Monday, January 31, 2011

Snowmageddon 2011

On a Saturday night in January 1982, a childhood friend had stayed all night. As dark neared, the mother came home with groceries and we helped her carry them inside.

We were up late, laughing and watching movies, carrying on as teenaged girls do. Before we went to bed, the predicted snow had started to fall. The original forecast was for maybe 4 inches. Throughout the night, it kept getting added to. By the time they got to 10-12, they stopped talking numbers.

It was just a little snow. We weren’t going anywhere so we didn’t care. If we got enough snow, in fact, we’d not only have that Sunday, we’d have the next day, too. SNOWDAY!!! What we didn’t know is that we have the entire next WEEK as St. Louis dug out of 14 inches of snow. (Some areas had closer to 2 feet.) They were showing footage on the news yesterday where snow plows had been abandoned on highway ramps, buses left in the middle of streets.

And they’re saying that what begins afterwhile and runs through sometime on Wednesday will rival that storm. Oh, I can’t wait. Freezing rain today and tomorrow, changing to all snow tomorrow (from 8-12 inches in total when it’s all over, but they can’t be sure at this point.)

I’m on my way to work having been delivered to the bus station by the mother who drove back into town and is heading to the store. It’s not that I didn’t buy stuff Saturday; I did. She is just completely and totally freaked out. I’m not sure how much of anything she’ll find, or what she thinks we just have to have, but I guess I’ll find out.

For now, I’m just concerned about commuting for the next few days. I won’t be driving. And I’m a little concerned about shoveling as my neck and shoulder, while much improved, are still achey and tight. I did next to nothing yesterday. Even so, it was hard to rest as I couldn’t get comfortable long enough to go to sleep.

But, you do what you gotta do. I’m just hoping this isn’t a repeat of 29 years ago. I’m not ready for that, not even a little bit.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Worthless Information

Sometimes I’m downright stunned by how much absolutely worthless information is rolling around my head. Last night, at the annual Trivia Night held by the high school where I made seven of the best friends anyone ever had (and got a diploma in the bargain), I was amazed yet again.

The event brought out B., CD, PB, Mr. and Mrs. Monkeygirl, Teacherlady and B.’s friend, Gar, who managed to add some extra testosterone to our table. (Mr. Monkeygirl is often the only dude.) We managed to get six of the Excellent Eight together at once, better than our average 4-5. That’s always good. Thanks guys for coming out to play!

We scored a respectable 78 out of 100 in the 10 rounds of play with topics ranging from lesser-known athletes to television law shows to Top 150s (an audio category featuring music clips from hits of the ‘70s and ‘80s. It was a category we kicked ass in, too.) Third place went to a team scoring 87 and the top scorers hit 96. So, pretty respectable indeed.

As we always have, we achieved the primary goal: not to be the lowest-scoring team who generally go home in disguises (Groucho Marx glasses and mustaches). That was a noticeably absent part of the evening. (At least it was to me. I guess it’s part of a kinder, gentler approach to Trivia Night.) As it always does, the time flew by. This group has the market cornered on that. No matter how long it’s been since I’ve seen them, get us together in a room and the calendar fades yet the clock seems to roll forward at hyperspeed.

At some point in the evening, I turned to PB to pass a possible answer down to the other end of the table where they were being quickly collected and BAM! Something in my right shoulder shot across my back and down my arm. It worsened as the evening wore on. I begged off continuing the evening at a local bar.

I stopped at the store on the way home and when I went to pick up the small bag with the handful of items I either couldn’t find or forgot during yesterday’s shopping trip, the pain was almost unbearable. Items that are important that because about 12 hours from now, we’re supposed to get hit with yet ANOTHER blast of winter, this time with a twist: ICE. Ugh.

I put a heat patch on last night after spending extra time under the shower’s hot water and relied on one of my other best friends, Advil, for help. Things are only a little better this morning. I found a Bio Freeze stick and that has helped some but turning my head to the left beyond a few degrees is still a big challenge. No idea WTF is up with that. Maybe it’s related to whatever I aggravated in my back shoveling snow last week? At any rate, I hope it lets up soon.

And snow … I can’t bear to think of the roads going to hell yet again. The commute is going to be a nightmare. And with ice starting tonight and running through early Tuesday, I’m wondering how I’m going to stay vertical to GET to the bus stop … not even thinking about how the bus will stay on the road. Knowing that ice is coming, I find myself wishing for another foot of snow instead. Never thought I’d find myself envying the northeast. GAHHH!!!

It’s going to be a long week…

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Night at the Symphony

On Friday, I braved the roadway in Snowpocalypse’s aftermath to drive to work. But getting to work wasn’t the point. All that digging out wasn’t for naught – I needed to drive for the after work part of the day: I had a ticket to the Symphony!

I went to the Symphony once. I was 10 or 11 and it was a field trip. I remember leaving with an even stronger desire than I already had to learn to play the piano. (It’s an activity I’ve relegated to my “bucket” list. I have little faith that it will ever happen.)

I would have no faith that it could happen except for my friend and colleague, KayO. KayO who is taking piano lessons NOW. KayO who emailed me a few weeks ago with a link to the St. Louis Symphony website and a ticket deal for their performance of Brahm’s Requiem at Powell Hall. KayO whose blog I am avoiding until I put up my own symphony post. (She is infinitely more knowledgeable about such performances and able to provide intelligent reviews of them.) I did not want to be influenced by Kay’s entry before completing my own. But I digress …

I got a little dressed up (which is saying a lot for the Queen of Casual), and KayO and I had dinner, a very nice dinner, using a Groupon I’d bought last spring. (But didn’t read the fine print about it being a dinner-only deal until I tried to use it for lunch one day last year.) So I had a drink and dinner and delightful banter with KayO then off we went to the concert.

I’d tucked my camera into my purse but they are pretty serious about not wanting you to take pictures AT ALL. Not even when they’re not performing. (Stupid, really. I was just fascinated by one of the ceiling’s manyf gorgeous ornamentations and wanted to capture it. And maybe a few other architectural details that Powell has to offer. You know I'm a sucker for old buildings!) Alas, there would be no photos. (But here's some I found online. Please note, the hall is NOT downtown.)

We arrived a little into the conductor’s pre-concert presentation or “liner notes.” David Robertson is warm and entertaining. I enjoyed listening to him speak not only about the Requiem but about the other piece we’d be hearing, Seven. The piece, which was dedicated to the Space Shuttle Columbia astronauts who died when it exploded in February 2003, was making its debut in the United States! Wow. I go to the symphony for the first time in decades and I get to see a piece debuted. Cool.

Showing how little I know about the symphony, I had no idea that the stage was arranged any differently than it should be. (There was a whole row of gongs and other percussion along the stage’s back wall.) “Wow. That’s a lotta gongs,” KayO said once we’d settled into our real seats. (We plopped into seats on the opposite side of the concert hall for the Robertson presentation.) “They’re going to have to put up a whole bunch of chairs.” Really? I wouldn’t know. “I guess there’s an intermission,” she added.

Well, that, I did know. There was a 20-minute intermission.

But back to Seven … There were violinists parked in the balconies during this piece. That made for an interesting sound. And the massive percussion session, punctuated by an occasional tuba, created very eerie ear candy. At one point, once the rest of the symphony began to meld itself with the industrial melody, it was a little like the soundtrack from the Red Violin meets the Wizard of Oz.

Then it was on to Brahms. I like Brahms. Please never refer to him as “The Lullaby Guy” in my presence. While that would be accurate, it would be insulting to make that his claim to fame. Not the guy I adore in particular for his Symphony No. 4. No. Just don’t go there.

But the notion of a requiem. (Ein deutches Requieum, Op. 45) I had read some years ago that this piece was never really meant to be mournful. I remembered that and it was something I used to gauge Friday’s performance. I was not disappointed.

For the record, I do not like opera; I am not a choral fan. In fact, my initial reaction was, “Aw, man. They’re gonna sing.”And in German, no less. (They had a screen up to translate. I was shocked by just how much German I knew.) I’m not proud of that reaction. In fact, after hearing not only the St. Louis Symphony Chorus and soloists Twyla Robinson and Stephen Powell. I’m quite red-faced with shame about my first response.

In a word, WOW. The chorus was great, but the booming baritone of Powell? Well, here comes WOW! again. I think I felt my seat shudder as his voice thundered through the hall whose name he shares. I sat in rapt attention as he belted out his part. When Robinson sang, in stark contrast to her male counterpart, her voice did not vibrate into the seats. No. It floated and soared. It was absolutely beautiful.

So, I can honestly say that between the two of them and that amazing chorus, they’ve wakened me from a state of walking idiocy – at least where music is concerned. Bravo. BRAVO!

The music wasn’t mournful. It was reverent and reminiscent of many Masses from my Catholic upbringing, yet uplifting. And while God and the hereafter were referred to, it was done so without the normal trappings of religion. (Something Brahms did purposely. For a piece of work debuting on Good Friday almost a century and a half ago. I knew I always liked this guy.)

Instead, the music drifted comfortably between somber and joyous. It was clear that this was music made for the living – not the dead. It was about honoring those lost (I did tear up at one point; it's a requiem -- you think about those who've gone on) but it was more about comforting the living.

And it was wonderful.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Of Sand and Surf

The sun is warm against my face. I am holding a margarita in one hand and taking a break from my reading, I am fanning myself with the book clutched in the other. Just then, a breeze rolls off the water.

Ah. The surf is washing up and the sounds of it crashing and then rolling back out is so soothing. Then there’s the occasional screech of a seagull. It’s drawing closer now. I hear it nearly overhead.

Then I wake up.

What I’m actually hearing is the shriek of the alarm clock. Welcome back to reality. To reality where the crunch of white beneath my feet isn’t sand at all but snow. Never-ending, God-awful snow.

My hat’s off to those of you in the northeast who’ve had several feet of this crap to contend with. We’re just barely over a foot, thanks to a few added inches yesterday morning. (Added inches that were just enough to re-cover both cars and to fill in all the stuff I had cleared on Thursday and again Saturday. I’m SO SICK of shoveling snow I could die.) I ventured out yesterday only to clear paths yet AGAIN, feed the birds who are to be pitied for their plight in such cruel conditions, and to deposit the trash at the alley.

Thanks to all that hard-fought clearing I’ve managed to pull something in my back. It is regularly reminding me that it’s there, cussing me at every turn. Advil Liqui-Gels are my new best friend.

This morning it is not snow but freezing drizzle that is the enemy. It is very light, thankfully, but it has been enough , on top of yesterday’s added snowfall, to really gum up the roads. I made it safely to the busstop, not without a few slides though, and the bus is trundling sloooooooooowly along, occasionally doing a slide of its own. (We’re already five minutes behind schedule thanks to the slick roads.)

Here’s hoping for a safe rest-of-the-commute. (If you’re reading this, I made it.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dug Out

The snow was, for the most part, dry. Not the stuff of snowballs and snowmen. THANK GOD!!!

I was much relieved to discover this as I have plans tonight. But that's another story ... Even so, it looked pretty daunting once I finally bundled up (not unlike Ralphie's kid brother in A Christmas Story) and ventured outside. One of the first sights was my neighbor's pine tree. Quite pretty.

But dude ... where's my shrubs?!

The backyard looked something like a collection of weird, tiny igloos.

I went outside as the sun was starting to set. Even so, all of the white was absolutely blinding. It took me more than 90 minutes of steady, non-stop shoveling and clearing, but I finally unearthed the driveway, Pearl and most of the walkway.

They said on the news that the official snowfall was 9.6 inches. It set a record for a single 24-hour snowfall in January and was the ninth largest snowfall in St. Louis history.

Well, that means it did make the Top 10 at least! (Of course, it didn't compare to the Snowmageddon of January 1982 when St. Louis got about 14 inches of snow. It shut most of the city down for close to a week!)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow Day 2011

Looks like I get a snow day of sorts after all. I'll be working from home.

Here's why ...

Yep. That's 9.25 inches by my ruler. Generally, the St. Louis area got at least 6 inches to well over a foot. UGH! I don't remember the last time we got that much snow, though I do know we got well over 8 inches in February 2008.
Wherever you are, you too may be getting this snow. So, BE SAFE!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Wayward One

I kind of fell off the radar, didn’t I? I even got an email today from one of my nearest and dearest checking my welfare considering that it’s been … since I last posted. A year ago, that would have been unheard of. (And thank you, CD. It’s always good to be so loved, not to mention being missed.)

But, life happens. And sometimes it happens quickly and fiercely. Work’s been crazy. Ozzie is continuing to recover (and, like me, remains seriously congested). I was still down on sleep from Scrapbook Escape and the drama leading up to it. And there is always something going on at This D*mn House.

So, occasionally you need time to regroup. And, over the long weekend, that’s exactly what I did. I slept. I ate. I napped. I shopped. Yes, shopped. But that’s another story.

My Google Reader runneth over once again. It’s been in triple digits for all of this year so far. I’m going to try and catch up again soon. I’ll apologize now to being absent from the readership for many of you.

Right now, I’m trying to gear myself up for yet another blast of winter. It’s snowing like crazy as I type this. They’re forecasting 4-6 inches by tomorrow. While that’s really not a lot, especially when you compare it to the massive snowfalls the northeast has been hit with multiple times already this season, it’s entirely too much for someone who hates winter as much as I do.

And, it’s more than enough to make the morning commute a living hell. (The Missouri Highway Patrol just said to not go to work in the morning if you don’t have to. Can you say “snow day?”) Doesn’t quite work that way though, unfortunately.

Some days ago, we saw the last of the snow from the previous blast. It’s all but a memory now, save a small pile here or there which has survived thanks to yet another cold snap. Is it really only January?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


It’s Wednesday. I’m still behind on sleep and, days later, my sides still ache. Believe me when I say these are GOOD problems to have. No. These are GREAT "problems" to have.

That’s because I spent the weekend with friends, scrapbooking. From Friday night ‘til Sunday afternoon, laughing, scrapping, eating, laughing, laughing, scrapping, eating, laughing. Did I mention laughing?

I managed to take a few pictures, too.

Did I mention laughing?

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Fly in the Ointment

As I sat in the waiting room, watching the minutes tick by, it occurred to me that the hours leading up to my annual scrapbook weekend (often called crop camp) are more often than not plagued by negative events.

It’s been exceedingly true of recent years. Consider:
· In 2007, the mother got pneumonia AND St. Louis got hit by an ice storm. I was unable to attend.
· In 2008, I was trying to ensure that there would be heat in the house while I was at camp. (Technical difficulties)
· In 2010, a certain freakin’ dealership was holding Pearl hostage and generally jackin’ me around ahead of 5 inches of snow in the 2 days before camp. (I was driving her home as the snow was beginning to fall.)

And this year … I had to get Ozzie into the vet shortly after dawn Thursday morning. At daybreak, I was not only unsure if I would be attending camp but even if I would have a dog to bring back home. He did manage to scare the bejeezus out of me with a series of coughing fits that rivaled any I’ve seen from him.

Thankfully, Ozzie appears to be back on the mend. AND I WILL be attending camp! For his age, he’s in surprisingly good shape. I even got to look at the x-rays they took of his chest and throat. His heart is good, as are his other internal organs. Just those pesky lungs that need some assistance! (He has bronchitis and a secondary infection.)

I can hardly wait to join my friends tonight! As you read this, I may be with them already.
It’s going to be one weekend that I think we all really NEED.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tuesday ToolTalk: Dyson DC23 Canister Vac

I know it’s Wednesday, but I’ve been busy …

You may recall that I bought the mother a new sweeper (Dyson DC23 Turbinehead Canister) for Christmas.
As is my fashion, she got it early. Very early. In part, because she was comparison shopping for sweepers Thanksgiving night, ahead of our Black Friday adventures.

Dyson is a name you frequently hear tossed around as a great vacuum. In general, this floorcare line has an equally great price tag to go with it. And, since they didn’t have canister vacs (the mother loathes uprights), it was pretty much a moot point.

So imagine my surprise when I learned that they DO have canisters. And what canisters they are, too!

The short version of this review is that the mother loves this sweeper. I love this sweeper. It outperforms anything I have ever seen, including the original Kenmore we had for nearly 20 years (it was a BEAST of a cleaner and I don’t think they make them like that anymore). It is relatively small and compact, especially for a canister. And brother does it pick stuff up! I'm stunned by what I see in the canister just about every time I run it.

Is it perfect? No. My biggest complaint: the hose. For a sweeper at this price-point (on average $399), the hose should not be the chintzy plastic that it is. I can see this being something I will have to replace in a year or so – if it lasts that long. It bunches up in all manners of weird positions while in use. If it were a little meatier, it wouldn’t do that. It also prohibits it from being a true pull-behind canister. Instead, you have to back up, grab the handle and reposition the canister as you go. Thankfully, the handle into which the hose connects swivels or I'd hate the hose even more.

If you have ultra-thick, plush carpet you might not be so impressed. While you can turn the beater bar off, it can be a little difficult to rake across thick carpet. Luckily, we now have a mix of hardwood, laminate and tile surfaces dotted with throw rugs for which this machine is ideal.

We have a dog and cat, both of whom shed. A lot. I am both embarrassed and amazed by the amount of hair the sweeper removes in, at minimum, every-other-day use. The main throw in our livingroom has not been this clean since it was put down despite daily (and sometimes multiple times daily) vacuuming with the old sweeper. I have to say that when I say, “This sweeper sucks,” it is meant as a very high compliment! It’s really hard not to gush in talking about this thing.

Pros: Let me repeat, we LOVE this sweeper! Adding to what I’ve already mentioned, this vacuum is BAGLESS and has a WASHABLE HEPA filter. That in itself is a cost savings of at least $30/year. The canister itself detaches, empties and reattaches easily. There are bristle brush and crevice tool attachments on board, a telescoping handle, and a more than generous auto-rewind powercord. The famous Dyson ball design has been incorporated into the powerhead, making it easy to get under and around furniture. And, the vacuum has a five-year warranty. It’s also relatively quiet considering the punch it packs.

Cons: In addition to the hose, which is my biggest gripe by far, the canister itself is small and generally needs emptying after each use. The release mechanism to empty it seems flimsy. It’s a heavy vacuum – more than 20 pounds. (This is more of an issue with the mother than me.) And it’s been an adjustment to have the power switch NOT on the handle. It would also be nice to have alternating levels of suction that our old sweeper had instead of one single, powerful speed.

Conclusion: I’ll say it one last time: We LOVE this sweeper. Overall, its stellar performance far outweighs the majority of its flaws, most of which are minor. It has a hefty price tag but thus far, I’ve gotten what I paid for. I’ve put it through a variety of paces and it hasn’t come up short once.

Availability: Most major retail outlets or online. Retails $399, currently advertised online for $329-$349. Watch for deals. (I scored this one for $319 at thanks to a combination of sale price and special email coupon.)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Who Was Listening In?

As I was writing my last post of the old year, it was almost as if Fate itself was reading over my shoulder.

I'd been lamenting the lack of progress at This D*mn House during 2010. Less than an hour after I'd posted, my cell phone rang. When I flipped my phone open and saw the Caller ID I could barely contain myself. "Nicole?" the voice questioned. I confirmed it was me. "Well, hi there. Happy New Year! Just wanted to let you know that I was still alive."

It was none other than my favorite DIY partner, my project partner in crime, LAWRENCE!!! If it was possible to hug someone through the telephone wires, I'm afraid poor Lawrence would have been crushed.

While I was on the phone with Lawrence, I heard a loud conversation. I assumed it was our next-door neighbor who is now practically deaf on top of his many other ailments. And, I was on the phone, a phone which was covering my good ear. (I have about a 60 percent hearing loss in the other ear, thanks to scar tissue from constant childhood ear infections.)

But then I started hearing a siren. The voice I'd heard wasn't the neighbor. It was the emergency warning system going off. We were under a tornado warning! (I had mentioned in my last post that we might be in for some bad weather.) I wrapped up my conversation with Lawrence, with the promise that we'll be getting together again soon (YAY!!!)

Luckily, the tornado warning was just that for us, a warning. But many families throughout Missouri (including St. Louis' north city and south county) are starting 2011 homeless. I feel so bad for them.

The good news is, that at least in the St. Louis area, no one was killed or even seriously injured. God bless all those in other parts of Missouri and in Arkansas who did lose loved ones. (And Karen, I'm SO glad you commented! I was worried about you.)

So, watching all the destruction kind of tempered my exaltation over hearing from Lawrence. But, in interview after interview, people were grateful to have survived. It really is life-affirming to see people be so grateful when they've lost so much.

The upside is that Lawrence is back on the scene. I can't tell you how happy that makes me. The mother is thrilled, too.

What this means is that 2011 will be seeing some things get done around This D*mn House. So, the year is already getting off to a great start!