Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights hast thirty one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,

(Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I)

Five years ago today: Trick Or Treat... Smell My Feet...

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Starbucks Has No Coffee

Hubby Tony and were out running errands and decided we needed a mid-afternoon jolt of caffeine. We knew that a nearby Target store had a Starbucks cafe inside, and my Starbucks card Was loaded with plenty of money, so we popped in to get a cup to share. There were five people ahead of us in line, and I had to use the bathroom, so I gave my card to Tony and went to take care of business.

When I came back he was still waiting with two people ahead of him. (There was only one barista visible and she was doing it all.) We waited patiently until it was our turn, then asked for a Grande black coffee. The barista smiled, then with an apologetic tone to her voice she explained she couldn't help us; their coffee machine was out of order.

Five years ago today: WHAT?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Fajitas For Two

The other day Hubby Tony and I went to a new-to-us Mexican restaurant. After looking over the menu, we decided to order the Veggie Fajitas for Two.  It took less than ten minutes for the waiter to return with this:

In addition to the humongous platter of grilled vegetables, we each received a plate holding rice, beans, and a small salad of lettuce and  chopped tomatoes topped with guacamole, and a package of foil-wrapped tortillas. Tony and I are both big vegetable eaters, but even we couldn't finish everything.

Needless to say, we passed on dessert.

Five years ago today: Gathering Ginger

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Froggy In A Flowerpot

Today was Bring in the Houseplants Day here at the house.

Every spring I take my plants outside and let them enjoy the summer. They're all indigenous to tropical areas, so they grow well in our hot, humid temperatures.  However, that means that before the first frost I have to get them back inside.  The pots are large, and it's a messy job to soak everything (15 minutes per pot) in a sinkful of mildly soapy water to remove any potential bugs, and even messier when I transfer the pots to a pan to drain.  Then I have to find spots for all of the plants, taking into account which ones the cats like to munch on. After everything is put away the countertop and floor are a sloppy combination of water puddles and plant debris.

Plants lined up after soaking and draining
When I repotted the spider plants last spring I divided the plants among three baskets.  I only have hooks for two of them, so I decided to offer the third as a raffle prize at an event I'm going to next weekend. As I picked that one up from its draining location I noticed the pot was cracked on the bottom. Fortunately, I had an extra pot so it was easy to fix.

Spider plants don't produce babies until the pots are root bound, so I knew what I was in for.  When I dumped the plant out I noticed the roots had completely encircled the piece of plastic that covered the bottom drain holes.  I started pulling away the plastic, and this guy fell out:

Does he get around or what?

The frog wasn't moving too fast. I'm not sure if it was from the shock of being discovered, the chilly weather, or from his 15-minute soak in the sink.  I felt bad for disturbing his hiding place, so after I finished repotting the plant I encouraged him to hop into a cup, put another cup on top, and moved him to a big planter box of pansies on the front porch.  When I checked ten minutes later he was gone.

Wonder if I'll see any more frogs this season?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pumpkin Juice

This afternoon, I came inside from doing yard work and poured myself a big glass of pumpkin juice.  Not the Harry Potter kind,  but the actual juice of a pumpkin.  It was quite tasty.

The backstory: On Thursday I made a batch of pumpkin puree.  I like my puree thick, so when it was done I dumped it into a coffee-filter lined colander to drain for several hours. I poured the resulting six cups of liquid into three containers. Two containers went into the downstairs freezer to use for cooking. I got busy and put the last one in the refrigerator, telling myself I'd get around to taking it down later.

Now that I finished off the container I don't have to worry about it.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Finding An Easier Way

Sometimes I figure out ways to make things around the house easier. Two recent examples:
  • In the spring and fall I open up a bedroom window in the front of the house and climb out onto the porch roof to clean out the gutters. When I'm done I climb back inside, then repeat the process using the master bathroom window to reach another gutter on the north side of the house. A couple of weeks ago I realized all I had to do is walk on the roof to the north end of the porch, walk over the gable, and then I'm on the back section.  (We've lived in our house for 25 years. I can't believe this hasn't occurred to me before now.)
Down the roof and over the gable
  • The early part of this week was record-setting hot (upper 80s Fahrenheit).  However, a cold front came through and today there was a nice nip in the air.  To celebrate the change I decided to buy a pumpkin, cook it, and process it into puree.  While I was out running errands today I picked up one that weighed approximately 15 pounds.  Back at the house I cut the pumpkin into quarters, removed the seeds, placed the pieces into a large roasting pan, and put the pan into the oven.  While the pumpkin cooked I started a pot of broth from the vegetable peelings in the freezer, then busied myself with paperwork.  Both items were done cooking at the same time.  I took the pan of pumpkin out of the oven and set it on the stove to cool, then poured the cooked broth into a colander placed inside a large bowl to strain. 
At this point the kitchen was looking pretty messy.  I usually puree pumpkin with the food processor, but I did not want to add to the mess nor wash up the multiple processor pieces in addition to everything else.  So, thinking creatively, when I took the rind off the pumpkin I tossed the pieces of flesh in the stock pot, then used my immersion blender to get it smooth.  There was a lot of pumpkin to puree, so I probably didn't save much time, but the easier clean up was so worth it.
Five years ago today: Apple-On-A-Stick

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Berry's Birthday

I get daily tidbits of St Louis history delivered to my Facebook wall from Vintage St. Louis.  Although I suspect many of them are interesting only to people from the area, others (like this one) have a wider audience:
"1926-Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry was born. His family lived on Goode Street, which is one reason his autobiographical song was called "Johnny B. Goode." Goode Street is now known as Annie Malone Drive. Berry learned to play guitar while attending Sumner High School. After serving time for armed robbery, he worked at the Fisher Body Plant and trained as a hairdresser at the Poro Beauty School before scoring his first hit with "Maybelline" in 1955. In 1986, Berry was among the first performers to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."
Of course Chuck Berry has recorded many iconic songs, but in honor of his 90 birthday, here's the only one to become a number-one single on the U.S. pop charts.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Yea! House Guests!

Sons Donald and Tony came into town last weekend for their cousin's wedding. Although Donald left the day after the wedding, one of Tony's friends was getting married yesterday and Tony decided to stay here for the week in between. His friend Ie, who had never been to St. Louis, accompanied him.

Although both Tony and Ie had to log into the office and do some work during the week, we also had time to play tour guide.  As a family we hit a few of the top city attractions, like the Gateway Arch, the Zoo in Forest Park, and Laumeier Sculpture Park.  Tony also took her in the car to show her other areas.  As the week wore on, their spare time was taken up with Tony's friends and wedding activities, but we still managed watch a few movies and play games. 

As you might expect, we've also done a lot of eating, including a lot of St Louis cuisine like toasted ravioli (breaded and deep fried), St. Louis style pizza (which has a very thin crust, Provel cheese, and is cut into squares), barbecued pork steaks (sliced from the butt) with Maull's sauce (an important ingredient in St. Louis style barbecue), and gooey butter cake (flat, dense, and dusted with powdered sugar).

All too soon the week was over. This morning Tony and Ie packed up their things and one of Tony's friends came to take them out to lunch and to the airport.  The house is quiet again, and I'm already looking forward to their next time we get to host someone.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Browsing The Browsers

Do you check your blog statistics?

I admit I probably don't do it as often as I should, but the other day I stopped by the Blogger Overview page before I a started a new post. There were some interesting traffic sources and I clicked over onto the detail page, which breaks out page views by country, operating systems, and browsers.

I wasn't surprised to see that the vast majority of my readers come from the United States, but a large handful of people in Spain also stopped by for a visit.  Russia, Canada, France China, Germany, Vietnam, and Australia also dropped in.

All the big operating systems were represented, but I saw that most of the readers here tend to use Windows (63%), followed by Macintosh (14%), Linux, Android, iPad, iPhone, and Unix each had six percent or less.

The biggest surprise was the variety of browsers, including a couple I had never heard of.  Remember when Internet Explorer was the only thing going?  Now, at 8% it matched Safari use, but was behind Chrome (41%) and Firefox (31%) in popularity.   Bringing up the rear with 2% or less each were Mobile, Maxthon, Opera, and Silk.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

This Happened The Other Day....

Baby Jay (AKA the world's cutest grandbaby) arrived last weekend. Hubby Tony and I are, of course, thrilled (and have plane tickets to visit him in California soon)!

Five years ago today: Withdraw

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Efficient And Easy

A while back Hubby Tony's iPhone began charging slowly, and after a couple of days stopped charging completely. He was getting ready to call the Apple store and set up an appointment to have the phone looked at, but I told him I'd see what the Internet said about the problem first before he took it in.

It turns out the issue was a very easy fix. All it took was a toothpick.

Charging port
My inspiration was the CNET article Use a toothpick to clean out your iPhone.  It suggested that when you carry your phone around in your pocket (like Tony does) lint can get stuck in the port, building up so the charger can't make good contact.  The cleaning steps were easy:
  • Back up the phone
  • Turn it off and use a normal toothpick to gently remove any debris inside the port 
  • Turn the phone back on, connect the charger, and see if it works
  • If it doesn't, use a can of compressed air and repeat the process
When I first started moving the toothpick around in the slot, nothing came out.  I kept at it, though, and eventually removed the equivalent of a large pinch of dust.  Tony connected the charger, and it worked like a charm.  Problem solved.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

What A Deal!

Two weeks ago I spent some money at Macy's and was rewarded with a gift card containing forty dollars worth of Macy's Money. The card had to be redeemed within seven days, so later in the week I made another trip back to the mall, looking to find a dress for my niece's wedding.

At the store I wandered through the dress department, picking out things that struck me (and would go with a pair of black sandals I already had in the closet). After I'd gathered an armful of items I headed to the dressing room, where I tried everything on and chose the dress that fit the best. When I looked at its price tag I was amazed to find out the dress was heavily discounted and on sale for eighteen dollars!  It was sleeveless, but I knew I had a black pashmina in the closet to cover my shoulders if I needed to.

After I purchased the dress I had about half of my original gift card amount. I headed for the jewelry department to find a pair of earrings to go with the dress. There was nothing that matched the blue of the dress, but I did find a statement bracelet for fifteen dollars.  As a bonus, it had little rhinestones that would coordinate with earrings I already had.

Even after making both purchases I still had a few dollars left on the card. I wasn't going to leave without spending all my money, so I found a casual shirt for the balance and ten dollars of my own money.

What I bought and what I had

Five years ago today: Nature is the Art of God--Sir Thomas Browne

Friday, October 7, 2016

This Gives New Meaning To The Pose 'Cat And Cow'

I'm a big fan of Tenth Life Cat Rescue.  One of their outreach programs is a monthly fundraiser called Cats & Mats Yoga Night.  Last night I was there.

Tenth Life is located in a converted storefront in South St. Louis. The instructions said we could show up 30 minutes before the class started to claim a spot on the floor and hang out with the cats.  When I arrived at 5:32 I rang the bell (they have the door locked so the cats don't accidentally escape) and waited for someone to let me in.  That took a minute, because first some cats had to be shoo'd away.

A couple of other women had arrived before me and were already trying to get some quality cat time.  I learned that although there can be as many as 15 cats and kittens there at a time right now there were only five. A couple of them were completely oblivious to all the commotion, but others were more interested. 

In many ways this was just like any other yoga class.  We warmed up, stretched every part of our bodies, and ended with savasana.  However, the cats wandering around gave this class a very unique touch. At the beginning, the instructor mentioned we could take photos as long as we could reach over to our phone without hurting ourselves or a cat.  Every once in a while during the class someone would snicker, a sign that one of the cats was doing something cute. 

All  too soon the hour ended.  Everyone rolled up their mats and got ready to leave, but I noticed I wasn't the only one who tried to get one last bit of cat attention before I headed out the door.

Five years ago today: Mobility Tour

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Frog Leap

For the past three weeks I've been trying to get around to some compost bin maintenance. Because of the weight of the material inside the plastic bin the sliding panel at the bottom is starting to come off; I need to scoop out some of the decayed humus to spread on the flower beds.  However, up until a week ago it was still hot and I didn't feel like getting all sweaty doing the job.  Then, it cooled off but the heat was replaced with rain and gloom. Yesterday was nice, but I spent the whole day working. 

Today I finally got around to the job.  After lunch I changed into old clothes and headed to the back yard, stopping in the garage to pick up the compost fork and shovels.

The bin
Our plastic compost bin is three feet tall and a little less than two feet long on each side.  Right now it's approximately 2/3 full of fruit and vegetable remains, coffee grounds, and yard debris. As you might imagine, the bin is a haven for worms and other decomposers. 

When I opened the lid there was a large grey blob on the rim I hadn't seen before.

This is where the blob was
Then the blob moved and jumped right at me!  I let out a small shriek and jumped back.  The blob landed on the rocks next to the bin where I could take a good look at it.  I discovered it was a small frog.

Froggy Friend
I guess the frog was as startled as I was, because it sat on the rocks without moving while I pulled out my phone and took photos.  Then, since I was afraid I'd step on it while I was working, I shoo'd it over into the day lilies next to the bin.  When I started digging in the bin I realized the compost was too wet to work with, but I turned it with the spade and put the lid back on, propping it open with a stick so it would dry out.

After dinner I went to throw some more items in the bin.  There was a rustle, and I noticed the frog was still perched on the leaf of a day lily plant.  I wonder if it's strategizing its return inside.

Five years ago today: Songful

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Want Some Carbs With Those Carbs?

Hubby Tony and I were part of the planning team for a retreat that took place this weekend in Illinois, just on the other side of the Mississippi River.  The retreat program and subsequent cleanup was done a little before noon.  As we drove away I asked Tony if he wanted to stop for lunch at a good Chinese carry-out place we've discovered, which is located in a strip mall just down the road from the retreat center.  He agreed.

In my experience, Chinese carry-out places always have a lunch special, consisting of a smaller portion of an entree and usually includes some type of appetizer and/or soup.  This one was no different.  Their lunch selection was larger than some I've seen, consisting of about three dozen items.  The menu stated that each meal came with white or fried rice and either an egg roll, Crab Rangoon, or a bowl of soup.

Tony ordered Sauteed Mixed Vegetables. The woman taking his order asked him about the accompaniments and he said he wanted white rice and hot and sour soup. I asked for Beef Lo Mein and the same soup.  We picked out a table in the dining area and waited for the food to arrive. 

When the waitress set the container of Lo Mein in front of me, I was impressed at the amount of noodles it contained.  I dug into it with my fork, and was surprised to find out that the healthy serving of noodles were actually served on top of a bed of fried rice (as the menu promised)!

I finished the soup, ate half of the starchy food, and put a lid on the rest to bring it home.