Saturday, June 29, 2024

Yet One More Cicada Post...

Many of the deciduous trees in my neighborhood are sporting brown branch tips, but there's nothing wrong with them.

The issue is caused by the periodical cicadas that emerged from the ground in May. They mated, then the females scraped a channel in a small branch to lay their eggs. If too many females used the same branch the twig gets damaged, which causes the leaves to die. 

The cicada eggs will hatch in the next few weeks, and the nymphs will fall to the ground and burrow underground until the reappear 13 years from now.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Clean Forgot

It's gotten hot enough here that outside activities need to be done early in the morning or late in the evening. I'm more of a morning person, so today Hubby Tony and I drove to the local YMCA branch and did a couple of errands on foot before I headed inside for an Aqua Zumba class.

Even though our walking route has a lot of shade, I know from past experience that at the end I will be sweaty, so in addition to my suit, pool shoes, and towel I bring fresh clothes to change into post-pool. At the gym I left my bag in the car, then headed to the bank and the post office before returning to the car for my things.

This branch of the Y normally has four locker rooms-one for women, girls, men, and boys. However, this summer they're renovating the adult ones and the youth locker rooms now serve all ages by sex. Except for the fact that the lockers themselves are smaller it's not much of an issue during the times I'm in there. Everyone is my age or older.

In the locker room I took my things out of the bag and realized I had forgotten to bring a beach towel. Before putting on my suit I took a second to figure out exactly what that meant. I could use my dirty clothes to dry off. The pool area is through the shower room and down a flight of stairs. Getting there would not be an issue but afterwards getting from the shower to the locker area could be a little problematic.

The showers are communal, with a row of heads lined up along one wall of the room. (Twenty-year old me would have had an issue with this, but past-middle aged me has no problem showering with a bunch of women my age.) My routine is to adjust the water correct temperature, stand under it, take my suit off and let it hang to drip. When I'm finished showering I squeeze as much water out of the suit as possible, dry off, then wrap the towel around me to walk through the wet area to the lockers.

Today I used my hands to try and squeegee as much water off my body as possible, then hustled my damp, bare bottomed self over to my locker. It took both my damp tank top and cotton knit shorts to dry my body enough to put the new clothes on.

Then I realized that in addition to drying my body, the beach towel also serves as a layer in the bottom of my bag to sop up water from the wet suit. Even though I put those clothes in the bag first, they didn't sop up much liquid. I think I might have left a small trail of water drops as I walked down the stairs and out of the dressing room.

Five years ago today: Almost Healthy

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

True To Type

After blogging for 15 years there are a lot of activities I come back to time and time again. Today was a good example. 

The first thing on my To Do list was a trip to the chiropractor (mentioned in approximately two dozen posts). Once again I walked in with a sore lower back and an achy left shoulder. I came out without either of those two pains. However, I know that when I return six weeks from now for my next appointment he will again be addressing those two issues and whatever else crops up.

Next, Hubby Tony and I set out on a road trip to Alton, Illinois (the subject of a dozen posts). Approximately once a year we head across the Mississippi River to replenish our supply of good balsamic vinegar (seven posts). 

The store didn't open until 11 am, so we headed to an antique mall and looked around. On the way back towards the river I happened to mention that we would drive right by Fast Eddie's Bonair, a legendary bar and restaurant. If it was open it would be a great place for lunch.

I knew I had written about my first trip to Fast Eddie's. Turns out it was on October 17, 2008 on my first blog. How time flies! Except for the prices things haven't changed much since then. The food is a loss leader, designed to get people in the door. Our meal of a quarter pound hamburger, beef tenderloin kebab with green peppers, and a basket of fries came to a couple of cents over $13. Some type of drink was required, but the waitress didn't seem to care what it was.

The place is still cash only, and there was a large sign that said it would take a minimum of 20 minutes to receive a food order. I suspect that's to get people to drink more. While we waited we helped ourselves to free popcorn. It was a little on the salty side-again probably to keep people drinking. The food itself was fabulous. I walked out stuffed.

At the vinegar store I got refills for four 375 ml bottles, and I was entitled to a free sample size bottle because I had told them my birthday was in June. On the way out of the store we asked the owner if she could recommend any coffee shops (innumerable blog mentions). She said there was a local company with a branch about five miles away so we headed there. They had already stopped making drip coffee for the day, but I ordered an Americano, which is just espresso with extra water. It did the trick.

Five years ago: Puzzling Non-Parity

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Egg Alternative

A couple of months ago one of the clergy at the church I cook at discovered he had a mild egg allergy. He can tolerate them when they're a minor ingredient in other foods, but some type of egg dish shows up at just about every Sunday breakfast. I wanted to make sure there was something he could eat, so I did some creative thinking and eventually came up with the idea of making muffin tin baked oatmeal cups. All I had to do was substitute 'flax eggs' (1 T flax seed meal and 2 1/2 T water, soaked together 5 minutes) for the real thing. My inspiration recipe was Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal Cups on Sally's Baking Recipes. It was a hit with everyone. 

Today was my last Sunday cooking shift. The clergyman with the egg issue asked for the recipe, so as I was printing it out for him I decided to share it with you.

Baked Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cups (makes 12)
1 1/2 cups milk (dairy or nondairy)
2 large eggs (or 2 T flax seed meal and 5 T water, soaked together 5 minutes)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 cups old-fashioned whole rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 heaping cup chopped apple (approximately 1 medium)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously spray muffin pan with nonstick spray.
In large bowl, whisk all ingredients together except for apples (and nuts). Fold in apples and nuts (if using). Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups, making sure both solids and liquids are in each. Fill all the way to the top.
Bake 28-30 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned and skewer comes out clean.
Cool 5-10 minutes before removing from pan.

Five years ago: The Onset Of The Season

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Before They Were Famous

This long-ago photo of two future sports stars has been making the rounds on my Facebook wall. Both future sports stars went to a local school, Chaminade College Prep.

(If you follow professional sports in the United States or Canada, you probably know that the Florida Panthers are part of the National Hockey League, and the Boston Celtics are a National Basketball Association team. Boston won their league championship two days ago. The Panthers have a one game lead in their 7-game series.)

Five years ago today: Sounds Like A Pretty Impressive Place

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

A Tiny Extravagance

The National Day Calendar says that June 18th is National Splurge Day, which "encourages us to break out the rainy day funds and spend a little".

I tried to think about what that meant for me today. A decadent meal? A new outfit? A pedicure? An outing to a place I've always wanted to go to? Sadly, thanks to my schedule none of them happened. However, when I was at the grocery store I walked by the magazine section and inspiration hit.

I enjoy completing paper-and-pencil word puzzles in the afternoon when I have a cup of coffee and a snack. Back when we got the daily newspaper there was an entire page devoted to puzzles of all types. Four years ago we changed to receiving the paper electronically every day but Sunday (so that meant only one day's worth of paper puzzles). A couple of years ago the paper downsized, and now instead of two Sunday crosswords there are only one.

Our community newspaper includes a crossword puzzle in every issue, so I have two to complete every week. That's usually enough, because on the weekdays I work at the church I don't stop for a break once I get home, but in a little over a week those commitments will drop off the calendar. I looked through the selection of puzzle books and chose one to purchase.

The puzzles in the book aren't as complex as the newspaper ones, and I couldn't believe how much the book cost, but I'm calling it a worthwhile splurge.

Five years ago: Nothing New Under The Fashion Sun

Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Perfect Bug

Today was a triple celebration dinner at our house for Hubby Tony's birthday, Son Donald's birthday, and Father's Day. One of Donald's friends also has a birthday in June. He doesn't have any family in town, so Donald asked if we could include him. We agreed.

It's turned into a joke that Donald always requests fried rice for his birthday meal. I am always happy to oblige with such an easy entree, but this year I also added a big bowl of stir fried Napa cabbage with oyster sauce. Tony bought a cake from a local bakery for dessert.

Donald showed up early to help us cook. So as to not make his friend feel bad we gave Donald his present before Friend arrived, and he gave one to Tony. However, there was also an after-dinner surprise for both young men.

Earlier in the week Tony and I were out shopping. In a local chocolatier we found a basket of large molded milk chocolate cicadas. Each four-inch piece was covered in edible iridescent glitter (except for the eyes, which sported a coat of red).

The big periodical cicada infestation is just about over, but we decided to buy one for Donald and Friend as a joke. As Tony served dessert he included the cellophane wrapped chocolates. 

As a group, we decided that these insects were much better than the real thing.

Five years ago today: Happy Fathers Day

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Positive Personality Changes

It's been almost two months since Pimento the foster cat came to live with Hubby Tony and me. 

Before being taken in by the shelter a little over two years ago Pimento was found wandering the streets, so I can't imagine what kind of life he led. He was at his first foster house for a year, where he went from hiding to eventually sitting on the couch next to his 'mom'. When her work schedule changed and she felt she couldn't give him enough socialization time we stepped in.

Pimento's social skills reverted back to Step One. For weeks he only came out when we weren't there. In the morning the food bowl was empty, the litter box was full, and there was evidence that he had been sitting on the cedar chest in the living room to look out the window. One day I came in from running errands and saw him in the kitchen. The poor cat was in such a hurry to leave the room that he skidded across the floor.

But then we would start seeing Pimento sitting in the middle of the office floor. It was just a short distance from his hidey hole behind the bed or underneath the bedspread, but sometimes he would wait a few seconds before darting away. One day I reached under the bedspread and started petting him. Instead of shrinking away he leaned into the physical contact and actually purred!

We started giving Pimento a nightly bit of tuna cat food, putting the bowl further and further away from his hiding space so he would have to come out. He eventually became comfortable with Tony and me being in the room with him. After eating he would saunter down the hall to Tony's office and hang out for a couple of minutes before retreating to his safe place.

This morning I was petting Pimento behind the bed and he actually came out. His personality was completely different; it was like someone had flipped a switch. I pulled out my phone to capture the moment:

 Once the moment ended Pimento had 'peopled' enough and headed back to his quiet space. I'm hopeful that his affection is the start of real change.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Please Stand....

Last night was the second of the two St. Louis Cardinal baseball games that Hubby Tony bought tickets for at the beginning of the season. This one was special, because we were also celebrating Tony's birthday.

The day started out normally, but in the late morning some nearby construction led to a broken water main and all of a sudden water to the building was off. An hour later our internet went down. Tony and I soldiered on for a while, but eventually decided to leave the house early and run some errands before going to dinner and the game.

Dinner was at Michael's Bar and Grill. The restaurant has been around for decades, but we had never been before. Tony and I both got the Greek Sampler platter-a choice of moussaka (Tony) or pastitio (me), along with dolmades and spanakopita.

We entered the stadium during the string of ceremonial first pitches and made our way up to our seats on the right field side. That section was still in the sun, so we went back out to the concourse and found a bench in the shade. The announcer introduced the lineups for the Pirates and the Cardinals, then asked everyone to rise for the singing of God Bless America and the National Anthem.

In the concourse many people ignored the first song, which was performed by an elementary school choir. However, I was proud to see that right before the Star Spangled Banner the vast majority of people stood up, or stood still if they were walking, and took their hats off for the duration of the song. The elementary school band did a good job of performing. At the end of the song everyone went back to their previous activity.

(And Tony I ended up finding empty seats on the shady side of the stadium. Given the Cardinal's poor performance so far this season there were plenty to pick from. The first eight innings were scoreless, but the Pirates got two runs in their half of the ninth and the Cardinals only managed to get one run for yet another loss.) 

Five years ago today: Blues Win!

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Moving On

I have been working as a parish cook for a little over 18 months. since November, 2022. When I heard about the opportunity I wasn't looking for a job, but I really enjoy the creative challenge of coming up with menus that fit with the likes and dislikes of the group.

However, last fall when Hubby Tony broke his ankle we realized how life can turn on a dime. In mid-2021 Tony started a three-year term of a volunteer commitment with relatively heavy time commitments. His term is over this month, and he decided to step down. I've decided to do the same thing.

Starting in July both of us will have more flexible schedules, which will give us the ability to plan more joint activities (and also find interesting things to do on our own).

I gave the pastor a little over a month notice so he could be looking for someone else that might be interested in cooking for the church. In the meantime I've been planning my menus with an eye to using ingredients I had stashed in the freezer and pantry. That way a new person can start fresh.

Five years ago today: LGB!

Saturday, June 8, 2024

A Tale Of Two Sales

This morning when I was driving to the gym I saw a sign for a garage sale at a nearby senior living community and decided to stop on the way home. By the time I got to the gym I saw three more signs advertising the event, so I figured it would be a good one.

The community campus was crowded, and it took five minutes to find a place to park. I followed the other people to the resident parking garage underneath the building. The first thing I saw was a bank of cashiers seated at folding tables. The second thing I saw was a sign that listed the forms of payment--cash or checks. 

Knowing there were only a couple of dollars in my wallet, I turned around and walked out. (I stopped carrying a checkbook years ago. For a while I had one emergency check in my wallet, but even gave that up.)

Before I drove home I thought I would try my luck at a different type of sale. One of the members of the local Buy Nothing group was having a Free Market. All of the items were donated by members, and all were free to take. 

This time I found a parking space easily, but it still took five minutes to get there because my easy-to-find space was at the opposite end of the street from the sale. As I walked I saw groups of people coming back to their car carrying things in tote bags and wished I had remembered to grab one from my back seat.

When I got close to the sale the first thing I saw were several popup tents next to the driveway. I made one sweep through the sale and found a Tervis tumbler with a large K on the side, a Pioneer Woman salad plate, and a scarf that will be perfect in the fall. 

By this point I was hungry and needed to pee so I found a wash basin to carry my things and left. It felt strange not to give anyone money for my finds.

A couple of hours later I returned to the sale. Although I scored two shelf brackets that I can use in my closet, this time I mainly concentrated on looking for items that a friend could include in themed baskets she makes for charity auctions. I came away with a couple of vases, some seasonal decorations, a small basket, and some miscellaneous tchokes. My friend will be thrilled

Five years ago: No Hubby, No Go

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

New Chicks On The Block

Last week when I was cooking at the church I walked some food scraps across the parking lot to the  chicken coop. Much to my surprise it was fuller than it used to be. In addition to the three usual hens there were also three young pullets sharing the space.

These chicks are always on the move!

There has always a definite pecking order in the coop and it's even more obvious now. The two trios of females are always on opposite sides, and the juveniles keep an eye out for the adults and move as a group. 

Today I distributed some melon and strawberry chunks. I put most of them where the old hens were hanging out, but also tossed a couple of handfuls over towards the youngsters. The alpha hen ran over to also claim that food, causing the newbies to scatter in terror. I didn't think that was fair, so I opened up the the closed raised garden bed and tore off three leaves of lettuce and fed one leaf to each them through the fence.

Five years ago: Seedlings, Shoots, and Sprouts

Sunday, June 2, 2024

I'm Not Crazy (Thank Goodness)!

Yesterday morning I got myself a cup of tap water and noticed it had a slightly 'off' smell and taste. I asked Hubby Tony if he had observed any issues. He hadn't. However, for the rest of the day my Adam's ale wasn't as it should be.

The problem was still there today. Once again I questioned Tony about the issue. He said the water was the same as always. I wondered if my sense of taste and smell were going bonkers. In 2007 St. Louis tap water was named "Best Tasting City Water in America". Since that time other cities have surpassed us, but ours is still up there in quality.

Eventually I turned to the internet to see what was going on. I felt vindicated when I read on the water company website:

Due to rains within the Missouri River watershed and the associated change in source water characteristics, customers may experience a slight yellow or greenish tint in certain locations within St. Louis County and Missouri American Water Customers in St. Charles County. Additionally, customers may experience taste and odor in their tap water. This taste and odor may range from a chlorine or chemical taste to an earthy musty taste and odor. Treatment measures are being utilized to minimize these conditions. Please be aware that there are no health risks. Our team is continuously testing to confirm safe drinking water standards are met. The water should return to normal by June 4th.

Now I will drink my 'off' water without worry and know that things will be returning to normal soon.