Wednesday, April 23, 2014

On this day . . .

. . .  a L-O-N-G time ago.

Take your pick: 398 years, 450 years or 1,711 years ago.

Let's get the latter out of the way first

April 23rd, 303 - the day they say that St George died.  Patron of England - and many, many other places.

You can read all about him here - St George's Day  -  and learn the story behind the legend that he slew the dragon.  But, this photo that I took alongside the Thames River in London last year, would appear to indicate that the dragon ate St George - only his cross-emblazoned shield remains!

April 23rd, 1616 - the day on which it is said William Shakespeare died. His birthday is also widely celebrated on this date, though that may just be (a not illogical) projection based on records of his baptism a few days later - in 1564. Regardless, celebrations will be under way today for this 450th anniversary of the birth of the Bard of Avon.

By way of tribute to his wit, I pose for you the following quiz.

In each case, provide the words that HE wrote (where I have substituted others in red italics) AND the name of the play from whence those quotes were taken. Though there are no prizes, feel free to also state who spoke (or as he would have said, 'spake') them and also cite the Act and Scene

1. If music be the food of love, ____ ____

   eat up!

2. All the world's a stage and all the men ____ ____ ____ ____

   must get on board! 

3. God has given you one face, and you ____ ____ ____

   still praise Him?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

There can only be one answer!

I just received our monthly water bill for the period of mid-March to mid-April. It shows that we consumed (or at least had a quantity flow through our meter) that is almost exactly two times the amount used in the same period in 2013. To be precise, this year we sucked 262 gallons – to be fair, they were those smaller US gallons - out of the Mississippi River – every day! But, as glutton-like as that may seem, “Dat Ole Man River, he just kept rollin’ along!”  Plenty more water where it comes from, see?

Being the inquisitive bugger that I am, I thought a little analysis would be in order. Here is how that went – though by thought:

Number of occupants – that may be key.

Normally, there are two occupants in our house, but last year I was away on my Bucket-List Trip. So, with two times the occupants this year – naturally there would be two times the water consumption this year!  QED! Genius! Mystery solved!

But, hold on; let’s see exactly WHAT each of those two occupants DO with the water they each use – and if there were other contributory factors – and just WHO is the water-hog!   

Watering the lawn

Yes, that’s it!  We have one of those built-in sprinkler systems. 

But, wait!  We don’t turn that system on until mid-May. So, no! My theory that 'missus' got carried away with the 'hi-tech' watering method in my absence, will 'hold no water'. [Sorry!] 

For the garden activities, I do the lawn watering -

- leaving (as you were previously told) the more strenuous ‘mowing activity’ for my wife! So, as I was not here in March 2013, the lawn would have received less water than in March 2014.  QED & Genius (again), says, he.

Well, hold on!  It discovered that in March 2013, we had 3.6” of rainfall, but in March 2014, we had 5.4” - 150% of the 2013 amount. Naturally, the lawn should have needed less watering this year.  Must be some other cause!

Bathing – that’s it!

I have calculated that our bath-tub uses 60 gallons per dunking!  Two things of note here, then:

1)      a significant amount of that 260 gallon-per-day goes into the bath-tub, AND
2)       as I was not here in March 2013, you would think the bath-water usage this March would be double that of March last year. "Eureka!"  [Yes, Archimedes was sat in HIS bath-tub when HE shouted that]

Well, you would NOT think that if you realized that MY bath-tub water consumption is significantly less than that of my wife’s 'every-other-day-bubble-bath'. I mean, I DO take a bath the obligatory 'every-other- Saturday-night–whether-I-need-it-or-not' plunge into the tub:

- and I certainly do not fill it so full as she; bigger body, greater displacement; that Archimedes thing again, see?  When I was younger, my family was able to get by with the aid of one of those galvanized tin-tubs on the kitchen floor in front of the fireplace. That would be a scary sight now with so many family members dropping in unannounced! 

Also, my wife's 'lavish-and-lengthydaily shower uses a lot more water (longer hair for one thing) than my ‘every-Wednesday-whether-needed-or-not' quick swill under a water-saving ‘Navy’ shower head.

So, given my relatively small 'bathing-water footprint', there must be some other reason why this year’s usage is up from last year's, when I was 'not-bathing' - in other people's houses! .

The clothes washer - yes; dirty clothes!

In the days before Maytag and Whirlpool, such things were simply called ‘Wife and Mangle’:

That’s it – 2 people this year, twice the dirty clothes being washed. Bingo! QED again!

Whilst it is true that I tend to get my clothes in a bigger mess than my wife does – [so she spills less of her food down the front of herself, big deal] – I more than compensate on washing machine water conservation. How? I hide my socks and underwear from her so that I can turn them inside out every 4th day and get a single pair to last a whole week before needing a wash!  

But, wait! I was not at home in March 2013 and my meager laundry usage measures in March 2014 would have caused that comparison to have ‘been a wash’ – sorry; I just could not resist that pun! 

                                                                        ? ? ?  

OK then. There must be more to this mystery! Let’s see, just WHAT is it that I do more so than my wife does – by way of water usage? 

Aha!  I just KNEW there was a reason why my damned water bill was so much more this March than last year when I was not at home. Never mind Q and ED and D – the answer is elsewhere in the alphabet – P.

It is those pesky, frequent trips to ‘the loo’ in the middle of the night! I have been flushing my savings down the drain each night, 1 gallon at a time, several times each night, along with my pee !

Friday, April 18, 2014

Darn it - such bad luck!

A beautiful day today - perfect for getting the lawn mowed.

Sunny, dry, not too warm; gas in the mower - what could go wrong? It is even called Good Friday!

But, wouldn't you know it? My wife hurt her back last night so that screwed up my lawn-mowing plans for today. You know how we men-folk have to take care of our ladies.

I do hope she is OK tomorrow - it is supposed to rain on Sunday - and if she can't get the job done by Saturday evening, it's going to look like a jungle out there!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What a difference . . .

. . .  a day (or two) makes!

On Saturday morning, I was enjoying refereeing a couple of soccer matches in the warmth of a nice Spring day - low 70sF. Then, in the afternoon I helped with some yard-work at my daughter's house in sunshine and under a temperature of 82F! [28C]

All good things come to pass. On Sunday, I went to a poetry event (more on that later) in the evening and got caught in a deluge. I think I saw a few cats and dogs fall from the sky, saw a couple of toads drowning and heard the rain as it made sounds on the pavement reminiscent of the proverbial cow pi$$ing on a flat rock! You've heard it said that 'April showers bring May flowers', right?  Well, I'm on the look out now for those Pilgrims!

Yesterday afternoon,  I had another high-school soccer match to referee. Unlike Saturday's matches, for this one I had to don my long-sleeved shirt and gloves as we suffered through a shower of snow! The temperature, a few hours later, also reversed itself from that of Saturday's 82F - to a nippy 28F! [minus 2C]

Today, we'll be lucky if we see anything warmer than 49F [9C] so I anticipate that tonight's match will see me clad in that long-sleeved shirt and gloves once again. It's a miserable day anyway; April 15th always is - it is 'tax-filing deadline' day. Got the checks sent off, so I'm good for another 90 days - until the next quarterly filing.

April 15th is also another miserable day in the footballing (soccer) world. This year, today marks the 25th anniversary of the 'Hillsborough Disaster'. In Arsenal's Emirates Stadium today, as with the other Premier League football matches throughout the UK played this past weekend, there were tributes and "a minute's silence" for the lives of the 96 Liverpool fans lost that day. The tragedy heralded the elimination of the 'terraces' where spectators stood throughout the duration of the match) and the compulsory installation of the (seemingly misnamed) 'Stands' - where all spectators were required to be seated - and consequent significant reduction in the number of spectators able to gain admittance.

Not to dwell on the morbid, but it would not be apt to let the day pass without a mention that this day (April 15th, 2014) is also the 1-year anniversary of that heinous and cowardly act at the Boston Marathon.

I was under the misapprehension that April 15th was also the date when the hummingbirds return to St Louis. I just discovered that date is April 25th - so I will hold off a little longer before blogging about our feathered friends who have not yet learned the words!

It is still a little chilly here yet anyway. So, roll on Wednesday (16th) - at least the sun is supposed to shine again - and warm us up to 60F [16C] - and it promises to be a bit more of an enjoyable day - it will be my birthday; 'Happy 71st' to me!  Hmmm!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The planned activities for this day

Dear diary . . .  No, I guess one should only pen, and thereby immortalize them, after having conducted the activities - lest one should fail. As a precautionary measure, I will instead announce my intent!

At 9:00 am, I will, yet again, be outstanding in my field. Well, it is not MY field - but rather, it belongs to one of the local schools. I shall be officiating a pair of youth soccer (that's what the Yanks call 'football'*) matches.

* In their 'football', not too much use is made of the feet to propel the ball - far less even than in rugby football. At least in the latter, virtually anybody on the field (except the referee of course) may (and is usually adept at it) kick the ball - in some manner or other. In the Yanks' version though, it seemingly requires a specialist to undertake the orchestrated (VERY little in their version is spontaneous) act of kicking the bloody ball.

Pardon that digression - it is one of my favorite narration ploys; now back to the plans for the day:

Not wishing to tempt fate, but I must note that it was during such an activity - officiating, not kicking - 14 years, 1 month, and 9 days ago - that I suffered a heart attack. I thought I was having indigestion from a banana sandwich I had eaten earlier in the day. [No-one that I informed of my self diagnosis had ever heard of (much less could they envisage) what a banana sandwich is. Seems fairly straight forward to me - if you know what a sandwich is and what a banana is!] That was also the last time I smoked a cigarette - never had the 'urge' since - and yet am not 'bothered' by smell of the things - only by the sight of their discarded remains. Why, oh why must people flick those damned things onto my lawn, driveway and paths? [Hint to relatives and visitors alike, who may visit or pass my abode].

Second digression now over.

So - IF I survive 'the Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune', by noon, or just thereafter, I will head off to my daughter's house to undertake a little 'yard-work'. She has a patch - about 3 feet by 12 feet - of ground that is currently occupied by one prickly rose bush, a lot of 'icky' dirt, a couple of 'child-made' puddles and is surrounded by a dozen or so lop-sided ornamental stones. The plan is remove all said offensive articles, level the soil and install a more appealing surface - sod. The latter task, including the acquisition of said pieces of sod, I shall leave for my son-in-law to enjoy - tomorrow. Today's manual labor will be a joint effort by my wife and I. I shall be making a great effort during the process to ensure that she carefully places the stones into the wheel-barrow, transports them safely to another part of the yard and that she adequately levels the soil after digging out the rose bush. After all, one of us has to be wary of the exertions of that day 14 years, 1 month . . . !

I think I'll wait until next weekend before suggesting to my wife and we go look at our other daughter's lawn - it needs a LOT of raking to remove the thatch - and I'll be 7 days older and will have celebrated another birthday by then - but who is counting, eh?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five Fine Fish-Free Fridays – Volume 5

By now you are probably wondering why I have not mentioned such obvious choices of meals as:

Beans on toast,
Grilled cheese sandwich,
Garden salad,
Or even the ‘honeymoon’ salad (lettuce alone).

Of course, there are many others – including any number of dishes with eggs – that you could enjoy, but I was seeking things a little less ordinary. OK – the fruit dish in Volume 4 was hardly something ‘odd’ or ‘exotic’, but I got carried away with the ‘color thing’ the day before and a lack of ‘brain food’ (yes – fish!) must have taken over in me. I hope to seek salvation in this 5th dish – one that is a little more exotic; at least if eaten in the right place – Casablanca for example! If you can’t get there - where Bogart was - any other old ‘white house’ will do!

Moroccan Stew

I chose this dish because I discovered an unopened bag in my pantry and saw that it contained a good source of fiber and a picture of a belly-dancer. [Just seeing if you were paying attention – no picture]

Ingredients – enough to serve 6

½ lb Garbanzo beans – soaked and drained
1 medium onion – chopped
1 red bell-pepper – bite-sized pieces
1 large sweet potato – 1-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves – chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (add more if you like a 'thinner' stew) 


Saute onion, bell-pepper, garlic for two minutes
Stir in cumin, pepper flakes and cinnamon.
Add broth and garbanzo beans.
Bring to boil; cover and reduce to a simmer for 1 hour. [Now go watch a belly-dancer video]
Add sweet potatoes and let simmer for 30 minutes [Take cold shower after video]
Put 2 cups of the stew in a blender until smooth; pour back into stew.

Serve in a bowl, as shown – topped with a few thin slices of red bell pepper and sprig of cilantro – or serve over hot cooked rice if desired.

Nutritional facts (excluding optional rice base)

Calories: 145 (about 600 kJ for those in the UK)
Calories from fat: 20
Carbohydrates: 36g
Fiber: 15g
Total fat: 2g
Saturated fat: <1g
Protein: 9g
Sodium: 37mg
Cholesterol: 0g

Monday, April 7, 2014

Five Fine Fish-Free Fridays - Volume 4

Still searching that World Flags link (in FFFFF - Volume 3) of nations with Red,White and Green flags? Stop! Now it is time to think of another popular combination of colors – Red, White and Blue. OK, hands up those who said, USA, UK, France – and then got stuck there! Keep thinking – there are dozens more! Horizontal bars, vertical stripes, flags with stars, flags with crosses – you name it - find them here:  World Flags.  Though today's 'dish' contains the fruit, don't go looking for the flag of The Banana Republic - it doesn't exist. But look again, for the many that do. 

Well, the geography lesson is over - the 'Civics' lesson follows later!  Time now for that dish.. 

What could be simpler than a Red, White [well, ‘almost’ white!] and Blue salad? This dish, unlike the others, is not one I concocted, but one I found on-line.

Ingredients [to serve 6 or 8]

2 cups chopped strawberries
Handful of raspberries (my favorite)
1 cup blueberries
1 apple – peeled and chopped
2 bananas - sliced
2 tsps lemon juice
1 tsp honey
½ tsp lemon zest


Rinse the berries; place in large bowl
Add the apple and banana then sprinkle on lemon juice (prevents browning)
Add zest and honey to mix and toss.
Serve immediately – or cover and chill for 2 hours

Nutritional facts

Hey – it’s fruit! Has to be good, eh? What else do you need to know? Maybe add a slice of whole wheat / grain bread if you want more ‘carbs’ – and a few lumps of tofu or crumbly hard white cheese – for protein - and to ensure that ‘white’ component.

Raise whatever beverage you choose, and toast the flag of your favorite Red, White and Blue nation - but for heaven’s sake, pay attention to the proper placement of the narrow and broad white diagonal components if you fly the ‘Union Jack’ – broader stripe uppermost (if pole is on left) – or if displayed vertically, rotate clockwise.






Thursday, April 3, 2014

Five Fine Fish-Free Fridays - Volume 3

Another ‘nameless’ – but not ‘tasteless’ dish; plus, it is FISH-less!  

Its dominant (until you cut open the burrito) green, white and red colors should make it a favorite in Mexico, Hungary, Tajikistan, Iran, Bulgaria, and Oman – oh yes, also in WalesI imagine you can do your own ‘Google-search’ [ Here’s a jump-start:  WorldFlags ] for other nations with green, white and red in their flags. Why not list some in the ‘Comment’ section? 

Note: If the salsa would be black (mine was almost as unappetizing, being dark brown), the dish may be a hit with flag-wavers in Syria, Kuwait and Sudan; or if blue – in Equatorial Guinea – but that would look quite disgusting; or moldy! 

Other than the simple micro-wave instructions on the back of the burrito package –

- there is little preparation to be done; just cut, spoon or dump and shred the other items


1 bean / rice / cheese burrito – hot, medium or mild – your choice
½ small tomato
Salsa – I tbsp – spiciness to taste
2 ounces – fat free cottage cheese - touch of black pepper
Cilantro to garnish

Unless you really mess up, it may look something like this:

Your drink selection is none of my business – and so is not included in the ‘calorie and carb’- count below!

Nutritional facts:

Calories: 401 (about 1,600 kJ for those in the UK)
Calories from fat: 10
Carbohydrates: 53g
Fiber: 7g
Total fat: 1g
Saturated fat: <1g
Protein: 23g
Sodium: 693mg
Potassium: 70mg
Cholesterol: 4g