Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Clean Out The Crud

We are a coffee drinking family.

Each morning after he's had his fill, Hubby Tony makes sure there's enough for me left in the insulated carafe of our Mr. Coffee.  I have one cup with my breakfast and another mid-afternoon. It's nice that the coffee is still nice and hot when I drink it, but the design of the carafe (with a top opening so small I can't fit my hand inside) makes it hard to clean.  The best I can do is stick a washcloth in there and twirl it around before I rinse it out, and run the deep cleaning program when the "Clean" button tells me to.

Last month when Son Donald was home the coffee consumption increased proportionally.  Both he and his dad drink a lot of coffee.  The carafe was rarely empty, and I don't think it was thoroughly cleaned for weeks.  When our cups started having brown flakes of crud in them I  took a good look inside the carafe, and discovered there was a layer of brown caked onto the sides.


I used a bottle brush on the sides, but couldn't get to all the surfaces.  It was enough to knock off some of the deposits, and we didn't have any more flakes in the coffee, but I figured it was time to do something more drastic.

I Googled "clean thermal coffee carafe" and clicked through on the first hit, a post called How To Clean a Stainless Coffee Pot.  It sounded like an easy job to get the carafe back to new condition, so I decided to give it a try. Following the directions, I threw a pod of dishwasher detergent into the pot, then filled it with boiling water and let it sit while we ate dinner. The next time I looked, the top of the water looked scummy.  When I emptied it out, it was so brown it could have been actual coffee! 

Don't drink this.
All of the caked-on residue had melted away, and the inside of the carafe gleamed. 

The next morning my morning cup of coffee tasted amazing, with a mild flavor and fruity notes that had been missing just the day before.

Five years ago today: Welcome, Welcome, Welcome

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bag It

In my opinion, Sunday afternoon is one of the worst times to go to Costco. But Hubby Tony and I were out of spinach and mushrooms (which are essential ingredients in our house). Costco has the best prices on the items, so to Costco I went.

When I pulled into the parking lot and saw all the cars, I knew the store would be packed with customers.  However, I've come up with a way to get through the store relatively quickly. If I only need a couple of items I bring in a shopping bag and skip the cart. That way I can maneuver around the people who stop in the middle of the aisle to look at something, and children who aren't watching out for other people. At the sample stand it's easier to collect my goodies, because without a cart I don't take up much space.

Then, after I have all my items I can zip past the laden baskets headed towards the checkouts. It's easier to survey the lines and pick a short one when all you have is a cloth bag hanging over your arm, and without a cart I'm not blocking the aisle for people trying to get through.

After I've paid for my purchases and head for the exit I can walk briskly past the slowpokes who are examining their receipt to make sure they were charged correctly for their items.  Finally, I don't have to push the unwieldy basket through the parking lot full of cars backing up without looking to see if anyone is behind them.

Five years ago today: Why? Just Because

Friday, August 25, 2017

National Banana Split Day

The sign on the door said it all:

I was alerted yesterday to the fact that August 25th was National Banana Split Day. Our local Culver's restaurant had a promotion on the treats, so after dinner Hubby Tony and I walked up there (because the steps we took would help burn off the calories we were going to ingest). 

Ready for eating
We both ordered a split and we both polished it off.   Then we walked home a less direct way. Those banana splits have a lot of calories!

Five years ago today: Can You Believe I Ate The Whole Thing?

Monday, August 21, 2017

In The Shadow

Perhaps you've heard there was an eclipse across much of the United States today?  Hubby Tony and I were lucky to live in the 70-mile wide path of totality, and decided we wanted to watch the once-in-a-lifetime event with people. When we heard about an opportunity to volunteer for a viewing party at a local retreat center we decided to sign up.  In exchange for our time, the center offered a t-shirt, lunch and (the all important) viewing glasses.

Even saints got into the eclipse mood
Our instructions were to arrive by 10 AM to receive our shirts and instructions.  La Salle Retreat Center is only ten miles from our house.  However, after breakfast was cleaned up we were antsy and decided to get on the road, arriving forty five minutes before the designated time.  We figured we'd use the extra time to walk around the beautiful grounds.  When we pulled in we saw the tents that had been set up for selling eclipse glasses, bottled water, and cookies.  We parked the car, got our shirts, then staked out an area on the lawn with our chairs and a blanket for later.

There were already people arriving, though, so instead of having time to walk we were pressed into service. Tony's job was to help direct cars.  I was assigned to sell Cosmic Cookies (several varieties, all freshly-made in the center's kitchen).  The cookies weren't ready, so I had the chance to chat with some of the other volunteers while I waited.

The retreat center sits at the top of a large hill.  There were two viewing areas; the main one at the crest of the hill by the building's front door, and a second one at the bottom.  A wide variety of people arrived to watch.  Most of them were older, but there was  a large group of middle school students who arrived in school buses and used the event as an educational experience. I also talked to several parents who let their children skip school so they could watch the event together.

Eventually a shave ice truck arrived and parked at one end of the main viewing area.  A group of astronomers set up two huge telescopes. When the cookies arrived, sales were brisk.  The event turned into a great party.

Ready to look into the sky
In the days leading up to today the weather people couldn't decide if it was going to be sunny or cloudy. All they knew for certain was that it would be late-August hot and humid. Fortunately, the clouds stayed away.  The heat didn't, but I was working under a tent and had shade. 

The moon entered the sun's path at 11:49 am and continued for the next two hours and 54 minutes. Ten minutes before totality began the astronomers gave us a warning, and offered another a couple of minutes before. They sounded an alarm when it was safe to take off our glasses, and a reminder when it was time to put the glasses back on.

The total eclipse started at 1:16pm and lasted for 2 minutes 8.3seconds.  Shortly before totality the shadows on the ground started to look very strange. Night insects started chirping.  The temperature dropped, and the cars turned their headlights on.  At totality, the ghostly moon silhouette passed directly in front of the sun, blotting out all but a halo-like solar corona.  As inspiring as the totality was, the first peek of the sun afterwards was almost more awesome.

It didn't take long for enough of the sun to become visible again to put things in nature back to normal.  Once things were bright out again people began packing their things up to move out.  Tony and I stayed around long enough to help tear down the tents and carry some things into the center, then we headed to our car, taking our memories of a lifetime with us.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

From One Cat Lover To Another

Do you remember just a couple of days ago, when I showed you pictures of my cats as tiny kittens?   Strayer, of Cat Eyes---A Cat Woman's Photos commented that "I'd love to see side by sides of your cats as kittens, then as they are now."

Post more photos of my 'boys'? Twist my arm!

I wanted to come up with just the right images, though.  First I asked the cats nicely if they would like to recreate their earlier poses. They declined. Next  I tried to catch them off guard with my camera, but they weren't having any of that, either.  Finally, I dug into my archive of cat images.

So Strayer, here you are.  Cats young and mature.

Pepper on the left, Jackson on the right

Five years ago today: Mouthy

Friday, August 18, 2017

I'm A Guardian of Magnificent Wisdom

Monday, of course, is a solar eclipse in much of the United States. In honor of the day, here's a cute meme that can help you find your Eclipse identity.

Five years ago today: My Favorite Walk Yet!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Age Has Its Privileges

Today was Pepper Cat's and Jackson Cat's annual vet visit.  They don't enjoy leaving the house, and getting them there is always a big deal (you can read about the procedure here and here), but this year went smoothly, thanks to Son Donald's assistance.

Once they made it into the examination room the tech scooped them out of their carriers (which they were quite reluctant to leave) and weighed them, then let them retreat back to their solitude while we waited for the vet.  The vet did the dirty work of poking, prodding, and vaccinating.  At the end of each cat's exam, she pronounced them in good shape "for as old as they are." 

Where did the years go?  We brought the cats home in June, 2002, shortly after they were weaned, and arbitrarily decided that their birthday was May 15th.  That means they're now 15 years old! 

Back in the day
I was curious about how a cat's age correlated to a humans.  I asked the vet, who said there's no hard and fast rule. That surprised me, so I came home and did some Internet research. Animal Planet told me:
An indoor cat's world is a safe, cozy haven, with tasty meals dished up on time, and protection from the changeable weather. Her only experience with a predator is probably a zealous owner who wants to groom her coat or trim her claws. Life with a clean litter box, a private place to catnap and attention from one or more humans who offer affection and care -- what more could a cat want for a stress-free existence? If she's grown up indoors, she'll likely have no interest in exploring the great outdoors, especially with stimulating playtime and toys to keep her stalking instincts keen. With routine vaccinations and vet checkups, plus a spaying or neutering can cause an indoor cat to easily thrive into her teens or beyond. The average life span is 12 to 15 years.
Wow! I guess my cats deserve the extra time it takes them to get up the stairs now and then. Our previous cat lived into his 20s, though, so I'm hopeful we'll have Pepper and Jackson around for a long time.

Five years ago today: The Choice Is Mine

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Cheap! Cheap!

Last night Hubby Tony and I decided to go downtown for a Blues at the Arch concert. Because there was also a baseball game scheduled we knew there would be a lot of people trying to find a parking space.  The parking garages would have their higher event rates in place, so our plan was to first try and find a parking meter. 

We get downtown several times a year, and know the drill.  A lot of the streets have rush hour parking restrictions, but those end at 6 PM. The parking meters are operational until 7 PM.  So, if you're lucky enough to find an empty spot it doesn't cost much to use it.

We arrived in the area at 6:15, and Tony only had to drive up and down a couple of blocks before he found that magic empty spot and pulled in before we realized that neither one of us had change to feed the meter.  However, the fancy new ones the city recently installed accept charge cards, so I told him I would take care of it.

I found the pay station, input the parking spot number, and inserted my card to pay.  It wasn't until I got the receipt that I realized just how cheap our parking would be:

Yes, I put a whopping twenty five cents on my card.  I looked around, but there was no explanation of why there was a 6:30 expiration time.  Maybe it was my lucky day?

Five years ago today: What a Crock

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Last night St. Louis Cardinals were playing the Kansas City Royals.  In the sixth inning of the game a bit of future baseball lore unfolded. The Cardinals were down by one run, but the bases were loaded.  Somehow, a cat got onto the field as Yadier Molina was at the plate. Yadi pointed his bat towards the cat, and play stopped. It took a couple of minutes for the kitty to amble across the field and get captured. (It was none too pleased to be carried out; the grounds crew member got clawed and bit in the process.) Once the game resumed Yadi hit a grand slam right towards where he had been pointing his bat. The Cardinals won the game.

Just to make sure that our out of town children had heard about the event, this morning I sent out a link on our family chat group, titling it "Yadier Meowlina". Then I left for the gym. My phone dinged a couple of times while I was driving. I ignored it. When I came out of the gym this is what awaited me:

I guess they thought my link was the cat's meow.

Five years ago today: Who, Me? Not Me!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Driving The Future

Every once in a while I get to do something really cool. Recently I was invited to drive a Tesla electric car.  I thought about the invitation for approximately three and a half seconds before I said 'Yes'.

Electric cars are getting more and more popular, but they're still a novelty on the roads in my neighborhood.  The sedan I drove, a Model S, came with all the bells and whistles.  On the outside there was a automatic keyless entry system, retracting lighted door handles, and folding heated side mirrors. The space where the engine would be on a conventional car was extra trunk space.  Inside, in addition to the normal goodies that new luxury vehicles have, like USB ports, power outlets, hands free talking capability, and backup cameras, this car had Internet connectivity, voice activated controls, and streaming radio.

When I sat in the twelve way power adjustable, heated driver's seat, the first thing I noticed was the giant touch screen in the center of the control panel, which controlled everything in the car.  In addition to all of the normal information you'd expect to find on the instrument panel, you could also see how long you could go until the next charge.

I got to drive on both surface streets and highways.  On the highway I was able to try out the autopilot, which uses sensors and cameras to steer the vehicle.  It was creepy to let the car control itself, and I didn't do a good job of it.  Instead, I kept turning the steering wheel such that the autopilot would disengage.  I bet with practice I could get used to it, though.  At the end of my drive I got to try out the car's perpendicular auto-park feature.  I pulled up to a spot, put the car in reverse, took my hands off the wheel, engaged the auto-park, and watched in amazement as the car maneuvered itself into the spot.

If I had enough money I would head straight to the nearest Tesla dealer to purchase one for myself.  Unfortunately, my bank account balance says that won't be happening anytime soon.  However, if the car's price ever comes down I'd certainly think hard about it.

Five years ago today: Bike Maintenance Basics

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Wonders All Around

Today in one of my meditation books I read:
"This is a day which God has given into my hands...I will notice interesting things."
And in the next paragraph, it said:
"Today there are wonders all around me, if I will open my eyes and enjoy them."
Reading those words of wisdom gave me the motivation to be extra observant.  I'm glad I was.  Otherwise I would have missed the small bunny scurrying to hide in a hole under the front porch slab.  And the two spotted fawns frolicking in a yard while during my evening walk.  And the beautiful patch of Black-eyed Susan I saw growing though a fence.

Five years ago today: Now That's Service!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Texas, Thanks To Tony

This week Hubby Tony had a training class scheduled in Dallas, Texas, and asked me if I wanted to join him for part of it.  I flew out of St. Louis Tuesday morning and arrived back home this afternoon.  Thanks to some new-to-me work assignments I also picked up along the way, it was a whirlwind two and a half days.

All of the people in town for Tony's training class stayed at the Magnolia Hotel. The beautiful historic building was originally the headquarters for the Magnolia Petroleum Company. The company trademark was a Pegasus,  and this was the first thing I saw when I walked into the lobby:

Tony told me there were about two dozen people in his class.  They weren't the only group, though.  We got to share the hotel with swarms of Mary Kay Cosmetic ladies, who were in town for their annual convention.  Everywhere I looked there were representatives.  Even if they weren't wearing their official convention lanyard it was easy to spot them, because most had on distinctive apparel or branded items.  The ones I talked with were very friendly, but I didn't want to get too close, for fear of being roped into a sales presentation.

I enjoyed spending time with Tony at breakfast and after work hours, but he wasn't the only family member I got to hang out with.  You may remember that Son Tony now lives in the Dallas area, and Son Donald (who finished his university summer semester and is free until the next classes start in mid-August) was there paying his brother a visit.  It was an unplanned mini family reunion!

Five years ago today: The Art Of Sleeping In Public