Saturday, November 28, 2015

Random Acts Of Christmas Cheer

My mind works in strange ways that I've stopped trying to figure out.

Several years ago I read this post by blogger Catherine, in which she wrote about adorning trees in a nature preserve with Christmas ornaments.  For some reason that idea struck me as off the wall, but fun (and similar to when I hung a wind chime in a strip mall parking lot tree back in 2008).   I filed it away for future reference in my To-Do file.  Then, for several years I worked in a retail setting, where the month of December was crazy busy and there was no time for frivolous projects.

This morning I was looking at newspaper ads.  When I saw that a big box discount store had boxes of shatterproof ornaments for sale the whole idea of hanging ornaments in random places popped into my head.  After lunch I went and bought a box of 24 small red balls.

My plan is to share Random Acts of  Christmas Cheer by hang one ornament outside in a public place every day starting December 1st.   I hope the ornaments will make someone smile, but I'll never know.  I'm not planning on adding any contact information.  But will there be photos taken and shared here? You bet!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Who Am I?

Every couple of months I have to use an alias for work projects. The process feels just a little bit cloak and dagger, and I try to have fun with it.

Each time the alias I choose is slightly different.  I always use my real first name ever since the day someone called me by my fake given-name-of-the-day and I didn't realize they were talking to me.  The surname is always unique.  Sometimes I plan the name out in advance, but sometimes I forget until I'm in the car driving to a location.  Then I look around for a street name or landmark that I can appropriate, or listen for something on the radio I can adopt.

For example, yesterday I heard a commercial that said a St. Louis Symphony concert would include selections from the Harry Potter soundtrack.  I decided that 'Potter' was my name for the day.  However, I'm nothing if not flexible, so when someone called me 'Porter' I decided not to correct them.

Five years ago today: Fresh and New

Sunday, November 22, 2015

'X' Marks The Top (Or Bottom)

We had our first really cold weather last night, so today my first project was to replace the cotton sheets on all the beds with their flannel cousins. (Even though two of the bedrooms are empty now, they'll be full for Christmas.  Might as well do the job while I have the time) 

Once the sheets were on the beds it was time to add the rest of the bedding layers.  Each of the beds has the same polar fleece blanket, which have simple hems on all four sides and no satin binding at the top edge.  The ones on the full-sized beds are sized as Full/Queen, and only about 10" longer than wide.  Without any type of top binding, I always have a problem figuring out which way to put those blankets on.  If I do it the wrong way there's not enough to tuck under at the foot and the sides hang down too long..

Today, though, as I was getting ready to put the first blanket on I had a revelation.  After I figured out which was the long side (by folding one corner of the blanket until it met the opposite edge), I used a Sharpie to draw an 'X' on the top and bottom hem.  The marks won't show underneath the bedspread, but it will make it easy for me to figure out the correct orientation.

X marks the top (or bottom)
Five years ago today: Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Tiny New Angel

You may remember last month when I made dinner for a young pregnant woman at church who'd been put on bed rest.  Unfortunately, the story didn't have a happy ending.  Despite the best efforts of the parents, the doctor, and the hospital, the baby was born much too early and much too small.  He lived 25 hours, and passed away last Friday.

The baby had been buried earlier in the week, but today they had a memorial mass.  It was the first time I've ever been to a service for someone who wasn't an adult, and a 'first' I wish I hadn't had to do.  I've known the baby's fraternal grandmother and grandfather for almost 25 years, and the baby's father went to school with one of my boys.  I didn't know the baby's mother until several years ago, but now I also know her mother and father (and her grandmother and grandfather) too.  All of them looked shell shocked.

The service was very comforting. Many of the people who were at the mass were parishioners, and I knew most of them by name or face. It was nice to be surrounded by so many familiar people. During the homily the priest offered reassuring and uplifting words, and the liturgy's music was soothing.

Afterwards the parents, grandparents, and great grandparents lined up in the back of church so people could express their condolences. It was difficult to go through that line and talk with all the grieving people; what do you say? 

On the way out I got a holy card that listed the baby's birth and death dates that I can keep for a remembrance.

Five years ago today: Sunless

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Twist Tie Code

This morning I was making a sandwich to take with me for lunch. (Whole wheat bread, sunflower seed butter sprinkled with extra sunflower seeds, and apricot jam.  It was very good).  I started with the last piece from one loaf of bread, and took the second piece from a new loaf I bought last time I grocery shopped. 

Each bag was secured with a different color twist tie.  The old one was blue.  The new one was white.  Seeing the two colors made me think of the 'bread tag code' I learned about from a friend a while back.  Basically, each day has a different color twist tie to help you figure out what day the bread was baked.

The system was set up to help stores identify which bread is fresh, which is getting old (so it can be put on sale), and which is out of date and needs to be removed from the shelves. As a rule, unless a stocker has missed pulling an old loaf you should only see two tag colors on the shelves at any one time.

There are a lot of online articles that give a definitive twist tie color schedule, but Snopes says there's no industry-wide standard for color coding. Each manufacturer is free to come up with their own system.


Five years ago today: Turkey Trivia

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Prayer of an Anonymous Abbess

By Paul Mercuri [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I'm not anonymous and I'm not an abbess, but I think these observations are right on!
Lord, thou knowest better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity.

Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples’ affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it. But thou knowest, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends.

Keep me from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains — they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.

I will not ask thee for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn’t agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint — it is so hard to live with some of them — but a harsh old person is one of the devil’s masterpieces.

Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy. Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so.


Margot Benary-Isbert

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Good Enough!

Our church is having a progressive dinner tonight. Hubby Tony and I volunteered to host a group of six.  That meant, on top of planning and cooking the meal (salad, pork roast, brown rice, roasted butternut squash, and broccoli) I had to do the cleaning chores that only get done when company's coming. I started with the easy stuff...dusting, cleaning the floor under the dining room furniture, and moving all the clutter out of the kitchen. Once that was done I was forced to think about the hard tasks. At the top of that list was dusting and cleaning the light in the front foyer.

Our foyer is two stories tall, and the light fixture is proportionate to the area's size. The behemoth is about 42" long. It's attached to the ceiling with an (approximately) 90" long chain, and the bottom of the fixture is another 90" from the floor. The fixture's polished brass and beveled glass panels hold ten candle-shaped light bulbs.

To dust the outside I attach a t-shirt to a broom, then walk up to the second floor, stand on the overlook, and lean over the rail. I have to be careful not to push too hard against the fixture or it will start swinging, and I don't know just how much of that it would take before crashing down. As challenging as the outside of the light is, the inside is even harder! Even standing on my eight-foot ladder I can't reach more than the bottom half.

 Yesterday afternoon I gave the fixture a good dust, then attempted to clean it. I thought I did a pretty good job until I turned it on; the glass panels I'd 'cleaned' were so streaky they almost looked worse than the ones I hadn't done. I figured it was time to come up with a Plan B. Plan B turned out to be Son Donald, who is about a foot taller than I am. This afternoon he was able to get most of the dirt off so the fixture is presentable. It's not perfect, but it's good enough.

Five years ago today: Exotic

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The World In Your Cup

Yesterday Hubby Tony and I went to a fascinating exhibition at the Missouri History Museum called "Coffee: The World in Your Cup and St. Louis in Your Cup".

Part of the display is a traveling exhibit. The rest is all about the St. Louis connection to coffee.  I learned that at one time St. Louis was a center for coffee trading, and one of the nation’s leading coffee producers. The city's relationship with coffee started when the French settlers who founded the city brought coffee beans with them.  Later, people heading west stopped in St. Louis to gather provisions, which included coffee.  The city's location on the Mississippi made it a natural hub as a trading center.  That was reinforced when many of the first railroads came through St. Louis.  By the turn of the 20th century, St. Louis was home to more than 70 coffee roasters and a hotbed for coffee imports, manufacturing, and distribution.

The exhibition had a section filled with an arrangement of old roasters, grinders, and coffee pots.  There was even a Civil War gun that doubled as a coffee mill.  A large portion of the exhibit contained examples of advertising, including grocery store storage bins, coffee cans and tins, trays, and signs. There was even a period-appropriate "living room" with a TV showing St. Louis celebrity Dana Brown's Safari Coffee commercials.

The last section of the exhibition was about the history of coffee from a global perspective, how it's grown and harvested, and some of the coffee customs in other cultures.  At the very end there was an interactive area where you could write about your connection to coffee on a cone-shaped filter and display it on one of the shelves.

Mural made out of coffee beans

Five years ago today: Living Thanks

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Secret Stairs

In the last month I've been at the mall closest to my house for job purposes four different times.  Today I had a fifth visit.  Usually when I go to this mall I park in the same section of the parking garage (first floor on the east side).  However, today the store I had to go to was on the other end of the mall, so I tried another 'regular' lot close to the food court.  It was full, so I decided to head towards the opposite corner of the parking garage from my regular area where there's a dedicated entrance for one of the stores.  I could walk through that store into the mall itself.

Because I find this particular parking garage confusing I took a wrong turn and ended up on the roof, where I had my choice of dozens of spaces.  From there you can take an elevator or stairs down one level to the store entrance.  I chose the latter.  When I entered the stairwell, I noticed a large sign that indicated the store entrance was right below, the food court down one more level, and the first floor of the mall below that.   I decided to get a little more exercise and take the stairs all the way down.

At the bottom of the stairs I opened the large set of metal doors and found myself in a service hallway.  There was a sign with an arrow pointing towards the mall.  I walked down the hall, though another set of metal doors into the public area, where I found my store and did my business. 

I decided I would backtrack my route and get even more exercise walking up the several flights of stairs to my car.  However, when I saw the large sign that said 'Employees Only Past This Point' on the public side of the first set of metal doors I almost changed my mind.  However, figuring they had no problem with me coming down the stairs I decided I wouldn't worry too much about going up.  Besides, no one was there to challenge me.

Five years ago today: Yippee!