Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Gimme A Subject

Poking around on the Internet tonight, I came across the Blog Topic Generator, a product of Hubspot, a company that designs marketing software.  The site promised if I gave them three words that I'd like to write about, they'd give me a week's worth of blog post titles.  As you might expect, their suggestions for words were more business-oriented, designed for marketing and search engine optimization. In the interest of being goofy, though, I decided to have fun with the tool.

Using the site was easy.  I filled in the three boxes with terms (they said nouns were preferable), using the first three that popped into my head: Cats, Food, and Weather. I hit the "Give Me Blog Topics" button and a few seconds later got:
  • Why We Love Cats (And You Should, Too!)
  • The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Food
  • The Worst Advice We've Ever Heard About Weather
  • 10 Quick Tips About Cats
  • What Will Food Be Like in 100 Years?
If you were me would you write about any of these, and if so, which one?  What would your three  words be?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

No Interstates Allowed

Last Monday Hubby Tony left for a training class in Kansas City. His class finished up Thursday night, but instead of driving immediately home he spent the night there and I helped him turn Friday and Saturday into a mini-adventure.

The fastest route between Kansas City and St. Louis is Interstate 70, but we decided it would be interesting to explore off the Interstate.  About the time he was heading east out of Kansas City on US Route 50 Friday morning I was boarding an Amtrak train to go west. Our mutual destination was Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri in the middle of the state.

Tony was waiting for me at the Jefferson City station when I got off the train. After a nice lunch at a downtown restaurant we walked around for a little bit, then headed to the Capitol building.  They're doing some major renovation on the main entrance and it was hard to figure out where to go in, but we made it on time for the 2 PM tour.  Our guide gave us some of the history of the building, pointed out the busts of famous Missourians, and took us into the House of Representatives viewing gallery, but the part I liked the best was when we got to go into the House Lounge and see the walls filled with Thomas Hart Benton murals.

One wall of the Thomas Hart Benton mural
When we left the capitol a light mist coming down, so we headed to the car, drove to our hotel, and checked in.  After a short nap I was ready for the evening.  We started with dinner, then drove back to the Capitol area, where a stage had been set up for a free outdoor concert.  We talked to a friendly man, who gave us some ideas of activities for the next day.

Saturday morning after a hotel breakfast we drove to a Department of Conservation facility and walked the trails.  We came back to the hotel long enough to gather our things and check out, then headed east towards home. Even though it was still mid-morning, before we left Jefferson City we made a stop for ice cream at Central Dairy, an institution that goes back to the 1920s.

It was as good as it looks!
Highway 50 from Jefferson City to the western part of the St. Louis metropolitan area is approximately 140 miles, which would take approximately 4 hours to drive straight through. However, you don't take a U.S. Route road to drive straight through!  Our eight-hour meandering drive, which also had us going down several state highways, took us through some interesting named cities:

A photo of Tony taking a photo

a famous sausage company, where they were holding a festival in conjunction with the church next door:

a Catholic shrine that dates back to the mid-1880:

a church in Washington, MO along the Missouri River:
St. Francis Borgia

and a restaurant in a historic building on what used to be Route 66:

Big Chief sign

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Not A Blank Slate Anymore

It's been almost a month since our hall bathroom was renovated, and I've finally finished up its decorating.

The first step in the project was to find some art.  Armed with cell phone photos of the vanity top and tiles (to make sure that what I bought didn't clash), I made the rounds of all the thrift shops close to my house and came away empty handed.  But one night when I stopped in at Home Goods looking for something else I found the perfect painting...and in the clearance section, no less!

Setting on the vanity top
Once the room's theme colors were determined I moved mu attention to the plain Jane shower curtain.  My first thought was to embellish the rings in some way.  I started searching the Internet, and when I saw the post on at Breezy Cheetah Pop about her Tassel Shower Curtain I decided it was exactly what I had in mind. I went to the craft store and bought a dozen different colors of embroidery floss, winnowed it down to four, and went to work.  Each tassel is one skein of floss folded in half over a large jewelry jump ring, tied at the top, bottom loops cut, then hung from the clear rings.

I found a mantel shelf at the thrift store and added a couple of tchotchkes, hung a dark blue towel that was already in the linen closet, and called the project done.  (Down the line I'll purchase additional towels in the tassel colors for additional looks.) 

We spent a lot of money on the bathroom renovation, so I was pleased that the 'prettying' part cost less than $40.

Five years ago today: Text Talk

Monday, August 22, 2016

Midnight Moonlight

Sunday morning at 12:01 AM Hubby Tony and I were lined up (along with thousands of other bike riders) who were participating in the Moonlight Ramble, a leisurely nighttime bike ride through the streets of St. Louis.
This is the third year we done the ride, which takes off next to Busch Stadium.  This year they changed the pre- and post-race race staging area to Ballpark Village, which is directly north of the stadium.  We arrived early enough to walk through the vendor booths and get some swag, then about 20 minutes before the race kickoff we retrieved our bikes and headed towards the starting gate, where there were already several hundred people ahead of us.  Some people in the front of the line had beach balls they were batting back and forth.  Shortly before midnight I heard a loud roar, and several minutes after that I didn't see the beach balls bouncing any more.  I knew it must be time to go.

As in past years, the race started off so slowly it was easier for me to walk my bike. Even once the pace picked up it was still slow going for a couple of blocks, but eventually the course turned onto Market Street and riders could spread out over all four traffic lanes. Several miles later the route changed back onto narrower residential streets and it was hard to navigate again. I was glad when we returned to a major street.

There's always a short (approximately 10 miles) and a long (approximately 18 miles) route.   In previous years we've always said we were going to go the entire way, but when confronted with the turn off for the short route we wimped out.  I'm proud to say that this year we did the entire thing.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Dog's Life

(Sent to me by a friend)

My dog has a great life:
  • He sleeps about 20 hours a day and has his food prepared for him.
  • He can eat whenever he wants.
  • His meals are provided at no cost to him.
  • He visits the doctor once a year for his check-up, and again during the year if any medical needs arise. For this he pays nothing, and nothing is required of him.
  • He lives in a nice neighborhood in a house that is much larger than he needs, but he is not required to do any upkeep.
  • He makes no contribution to the running or maintenance of the house.
  • If he makes a mess, someone else cleans it up.
  • He has his choice of luxurious places to sleep. He receives these accommodations absolutely free.
  • He is living like a King, and has absolutely no expenses whatsoever.
  • All of his costs are picked up by others who go out, work hard, and earn a living every day.
I was just thinking about all this, and suddenly it hit me like a brick in the head...I think my dog might be in Congress!
Five years ago today: Let's Do Lunch

Friday, August 19, 2016

Color Coding

It's been two and a half years since I started putting together weekly information slides for the electronic bulletin boards at my church and parish center.  Each week I figure out the events to highlight, use Microsoft Paint to come up with the slides, and save them as JPEG files. I load the files onto flash drives, then go up to church and put one flash drive in each of the three monitors.

Sometimes when I'm making a slide I start with a patterned texture or background, but other times I find a clip art that fits the theme and build around that. That's what I did this week, when I was preparing a slide for a parish garage sale that's taking place next month. After I copied and pasted the "Garage Sale" graphic in the middle of the drawing area, I filled in the background with a deep maroon color and added text.

When I was done the slide looked acceptable, but I thought maybe it would get more attention with a brighter (maybe even a neon) background color. I know next to nothing about the different color formats, but I've learned that Paint uses the RGB (which stands for Red, Green, Blue) format.  You can choose from 48 basic colors, or click on a rainbow-like array and make a custom color.  Sometimes, thought, it takes me quite a few clicks to get something that's just right. I was in a hurry to move on to the next activity and decided that what I had was good enough.

Paint drawing area and color picker

As I was falling asleep last night I remembered a third color picking option, which is to directly input the red, green, and blue color values.  I started to wonder if there was an Internet resource that would give me the precise color code for what I was looking for. This morning a quick Google search told me it would. The first hit for my search was rgb.to, where it took me just a couple of seconds to find the exact information I was looking for.  I redid the slide and was ready for the weekend's shows.

Five years ago today: This and That

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Off To The Halls Of Knowledge

Ten years ago Son Donald graduated from high school, dabbled with higher education, then decided the work world was more to his liking.  He got a full time job and moved out of our house (although he often came back for Sunday dinner) for about six years.  Three years ago he moved back in.  At first he continued to work full time, but...I'll let him tell you the rest via part of a Facebook post he wrote explaining what's going on:
Okay, friends, it's time to break the silence. I have had a personal challenge to myself to post as little as possible here, because I think social media is a bit of a trifle. But I actually have real news to share, and some of you on my friends list might not know whats been going on with me.

For the past couple of years I have been attending Meramec Community College. I had no idea at that point what I wanted to do going in, but one day a few years ago I told [Longtime Friend] that I had the option to go to Meramec at little to no cost to me.  Like a good friend he called me a dumb ass and took me to sign up for classes the next day.

After a math placement test placing me into Trigonometry (a surprise!), I started down a path towards possibly transferring as an engineering student. I would like to thank [College Friend #1], [College Friend #2], [College Friend #3], and [College Friend #4] for the support and sometimes coercion to stay on track and study through Calculus 2 and Physics 2.

Physics is actually the reason that I have decided to abandon an engineering degree. While I was able to make it through two physics classes, it was one of the most humbling and aggravating experiences that I have ever put myself through. I still think engineering is an interesting and worthy field of study, but to all my engineering buds, y'all are crazy. Like, really.

HOWEVER, in the pre-Engineering track at community college, I took a beginning programming class, and I really enjoyed it. Like, a lot. So I'm going to be transferring to Missouri S&T for Computer Science for the fall semester.
Tomorrow morning we'll pack up the cars.  Hubby Tony and I will follow Donald west on Interstate 44 to Rolla, his new home.  There we'll help him unload his things, then say goodbye.   It's time.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Give Me A Shot

Grandma, what a big whooping cough you have.
Several years ago I had a splinter removed from my foot.  As he was cleaning the wound the doctor suggested a tetanus booster.  I declined, because it hadn't been too long since I had my last one. As part of his sales pitch, the doctor said if there were any grandchildren in my future I'd have to get some booster shots.

Fast forward to this year. Baby G is due to be born in mid-October. A couple of weeks ago Son Brian sent me a text asking if Hubby Tony and I were up to date on our TDAP (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis, or whooping cough) shots. I told him we weren't,  but it would be taken care of. Tonight I stopped by a Walgreen's clinic and did just that.

I hadn't realized that infants are particularly vulnerable to whooping cough, especially until they're fully vaccinated at around six months. Eighty percent of babies that get the disease catch it from someone at home.  The CDC recommends getting the shot at least two weeks before having contact with the infant, so I could have put off this task for a while.  I'm just so darn excited, though!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Fun With Tom Swifty

The other day, one of my friends sent me a list of Tom Swifties.  Reading through the list, I realized I hadn't thought about them for decades, ever since my boys stopped getting the Boy's Life Scout magazine.  (In case you don't know, a Tom Swifty is a play on words that takes the form of a quotation by Tom followed by an adverb.) 

The list was cute, and I thought I'd share:
  • "I'm back from my lobotomy", said Tom absentmindedly.
  • "Only one of my speakers works", Tom said, monotonously.
  • "I'll try and dig it up for you", Tom said gravely.
  • "Stay sharp!" Tom said pointedly.
  • "The doctor removed my left ventricle and atrium", Tom said halfheartedly.
  • "My hand's been too long in the freezer," Tom said icily.
  • "This is what happens when you mix an acid and a base", Tom said neutrally.
  • "I think I'll use a different font", said Tom boldly.
  • "I knocked down the rest of the pins on my second try", Tom said sparingly.
  • "I need a pencil sharpener", said Tom bluntly.
  • "I forgot to mark down which groceries to buy", Tom said listlessly.
  • "Who ate all the apples"? asked Tom, fruitlessly.
  • "I think all I need is some condiments to make the perfect hotdog", Tom said with some relish.
  • "Hey, we’re out of laundry detergent", said Tom cheerlessly.
  • "I have a candy bar", Tom snickered.
  • "Looks like a modern work of art," said Tom abstractly.
  • "I wish we had some pineapple", said Tom dolefully.
  • "Hey, get this dog off me", Tom barked.
  • "Can’t you darn your own socks"? Tom needled.
  • "My oil well just came in"! Tom gushed.
  • "Where’s my bullfrog"? Tom croaked.
  • "Pass me the shellfish," said Tom crabbily

Can you add anything to the list?

Five years ago today: Are You Busy?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Egg Experiment

Hubby Tony and I are trying to make whole foods a major part of our diet.  As part of that effort, we eat a lot of beans.  However, I get tired of eating every meal out of a bowl, and I'm always on the lookout for new and different ideas.  Last week when I saw a recipe for Spicy Lentil Patties with Sun-Dried Tomatoes on Lisa's Kitchen blog I thought it would be a great alternative to yet another bowl meal.  Yesterday when I went to the bulk store, one of the things I bought was a big bag of lentils.  Guess what I made for dinner tonight?

Lisa's original recipe called for red lentils, sun dried tomatoes, a shallot, fresh parsley, red bell pepper, fresh jalapeno, nutritional yeast, brown rice flour, and spices.  I had many of the ingredients, but didn't want to make a special trip to the store for the things I lacked.  Instead, I swapped out minced onion and garlic for the shallot, dried parsley for fresh, green pepper for red, a combination of pickled jalapeno slices and red pepper flakes for the fresh jalapenos, and chickpea flour for the brown rice flour. The recipe also called for a "flax egg" (which Lisa described as a mixture of ground flax seeds and warm water), which I had never heard of before. Some internet research was in order.

The information was easy to find.  I learned on Veganbaking.net that:
Flax seeds have an outer hull consisting of five layers. The outermost layer, called the epiderm, contains a mucilaginous material which makes up about 8% of the flax seed by weight. This goopy material, known in the food science world as a mucilage, or gel, can be drawn out of the seed in several ways and used as an egg replacement.
We use flax seed in and on a lot of things, and I always have it in the pantry.  After I chopped all the other ingredients, I followed the directions to make the flax egg (which had to set for five minutes before it could be used).  At the end of five minutes I stirred the mixture and was surprised just how much it had thickened up. I mixed it into the lentil mixture and Son Donald helped me shape the mixture into patties.  I baked them according to the recipe.  The patties held their shape beautifully and were easy to turn.  When the patties were done Donald took a nibble of one and said it was a little heavy on the pepper flakes, so I served the patties with dollops of Greek yogurt.  

Of course using flax as an egg substitute wouldn't work in something like an omelet or fritatta, but I'll definitely remember it for those times I want to bake something on the spur of the moment and realize there aren't eggs in the house.

Five years ago today: Road Test

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Dividing Iris

Our 'estate' has several patches of bearded iris.  To maximize flowering, the plants need to be divided every three to four years. The problem with this particular task is it best done in July or August, when the weather is at its hottest and most humid.  However, this year the flowers produced very few blooms, (a sure sign of overcrowding) and I decided despite the nasty weather the job had to be done. I tackled the two patches in the front yard last week, and today it was the back yard's turn.

Really in need of a good thinning!
Bearded iris grow from rhizomes (which look somewhat like ginger root). Each section of rhizome produces a group of leaves called a fan, with a bloom stalk in the center of the fan. Once a rhizome has produced a bloom stalk, it will never bloom again.  However, it will produce a small new rhizome. Each of the new rhizomes will produce a fan of leaves and, in time, a bloom stalk and offshoots of their own.  This leads to ever-expanding clumps of flowers, the centers of which are composed of densely packed, spent rhizomes that produce no blooms.

Spent rhizome Exhibit A
After breakfast I gathered my iris dividing equipment and headed outside. The first step was to cut the leaves back so they were about six inches long. Next I used a compost fork to loosen the clump, then broke it into small parts, lifted each one out of the ground, and tossed them into an old recycling bin. Working with one clump at a time, I removed as much of the dirt as possible so I could see what I was doing, then divided the rhizomes into pieces that had at least one fan of leaves and tossed the non-producing portions in the trash can.

The last step was to replant a handful of rhizomes.  The guides I referred to on the Internet suggested I plant each fan 18" apart.  That looked much to sparse to me, so mine are more like 12" apart.  They should have plenty of time to establish themselves before the cold weather hits.

Doesn't look like much, but wait until next year!
Five years ago today: Downside-Up and Back-To-Front

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


A couple of months ago I registered with a few merchandising companies, who contact me when they have work available.   There must  already be a lot of contractors in my area, because so far I've only completed one assignment (which was restocking gift cards at several gas stations).

Two weeks ago I received an email from a company asking if I could install a display for a company at a grocery store.  I accepted the job, but since there were no detailed instructions included I wasn't sure exactly what it would entail.  Eventually I received another email telling me the materials would be delivered to my house, and on Monday I came home to find a large flat box (approximately 36"x48"x2") on my front porch.  Inside the package was the cardboard display, four plastic feet, and two pads of coupons.

The package wasn't  heavy, but it was pretty bulky and awkward to carry.  I leaned it against a wall in the dining room, and last night put it in the back seat of my car in preparation for doing the task today.  When I got to the store I double checked to make sure I had everything I needed, then got the box out of the car and awkwardly carried it across the parking lot and into the store.  I stopped at the Customer Service counter, who told me I needed to find the door by the bakery counter at the rear of the store and go through it to the vendor office.  Thank goodness the store wasn't very busy; otherwise I would have a problem maneuvering with my box. Everyone I passed did a double take, and one of the deli associates commented aloud. 

Eventually I found the right office, signed in, and put the lanyard holding the large VENDOR tag around my neck.  When I found the department manager and showed her my materials, she rolled her eyes and said she didn't know where they would put it.  However, she allowed me to set the display up (which took about ten minutes) and place it in a corner until she consulted with a second manager.  I took her name, thanked her for her time, and went back to return my tag.  Before I left, though, I folded the display packaging materials into quarters so I wouldn't be so obvious leaving the store.

Five years ago today: Looking Good

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Right Back In The Game

The other day Hubby Tony was beating me pretty badly in Words with Friends. However, the tiles aligned to let me play a personal-best 62 point word (HAJ), and that put me right back into the game.

Five years ago today: Thirtyonederful