Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Real Pain In The Tooth

For the past couple of weeks I've had an intermittent mild pain in one of my lower left teeth. Over the weekend it became a slightly more intense intermittent pain. Yesterday I called the dentist, and later in the day went in for a visit.

In the waiting room I realized that at that moment my tooth didn't hurt anymore, but was afraid of what would happen if I didn't follow through with the appointment. Once I was seated in the exam chair I did my best to describe my symptoms. The dental assistant did an x-ray, which showed there was no sign of infection. She called in the dentist, who poked around my mouth until he found the sore spot. He couldn't see any damage, but after the assistant took a photo she discovered a small crack in my wisdom tooth. The dentist didn't have time in his schedule to do an immediate filling, and since I wasn't in extreme pain the assistant suggested I come back today.

A little less than 24 hours after the first visit I was back in the exam chair. The assistant swabbed my cheek with a topical anesthetic, the dentist injected the real thing, then we all waited for it to take effect. The dentist came in and drilled away, told the assistant to prepare a temporary filling, and left.

The assistant explained that the dentist wanted to make sure the tooth hadn't been compromised.  He wanted to wait a couple of weeks to make sure the pain was completely gone before he completed the work. The assistant told me today's filling contained oil of cloves, which had some antiseptic properties, and I might be tasting the spice for a couple of hours. (I did.  It made me crave pumpkin pie.)

Ten minutes later the filling job was finished, and after a stop at the payment desk I was on my way.  I get to go back in two weeks for either a permanent filling or, if the pain hasn't gone away, more extensive work (aka a root canal). Of course, I'm 'rooting' for the first option.

Five years ago today: If You fill It Will They Come?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Ahead Of Time Anniversary

Next Thursday Hubby Tony and I will have been married 38 years.   Because it's hard for us to celebrate middle of the week milestones, we designated this weekend as the substitute.  And what a weekend it was!

Last night after dinner we went out and helped each other pick out presents. I got the new travel purse I wanted, and Tony selected a new journal and a brimmed hat for wearing in the sun. We ended the night walking along a trail in downtown St. Charles.

Today we spent some time in Alton, just over the river in Illinois, running errands, checking out the farmer's market, and eating lunch at The Old Bakery Beer Company, a craft brewery housed in a converted Colonial Bread plant. I had a Vegetarian Reuben (with juicy tomatoes substituting for the traditional pastrami). Tony chose a Caesar Wrap with chickpeas. We split and shared both dishes equally.

From there we drove back across the Mississippi River and through a naturalized floodplain area (the last ten minutes down a gravel road) to the Edward "Ted" and Pat Jones-Confluence Point State Park where the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers come together and Lewis and Clark began their expedition. We left the car in the parking lot and walked the last half mile to the confluence itself. 

Mississippi on the left, Missouri on the right
The point itself is pretty wild-looking, and it looked like a flood had washed away some of the hardscaping, but the sweeping expanse of water in front of us was certainly inspiring. After admiring things Tony and I walked back to the parking lot, then backtracked to the main road.

We headed south, then turned west towards Florissant, a St. Louis suburb very close to where I grew up. Before we reached the small historical area of the city (settled in the late 1700s) we compared the current storefronts and buildings with what was there back in the day. Eventually we reached the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine, the oldest Catholic Church building in the Louisiana Purchase Territory where St. Rose Philippine Duchesne lived for many years. Although the shrine was closed we walked around the park next to it.  Our next to last stop was for mass at the church where we were married. After church we walked around the corner to Hendel's Restaurant. The building had been a general store and grocery for more than 100 years before being turned into an eating establishment.

This time I had a stuffed portobello. The grilled mushroom was stuffed with roasted vegetables and topped with mozzarella and a balsamic glaze. Tony had a huge pork chop, which was topped with blue cheese crumbles and crispy tobacco onions.  Once again we split and shared both dishes equally. Marriage has its privileges.

Portobello with smashed potatoes and cauliflower

Five years ago today: It Was Twenty Years Ago...But Seems Like Just Yesterday

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


You may have heard me talk about one of my volunteer jobs, which is putting together a weekly slide show of upcoming activities for electronic monitors at my church. Each week I look at the bulletin and select six different events to showcase. If it's an event I don't already have a slide for I choose a background or border, add some text and maybe some clip art, and call it done.

Occasionally someone will send me an email with information they want added. The attachment is usually the size of a standard piece of paper, and I've learned that those are much too small and low resolution to show up on the 40 inch screens.  I've had no formal training for this job and don't know a whole lot about changing resolutions, so I have to go back to the person and tell them I can't help them unless they make some changes on their end.

Sometimes the file I get will be in a format the screen (a smart TV) won't recognize. I've learned how to fix many of those, but today I got an email that had a PDF attached. I was able to open it, but no matter how many times I left and right clicked on the page and program icons I couldn't figure out a way to change the file type to the JPEG I needed.

I decided to take the problem to Google, asking if there was a way to convert the two types of files. Would you be surprised if I told you there is? The first result of my search was PDF2JPG.net, which touted that it was a free online service that would easily turn the first type of file into the second.

After uploading my PDF it only took a minute to change it to my monitor-friendly file. I downloaded the result back to my computer, then resized it with Paint and had a nice-looking advertisement for a charity golf tournament.  As a bonus, the website told me that they participate in the Plant a Billion Trees program sponsored by the Nature Conservancy, planting a tree for every 5,000 converted PDFs. They had already contributed 20553 trees, and I did my part to help them plant one more.

Five years ago today: I Love Happy Endings

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Tale Of Three Pits

The last batch of avocados I bought looked completely similar on the outside. Once they were cut open, however, a big difference was revealed:

small, medium, large
Look at the difference in the size of the avocado pits!

Before I mashed all of the avocados into guacamole I took a tiny sample from each of the fruits. Each tasted wonderful; there was no correlation between pit size and taste.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Worth the Drive

Hubby Tony has been gone this weekend. He left after work on Thursday, and will return after lunch today.

While he's away I've been having fun. I treated myself to a couple of meals out, and at home I've snacked way more than usual. Friday night I joined some friends for a movie under the stars at the Art Museum. (After the movie was over traffic was gridlocked and it took a very long time to get home, but it was still a good time.) For variety, I attended Mass at the parish just to the west of ours.

The highlight of the weekend, though, was yesterday. You may remember that Tony and I are vinegar devotees. Our last bottle of good balsamic was down to dregs, so I decided a restocking trip to the Olive Oil Marketplace would be a fun way to spend part of a day. The store has two locations. Both are in Illinois-one in Alton at the northern end of the metropolitan area, and one in Belleville, almost directly across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis. Google told me from my house they were within a couple of miles of each other. I was leaning towards going to Belleville because I had never seen their downtown area, but yesterday when I ended up finding an work assignment to do in that area my decision became a no-brainer.

After breakfast I made a lunch for myself, said goodbye to the cats, and got in the car.  My first stop was about 35 miles from my house via the Jefferson Barracks Bridge over the Mississippi River. After my work was finished it only took ten minutes to drive to the Belleville public square area and find a place to park.

In the store I sampled several different vinegars before settling on garlic balsamic, which will be great on salads. From the discount rack I also chose a small bottle of green apple balsamic. After I put the vinegar in the car I explored the rest of Main Street, which stretches four blocks east and four blocks west of the public square and fountain. There were antique stores, clothes boutiques, a large variety store, art studios, a movie theater, restaurants, a school, and places to buy snacks and coffee.  Things were pretty quiet at 10:30 on a Saturday morning. In one of the stores I learned that there would be a big Downtown Sidewalk Sale next weekend, and the associate invited me to come back for that.

After I investigated the area I got in my car to head home, backtracking along the same route. Just before the interstate curved to the right to head back to Missouri I saw a sign that said if I stayed to the left it would take me to the Main Street area of Columbia, Illinois. The car stayed to the left. Why not?

Columbia's Main Street area was several miles off of the highway. Most of it was clumped together within five blocks. There were fewer open retail stores and more closed offices, but I still had a good time walking up and down the street. When I got back to my car I realized I was really tired. It was time to go home.

Five years ago today: Size Does Matter

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Coupon Fairy Was Here

Several weeks ago the mail carrier delivered a post card from a fast casual Mexican restaurant that had three coupons on it. One coupon was for a Buy One, Get One Free entree, one for a half price entree, and one for free chips and salsa with  the purchase of an entree. I hadn't been to this restaurant in a long time, and it sounded good, so I put the coupons where I would remember to use them.

Between then and now the postcard has gone out of the house with me multiple times, but I never managed to make it to the restaurant. One day I spilled water on the card. When it dried it was still readable, but unattractively wrinkled. Yesterday I took a hard look at the coupons and realized that they expired on Sunday. At this point it was use or lose them!

I was by myself for dinner tonight, and decided to eat at the restaurant. The coupon fine print said you could only use one per visit. I wanted to eat light, so free chips and salsa did not sound attractive. Before I left the car I tore off the half price entree coupon and threw the others in my purse. Once inside I ordered a burrito bowl (meaning no tortilla), swapped out the rice for double beans (black and pinto) and topped the beans with fajita vegetables, green salsa, lettuce, guacamole, and a sprinkle of cheese. When they rang up my order the total came to less than four dollars.

I asked for my food to go so, then sat at one of the tables directly outside the restaurant and ate.  As I finished up I realized that even though I couldn't use any of the other coupons maybe someone else could.  I tore my address off the post card and tucked it underneath an bottle someone had left on another table.

As I was walking back to my car another customer pulled up. I got his attention and told him about the coupons, saying I hoped someone would be able to get some use out of them. I saw him picking up the postcard to carry in with him as I pulled away .

Five year ago today: The Stars Told Us To!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

I Do NOT Love Hot Summers

Earlier in the week Dkzody wrote about how much she loves the hot summer weather. I'm glad someone does. It's not me.

The biggest problem is my area's usual summer combination of high temperatures and high humidity that causes muggy days and uncomfortably hot nights. For weeks the dew point will hover in the 70s. Anything over 65 degrees means there's a lot of moisture in the air, which makes things pretty oppressive. And there's no doing outside activities early to beat the heat; even first thing in the morning it's muggy when you walk outside. In addition, the high temperatures lead to the faster formation of ozone, which leads to often-poor air quality days.

Thanks to my menopause-fueled internal temperature regulator, getting overheated makes me feel irritable and stressed. I have the house programmable thermostat set for 77°. When I'm at home I usually override that, pushing the temperature down another degree or two. When I'm not at home I leave it on the automatic setting, and the house feels like an oven when I return.

The problems continue when I go outside. In the summer heat and humidity, no matter how well I dry my hair, or how much product I put on it, within 15 minutes of going outside the cowlicks take over.  Since my skin is fair I have to keep it coated with sunscreen. I have tried more brands than I can count. Each makes my skin feel sticky. And when my face sweats, the sunscreen rolls into my eyes and leaves me with unattractive looking eyes from smudged mascara.

In the heat of the summer our water bill goes up because I hate being sweaty, especially at bedtime. I take at least two showers-one in the morning and another one before I go to bed. Sometimes a third in the middle of the day if I've been working outside in the yard.

I'm already counting down the weeks until mid-September, when the average temperatures are a more manageable mid-80s. That's my kind of weather.

Five years ago today: Racoon Eyes

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Smart Forecast

Tonight Hubby Tony and I were talking about what time sunset would be, so I opened the Weather Underground app on my phone to check. Just above the sun and moon information, I saw a feature I had never noticed before called Smart Forecast.  After clicking around on the screen I learned that the feature lets you choose the weather conditions you'd prefer for different activities (running, biking, landscape photography, walking, fishing, star gazing, hiking, kite flying, gardening, sailing, surfing, and wildflower photography) and the app will tell you when those conditions are met.

I decided to try making a walking forecast.  I chose the acceptable and ideal ranges for the temperature, wind speed, chance of precipitation, air pollution, and the acceptable times for doing the activity. Next I chose one of the seven different color options and hit 'Done'.

The result was an interesting graph:

However, in the next five days the conditions will often be acceptable, but they will never be ideal.  I guess I'll have to wait until the temperatures cool off to see if there's an additional notification for that.

Five years ago today: Tasting Event

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Last Of The Family Fun (California, Summer 2018)

The day after our jaunt to Sacramento was the Fourth of July.  Daughter-in-law Nicole had a previously scheduled bike ride, and was already gone when the rest of us woke up. Son Brian had done some research and suggested that the San Jose Rose, White & Blue Parade would be a good morning activity for the rest of us. After breakfast he packed a bag with snacks and drinks for Grandson Jay and made sure the stroller was in the car before we left.

The parade started at 10:00. For almost two hours we saw floats, Scout groups, bands, antique car clubs, dance groups, service organizations, and groups of pets go by. There was a festival area at the end of the route, but  Jay was getting tired, so we walked back to the car and drove to a Panera close to the house, where we met Nicole for lunch. Then it was back to the house for nap time.

Brian and Nicole had invited some friends over for dinner. They arrived about four o'clock, each bringing a dish to share. Brian and Nicole provided ribs, baked beans, cole slaw, and chips. Tony and I threw in a bag of Belly Flop jelly beans. After dinner we sat outside. As it got dark Brian offered Tony and I the chance to go watch fireworks. We declined. However, their house was close enough to the city's display that I heard the boom of the show for an hour after I went to bed.


On Thursday, the last day before Tony and I few back home, Brian and Nicole took the day off and we made a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Brian and Nicole are members, and their extra guest passes got me and Tony in for free. We spent a couple hours there, concentrating on Jay's favorite displays-the habitat exhibits with lots of fish, the penguins, and the children's area.

Before we left the aquarium we ate lunch in the cafe (where I thought the food was surprisingly good for a cultural institution).  After lunch we walked a couple of blocks for ice cream, then got back in the car and headed home. It took Jay about five minutes to fall asleep, and he napped for the entire  drive.

Brian had after-dinner plans, so Nicole, Tony, and I took James to the park, where he had a great time climbing, sliding, and digging in the sand.  At bedtime we gave Jay extra hugs and kisses, because we didn't know if he would be awake the next morning when Brian drove us to the airport.

Five years ago today: Hospitable Hosts

Friday, July 13, 2018

Extended Family Fun (California, Summer 2018)

When Hubby Tony found out we were going to have some time to ourselves on this trip he contacted his cousin Jean (on his mom's side) to see if we could visit with her. Although they are cousins, Jean is about 30 years older than Tony. She lives in Sun City Lincoln Hills, a planned senior community  a half hour north of Sacramento.

We rented a car for this trip. Tony called the rental office Monday morning to arrange for them to pick us up. The person he spoke to wrote down the time wrong, and the shuttle driver ended up arriving a half hour late. However, to make up for their mistake they gave us a slightly bigger car and waived the return gas fill up requirement, a nice bonus.

Our drive started out the same way as our previous route, but this time we went farther north on Interstate 5. We passed through Sacramento and kept going. When we arrived at Jean's we were greeted by her son Nick, who lives with her. Jean was right behind him. Although frail-looking, she gave both me and Tony a firm hug and invited us in. We chatted for several hours. Jean was able to answer many of Tony's questions about some of his long-deceased family members. I took notes so Tony would be able to remember all the details.

At the end of the visit Tony and I drove to a nearby Starbucks, where we used the wi-fi to research hotels in Sacramento. It was the beginning of rush hour when we got back on the road, but we eventually made it to our destination. We checked in, dropped off our bags, and immediately searched for places to go to dinner. Yelp directed us to a nearby Thai restaurant, then a ice cream parlor for dessert. When we returned to the hotel it was time for bed.

Then next day we relied on Yelp again to find a great coffee shop for breakfast, then headed to the Old Sacramento State Historic Park, a historical landmark that was once the western termini of the Pony Express and first transcontinental railroad.  Many of the historical buildings have been repurposed into stores and restaurants.  We walked around for a couple of hours, had lunch, then started back towards "home". This time we took a different route, which allowed us to visit the Arboretum at University of California-Davis. For part of the walk through the grounds we were escorted by a pair of turkeys:

Our last stop was in Fairfield, where we visited the Jelly Belly factory.

Jelly Belly factory
The plan was to take a factory tour, but the wait to get in was 30 minutes. Both Tony and I were tired, so we settled for visiting the gift shop, where we stocked up on Belly Flops (irregulars that didn't make the quality cut) and got back on the road again. I'm glad we did; thanks to a couple of accidents traffic was really bad heading back into the Bay area.  We had to be back at the rental car office by 5:30, and made it just in time.

One more set of adventures awaited us before we came home.

Five years ago today: How Exciting!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Family Old And New (California, Summer 2018)

Son Tony and his fiancee Ie live in Dallas, but she grew up in Central California. When Hubby Tony and I figured out we would be babysitting, we asked if there was any way we could get together to meet some of Ie's family. Eventually we heard there would a casual barbecue get-together at one of Ie's sister's houses.

After Hubby Tony and I left Grandson Jay with his parents we left for Manteca, a city approximately 75 miles away. Thanks to some heavy traffic it took close to two hours to get there.  We moved from Interstate 880 to 680 to 580 to 205, then got onto a state highway for another ten minutes.

Ie comes from a large family. Her mother and all but one of her siblings were there, and with spouses and children there were about 30 people! I did my best to remember names and family groups, but joked that I hoped there wasn't a quiz at the end.  Most of the people there had never been to the Midwest, so we spent some time talking about the differences in our areas.

Ie is a first generation Asian-American, with parents that came to this country in the late 1970s. The buffet meal contained dishes like barbecued meat and vegetable skewers, tossed green salad, and tortilla chips with salsa. Next to those were green papaya salad, egg rolls, and spicy pickled greens. Dessert was tasty Nab Vam (Tapioca in Coconut Milk), a mixture of chopped fruits and tiny boba swimming in a sweet liquid.

Nab Vam - Pinterest

After several wonderful hours of socializing and eating, Hubby Tony and I left to drive back to Santa Clara.  Everyone else in the house was asleep when we got in, so we quietly climbed into bed to get ready for the next day.

Son Tony and Ie were combining family time with personal vacation time. Sunday afternoon they stopped by Son Brian and DIL Nicole's house for lunch and socializing!  It was great to have most of the family together. (The only one missing was Son Donald, who was back in Missouri working and taking university summer classes).  Eventually Tony and Ie left for their next commitment.

After dinner Hubby Tony and I packed up our suitcases for the next adventure.

Five years ago today: All The Excitement Happened In The First Half-Hour Of Work Today. Then It Went Back To Normal.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

All In The Family (California, Summer 2018)

Shortly after the new year started Son Brian and DIL Nicole approached Hubby Tony and I about babysitting grandson Jay while they flew to the East Coast to attend a wedding at the end of June. We quickly agreed. The plane tickets were purchased in April, and then it was a matter of waiting.

Tony and I flew into San Jose on Tuesday afternoon. Brian picked us up from the airport, and we were just getting settled into our bedroom when Nicole and Jay arrived home from day care. We talk with the family via Face Time most weeks, but it still took Jay a little while to get used to us in the flesh.  At the end of the evening we watched his night time routine (so important for a 20-month old). On Wednesday we shadowed Brian, learning the morning routine and day care drop off and pick up.

A great day for a game
While Jay was at day care and Mom and Dad were working we drove to the nearby San Jose Earthquakes stadium, where they were showing World Cup games on the huge video screen. We watched Brazil beat Serbia in Group E play and got some great food truck lunch. After dinner that night Brian and Nicole left for the airport, leaving Grandma and Grandpa in charge for two and a half days.

Chalk is always fun

I was proud that we successfully navigated the first bath and bedtime without a hitch, and when Jay briefly awoke in the middle of the night he accepted my glass of water, then laid down and went right back to sleep.

We took Jay to day care both Thursday and Friday, then spent the days exploring the San Jose and Santa Clara area.  
Carmelite Monastery, Santa Clara

Del Monte Park, San Jose

In the evenings after dinner we read books, played with balls and bubbles, and took walks around the block. On Saturday morning we pushed Jay in his trike to the local strip mall. Brian and Nicole got home Saturday afternoon. We handed Jay back over to them, and borrowed Nicole's car for the next part of our California adventure.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Welcoming Weather

Ten days ago Hubby Tony and I left for a trip to Northern California. While we were there we visited with nuclear family, extended family, and new family. We were also able to get some time for ourselves. The weather was beautiful the whole time.

Our plane got in mid-afternoon yesterday, and we walked out of the airport into a typical hot and humid St. Louis day. It took ten minutes for the parking lot shuttle bus to arrive, and by the time I got on my shirt was sticking to my sweaty back. The rest of the day was filled with playing with the cats, unpacking, organizing, and laundry. After dinner Tony cut the very long grass and I made a quick grocery run. We went to bed early, not even bothering to watch the local news.

This morning we continued our catching up activities. I did more laundry, and put it all away. Downloaded photos from my phone, Tony's phone, and the camera. Caught up with work emails and scheduled some jobs for the upcoming week. After lunch I realized I had some errands that had to be run, so I got ready to leave the house. When I walked out into the garage I realized that the weather had changed from the previous day. It was really nice--almost the same weather we had left behind on the West Coast!

When I got home from the errands I opened up the windows so the fresh air could come in. Based on tomorrow's forecast we'll be closing the house up again tomorrow, but I'll take the nice weather when I can get it.

Five years ago today: Bromeliaceous