Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pic Today 2/28/10

24-cents turned into $1-million . . .

when the Post Office made a mistake printing the nation's "first air mail stamp." It all happened in 1918, when the U.S. inaugurated regular air mail service between Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City . . . aboard the Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" biplane. Printing of the new 24-cent air mail stamps was done in 2 colors (red and blue), and required that sheets of 100 stamps be fed through the printing press twice (once for each color) . . . an error-prone process which caused some sheets to be printed with an "inverted" Jenny biplane. (Oops!) It is believed only one misprinted sheet got through unnoticed . . . and thus the birth of the rarest of all U.S. stamp errors (and most valuable) . . .

The 24-cent Inverted Jenny

One perfect, mint condition "inverted Jenny" stamp sold at auction in 2007 for $978,000 . . . and is estimated to be worth well in excess of $1-million today. (Pretty good return for a 24-cent purchase at the Post Office!)

And believe it or not, when the Postal Service started selling stamps and delivering our mail (1850s), all you needed to address was the person's name, plus a city and state. (Imagine addressing a letter . . . Lafayette Whithed Esq, St. Louis, Missouri. And your letter would arrive!)

As city populations grew, the addition of a street and number would be required (by the turn of the century.) In 1943, city "2 digit" postal codes were required (e.g. St. Louis 08, Missouri). And in 1963, the 5-digit Zip Code was introduced (e.g. St. Louis, MO 63108). Zip Codes grew once again in 1983 with the "Zip + 4" codes (e.g. 63108-2336) which designated individual carriers to deliver our mail.

Getting complicated, isn't it?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pic Today 2/27/10

Stamps . . . stamps . . . and more stamps ! ! !

The St. Louis Stamp Expo is in town this weekend . . . more than 50 stamp dealers will be on hand, specializing in postage stamps, letters, postcards and postal history from the U.S. and virtually every country of the world. And whether you're an active stamp collector (philatelist) or just interested in postal history, there's a lot going on Saturday & Sunday at the Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel (doors open both days at 10:00 AM.)

Stamps say so much about history, commemorating famous statesmen, accomplishments and achievements . . . and are a relatively recent "proof of payment" for U.S. mail service (since 1847.) Fascinating exhibits are on display, including Military Postal History, as well as Illinois and Missouri Postal History. Kids are welcome (16 and under are admitted FREE), and there's lots for them to do and see . . . including a "kids only" room where they can start their own collection and search for stamps, and leave with a FREE BAG of stamps and supplies.

DID YOU KNOW . . . most countries have specific rules on postage stamp designs/pictures? Stamps of the U.S. may not depict any person who has been dead for less than 10 years, except U.S. Presidents, who may appear one year after there demise.
POSTAL TRIVIA . . . in 1860, mail was carried by horseback from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California . . . nearly 1,900 miles via the famous "pony express". How many states did this service cross? Believe it or not, ONLY TWO . . . Missouri and California . . . since the rest of the U.S. area was still "territory".

Friday, February 26, 2010

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Magnificent MUDD'S GROVE . . . 150 years of history . . . a treasure worth saving.

One of Kirkwood's earliest homes, this brick 3-story "Greek revival" mansion was completed in 1860 . . . and served as the residence of Henry and Sarah Mudd (and their 7 children) until 1882.
During Mudd's tenure in the State Legislature, he helped frame the Missouri Constitution of 1875, and also served as curator at the University of Missouri.

Subsequent owners made changes and improvements, including a hearth room, 3-car garage and wraparound porch. The future upkeep and destiny of Mudd's Grove came into question during the 1980s, and it was subsequently purchased by the Kirkwood Historical Society in 1992. The society operates it as a museum and resource center/library, including an on-site Gate House Gift Shop.

Many donations (cash & materials) have been made to preserve and restore this important Missouri home . . . and a capital drive is now underway to complete essential repairs (a leaky roof is in danger of causing water damage.) SAVE MUDD'S GROVE signs are popping up throughout Kirkwood, reminding residents their contributions are needed to protect this community landmark.

Donations are greatly appreciated -- Kirkwood Historical Society, P.O. Box 220602, Kirkwood, Missouri 63122.

Do stop by and see this magnificent residence and furnishings. View elegant living 150 years ago.
Mudd's Grove is located at 302 West Argonne (at the corner of Harrison), 3 blocks west of Kirkwood Road. For information or tours, call (314) 965-5151.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

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to BUGS and garden accessories.

This well known landmark building in Kirkwood is now home to The Bug Store, but its restored painted brick store front is a reminder of its rich history. Joseph Coulter bought out John Q. Murphy's feed store business at 113 West Argonne in 1904 (then named Coulter OK Hatchery). Yes, he "hatched" and sold baby chicks, along with farm supplies and animal feed.
(The primary supplier of the feeds was Purina Chows, who paid for the paint job and the familiar checkerboard squares.) Oscar Krieger bought the OK Hatchery name and business in 1947, and moved it to East Madison Avenue . . . and eventually to its current location at 115 East Argonne (across from the Kirkwood Farmers Market.)

The Bug Store is worth a visit. With the gardening season approaching, they sell "good bugs" (predator insects who protect area gardens by eating the "bad bugs.") And they offer much, much more . . . including two stories of garden accessories, environmental products, educational toys and incredibly beautiful framed insects and butterflies (more bugs!). Stop by and get a tour from Judy Brauer and "KC", the store mascot.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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Meet Miss Metta Grossi . . . born 6:40pm CST, 2/22/10 (Pisces) . . . to Andy and Maggie (my daughter) . . . 8 lbs, 8 oz . . . perfect health and so beautiful.

My first grand child. This blogger is a very proud, happy grandpa.

Monday, February 22, 2010

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The Butterfly House was serving "free hors d'oeuvres" yesterday . . .


In addition to the warm, tropical environment, where visitors can watch 25 varieties of butterflies emerge from their chrysalis stage and flutter about . . . landing on flowers and humans alike . . . a special, edible demonstration was provided yesterday where the adventurous could sample freshly fried meal worms or crickets.

We were reminded that a host of insects are considered "food" in the rest of the world, and consumed fried, dried, even live and wiggly. (Ugh.)

And in case you're wondering . . . the crickets taste just like chicken (except for their crispy, spiney little legs!)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pic Today 2/21/10

. . . waking up, looking out the window and wondering if that's snow on the tree branches . . . and then realizing . . . .


Congratulations, your house was TP'd last night.

Chances are you've got kids in school . . . and their "friends" performed the age old, stealth prank of throwing rolls of toilet paper over your tree branches in the middle of the night. Best send them out to pull down the white strands (hopefully before it rains.) The kids usually have a pretty good idea of the "guilty parties" involved . . . and are already scheming some form of retaliation.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pic Today 2/20/10

Easter is getting close. And that's good news because . . . .

PEEPS are now on grocer's shelves ! !

Wow, what an array of dazzling new colors. Of course there's the original yellow baby chicks, and the traditional Easter bunnies. But something new this season . . . Sugar-Free PEEPS (they're not bad) . . . and Chocolate Covered PEEPS (what took them so long?)

You'll want to lay in a supply of PEEPS chicks for your future "jousting events." There's some terrific new You Tube videos out there. (Just GOOGLE "PEEPS Jousting".) You'll love what PEEPsters are up to out there . . . besides cleaning up the insides of their microwave ovens!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pic Today 2/19/10


A landmark in downtown Kirkwood, this train station has been dispatching passengers and freight since the 1850s. The present stone station building was built in 1893, and continues to serve as an active station for Amtrak. (The most popular destination is Kansas City.)
QUICK: How many trains come through Kirkwood each day?

According to Mary Leake and Bob Westerholt (volunteer staffers at the station reception desk), 4 Amtrak trains stop in Kirkwood each day -- 2 westbound, 2 eastbound. Add them to 40 freight trains EACH DAY for a current estimate. (When the economy was better, the total reached 60-70 per day.) That's a lot of stopped traffic on Kirkwood Road.

Long coal trains -- loaded with Wyoming's cleaner burning coal -- head east each day through Kirkwood to feed St. Louis' power generation plant . . . and head back west with empty cars to be reloaded.

Travel by train is a joy, and a pleasant alternative to that airport mess. Keep Amtrak in mind, next trip to KC . . .

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pic Today 2/18/10

A future Blues player ? ? ?

Maybe. Dad's getting him ready, giving him some "ice time." (Never mind if his equipment is still a little too big . . .)

Watching the Winter Olympics helps us get out on our skates and skis . . . and love the season. Hidden Valley's got the snow, and there's nothing quite like skating in Forest Park at Steinberg Rink.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pic Today 2/17/10

Good suggestion for today . . .

if you see someone with a smudge on their forehead, DO NOT ask if they forgot to wash up this morning . . .

It's ASH WEDNESDAY, that's all.

Most Christian faiths celebrate Ash Wednesday, rubbing a small cross in ashes on the foreheads of the faithful at this morning's service. The ashes symbolize repentance and sacrifice, and the first day of Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pic Today 2/16/10

Have a FAT TUESDAY ! ! !

Today is Mardi Gras of course . . . translated from French is literally "Fat Tuesday."   However, it holds much greater meaning, both as a religious observance and a cultural phenomenon.   For the Christian faith, it is the last celebration before the beginning of Lent,  before the sacrifices ushered in by Ash Wednesday (leading up to the celebration of Easter.)   Fat Tuesday then is a last chance to enjoy the soon-to-be-forbidden treats (sweets, soda, alcohol, smoking, etc.)   It's why Mardi Gras is always wild & crazy, and "anything goes" . . . especially in New Orleans.

Traditional Mardi Gras foods include the King Cake, named for the 3 kings (or the 3 wise men), from the biblical story of Christ's birth.   Part of the tradition of the King Cake involves baking (or inserting) a small plastic baby inside to represent the baby Jesus.   Whoever finds the toy (or chokes to death!) is supposed to enjoy good luck and blessings for the coming year.

Another Mardi Gras food is Pacski, or Polish donuts, originally designed to use up lard, fruit and sugar . . . substances forbidden during the fasting of Lent.   Pacski has become increasingly popular in the U.S. over the years.   These fried treats certainly put the "fat" in Fat Tuesday.

One more day to decide what you're giving up for Lent . . . .

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pic Today 2/15/10

and cut down on those annoying @!#*x% sales calls we hate so much.

This month, all cell numbers are being released as public record to telemarketing companies.   (Lobbyists worked hard on this one.)   This means you are likely to receive many more unsolicited sales calls . . . FOR WHICH YOU WILL BE CHARGED on your cell phone plan.    Nonetheless, we can have our revenge . . .

The Federal Trade Commission has set up a cell phone "do not call" number which will block your cell number from future sales calls.   But you must call this FTC toll free number FROM THE CELL PHONE YOU WANT BLOCKED.   It takes 15 seconds, so here's all you do.

Call (888) 382-1222 from your cell phone and enter your number on the Do Not Call Register.
Voila!   End of problem.   Do it today.

You're welcome.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pic Today 2/14/10


May your Valentines's true love last as long as these little heart candies have been around. (Wow!)

These ubiquitous Valentine's heart candies have been around since the Civil War, when NECCO (New England Confectionery Co.) invented its lozenge printing machine in 1866 which allowed sweet messages to be stamped on their pastel "conversation hearts." Today NECCO produces 8 billion of these little hearts each year, most of which are sold this past week.

Hug me! . . . Be Mine! . . . Yes Dear!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Pic Today 2/13/10


Home gardening has never been more popular. It's healthy . . . it's easy . . . it's fun. And you don't need a home or a garden. Lots of city dwellers and apartment folk grow food and flowers. All you need is a container and some sunshine . . . and some SEEDS!

Cold weather crops (spinach, lettuce, pansies) can be planted outside next month. Or you can plant indoors right now, and have seedlings to move outside when temperatures warm. There's lots of indoor seed containers that will let you start gardening right now.

There's 2 ways to get started. Visit your local garden store right now. They've got hundreds of seed varieties to choose from -- plus advice and suggestions from someone who can help. (OK Hatchery in Kirkwood is a great spot for seeds and advice.) Or go online and check out the seed companies. 3 good ones are:,, and

Got kids? Get 'em involved. It's a great way to go GREEN (especially your thumb.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pic Today 2/12/10


Busy weekend ahead, and I couldn't decide between the KING CAKE for Mardi Gras, and the HEART CAKE for Valentine's Day.

King Cake? Heart Cake?

Mardi Gras? Valentine's Day?
And sooooo . . . .

I went with the SNOW BALL CAKE for the Winter Olympics!!!

(A lot going on this weekend. Happy Celebration to all.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pic Today 2/11/10

Are these cute, or what?

Look what's out on the candy aisle, just in time for Valentine's Day . . .

Fuzzy panda and teddy bear PEZ dispensers!!!

They're cute . . . they feel good . . . 2 packs of candy are included . . . and they're inexpensive, so even if you're on a budget this year, you can get one for your Valentine(s)!

By the way, PEZ candy has been around for 80+ years and is popular world wide. Started in Vienna, Austria, in 1927, PEZ is derived from the German word for peppermint, PfeffErminZ. (Many more flavors are available today.) The clever PEZ dispensers were first created in 1950. More than 500 dispensers have been created (and collected) since then. Some of the older dispensers are sold and traded for hundreds of dollars.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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The most ridiculous billboard in America!

Not sure where Wyoming, Minnesota is . . . but this is an actual billboard on I-35, up there, somewhere. (And they don't know who installed it or paid for it.) Who cares? Now if someone would just put up a billboard down the road abit, that says . . . .


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pic Today 2/9/10

Winter got you down? Too much ice and snow? Ready for Spring?


This year is the 92nd Annual Orchid Show at Missouri Botanical Garden, and it always seems to arrive just when we need it most. In the heart of our St. Louis winter.

The show is now open, and definitely worth a trip to our fabulous Botanical Garden. Hundreds of orchids, perfectly in bloom, in the most amazing shades and colors. A visit will brighten up your day, your season, your mood.

And while you're there, don't forget to visit the Linnean House because the camellias are now in bloom . . . and upstairs in the main entrance building is a worthwhile photography exhibit on the Costa Rican rain forest. Worth checking out . . .

You'll forget it's winter (at least until you hit the parking lot to drive home!)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Pic Today 2/8/10

Some Super Bowl surprises this year . . .

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS New Orleans Saints. Wow, what a game.

Next, some great Super Bowl TV commercials . . . a rare Letterman CBS promo spot, with David, Oprah and Jay Leno . . . the E-Trade kids were back . . . Monster.Com's fiddling beaver . . . Casual Fridays at the office . . . some predictable lame Bud Light spots . . . and the funniest commercial of the night (in my humble opinion) was for Snickers, where Betty White and Abe Vigoda are open field tackled on the football field. OMG, funny stuff. (Keep in mind, Betty and Abe are each over 85 years old . . . and still very, very funny.) Good stuff, Snickers.

I imagine they're still celebrating today in the French Quarter . . .