Friday, March 31, 2017

The Laughing Gnome

When I was out running errands today this came on the radio:

After the song was over the DJ came on and announced that the song was by David Bowie. That originally surprised me, but when I came home and re-listened to it, the voice was obvious. Wikipedia said the song, which was released as a novelty single in 1967, was "a pastiche of songs by one of Bowie's early influences, Anthony Newley. At that time the song flopped, but became a hit when it was re-released in 1973.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Too Tall Grass

For the past two weeks, nine days have had at least some rain. The others have been party or mostly cloudy.  The damp and gloom haven't been great for my attitude, or the cutting of the grass.

Hubby Tony bought a new lawn mower, and when he did the first cut of the year the grass was already long  He had to raise the wheels as high as they would go.  I had the same problem when I followed up with a second mowing a little over a week ago, and kept the wheels where they were.   Since then the grass been growing luxuriantly, and short rain-free breaks haven't been long enough for things to dry out.  

When I walked through the grass yesterday morning, the blades covered my shoes.  It needed to be cut!

Last night as I was cooking dinner I heard a neighbor using a mower and decided that if he could do it we could too.  However, Tony had an appointment to go to, so if the grass was going to get done it would fall on me.  After I ate I left Tony to clean up the kitchen while I got on my grass cutting shoes and headed out the door.

The new mower starts up like a champ, and turned out to be the easiest part of the job.  I only had to push it a couple of feet to find out that the mower would have a hard time with the long grass. 

Tall grass is difficult to cut, and tall, wet grass is even worse. The mower has a nice self-propelled function, but that was unusable with the thick, unruly grass.   If I went too fast the motor would get overwhelmed and stall. I eventually figured out the best procedure...walk two steps forward and one back, lift the front of the mower a couple of inches to allow any accumulated clippings to shoot out, then repeat.

However, after a couple of successful passes across the yard I'd get cocky, go too fast, and the mower would stall again.  Every time it stalled a large clump of wet clippings were left behind. (After I was done I tried to go back with a rake and get them all up, and Tony made a second pass when he got home.  I don't think we were completely successful.)

When I was done the grass looked much better, although there were weird tufts standing up here and there that managed to avoid being cut.  There were also grass clippings and wheel tracks up and down the driveway.  I pulled the spark plug on the mower, turned it over, and removed massive, damp, thick grass mats from underneath.  I also tried to remove the green stains from the driveway, then came in and did the same with my hands and clothes.

Our plan was to lower to blade a notch or two and cut the grass in a couple of days and break the too-tall cycle, but last night I was laying in bed and heard the rumble of thunder...then the sound of rain.  The forecast has precipitation in the forecast for most of the days in the next week.

I'm not optimistic that our plan will work. 

Five years ago today: The Cruise Diaries--It's Grand!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Around The World In Six Blocks

Yesterday I was leafing through this week's Review (our area's Catholic newspaper) and came across an editorial about supporting immigrants and refugees in the area. There was also a sidebar list of specific ways to get involved. The very last one was to support an immigrant-owned business or restaurant, suggesting a good place to start would be one of the ethnic restaurants along South Grand, which is considered the International District of St. Louis. I mentioned the idea to Hubby Tony, and had barely finished my sentence when he said "Let's do it." An adventure was born.

South Grand is only six blocks long, but it's filled with a wide variety of restaurants and shops. Before we left the house we did some research to find out if there was a church in the area, and were pleased to find out that St. Pius V parish was at the southernmost edge. Their 4:30 Mass fit perfectly into our plans.

We decided to get there early enough to do some shopping before Mass, attend church, then go to dinner.  As we left the house mid-afternoon a light drizzle started falling.  We briefly thought about changing the plan, but decided to be adventurous. The rain stopped, but as we pulled into the church parking lot it started again.  Tony grabbed an umbrella from his car and we started walking north. (The drizzle stopped five minutes later.  Glad we stuck to the original plan.)

As we strolled up and down the street we looked in all the store and restaurant windows and tried to narrow down our dinner choice.  A large portion of the world's cuisine is represented on South Grand. In addition to USA "eats", you can also find food from Brazil, Ethiopia, France, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Persia, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, and Viet Nam. For good measure, there are two Vegan restaurants and a couple of dessert-only places.  After we'd browsed through an ethnic grocery store, a used book store, a Fair Trade shop, and popped into a half-dozen restaurants to look at the menus we had a short list to ponder.

After church it was time to make a decision.  We decided that Moroccan sounded good.  It was.  My Cucumber Salad had diced cucumbers tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Tony tried the Harira, a traditional Moroccan soup that contained beef, lentils, chick peas, and vermicelli.  It was hard to narrow down my entree from among all the choices, but in the end I ordered the Artichoke M’Kally, which had several fried artichoke hearts on top of a vegetable medley that had been cooked in a fantastic tomato sauce and topped with olives and slivers of feta cheese. Tony got the Vegetable Couscous, which had large pieces of vegetables and chick peas on top of a bed of couscous.

When we came out of the restaurant it was drizzling again.  By the time we'd walked three blocks the drizzle had turned into a steady rain, and we ran the last block to the car in a downpour.  By the time we got in the car we were soaked.  The adventure and good food made the inconvenience worthwhile, though

Five years ago today: Polished Piggies Redux

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Good Day, Sunshine

We're two weeks past the spring Daylight Savings Time change.  As always happens, the yearly shift to extra light in the evening made it dark again in the morning.  However, as the days continue to get incrementally longer the beginning of the day light has started to return.

This morning when I woke up at my normal time there was enough brightness that I didn't have to turn on the bedroom light to pick out my clothes.  That realization of longer days to come makes me happy.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Fancy That

Yesterday I was reading an article in a foodie magazine about a new trend; evidently chefs are using all types of unusual ingredients to make fancy waffles.  I'm usually not on the cutting edge of fads, but I'm already doing that.  For the past few months I've been putting a version of falafel batter in my trusty old waffle iron. The results are quite yummy.

Traditional falafels are Middle Eastern balls or patties made from chickpeas.  They are usually fried, and look like this:
Popo le Chien, Wikipedia
These are mine:
Falafel Waffles, ready to eat
My inspiration was this Waffled Falafel recipe, but I've made several changes.  My version has scratch-cooked beans, half the oil (I substitute bean liquid), chickpea flour instead of all-purpose (which makes them healthier and gluten free), less salt, and whole eggs instead of egg whites (because I hate wasting anything, even if it's just an egg yolk).

Falafel made in a waffle iron are far from traditional, but the waffled version contains all the necessary flavors.  The batter is easy to put together.  After it's ready I heat up the waffle iron and spray the interior surfaces with a good coating of cooking spray.  The first time I made the recipe, it took me a couple of rounds before I figured out that a half-cup of batter was just the right amount.  As each waffle finishes cooking I place it in the oven to stay warm.  Eventually the leftovers go into the freezer. 

A traditional falafel sandwich is stuffed in a pita and topped with tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, tahini sauce, and hot sauce.  That's too much work for me to put together, so I've been adding a crumbled falafel to a spinach salad mixed with a spoonful of yogurt and several dashes of hot sauce.  Even my meal is untraditional!

Falafel Waffles

4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 cups chickpeas
1/3 cup bean liquid
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup chickpea or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F (to keep cooked waffles warm).

Pulse the garlic in a food processor until minced. Add cilantro, parsley, and chickpeas and pulse again. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.

If necessary, lightly coat the top and bottom of the waffle iron with cooking spray. Add 1/2 cup of batter. (Some waffle iron will still be showing.) Close the lid gently and cook 5-10 minutes, or until the falafel is golden brown. Keep the cooked falafels warm in the oven or covered with foil on a plate while you make the remaining falafels.

Five years ago today: The Cruise Diaries--Sunday At Sea

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Global Goof Off

Are you feeling unmotivated today? Here's your official invitation to do something about it:

For the rest of the day I'm taking a break from the things I have to do, and substituting want to dos.  Wanna join me?  Let me know how you celebrated.

Five years ago today: The Cruise Diaries--Embarkation

Monday, March 20, 2017

Goodbye And Good Riddance, Winter!

Today is finally the first day of spring. This year the season tried to come too early, with bulbs, forsythias and flowering trees blooming weeks ahead of time.  But last week winter roared back in with temperatures that killed all the early bloomers.  Now, hopefully things will keep seasonally on track.

With the new season here it was time to do some spring interior redecorating.  A big part of the job involves swapping out artwork in the living and family rooms.  For example, this snow scene, painted by Hubby Tony's great aunt many years ago:

I love the memories it brings back, but the subject matter doesn't feel appropriate any more.  The painting was relegated to a closet in the basement until next fall.

The new pieces are bright, flowery, and invoke the new season.  Like this one:

When the changing of the artwork project was done I stepped back and took a look around. The whole thing only took fifteen minutes, but it made such a difference!

Five years ago today: In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb--Hardly!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Cat Cleaners

Tomorrow, of course, is St. Patrick's Day. However, I'll be too busy to cook a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner so I decided to serve it tonight.  After lunch I plopped the brisket in a baking dish, added the spice packet and a little water, then covered the whole thing with foil and put it in the oven to cook.  Two hours later I pulled it out of the oven to check for doneness. 

The good news was that it was tender.  The bad news is that I spilled some of the hot liquid, which ended up on me, the countertop, the cabinets, and the floor.

I thought I wiped everything down well with soapy water before I went upstairs to change my clothes.  However, the cats seemed to think otherwise.  When I came back into the kitchen they were doing an additional clean up on the stove.

I thanked them for their help, then grabbed the soap and washcloth again.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Pi Memory Helper

According to Wikipedia, Pi Day is an annual celebration of the mathematical constant π (pi), which is observed on March 14 (3/14 in the month/day date format) since 3, 1, and 4 are the first three significant digits of π.

The Internet was full of Pi Day tidbits today.  My favorite, and new to me, was the mnemonic device "May I have a large container of coffee".  The number of letters in each word of the phrase corresponds to the first eight numbers of Pi's series.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

In The Land Of Grandbabies

In my opinion, one of the greatest social developments of the past few decades is the change in parental leave policy. When my boys were born, Hubby Tony had to use his vacation days to spend time with his new sons. Today, the companies that Son Brian and Daughter-In-Law Nicole work for both have generous paid time off. After Baby Jay was born, both parents were there for the first initial weeks, then Nicole stayed home with him while Brian worked. When she went back to work Brian stepped in as the full-time caregiver.

Brian has to go back to work at the beginning of April.  Before he does, he invited Tony and me out for a visit. We spent six wonderful days in California hanging with this guy:

Jay was on the cusp of his five-month birthday (which happened the day we left).  Developmentally, he was right on track, so we got to see him sit up with just a little assistance and work on developing his rolling-over skills.  He liked to cuddle, coo, smile, laugh, and blow bubbles.  Any object in his hand ended up in his mouth. 

Tony and I got to give him some bottles and take him out for a few walks.  The time flew by, and all too soon we were giving Jay a last hug and kiss.  Until our next trip Tony and I will have to make do with FaceTime calls and text updates.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

I Thought There Was Nothing To Eat...

You know the feeling when you think your refrigerator and pantry are bare and then you discover you have the makings for a darn good meal in your own house?  The sweet potato and kale stir fry with fried eggs on top we were able to throw together was pretty yummy.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Funny For A Friday

Recently a guy in Paris nearly got away with stealing several paintings from the Louvre.

However, after planning the crime and getting in and out past security he was captured only 2 blocks away when his van ran out of gas.

When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied: "I had no Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh."

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Jeans Challenge Met

Last week I noticed my favorite pair of jeans were getting raggedy at the bottom.  I could have put up with the frayed hems until the weather warmed up and it turned into shorts weather, but I also noticed that those jeans were also getting a little baggy!  Time to get some new ones.

It's been quite a while since I've had to deal with baggy clothes.  Several years ago my weight had inched up such that I was almost to the plus sizes, and I realized I had to do something.  Since then I've dropped down about a size a year until I reached my current size.  I'd been maintaining it for a while and was happy, but since last fall I've been more committed to a healthy eating plan.  I guess it's made a difference.

However, I've found that when I'm on the cusp of a new size it's hard to find something that fits just right.  I still have a middle-aged woman midsection, and skinny jeans don't look good on me.  My favorite style is boot cut, and the pants get bonus points if the rise is nice and high.  Because it won't be too long before the temperature heats up (and who knows what size I'll be at the end of the summer), I didn't want to spend a lot of money. I decided to visit several thrift stores around my house and see if I could find something that fit. 

Based on past experience I suspect the majority of items on thrift store racks are there because fashion has moved on. That means that this time I had to wade through a lot of low rises, distressed legs, and heavily-embellished back pockets.

The first store I went to didn't have anything in the new size, but I found a nice pair in my current size which I bought as a back up plan.  I came up empty handed at the next two, but at the fourth store I stumbled upon a pair that would work.  The rise was a little lower than perfect, but I went ahead and bought them.  I always wear my shirts long and hanging out anyway.

Five years ago today:  Never A Dull Moment