Friday, July 22, 2016

This is What Living on the Sun Looks Like

It was 113 today.  I haven't been outside all day, but when I opened the door to let the dog out, this was my view.
This is our second big fire in two weeks.  The first was on the other side of town.  About 700 people were evacuated, but luckily no structures were damaged.  So far, about 100 people have been evacuated in this current fire.  It was moving away from structures out towards the Angeles National Forest, but the dry winds are making it unpredictable.
It looks like a bomb has gone off nearby.  It's not a concern for where I live, but it's still quite ominous.  Fire season is upon us and it's only July!
UPDATE: Now that the sun is down, the flames are visible and it's now even more ominous.  It's still too far away to be a problem and to get any kind of shot with the camera.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Saturday 9

Summer Break has made me lazy in a lot of things, including blogging.  A Saturday 9 will have to do, for now.  This week's song is Hall & Oates' Sara Smiles.  It's such a 70's song, isn't it?  I grew up with Hall & Oates in the 80s, so prefer this and this.  :)
1) This was Hall & Oates' first #1 hit. Can you name another of their popular songs?  Um, ya, Private Eyes, I Can't Go For That, She's Gone, You Make My Dreams Come True, Method of Modern Love, Out of Touch, I Can't Go For That.  They had a lot of songs, didn't they?
2) Darryl Hall and Sara Allen were a couple for 30 years, and he wrote this at the beginning of their long relationship. That makes this a very public love letter. Are you good at writing love letters? Would you rather tell the person how you feel, face to face? Or do you let your actions speak louder than your words?  It's been a long time since I've written any kind of letter, but I could do a love email or text.  
3) In the song, Darryl and Sara are waiting for the sunrise. Did you see the sunrise this morning? Or did you sleep in?  I did not.  Being on summer break, I barely see morning at all with all the sleeping in I'm doing.  
4) Both Hall & Oates hail from the Philadelphia area. Hall is a native of suburban Pottstown, which was a stop on the Reading/Philadelphia rail line made famous in Monopoly. Do you like playing board games?  Yes, I like board games and card games.  I like games that you can socialize whilst playing.  
5) John Oates grew up a few miles away from Pottstown in North Wales. Decades ago, North Wales' biggest employer was a cigar factory. Do you like the smell of a cigar?  Cigars aren't as bad as cigarettes, but I'm still not a fan.  Back in my bartending days, I had some regular customers who came to drink after their weekly men's league soccer game.  It was back in the olden days and on the East Coast where smoking inside was still allowed.  They once asked if I minded if they smoked cigars when they came to drink.  Thinking my tips would increase the longer they stayed and smoked, I told them it wasn't a problem.  Boy, what a big mistake.  It wasn't so much their smell, but cigars are a mess.  Yuck!  I'm not so sure the clean up was worth the extra tips.  
6) Daryl Hall now hosts a music show, "Live from Daryl's House", that you catch free online.  Do you typically watch shows from your computer, iPad, phone, or TV set?  I don't usually watch stuff on devices unless I'm traveling.  I prefer to watch on the TV where the picture is larger and better quality.  Plus, that frees up the device(s) to play on since I'm not very good at just sitting and watching TV.
7)  Hall & Oates are currently on tour.  Are you seeing/have you seen a concert this summer?  YES!  Sting and Peter Gabriel are coming to the Hollywood Bowl this next week.  I'm going to see them on Monday.  Funnily enough, I think I saw the Hall & Oates tickets on Goldstar recently.
8) Daryl and John have been friends for 50 years, even living together at the beginning of their careers when money was tight. Another successful duo of the rock era, Simon & Garfunkel, also met as teens but they forever seem to be feuding. What do you think makes for a lasting friendship/partnership?  A friendship that is fairly effortless and equal seems to last longer.  When thinking about my own relationships through the years, the ones that are still strong have those qualities.  The ones that have been one-sided or hard are the ones I tend to let go.  They make me tired.
9) Random question:  Are you quick to try new things?  It depends on the new thing.  Chances are I'll overthink it, but sometimes I can easily jump right in.
Happy Saturday!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A (Fruit) Salad

Summer fruit is getting into full swing here.  I'm still waiting for the stone fruit to be GOOD, but everything else is looking fresher and local, finally.  I had a small brunch this past weekend and wanted to serve some fruit with the light (cool) meal I was serving.  While I love fruit, it's always difficult for me to serve it.  Fruit doesn't last very long once cut into serving portions.  I'm the kind of hostess that likes to have as much as possible prepared before guests arrive, because once they do I lose focus and the cooking gets out of hand.  Whenever contemplating fruit as part of the meal, it ends up getting nixed due to the last minute prep.  It had been so hot here, and I did not want to turn on that oven, so I researched make ahead fruit ideas.  So many of the recipes had melons of some kind as part of most of the dish as they are easy to cut and store for a time.  Other than watermelon (which is too watery to cut ahead of time), I don't personally like melons like cantaloupe or honey dew, so those were off the table.
I stumbled upon this recipe and it looked delicious, plus most of it could be made or prepared the night before.  The strawberries and blueberries were rinsed in vinegar which supposedly kills bacteria that makes them go bad so quickly and stored in the fridge for the day.  The rest of the fruit was washed or peeled the night before the brunch.  I added it all to the bowl and wrapped it in saran before going to bed.  I didn't cut the grapes in half as I worried about about their juices making things too wet.
 All I had left to do the next morning was to core and cut the apple and banana.  Normally this couldn't be done until right before eating as the apple and banana start to go brown so quickly. But the "magic" dressing took care of that problem.
 The dressing is made from the juice of one orange and one lemon, some honey, and poppy seeds.  It's a very light mixture.
 So mixing the fruit up with the dressing an hour or two before guests arrived worked out perfect.  It coated the fruit keeping it from browning and the taste was so mild, not interfering with the fruit flavors.  I didn't use all of the dressing to keep if from pooling in the bottom of the bowl - just enough to see it glaze all of the fruit.
Having similarly prepped the Chinese Chicken Salad and the bread before everyone arrived, the only thing I had to do was pull the dishes out of the fridge, add the dressing to the salad, and serve.  I will definitely make this fruit salad again. It would even be great as take-to salad.  Before leaving for a party it can be made and mixed.  It would last a few hours before serving and there's no melon in it at all!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bags and Bags of Hair

For the last 20 years I have owned dogs (2) with white fur that sheds all year long.  I'm not sure why I didn't learn my lesson with the first one, but I didn't and now have a second one that sheds more than any dog I've ever had, ever.  I keep tape rollers in all the rooms of the house and friends who come over regularly usually bring some sort of sweater/sweatshirt to wear in order to play with my lovable dog and then, afterwards, remove it and be reasonably hair free.  With the new floors throughout the house, Rigby's fur has been the bane of my existence.  White clumps of it just appear out of nowhere ALL DAY LONG.  I adore my new floors, but at times I feel like I'm tethered to that vacuum and dust mop.
It is said that brushing dogs who shed helps with constant shedding, but it's not something I've ever done regularly with my lack of time when working.  Now that summer break is here and I don't have any major plans or responsibilities, I decided I would solve this shedding all over my floors problem once and for all.  I dug out my FURminator, a comb/brush gadget this is supposed to make brushing easier (I'm not entirely convinced), intent on making dog brushing part of my daily routine this summer.  We are 19 days into summer break today (including weekends), and I've brushed her 11 of those days.  As expected, the first two days of brushing were very very hairy.  Being part Queensland and part Shepherd Rigby has a thick undercoat that is soft and fine while the top coat is more hair-like, thick and wiry.  About three days in, it seemed as if I was making progress with the undercoat, and it didn't seem so thick.  But she is still shedding.  In 11 days I have filled 11 plastic grocery bags with dog hair, enough dog hair that would make it seem there was no hair actually left on the dog, but there is.  I don't know how Rigby is not bald at that point!
While hair is still winding up on my new floors, it HAS lessened quite a bit.  I'm only feeling the need to vacuum or dry mop about once a day now.  And with our 100+ degree weather over the last two weeks, I'm sure Rigby is feeling cooler with those bags of hair in the trash instead of on her body.  But I do wonder if she will ever stop shedding completely.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Driver's Training

Earlier this week, my BFF texted to ask me if I could pick up her oldest son and take him to his summer Spanish class on Thursday.  She was going to be out of town at an event with her daughter, and her husband would be at work.  Of course, I agreed to do so, and planned on leaving this week's curriculum work for a few minutes to help them out.
Her oldest son is 16 years old.  She has told me a few times that she would really like him to get his driver's license so he is able to take himself where he needs or wants to be as well as help out with running the other kids around if needed.  Unfortunately, he is not nearly as interested in getting that license as the rest of his family is.  In fact, she has told me that most of his friends feel the same way. We laugh about how we could not wait to get our licenses and have some freedom.  She believes that teenagers, at least the ones in her son's circle, are kind of afraid of driving on their own (Could that be a product of helicopter parenting?).  Also, with them all having cell phones and being active on social media, they don't "need" to actually see their friends in person so that motivation to drive isn't there.  It's probably a combination of both, but regardless of the reason, he doesn't have his license so I picked him up on Thursday and took him to his class.
During the ride, I brought up driving with him.  He has his permit which allows him to drive with an adult, but has not taken the driver's training which is required to test for a license.  Back in the olden days when I was 16, driver's training was offered in school.  However, due to budget cuts, it isn't any longer and it is up to new driver (and family) to take the classes on his own time and dime.  He told me that he just hadn't had the time to take the classes as he's been very busy, which made me chuckle.  I would have moved mountains to gain the independence of a driver's license.
It got me thinking about the driver's training I took through high school.  THAT also makes me chuckle.  The instructor was our school's head football coach.  My high school was/is a high profile football school having won many regional and state championships and groomed numerous college and NFL players.  Needless to say, driver's training was not the head coach's top priority. The course was a half of a semester and broken up into three parts - lectures and movies on the rules of the road, simulated driving, and driving practice in an actual car.  The first part was a joke.  I learned more about the rules of the road from the DMV's booklet than I did from anyone's lectures.  Both the simulated driving and the road practice were a bit more helpful, but make me laugh out loud when I think about them.
The simulators took place in a large trailer at that back of the school.  Inside was made up of maybe 20 "driver's seats" outfitted with a steering wheel, gas and break pedals, even a seatbelt.  In the front of the trailer was a large pull down screen where they showed the view from a moving car's front window on a film projector.  We had to practice driving in various scenarios and our actions in the "driver's seat" were recorded and graded.  It was like a very low-tech driving video game.  Watching everyone lean right or left, and duck, and look over their shoulder, and turn the wheel, and pump the brakes to this old-school film was really quite funny.
So was the road practice.  Three goofy teenagers and an old crabby driving instructor are a fun mix.  One of us would drive, while the other two sat giggling in the backseat.  The instructor sat in the passenger seat with her own foot brake.  If someone got too unruly on the road, she had the power to stop that car on her own and give us a talking to.  It was a weird feeling to have someone else braking the car while you drove.  Even back then, I had a bit of a lead foot, so driving with her was no fun at all.
As soon as that training was over, I made an appointment with the DMV to take my driving tests on the day I turned 16.  It never would have occurred to me not to.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Well That Was Convoluted...But it Worked!

I spent most of this week relaxing outside with a book on my iPad mini.  While the iPad has a beautiful, clear screen most of the time, outside in the sun the glare is very bad which makes books quite difficult to read.  Some actual books were checked out of the library for this reason, but I'm in the middle of a book that I want to finish.  I searched solutions which had reminded me that I purchased an anti-glare screen protector a year or so ago after getting the new iPad.  I had one on my full-size to keep it scratch free, but it had a bit of a haze to it.  The new retina screen on the iPad mini is so vibrant, I never actually put the cover on not wanting to reduce the quality.  Since I plan on sitting outside reading for pretty much all of my summer break, I dug out the cover and prepared to install it.
These covers are notoriously difficult to put on.  With their clingy backing, it's so hard to get them straight before they stick.  Air bubbles are also frustrating, and it's quite difficult to get all of them out.  I didn't care too much, wanting to just stick it on and go outside for the summer.  But I was surprised when I pulled out the contents of the package.  There were two rubber band things, some sticker sheets, and stickers on the cover itself.  Puzzled, I was about the throw my hands up, as the written directions really made no sense.  Then, remembering I was on vacation and had the time, I went to the install instructions link on their website and found this video.
Holy cow!  I've never seen such a process for installing such a simple screen saver.  Wrap it in rubber bands, add these stickers, peel these pieces off, add these other stickers, etc.  WHAT?!?!  But I'll tell you something, it worked!  It was the easiest install of one of these screens I've ever done.  Other than watching the video, it took less time than it's ever taken to install pretty much anything on these devices.  I only installed it one time, not lifting and shifting and lifting and shifting over and over again.  There were some additional stickers and videos to deal with dust particles and air bubbles, but after a few wipes with the dust cloth over the top of the screen, the air bubbles dissipated.
This is not a product endorsement as I haven't even been outside with the iPad in the sun yet, but I'm so impressed with the concept behind the directions.  It's a lot of steps for a very simple idea, but it sure made a frustrating exercise way less frustrating.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

An Unexpected End

Yesterday was the last day of school and vacation is HERE!  After a pretty good year, the last day of school DID NOT go off without a hitch.  Here's why...
The last week of school is pretty useless with regards to learning.  We've taken all our tests, turned in or stored our books, packed away our materials in order to prepare for closing up the room for the summer.  In some respects it's a fun week because of our many activities planned to pass the time.  This week, we performed our play, there was a Board Game Day, a field trip to the beach, a Field Day with water games, a class party, a dance party, and an autograph/memory book activity.  On the other hand, for some kids the lack of routine and procedure is difficult.  On Friday, the excitement was too much and many a 2nd grader lost their mind.
We started the morning with our grade level dance party.  For about 30 minutes we go into the cafeteria, play some fun music and dance.  The kids get their wiggles out and after all is said and done it takes up about 45 minutes of, what seems like, the longest school day of the year.  After the dance party, we headed back to the room to pick up our autograph/memory books.  The kids had spent the week getting them ready for their friends to write messages inside.  We took them out into our quad area and gave them some time to mingle and sign and enjoy their friends before summer break started.  And about 15 minutes in, some of them enjoyed it a bit too much.  One of the kids came running up to us concerned over kids writing on the trees.  A couple of us ran over to the two trees in the middle of the quad, and sure enough, several kids had signed their name on the tree trunks.  Some of them had even signed MY name on the trunks!
We were livid!  Autograph day ended for those kids, and they were sent to sit against the wall of the classrooms.  There we laid into them about vandalism and their lack of respect for school property.  We also told them how disappointed and embarrassed we were by their behavior.  We wanted the kids to clean the trees as most were written in pencil or water-based pen, so we called the assistant principal to help us arrange that and to come yell at them some more.
While I was on the phone, one of my teammates found another student who had written on the trees.  This student had some defiance issues throughout the year.  When she was told to sit with the others, she did not, instead sitting off on her own by her own classroom.  Her teacher, who had had enough, wasn't going to fight that fight on the last day of school, so I offered to go get her.  At first, I kindly but firmly told her to join the rest of the students.  Instead of following that direction, she gave me an emphatic "NO".  Teachers spend the majority of their giving directions and expecting them to be followed.  This adamant "No" didn't sit well. I knelt down to her level, got in her face a bit, and told her to get up immediately.  She shook her head.  At that point, I should have walked away.  I didn't really care where she was sitting, it was just the point of not following the directions of two teachers at this point.  She covered her face with her autograph book.  I took it away and then reached for the red permanent marker she had in her hand.  She immediately pulled her hand away and hid it behind her back.  I told her that what she did was vandalism and that was against the law.  Since she was not able to use the pen correctly, she didn't get to keep it.  After my little spiel, she looked right at me and in a growling voice said, "I'd rather eat dirt."  At that point, I walked away because I was about ready to wring her little neck or feed her a pile of dirt.
The AP arrived shortly afterwards to speak to those kids, and the teachers brought the rest of the students back into the classrooms.  When they returned to class it was lunch time.  The kids were sent to lunch and those who wrote on the trees were tasked with cleaning them during their recess time.  I walked over to the other classroom to commiserate with that child's teacher and was surprised to see that teacher's name and room number written on the sidewalk by her door IN FREAKING RED PEN!  This little girl refused to move even for the AP and while the AP spoke with the other children, she wrote on the sidewalk with her permanent marker.  At that point, the child's mother was called to take her home.  What a way to end your last day of 2nd grade.  On a high note, the rest of the kids were remorseful.  One even told me on our way to dismissal a couple hours later that he was NEVER going to write on a tree again.  Good idea!
As excited as I am to be on break, the day did not end as I thought it would.