Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Try (A Quote For The New Year)

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” (Neil Gaiman)



Five years ago today: The Sixth Day of Christmas

Monday, December 29, 2014

Fill 'Er Up!

If you drive a car, you know that gas prices are going down. According to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, right now there are two states (Missouri and Oklahoma) where the average cost of regular gas is under $2.00 a gallon.  Missouri is THE lowest in the country. When I pulled into my local Costco to fill up today, this is what I saw:


I was able to fill up my tank for a little under $18.  When I saw the final cost I almost did a happy dance at the pump!

Five years ago today: The Fourth Day of Christmas

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Now You Know

Some interesting science discoveries from the past year you may have missed:
  • According to the results of a study published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology, dogs apparently prefer to defecate while facing north.
  • In a paper published in the online issue of Social Influence, researchers found when a man holds a doors open for another man it affects the "holdee's" self-esteem.
  • Science Daily reported that research shows that all people with blue eyes have a common ancestor, which was caused by a genetic mutation that took place 6,000-10,000 years ago.
  • A study of men's facial hair published in the journal Biology Letters found that men who buck prevailing facial hair trends are rated as more attractive by both women and men.
Five years ago today: The Third Day of Christmas

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Hot And Saucy

At our extended family Rob Your Neighbor game this year Son Donald ended up with a large boxed hot sauce collection.

It offered a sauce for everything...there were small bottles of green pepper sauces, red pepper sauces (and even hotter red pepper sauces), and even Asian-inspired sauces.

The present stayed unopened until tonight's Mexican meal.  I was sitting in the other room when I heard Sons Brian and Donald discussing how they'd pick the correct sauce to use in the salsa they were making.  Should they go by the name of the sauce, the special ingredients, or use some other method?  Finally Donald turned all the bottles around and let Brian choose by the color.  It sounded like they were having a lot of fun. 

(And the 'Horned Lizard Sauce' salsa ended up being delicious.)

Five years ago today: The Second Day of Christmas

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Greetings

The Graphics Fairy
"Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And suddenly the star they had seen rising went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight"   Matthew 2:9-10

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What? Me Worry!?!

Tomorrow is, of course, Christmas Day.

Today has been a flurry of cooking, cleaning, and errands.  Hubby Tony made two separate trips to the airport to pick up arriving out-of-town children and spouses.  We'll open presents in the morning, then regroup and get ready for the extended family who will arrive mid-afternoon.

How many people will be here for dinner?  I don't know.  Could be as few as14.  Could be 16 or 18.  If it's the larger number there will also be preschoolers and toddlers in attendance.  Years ago the uncertainty would have me in a panic.  Now?  Whatever.....

I planned food for the maximum number.  (In my book leftovers are never a bad thing.)   The dining room table is completely stretched out and oriented diagonally to make room for a card table in one corner. Between those tables we're good for 14. If more people show up I can get out more china and silverware and squeeze a couple more at the main table or have some people eat in the kitchen. 

It's all good.

Five years ago today: Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Grow, Baby, Grow

Several years ago I bought a small asparagus fern from a local garden center. At its size, the plant was really more appropriate for tucking into a larger container garden than growing in a stand-alone pot, but I liked the way it looked (and the price was right) and so it came home with me.  I put the pot in a north-facing alcove behind the garage with several other plants.  The plant grew well, and the critters didn't eat on it.  At the end of the season I brought it inside, where the lack of sun caused it to shed yellowed leaves like crazy, but it survived until I put it outside again in the spring.

Fast forward a couple of years.  We had roller coaster weather this fall, with the low temperatures almost reaching the danger zone a couple of times before I actually brought the plants inside.  When I picked up the asparagus fern the pot was as hard as a rock, and I suspected it was full of roots.  I wasn't inclined to do anything about it until spring, though.  The plant went in it's normal place in the master bathroom.

A couple of weeks afterwards I noticed a shoot sticking up from the top of the plant.  That shoot grew and grew, and it was followed by a couple of more shoots.  It's never done that before, so I wonder if after being outside in the chill the warmer temperatures inside the house tricked the plant into thinking it was spring.  This is what it looks like today:


As much as I admire the plant's tenacity I'll need to trim the shoots soon.  When I sat down on the toilet the other day I got hit in the face by one of the long sprigs.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Beclouded

In the last eight days we've only seen the sun once (and that was a fleeting glance).  The other days we've had clouds, gloom, and more clouds.  Sometimes precipitation comes with the clouds, sometimes not.

It's the last push before Christmas.  I have a lot to get done, but this morning when I woke up to the sound of raindrops hitting the roof it was hard to get out of bed.  The darkness really put me in a funk,  but I still managed to get a lot done.  I:
  • went to the gym and ran a couple of errands, including navigating through a gauntlet of crazed basket-pushing shoppers at the grocery store.
  • came home and took a long, hot shower, then cleaned the shower stall.
  • cooked and froze some dishes for later in the week.  One of them called for separated eggs, and there were two that didn't perform as they should have soI scrambled them and tossed them in the large salad I made for dinner.
  • listened to holiday tunes on my favorite community radio station.
  • wrapped the last of the Christmas presents and hid them with the others.  I can't put them under the tree yet, though.  A couple of them would be of real interest to the cats.
Five years ago today: Mr. De Mille, I'm Ready For My Close-up

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Time

In honor of today's winter solstice


Winter-time
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

Insomnolence

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.

cheezburger.com

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.)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Creature Comforts

Today was a medical 'take care of me' day.  In the morning I had an appointment for my yearly mammogram at the Women's Center of a nearby hospital.  After that I walked up a couple of floors in the same building to my OB/GYN's office and took care of that annual visit, too.

These appointments aren't my favorite activities, but they're not a big deal.   Things have certainly improved over the years.  The mammography room now has a private dressing area attached to it.  There's no more changing into a hospital gown in a dressing room down the hall, then waiting in a chair outside the screening area for your name to be called.

The doctor's office has also done their part to make things more comfortable by changing from paper to cloth covers in the exam room.  After the nurse took my blood pressure today she handed me a neatly-folded cape and throw to put on before the doctor arrived. The cape overlapped in the front and had a button at the top to hold it closed. The throw was long enough to wrap around the lower part of my body.  That made waiting for the doctor much more comfortable!

Five years ago today: ....gnitseretnI

Sunday, December 7, 2014

No Sweat

Right after Thanksgiving each year our church starts their 'Giving Trees' outreach program.  Several artificial trees are set out in the vestibule and hung with envelopes, each envelope representing one person's gift requests. Hubby Tony and I both select an envelope, buy the items on the list, then return the wrapped gifts for delivery. 

This year I chose a teenage girl, and Tony picked a 30-something man.   It wasn't until I got home and looked at the envelopes closely that I realized that the man said he wanted size 36 pants.  No length was given.

I think it's hard enough to guess at the tastes of someone you don't know without the extra wrinkle of having to guess their size, too.  I asked several people what they thought the average men's inseam was (the consensus was 32 or 33), then pondered their answers for a few days before I headed out.  At the first store I found the pair of jeans the girl wanted, and a nice pair of men's dress pants on the clearance rack. 

Because I didn't spend as much on the gentleman as I'd planned, I decided to buy him a second pair--basic sweat pants with elastic bottoms, which would avoid the length issue entirely.  However, those basic sweat pants ended up being surprisingly hard to find.  The first four stores I went to had upscale fleece or fancy polyester pants with open bottoms.  I finally broke down and went to Walmart, the bastion of basic. 

Even at Walmart it was difficult  I had to walk around the men's department a couple of times to find what I was looking for.  The first display I saw only had pants that were way too large, and the second had the right size, but only in a weird medium blue color.  (I grabbed them, just in case.)  On the third pass through I saw the wall of sweat shirts and pants and happily exchanged to strange-colored pants for a more traditional dark gray and called it done.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Spicy Bean and Vegetable Salad

The holiday calorie overload has started at our house. Hubby Tony and I have four parties to go to in the next 11 days, (and we each have a couple more to attend by ourselves). Three of the parties include dinner, but all of the events will have some type of food.  There will be a lot of eating!

For tonight's potluck I wanted to bring something tasty and healthy.  This Spicy Bean Salad fits both requirements, and it's easily adaptable.  Today the grocery store had a sale on colored peppers, so I used half red and half orange.  You can add more oil to make it less acidic, or leave out the oil and reduce the calories.  Use cilantro or not.  It's all up to you.
Spicy Bean and Vegetable Salad

15 oz can (1 1/2 cups) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz can (1 1/2 cups) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bag frozen corn, thawed
4 green onions, chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can chopped green chiles
1/4 fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Dressing
2 limes, juiced
3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine beans, corn, green onions, red pepper, garlic, chiles, and cilantro in a large bowl.  Mix dressing ingredients, add to bowl, and mix to combine.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.


Five years ago today: Non-Corporate

Friday, December 5, 2014

Let's Unite The Whole World At Christmas Time

When I was shopping a local thrift shop yesterday they were playing an interesting variety of Christmas music. As I browsed through the racks I heard the rough voice of James Brown come through the speakers, singing a soulful song that I'd never heard before.  I had to know what it was, so I came home and did a little YouTube surfing to come up with the answer. I thought you might like to hear it too.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Something For Everyone

Today my business and errands took me to "the Valley" (aka the Chesterfield Valley), home to the longest outdoor strip mall in America.

Years ago the area used to be called Gumbo Flats. Although there were some houses and a handful of businesses it was mainly farmland, because it's in the Missouri River flood plain. In the Flood of 1993 the levee broke and the whole area was under water. After the flood subsided the levee was rebuilt to withstand a 500-year flood.  The property owners cleaned up and started rebuilding. And building. And building some more.  Now the stores stretch for more than a mile along one side of Chesterfield Airport Road, the main thoroughfare  They share a common parking lot, and there are several cross streets through the lot to improve the traffic flow.  On the other side of the road there are more strip malls and some office buildings.  (There's also a traditional mall and two outlet malls not too far away.) 

If you can't find what you're looking for at a store there, you probably don't need it.


Five years ago today: Changes

Monday, December 1, 2014

Four Burners, One Light

Yesterday was the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the church year for Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists.  When we went to Mass yesterday there were purple pillar candles on stands in front of the altar, and before the opening procession the priest blessed the large Advent wreath in the back of the church.

Two of my blogging friends (Dkzody's Weblog and Bee's Blog) posted nice discourses about the season and its meaning, and I expect to read others as the season winds on.  However, I don't think any of them will make me laugh out loud like this one I found on Catholic Memes.


Five years ago today: Mmmmm.....

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Southern, Gothic, and Supernatural

Website
Hubby Tony and had a very interesting evening last night.  We attended a production of a new-to-me musical called Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

When I first read about Ghost Brothers in the newspaper a few weeks ago I was intrigued by its pedigree.  The show was written by Stephen King, had music and lyrics by John Mellencamp, and was produced by T-Bone Burnett.  The program billed it as "A southern gothic supernatural musical of fraternal love, lust, jealousy, and revenge."

In my experience plays and musicals have multi-night runs at a given theater.  However, this production was more like a concert; last night was the only performance in St. Louis. It was presented at the Peabody Opera House, a 1930's-vintage venue that was renovated and reopened several years ago.   Tony and I arrived at the venue about twenty minutes before the show started.  We walked past the two huge limestone bear statues that guard the outside stairs and into the beautiful marble lobby.  Once I had my purse checked we used the sweeping stairway to go up to the next level, where we entered the theater and took our seats. 

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County was one of the most unconventional musicals I've ever watched.  As you'd expect, the music was first-class and diverse.  There was some rock, some blues, and some roots songs.  The plot that Stephen King created was properly dark and creepy, and there were quite a few twists that I wouldn't have guessed were coming (especially the ending).  Tony and I spent most of the ride home discussing our interpretations of what had gone on.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mound City

When we heard that the high temperature for today was going to be close to 60 degrees, Hubby Tony and I knew we wanted to do something outside. He reminded me about the Groupon for Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site I had bought some time back that needed to be used. Just like that we had our day planned.

Cahokia Mounds is just east of St. Louis on the other side of the Mississippi River in Illinois, and is where the largest prehistoric Native American city north of Mexico once stood.  The 2,200 acre area is now a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that preserves the central portion of the city and about half of its mounds.

Our Groupon included audio tours, so Tony exchanged his driver's license for two iPod Touches and we set off.  We completed two of the tours, but ran out of energy after we walked up the 154 steps to the top of Monk's Mound (the largest Pre-Columbian earthwork in the Americas) and decided to come home.

Monk's Mound--Wikipedia
Five years ago today: Illuminate Me

Thursday, November 27, 2014

If You Open It They Will Come

Our Thanksgiving dinner gathering was smaller than usual this year, and by 6:30 everyone was gone.  Hubby Tony put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and I threw the tablecloth and napkins in the washer.  Then we went into the family room and pulled out our laptops to check in with our respective virtual worlds.

It was way too early to write off the night, but I'd eaten so much it was hard to move.  Jokingly, I mentioned that the malls were open if we decided we wanted to walk.  Tony took that thought and ran with it.  Soon he had me convinced it was a good idea.  We decided which mall to go to, put on our coats, and got in the car.

I've proudly never frequented a store on Thanksgiving Day, so I was amazed by the number of cars in the mall parking lot.  I wound my way around up to the top level of the parking garage and parked close enough to the door that we could leave our coats in the car. When we got inside I saw that the majority of the stores were open and ready for business.  Mall walkers like Tony and me were definitely in the minority.  Most of the people were carrying bags, and  some looked like they'd already made a large dent in their Christmas shopping. 

It was hard to maneuver around some of the large groups of shoppers, but we managed to do two laps of the first floor and two of the second floor.  As we headed back to the car we agreed our walk was a nice way to end the evening. 

Five years ago today: Slow Cooker French Dip

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Time To Scale Back


In our family Thanksgiving dinner is all about tradition.  It hasn't changed much in decades, and we like it that way.  There will be turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  Green bean casserole with french fried onions on top, and yams with a marshmallow topping.  Jello salad with cranberry sauce, crushed pineapple, and nuts topped with a mixture of cream cheese, Dream Whip, and marshmallows. Rolls with real butter.  Pumpkin pie with whipped cream and some type of chocolate dessert.  And that's just for one meal!  Who knows what the rest of the weekend will bring.

This year Hubby Tony and I won't have any overnight company, so we have more control over what we do to take care of ourselves.  Tonight we'll have something healthy for dinner, then hit the gym to burn off some pre-Thanksgiving  calories. If time allows we'll fit in a nice brisk walk tomorrow.  I'm ready, but just in case I'm getting out my most comfortable pair of elastic waist pants.  It never hurts to be prepared.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dreams Of Hope

I think you might have to live under a rock not to be aware of what's going on in Ferguson Missouri and the greater the St. Louis metropolitan area right now. Last night the grand jury in the Michael Brown case decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot him. Before he announced the verdict, the County Prosecutor detailed the work of the grand jury, and revealed how there were inconsistencies between some witness testimony and the physical evidence. He offered condolences to Michael Brown's family, saying that “No young man should ever die."

His words of consolation didn't help.  Almost immediately after the verdict was read peaceful protests began.  So did trouble.  We've had civil disturbance and rioting in several areas.  I spent a good part of the morning getting caught up on all the events, but when I found myself getting anxious and overwhelmed I decided to declare a temporary personal moratorium on any radio station, TV station, or website that was discussing the events. 

In the middle of all the chaos I decided to go through the posts in my reader.  When I got to Christine's Blog I realized her message of hope was just what I needed to see, and asked if I could share it.


Five years ago today: Giving Thanks

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lending A Hand

This afternoon I made an Aldi run to get produce for the week and pick up a few extra items I need for for Thanksgiving.  While I was there I also had the opportunity to do my good deed for the day.

If you're not an Aldi shopper, a little explanation is in order.  The store is busy on Sunday.  There's always has at least one cashier working, but they don't open additional registers until the lines get long. When I was ready to check out today two stations were open, but one had five baskets past the end of the belt,  The other had one.  I knew they'd eventually call an additional cashier up, but in the meantime I chose the shorter of the two lines.  When I got there I figured out why it was so short. Other shoppers were avoiding that line because the elderly man ahead of me had an overflowing basket, the fullest I've ever seen.

However, when I took a second look I realized the basket was filled with flats of canned vegetables (which the cashier would be able to ring up en masse) and bags of potatoes (which she could count and multiply by the quantity).  The man should get through the line pretty quickly.

While we were waiting for our turn we struck up a conversation.  The man explained he'd come in to get a couple of things for himself, but when he saw that the bagged potatoes were on sale he decided to get some for a local food bank.  Then, since he'd be going there anyway he decided to add the canned goods too.

When it came time for him to put his food on the belt I noticed he was having trouble lifting the vegetable flats from the cart.  I told him I was at a better angle and I'd help him.  He handed me the flats, and I put them on the belt.  (I'd like to say that my motives were completely pure.  However, I also figured that getting his things up quickly would mean it would be my turn faster.)

The cashier saw the man putting all the bags of potatoes on the belt, and told him to just leave them in his basket.  As I suspected, she made quick work of his large quantities of the same items.  After the man paid for his purchase, she turned to my things on the belt.  When she started to put my lettuce in the man's basket I realized she didn't know we weren't together.

Five years ago today: Hooray For Me!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Feeling Of Foreboding

I’ve been feeling a little apprehensive the past few days.

Every time I read the newspaper, turn on the radio, or watch TV, I'm confronted with the all turmoil related to the incidents in Ferguson, Missouri. Since August 9th when Michael Brown was fatally shot the area has been on edge. The original surge of violence and rioting died down after a few weeks, but there have been sporadic outbursts, mainly in Ferguson and Clayton (the county seat).

The grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case since late August. When they started, the county prosecutor opined they’d reach a decision by the end of November. An announcement was widely expected this weekend, but the group's still deliberating. The longer the deliberation goes on, the tenser things become.

Protesters have released a long list of possible places they’ll show up to demonstrate if the grand jury decides not to bring charges against the police officer, including government offices, businesses, cultural institutions, and malls. Stores in the Ferguson area are boarding up their stores in anticipation of more rioting. Earlier this week the Governor declared a state of emergency, which authorizes the National Guard to be deployed if necessary. One school district in the area announced they wouldn’t hold classes on Monday or Tuesday (it was already scheduled to close for Thanksgiving starting Wednesday.)

Everyone has an opinion, and all of the entities say they’re taking action ‘just in case’. I think they’re acting out of fear. Basing your actions on fear becomes self-fulfilling; if you think something bad is going to happen, it probably will. I don’t live close to Ferguson, so I don’t pretend to know what the people in that area are feeling. However, most of the people who are spouting (or posting right-wing or left-wing opinions to my Facebook page) don’t either. All they’re doing are fanning the fear, and the flames.

If you feel so inclined, would you please send some prayers or positive thoughts this way? We could use them.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Making A Plan

Hubby Tony and I are a long way from retirement, but some people we know have made the leap, and it's a popular discussion topic among our friends.

Right now we're both healthy, and expect to be around for a long time.  Based on a cool Life Expectancy Calculator Tony could easily live another 25 years, and I could have another 30.  That would give us a lot of years of freedom after we've stopped working.  I'm optimistic that we'll be able to tap into Social Security, but I've heard you should also have scarily large amounts of money put aside to supplement it.  We want to make sure we're covering all the bases, so today we had an exploratory appointment with a financial adviser to find out what advice her firm could offer us.

The adviser had given us a detailed questionnaire to fill out and bring with us.  Tony did most of the work, but he asked me for my opinion on some of the non-factual ones, like when I actually wanted to retire, and how much we wanted to budget for yearly travel.  Today the adviser went through the questionnaire with us and asked a lot of questions, filling up several sheets of a yellow legal pad with notes.  We also talked briefly about things like the pros and cons of long-term care insurance.

In a couple of weeks we'll get a written report from her and then figure out what direction to go in.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Just A Little Is Enough

Am I the only one who didn't know about Starbuck's secret menu?

A while back a friend told me about all sorts of drinks you can order that aren't shown on the official coffee shop menu.  For the most part they're crazy combinations of flavored syrups and toppings that I'm not interested in.  What perked my ears up, though, was the secret "short" drink size.  On the posted menu coffee comes in 'Tall' (12 ounce), 'Grande' (16 ounce) and 'Venti' (24 ounce) sizes .  If you ask, though, you can get a 'Short' cup (which is only 8 ounces).

Yesterday I was out running errands when I decided I needed a pick-me-up.  It was relatively late in the day, though, so I didn't want to load my body up with caffeine.  I decided to see if I could put my new found knowledge to the test and went into a nearby Starbucks.  When I got up to the top of the line I asked for a Short coffee.  The barista didn't blink; he just asked if I'd like room for cream.

And my smaller cup was just enough.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I'm Afraid It's Going To Be A Long Winter

Snow on deck

Yesterday we got a couple of inches of fluffy snow, which is pretty unusual for November in this area. A "normal" high temperature here for this time of year is about 55°. Today if we're lucky it might hit the mid-20s, but a brisk breeze will make it feel colder. The record low is 14°. We might break that tonight.

I'M NOT READY!!!!!

Five years ago today: Speak!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Scrub-A-Dub-Dub

All of a sudden it feels like winter here.  The temperature is dropping, and we had our first snow today (fluffy flakes that stuck to the grass and trees but not the street).  Since the cold weather's hit I've been having a problem keeping my hands hydrated.  I've tried all of the hand lotions and creams I have in the house, but nothing's worked more than a couple of minutes. Yesterday when I was folding laundry, my fingers felt annoyingly rough against anything made out of polyester.  It was time to take action!

This afternoon I exfoliated the dry skin off my hands and moisturized them at the same time with a homemade almond hand scrub.  It was easy to make, and made my skin feel great. The steps:
  • Grind up a couple of almonds in a spice mill until they're the consistency of coarse meal.  
  • Pour in a drizzle of olive oil.  
  • Mix everything together. 
  •  Massage it into your hands and let it set for several minutes.  
  • Rinse it off with warm water.
  • Enjoy the softness
Since I've treated my hands I've washed them multiple times and they still feel soft.  The natural ingredients are working much better than anything else I've used. Thanks goodness for smooth hands!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Party Time!

Once a month an organization that Hubby Tony belongs to hosts a party for adults 18 and older with developmental disabilities.  Tony and I volunteer when we get a chance.  Tonight was one of them.

For a small admission charge party goers are treated to a DJ and snacks.  Sometimes there are attendance prizes or a special guest  (like Santa, who will make an appearance next month), but I think most of the attendees come just to hang out with their friends.  There are people there in their late teens, some in their late 50s, and many others in between.  Tonight it looked like there were between 180 and 200 people.

Tony and I worked at the soda table for the first shift. The 'bar' opened at 7:15. Fifteen minutes before that people started looking for drinks. By the time we set out the first cans there was a group milling around in front of the table.  During the shift we had to work hard to keep a good variety of soda out, but not so hard that I couldn't bop around to the music as I was working.

The DJ played a nice variety. There were new songs ("Best Day of My Life"), standards ("YMCA"), and slow songs (“Once In A Lifetime”). Half of the people danced, but the rest preferred to sit at a table with their friends, or grab a seat along the wall by the dance floor.  After I finished my shift I had to go to the bathroom, which was at the far end of the room.  I had to weave my way through the throngs of dancers.  They all looked like they were having a lot of fun.


Five years ago today: I'll Have Mine With Milk And Sugar

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Your Garage Could Look Like This

When's the last time you thought about your garage door?

Ours is metal, has raised panels, and is painted the same color as the house. It doesn't have windows or any type of decorative features. Serviceable, but boring.  What if this is what you saw when you pulled into your driveway?


No, it's not a fancy car that will make your neighbors wonder if you've won the lottery or you're going through a mid-life crisis.  It's a 3-D vinyl cover for your garage door from a German company called style-your-garage.com.   They have dozens of styles or their website; you can choose from vehicles (including classic cars), aircraft, landscapes, animals, rooms, gates, and holiday versions. 

Realistically, I don't think I'll be getting one of these any time soon.  Unless they make one that shows a perfectly clean garage interior.  Then I could look at it when I rounded the corner instead of the cluttered mess that's really my garage.

Five years ago today: Hard Copy

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Errands And Evaluations

It's been almost a month since I stopped working for a paycheck. That doesn't mean I've been sitting around the house doing nothing, though.  Today was a good example.  I was scheduled to evaluate three places--two different branches of a women's clothes store, and then a quick-service restaurant franchise.  Shortly before 10:00 I left the house to drive east to the first stop, which was inside a mall.

When I got to the mall they had part of the parking lot blocked off because of a water main break, but I managed to find an alternate entrance and wind my way up to the second floor where the store was.  It took me 19 minutes and 32 seconds (it's very important to be detail oriented) to try on some clothes and see how well the salespeople measure up to the Corporate standards.  When I was done I wound my way back to the car and continued to the east.

The second store is outside in a plaza setting.  It doesn't have a parking lot, so I had to drive around the block once looking for a parking space.  Fortunately, right after I turned back onto the street there was a spot right in front of the store.  After feeding the meter I went inside and repeated the evaluation process.  I'm happy to report both stores did well.

Instead of going directly to the next stop I decided to make a slight detour, and went exactly one and one-half miles out of my way to shop at the Habitat for Humanity store.  I was looking for a nice piece of wood or decorative molding for an upcoming project. After digging through random pieces of millwork, I hit the jackpot!  I found a section of 4" wide base molding for only $2.  It would have cost ten times more than that at the hardware store.

After wedging the piece of wood into my car I retraced my steps, then kept going until I got to the restaurant.  It was located on the fringes of an urban area, and once again I had to pay to park.  At this stop I got to order lunch (for which I would be reimbursed) and check to make sure the staff jumped through all the hoops they were supposed to.  For the most part they did.

Belly full, I headed towards home, making stops at the bank, grocery, and drug store.  By time I got home today's To-Do list had been completed.  All I had to do is write a report on each store.  And start on tomorrow's To-Do list.

Five years ago today: You Never Know Where You're Going To Learn Something New

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Change In The Weather

What a difference a day makes!

Yesterday it was warm and sunny.  Hubby Tony took a vacation day, and we took advantage of the nice weather to picnic and walk through the collection at Laumeier Sculpture Park. I started off wearing a jacket, but soon ditched that and was comfortable with just a lightweight long sleeved shirt.


Today is completely different.  Like much of the country we had a cold snap come through overnight. This afternoon when I left the house I was wearing my heavy winter coat and could have used a hat to protect my ears from the brisk wind.




Five years ago today: For Those Who Served

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Signs Of The Season

Butternut squash ready to cook and pomegranate seeds ready to eat.



A stack of flannel sheets to go on the beds.



Yellow leaves on the maple tree in the back yard.



Jackson the Cat curled up in one of this favorite places next to the front door (where he has a good view of everything going on and can enjoy the heat coming up from the vent right underneath the table)


Five years ago today: Disappearing Act

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Finished Product

I can't believe I haven't show you pictures of our finished master bathroom!  Thanks for your patience.

Of course you've read about the room's shower, bathtub, and accessories.  When it came time to take of photo the complete room, though, it was hard to get a decent shot without glare from the windows (or reflections from the lights).  I tried on multiple days, but in the end I decided to go with the best of what I had.

Here's a view from the doorway.  Shower and toilet on the left, tub straight ahead, and vanity on the right. Still looking for a few more accessories, but they'll come when they come.


A better view of the sink side, showing the mirrors and light fixtures (and cat bowls).  The vanity is higher than the old one, and has way more storage.  The vanity is made from cultured marble with integrated sinks, but the contrasting color of the bowls makes them look like they're separate.  One of the two old sinks was cracked; we were told that was caused by hot water usage (i.e., what Hubby Tony does every morning when he shaves).   The new one should last for as long as we're in the house.


Five years ago today: It Can't Hurt

Thursday, November 6, 2014

No Tracking Allowed


A couple of weeks ago I was doing a Google search for bathroom accessories. The next day I started getting sidebar ads for the items on my Facebook page, and Amazon sent me emails about soap dishes and waste cans. I thought that was really creepy!  I mentioned my annoyance to Son Donald, who told me he'd switched search engines and now used one called DuckDuckGo. He recommended I try it.

I'd never heard of Duck Duck Go before, but I did a little research. I found out it's been around since 2008.  Their tagline is The search engine that doesn't track you. According to the company's privacy policy, it doesn't collect or share personally identifiable information of its users.  I liked that idea, so I gave it a trial run and after a few days I made a permanent switch.

The only disadvantages to the new search engine I've found so far are minor. Duck Duck Go's images aren't as robust as Google's, and their maps aren't quite as easy to use.  Those two things are a small price to pay for freedom from tracking.

Five years ago today: Non-Corporate

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Punnies

Some days you just need a little laugh...

  • I changed my iPod's name to Titanic. It's syncing now.
  • When chemists die, they barium.
  • Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
  • I know a guy who's addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop any time.
  • How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.
  • I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.
  • This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore.
  • I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can't put it down.
  • I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.
  • They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a Type-O.
  • PMS jokes aren't funny; period.
  • Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.
  • We are going on a class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there's no pop quiz.
  • I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
  • Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?

Five years ago today: Forecaster-In-Chief

Monday, November 3, 2014

All Choked Up

When I was a newlywed I was a very adventurous cook. I had subscriptions to Bon Appétit and Food & Wine magazines, and read them cover to cover.   I made quite a few of the fancy recipes--main dishes, side dishes, and desserts. 

Fast forward to today.   My recipe ingredients are simple and I don't bother spending a lot of time on elaborate preparations.   However, when I saw a nearby store had fresh artichokes on sale I couldn't resist.  For the first time in about 30 years we had whole steamed artichokes for dinner

I used the cooking directions from Better Homes and Gardens.  The steps:

  • Wash
  • Slice off the stem ends
  • Remove outer leaves
  • Remove the tops
  • Trim leaf tips
  • Boil or steam
  • Eat!
While the artichokes were cooking I made a dipping sauce with butter, water, garlic, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard.  When the artichokes were done I put each one on a plate along with the rest of the food, and set a large bowl in the middle of the table to hold the discarded leaves. 

There were three of us for dinner.  Hubby Tony and I showed Son Donald (who had never had an artichoke) how to break off one leaf at a time, dip it into the sauce, then draw the base of the leaf through his teeth to remove the tender portion.  After he got down to the base, he figured out how to scrape off the inedible prickly "choke" and expose the heart.

When we were done there was a large pile of discarded leaves in the bowl, and not much else.  I know I enjoyed mine, and I'm pretty sure everyone else did, too.

Five years ago today: Blowout

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Tale Of Two Routes

If you live in Missouri and someone says they're going to "the Lake", more than likely they're talking about Lake Of The Ozarks. The central Missouri lake was built in the 1920s to provide hydroelectric power, but over the years it has also become a popular tourist destination.  This weekend I attended a  meeting at a convention hotel in the area.

I've been going to these meetings for the past three years. Every other time I had someone to carpool with, but even though I put out several feelers, this time no one wanted to leave at the same time I did.  At first I was disappointed that I'd be making the three hour journey by myself, but I decided to make the best of it.  On my way there Friday I detoured a few miles out of the way to meet a friend for lunch, and on the way back today I treated myself to an adventure.

There are two ways to get to the Lake.  You can head west on Interstate 70 and then southwest on a state highway, or go southwest on Interstate 44 and wind your way over and up on state roads.  For some reason I've always taken the first route.  This morning I decided to change things up and go the other way.

I didn't have to consult with anyone else to see if that suited them;  I just headed the opposite way out of the hotel parking lot.  Even though I was unfamiliar with the turns I had to make, everything was clearly marked and I made it to the Interstate without any problems.  Unlike 70, which is flat and lined with farm fields (mainly corn and soybeans), 44 has a lot of tree-lined rolling hills and many of the fields are planted in grapes.

It was a great day to be on the road.  The sun was out and only an occasional puffy cloud floated across the sky. Along the way I channel surfed radio stations, changing every time a commercial or a song I didn't like came on.  I stopped for breaks and food when I wanted to and there was no one to second guess my decision.  The exits came and went until I entered St. Louis County and knew I was almost home.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sadly, It's True

Today I was at a meeting at a hotel conference center.  When I walked outside during a break I heard "I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas..." coming out of the speakers.

I couldn't get away from the area fast enough!


Five years ago today: A Celebration Of Those Who Have Gone Before Us

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

I got this cute Halloween e-card from a friend this morning:


I hope YOU have a fun, playful holiday, too.  Don't eat too much candy!

Five years ago today: Trick Or Treat, Smell My Feet, Give Me Something Good To Eat!!!

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

Showering

It's been almost a month since our master bathroom renovation started.  The demolition and most of the reconstruction took two weeks.  Then we had to wait for glass to be measured, fabricated, and installed. Earlier this week we started using the room.

I still need to paint the walls, so the room's big reveal can't happen yet.  However, since the shower portion didn't require painting, I thought you might like to see it.

Our old shower was in sad shape.  It had soap-scum covered, four-inch white porcelain tiles, stained grout, a permanently discolored white floor pan, drippy shower head, and polished brass fixtures and framed glass.  They were all removed.  In their place we now have large ceramic tiles accented with a band of smaller subway tiles at eye level and a tiled niche to hold soap.  The joints are filled with no-mildew grout.  The floor is a similarly colored cultured marble with a very small water lip that makes the shower easy to step in and out of.  The polished brass is long gone, replaced by brushed nickel, and the glass is semi-frameless.


I've showered in there several times now, and I feel like I'm in a fancy spa.