Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The Price Of The Protein

For the most part, when I cook meals at the church I plan the menu on my own. When I was hired the pastor didn't give me any monetary restrictions, but I like to play a game and see how inexpensively I can put together a tasty meal. The protein is the most expensive ingredient, so I start by browsing the clearance section at the grocery store looking for a package of meat (which usually costs half of the normal price), then build the rest of the meal around that.

However, last week the pastor told me he had a hankering for Sloppy Joes and asked if I would make that this week. I agreed, and asked him what else should be on the menu. He said that when he was growing up his mom always served corn and potato chips. I know that a couple of the staff members are watching their carbs, so my menu also included cole slaw. 

On Sunday I stopped at the store to buy ingredients for breakfast and checked to see if there was any hamburger in the clearance section. There was sushi, sub sandwiches, and salami, but no hamburger.  When I went in to buy ingredients for Monday's dinner the meat shelf of the section was empty. Yesterday I happened to be in the store for personal groceries and decided to take a quick look. Still nothing.

I realized I was going to have to pay retail price for the meat. However, this morning there was one package waiting for me on the clearance meat shelf. I snapped it up with a smile, then went over to the meat section and grabbed just one package off the shelf.

Five years ago today: From Heavy Coat To Light Jacket

Monday, January 29, 2024

Looking Up!

When I was driving home from cooking dinner at the church a little after 5:30 I realized that the sky wasn't completely dark. That hasn't been the case for months.

Five years ago today: Freezing Phone

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Helpless And Helpful

At the church I work at, the parish office is right next to the front door of the rectory (where the priests live on the second floor). On Sunday morning the parish office is closed and the building is quiet while I cook breakfast.

This morning I was doing my thing in the kitchen when the doorbell rang. Both of the priests were over at the church so I ignored it, but several minutes later I started second guessing my decision. What if one of the deacons or seminarian had misplaced their key and were trying to get in? I decided to go peek out the window and see if anyone was there.

There was a man wearing a dark grey dress coat standing on the porch with his back was to me. He was wearing a stocking cap, but his body style was similar to the seminarian. However, when I opened the door he turned around I realized he was not one of the staff.

I guessed the man was in his early 50s, and his appearance indicated he had lived a hard life. He started telling me his story...he was homeless and had been diagnosed with cancer. He was looking for someone to help him.

I've heard enough fake hard luck stories to be jaded, but this man's felt genuine. However, even if I wanted to help him there was nothing I could do right then. I encouraged him to go across the parking lot to the church, where he could find one of the clergy to talk to. The man started to tear up, which made me feel awful, but he turned and started down the steps.

I went back to my cooking, but felt bad about the situation and wished I could have done more. Every Catholic church has organizations to help people, but since this wasn't my parish I didn't have any of the contact information.

When the pastor came in he asked what was for breakfast, then said he might be late because he needed to talk to a man first. I heard him walk out the back door. 

Ten minutes later he returned, and  I asked him if he might have been talking to the front porch man. He had. I learned that the man was trying to get to someone in the next county who had offered assistance. I have no idea if any other support was given, and I don't need to know. I'm just glad the man found some compassion.

Five years ago today: Moving Up, Moving Out

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Do It Easy Or Do It Hard?

Oil Change instructions for Women:
  1. Pull up to dealership when the mileage reaches 5,000 miles since the last oil change.
  2. Relax in the waiting room while enjoying a cup of coffee.
  3. 15 minutes later, use credit card and leave, driving a properly maintained vehicle.
Money spent:
Oil Change: $50.00
Coffee: Complementary
TOTAL: $50.00
Oil Change instructions for Men:
  1. Wait until Saturday, drive to auto parts store and buy a case of oil, filter, kitty litter, hand cleaner and a scented tree.
  2. Stop to buy a case of beer. Drive home.
  3. Open a beer and drink it.
  4. Jack truck up. Spend 30 minutes looking for jack stands.
  5. Find jack stands under kid's pedal car.
  6. In frustration, open another beer and drink it.
  7. Place drain pan under engine.
  8. Look for 9/16 box end wrench.
  9. Give up and use crescent wrench.
  10. Unscrew drain plug.
  11. Drop drain plug in pan of hot oil: splash hot oil on you in process. Cuss.
  12. Crawl out from under truck to wipe hot oil off of face and arms. Throw kitty litter on spilled oil.
  13. Have another beer while watching oil drain.
  14. Spend 30 minutes looking for oil filter wrench.
  15. Give up; crawl under truck and hammer a screwdriver through oil filter and twist off.
  16. Crawl out from under truck with dripping oil filter splashing oil everywhere from holes.Cleverly hide old oil filter among trash in trash can to avoid environmental penalties. Drink a beer.
  17. Install new oil filter making sure to apply a thin coat of oil to gasket surface.
  18. Dump first quart of fresh oil into engine.
  19. Remember drain plug from step 11.
  20. Hurry to find drain plug in drain pan.
  21. Drink beer.
  22. Discover that first quart of fresh oil is now on the floor. Throw kitty litter on oil spill.
  23. Get drain plug back in with only a minor spill. Drink beer.
  24. Crawl under truck getting kitty litter into eyes. Wipe eyes with oily rag used to clean drain plug. Slip with stupid crescent wrench tightening drain plug and bang knuckles on frame removing any excess skin between knuckles and frame.
  25. Begin cussing fit.
  26. Throw stupid crescent wrench.
  27. Cuss for additional 5 minutes because wrench hit truck and left dent.
  28. Beer.
  29. Clean up hands and bandage as required to stop blood flow.
  30. Beer.
  31. Dump in five fresh quarts of oil.
  32. Beer.
  33. Lower truck from jack stands.
  34. Move truck back to apply more kitty litter to fresh oil spilled during any missed steps.
  35. Beer.
  36. Test drive truck.
  37. Get pulled over: arrested for driving under the influence.
  38. Truck gets impounded.
  39. Call loving wife, make bail.
  40. 12 hours later, get truck from the impound yard.
Money spent:
Parts: $50.00
Beer: $24.00
DUI: $2,500.00
Impound fee: $75.00
Bail: $1,500.00
TOTAL: $4,149.00
***But you know the job was done right!*** 

Five years ago: From One Grandma To Another

Thursday, January 25, 2024

A Mailbox Surprise

Earlier this week I got an unexpected check in the mail. Thinking it might be a scam, I did some research. It turns out the check was legitimate, and the result of a form I had filled out more than three years ago.

Back in 2018 "Batterygate" alleged that Apple deliberately slowed down the performance of older iPhones. A class action suit was filed, and the wheels of justice slowly started turning.

The Smartphone Performance Settlement website said:

If you are or were a U.S. owner of an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, and/or SE device that ran iOS 10.2.1 or later before December 21, 2017, and/or a U.S. owner of an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus device that ran iOS 11.2 or later before December 21, 2017, you could be entitled to benefits under a class action settlement.

Apple did not admit liability or wrongdoing as part of the settlement, but it is paying somewhere between $310 million and $500 million in cash to claimants. Every other class action suit I've joined has yielded very little value. This time I got a little more than $92!

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Complimentary Coffee Complications

Hubby Tony's broken ankle is on the road to recovery. For the past four weeks he's been navigating life with a walking boot and crutches, each week increasing the percentage of his body weight he can put on his leg. Yesterday he came home from physical therapy and told me he now had the okay to go to 100 percent of his body weight, as long as he was wearing his boot.

His therapist told him that the more he moves around the stronger his leg muscles will get, so he's back to trying to get daily walks. Today he was anxious to get out and about without a crutch. His therapist suggested inside walks (that way there would be no terrain obstacles) but Tony said he was tired of going to the mall. He threw out driving halfway downtown to the IKEA store, and then going across the street to a food hall for dinner. Any time I don't have to cook works for me!

On the way to the garage it was quite strange to see Tony walking down the hall without crutches and navigating the stairs easily. When we got to the store the parking lot was almost empty, and there were only a few people in the store. I knew that we could get a substantial number of steps in the store; from the entrance to the exit along the path is a mile; since we meandered off the path our walk was even longer.

After we navigated both levels of the store we decided it would be easier to just grab dinner at IKEA restaurant. With the IKEA Family card we got discounts on our entrees and a free hot drink. There was no decaf available, and though I usually don't have caffeine later in the day their coffee was really good-smooth, rich, and flavorful.

We stopped for dessert (ice cream and cookies) on the way home, then watched television until it was time to go to bed. It wasn't until I climbed in that I realized that thanks to the coffee I wasn't really tired yet. I tried all my tricks for falling asleep, but my body wasn't buying it. Tony was having the same issue, and he went in the living room to watch television. I turned on the bedside radio for background noise.

Our NPR station broadcasts programming from the BBC overnight, and the well-modulated British voices are always soothing. However, last night the main focus was discussing the New Hampshire primary. I lost track of the number of times I heard the same Nikki Haley and Donald Trump sound bites. Even the analysts sported an American accent. It was anything but soothing.

I eventually drifted off to sleep, but woke up multiple times. When the alarm went off I was not ready to get up. Tonight's bed time can't arrive soon enough.

Five years ago today: Good For Cats And Children

Monday, January 22, 2024

Moving To Music At Home

Just as forecast, our latest round of winter weather arrived overnight. When I opened up the blinds this morning I saw a thin sheet of ice on the road, the driveway, and the roof of the building next to ours. Tiny icicles hung from our gutters and deck railing.

All of the media outlets were telling people to stay home if they didn't have to be anywhere, and I didn't. Yesterday I had cancelled my dinner cooking commitment at the church, and there was nothing else on the calendar. The meteorologists were predicting above-freezing temperatures by early afternoon, but I was content to hunker down inside for the day.

I slept in, thoroughly went though the newspaper, and took the time to completely read each of the blogs waiting for me in my reader. I gave Jackson the Cat some attention, cleaned the bathrooms, did some paperwork, read a little, and made soup for lunch. After all this I was getting a little antsy. 

In the early afternoon I received an email from the gym saying they would be closed all day, but that I could access their On Demand fitness classes, I decided to check them out. Ultimately I ended up using a video for Les Mills (a fitness company) SH’BAM, a cardio class that was new to me.

There were 30 and 45 minute options. I chose the shorter one. The website described the class as "a fun-loving, insanely addictive dance workout." The other Les Mills classes I've participated in change on a regular basis. Based on the information included with the YouTube video, it looked like this one was release 51. 

I haven't been to a dance club for a long time, but it seemed like the music would fit right in there. There were five different people on the stage-two women and three men. Each track was led by a different instructor, who introduced two or three moves and repeated them throughout the track.  Eventually the moves ramped up (maybe a light jog instead of a walk, or larger arm movements).

 In the right space I think the class would have been fun, but I had some issues. I started in house shoes, but quickly realized that there was enough jumping around that something with more arch support would be better. However, it was hard to do the turning moves on the carpeted floor with shoes. Eventually I just decided to make my own movements in time with the music, figuring that being active was the main goal.

Five years ago: Let Freedom Ring 2019

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Time Well Spent

On Friday morning I developed some annoying medical symptoms. Over the course of the next 48 hours they got better and I thought I was out of the woods. However, this morning things came back with a vengeance. 

Of course the doctor's office was closed for the weekend. Tomorrow's forecast calls for freezing rain. If the forecast is right I will not leave the house, so I decided to make a visit to an urgent care today.

The hospital-affiliated urgent care I usually use is a half mile from the house, but is closed on Sundays. I checked the insurance plan website for other in-network options. The closest was a branch of a chain five miles away.

With so much flu/Covid/other crud floating around I figured it would take a while to get in and out of a clinic. However, it was easy to find a place to park in front of the building, and as I walked up to the office door I could see that none of the chairs placed against the outside window were occupied. I was hopefully optimistic my wait wouldn't be long.

But at the front desk the associate asked me if I had checked in online. When I told him I hadn't he added my name to the queue, indicated there were ten other people ahead of me, and said I would receive a text when I reached #2 in line (in approximately one hour). He suggested I go back home and wait for the text, but since my drive each way would take up half of that time I decided it wasn't worth it.

The temperature was just below freezing. I decided to get my steps in, so I bundled up and walked around the area, popping into the stores I passed to warm up.

The associate underestimated the wait; after 60 minutes I was sixth on the list and at 90 minutes I had only moved up one spot. I had to use the rest room so I headed back to the office.

After my business was taken care of I told the associate I was there and asked for the Wifi password. Ten minutes later, even though the wait list still said there were three people ahead of me the front desk associate called me up. I filled out paperwork, then went back to a room. 

In total I was in the room for a little over a half hour, but I thought that was fair since part of that time was waiting for them to run diagnostic tests. I left with a prescription for antibiotics. From start to finish I had lost two and a half hours of my day, but it was time well spent.

Five years ago: Life On Their Own Terms

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Couldn't Be Further From The Truth

One of my favorite classes at the gym is Saturday Morning Cycling. It starts at 8 AM (on the early-ish side) but that means that an hour later I can cross exercise off my list.

I've found that every Cycling instructor has a different musical sense. Some play pop hits, others like hard rock or thumping techno music. The Saturday instructor plays a nice mix of classic rock, some songs from the 1980s that I actually recognize, and a little newer country. All have a good beat which makes it easy to ride to.

Two weeks ago, one of the songs was Draggin the Line by Tommy James, which came out in 1971 just as I was taking a big interest in radio. I didn't realize until January of 2024 just how ingrained its lyrics were in my brain, because I found I could sing along to the complete song!

After the class was over I approached the instructor and mentioned how much smarter I could be if I could get rid of useless information in my brain like song lyrics. She gave me a funny look, but thanked me for coming.

Today, at the beginning of class the instructor made a general announcement about her music policy. She said that she just played what came up on her streaming service, and if anyone had a problem with any of the lyrics they could ignore them, concentrate on the song beat and talk to her after class. She looked straight at me when she said that, and I figured she had misunderstood what I was telling her.

I did talk to her, and my suspicions were correct; she thought I had been complaining about something in the song. This time when I repeated my (I guess) lame joke she got it and laughed.

Five years ago: This Is The Way The Cookie Crumbles

Thursday, January 18, 2024

No To More Plastic

A couple of weeks ago, before Hubby Tony was able to drive himself to physical therapy I dropped him off for his appointment, parked the car, and walked around downtown Kirkwood. I was able to pop into some places that I had always driven by since we moved to the area. One of them was The Refill Effect, a store which is dedicated to zero waste household products. After browsing through their selection of bulk household and body products sold by the ounce, I told the associate I would be back.

Earlier this week I drained the refill bottle of liquid hand soap and put the empty container where I could see it. Today after a class at the gym I drove three blocks and parked across the street next to the store.

There were several varieties of liquid hand soap on the shelf, but I chose unscented. The associate weighed my empty bottle, then I opened the dispenser spigot and filled the bottle up a third of the way (because it was my first time trying it). She re-weighed the bottle, calculated the price, and gave me a total. My texted receipt touted that my purchase was "tough on germs and gentle on skin, plant-based, gluten-free, vegan, and cruelty-free".

I wonder what product I'm going to run out of next?

Five years ago: How Do You Sleep At Night?

Monday, January 15, 2024

How Cold Is It?

Although today was forecast to be warmer than yesterday, that's not saying a lot. (the January 14th high was 2° Fahrenheit, the record coldest high for the date. Today the high is forecast to be a balmy 10°.) On the television news weather last night the meteorologist gleefully forecast that these temperatures were so below normal that many of us would never see the extreme again in our lifetimes. I hope he's right.

The chill is even coming inside; the condo its chillier than normal. Rather than turn up the furnace Hubby Tony and I just put on extra layers. The fleece throws hanging over the back of the couch have really come in handy.

Even Jackson the Cat decided he needed some extra warmth. He is not a lap cat; in his 21 years of life I only remember him voluntarily curling up on a lap a couple of times. However, I was sitting at my computer desk in the office when Jackson came in and gave me a couple of ragged meows while looking up at me. I reached down, picked him up, and put him on my lap. He had trouble getting comfortable, but several minutes later was completely settled in.

Jackson's presence made my computer work a lot harder, but I wasn't going to pass on the chance to make him happy. I don't know how long he would have stayed there, but fifteen minutes later I had something to attend to in the other room and lifted him down to the floor. He looked extremely annoyed as he lumbered away.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

A Serendipity Sighting

Starting yesterday, temperatures in our area dropped to some of the coldest we've had for a couple of years. The average high for today is 32°F; today the forecast calls for 3 degrees, with a wind chill advisory that will make the 'real feel' -15 degrees.

In weather like this walking outside is impossible, so after my cooking breakfast shift at the church I decided to go to the mall for steps. To get there I stayed on the highway one additional exit, and when I looked over to the right just past the usual exit ramp I saw a fascinating sight. Someone had adorned one of the scrub evergreen trees with Christmas decorations!

There was no way I could stop and get a photo, but I wondered if the internet would be able to supply something. When I got home I did a search for "decorated tree on highway 270 St Louis" and found two articles. Both were from 2021, but I would be amazed if the same person wasn't still actively doing the work.

Source (2021)
Five years ago: The Tell-Tale Stain

Thursday, January 11, 2024

A Whole Day Of Celebrating

After I turned 21, I considered "big" milestone birthdays those that ended in 0. Smaller milestone birthdays ended in a 5. However, to celebrate my 2024 "smaller" milestone, a couple of weeks ago the Federal government sent me a special red, white, and blue card.  I am now old enough to receive senior discounts at every location that offers them.

My natal day celebration stretched from sunup to sundown, and included:

  • New York-style bagels and cream cheese for breakfast from Bagel Union.
  • A lovely pistachio latte for my free birthday drink from Starbucks and walk while Hubby Tony was doing physical therapy for his ankle.
  • Lunch at Mod Pizza, where we split a pizza and salad.
  • An afternoon showing of  the newest movie version of The Color Purple. A friend had suggested I have tissues handy for happy tears at the end, and she was right. I needed them.
  • A selection of miniature cupcakes for dessert after dinner at home.
  • Texts and phone calls from the kids and grandkids.
Five years ago today: January 11, 2019

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Meal For Moi

Today was my day to cook staff lunch at the church. I was still eating breakfast when I got a text from the associate priest. He gave me a heads up that the kitchen was low on eggs, said he wouldn't be around for lunch, and offered some of the brisket he made over the weekend if I wanted to serve it today.

I would normally jump on an offer of prepared food, but I had already planned out a meal based on what I wanted. The church has a tradition of celebrating people's birthdays; and since it's MY birthday this week I decided that I wanted frozen toasted ravioli, salad with sweet Italian dressing, and Italian bread. I know enough about this group to think that they would also enjoy the meal, so I sent a text back to the associate priest and let him know.

When I arrived everyone in the office wished me a Happy Birthday. I went back to the kitchen and got started. The only 'cooking' was to prepare marinara sauce for the ravioli. The recipe takes less than 10 minutes to put together, but then needs to simmer for 45 minutes. While it was cooking I opened the salad greens, poured them into a bowl, arranged tomato wedges on top, and put it back into the refrigerator to chill. I put stacks of plates, silverware, and napkins at one end of the island.

The toasted ravioli took 25 minutes, including oven preheating time. While it was baking I staged everything on the island for serving. I got the salad and dressing out of the refrigerator and dumped croutons from the bag into a small bowl. I placed the store-bought sliced Italian bread on a plate and put a container of butter next to it. When the ravioli was done I put it into a serving bowl and poured the sauce into a container. Just like that the meal was ready.

The one thing I did not do was worry about a dessert, because the office admin purchased one for me. Based on what I had told her I liked she chose a chocolate layer cake with chocolate icing. It was decadent, and a great end to the meal.

Five years ago: A Jewel Of A House

Monday, January 8, 2024

Closet Conversion Completed

I started the office closet renovation a week ago, and finished it over the weekend. After removing the existing fixtures I painted the area, then installed a horizontal track across the top and vertical supports to hold adjustable brackets and shelves. Once all the pieces were in place I started arranging my boxes, tubs, bags, and miscellaneous items. Although I think things could be better organized for the most part I'm happy with the result.

Because of the sliding doors it's hard to get a good photo, but here's the right side. There are four shelves, including one at the top that you can't see from this angle that holds small things that I don't use on a regular basis. As you can see, I'm not one to worry about everything matching (although that might come down the line).

Here's the left side. It looks skewed because a day bed is set against the wall perpendicular to the opening and it was tough to get a head on shot.Although we don't hang clothes in the closet I kept a section free for when we have house guests. Right now the only things on the rod are tote bags and empty hangers. Once again, please ignore the motley collection of containers.

When I was finished I carried the tool box, ladder, and equipment back down to the storage area to get them out of the way. Later in the day Hubby Tony said the closet looked so good he was hopeful I would renovate the other one in the room sooner rather than later, so I guess I'll be repeating the whole process again.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Would You Eat (Drink) This?

When I'm walking through grocery stores I'm always on the lookout for weird food and beverage items. Here are some of my recent finds.
  • How about a cucumber beverage? You can't tell from the front of the label, but it's a sweet carbonated soda.
  • It doesn't seem like pickles would be a normal part of salsa, but what do I know? According to the label the company's been around for a long time so I guess they've got a handle on what their customers want.

  • I adore chocolate. I like beer. But the idea of ingesting them them at the same time? Not so much.
  • Although I think bananas and milk are great in a bowl with cereal, I'm not sure about about leaving out one of those key ingredients and drinking the banana flavored milk.
  • Here's a ringer, because the can says it's made for dogs. However, the idea of popping open a cold brew for Fido just strikes me as funny.

 Five years ago: Every Day There's Something Worth Celebrating

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Closet Componant Carting

The office/spare bedroom in our condo has two reach-in closets with sliding doors. When we moved in they became the place we threw unopened boxes and anything that didn't have a better home. Almost four years later, I've decided it's time to start organizing them.

The closet on the left has more of my things, so I'm beginning with it. There are no clothes hanging in there, so I decided to remove the standard closet shelf/bar and install a wire shelving system that would allow for more flexibility. I went as far as charting out what materials I would need, but then the project got moved to the back burner. With the start of the new year I decided to make it a priority.

On New Year's Day I took everything out of the closet. (Most of it got crammed into the other closet in the room, but there's also some things in the master bedroom closet and a couple of boxes in the bedroom.) I took out the old hardware, filled the holes, and painted the walls.

Today I went to the hardware store to purchase the first half of the materials-an upper track and supports to hang from it. The needed support pieces were seven feet long. I knew they would be dangerous sticking out of a shopping cart, so I grabbed a lumber cart.

I've seen the carts before, but before today I've never had a reason to use one. It was an interesting experience.

The cart had six wheels (three on each side with two in the front, two in the center, and two in the back). However, the suspension was pretty much gone, and right rear wheel refused to make contact with the ground. In addition, a couple of the upright pipes were loose so the whole thing rattled loudly.  I finally made it to the closet section of the store, where the cart took up a large portion of the aisle while I stood there and figured out exactly what I wanted to buy. 

My long pieces of metal, two packages of toggle bolts, and two packages of screws looked insignificant on the large cart. Even though they were placed at an angle the ends of the supports still hung over the edge. I rattled my way up to the cash register area, then outside to my car. Once I loaded my things I pushed the cart back to the store and left it for the next person.

Five years ago: Hymns For Every Profession

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Making Progress!

Today was three weeks and (thanks to the New Year's Day holiday) one day since Hubby Tony went to his surgeon's appointment and got his walking boot. 

That gave him a lot more freedom, but he still couldn't drive. Every time he left the house we went though the same procedure to get from our second-story condo to the basement garage. Leave the unit and wheel to the first set of stairs. Hand the knee walker over to me to carry down the stairs, then hop down on one foot. Repeat the process on the first floor. Once in the garage, wheel over to the car and get in. When the trip was over do everything in reverse.

During his appointment today Tony learned that he can start putting weight on his healing ankle. It will take another four weeks of gradually increasing weight bearing, but he's quite excited. As we left the parking garage he suggested we stop for a celebratory dinner. We decided on the location of the Hi-Pointe Drive-In closest to our house. My Frisco Melt and Sweet Potato Tots wasn't fancy, but they really hit the spot.

Five years ago: Make It Fancy