Thursday, August 31, 2023

Touristing In Our Home Town

This morning Hubby Tony and I were looking for something to do for a date. The temperature has been mild (but it will turn into summer again over the weekend), so something outside was definitely in order. 

A chance article in the newspaper which talked about how the baseball Cardinal's horrible season was negatively impacting the downtown restaurants and bars got me thinking that Tony and I should play tourist and eat lunch in the area. Our downtown area has its problems, but I want to make sure it stays around. And so just like that we had a plan.

Tony had a commitment at 1:00, so we left a little after breakfast. Unfortunately that meant we ended up in the end of rush hour traffic, but that only added five minutes to the trip. After finding a place to park we started walking without much of a plan. A block later we saw the Central Library building and decided to go in.

St. Louis Public Library Central Branch

The Carnegie library building takes up an entire city block. It was designed by architect Cass Gilbert (who also designed the U.S. Supreme Court Building), built in 1912, and renovated in 2012.
In 2022 it was named one of the 11 Most Beautiful Libraries in the United States by Fodor’s Travel.

We walked up the imposing flight of stairs to the entrance and opened the huge brass-framed doors. Inside, I stopped for a minute to survey the incredible architecture. After taking in the beautiful wood reception desk, ornate molding, and sweeping marble staircases on either side I saw a large sign for the current exhibit in the Great Hall, called PROM Magazine: Where did you go to high school? 

PROM was a local monthly magazine that documented high school life from 1947-1973. I wasn't in high school at the time so I didn't know much about it, but I learned that every school (public, private and parochial) had a student correspondent who reported on what was going on at their school. The stereotypical question people ask each other in the St. Louis area is "where did you go to high school?", and the magazine may have been the start of it.

Afterwards we walked up the beautiful staircase to the second floor where we found an exhibit of photographs called Cementland: Bob Cassilly's Unfinished Masterpiece. Bob Cassilly was a local and founded the City Museum. A later project was Cementland, which would repurpose a former cement factory in north St. Louis into an amusement park. Unfortunately Cassilly died working on the site.

The property stood vacant for a decade, and eventually sold. Before it was dismantled photographer Richard Sprengeler documented it. The stark black and white photographs showed a site that had gone to ruin. There was graffiti on just about every surface, and the outside shots showed Nature taking over.


 After we left the museum we walked around for a bit and ended up at the Soldiers Memorial. Here, we walked through the special exhibit entitled Vietnam At War and At Home. One half of the hall had displays about the war from an international perspective. The other half focused on the local impact.

After so much culture we were getting hungry. We walked several blocks east to Chili Mac's Diner, where Tony got tamales covered in chili. I got a Junior Slinger (a hamburger patty, American fries, and an egg, all covered with chili). The restaurant uses the chili recipe from a long-departed restaurant named O.T. Hodge. It was as good as I remembered.


Monday, August 28, 2023

Offline And Online

Last night after dinner Hubby Tony and I figured out our WiFi was down. He called our provider (Spectrum), who verified that there was no outage in our area. They did some things on their end and asked Tony to reboot things on ours. We thought the issue was taken care of and left the house for a walk.

When we got home we discovered the problem was still there. Tony called again and this time eventually got escalated to an actual person. After a couple of tests the associate determined we needed to have someone come out and take a look at the issue. The first available technician appointment was Thursday evening...four days away! 


Tony didn't have any choice but to accept the appointment, and the associate promised we would be informed if something came up sooner.

Of course without WiFi we couldn't do anything online. Our streaming television also needs the WiFi signal, so we spent the rest of the night reading an accumulated stack of magazines and newspapers and went to bed early.

This morning, without WiFi I couldn't read the newspaper on my iPad, check emails, scroll through Facebook, or peruse the blogs that had accumulated in my reader. Instead I read a magazine while I ate breakfast, then started my day early.

While I was getting ready to leave for the gym it occurred to me that our downstairs neighbor has the same internet provider, so I sent her a text to see if she was having any issues. She wasn't. Tony and I decided to get to the gym early and use their WiFi before we started exercising (a class for me and the cybex and weight rooms for him).

My class was almost ready to start when I got another text from my downstairs neighbor asking if we would like to use her WiFi network until we resolved our issue. Before I was able to respond she sent the network name and password information. What a nice gesture!

Five years ago today: Chain Of Foods

Friday, August 25, 2023

Soft And Firm

Tomorrow I will be attending an all-day fellowship business meeting in Springfield Missouri. Depending on how many bathroom stops you make the drive from my house takes somewhere between three and four hours, so I came this afternoon with two other meeting attendees.  

My lodging for the night is in the same hotel as the meeting. When I walked into the room I noticed that the bed was made up with a white duvet and large, fluffy pillows. It wasn't until I was getting ready for bed I noticed that they were two different pillow firmnesses...and Housekeeping had used pillowcases that indicated which type each was.

 Five years ago: I Hope They're Wrong, But I'm Not Holding My Breath

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Heat Wave Caroling

"The Christmas Song" ("Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire") is one of my favorite carols, which was written by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé in 1945. However, I just learned that the tune came together in an effort by the writers to think themselves cool.

Wikipedia says:

According to Tormé, the song was written in July 1945 during a blistering hot summer. It was in an effort to "stay cool by thinking cool" that the most-performed (according to BMI) Christmas song of all time was born."I saw a spiral pad on his (Wells's) piano with four lines written in pencil", Tormé recalled. "They started, 'Chestnuts roasting..., Jack Frost nipping..., Yuletide carols..., Folks dressed up like Eskimos.' Bob didn't think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics."

Unfortunately, listening to the song tonight didn't do much to cool me off. Maybe because at 8:31 pm it still feels like it's 102 degrees.

Five years ago: Removed Root

Monday, August 21, 2023

Hot And Humid. UGH!

My area, along with a good chunk of the middle of the country, is in the middle of a heat advisory. Until the weekend the temperatures will be close to 100 degrees, but the humidity will add another 5-10 degrees to that.

Just how hot and humid is it?

  • Our area is under an Excessive Heat Warning until Thursday night, which means that the Heat Index is forecast to be around 105 degrees for 4 consecutive days.
  • Yesterday Hubby Tony and I walked to the community clubhouse for a happy hour. The building is only two blocks away, but by time we got there I was a puddle of sweat.

  • When I come out of an air conditioned building my glasses fog up.
  • I went to the gym this morning for an aquatics class. When I got home I spread my towel over a chair on the deck. Eight hours later the towel was still wet.

  • At the church today I walked some scraps over to the chickens. They  grumpily told me it was too hot for them.
Five years ago: Yard Work Fun

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Combining Have Tos And Want Tos

Yesterday I had a couple of activities that took me to the South St. Louis area of the city. The temperature was decent, so I asked Hubby Tony if he wanted to come along with me and walk. He did. 

We both like finding new places to see, so I suggested to Tony that he do some research on what was around the area. He came back with a mainly residential street route that would also pass by a couple of parks. The area has a lot of mature trees, and their shade would make the walk even nicer.

As part of the adventure I promised Tony dinner from Imo's Pizza that, in honor of the nice weather, we would eat al fresco. Their "original" St. Louis-style pizza has a cracker-like crust, topped with Provel cheese (a combination of cheddar, Swiss, and provolone cheeses), and it's cut into squares.  I like having salad with pizza, but I think Provel is pretty rich, and the restaurant puts it on just about everything. We decided to supplement the pie with our own salad (a bagged butter lettuce blend) and Italian dressing. 

Our first stop was at Son Donald's house to drop off some things. He was in the middle of cutting his grass, so we said a quick hello to him and his dogs and continued on our way. By this time it was almost rush hour and the street traffic was stop and go. I picked a parking spot not too far from the location of the restaurant and we started walking. 

Twenty minutes later I saw a store I wanted to go into.  It was filled with Mid Century Modern furniture, art, kitchen items, collectables, and jewelry. I'm always amazed that things I grew up with are now considered vintage. This place even stretched the boundaries of MCM to include things like the Pyrex and Corningware casseroles I got for wedding presents (and still use).

We spent so much time in the store that when we left Tony rerouted us to a park. It's wide paths were lined with trees, bushes, and flowers. Eventually ran into a talkative man who told us how excited he was because he had just a deer in this park. Our conversation segued into a discussion of nature centers, green spaces, and astronomy. When we finished talking I decided to call in our dinner order so it would be ready when we got there. Along the walk back there I saw a picnic table that we decided would be a great place to come back with our food.

The person on the phone at the restaurant said my sausage and pepperoni pizza would be ready in twenty minutes. I ended up having to wait ten minutes longer than that and was really hungry by the time I received the order. We drove back to the park, carried the food to the table, and dug in. It was the best pizza/salad combination I've had in quite a while.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Parenting In A Nutshell

From a friend...

  • NEWBORNS-How can such a tiny person eat so often? I really need a shower. Will I ever sleep or fit into pants again?
  • TODDLERS-I turn my back for two seconds and he’s totally naked and on top of the refrigerator.
  • LITTLE GIRLS-I think she started a sentence five years ago and hasn’t stopped talking since. I’m going to lose my mind.
  • LITTLE BOYS-Can you please get the pee in the toilet? And for the millionth time put the seat down. Your sister just fell in.
  • TWEENS-You are too young to wear that. You are not old enough to watch that. I don’t care if everyone else has a phone.
  • TEENS-Get off your phone. Is your homework finished? Don’t roll your eyes at me. Why are there so many towels on your floor? It smells in here. Get up…it’s noon!
  • YOUNG ADULTS-Are you eating enough? When are you coming come? I love you. I miss you. This house is too quiet. 

Five years ago today: Yard Work Fun

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Setting Up For A Session

Earlier this month I replaced my laptop. 

I couldn't remember when I bought the old one, but the serial number sticker on the bottom said it was manufactured in February of 2017. As a rule of thumb, the average lifespan of a laptop is three to four years. Compared to that mine had a nice long life, but in the past six months it definitely had issues. The battery wasn't holding a charge as long as it used to. The start up time was measured in minutes rather than seconds. A couple of apps wouldn't open. 

And so it was time to get a new one.

I did research, asked a couple of techies what they recommended, and ultimately bought a new model from Costco during the state's Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday (which saved me a nice chunk of change). I spent a couple of hours downloading browsers, programs, and apps before everything was configured the way I wanted it. Since then it's been a joy to open the top panel and get to work

Tomorrow night I'm hosting a Zoom meeting, and I realized a couple of days ago that I should probably test my webcam before then. You can do just about anything online, including a Webcam Test. The process was easy to do.The site detected the camera and asked me  to press the “Test my cam” button to check its functionality and properties.

I clicked the button and began the test. Two minutes later the test was completed, and all the camera's stats were displayed. 

I was glad to know that the basics were functional, but I still didn't want any surprises, so I set up a test Zoom meeting and sent the invitation to Hubby Tony. Good thing I did, because before the meeting could start it needed to do a download. It would have been really embarrassing to not be on time to my own meeting!

The actual Zoom took less than 30 seconds. Tony and I said hello and goodbye. I ended it.

Five years ago: Calendar Fun

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Conversation And Education

This morning for breakfast at the church I made pan pancakes (batter poured into a greased baking sheet, baked, and sliced into squares), scrambled eggs, bacon, and fresh cantaloupe. The clergy comes in to eat between 9:00 and 10:30 mass. Often they eat and run, but today one of the deacons and the associate priest invited me to sit and talk with them for a while.

The deacon mentioned that he recently found an old 45 RPM record in his basement. It dated back to his teenage years and featured a version of the Lord's Prayer sung by an Australian nun that had made it onto the Billboard Top 100 chart.

I had never heard of the song or Janet Mead, the singer. The associate priest wasn't even born then. However, he searched on his phone and shortly we were all listening to the song.

The deacon called it folk music. I think it's more of a  pop-rock tune. Whatever the style, it's a catchy tune that I can't get it out of my head.

Five years ago: Gettin' Our Kicks

Friday, August 11, 2023

Cooperation Salad

Yesterday I was going through my email folders looking for a message. I never found what I was looking for, but instead I fell into a memory.

In 2008 I was part of a group of women organizing an event. Most of the meetings were in the evening, and lasted a couple of hours, but there was one on Saturday that lasted most of the day which included lunch. 

Instead of asking us to bring our own lunch or ordering food in, a couple of weeks before the event the organizer had passed around a sign up sheet for a "Cooperation Salad". The email I was reading was a reminder of who had signed up for what. The recipe theory was that everyone brought one or two ingredients. Just before the meal they were mixed together, dressed, and served. 

At this event the organizer supplied the dressing, bread, and butter. I was in charge of the hard boiled eggs. Our meal also included multiple desserts. I found a similar version of the 'recipe'  here, but the one our group put together contained:

  • 1 bag (1/2 gallon size) iceberg lettuce, broken up
  • 2 cucumbers peeled and sliced and 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cooked, cut into strips
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 pound Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 1 16 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and cut up
  • 1 bag (1/2 gallon size) Romaine lettuce, broken up
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 pound Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 pound cooked ham, shredded or cut into strips
  • 1 dozen eggs, hard cooked, sliced
  • 1 bag (1/2 gallon size) fresh spinach, broken up
  • 3 green bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 2 whole boneless chicken breasts, cooked, cut into strips
  • 1 51/2 - 7 ounce box croutons and 2 to 3 cups diced celery
  • 1 bag (1/2 gallon size) red leaf lettuce, broken up
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, sliced, and 4 medium tomatoes, chopped plus large bowl
  • 1 recipe of the following salad dressing for each 6 people:2 tbsp. tarragon vinegar/1/2 c. oil/2 tbsp. sugar/1/2 tsp. Tabasco/1/2 tsp. salt 
  • dessert for 10 (3 needed) 
  • case of water (3 needed)

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Have You Played With Your Cat Today?

According to National Today there are here are 25 cat holidays throughout the calendar year, and today was one of them. International Cat Day takes place every year on August 8th. The day's official website suggested that cat owners should play with their cats for five minutes every day, which would improve their physical health and mental well being.

I was ready to play but Jackson the Cat wasn't going for it.  In his defense, in human years he's 100 years old, and spends most of his day laying around. However, when I pulled out a mylar tassel and wiggled it close to him Jackson gave it a half-hearted swipe before losing interest. 

I let him be.

 Five years ago today: Thanks, But I'll Pass

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

A Long Line Of Chalk

Last night there was a little break in the temperature. It was so nice at bedtime I even opened up the windows and enjoyed the nighttime sounds.

Unfortunately, it's already starting to heat up again. Before it gets too miserable Hubby Tony and I decided to take a bike ride after breakfast. My e-bike was acting fine until I left the garage. All of a sudden the electric assist stopped and the control panel went blank. There shouldn't have been any issues-the battery had been charged after the last ride. I tried turning everything on multiple times, but didn't have any luck, so I told Tony to go ahead and ride without me.

Back in the garage, I realized the key to unlock the battery pack from the bike was in the condo. I fetched it, removed the battery, brought it upstairs, and set it on the charger. After that I needed to decide what was next.

There are two full-service grocery stores within walking distance of my house. I realized I could walk to the farther of the two (a little over a mile away) and look for inspiration for tomorrow's staff luncheon at the church. I prefer that chain because I usually don't buy very much, and the store lets me make my tax exempt purchase at the self serve register. At the other store I have to get in line behind all the overflowing carts and use a cashier.

I grabbed my wallet and a bag and left the condo. By this time it was 8:30, and already starting to heat up, but there was a nice breeze blowing and enough trees to provide shade. Just past the subdivision pool I noticed someone had drawn a chalk line down the sidewalk. 

I didn't think much about it until I turned the corner and saw that the line continued on the new street. Then I couldn't help but track it. 

Sometimes the line was light, and sometimes dark. Sometimes it was straight, and sometimes curvy. Sometimes it was joined by a second line.

 When the street ended I turned left. The line still was there, but I could also see that it crossed the street to the sidewalk on the other side. On my side of the street I saw two pieces of chalk. I used one of them to sketch a smiley-faced appreciation of the work the line drawer put in.

The line continued all the way to the end of the subdivision. I turned left and the rest of the trip was uneventful. At the store I decided that tomorrow's lunch will be meatloaf, mashed potatoes, some type of vegetable, garlic bread, and cookies from the bakery. After purchasing my items I started back home.

When I reached the subdivision entrance I decided to figure out just how long the chalk line was. I took a screenshot of my health app that showed how far I had already walked. When I reached the end of the line I took another one for comparison. It was six tenths of a mile! Someone put a lot of effort into their chalking.

Five years ago: Doing My Civic Duty

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Briny Rejuvenation

In my home kitchen I use a dishcloth for hand washing the things that can't go in the dishwasher. Every morning throw it in the laundry (along with the dish towel that hangs over the oven handle) and start new ones. 

However, at the church their preference is for a sponge. I have to go with their choice, but each time I'm there I try to make sure the sponges are rinsed well so they don't pick up any odors, and toss them in the microwave for a couple of minutes to sanitize them.

When I read about using salt to clean sponges, it sounded like an interesting idea. The theory is that table salt draws moisture from the sponge, which reduces the likelihood that bacteria can survive. It can also absorb oil from the sponge, making it more efficient. This morning I decided to give salt a try. 

There were two methods-a saltwater soak and a vinegar/salt/water soak. I used the first. 

There are always two sponges in the sink. Because I was also actively cooking I kept one of the sponges to clean up messes with. I filled a small bowl with warm water and a quarter cup of salt, mixed until the salt was completely dissolved, then added the second sponge. It wanted to float, so I placed a slightly smaller bowl on top of the sponge to keep it submerged. 

The last thing I did before I left a couple of hours later was to remove the sponge from the water, squeeze it out, then rinse it with clean water. It looked and smelled clean. For extra effect I even put it in the microwave. 

Friday, August 4, 2023

If You Use Blogger, Are You Having Issues?

I've been blogging since 2008. In that time Blogger has had its fair share of issues. The most recent problem revolves around commenting on other Blogger sites. The process used to be seamless-my profile was automatically there and I just had to start adding content. Then all of a sudden I started seeing this warning:

Comment with your Google account if you’d like to be able to manage your comments in the future. If you comment anonymously, you won’t be able to edit or delete your comment.
Depending on the blog settings there's a list or drop down box of options to choose Google Account, Anonymous, or Name/URL. Most of the time the first one works, although for some reason I have to click on an extra box to allow it. Annoying, but gets the job done.

But tonight I'm seeing a completely new issue. I wanted to reply to comments on my latest post, but I keep getting an error message...ON MY OWN BLOG! The message says:

Unable to sign in to comment. Please check your browser configurations to allow sign-in. Learn more. You can still comment anonymously, or with name and URL
I've tried using both my desktop and my laptop. Neither worked. Based on past experience the issue will fix itself. I just hope it doesn't take too long.

Five years ago today: Here's To Smiles

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

The Salad Bar Saves The Day

When I started cooking meals at the church I would purposely make a little extra, thinking that the priests or parish staff would heat up leftovers on days I wasn't there. It didn't take me long to figure out that no one was particularly interested in eating any type of leftovers, so now I try to gauge portions more accurately. If there's a large amount of something that I can reuse down the line I'll put it in the freezer. I noticed the other day my stash was getting large, so the next few week's meals will feature those ingredients.

Today's featured ingredient was a package of smoked sausage bites, which I incorporated into a cold pasta salad. The salad also included tri-color rotini, cheddar cheese, black olives, carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes from the parish garden, peppers, and a white wine vinaigrette. The meal also included a green salad, bread, and brownies.

When I got to the grocery store this morning I had a list of needed ingredients on my phone, but as I walked up and down the aisles I decided some pepperoncini would add an extra zing to the pasta. However, even the smallest jar on the shelf was way too much for my needs.

 Then I remembered this grocery store had recently reinstalled their salad bar (which closed at the start of the Covid pandemic). When I reached the bar I saw it was half the size it used to be, but had what I needed. I filled a takeout salad dressing cup with sliced pepperoncini, put the lid on tightly, and placed it in my cart.

The salad bar was $10 a pound, but my cup weighed a little less than half a pound, so I got exactly what I needed and paid way less than the cost of the jar.

Five years ago today: Red Bud Woes