made signs to put on both sides of the door, and taped a third sign to the threshold itself.  Sure enough, every time I went through the door I started to step on the forbidden section, saw the sign, and stepped over.

Unsightly, but it got the job done

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Strike A Pose

I didn't feel like walking outside today, so I headed to the mall to get my steps in. After I finished exercising I decided to check out some of the after-Christmas sales.  I entered a store that had a large sign announcing that everything was at least 40 percent off and began browsing.  After thirty seconds I still hadn't seen any store employees. (Which is strange. Usually in this place they're all over you the minute you walk in.)

Halfway to the back of the store there was a grouping of mannequins outfitted in exercise clothes and gear that would be good for outside activities. Three of them were posed standing up.  One was crouched down, elbow on knee, chin resting on hand, and staring off into the distance.  When I was about ten feet from the display the croucher stood up, smiled, and welcomed me to the store, then asked what he could help me find today.

I've seen living statues and mannequin models in public places, but it's the first time I've ever been assisted by one.  It was pretty creepy.

Five years ago today: Colorful Course Of Action

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Christmas Cleanup

According to tradition the "Twelve Days" of Christmas don't end until January 5th, but real life commitments start for everyone in this house start tomorrow so we took the tree and decorations down today.

Even though I scatter Christmas all throughout out the house it always takes less time to undo the decoration job than it did to put it up, especially when you recruit other people's help.  Today Hubby Tony and Son Donald were pressed into service.  We took the garland, ornaments, and lights off our artificial tree, then the men disassembled the pieces and took them to the basement. Tony removed the lights from the front of the house, and I did the same thing for the ones on the deck.  After all that was done we took a break.

After dinner I took my time taking the decorations down, then piled them in the family room.  I removed the everyday nick-knacks from the holiday storage boxes and staged them in  the living room while I packed the Christmas things away.  At that point I decided I was tired.  The 'redecorating' will wait until tomorrow, when I'll have the energy to clean everything thoroughly before it gets put back.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Here's To The New Year

Happy New Year!

Hubby Tony and I spent the last night of 2015 at our local botanical garden.  At this time of year, after the sun goes down millions of holiday nights go on for the Garden Glow.  On New Year's Eve there weren't many people there, and it was easy to navigate the path through the exhibits and displays.  Afterwards we went to dinner at a nearby restaurant.  It was a nice low key evening.

To start the new year right. I cooked black eyed peas and greens for lunch.  Last night before I went to bed I started soaking the legumes.  After breakfast it didn't take long to chop up onion and garlic and throw them into the pot along with some broth.  To add heat I dumped in some very spicy salsa roja Son Tony made while he was in town.  It only took 45 minutes for the dish to be done. (I was pleasantly surprised.) .

Earlier in the week when I was at a food store that caters to commercial kitchens I picked up the large can of greens.  Today I used a fourth of the can, and froze the rest in meal-sized containers for later.  I cooked the greens with more onion, spices, and pan juice from the beans.

When it was time to eat everyone served themselves, adding whatever proportion of ingredients they felt like eating.  Although I thought I'd spiced everything well, some additional hot sauce added at the table made the dish taste even better.