Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Be Careful How You Type

A strange email showed up in my Inbox the other day. The forwarded message was about booking a block of rooms at a resort for a daughter's wedding later in the year. At first I was confused. I didn't recognize any of the names, but then I realized the person had just typed the 'To' address incorrectly. The intended recipient would probably be wondering where the information was, so I replied to the message, saying
"I believe you made a mistake in the email address when you sent this, as I did not request the information. However, congratulations on your daughter's wedding! The venue looks like a very nice place."
The next day I had a response from the sender thanking me, and apologizing for the mistake. I never heard from her again, so she obviously took care of the issue.

My story had a happy ending. Here's a silly example of one that doesn't:

Five years ago today: Adopt A Cardinal

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Bigger, Better Sleep Surface

Last fall when I put the flannel sheets on our bed I noticed that part of the binding on the mattress edge was starting to come off. I couldn't tell you how old the mattress is, so I put 'research and buy new mattress' on my list of 257 other projects.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, where I had a work assignment in a store that happened to sell mattresses. As part of a discussion with the salesman in that department I learned they were discontinuing the Tempur-Pedic brand and selling off all of their inventory. All of a sudden getting that new mattress jumped to the top of the list.

Over the years I've had the opportunity to try out the original memory foam mattress several times. Each time I told myself I'd love to have one, but its high price held me back. For the rest of the day I kept thinking about my conversation with the salesperson. After dinner I took Hubby Tony back to the store where we laid on the display model together, agreed it was a good fit, and decided to buy it. For about a third of the regular price.

There was one tiny problem, though. All they had left were queen sized mattresses. Our bed frame, part of a 1940s vintage set, is full sized (which is six inches narrower and five inches shorter). The salesman suggested converter rails. which included extenders to make the larger mattress fit. I didn't know such a thing existed, but was glad it did.

The mattress was scheduled to be delivered last Tuesday, but when the truck arrived I was told the 'converter' part of the rails hadn't been shipped with the rest of the frame. The company overnighted the part, and I rescheduled the delivery for today. The truck showed up right in the middle of the time frame they assigned me. Thirty minutes after they walked in the door they had the new rails put together and the mattress laying on top of them.

While I was waiting for the mattress to be delivered I hit the thrift stores to look for new bedding for the new up-sized bed. After a couple of tries I found a set of queen sized percale sheets and a partial set (missing the pillow cases) of flannel sheets. I figured I'll just use the ones from the current set. The blanket is a combination full/queen and won't need to be replaced, but after trying to make do with the current comforter and dust ruffle I can see they're much too small. They'll have to go.

Time to hit the thrift stores again. (Good thing it's one of my favorite activities.)

Five years ago today: A Medicine Cabinet In A Bottle

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Not So Humdrum Dinner

Every once in a while I get in a cooking rut, where it feels like I'm making the same thing over and over for dinner. The other day I decided to shake things up.

I started with a survey of what was in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. No surprise that I found exactly the same ingredients that have been there for the past month. Randomly picking black beans and sweet potatoes as inspiration ingredients, I started searching the Internet for recipes. Google was full of variations on chili and casseroles, but they all left me cold. It wasn't until later in the morning that inspiration hit. I could make chili and use it on top of something! In this case, the 'something' could be the Napa cabbage purchased earlier in the week at the Asian market. Kind of a Mexico/Asia fusion salad

Later in the day I was out running errands when I saw a sign outside the produce market that said they had avocados on sale. (Five for a dollar! How could I not stop?) The avocados were small, and not as ripe as I would have liked, but I figured it would be a nice addition.

I cook my beans from scratch, and freeze them in 3-cup portions. That means if it's just me and Hubby Tony eating dinner I can get two meals out of a container. This meal was no exception.  When it got close to dinner time I chopped the cabbage and set it on the counter so it would come to room temperature. After cobbling together a couple of different chili recipes to suit my taste I sauteed onions and garlic, then dumped in the beans, diced sweet potato, a can of tomato sauce, chili powder, and cumin. Things looked a little dry and was out of stock, so I added just enough water to cover the ingredients. After coming to a boil the chili simmered until the sweet potatoes were done (about 20 minutes).

At dinner time I put two cups of cabbage on each plate, poured the chili on top, then added half of a chopped avocado. Right before I put the plates on the table I found a little cheddar cheese in the freezer. I sprinkled some on top, then added some crumbled tortilla chips after I took the photo. The finished result:

Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili Salad (serves 4)

3 cups black beans
Approximately the same amount of sweet potatoes
1/2 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil (or water for sauteing)
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
Stock or water (as needed)
8 cups Napa cabbage, chopped
2 avocados, cubed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Tortilla chips and salsa (optional)

Drain and rinse the beans. Dice sweet potatoes. Saute onion and garlic in oil or a small amount of water until translucent. Add beans, sweet potatoes, spices, tomato sauce, and stock or water to cover ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer until sweet potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes).

Arrange cabbage on two plates. Spoon chili on top. Garnish with avocado and cheese. Serve with tortilla chips and salsa.

Five years ago today: What Do You Call A Group Of...?

Friday, February 23, 2018

An Early Sign Of Spring

I'm so ready for winter to be over, but the spring solstice doesn't arrive for almost a month.  It doesn't help that I haven't seen the sun for almost a week, and it's rained (or flurried) for six out of the past seven days.

This afternoon when I got in the car to run an errand my radio was tuned to AM Station Preset One. At first all I heard was a murmuring silence, but a couple of seconds later I heard the broadcasters for St. Louis Cardinals baseball. I soon learned that this was the very first spring training game of the year.

If they're playing baseball, nice weather can't be far behind. Right?.

Five years ago today: Truly Trivial

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


On Monday Pepper the Cat threw up most of his undigested breakfast, and then for the rest of the day he was lethargic. Every couple of hours he sneezed, wheezed, and sounded like he was trying to cough something up. Tuesday he wasn't doing any better so I called the veterinarian and made an appointment to bring Pepper in. Hubby Tony got home from work as we were getting ready to leave, and together we all drove to the vet's office.

Once in the examination room the tech took Pepper's vitals, then we waited for the doctor to arrive. The doctor examined, poked, and prodded. She mentioned how Pepper had lost a couple of pounds since his visit in August for his rabies shot.  She said she'd like to run some tests, suggesting a urinalysis, blood work (including a CBC and thyroid test), and an abdominal ultrasound. That sounded expensive to us, and it was. Including the office visit, I put $275 on the charge card on my way out of the office.

The last time I had diagnostic tests done insurance picked up the majority of the cost, but I was amazed at the "list price" of the work. Today I decided to do a little comparison of human versus cat test costs.  Here's a breakdown of Pepper's fees:
Thyroid Test......................$46
Complete Blood Count.....$55
Diagnostic Profile.............$55
The costs for people tests were a little bit harder to figure out, but I found out that:
  • According to a urinalysis can cost anywhere from $5 to $30. Advanced tests could increase the cost.
  • said that an abdominal ultrasound ranged in price from $200 to $650, with an average of $390.
  • There are quite different types of thyroid tests. However, suggests a range of $35 to $500, depending on the complexity.
  • Compass Healthcare says the cost of a CBC test is about $150 (not including the diagnostic profile).
After doing the research I felt better about what I paid.  The tests revealed that Pepper's problem was a slight upper respiratory infection.  He came home with prescriptions for an antibiotic and an appetite stimulant to help him gain back the weight he lost.

Five years ago today: Winter Weather Assault

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Fun With The Health Kiosk

The weather here today was warm (a high of 67 degrees) but rainy. Our area has been in a drought, so the precipitation was nice. It made it hard to do anything outside, though. Instead of the outside exercise I had planned to get, I went to a grocery store branch of my bank to deposit a check, then spent some time walking up and down the aisles seeing what was new.

When I got to the far end over by the pharmacy I noticed a large blue and white blood pressure monitor machine by the patient window. I have no concerns about my blood pressure, but since the machine wasn't being used I decided to try it out. Why not? Over the years I've seen enough people sitting at the machines to know what to do. However, this one had an easy to read display screen that walked me through the process. I sat down, put my arm in the cuff, relaxed my hand, then hit the button on the screen that started the process.

Soon I had my results. As I expected, they were completely normal.

I started to get up, then realized that this machine did more than just check blood pressure. You could also screen yourself for weight and body mass index. Because there was no one else in the area and I had time to kill I decided to give it a try. The screen told me to place my feet on a foot rest, then hit the start button. It only took a few minutes for my results. They were both normal, too.

I left the store feeling better about myself than when I went in.

Five years ago today: Are You Ready?

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Presidents, Explained

Back in the 1990s, my boys and I loved to watch the animated comedy television series Animaniacs  after they got home from school.  Like all good cartoons, the skits were written for children, but some of the humor was also directed at adults. They laughed at the antics of Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner. I laughed at the lampoons of TV shows, movies, and celebrities.  We all enjoyed their parody songs.

In honor of President's Day, here's the Warners singing about all the presidents from George Washington to Bill Clinton to the tune of the William Tell Overture.  (If you can't understand all the lyrics, the fine folks at STLyrics have written them out for you.)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

What Is Your Investing Spirit Animal?

Today I took a fun quiz to help me figure out My Investing Spirit Animal

The quiz was put together by ally.  The company did a survey and determined that when it comes to investing, only ten percent of Americans consider themselves a traditional bull or bear. Instead, they more identify with one of ten different animals (emu, prairie dog, mason bee, mule, owl, honey badger, narwhal, flying squirrel, and Sasquatch).

After answering the four questions, I found out that I was one of the 15% of people who consider themselves a shark. The explanation said:
Just like a shark, waiting for the most advantageous time to attack, you’re patient, opportunistic, and in it for the long haul. Stock price fluctuations don’t faze you as you view the market as a marathon, not a sprint. You are willing to invest in stocks outside the norm, if you think it has potential for solid profit margins in the long term.
I don't spend much time thinking about or checking on my tiny account, which I guess translates to patient.  However, I much prefer my collection of mutual funds to individual stocks.  Probably not very opportunistic. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day Trivia

Here are a few Valentine's Day Trivia and Facts from Holiday Insights
  • The heart is the most common symbol of romantic love. Ancient cultures believed the human soul lived in the heart.
  • In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who their Valentine would be. They wore the name on their sleeves for one week. To wear your heart on your sleeve now means that it is easy for other people to know how you are feeling.
  • About 3% of pet owners will give Valentine’s Day gifts to their pets.
  • 73 percent of people who buy flowers for Valentine’s Day are men, while only 27 percent are women.  15 percent of U.S. women send themselves flowers on Valentine’s Day.
  • California produces 60 percent of American roses. However, the vast number of Valentine’s Day roses are imported, mostly from South America.  110 million roses, the majority red, will be sold and delivered within a three-day time period.
  • About 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year. That’s the largest seasonal card-sending occasion of the year, next to Christmas.  Approximately 25 percent of Valentine’s Day cards are humorous.
  • More than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold for Valentine’s Day. 
  • In 1866, candy manufacturer NECCO made the first “Conversation Hearts”, originally called “Motto Hearts”. Eight billion of these little candies are sold between New Years day and February 14.
  • In the 17th century, hopeful maidens ate a hard-boiled egg and pinned five bay leaves to her pillow before going to sleep on Valentine's eve. It was believed this would make her dream of her future husband.
Five years ago today: Orange You Glad?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Fat Valentine's Day

For the first time since 1945, February 14 is both the Feast of Saint Valentine and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  Ash Wednesday (along with Good Friday) are days of fasting. That means one primary meal, two lesser meals, and abstinence from meat.  Not exactly conducive to a romantic meal.  The day before Ash Wednesday is Fat Tuesday (a day noted for its emphasis on excess), so Hubby Tony and I decided to combine both celebrations into one observance.

Purple for Justice. Green for Faith. Gold for Power. Hearts for Love
After Tony got off work tonight we met at a nearby Italian restaurant, where the dimly lit dining room and intimate tables offer the perfect romantic atmosphere.  Instead of worrying about calories, I treated myself to a delicious pasta dish tossed with toasted almond pesto, sun dried tomatoes, and goat cheese. Tony ordered the salmon special, a large perfectly-grilled filet served on top of a portion of creamy risotto.  Before the entrees came we shared a Caesar salad, and after tasting a bite of each other's entrees we split them, too.

After the bill was paid Tony headed towards home to start a pot of coffee and I swung by the grocery store for a dessert of cookies and ice cream.  At home I plated it up, and we ate and drank until everything was gone.

As I had started the day with a work training event that culminated with a lunch of decadent burgers, fries, and shakes, the combination of two rich meals in one day made me feel very fat!

Five years ago today: Ashen

Sunday, February 11, 2018

"Paw" Pampering

About this time each winter my skin really starts to dry out. When I get out of the shower in the morning the first thing I do is give everything a good slather of lotion. During the day I have to apply hand cream multiple times, and I don't dare go anywhere without my lip balm. However, even with all that attention there are some body parts that need even more.

Like my lower extremities.

For the past few days my feet have been really rough, and my heels were so cracked that they snagged every time I put on a pair of polyester socks! I knew it was time for some serious foot pampering.

Last night when I went to bed I applied a heavy coat of my richest body butter to my feet, adding even extra to the really dry parts of my heels. Then I put on a pair of comfortable socks and headed to bed. When I woke up my feet were so much softer, and the pair of socks I chose slid on smoothly.

Five years ago today: Trash Can Cat

Thursday, February 8, 2018

I Thought The Holidays Were Over

Following our family tradition we took down the Christmas tree and decorations right after January 6th (the feast of the Epiphany) and put the boxes back into the closet that's tucked under the basement stairs.

It's turned into a family joke that no matter how hard I try to gather everything up, some item or another always slips through the cracks. This year was no exception. Earlier this week I was sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner with Hubby Tony when I happened to glance over at the windows that overlooking the deck. The window farthest to the right still had an ornament hanging from the latch.

Ornament, removed

And then this afternoon I was walking through the living room when I saw a glint of silver on the carpet. I stopped and picked up a tiny two inch piece of tree garland, which had somehow survived the weekly room vacuuming.

I wonder if I'm really done for the year now.

Five years ago today: Shake It Up

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Local Angle

Last week (on February 1st) Dennis Edwards, the lead singer of the Temptations from 1967 to 1984 passed away, two days short of this 75th birthday.  He wasn’t an original singer with the Temptations, but he was the voice on the classic tunes  “Papa Was a Rollin' Stone,” “I Can’t Get Next To You,” “Cloud Nine” and “Ball of Confusion”

In an interesting local angle, Mr. Edwards had lived a low-key life in the North County area of St. Louis since the 1980s.  He moved here to be closer to his mother.

Here's a classic clip of the band from a TV performance in 1972, which showcases the group's choreography, harmonies, and flashy wardrobe.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Setup Snafu

Each February a group I belong to organizes a potluck dinner. The 2018 version was last night. Despite a rocky start, the evening went off without a hitch.

Back in August the group arranged to use a conference room at a local church. A couple of weeks later we figured out the date conflicted with another event, so we requested an alternate and filled out a new application. I volunteered to email the form to our contact at the church.  The next day I received a confirmation mail back.

Another member was chairing the potluck committee, so other than being part of a team doing a walk-through of the facility a couple of weeks ago, buying paper plates for the event at Costco, and figuring out what I was going to bring for my dish I didn't think anything more about the project.

Part of our arrangement with the church was that they would have the room arranged for us, so the group decided to begin the decorating and final setup 90 minutes before the event started. When I pulled into the parking lot several other people were there and we walked into the church together. Together, we discovered that nothing had been arranged. The large room was still divided into two smaller rooms. The west half contained a podium with rows of chairs facing it. The east half had four folding tables pushed together to make one large table in the center of the room, with chairs arranged around it.

In a panic, I tried calling our church contact. The call went to voice mail. By this time six other group members had arrived. We sprung into action, rolling the large round tables out of a closet and setting them up. The folding room divider was locked, so some of the tables were rolled out of the room, down the hall, and back into the other side. Ten minutes later someone found the key to unlock and open the partition. Members continued to arrive, and forty five minutes after we arrived the room was set up, decorated, and ready to be used.

In the middle of all the hubbub a member arrived who had a cell phone number for a second church contact. I called her and explained the situation, but said I thought we had it under control. The woman apologized profusely. Ten minutes later she sent me a text with a photo of our application...but it was the original one! Somehow they didn't update their records and thought we wouldn't be having our event for another couple of weeks.

Five years ago today: Suck It Up

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Real To-Do List

I saw these thoughts on a plaque in a friend's bathroom, and thought they were worth sharing.

Five years ago today: Read Here, There, And Everywhere