Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Time

In honor of today's winter solstice

by Robert Louis Stevenson
Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding cake.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Last night Hubby Tony and I treated ourselves to a great night out.  We went to a local steak restaurant, where we ordered it all....drinks, appetizer, entrees, and dessert.

When we got home, I had some work to complete on the computer.  Tony watched part of the TV news, then went to bed.  It took me another 30 minutes to do my necessary work, then I spent another 20 minutes checking my email and Facebook.  By now it was seriously past my bedtime but I didn't feel particularly tired.  I went upstairs, changed into my nightclothes, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and settled into bed.  I tossed and turned, and tossed again.  Pepper the cat jumped up on the bed and tried to cuddle with me, but I was squirming too much for his tastes and he went to lay down by Tony's feet.

After 30 minutes of laying there wide awake it hit me...I bet our waitress had made a mistake and served me regular coffee with my dessert instead of the decaf I'd asked for.

I enviously listened to Tony's even breathing. He wasn't showing any caffeine side effects. I tried listening to the radio, counting sheep, and visualizing peaceful things. Nothing helped. Eventually (almost ninety minutes later) the caffeine wore off and I drifted off to sleep. However, the sleep was fitful, and I was full of crazy dreams all night.

When the alarm went off this morning I was tempted to turn it off and go back to sleep. However, I had somewhere I needed to be so I reluctantly rolled out of bed. A hot shower didn't wake me up, nor did a morning cup of coffee. I spent the day in a fog. Finally I gave in mid-afternoon and settled down for a nap, setting an alarm so I wouldn't sleep too long. The nap helped for a while, but after dinner I found myself nodding off when I sat on the couch.

I'm really looking forward to bedtime.  There will be some serious sleep-catching-up done tonight.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sounds About Right

I haven't started wrapping my Christmas presents yet, but when I do this chart will be a pretty accurate representation of how I spend my time.

Five years ago today: Can You Relate To This?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Action Of Altering

Two weeks ago when I needed new pants I went to my local Goodwill.  There I found two pairs; brown corduroy with a fancy mall-store label inside and a nice pair of tan dress pants. Each pair cost a whopping three dollars.

The corduroys were the perfect length, but the dress pants were too long and needed to be shortened.  I've been sewing since 8th grade Home Ec, so hemming is an easy job for me.  The pinning up part is not.  I don't have anyone to help me, so I have to do a lot of trial and error turning up until I get the length just right.  This time I didn't feel like messing with it, so the next day I dropped the pants off at a tailor shop not too far from my house.

The woman who runs the shop has been there as long as I can remember.  She's friendly but businesslike.  You get in, she does her job, you get out.  There's no chit-chat.  The shop has a small front section that has a cash register on the right and a curtained-off changing room on  the left.  In the middle of the area is a raised platform.  From the cash register you can see a large back room where the work is done.

I arrived about noon.  The staff was in the back eating something wonderfully Middle-Eastern smelling.  Without coming up to the front, someone asked loudly if I was dropping off or picking up, then told me to change into the pants in the dressing room and the tailor would be right there.

She was.  When I came out I stepped up on the platform, and was admonished to stand up straight.  It took less than a minute for her to fold one leg of the pants up and pin them to the correct length.  She made a horizontal chalk line across the back of both legs and told me I was done.  While I changed in the dressing room she asked my name and told me the pants would be done in a week.

Seven days later I returned.  Once again everyone was in the back and someone asked loudly if I was dropping off or picking up.  The tailor got my name, disappeared into the workroom, and came back holding my pants folded neatly over a hanger.  They had a professional-looking hem and sharp creases down the front.

The hem cost me nine dollars.  That's three times the cost of the pants, but I know I couldn't have found such a nice pair for the total cost of twelve dollars.  And I didn't have to do it.  And, I helped out a small business.  It's a win-win-win.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Tree Crudités

Last week I was invited to three holiday potlucks (a Tuesday night snack event, a Thursday night dinner, and a Friday brunch).  On Sunday I decided I would bring a vegetable platter as my contribution for the first party.  When I went to sleep that night the topic must have been on my mind, because I woke up the next morning thinking about how broccoli florets in the shape of a Christmas tree would be cute. 

I hadn't been reading or watching anything about food or crafting, so I'm not sure where the idea came from.  Sometimes my mind works in mysterious ways. 

The project ended up being easy.  I had to look in a few thrift stores for just the right tray, but at the third stop I found what I was looking for.  The shape is filled with broccoli accented with yellow and orange pepper strips, mushroom pieces, radish wedges, and small grape tomatoes.  I served the vegetables with chipotle ranch dressing on the side.

Thursday we had been instructed to bring a dessert, but because the 'tree' was so well received the first time I repeated it again on Friday.   I don't think I have any more pot luck events this month, but can you guess what I'm taking if I do?

Five years ago today: The Third Time's The Charm

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Spruce Up The Spruce

Although our house has already been sporting Christmas decorations inside and out, we didn't put the tree up until today.  I think tree trimming is a job properly done with a group, and this is the first day everyone living in the house was available to participate.

Over the years we've figured out a pretty good tree setting-up distribution of labor. First, everyone pitches in to carry the artificial tree pieces up from the closet under the basement stairs and helps put them together. Next the males go off to test the lights, then they string them on the tree. Once that's done everyone pitches in to put the ornaments on.  After the ornaments are in place, whoever feels so inclined pitches in to string the garland. 

(The cats wait until the end, when the tree skirt is spread, to do their own decorating underneath the tree.)

While the men are figuring out which light strands need attention, my job is to be the tree 'fluffer'.  I straighten out the branch tips that got bent when we stuffed the tree back into the box last year, then position the branches to cover all the gaps.  The job takes a while to do well.  Usually I get bored with it halfway through and give the rest of the tree short shift. 

This year after we got the tree set up Hubby Tony and Son Donald left for about an hour to do a volunteer job.  That gave me extra time to do my fluffing.  When boredom set in I was able to walk away come back later.  By the time they returned home the tree was shaped better than it's been for years!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Returning To The Scene

Today I did evaluating at two different malls, one of which has the Customer Service desk I used to work at.

I've driven by the mall several times in the last two months, but this was the first time I'd gone in since my last day as an employee.  It felt strange getting into the turn lane off the highway and pulling into the mall parking lot becauseI didn't have on my work uniform, my water bottle, or any of the things I used to bring to keep myself occupied when the mall was slow.

The lot was full of holiday shoppers, and I knew there'd be a fight for the prime parking spaces.  I figured if I went up to the roof of the garage where I used to park it wouldn't be as busy.  Sure enough, when I rounded the last corner and pulled onto the roof  'my' parking space (the second one on the right right across from an entrance to the mall) was waiting for me.

 Once I got into the mall I took the closest escalator down to the first floor.  I noticed on my way to the store that Santa had set up shop in his usual area, but there were also two new kiosks and some new signs. 

I completed my business and rather than backtracking I decided to go by the Customer Service desk on the way out, hoping I could say hello to my old boss.   He wasn't there, and I didn't recognize the woman sitting behind the desk; she was either my replacement or the temporary hire for the holidays.

Five years ago today: Fiesta

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What Does Your ZIP Code Say About You?

The other day I found out about a fascinating interactive website called Esri ZIP Lookup, which can give you some insight as to what your ZIP code says about you.

The Esri company compiles demographics data on population, income, employment, and consumer spending.  The website uses their Tapestry database, which organizes US residential neighborhoods into 67 segments based on their demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

After you type in your ZIP code, the site shows you the top three segments that live in that code. For example, my neighborhood is composed of Savvy Suburbanites (21%), Soccer Moms (18%), and Professional Pride (16%).  The median household income for my ZIP code is above the county average, as is the population density, but the median age is right on target.

I thought that my section of the county was pretty homogeneous, but if you look one code to the south of us all of the numbers drop and the segments change. Go one code to the north and the numbers are higher and there's a different variety of segments.

Intriguing stuff.

Five years ago today: Solid As A Rock

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Second Week Of Advent

The second week of Advent brings another nontraditional wreath from the folks at Catholic Memes.

(Someone should have told the engineer that candles don't need electricity to work.)