Friday, May 31, 2024

Unique Illumination

Recently an unexpected package showed up in the foyer of my building. The label had my name on it, but I didn't recognize the sender. When I opened the box a lovely nightlight was inside from Son Tony's family.

The acrylic slab has flower stickers attached to the back, and the a groove in the base has a strip of LED lights that shine up through the clear plastic. There's a convenient on/off switch. The cord ends in a USB connector, which is perfect because the USB hub on my desk had an empty slot.

What the photo doesn't show is what makes the gift extra special. The wood base is personalized with the words 'we love you' and everyone's first name.

Five years ago: Window Washing Workout

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Tastes The Same But Saves Money

What passes for sweet cherry season has arrived in my city. The grocery stores are selling the fruit for $5-$6 a pound, which is more expensive than other fruit. I understand that's because cherries are labor intensive to harvest and the fruit has to be handled carefully or it will bruise. But Hubby Tony and I love their taste and buck up the extra money.

However, this year the Asian market by my house has been selling cherries for a third of the prices at the other stores. The first time I bought a bag I discovered there were quite a few fused ones mixed in.

A double cherry consists of two cherries fused together. Most of the time they each have a pit; sometimes one of the pits is on the small size. A small percentage of the doubles in my bag had one full size cherry and one small, raisin-like fruit stuck to its side (which is called spurring).

In our house the vast majority of the cherries are eaten out of hand and the doubles don't bother us at all.

Monday, May 27, 2024

A Beautiful Day For A Ceremony

Around here Memorial Day Weekend weather is pretty unpredictable. It can be chilly enough for long sleeves or hot enough for tank tops. Last night a storm with strong winds and large hail came through, but  today was perfect-sunny, nice temperatures, and low humidity.

Hubby Tony and I knew that we wanted to attend our city's Memorial Day program and decided to get there on bike. We left early and spent 45 minutes cycling through residential streets before ending up at the City Hall grounds.

The City had closed the major road at the train tracks, and a fire truck displaying a huge American flag was parked in the western lanes. A couple of hundred people were sitting in folding chairs on the grass, and more were standing around the perimeter of the area.

After some opening remarks, the Boy Scout Troop presented the colors. A Legion member sang the National Anthem and offered an invocation. 

There were two short presentations by Legion members. The first was about the history of the American Legion, (where I learned that the first caucus of the organization was held in St. Louis, and that Main Street in Kirkwood changed its name to Argonne to honor the the residents who died during that battle) and Legion Post 156. The second was about the history of Memorial Day. Then a bagpiper played Amazing Grace.

The second part of the program was by students from the local Catholic school. As part of their Faith in Action program the fourth graders concentrated on veterans, with an emphasis on learning about ones from Kirkwood. Several students read their short essays about a specific veteran. 

The audience sang God Bless America, the Scouts retired the colors, and a trumpeter played Taps. At the end of the ceremony the emcee thanked us for coming and invited everyone to the Post for hamburgers and hot dogs. That didn't start for 30 minutes, so Tony and I rode around some more. The sun was warmer, but it was still cool enough that I didn't break a sweat.

We arrived at the Post building and got in line for food. The small room was very crowded, and it seemed like most of the people there were members, family or friends. We ate and chatted briefly with the people sitting next to us, then left so someone else could have our seats.

Five years ago today: Vintage And Adjunct Vintage

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Dive Bombing Displeasure

Are you tired of hearing about periodical cicadas yet? (I am!) However, their mating/egg laying cycle is only halfway over, with predictions of two more weeks before they disappear for another 13 years. Based on my informal observations, the past few days may be the peak of activity.

The forecast Hubby Tony heard right before we I went to bed last night today was for rain. That's what was happening when we woke up, but much to our surprise the sun came out mid-morning. My weather app said it would be dry until late afternoon.

With the unexpected nice weather we decided to go out to get some coffee (by taking advantage of the baseball Cardinals 6-run game promotion at Mobil on the Run). We chose a location that had an on-demand brew system. After procuring our caffeine, we decided to walk to a nearby grocery store to pick up a couple of items Tony needed for dinner.

Most of the walk was along a busy arterial road, but when we came to a nice-looking residential street I asked Tony if he wanted to turn. He agreed. The short lane was lined with cute bungalows and two-stories. All of them had large yards and mature landscaping. And more flying cicadas than I had ever seen. The quantity and noise was similar to this video:

Logically, I knew that the insects are renowned for their clumsy flying, and all they're doing is searching for a mate, but it was unnerving to  bob and weave to avoid them. After walking through the gauntlet of flying bugs we made it back to the main street and headed toward the grocery store. We saw fewer flying menaces, but quite a few cicadas were hanging out around a weed tree patch.

At the store Tony picked out a nice ripe avocado and a bunch of green onions. On the way out of the store I stopped at the stand of free publications. One of them had a cover story about free summer concerts, so I decided to bring one home to see if there were any I didn't know about. 

This magazine used to be bulk mailed to our old house, and I tend not to agree with their editorial positions. But the rolled up issue was great for swatting at the dive-bombing cicadas on the way back to the car.

Five years ago: Inoculation Anon

Friday, May 24, 2024

To-Do Tool

I was recently introduced to the concept of the 'needle list'--the everyday things I need to do, but put off doing, then feel bad about not getting them done. The term was coined by Serena Wolf, who says:
"...the Needle List is a running list of smaller tasks that I am prone to procrastinate—think returns, personal emails/texts, cleaning “the chair,” organizing a drawer, getting something repaired, making non-urgent medical appointments, sending thank you notes, etc. These little to-dos, which usually take only a few minutes to complete—live rent-free in the back of my mind and just NEEDLE me on a daily basis."

Serena says she blocks time off once a week to tackle the things on her list, which makes life less stressful. My schedule is pretty flexible, so I try to spend a 15 or 20 minutes each day, which keeps my list in check.
Five years ago: Don’t Fry Day!

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Big Bug Buzz

I came across an article that talked about the current brood of periodical cicadas putting out potentially dangerous sound levels. The reporters used a decibel meter several places around town. At one park they had readings between the high 80s to mid-90s. At another location the insects were louder than a light rail system train, and at a third louder than a tanker truck driving on the interstate.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, sounds at 85 dB can lead to hearing loss if you listen for more than eight hours at a time, and higher loudness causes faster damage.

If you've never heard a cicada buzz, it's a rising and falling drone. I find the annual cicadas whirr pleasurable, but put millions of them together and it's downright unpleasant. A cool front came through the area last night, and today we opened up the windows, which meant that the cicada drone was even more obvious.

I was curious just how loud the din was at our house, so I used the online loudness meter at The noise turned out not to be so bad. I Placed the laptop immediately next to the windows in each room and got values of 30-36dB (similar to leaves rustling or a study room). Outside on the deck, the meter showed a range of 54-60 dB (about the same as a normal conversation).  

We're halfway through this cicada cycle. In about two weeks the singing and mating should be wrapped up. Thank goodness!

Five years ago: Unconcerned

Monday, May 20, 2024

Fried Exotic Veggies

One Saturday night after church Hubby Tony and I had dinner at a strip mall restaurant that specialized in Vietnamese pho. The server was friendly and helpful, and the food freshly prepared. 

On the way back to the car we passed a nut and candy store, and decided to go in. The associate behind the counter greeted us immediately. It only took a few seconds for me to realize that most of the merchandise was from the Middle East. As soon as I started to look at the items behind the counter the associate asked if I wanted a sample. One of the bins held a colorful collection of what looked like vegetables. It turns out they were.

The veggie chips I sampled were a savory assortment of fried orange and purple sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, green beans, and taro. I decided to buy some to take home. The associate scooped some into a bag, weighed it, and printed out a price label. Tony chose several pieces of wrapped candy and handed them to the associate. It also was put in a bag, weighed, and labeled.

 The next day Son Donald came for dinner. I pulled out my veggie chips and we noshed on them before the real meal. I discovered that as part of the bagging process many of the vegetables broke into small pieces, but even the crumbs were tasty.

When I looked up the nutrition information for my snack I discovered that veggie chips had a little bit more fiber than potato chips, but otherwise the nutrition was about the same.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Great Song, Surprising Songstress

Most Saturday mornings I take a cycling class at the gym. I enjoy this instructor's choice of music, which is mostly a combination of rock with an occasional disco, country, or techno song thrown in. I know the vast majority of them, and can even sing along in my head, which helps me forget I'm working hard.

This morning she used a rap song that was new to me. I don't listen to Top 40 hits so I didn't recognize the male voice (which turned out to be Pitbull), but the female one was unmistakable-Dolly Parton!

What do you think?

Personally, I wouldn't be at all annoyed if this song ended up in the regular cycling class rotation.

Five years ago: Given With Love

Thursday, May 16, 2024

A Bevy Of Brood Bugs

I won't be breaking off branches during my walks any time soon, because the periodical cicadas have taken most of those branches over.

Cicadas are insects. There are two types--annual (which can be found worldwide) and periodical (which live only in the eastern and central parts of the United States). The latter are divided into two groups. There's a set that comes out every 13 years and another that comes out every 17 years. Both types emerge in broods, which are labeled with Roman numerals.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

In some parts of the country two broods are emerging in 2024. Not here, though. We're 'lucky' to have just the Brood XIX 13-year insects. That's more than enough for me, as there are millions in the Brood. When the nymphs emerge from the ground they climb up onto a vertical surface, shed their exoskeleton, and fly off in search of a mate. 

They are horrible flyers, and often run into things. Adult cicadas are somewhere between 1 1/2 inches and 2 inches long, so when they run into you you can definitely feel it. They're also noisy! To attract mates male cicadas buzz loudly, and large groups of them turn into a loud droning sound. Fortunately, our condo building is close enough to a connector road and the traffic sounds mitigate some of the drone.

Fortunately, the cicada event will only last a couple of weeks before all the mating and egg-laying is completed and the nymphs burrow down into the ground...until their next awakening.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Half Staff

Did you know that this week is National Police Week, and May 15th is Peace Officers Memorial Day? I didn't.

According to Wikipedia, Peace Officers Memorial Day is a United States observance that "pays tribute to the local, state, and federal peace officers who have died, or who have been disabled, in the line of duty".

The Day and Week were created by Congress in October of 1961, and President John F. Kennedy signed the bill into law. In 1994 President Bill Clinton directed that the flag of the United States be flown at half staff on May 15, one of two days which requires American flags be lowered to half-staff by federal law. (The other is Memorial Day.)


Five years ago today: My Warm Weather Treat

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Making My Gut Happy

This afternoon I was leafing through the latest issue of the AARP Bulletin and found an article about gut health and how it can affect health in general. I learned that a healthy gut can help control your weight, reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, help you live longer, and increase happiness.

The article went on to say that the first step in a healthy gut microbiome is to feed it whole (instead of processed) foods. A satisfied gut likes a wide variety of whole food plant based items. The people with the healthiest microbiomes ate at least 30 different types of plants every week, which includes vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes. The article also said some people strive to eat at least 20 different plants every single day!

For grins, I decided to see how my diet today had stacked up. The article just said different items, not how much of each, so I figured that small amounts would count.

  • Breakfast was a bowl of cereal with blueberries (1) and walnuts (2). 
  • Lunch was baked tofu (3), a container of vegetables with carrots (4), celery (5), colored peppers (6), cauliflower (7), zucchini (8), and grape tomatoes (9), a homemade muffin that included oatmeal (10) and whole wheat flour (11), and a pear (12).
  • Mid-afternoon I nuked some spinach (13) and mushrooms (14), then added a handful of wasabi peas (15). 

At this point I realized that hitting the 20 different plants goal was actually doable, and really leaned into the project.

  • Dinner was already going to include lettuce (16) that needed to be used up. The meal turned into a main dish salad with chopped tomatoes and carrots (not counted, because that would be double dipping), pickled watermelon rind (17), green onion (18), roasted chickpeas (19), and sunflower seeds (20). On the side there was some good sourdough bread. Dessert was strawberries (21).

Lest you think I had a perfect eating day, ten minutes after dinner was cleaned up I also had a couple of truffles from my Mother's Day present box.

With no expectations, I'm going to try to find ten more plants to consume before a week has passed.


Sunday, May 12, 2024

A Trio Of Mother's Day Pleasures

This has been the best Mother's Day in a long time.

On Wednesday afternoon Son Tony flew into town for business, and Hubby Tony and I were able to meet him for lunch. It was great to see him and catch up. As we were leaving the restaurant he got an envelope out of his car and handed it to me. When I got home I opened the envelope and found a pop-up card with a heartfelt inscription from DIL Ie and some type of drawings from each of the three grands.

Friday afternoon Tony and I were getting ready to leave the condo and discovered a box outside of our door. The box held a package of chocolate truffles from Son Brian and DIL Nicole. On Saturday Brian called. It had been several weeks since we had talked and we had a nice long catch-up conversation.
Tony always cooks dinner on Sunday, but in honor of Mother's Day he made portable picnic food. We packed it up and drove to Son Donald's house, where he and his two Chihuahua-mix dogs joined us for a short ride to Forest Park. We found a table to eat, then the three of us took the dogs for a walk.
Dogs and 'dog grandparents'

Five years ago today: The Mom Song

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Pimento's Big Day

Today Hubby Tony and I took our foster cat Pimento to the vet for annual shots.

In the three weeks Pimento has lived with us, he's settled into a predictable pattern. Most of the day he shelters under the daybed cover in the office. When Tony and I go to bed, the cat has moved to stage himself behind the trundle bed mattress (probably so he can get a fast start on eating and using the litter box after we turn out the lights).

Given that Pimento is already somewhat secured under the cover I figured it would be relatively easy to get him into a carrier for the trip. The plan was to close the office door and have Tony to sit on one end of the bed to lift up the cover so I could grab him. However, in the morning we discovered Pimento had mixed his routine up and was hunkered down behind the bed.

Putting him into the carrier turned into a five-minute slapstick of pulling out the bed frame, Pimento sliding underneath the trundle, and scampering around the room in an effort to elude us. He even jumped into an open window and tried to climb up the screen in the gap between the glass and the screen before I was able to extricate his claws from the screen mesh and grab him.

The animal hospital the shelter uses was a thirty minute drive from the condo. The arrangement is for the vet to do shelter work during breaks or any free time, so we dropped Pimento off at 8 am. The receptionist said to expect a notification sometime between 12 and 2 pm letting us know to come pick him up, but to call if we hadn't heard anything by 3 pm.

After leaving the clinic, the next stop was at his previous foster's house to return a sweat shirt she had left in his cage when we made the transfer. We chatted with her for a few minutes and learned some interesting tidbits that explained a lot. She told us that Pimento has a small tip of his right ear gone, which indicated he had gone through a Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) process. Along the way someone recognized he had the possibility to be someone's pet and contacted the shelter. She had done her part to help socialize Pimento, but when her work schedule changed she realized he would benefit from someone who was around the house more and turned him over to us.

The pickup went smoothly. In addition to his shots Pimento had his nails clipped. After his rough day he fell asleep in the carrier on the ride home. Tony set the carrier down in the office and opened the door. Pimento was thrilled to be back home.  

At bedtime we couldn't find Pimento in any of his usual spots. Tony discovered him under our bed, scrunched up against the headboard wall and as close to the middle of the queen sized mattress as he could get. I'm sure he felt safer there, but I was excited to see he knew enough about other parts of the house to choose a new place.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

A Win For The City And A Win For Our Pocketbook

Tonight Hubby Tony and I had tickets to a Cardinals baseball game.  Even though they haven't been doing well this year we optimistically thought that this would be the night their luck would change. (We were wrong. The team started strong in the first inning, scoring three runs. But they ended up losing the game 7-5. And to add insult to injury Willson Contreras, one of the most productive players on the team, broke his arm in a freak on-field accident and will probably miss the rest of the season.)

We got downtown a couple of hours before the game to grab some dinner. Instead of paying for a spot in a garage or parking lot Tony snagged an on-street parking space halfway between the restaurant and the stadium. 

As he got ready to pay we noticed that the meter was set up for event pricing. Instead of the usual $1.50 hourly rate that is only enforced until 7 pm (with a total cost of $3.00), the flat rate event pricing cost was $5.00. However, it was still a good deal, as that was still substantially lower than the $15 the nearest lot was charging. 

So the city got more revenue out of us and we got to keep more money in our wallet.

Monday, May 6, 2024

A Farmer Funny

Farmer Joe decided his injuries from an accident were serious enough to take the trucking company who was responsible to court. During the trial the trucking company's lawyer was questioning Farmer Joe by saying, "Didn't you say at the scene of the accident, 'I'm fine'?"

Farmer Joe responded, "Well, I'll tell you what happened. I had just loaded my favorite mule Bessie into the......."

"I didn't ask for any details," the lawyer interrupted, "just answer the question. Did you not say at the scene of the accident, 'I'm fine?'"

Farmer Joe said, "Well, I had just got Bessie into the trailer and I was driving down the road..."

The lawyer interrupted again and said, "Judge, I am trying to establish the fact that at the scene of the accident this man told the Highway Patrolman on the scene that he was just fine. Now several weeks after the accident he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please tell him to simply answer the question."

By this time the Judge was interested in Farmer Joe's answer and said to the lawyer, "I'd like to hear what he has to say about his favorite mule Bessie."

Joe thanked the Judge and proceeded, "Well, as I was saying, I had just loaded Bessie, my favorite mule, into the trailer and was driving her down the highway when this huge semi-truck and trailer ran the stop sign and hit my truck on the side. I was thrown into one ditch and Bessie was thrown into the other. I was hurting real bad and didn't want to move. However, I could hear ole Bessie moaning and groaning. I knew she was in terrible shape just by her groans."

"Shortly after the accident a Highway Patrolman came on the scene. He could hear Bessie moaning and groaning so he went over to her. After he looked at her he took out his gun and put her out of her misery."

"Then the Patrolman came across the road with his gun in his hand and looked at me. He said, 'Your mule was in such bad shape I had to shoot her - how are you feeling?'"

Five years ago: Let's Go Blues!

Friday, May 3, 2024

What Does My Phone Know That I Don't?

This weekend I will be attending an organization business meeting in the Lake of the Ozarks area. I was trying to figure out what to pack, so I opened my weather app in my condo in Kirkwood, MO to find out.

For some reason my phone had a different idea of where I was standing.

Does it have old information cached, or does it really want to go back to Hawaii? (For what it's worth, this is the first time I've had the issue. And some of the locations it picked up I have no recollection of searching for. For others, the search would have been a couple of years ago.)

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Yet Another Reason Why I Like Condo Living

Yesterday Hubby Tony and I noticed some large bees lazily buzzing around outside my office window. This morning I was putting my suit and towel out on the deck to dry after a water class at the gym. I looked up, noticed a series of holes in the wood window header, and realized we probably had carpenter bees. 

But instead of quarterbacking the problem like we would have if we were homeowners, all I had to do is snap a photo and send it off to the condo management office. They responded, saying they would have a pest control company look into it. 

Just like that the issue was out of our court.

Five years ago:John Wayne's Five Rules to Remember in Life