Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge spans Lower Tampa Bay and includes the ramp seen below in the distance.  I'm not fond of heights but this one didn't trigger that I'm-gonna-die feeling I get sometimes, probably because it's perfectly straight and fences block the view of how high it's above the water.  I'm really glad I didn't know that this is the second version of this bridge, the first one collapsed in 1980 when a storm-blinded freighter collided with a support column resulting in 35 deaths as six cars, a truck, and a Greyhound bus fell 150 feet into the water.  You can read more about the incident at the link below.




Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Beach Proposal

For some people just getting down on one knee and popping the question just isn't good enough.  This guy hired a service to secure a "MARRY ME" sign in the sand at Clearwater Beach, FL.  They scrupled the sand, planted some flowers, and even lit up the sign with some unseen power source.  I'm guessing they lured the soon-bride-to-be with a walk on the beach, passed the sign, turned her around, then dropped and popped.  We could have waited around to see how it really played out, but our thirst got the best of us.



Monday, May 27, 2024

PVC Chairs

The chairs shown below are from our condo in Clearwater Beach, FL.  The frame is made from PVC pipes, making it lightweight, very strong, and impervious to the constant salt air.   It includes a rail to put your feet on as these are at least a foot taller than the average chair, allowing you to see over the railing at the beach instead of looking through its rails.  Simply brilliant!



Friday, May 24, 2024

Arepas

The stars of the meal shown below are the arepas, the small, round things in the basket that look like English muffins.  They are a mixture of precooked cornmeal, salt, and water, made into balls of dough, flattened to about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick, then baked or grilled.  A serrated knife is used to slice them deep enough to form a pocket and then stuffed with any combination of ingredients you desire.  I can't wait to try this at home.




Thursday, May 23, 2024

Basil’s Root Beer New Fashion

Sometimes I just try things because the ingredients can't possibly work together as was the case with ordering a Basil’s Root Beer New Fashion at The Salty Crab Bar & Grill North Beach in Clearwater Beach, FL.  It combines Basil Hayden Bourbon with root beer and a dash of bitters and after the first one, I was hooked.  I need to work on getting the proportions figured out and try a few different root beers, and by golly do it even if it takes all summer!

https://saltycrabnorthbeach.com



Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Max Brightness

When the clerk at Meijer uses their handheld scanner on the MPerks barcode on my Pixel 7 it typically takes four or five attempts before it's successful and sometimes they have to scan it using the stationary scanner, which typically works the first time.  I now know why, courtesy of the Frontier Airlines app that's scanned when I board their planes.

As shown below, the Frontier app has an "Allow boarding pass max brightness" option that does exactly that.  I thought that probably was to improve their scanning accuracy, so the next time I went to Meijer I manually cranked up the brightness before having them scan my MPerks barcode.  Bingo, worked the first time!  Case closed.



Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Three Dog Night

The rock band Three Dog Night was formed in 1967 by vocalists Chuck Negron, Cory Wells, and Danny Hutton and would have a string of hits including Shambala, Eli's Coming, Joy to the World, and An Old Fashioned Love Song.  The band still tours but only Danny of the original trio is still performing with the group.

If you're not aware of how the group got its strange name, it comes from Aboriginal Australians.  On cold nights they would sleep with a dingo (a wild dog) to stay warm.  On colder nights they slept with two dogs and on a really freezing night, it was a "three dog night".




Monday, May 20, 2024

Empathy

Empathy is sometimes a hard concept to use in real life, so I offer one experience from my working days to demonstrate.

An Information Technology (IT) person is asked for help on a user's PC and says the seemingly innocent phrase "It's easy."  But if you look at the person's face on the receiving end, it's pretty clear the message received is "I must be stupid as I've been trying for ten minutes to figure this out."  It's surely not the intended message, but you won't see it if you're not looking for a reaction.

I learned to use the phrase "It's not hard, but it's not obvious" when assisting someone.  "Not obvious" calms the person's nerves.  They're not dumb, the designer of the interface hid this feature under layers of menus with not-so-helpful titles.  I've literally seen people's shoulders relax after I've said this.  I use "It's not hard" just to avoid using the word "easy", assuring them that they can do it.



Friday, May 17, 2024

Raw Honey

We've belonged to the Hawkes Wine Club ever since we signed up back in 2010.  We started that day with a 10:00 am private wine tasting at Hanna in Santa Rosa, CA, and asked for recommendations for other awesome Cabernet Sauvignons.   Hawkes was their top choice and only a few miles from Hanna.  We did a wine tasting at Hawkes and left a member of their wine club.  We get four shipments of three bottles per year and is one of our go-to wines for our "Fine Wine Sunday" dinners.

A recent wine shipment included the jar of Hawkes Farm honey shown below spread on a toasted English muffin.  It wasn't until I read the accompanying letter that I realized it was included and I had to dig the box out of the garbage can to find it.  It's raw, which means that it hasn't been heated, and I think it makes the most delicious honey.  While raw honey crystallizes over time and might look strange, just heat it up in a microwave if that's bothersome.  




Thursday, May 16, 2024

Household Chemical Drop-Off

We ran across this household chemical drop-off at North Park in Pittsburgh while out walking for a couple of miles.  What you can't see is the line of a few hundred cars waiting their turn in line.  Participants must register in advance, and pay a $20 fee that covers up to 10 gallons/50 pounds of automotive fluids, household cleaners, pesticides, paints, etc. per vehicle.  Only three drop-offs are scheduled for Allegheny County this year, each lasting only 4 hours.

We're spoiled.  Our Montgomery County Solid Waste District accepts these household chemicals and much more every Tuesday from March through October from 1-7 pm and every first Tuesday from November through February also from 1-7 pm.  There are no limits that I'm aware of and best of all, it's free (I love free).  More information can be found at the link below.




Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Ice Spray Wax

Gone are the days of rubbing paste wax on our cars and then making a second pass to buff it out.  The Ice Spray Wax seen below is sprayed on and immediately wiped off.  The product states that it's safe to apply in extremely hot or cold temperatures, even in direct sunlight, but the old-timer in me still likes a warm, cloudy day.

Big shout-out to my brother-in-law Al for this time and effort-saving tip.




Tuesday, May 14, 2024

8675309

If you don't get the joke below you were not listening to rock and rock in the 1980s.  I will admit I read it about three times before it clicked and I burst out in laughter.  If you need a clue, the YouTube video at the link below will give you all the information needed.




Monday, May 13, 2024

Kettering Police Blotter

Our home city of Kettering, Ohio publishes a weekly summary of all the police activity that week.  Most of their time is spent on traffic stops, serving warrants, drug and alcohol violations, thefts, fighting, and domestic violence.  It's usually around four to five pages long and is an interesting view into a demanding job.  I don't know if other communities publish blotters, but you can see Ketterings at the link below.




Friday, May 10, 2024

Goldbelly

Thanks to a gift certificate from my daughter and her husband, we treated ourselves to the Beef Wellington seen below.  It's from Goldbelly, a service that delivers high-end meats, seafood, sandwiches, pizza, BBQ, and desserts in insulated boxes packed with dry ice.  The fresh carrots were Gourmet Chef Elaine's creation, topped with a little fresh dill to make it pop.  You can see Goldbelly's entire selection at the link below.




Thursday, May 9, 2024

Moeller Brew Barn

When the weather's fine, Gourmet Chef Elaine and I like to sit outside and sip a beer (or two).  A few weeks ago we tried Moeller Brew Barn for the first time, the one that's located across from the Dayton Dragons stadium on Monument Avenue in Downtown Dayton.  It's a very large facility and the outdoor seating included a nice view of the baseball diamond.  While this was a beer-only event for us, the food coming out of the kitchen looked pretty phenomenal.  The beer selection was very nice and we'll have to try out one of their $5/pint Happy Hours.




Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Flagpole

We replaced our 6-foot flagpole with the 7-foot upgrade shown below, although an 8-footer would have helped move the flag farther away from the house and keep the flag from getting frayed as it struck the gutter in higher winds.  The pole was shipped as a series of six, 16-inch mini-poles that were screwed together.  They advertise this as a "tangle-free flag", which after a few days has held up to that promise.





Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Real Estate Tax Breakout

I was curious about where our real estate tax money goes so I built the chart below using Google Sheets to get a good visual.  Almost two-thirds of that goes to Kettering Schools, about twenty-five percent goes to the city and county governments, and the remaining nine percent helps support Sinclair, regional libraries, and Metroparks.  Montgomery County homeowners can check out their tax bill at the link below.  Just enter your address (or anyone else's if you want to be nosy), click search, and peruse the available information.





Monday, May 6, 2024

Private Mortgage Insurance

Over the last few years, the cost of buying a house has skyrocketed.  One silver lining to this sharp increase is that more existing homeowners paying for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) are eligible to have it canceled, translating into one, two, or more, hundred dollars of savings each month.   PMI should be automatically removed when your LTV (Loan-To-Value) ratio drops to 78%.  Still, you depend on your loan's servicing company to keep that calculation current, which is not in their best interests.  So it's best to check your monthly mortgage statement for your remaining loan balance and online estimates of your house's value (e.g. Zillow) and see if you're down to 80%, the point where you can request PMI cancellation, which will likely require a formal appraisal, or way below 80% which should be a no-brainer (emphasis on "should").



Friday, May 3, 2024

Banana Muffins

Grandma (aka Gourmet Chef Elaine) baked the banana muffins shown below for our grandson for a recent trip down to North Carolina.  It's the usual combination of flour, baking soda, cinnamon, butter, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, plain yogurt, and mashed bananas.  See the details in the recipe at the link below.  The real special treat was the inclusion of mini chocolate chip morsels.  That was the big hit.  

After devouring six muffins over the week, our honest grandson said, "Grandma, next time you can leave out the bananas."  




Thursday, May 2, 2024

Mimosa With Blueberries

A staple of "a little something with breakfast", a mimosa starts with an equal amount of orange juice and sparkling wine, but there are lots of ways to turn it into an inspired drinking experience.  Select a very good, but not as expensive, alternative to French champagne such as a Spanish Cava or Italian Prosecco, with Freixenet being our go-to.  While difficult to find in our neck of the woods, fresh-squeezed OJ is leagues ahead of anything else.  As shown below, adding some blueberries or other small fruits adds a pleasing visual visually.  Finally, a little Triple Sec can add a nice complimentary orange flavor. 




Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Microwave Reheat Button

The chicken enchilada shown below is remarkable in that it has been reheated to perfection in our microwave without the cheesy goodness becoming a sloppy, runny mess.  That's because our microwave has a REHEAT button that goes low and slow.  It senses when the food begins steaming and starts its final countdown.  The food must be covered (e.g. wax paper) and not require any handling (e.g. stirring).

The REHEAT button is pressed once for a plate of leftovers, twice for pasta, three times for 1/2-to-1-cup of liquid, and four times for 1-to-2-cups.  Yeah, I'm sure I'll remember all of those.

There are several other buttons on our microwave I've never used.  Perhaps it's time to read the manual...