Monday, February 29, 2016

Extra Day

Today is February 29th, a bonus day on the calendar. Since Leap Day only happens once every four years, I wanted to come up with a unique activity to celebrate it. I searched dozens of websites for ideas. The vast majority of them were for kids, which made me sad. Aren't adults allowed to do silly things?

However, in my Internet exploration I did find one simple offbeat idea for commemorating the day. When I was at Target I bought a pack of Extra gum and quickly unwrapped it while the cashier was finishing the transaction. As he handed me my change I offered him a stick of "Extra gum for the extra day".  I did the same thing with the person behind me in line.  Both of them declined, but I brought a smile to their faces.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Barley Salad

As part of my effort to eat more healthy and 'whole' foods in th last few months I've been cooking a lot with barley. Last night Hubby Tony and I went to a pot luck dinner. I came up with the idea of tossing barley and vegetables with salad dressing. It was easy to make, and I didn't have to worry about keeping it warm.

At the end of the night someone told me they really liked the dish, and could they have the recipe? I confessed I didn't really have one, but today I wrote down basic dish framework,.  I sent the instructions off in an email, then decided to share them with you.

1 pound barley
6 1/2 cups water
8 cups vegetables of your choice, chopped (I used broccoli, yellow squash, tomatoes, carrots, and onions. Mushrooms, green or colored peppers, or cucumber also work well.)
1/4-1/3 cup spicy brown or Dijon mustard (I used spicy)
Balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (approximately half of a 16-oz bottle), to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring barley and water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40 to 50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then drain off any extra water and cool. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Chill for several hours before serving.

Leftovers served over lettuce for lunch today.

Five years ago today: Mmmmm!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Physics 101

From a friend....
  • Ratio of an igloo's circumference to its diameter: Eskimo Pi
  • 2000 pounds of Chinese soup: Won ton
  • 1 millionth of a mouthwash: 1 microscope
  • Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per hour: Knot-furlong
  • 365.25 days of drinking low-calorie beer because it's less filling: 1 lite year
  • 16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone: 1 Rod Serling
  • Half of a large intestine: 1 semicolon
  • 1000 aches: 1 megahurtz
  • Basic unit of laryngitis: 1 hoarsepower
  • 2000 mockingbirds: two kilomockingbirds
  • 10 cards: 1 decacards
  • 1 kilogram of falling figs: 1 Fig Newton
  • 1000 grams of wet socks: 1 literhosen
  • 1 millionth of a fish: 1 microfiche
  • 1 trillion pins: 1 terrapin
  • 10 rations: 1 decoration
  • 8 nickels: 2 paradigms
  • 2.4 statute miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital: 1 I.V. League

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

(Try To) Do Something Good

Today I'm joining up with Eli over at Coach Daddy for his monthly Six Words post, where he challenges people to compose a story that can be told in a six-word sentence  This month's prompt was:
Feb. 24 is Inconvenience Yourself Day. It’s in observance of doing little things for others for a day. In six words, tell of one way you can do something for someone else today – and then go and do it!
Who knew there was such a day?  Eli's inconvenience is what I'd call a Random Act of Kindness, but no matter how you phrase it a good deed is still a good deed. I submitted my suggestion. When I read today's post I was impressed by the number of people were doing deeds both big and small. Me? I volunteered to play nicely on the road when I drove around. Specifically, I said "Traffic Jam? No, YOU go first."  (I guess that's two sentences, isn't it?  Maybe I need to learn to follow directions better.)

Anyhoo, Mother Nature didn't check with my plans to inconvenience myself when she dumped several inches of snow on my area.  The worst of it happened just before morning rush hour, so most schools and a few businesses closed for the day.  By late morning the temperature had climbed above freezing and the roads looked pretty good, so I decided to venture out and run a couple of errands.  There were very few cars on the road or in the parking lots, and no chance to practice inconveniencing myself to be courteous to another driver.

I feel guilty not following through on my commitment, so I'll transfer my inconvenience to tomorrow.

Five years ago today: Wikis Everywhere

Monday, February 22, 2016

Can Do

My basement cleaning and decluttering project continues.  Recently I've turned my attention to a large collection of cans of leftover latex paint on the floor under one of the wooden shelves.  The cans range in age from a few months to a couple of decades old.  

My first step was to separate the old stuff from the current colors (which I'll keep for touch up work).  Even after removing some of the cans I still had a lot left.  Latex paint isn't considered a hazardous waste (as long as it's completely dried out) but I hate to send things to the landfill so I tried to get rid of the unwanted paint without putting it in the trash.  However, I found out that our local Habitat for Humanity store no longer accepts used paint, and when my search for a charity organization or school to donate it to didn't pan out I was forced to start disposing of it.

Each week I bring a few cans out to the garage and open the lids to take a look at the contents.  Many of them are already completely dried out.  Those cans can go (without lids) straight into the trash can.  I set the others along the wall so the contents can solidify. Most of the cans only have a couple of inches of paint in them and dry quickly.

Others need the help of an absorbent material.  A quick internet search revealed that cat litter quickly does the trick.  I know they meant fresh litter, but I've found that the clumps I'm always removing from the litter box anyway work too.  And there's an endless supply.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Desk Supervisor Pepper

It was a busy weekend, and tonight I sat down at the kitchen computer to do some catch up work.  Pepper the Cat jumped up and took his usual seat on the desk to the left of me.  Every few minutes he'd tap me on the shoulder to get my attention, his way of telling me he really would prefer I moved to the family room couch and give him my lap.

Five years ago today: ID Me

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Where Are They Coming From?

Five years ago today I published what I thought was a pretty normal post. It was entitled Conversion, about a website that converted text to the phonetic alphabet used by the military.  Three regular readers commented on the post.

Tens of thousands of others (as of today 26,253 others, to be exact) didn't.

The view count of this single entry has lapped all the others I've posted many times. I suspect many of them came from the link to the conversion website, but I never could find any mention of my blog there. And many search engines strip out the keywords for certain of searches, so my blog stat counter doesn't help me figure it out.  The graphic I formatted for the post still shows up on a Google search, although it's further down than it used to be. 

I wonder if this old post will be my blogging claim to fame.

Five years ago today:  Well, you already know

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Bag Of Bottles

At the end of 2015, my primary care doctor closed his office to relocate to the east coast.  I was sad, because I really liked his attitude and his emphasis on better dietary and lifestyle choices for health issues instead of prescription drugs.

The hospital he was affiliated with sent out a letter announcing his relocation.  Along with the letter was a sheet that listed several suggested physicians.  Shortly after that I happened to be in the doctor's office and I asked  him which of the suggested ones he'd recommend.  On the way out of the office I signed the form to have my records transferred to that new office.

Hubby Tony also had to switch but he chose a different physician.  He came back from his initial visit with the new doctor with a glowing report.   In the meantime, I was having trouble setting up an appointment.  The first time I tried to call the new office they couldn't find my records,  and a couple of days when I tried to call again it went to voice mail and was never returned.   After that I ended up changing my mind and opting for Tony's doctor. 

Today was my first appointment. This doctor likes patients to bring in all their medicine bottles so they can verify what the patient is taking.  I don't have any prescriptions, but my collection of supplements was enough to fill a small shopping bag.  There were the Costco-sized bottles of calcium and Vitamin  D3 (to help absorb that calcium), smaller bottles of Vitamin B-12 (because I don't eat much meat), black cohosh (for hot flashes) and a couple of kinds of digestive enzymes (that were suggested by my chiropractor).

When I was filling out paperwork in the waiting room I had to list everything, including dosage and how often I took each.  There were several other patients in the room and it was slightly embarrassing to pull out the bottles.

Five years ago today: Zoom

Monday, February 15, 2016

Eat Some Candy. Please!

For Valentine's Day Hubby Tony gave me a large box of assorted dark chocolates.  The box had a full selection of flavors.  There were bite-sized creams, caramels, chocolate caramels, sea salt caramels, coconuts, fudges, molasses, and nuts enveloped in chocolate.

I had a piece, then offered the box around so everyone could sample. When it came back to me I had another piece.  Ten minutes later a third.  I couldn't leave it along!  Every time I passed by the kitchen table a piece jumped into my mouth, but at the end of the day the box still had a lot of pieces left in it. 

I knew that with my lack of willpower for chocolate the pattern would continue all week.  Yesterday Son Donald had a friend over to work on a project.  As they settled down at the kitchen table with their books and paperwork, with Tony's permission I set the box of candy next to them and told them they'd be doing me a favor to eat some of it. 

Nine hours later there was only a half dozen pieces left.  I'd call that a very good deed on their part.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Dinner With My Sweetie

Today is, of course, Valentine's Day.  Tonight Hubby Tony and I went out to dinner at Pastaria, an Italian restaurant that's known for their good food.  

From start to finish our meal was awesome. After we sat down the waitress was  immediately there to take our drink orders, and when she came back she also brought large pieces of warm homemade bread.  It was great on its own, but even better dipped in olive oil (both regular or chili-infused) and Parmesan cheese.  When the waitress came back and offered a second piece we both accepted.

Tony and I each ordered an appetizer and entree, but divided everything in half to share. The Shaved Kale salad had an awesome creamy anchovy dressing and was topped with crunchy bread crumbs. An order of Risotto Balls were stuffed with cheese, and served with small containers of herb aioli and marinara sauce. A square of lasagna was a delicious combination of fresh pasta, sausage, kale, spicy tomato sauce, and cheese. Wood Oven Roasted Salmon had a large portion of perfectly-cooked fish on top of a bed of farro, roasted mushrooms, and toasted almonds.

As good as everything was, the highlight was the dessert we shared. The citrus Pavlova was topped with white chocolate gelato, local strawberry compote, and a chocolate "peony".  When it was gone I would have licked the plate if I could.

Five years ago today: Happy Valentine's Day

Friday, February 12, 2016

It's Not About Me At All

I needed some new nightgowns, so today I stopped in my local Goodwill to see if they had any lightweight cotton knit, short sleeved, knee length models.  After digging through the lingerie rack I found a couple of likely prospects, and took them into the dressing room to try them on.

The two women's fitting rooms in this store are on the right hand side, close to the back. In keeping with the thrift store look, they're made out of metal bathroom stall panels.  The top is about a foot taller than I am, and there's a large open gap on the bottom.

 had taken off my shirt and was getting ready to try on the first gown when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a store associate on a ladder changing out a light bulb in the ceiling fixture. It felt like he was looking right into my dressing room!  However, a couple of seconds later he turned his head back to his job, and I was able to complete my trying on without an issue.

Five years ago today: Contemporary

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Not Just For Christmas

Sorry for the screen...

At the beginning of January I saw this sweet ornament in the Christmas section of a store, marked down to 75 percent off the original price.  I was in the middle of putting Christmas away at the house, but I still bought it, figuring the pop of red would look good in the winter gloom.

What do you think?

Five years ago today: Different Is Good

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Here For The Food

Today, of course, is The NFL's Super Bowl 50.  I'm not much of a football fan, but I enjoy watching the commercials. And eating the food that goes along with the special event.

Sunday is Hubby Tony's day to cook dinner, but this weekend (since I knew he'd be putting out a larger than usual spread) I offered my help as a sous chef. He took me up on the offer. His eating-in-front-of-the-TV meal drew heavily from recipes he found on Forks Over Knives, one of my new favorite websites for healthy recipes.  All of the dishes he chose were good, but in my opinion the highlight was the Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf that we had for dessert.  The only fat in the dense cake came from nut butter, and applesauce and pumpkin puree made it moist.  Cocoa powder and chocolate chips (I used bittersweet) gave it a delicious chocolate taste.

CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN LOAF (Isa Chandra Moskowitz)
Makes one 8x4-inch loaf

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin puree (about ½ of a 15-ounce can)
1 cup dry sweetener
3 tablespoons almond butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Have ready an 8 x 4-inch nonstick or silicone baking pan. Also, boil some water in a tea kettle (no need to measure yet).

2. Combine the applesauce and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, baking soda, and salt.

3. Measure out ⅓ cup of the boiling water and pour it into the bowl with the chocolate mixture, mixing quickly to make a smooth chocolate sauce. Add the pumpkin, sweetener, almond butter, and vanilla and mix well.

4. Dump about half of the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture and gently stir just to incorporate, then measure out 1 tablespoon of the boiling water, add it to the mixture, and stir again. Add the rest of the flour mixture, and another tablespoon of boiling water, and stir just until smooth (do not overmix). Fold in the chocolate chips.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. It will be good and thick. You can smooth out the top with a spatula.
6. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Stick a steak knife into the center of the loaf to check for doneness. A little bit of wetness is okay, since it could be from a chocolate chip, but the knife should come out mostly dry.

7. Remove the loaf from the oven. Let it cool for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and carefully invert the loaf onto a cooling rack to cool most of the way. It’s yummy a little bit warm or thoroughly cooled. Slice and serve!
Five years ago today: Saints Alive!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Errands And Exercise

At the beginning of February my calendar reminds me to take my wedding ring to the jewelry store for a twice-yearly check to keep it under warranty.  I scheduled the task for today.  The store is a half hour away from the house, so I always try to find other things to do in that area to maximize my mileage and my time.  When I had the opportunity to accept a restaurant evaluation in Clayton (a city about ten miles further away) I jumped on it. 

Clayton is the county seat and has a large business district; I didn't stop to think about how stores in an urban area of government and office buildings don't usually have lots.  A quick call to the restaurant confirmed my suspicions that my parking choices were to hope to find a parking meter or pay to park in a lot.  Neither option appealed to me, so I decided that since I'd need exercise anyway I could park eight blocks away,  just outside the business district, and walk to my destination.

Just before I left the house this morning I checked the weather and based on the temperature I wore my heavy coat but did not bring anything for my head.  That was a big mistake.  There was a brisk wind that made things feel colder than they actually were.  I pulled my coat's hood up, which blocked my peripheral vision and made for some interesting street crossings.  I had to stop at many of the street corners, and it took me longer to reach the restaurant than if I was walking in my neighborhood, but I still reached my destination ten minutes too early.  Rather than stand outside in the cold I decided to keep moving and walk around the block. When I returned to the open restaurant it felt so good to go into the warmth!

After a nice meal it was time to bundle up again and head to my car.  This time the wind had died down somewhat, but it was still brisk.  Fortunately I made most of the lights this time. By the time I got done and returned to my car I had a full stomach and was halfway to my goal of 10,000 steps for the day.

Five years ago today: Hop To It

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Monday, February 1, 2016

Easy Come, Easy Go.

My basement cleaning is moving along nicely.  At the end of last week I switched my focus to getting rid of the large items that were cluttering up the floor area. I'm happy to say that the office chair, coffee table, and child-size kitchen table have been washed, loaded into the car, and taken to the thrift shop for someone else to enjoy.

There have been some surprises along the way.  In a far corner of the room next to the freezer, sandwiched between two large pieces of cardboard and leaning against the wall, I found a mirror that Hubby Tony received from his great aunt several years ago.  The oval mirror has a wood and gesso frame.  It was beautiful, but there was nowhere to hang it.  We kept it thinking that 'someday' that would change, but now I decided it was going to go.  I brought it upstairs and put it in the thrift store pile.  Later in the day I wondered if it was nice enough to take to a nearby consignment store.  After I cleaned it up I emailed a photo of the mirror to the store.  They replied that yes, they wanted it.

I had an appointment this morning to take the mirror in.  Last night I moved it out of the spare bedroom that's become the staging area for things leaving the house and leaned it against the stair railing outside my bedroom (mirrored side facing in).  This morning I brought it downstairs, cleaned off a little more dirt, and carried it out to the car.

When I arrived at the store I set the mirror on a table where the owner could appraise it.  She was all smiles, but her smile faded as she pointed out where a large chip had broken off the bottom.   Of course, I had no idea it was there.  Of course, she couldn't take it in that condition.

Because I had to know, I asked the owner how much she could have sold the mirror for.  She said she would have priced it somewhere between $150-$175.  And my cut of that would have been 40%.  Oh, well.  Easy come, easy go.

I left and drove to the nearest thrift store, where I dropped the mirror off for donation.  As I pulled away I thought that if someone had the skills to fix the chip they'd be able to have a very nice mirror without paying a lot of money.

Before the chip
Five years ago today: Scratcher