Thursday, October 30, 2014

Can You See The Advantage?

You probably know that Medicare is a health insurance program for Americans aged 65 and older. It doesn't pay for everything, so if someone wants more complete coverage they can opt to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan from a private insurance company.  Today I evaluated an insurance agent who was giving a formal marketing event for one of their Medicare Advantage plans.  There was nothing secret or unethical about my attendance.  The health insurance carrier hired me to be there.

When agents sell those plans, Medicare has a list of dos and don'ts they have to abide by.  For example, they can provide light snacks and give out gifts worth less than $15 as long as they provide them to anyone, not only in exchange for plan enrollment.  They can't provide or pay for meals or offer gifts worth more than $15 (or money or gift cards in any amount).  There are also statements they can and can't make regarding their plans.  My job was to listen and observe everything that went on so I could report back.

The event was held in the meeting room of a local bank.  I was a little apprehensive when I walked into the building with my letter of authorization from the insurance company.  The agent was standing outside the room greeting people as they walked in.  I introduced myself and handed her the letter; she took it in stride and invited me to have a seat.  Including me, there were six people in the room.   Everyone else was of Medicare age.  I brought a notebook to write things down, and was a little afraid I'd stand out.  Fortunately, there were a lot of other people taking notes, too. 

There was a lot of information covered.  The agent did a good job and covered all the bases.  Her information was very clear, and  she didn't make any unapproved statements.  At the end of the presentation she offered to help people fill out the application form.  That was my clue to leave. 

Five years ago today: Turn Off The Lights

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Stroke Of Luck

For the past few weeks I've been trying to find the right accessories to put in our renovated master bathroom. There's a focus wall which needs some type of artwork, and two windows to be dressed.  The previous 'artwork' was material that I stretched and stapled over an artist's canvas stretcher frame.  The window valances were made from a remnant I found at the fabric store.  This time I was looking for something a little nicer.  (But cheap.  We wrote a very big check to have the room redone.)

I started with the artwork, the most difficult thing to find, browsing through thrift stores and consignment stores for just the right piece.  I found something that would look stunning, but was turned off by the $75 price tag.  Later that day I bought a pair of prints at Goodwill, but when I got them home I discovered they made the room too dark and they went back.

This morning it was time to try again.  When I left to run errands after breakfast I brought a piece of tile and a paint sample for color matching, and a tape measure for sizing.  My first stop was the St. Vincent de Paul store.  I had been there before, but they turn their things over quickly so I thought it was worth another try.

When I got there I saw a sign on the door that said all their artwork was 25% off today.  That made my find even sweeter:
Framed print, tablecloth, and flower pot with tile piece and paint sample
The frame is a little more gold than I'd like it to be, but the print is perfect and mat is just the right color.  After I grabbed the picture I started wandering around the store and found a tablecloth in the soft goods area.  It had all the same colors and would be big enough to make window valances.  The decorative silver flower pot will hide a less-than-perfect nursery pot for one of the plants overwintering in the room.

With the discount, all my goodies cost less than ten dollars.   Now that I've found the main pieces, everything else should fall into place and I'll be able to call the room done!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tub Time

The master bath renovation is finished.  However, I'm having trouble finding just the right artwork and accessories, so it's STILL not ready for the big reveal.  While you're waiting, I thought I'd show you another section.  What a difference new tile can make!

When we started, the off-white tub was surrounded by four-inch square white tiles with white grout and was pretty bland looking:

Bathtub 'before', (please ignore the towels draped over the side)

A new tub wasn't in the budget, but we did have new tile installed that matches what's in the shower.  I think the updated hardware and darker tile makes the tub look elegant:

Bathtub 'after'

Five years ago today: "Hulaweeny"

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Pedia For Everyone

Tonight I was searching the Internet looking for a sample ballot for next week's election when I came across Ballotpedia, which described itself as "an interactive almanac of U.S. politics".  A little later when I was looking for information on the judges that were running for retention I found another related site called Judgepedia, an interactive encyclopedia of courts and judges.

I often refer to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, but these others were new to me.  Knowing that the Internet is full of information, I started looking for other pedias.  There were quite a few.  Have you seen the:
  • Policypedia (another project of the Ballotpedia site), which aims to enlighten voters on policy matters.
  • Uncyclopedia, which calls itself "the Mother Ship of amateur comedy writing"
  • Wookiepedia, a Star Wars encyclopedia that anyone can edit.
  • Conservapedia, which has a conservative and fundamentalist Christian point of view.
Do you know of any others?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Spicy Oven-Roasted Chickpeas

Hubby Tony and I have been trying to eat more 'whole' foods, including snacks.  One of my new afternoon nibbles is roasted chickpeas.  They're a healthy, easy, grab and go snack

There's two places near me where I can buy the pre-roasted beans.  A Middle Eastern market five minutes from my house is more convenient, but the brand of roasted chickpeas they carry are dry and mealy. The large global store a couple cities to the east has a vastly superior-tasting brand, but it's 20 minutes from my house and I don't get there on a regular basis.

I didn't think about a third option of making my own until last week when I had to bring some type of snack to an event on Thursday and again on Friday.  It made sense to bring something Tony and I would enjoy eating, so for inspiration I looked at several recipes.  They all seemed easy enough--toss the beans with a little oil and some spices, then roast until crunchy.

I roasted two batches. The first I baked for 40 minutes but didn't watch them carefully, and a third of the beans burned.  I tasted the ones that weren't too overcooked and thought they were a little oily, so the second time I cut the oil in half and baked them for 35 minutes.  They were better than the first batch, but not as crunchy as the store-bought beans.  I let them cool off, then put them back in the oven for five more minutes to crisp some more.  Bingo!  The beans were the perfect combination of crunch and spice.

Based on the compliments I got on the dish at both events I wasn't the only one who thought so.
Spicy Oven-Roasted Chickpeas
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and thoroughly dried (or 2 15-ounce cans)
  • 1 T olive oil (note-the original recipe called for 2T, but I thought that made the finished product too oily.)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used kosher)
Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place the chickpeas in a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients until coated. Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 30-40 minutes.  Stir several times during the baking period.

(Optional) For crisper beans, let pan cool, then return to oven for 3-5 minutes more.
Five years ago today: Creature Comforts

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Holy "Mole-y"

When I was cutting the grass today I was amazed at how many mole runs (interspersed with occasional dirt mounds) were zig zagging across the back yard.  I took great pleasure in stomping down the pushed-up soil after I passed over it with the mower.

I try to co-exist with Mother Nature, but the mole evidence really bothers me!

I know that the moles are just doing what comes naturally; the annoying raised surface tunnels are actually their runs for traveling between their den and their feeding areas.  I know that their digging makes the soil healthier because the tunnels permit air and water to penetrate into deeper soil levels. I know that a mole's diet consists primarily insects found in the soil, (some of which are serious turf pests) so they're actually doing me a favor by getting rid of them.  Still, it's hard to get past the visual annoyance of those ridges in the grass.

I wondered just how many moles were responsible for the mess in my yard.  A little research told me that moles are solitary animals, who live alone except to breed. There are usually somewhere between four to six moles per acre, so my one-third of an acre lot probably only has one or two.  Considering how much damage they've done, they're very busy critters.

My former neighbor was a kind, gentle man, but he took his lawn care seriously.  When a mole dared venture into his domain he'd stalk it and kill it with a shovel.  He offered to do the same thing for us.  (I took him up on his offer one time, and told him he was free to come into our yard any time he saw more evidence.)   However, now he's gone and I'm not going to go through all the time, effort, and money to try and remove the moles.  I guess I'm going to have to learn to co-exist with them. 

Five years ago today: After Dark

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Color Me Confused

The other day I was filling out an employee evaluation form which wanted a description of the person I interacted with.  The company provided a convenient drop-down list of hair colors to pick from:

There was only one problem. The person I needed to describe had bright BLUE hair!  That convenient list didn't provide an 'other' option.  What to do?

After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided that based on the person's skin tone their natural hair color was probably blonde and chose that.  I wonder if the company figured out who the person was?

Five years ago today: Table For One

Monday, October 20, 2014

No Interruptions

Last Thursday was my final shift at the mall Customer Service desk. With no job to go to, I was a free woman!  The following few days unfolded like they usually do...a meeting and errands on Friday, errands and a night out on Saturday, church and projects around the house on Sunday.  However, even though I was doing the same things, there was an undertone of excitement throughout the whole weekend.  I didn't have to go to work on Monday.  How exciting!.

Last night I still set my alarm for the regular time; I had a lot to do!  Today's project was tackling the master bathroom painting.  After breakfast I went upstairs and started prepping the room.  I took the mirrors off the wall, covered the faucets with plastic bags, and taped newspaper over the toilet and towel bar.  Next, I spread tarps on the floor and counter.  I didn't plan it, but at exactly the time I would have been walking out the door to drive to the mall I climbed up on the ladder and applied the first brush stroke of paint to the wall.

For the next few hours, instead of standing each time a customer came up to the desk I climbed up and down the ladder, and stood precariously on the sink to reach far corners.  At lunchtime, instead of nibbling bite-sized pieces of food at the Customer Service desk, I got to sit down with a big bowl of soup and eat the whole thing without being interrupted.  After lunch when I spent some time on the computer I could give it my whole attention, instead of keeping one eye on the screen and one eye on the passing people. 

But the best part of my day was being able to go to the bathroom whenever I wanted and not worry about someone looking for me.

Five years ago today: Baby Boomer Memory Test

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sometimes You Just Can't Win

Today it was time to give the master bedroom its semi-annual refurbishing.  Among other things, that included changing the lightweight duvet cover to a heavier model, and removing the mattress to put a coordinating dust ruffle on top of the box springs.

However, Jackson was taking his mid-afternoon nap on the bed and didn't care for that idea.

I asked him nicely if he'd move.  He said he was there first and was comfortable, thank you very much.  So instead of starting with the dust ruffle I decided to do the duvet instead.  I spread out the new cover on the floor, shoved the insert into it, then grabbed it along one edge and gave everything a good shake to straighten it out.

I left for five minutes to do laundry.  When I came back Jackson had found a new place to rest--on the floor right on top of the cover I wanted to pick up...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Guys And Dolls

Tonight was Guys and Dolls Night, Hubby Tony's and my monthly(ish) get together with a group of friends. The Guys play poker, and the Dolls go out to dinner, then to someone's house for dessert and socializing.  This time was extra special for the women; we got to hang out at Baubles, Bites & Boots, a store in the Historic Main Street section of St. Charles, Missouri.

The store is owned by Sally (one of the Dolls) and her husband Dave (a Guy).  It opened about a month ago, and has the tagline “Something neat; Something sweet; Something to put upon your feet.”.  Sally and Dave have a fun selection of jewelry and hats, women's scarves and clothing, baby clothes, household accessories, sweet and savory edibles, and rubber boots for men, women, and children.

The store was still open for business when we got there, but when the last customer left Sally locked the door and put up a sign that said there was a private party going on.  We ordered dinner from a nearby restaurant.  When it was ready someone went to pick it up.  Everyone found a place to sit, either in the store or in the back room to eat.

Afterwards some of us sat on the floor and put price tags on a box full of jewelry that had just come into the store.  It was like a big treasure hunt.  The jewelry packaging had a code on it.  You had to find the price tag with the same code, remove the jewelry from the package, and attach the tag.  When we were done the floor around us was covered with jewelry ready to be put out for sale.

Sally paid us for our work with individual jars of fudge, which came with a small spoon to scoop out the fudge.  It was a 'sweet' payment!

Five years ago today: Totally Random