Saturday, December 31, 2011

Give Me Love

According to the weather people, today should be mostly sunny with a high around 60°.  (For comparison, the average temperature for this date is 40°.  It's already warmer than that at 9:00 in the morning.)  I'm headed out for a walk, and I suspect I'll run into quite a few other people outside, too.

This morning I heard the George Harrison song "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)" on the radio, and for the first time in years really listened to the lyrics.  What a great song, and so appropriate for New Year's Eve!

Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
heart and soul

M M M My Lord . . .

PLEASE take hold of my hand, that
I might understand you

Won't you please
Oh won't you

Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
heart and soul

M M M My Lord . . .

PLEASE take hold of my hand, that
I might understand you

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Draw Your Own Adventure

Today, on Christine's Blog I learned about a cute interactive Website called Draw A Stickman.

Can you tell I'm not an artist?

The premise of this interactive site is simple. After you draw a stick man and click the Done box, the character comes to life and goes through a series of adventures.  You're asked to draw objects to aid your stick man along the way.

It's fun.  Give it a try.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Makin' Bacon

For the past six years I've worked in education, and had the days between Christmas and New Years off.  Not so this year.  I had to work shifts at the mall Customer Service desk yesterday and today.  The mall was packed both days, with people returning things and picking up after-Christmas bargains.  We answered a lot of questions about the location of stores, gave out quite a few wheelchairs and electric scooters, and sold a handful of gift cards.

I didn't mind working, but Hubby Tony's been off, and all the kids are only going to be in town for a couple of days.  I felt like I wasn't seeing them much, so before I left for work this morning everyone graciously rolled out of bed and we had a big breakfast...eggs, french toast with warm maple syrup, bacon, fruit, and assorted leftover breads and pastries.

I was in charge of the bacon.  We all love bacon, so frying it for six people can take a long time, and it leaves a greasy mess all over the stove.   Some time ago I discovered Alton Brown's never-fail method for cooking bacon.  He bakes it.  The "recipe":
Arrange strips of bacon on a sheet pan fitted with a rack and place the pan into a cold oven. Turn the oven to 400° and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bacon. Remove and drain on paper towels.
It takes my oven a long time to preheat, so I have to cook the bacon an extra five minutes, but I'm rewarded with crisp, perfectly flat strips of porky goodness.  The perfect compliment to a meal.

Friday, December 23, 2011


We've hosted the extended family Christmas celebration every year for decades, but for some reason I always forget until the last minute that I have to figure out how to set the table.  Then I scramble around  trying to decorate it so it doesn't look the same as last year.

This year there will be a dozen of us.  Years ago the kids wanted to be at their own table in the kitchen, but now that they're young adults they want to be in the main room.  The dining room table seats 10 if we're sitting elbow to elbow, so the past few years I've had to get creative.  I angle the table in the room, then put a card table in the corner.  Our seating is a mixture of nice wood (6 that match the set) and scruffy-looking metal folding chairs.

I only have two tablecloths long enough to fit the main table when it's extended to its full length.  One is white, and the other ecru.  I have two large sets of napkins (red or white), and a motley collection of others.  Last year I used a white-and-red motif, so I wanted something different this year, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money on it.

A couple of days ago I went to our local Vincent de Paul store and found a long table runner.  One side was a poinsettia print in muted green and pink with a background of tiny silver holly leaves.  The other side was larger silver holly leaves.  On the outside seam is a row of silver rick rack, and there are silver tassels at each pointed end.  It only cost two dollars, and it was perfect for my needs!

I'm pairing the runner with the ecru tablecloth and the white napkins.  For the card table I'll use a white cloth that has silver and gold threads and dark maroon napkins.  I may or may not incorporate strings of beads that I used several years ago.

Now that I've figured out the base of the table, I can move on to making sure the linens are unwrinkled, and the plates and silverware are ready to go.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

(Not) The Shortest Day Of The Year!

The winter solstice, which marks the beginning of winter and the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, was yesterday at 11:30 p.m in my area.  Now, even though we're in for many months of cold, dreary days before Spring gets here, Ill be focusing on the positive...each day will be a bit longer than the one before it.

I Heard a Bird Sing 
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember. 
'We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,'
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December. 
 Oliver Herford

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

What I'm wearing to work today:
  • Conservative black pants
  • Professional white button-down shirt
  • Black shoes
  • Shiny striped socks 
  • Tiny red jingle bell earrings

Gotta have fun!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wrap It Up

With the Christmas buying season in full swing, the mall Customer Service desk that I work at is selling lots of gift cards!  There are always two people working at the desk to keep up with the demand, and sometimes there are still customers waiting their turn.

Gift cards are convenient. You don't have to worry about getting the right thing, and the recipients can buy exactly what they want.  However, as a present under the tree, gift cards are boring.  I'm sure many of the gift cards I'm selling are slipped inside a greeting card, so when the person receives the extra-thick envelope they know exactly what they're getting.  Where's the fun in that?  

You can buy specially-designed gift packaging for the cards, but in my opinion that's just one step up from putting it in an envelope.  During  one of our rare lulls at work yesterday, my coworker and I talked about different ways gift certificates can be given.  We decided that when someone puts a little effort put into the wrapping and presentation of the card it can make a big difference.

Several years ago Hubby Tony's Christmas list was predominantly clothes.  I was having trouble finding just the right thing, and decided to get him gift certificates to two different stores so he could pick out his own.  After getting the certificates, I went to Goodwill and bought a horrible-looking shirt and an even worse pair of pants.  I tucked a certificate into the pocket of each, folded them neatly into boxes, and wrapped them nicely.  When Tony opened the packages, he wasn't sure if the clothes were the present, and politely expressed his thanks (but was obviously quite relieved when I pointed out the "real" gift).

It's also fun to add something edible to a gift card.  I've been known to tape the card on top of a chocolate bar-- it's still easy to wrap.  When you nestle one on top of the contents of a tin of nuts or popcorn, the person can enjoy the munchies now and shop with the certificate later.  I've heard of people who go to the trouble of matching the gift card holder with the gift card itself.  You could hide a coffeehouse certificate inside a pound of coffee beans, or a travel certificate inside a book of maps.  Put a restaurant card inside of a carry-out container, add some ribbon and a bow, and it looks wonderful.

How about you?  Have you done any creative gift card packaging?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Can You Hear Me?

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 14% of people between the ages of 45 and 64 have a hearing loss.  There have been a few times recently that I've had trouble hearing what people are saying, so I wondered if I might have a problem.  Today I had a hearing test done at St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf to find out. The Institute is mainly known for their children's programs, but when I read a couple of weeks ago in the church bulletin that they were offering free adult screenings I called and made an appointment.

Although I've never been to the campus, it was easy to find. When I signed in at the front desk, the receptionist gave me a visitor pass and directed me down a ramp to the Audiology department.  Once there, I only had to wait a few minutes to be escorted back to a room.  The audiologist was friendly and put me at ease.  She asked if I was having any problems hearing, then looked in my ears with an otoscope.  Next, she directed me to a booth at the far corner of the room.  The booth had floor- to-ceiling walls, a window on one wall, and a chair facing the window.

Once I sat down in the chair, she explained what would happen.  I'd be subjected to a series of tones, and I was to indicate I'd heard them by pressing a button.  She handed me the button, then took a set of headphones off a hook on the wall and placed them over my ears.  The headphones fit very snugly, so she said I'd be more comfortable if I took off my glasses.  I did.  Once everything was ready, she left the room, closing the door behind her.  The lights in the room were dimmed.

Without my glasses everything was blurry, but I could see her take a seat at the window in front of me.  A few seconds later the test started.  Some of the sounds were loud, and some were softer.  They also varied in tone from low to high.  I had to really concentrate to hear some of them!  The test took about five minutes, and I knew it was over when the lights came back on.

I got my results immediately, and was pleased to find out my hearing is normal.  The audiologist told me that I can have the test done once a year.  That's comforting to know, and I'll remember it if I think my hearing is getting worse.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wrapping Presents with a Cat

  1. Clear large space on table for wrapping present. 
  2. Go to closet and collect bag in which present is contained, and shut door. 
  3. Open door and remove cat from closet. 
  4. Go to cupboard and retrieve rolls of wrapping paper. 
  5. Go back and remove cat from cupboard. 
  6. Go to drawer, and collect transparent sticky tape, ribbons, scissors, labels, etc. . . 
  7. Lay out presents and wrapping materials on table, to enable wrapping strategy to be formed.
  8. Go back to drawer to get string, remove cat that has been in the drawer since last visit and collect string.
  9. Remove present from bag. 
  10. Remove cat from bag. 
  11. Open box to check present, remove cat from box, replace present. 
  12. Lay out paper to enable cutting to size. 
  13. Try and smooth out paper, realize cat is underneath and remove cat. 
  14. Cut the paper to size, keeping the cutting line straight. 
  15. Throw away first sheet as cat chased the scissors, and tore the paper. 
  16. Cut second sheet of paper to size - by putting cat in the bag the present came in. 
  17. Place present on paper. 
  18. Lift up edges of paper to seal in present. Wonder why edges don't reach. Realize cat is between present and paper. Remove cat. 
  19. Place object on paper, to hold in place while tearing transparent sticky tape. 
  20. Spend 20 minutes carefully trying to remove transparent sticky tape from cat with pair of nail scissors. 
  21. Seal paper with sticky tape, making corners as neat as possible. 
  22. Look for roll of ribbon. Chase cat down hall in order to retrieve ribbon. 
  23. Try to wrap present with ribbon in a two-directional turn. 
  24. Re-roll ribbon and remove paper, which is now torn due to cat's enthusiastic ribbon chase.
  25. Repeat steps 13-20 until you reach last sheet of paper. 
  26. Decide to skip steps 13-17 in order to save time and reduce risk of losing last sheet of paper. Retrieve old cardboard box that is the right size for sheet of paper. 
  27. Put present in box, and tie down with string. 
  28. Remove string, open box and remove cat. 
  29. Put all packing materials in bag with present and head for locked room. 
  30. Once inside lockable room, lock door and start to relay out paper and materials.
  31. Remove cat from box, unlock door, put cat outside door, close and relock. 
  32. Repeat previous step as often as is necessary (until you can hear cat from outside door)
  33. Lay out last sheet of paper. (This will be difficult in the small area of the toilet, but do your best) 
  34. Discover cat has already torn paper. Unlock door go out and hunt through various cupboards, looking for sheet of last year's paper. Remember that you haven't got any left because cat helped with this last year as well. 
  35. Return to lockable room, lock door, and sit on toilet and try to make torn sheet of paper look presentable. 
  36. Seal box, wrap with paper and repair by very carefully sealing with sticky tape. Tie up with ribbon and decorate with bows to hide worst areas. 
  37. Label. Sit back and admire your handiwork, congratulate yourself on completing a difficult job. 
  38. Unlock door, and go to kitchen to make drink and feed cat. 
  39. Spend 15 minutes looking for cat until coming to obvious conclusion. 
  40. Unwrap present, untie box and remove cat. 
  41. Go to store and buy a gift bag
(Author Unknown)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Who's Got The Button?

This morning we decided to go to 9:00 Mass at 8:30, so I had to hustle to get ready. I brushed my teeth, combed my hair, threw on some makeup, then went into my closet and quickly put on a corduroy jumper with a tee shirt underneath. I added pantyhose and shoes. The whole process took ten minutes, and we walked out the door with plenty of time to spare.

I've had this hunter green, wide-wale corduroy jumper for several years. It's been washed enough that it's nice and soft. It buttons down the front, has a deep v neck, and two large pockets. The only (minor) problem with it is the length. It stops right above the knee, and the bottom button's about six inches above the hem. You have to be careful how you sit when you're wearing it.

Even though I only had hose on, I didn't take the extra time to get my dress coat out of the closet. I grabbed the everyday one, which is car coat length. I was glad that Tony volunteered to drive; that let me check my hair in the visor mirror and clean my glasses before we pulled into the church parking lot. When I was getting out of the car I felt something "pop". I looked down and the bottom button of my jumper was gone! I found it on the ground up by the front tire, picked it up, and put it in my wallet.

With the button gone, the relatively modest slit at the front of my jumper was now substantially less modest. I did my best to hold the bottom of the dress down as we walked through the lot and into the church. We picked out our seat and I carefully entered the pew trying to figure out how I'd get through the next hour of standing, kneeling, and sitting.

It ended up not being as much of a problem as I feared. Standing wasn't a problem; the back of the pew in front my me hid the large gap. When I sat, I kept the missal in my lap. The hardest part was getting into and out of the kneeling position, but once I was there no one could see anything below my waist. I walked up to communion very carefully, taking small steps so the bottom of the jumper wouldn't swing too much.

The weather was quite cold today, and we didn't stop to talk to anyone outside the building. I waved to a couple of people as I went straight to the car. I was happy to get there without any problems.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Life Is Nothing Without Friends

Yesterday I got Christmas presents from two longtime friends. I'm so lucky!

The first was from Debbie, who I met in second grade.(We won't talk about how long ago that was!) We attended the same elementary, junior high, and high schools, and participated in many other activities together. She was one of the attendants at my wedding, and she's Son Donald's godmother.

A couple of weeks ago Debbie sent me an email. A friend of hers was gathering children's DVDs to donate to Children's Hospital, and Debbie had offered to help her collect them. I stopped by the store the next day (and had a great time browsing through the children's video selection), but getting my purchase to Debbie turned out to be difficult.

However, she graciously volunteered to stop by work yesterday and pick it up. When she arrived, she was carrying a package for me wrapped in red and gold paper. I waited until I got home to open the box, which contained a cute Jim Shore Santa figurine. After dinner Tony helped me rearrange the decorations on the family room shelves so our Santas were grouped together (the new one is in the center)

Later in the evening when Tony went out to put something in the mailbox, he discovered a box on the front porch. As soon as I saw the writing, I knew who it was from. Syd's been a friend since Junior High. We've spent innumerable hours together. She was my Maid of Honor when I got married. Even though she moved to Georgia after college, we've still kept in touch.

The box was wrapped in brown paper and sealed with packing tape, and her post office had run still another strip of tape around the package. Once I got through all the exterior wrapping, there was one more piece of tape holding the box closed. When I opened the box, the contents were protected by sheets of crumpled newspaper. However, when I finally got through everything, there was a treat waiting. In a holiday cookie carrier, Syd had arranged packages of cookie mix, several cookie cutters, and a beautiful angel ornament. She even included a card with a cat!

I wonder what treasures the next couple of weeks will hold?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's Beginning To Sound A Lot Like Christmas

The mall I work at started piping in Christmas tunes a couple of days before Thanksgiving, and I'm confident the seasonal music will continue until December 24th. I work three shifts a week. That's a lot of holiday cheer I'll be hearing!

I'm sure the mall's play list was put together to provide something for everybody. There's a good mixture of genres--I've heard standards, jazz, pop, R&B, and even a bit of rockabilly. So far, most of the songs have been secular, although yesterday they added instrumental versions of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "The First Noël". Strangely enough, I've not heard "Jingle Bells" or "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". Instead, I've been treated to things like Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", and one of several versions of "Santa Baby". I've also heard songs I'd forgotten about, like "Do They Know It's Christmas?" So far, the wide variety of music has kept it from been annoying. (Although when I'm radio channel surfing on the way home, I'll quickly pass by anything that resembles a holiday tune!)

Yesterday I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. When I went back to bed, I had trouble getting back to sleep. After a while I realized I had a song stuck in my head. Where do you think it could have possibly come from?

(At least it was a good song.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Skipping Christmas

Since I never know exactly how long it will take me to get to work, I've started keeping a book in the car. That way, if I have free time I can it pull out and read a page or two. Appropriately, my latest book was a cute John Grisham novel, Skipping Christmas.

From the Website:
Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences–and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

The story starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The Kranks are taking their daughter Blair to the airport, where she's leaving for a year-long Peace Corps assignment. Nora's sad that their family won't be celebrating Christmas together this year, but Luther, a tax accountant, sees Blair's absence as an opportunity. He calculates how much they spent on the holiday the year before (and how little they have to show for it), then talks Nora into taking a 10-day Caribbean Cruise that leaves on Christmas Day.

Much to their surprise, Luther and Nora find themselves the objects of scorn from their neighbors and groups they typically buy gifts from. They also find themselves under increasing pressure to conform. A surprise Christmas Eve phone call sets into motion a series of events that have them questioning the choices they've made.

Just like all the Grisham novels I've read, this one was entertaining, and like every good Christmas story, it had a happy ending. It was funny, but had a ring of truth to it. I think the book was also made into a movie, which I'll try to watch this before the Christmas season's over.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Zen Litterbox

It was my turn to clean the bathrooms today, but before I jumped into wiping down the sinks and scrubbing the toilets I grabbed a grocery bag to empty the trash cans.

After all the trash was emptied, the bag still had room in it, so I decided to scoop the two cat litter boxes (one in the laundry room and the other in the basement). Hubby Tony usually takes care of the job, but we were busy yesterday and he couldn't get around to it. With two cats in the house the boxes fill up quickly!

We use clumping cat litter. It sticks together when the cats urinate, which makes it easy to remove the waste out of the box. I used a scoop to lift out the clumps and turds and threw them in the trash bag. Next I moved the boxes out of the way and swept up the litter that had been kicked on the floor, and cleaned the floor around the boxes. When I was done the litter boxes were clean and ready to use again.

I thought it would be fun to leave the cats a personal litter box touch. I tried to use a plastic fork to rake zen garden patterns on the unblemished litter surface, but the brand of litter we use didn't hold the designs. Instead, I just graded the litter perfectly smooth before putting the boxes back into place.

I that the litter box equivalent of a hotel's folding the end of the toilet paper roll into a "V" shape?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Have You Ever Been...

I have been in many places, but I've never been in Cahoots. Apparently, you can't go there alone. You have to be in Cahoots with someone.

I've also never been in Cognito. I hear no one recognizes you if you go there.

I have, however, been in Sane. They don't have an airport; you have to be driven there. I’ve made several trips there, thanks to my friends, my family and my work.

I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump, and I'm not too much on strenuous physical activity anymore.

I have also been in Doubt. That is a sad place to go, and I try not to visit there too often.

I've been in Flexible, but only when it was very important to stand firm.

Sometimes I'm in Capable, and I find myself there more often as I'm getting older.

One of my favorite places to be is in Suspense! It really gets the adrenalin flowing and pumps up the old heart. At my age I need all the stimuli I can get!

Now if I can just avoid getting in Continent...

--Author unknown

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


About a month ago I harvested the ginger that was growing in a planter on my deck. I ended up with a pound and a half of root. Since then, I've added the spice to many dishes. I peeled, grated, and froze some. I offered pieces to Sons Brian and Donald. Still, there was an impressive-sized bowl in my refrigerator. Recently the root's been looking a bit wrinkled, and I knew it was time to do something about it. After a bit of Google searching, I decided I'd make candied ginger.

Making candied (also know as crystallized) ginger is a simple process. The ingredients are minimal (ginger, sugar, and water) as is the equipment (saucepan, wooden spoon, kitchen scale, cookie sheet lined with waxed paper, and cooling rack).

The procedure:

Peel the ginger, then slice it. (Some recipes suggested a mandoline, which I don't have. I used a food processor, which made thicker slices.) Put the slices into a saucepan, and add water to cover. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cook until it's translucent and tender. (Mine took 75 minutes. During the cooking process my kitchen smelled fantastic!)

When the ginger is tender drain it, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Weigh the ginger, and measure out an equal amount of sugar. Put ginger, liquid, and sugar back into the pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the syrup thickens, about 20 minutes.

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper, and put a cooling rack on top of it. One at a time, remove the ginger pieces from the syrup with a fork (they'll be very sticky) and arrange them on the rack. Let the excess syrup drip off, then roll the ginger in more sugar. Dry it for several hours or overnight. It will become dry and crusty on the outside, but soft on the inside like a gumdrop.

According to my sources, the candied ginger should be good for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. I don't know if it will last that long, though.  I've been eating a few pieces each night after dinner, and plan on adding some to the next batch of granola.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

You Can Count On It

ShopperTrak is a company that provides counting services for malls, letting them know how many people are there on a daily basis. A couple of weeks ago they released their predictions for the slowest days of this year's holiday season. The top four are this week. (In order of slowness: Tuesday the 29th, Monday the 28th, Wednesday the 30th, and Thursday the 1st.)

Since I'm now working at a mall, I was pretty interested in their forecast. Yesterday I worked a five-hour shift in the morning and early afternoon, and the traffic seemed to live up to the ShopperTrak predictions. Although I fielded more phone calls than normal, and answered a few more questions, for the most part the shoppers ignored the Customer Service desk. The ShopperTrak people were right on the money again today. This time my shift started after lunch. I sold a few gift cards, and answered a few questions, but I also spent a lot of time watching people go by. When I left at 5:00, it didn't look like things would be picking up anytime soon.

If I'd been smart, I would have gone out after dinner tonight to do some of MY shopping, but instead I sat down on the family room couch and lost all my ambition. I don't have to work tomorrow, though, so I'll try to take advantage of the relatively slow day to get things done.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Clean And Shiny

A couple of weeks ago I took our dining room rug in to be cleaned. While it was gone, I decided it would be a good time to paint the room's scuffed and shabby-looking walls.

Here's the room ready to paint, with the old paint color

And with new paint, all shiny and clean.

The new color in the dining room coordinates with the khaki of the kitchen. Above the chair rail I used a warm green that was part of a paint-company-designed palette. For the rail, the bottom half of the wall, and the crown molding I applied white semigloss.

This turned out to be a big project that I had to squeeze into little chunks of free time. Every surface needed two coats of paint. It took two days to complete the green section and another two days for the white. I finished the room last weekend, then picked up and laid the cleaned rug on Tuesday. With all the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving, I didn't get around to putting the last things back into place until today.

I'm glad the job is done. And, as a nice side bonus, since I had to take all the glasses out of the china cabinet before I moved it, I dusted and washed the contents before I replaced them. Now I don't have to add that to my list of chores to do before Christmas!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Small Business Saturday

I suspect most people have heard of Black Friday (the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving start of the holiday season) and Cyber Monday (the Internet's big shopping day the Monday after Thanksgiving), but do you know about Small Business Saturday? The term was coined by American Express last year to promote the advantages of shopping in small, local shops. This year the U.S. Senate designated Nov. 26 as Small Business Saturday to help promote the day nationwide. Today Tony and I did our part to support our small merchants.

After breakfast we got our things together and headed out the door. Our first stop wasn't exactly a small local shop. but I think going to a Fair Trade Market honors the spirit of the day. The Fair Trade Market at Manchester United Methodist Church claims to be the largest market of certified Fair Trade vendors and products in the US. For several years we've made it a tradition to shop there the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Tony and I entered the Market together, and even started with a communal shopping bag, but soon we parted ways to do our own thing. We came back together when we were done and checked out at the same time, being careful to choose cashiers that weren't close to each other. I bought a hair barrette made with shiny snack packaging and a shopping bag constructed from a recycled sari that fits into a very small pouch. I may or may not have bought some Christmas presents. Tony bought me these cute Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus Ten Thousand Villages earrings. I think they'll be a nice conversation starter at work. He probably got some other things, but I guess I don't need to know what they were.

There are several neighborhoods in our area that have concentrations of small businesses. I let Tony pick the area, and he chose the city of Maplewood. Much of the city's shopping district runs along Manchester Road about twelve miles east of us. When we got there it was easy to find a parking space along the street. We got out of the car and started walking. There were a couple of gift shops we passed on, and we didn't need to go in the beauty salon, but we enjoyed browsing in a small hardware store, a pet store, and a store that sold oils and vinegars. The office supply store was closed, as was the typewriter repair shop. Although it's technically not a small business, we stopped into the Penzeys Spice store (the only one in the area). I may or may not have bought some more Christmas presents.

When we got hungry, we weren't too far from Schlafly Bottleworks (a local microbrewery), so we decided to eat lunch there. Their restaurant offers food from as many local farmers and businesses as possible, and lists many of their suppliers on the last page of the menu. We each had a soup and sandwich combination, but passed on dessert, because there was one more stop we had to make on the way back to the car--the Kakao Chocolate shop. We sampled several confections, and bought some things. Some of them may or may not have been holiday purchases.

After several hours of shopping, Tony and I were both ready to call it a day. I'm pretty sure it won't be the last time we support small businesses, though!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

'Twas The Night Of Thanksgiving

A Thanksgiving Poem
--CJ Beaman--

'Twas the night of Thanksgiving, I just couldn’t sleep. 
I tried counting backwards, I tried counting sheep.

The leftovers beckoned, the dark meat and white,
But I fought the temptation with all of my might.

Tossing and turning with anticipation,
The thought of a snack became infatuation.

So, I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door
And gazed at the fridge full of goodies galore.

I gobbled up turkey and buttered potatoes,
Pickles and carrots, beans and tomatoes.

I felt myself swelling so plump and so round,
‘til all of a sudden, I rose off the ground.

I crashed through the ceiling, floating into the sky
With a mouthful of pudding and a handful of pie.

But I managed to yell as I soared past the trees...
Happy eating to all...pass the cranberries, please.

May your stuffing be tasty, may your turkey be plump,
May your potatoes ‘n gravy have nary a lump,

May your yams be delicious, may your pies take the prize,
May your Thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Music To Cook By

I have to work today from 12:00-6:00. That's inconvenient, because there are two things I've been assigned bring to our family Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, but since my boss thoughtfully didn't schedule me on Friday, I won't complain! Before I leave at 11:15 I'm trying to get as much cooking done as I can.

For as long as I can remember, I always bring the same thing on Thanksgiving--pumpkin pies and Cranberry Jello, a two-layer, pound-inducing concoction of cranberry sauce, crushed pineapple, nuts, whipped topping, cream cheese, and marshmallows introduced to the family by my mom about 25 years ago. After she died I became the designated maker, and I don't know if they'd let me into the party if I didn't bring it.

Right after breakfast I got out all the ingredients for both dishes and set them up in different staging areas on the counter. I preheated the oven and got started on the pies. This year I'm making one traditional variety, and, for a twist on tradition, a pumpkin-chocolate chip. After the pies were in the oven, the kitchen counters were covered with dirty dishes, pumpkin puree, and spice jars.

I cleaned up that mess, and started on the jello. The first step was to dissolve packages of red jello with hot water, then mash canned cranberry sauce in until the mixture is smooth. (No matter how careful I am I always end up with red splatters. This year I remembered to wear a dark colored shirt to hide anything that splashed on me.) After the sauce was blended in, I added drained pineapple and chopped walnuts and mixed again, then put the pan in the refrigerator to jell. I cleaned up the sticky counter, then got out the mixer to prepare the whipped topping. Later, when the bottom layer is hard, I'll soften cream cheese, mix it with the topping, add miniature marshmallows, and spread the mixture on top of the jello.

With both dishes under control, I decided to do some bonus cooking. I had quite a bit of juice from the drained crushed pineapple, so I used it make muffins. Fortunately, I make a batch almost every week and I can throw the recipe together in the time it takes the oven to preheat. Easy-peasy, and I'll be happy when there's something good for breakfast tomorrow.

In the middle of all the cooking insanity, this song came on the radio. It always makes me smile, so I had to stop, turn up the volume, and dance around for a few minutes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I worked at the mall today from opening to closing (a 7 hour shift). When I took my meal break in the middle of the day Son Donald, who happened to be in the area, came to join me. We went down to the food court, where I grabbed a hamburger and fries. The half hour went all too quickly, and then it was time to go back to work. Donald walked with me back to the Customer Service desk and left to do some shopping.

No sooner had I started work than a woman came up and said she had a strange request. She was helping a friend who was hosting a birthday party at one of the mall’s stores. They’d forgotten to bring matches to light the candles on the cake. Did I know anywhere she could get a book of matches or a lighter?

I did, indeed, but it wasn’t at a store. Son Donald usually carries a lighter with him. If he was still in the mall perhaps he’d come by and save the day. I called him and asked him if he was still around (he was) and explained the situation. He said he’d be there in a couple of minutes.

When he got there he handed the lighter over to the woman, who thanked him profusely. She promised to bring it back in a few minutes. Donald had finished shopping and was on his way out (on the way to the house for a visit with his dad), so I offered to collect the lighter and return it to him.

Part of my job description is to give good customer service. I enjoy doing that, but now I’m getting people that don’t even WORK at the mall to do it, too!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Boo, Gobble Gobble, Ho, Ho, Ho!


The code for this doodle and other doodles you can use on your blog can be found at Doodles.

We've entered the non-stop holiday time of the year. It just seems like I was handing out candy to Trick or Treaters, but Thanksgiving is next week, and then it's a mad rush to Christmas and the new year.

Even though I'm not ready for all the frenzy, the mall where I work is all decked out for Christmas. It took them almost two weeks to set out large decorations, fill the planters with seasonal greenery, and erect a huge tree in the atrium area. Santa arrived over the weekend and settled into his set next to the tree. The majority of the stores have festive window displays, although there's still a few that are waiting. (I applaud them.)

The next couple of days should be normal at the Customer Service counter. After Thanksgiving, though, that will all change. The mall will be open longer hours, and there will be more shoppers. One of the things our desk does, in addition to answering questions, is sell mall gift cards, and I suspect there will be a lot purchased.

I have a week to get ready.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”― G.K. Chesterton

I read this quote a couple of weeks ago at Life at Willow Manor, and liked the idea of bringing gratitude into all the different parts of my life. Later that day I opened a magazine at the dentist's office and saw an ad that used the same quote. Since then, I've seen the same passage two more times.

I guess I should take its message seriously!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Carpet Carrying

I had an interesting passenger on the way to work today:

The dining room rug, on its way to the cleaners.

This Oriental area rug is about 30 years old. We bought to go in the dining room shortly after we got married. Over the years it's seen a lot of meals, and holds a lot of memories. At nine feet by twelve feet it's big enough to cover most of the floor in our current dining room, and big enough to barely fit in my car.

With the kids all gone we don't use the dining room as much as we used to, but the rug still gets dirty. Last week I got a postcard from Woodard Carpet Cleaning which offered me a substantial discount on rug cleaning if I brought it to them. I decided it was time to get the rug cleaned. Woodard's office is on the way home from work, so yesterday when Son Donald and Son Brian were around I had them roll up the rug and put it in my car.

My job was to get the car ready. First I took the headrest off the front passenger seat and leaned it all the way back, then folded the back seat forward and let it rest on top of the front one. When the boys got the rug out to the car, they pushed it from the back and I pulled it from the front. In order to close the trunk door I had to rest the rug on the dashboard!

It was interesting driving to work this morning. The rug obstructed the right side mirror, so I had to be very careful. Fortunately traffic wasn't too bad, and I only had to change lanes once. After I got off work I drove to Woodard's office, where two attendants carried the rug inside. I was glad to get it out of the car. The rug will be ready in about a week, and I'll have to reverse the whole process when I pick it up. It will be worth it to have a clean rug, though.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Toss Out

We have a typical suburban house in the middle of a typical suburban lot. Most of the area is covered with grass, but over the 20 years we've lived here I've dug up several areas for landscaping and garden beds. Every time I do a project in the yard, I run into rocks. Most of it is the crushed rock that would be laid as a bed under a concrete slab, even in areas in the far corners of the yard that aren't close to the concrete.

I don't want to throw the rocks in the trashcan, so I put them in an old plastic flowerpot under the deck. When I accumulate enough (about once a year) I figure out a way to get rid of them, usually by tossing them in a nearby creek. I've been waiting for the right time to do Project Rock Disposal 2011, and today was it.

This year I had a bonus crop of rocks to dispose of. We had a French drain put in the back yard this summer to divert rainwater water from our downspout to the sewer in the back. For several days after the work was completed I went outside and picked up handfuls of rocks from the area that had been dug up. There were four flowerpots (three one-gallon models and a five-gallon one) lined up underneath the deck steps. I put them all in a milk crate; when I picked the crate up to carry it to the car it felt like there were about 25 pounds of rocks.

Son Donald came with me to help. There are several different places close to the house that I can access the creek. I always pick my site carefully. Even though I don't think it's illegal to get rid of the rocks there, if someone saw me they might wonder what I'm doing. The parking lot at the first place we tried was blocked, so I headed towards a second area. There was no problem getting close to this one. I parked the car, looked around to see if anyone was watching, then Donald and I each grabbed pots from the car, walked over to the side of the creek, and dumped. The whole project took less than 30 seconds.

As wee got in the car and drove away, for some reason the theme song to the movie The Great Escape was playing in my head.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

For Cat Lovers...

I think Tony, the designated breakfast server for our cats, goes through this every morning!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eleven Eleven Eleven

Today (November 11) is Veterans Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.

The day honors veterans of all wars. In Washington DC the national Veterans day service takes place at Arlington Cemetery, where they will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Closer to home, the St. Louis branch of the American Legion has a service at the Soldier's Memorial downtown. Many people will visit Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. Several local municipalities also have their own ceremonies.

However, there are some other ways to commemorate the day. Did you know that the holiday can be celebrated by having a ravioli meal? The idea dates back to the end of World War I when President Woodrow Wilson, knowing that the returning soldiers would be wanting a home cooked meal, he invited 2,000 soldiers to the White House and helped his staff chefs cook them ravioli (which was then newly trendy due to the advent of commercial canning).

I love Italian food, and never pass on an excuse to eat it, so when Tony and I went out to eat today I ordered ravioli. However, because it sounded good to me, in a twist on tradition my ravioli was toasted. The six large round ravioli were very lightly breaded, fried perfectly, and arranged around the edge of a plate with a small bowl of pomodoro sauce in the middle for dipping. They were wonderful.

Thanks, Veterans, for all your sacrifices!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Some Days You Just Can’t Win

On Thursdays I have to be at work at 9:30. Even though it only takes me 30 minutes to get there, I usually allow 45 minutes just in case traffic is an issue. This morning it was.

I’m fortunate that there are a lot of different routes I can use to get to work. The fastest (and way I usually use) is the Interstate, but I also know several side streets that go in the right direction. When I get in the car, the first thing I do is turn the radio to an AM station that has frequent traffic updates to see if my normal route has any problems. This morning the only thing I heard that would affect me was a slowdown from a cleared-up accident that started about five miles before my exit and continued until I needed to get off. It would take me 20 minutes to get to that area, which I figured it would be cleared up by then, so I proceeded as I usually do.

I left my subdivision, meandered through another one, and pulled out onto 141, where the speed limit is 50 mph. NOT 40, which is what the truck ahead of me was doing. He also tapped his brakes every 30 seconds. When the limit dipped to 45 mph in the City of Manchester, he lowered his speed to 35 mph. It took me several miles to get into the other lane and away from the truck, but somehow now I was behind another driver who was “Sunday driving”!

Fortunately now I wasn’t too far from the Interstate, so I grinned and beared it until I could get into the right lane, which merges onto the outer road and then the interstate entrance ramp. To my understanding, a merge lane means you slow down, check for traffic, then continue through if it’s safe. Even though there was no traffic to be seen on the outer road, someone several cars ahead of me decided to come to an almost complete stop, which caused a chain reaction as everyone behind him quickly hit their brakes.

My bad luck continued when I got on the highway. I got behind a large, slow pickup loaded with tree limbs that looked like they were going to fall off. Then I got in front of a driver who was in a hurry and thought that the speed limit was 70. He wasn’t happy with the fact I was doing the posted limit in the far right lane and gave me a dirty look as he passed.

The traffic slowdown I thought would be gone was even worse than the radio reported. Now it started two more miles to the west, with stop and go traffic. I’d had enough! I was coming up on an exit I knew would get me to a road that would take me to the mall, so I quickly got off. The exit has a roundabout, and I was behind a driver that seemed to be unfamiliar with navigating it, but soon I was traveling at a normal rate of speed. I missed every stop light on the way, but was SO glad to pull into the parking garage with a couple of minutes to spare.

I wonder if I’ll have the same problems on the way home?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reteaching Loveliness

St. Francis And The Sow 
The bud
stands for all things,
even those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Galway Kinnell

Galway Kinnell is an American poet. He was born in 1927, attended Princeton, and traveled extensively throughout Europe. In the 1960s he worked for racial equality in the United States and protested against the Vietnam War. He was Poet Laureate of Vermont from 1989 to 1993, and has won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

I love the notion of St. Francis reaching out to the female pig, telling her that she is beautiful—she just can’t see it. Don't we all feel that way sometimes?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What A Deal!

I was out of town this weekend with JD of Walk It Off!. We attended a state conference of a group we're both members of which was held at Lake of the Ozarks.

It takes about three hours to get to the Lake, which is southwest of St. Louis. Although our first obligation wasn't until Friday night after dinner, we left mid-morning in order to do some shopping at some of JD's favorite thrift shops in Jefferson City. She drove, because her car gets better gas mileage than mine. It was a beautiful day, with a cloudless blue sky. I soon shed the jacket I was wearing as the sun warmed the inside of the car.

I haven't seen JD for a couple of weeks, so we spent the time talking about our families, friends, and mutual acquaintances. We made one pit stop, and before I knew it we were getting off the Interstate at Kingdom City and heading south towards Jefferson City. After one wrong turn, she found the correct street for our first stop, a huge Goodwill store where I found a perfect pair of black pants for work for only $3.00

After a nice lunch, we headed to The Bag Lady Exchange, which sells purses, clothes, accessories, and shoes. We walked into the front room, which was full of purses hanging along the walls. A second small room off to the right was devoted to shoes, and everything else was in a larger room straight ahead. The clothes were attractively arranged on round racks, and the accessories were displayed in various places around the room. After checking out the clothes, I moved over to a display of purses, where I spied the distinctive quilted fabric of a Vera Bradley bag. This one was a combination of greens and blues with a tiny amount of black and white for accents.

I took the purse off its hook. It was the perfect size, and when I opened the zippered top I found out it was loaded with pockets inside. The straps fit nicely on my shoulder. I don't need another purse, but I took a look at the price tag. Full-sized Vera Bradley bags sell for somewhere between $50-$75 dollars, depending on the size and pattern, so when I saw this purse was priced at $25 I seriously considered buying it. The sales clerk saw me looking at the purse and told me it was on clearance. The price was now half the posted price.


Friday, November 4, 2011


When I was doing the grocery shopping the other day, one of the things on my list was potatoes. I was in a hurry, and grabbed a 10-pound bag of russets without taking a good look at the package. Later, when I was putting the food away, I noticed I'd purchased a big of "Jumbo Sized" spuds.

They weren't kidding! The bag only had eight pieces in it. The smallest potato weighed in at one pound, and the largest was more than one and a half pounds. According to the USDA guidelines a serving of potato is 1/3 pound, or about the size of a fist. Using that as a gauge, some of the specimens in my bag would feed a family of five!

I'm only cooking for two, so at first glance these potatoes would be way too big for us. However, it shouldn't be a problem. When I cook dinner, I make four servings-enough for the evening meal and leftovers for the next day. Using the biggest potatoes, some days I'll just have a little bit extra...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Today is November 2, 2011 which can also be written as 11022011. If that string of numbers is a little confusing, add punctuation and the date is a more recognizable 11/02/2011. Either way, it's a very rare eight-digit palindrome date, meaning that it can be read the same way both forward and backward. According to Life's Little Mysteries there are 12 eight-digit palindrome dates in the 21st Century. The last one was on January 2, 2010 (01022010), and the next one won't be until February 2, 2020 (02022020).

However, a friend brought to my attention that if you write the date without any leading zeros, every day until next Wednesday is a Palindrome Day:
  • Wednesday 11/2/11
  • Thursday 11/3/11
  • Friday 11/4/11
  • Saturday 11/5/11
  • Sunday 11/6/11
  • Monday 11/7/11
  • Tuesday 11/8/11
  • Wednesday 11/9/11

The palindromes skip a day on Thursday the 10th, then culminate with a same-number date on Friday, November 11 (11/11/11).

Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick Or Treat... Smell My Feet...

Another Halloween has come and gone.

Yesterday I went to Costco and bought chewy granola bars to hand out, and thought I was done buying for Halloween. After dinner the doorbell rang. When I opened the door, there were two teenage boys standing there. They told me they were from the drama department of the local high school, and for Halloween the group was collecting items for the local food pantry. One of them handed me a flyer with a list of the items they were asking for. On the way home from work today, I stopped by the store and bought enough things to fill a bag.

For the last two years Tony's been gone on business on October 31st. This year, I told him he was in charge of the door. However, he had a meeting that started at 7:00, so he left the house shortly before that. During his shift, there were only two five trick-or-treaters! I got to do the rest, which turned out to be about fifty children. Our neighborhood is definitely getting older.

I always ask for a "trick" before I hand over a "treat", and usually get a joke. This year's best:
  • What do vampires eat? NECKtarines
  • What do you call a blood sucker on the moon? A luna-tick
  • What is a ten letter word that starts with gas? Automobile
  • Why couldn't the skeleton cross the road? Because he didn't have the guts.

One girl had a quite philosophical questions for a trick...If a turtle loses it's shell, is it naked or is it homeless?

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I've been trying to incorporate more "whole" foods into my diet. However, sometimes they cost more than their more-processed counterparts, so I go to a variety of stores to get the best prices.

Take rice, for example. At the grocery store, a one pound package of brown rice is somewhere between $1-$1.50, depending on what kind of sale they're running. Aldi doesn't carry brown rice, and Costco only carries a fancy organic variety, so buying it at either of those stores isn't an option. However, I've figured out that the ethnic food store has a great selection of rice. The only downside is that in order to get the best price you have to buy a sack; depending on the variety that's somewhere between 20 and 25 pounds. I sometimes split my purchase with Son Donald, but if he doesn't need any it's not a big deal. Whatever doesn't fit in the rice container in the pantry I can store in the freezer downstairs.

A couple of weeks ago I used up the last of the rice, so it was time to get some more. The last time Hubby Tony and I were running errands, we stopped at Global Foods Market in Kirkwood. They have dozens of types of rice from all over the world...white, brown, jasmine, basmati. Short, medium, and long-grained. I chose the cheapest bag of brown rice they had; the 25 pound sack was only $16.

Tony carried the rice. I had a shoppingbag for the rest of the things on my list (and the inevitable extras that I find). As we were walking through the produce section, a man looked at Tony, smiled, and said something. I was pretty sure I heard him correctly, but when he walked away, I had to ask Tony just to make sure. The man's comment? "That's an awfully big bag of rice for a white guy."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gathering Ginger

Last year I planted a piece of ginger root (or more accurately, a ginger rhizome), and grew it in a pot on the deck. At the end of the season I overwintered it, and was thrilled when it sprouted again this spring. Once again, I put the pot outside when the weather got warm. Ginger, being a tropical plant, loves our area's hot humid summers. Once things start cooling off, the leaves start getting brown and straggly and ginger season is over. Instead of overwintering the plant again, this year I decided to harvest the ginger.

Here's the plant before I started:

I upended the pot in the grass, then picked up the stones that had been in the bottom of the pot. The ginger's roots were a tangled mess. As I started pulling them apart, a wonderful ginger-y smell filled the air. When I was done, this is what was left:

I cut off the roots and stems and threw them in the compost bin. (I bet the pile will smell good next time I open up the lid to add something to it!)

The next step was to bring my harvest inside. I cleaned it in two changes of water, scrubbing the crevices of the roots with an old toothbrush to get all the dirt off.  When I was done there was an impressive pile of ginger. I weighed it to see just how much I had--there was one and a half pounds.

I don't remember how much I started with two years ago, but I know I spent less than a dollar on the piece I planted. (Ginger costs somewhere between $5 and $6 a pound.) I'm thrilled with my bounty. Now I just have to figure out how to use all of it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Invasive Species Alert: ZOMBIES!

Just in time for Halloween, I found this on the Missouri Department of Conversation Website:

Be warned of our state’s newest invasive species threat--ZOMBIES!

While zombie management is largely left to the police, military and health agencies, conservation plays a role in protecting Missouri's fish, forest and wildlife resources--and Missourians--from this invasive species.

Hunters, campers and others in the outdoors and on conservation areas should know there is always the chance they may encounter a zombie while out in the field. Good preparation helps you know what to do if you encounter this newest invasive species in Missouri.

The zombie invasion is like the feral hog problem in parts of Missouri, and its management is similar. We do not encourage organized zombie hunts since that may encourage the intentional release of zombie swarms. It can also disrupt wildlife and hunting opportunities for the more than 500,000 living Missourians who enjoy hunting.

Zombie Identification

Some indications that you have a zombie in view:
  • It has a gray-green dull skin tone.
  • It is wearing inappropriate clothing for the season or terrain (no coat or shoes, for instance).
  • It has open wounds, other injuries and/or missing or damaged limbs but no sign of bleeding.
  • It does not respond to verbal stimulus or exhibit any interest in its immediate surroundings.
  • It is trying to eat you.

Zombie Hunger and Habitat

Zombies require meat and brains. While human is the preferred source, fish and wildlife are another ready source of nourishment.

While zombies are primarily found in populated areas, there are zombies in undeveloped rural areas, far from cities and towns. Evidence suggests that these zombies are transient, and moving to populated areas in search of their primary food source: brains. They are known to travel in packs or swarms, especially near food sources, but it is not uncommon to find solitary zombies in the field.

Cold weather slows down zombies. When the weather is below freezing, zombies may "hibernate" under leaf litter or underwater until warmer spring weather.

Hunter/Outdoor Safety

Whether you are out in a tree stand, in a wetland or in a field, a few precautions combined with everyday hunter safety can ensure that you make it back alive.
  • Always let someone know where you are hunting (or fishing, hiking, walking, camping) and when you expect to return. Leave a map or GPS coordinates with your family and in your vehicle.
  • Avoid cauliflower fields. Since cauliflowers appear brain-like, they often lure zombies.
  • Meat processors and other areas of concentrated meat and brains also attract zombies. (Tip: MDC offers programs and events, including how to process your own deer.)
  • If you encounter a large pack of zombies, escape rather than trying to fight them alone. While you may be able to run faster, remember that zombies are relentless at pursuit. Get to a vehicle and a safe zone.
  • If in the suburban outdoors, remember that shopping malls and big-box stores may serve as fortresses against the walking dead, but also attract zombies in large numbers.

Tree Stand Safety

A tree stand is a readily defensible position, but keep in mind that free-standing tree stands can be toppled by a small pack of zombies. Follow manufacturers' instructions when setting up your stand. There are unconfirmed reports that some zombies may be capable of climbing tree stands.

Always practice proper tree-stand safety and wear a safety harness. Falling from a tree stand can injure you or make you dead. Falling from a tree stand into the gaping maw of a zombie can make you undead.

Waterfowl Hunting and Hunting with Dogs

Zombies do not require air and can stay submerged underwater for extended periods of time. While MDC managed waterfowl areas are believed to be zombie-free, use caution when wading through murky water and always check your blinds before entering. Consider wearing a shark suit or other body armor over your waders to prevent zombie bites from breaking through both your waders and your skin. If you use a boat to retrieve your game, put a spike or hammerhead on one end of your pole to use as a handy defense tool if you encounter the undead.

Dogs are usually very sensitive to zombies and will alert you to their presence. They cannot, however, sense submerged zombies. Scout out your wetlands before hunting and do not let your dog retrieve game if there are signs of zombies. Don't let man's best friend turn into man's worst fiend.

Remember that deer and turkey cannot be taken with the use of dogs.

Field Tips for Foresters and Others in the Woods

Chainsaws, axes and machetes are excellent weapons in quickly "dispatching" zombies. Remember that a severed zombie head can still bite.

Controlled fire has shown to be a slower-but-still-effective weapon in "dispatching" the walking dead. Complete incineration or explosion of the zombie is necessary to prevent further animation.

Always wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) during close encounters with the undead to prevent direct contact with blood and brains since these are known to transmit the associated virus.

Note to Anglers

If you snag a zombie, CUT THE LINE!

Trout anglers, now is a good time to replace your porous-soled waders and boots with something non-porous and zombie-resistant. This has the added benefit of reducing the spread of rock snot (didymo).

During the fall gigging season, a gig is an effective tool against zombies.

Happy Halloween!
This was your trick! Suggested treat: BRAINS!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rock, Roll, and Run

I have no desire to ever run a marathon, but today I watched one. DIL Nicole was running in the first-ever St. Louis stop of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series. Hubby Tony and I went to support her and cheer her on.

Nicole's been working up to her first marathon since running a half-marathon back in the spring. She, Son Brian, and a friend of theirs who was also running came in town yesterday from Columbia and spent the night at our house. I cooked a pre-marathon dinner of baked chicken, spaghetti, salad, and bread. Afterwards, we relaxed and watched the Cardinals win another World Series game in decisive fashion.

The race started at 7:30 this morning. The runner's car left the house a little after 6:30, and Tony and I got on the road 20 minutes after that. When we got downtown, we parked on the south side of the race area, and got there just in time to see the impressive array of runners (which stretched for blocks) waiting for their turn to begin. Between the marathon and half marathon, there were 20,0000 entrants. They started in waves, based on the finish time they'd estimated. All the runners with similar times were assigned to a corral, and there were 23 corrals.

A sound system was broadcasting loud classic rock music. As each group of runners came up to the starting line, the masters of ceremony announced them, then sent them on their way. In the front of each group there were pace runners carrying tall signs signifying the projected finish time. The first couple of groups (which were the faster runners) looked like they were taking the race very seriously, but people further back in the crowd seemed to be having more fun. I even saw a couple with their cell phones out, taking pictures of the event.

Once all the runners had gone by we were able to find Brian, then walk back to the car to execute our plan for the day. At the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, there's a live band playing on each mile of the course. We thought we'd drive to several different spots along the route and listen to the music while we waited to watch Nicole run by, then end up at the finish line. We had studied the course map (and list of bands) ahead of time, and chosen a few that sounded interesting.

However, we'd not factored street closings into the plan. After we had to turn around a couple of times before we even got out of downtown, we revised our program. Instead of Mile 6 for our first stop, we headed towards Mile 9. As we got out of the car, I could hear the music (even though we were a block away). When we got to the main street, there were quite a few spectators cheering on the runners. We chose a spot on the sidewalk to sit. Runners flowed past us, some individually and some in groups. Every ten minutes we saw the pace banner carriers, so we used those to gauge when we might see Nicole. Ten minutes before her expected time I looked up and she was running by, in a bright shirt that was easy to see. We yelled her name and she turned her head to acknowledge us, giving us a friendly wave.

After Nicole was gone, we walked back to the car for our next stop. However, once again we ran into problems with closed streets and we didn't know if we'd be able to make it on time, so we changed our plans again and headed to Mile 19. When we got there we parked the car and again headed towards the music. While we were waiting for Nicole, I saw some people go by for a second time. There was a couple dressed in superhero outfits, a man with a bright red Mohawk, and a woman with a pink Lady Gaga wig. This time it took about a half hour for Nicole to run by. Once again she gave us a wave when she saw us, although she looked like she was getting pretty tired.

We got back in the car and headed for our last stop, the finish line. We had to drive around downtown for a while to find a parking space, but when I saw someone leaving Tony made a quick U-turn and we nabbed that space, which was only three blocks from the finish line festival area. The actual finish line was three blocks farther; we had to navigate through a big throng of already-finished runners and their supporters. We took up places along the fence and waited for Nicole. When she ran by she looked exhausted, and didn't even hear us call her name.

We met her at the end of the runner's Secure Zone. After a few minutes she decided it was time to go home. Brian was driving, so she could stretch out and relax.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Last week I was at my local Aldi store buying produce. Right around the corner from the bagged apples was a display of caramel apples. I was hungry, and the individually-packaged ones were only 29 cents, so I decided to get myself a snack.

When I got to the car, I opened the package, took a big bite of the apple, and tasted chocolate! A closer look at the package told me that I'd bought a Happy Apples "Select" apple, which has chopped peanuts, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. I've never had chocolate on a caramel apple before, but it tasted fantastic. The apple was a little difficult to eat in the car. Several chunks of nuts and chocolate fell off the fruit onto my lap, and halfway through the apple came off of the stick. I had to hold it in my hands, and when I was done my hands were a sticky mess. It was worth it, though.

I was back at Aldi yesterday doing the "big" shopping. They still had the display of caramel apples. This time I bought two--one for me and one for Hubby Tony, and served them for dessert last night. After we cleared the dishes, I brought the apples over and we dug in. Halfway through I noticed that my apple had greenish-yellow skin, but Tony's was red. That surprised me; I would have thought that the company would standardize things. However, my apple was delicious (again) and I didn't hear any complaints from Tony, so his must have been good too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Batter Up!

Tonight's the first game of the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers. After dinner we'll be turning on the TV and settling in for an exciting night of baseball watching.

It's great to see the hometown team in the Series. Back in August, no one thought they'd be playing now; they were 10½ games back, and didn't qualify for the postseason until the last day of the regular season. Then, they had to win series against the Philadelphia Phillies and the Milwaukee Brewers. They did all that, and here they are!

In honor of this premiere baseball event, here's a poem written by Helen of Living Boldly.  Helen, thanks for letting me repost it.

Batter Up!

When summer fun has ended
And autumn leaves begin to fall
Baseball takes the center stage
For the greatest show of all

Frenzied fans will pack the stands
Will scream and shout and cheer
It's time for the World Series
For the best games of the year

Fans keep track on scorecards
Pitch by pitch and run by run
Through each of the nine innings
Or 'till the game is done

They boo the home plate umpire
Its three strikes and you're out!
No spit balls, scuff balls, mud balls
Umpires must leave no doubt

When the games have ended
And the champion has been crowned
They know they've been a part of something 
Something quite profound


Monday, October 17, 2011

Season's End

The retreat I helped plan this past weekend was a great success. It started on Thursday evening, ended on Sunday morning, and was jam-packed with activities. We got up before sunrise and didn't go to bed until long after dark. The weather was beautiful. We were able to some of the activities outside, under sunny skies with a few puffy white clouds. During breaks, it wasn't uncommon to see women strolling the grounds.

The retreat center we were at used to be a school for men studying to be religious brothers. The dormitory building is old, with thick walls and beautifully-worn hardwood floors. Each bedroom was large enough to hold a single-sized bed, upholstered chair, small desk, and sink. There was a closet off to one side, and a radiator under the window. The communal shower and bathroom facilities (one for each floor) were clean, but the water pressure wasn't as strong as what I'm used to at home, and I had a hard time regulating the temperature of my showers. There were also quite a few other women that needed to use them in the morning, so all my showers were hurried affairs.

I had my phone turned off all weekend. When I turned it on Sunday morning, there was a message from my boss asking if I could work Monday afternoon (starting at 2:00) instead of my usual morning shift. I was thrilled, because that would allow me to sleep in after the busy weekend. When I woke up this morning, it was wonderful to use my own bathroom. I stood in the shower for quite some, letting the warm (not too hot, not too cold) water beat down on my back as I planned my day.

This morning I put the garden to bed for the year. Vegetables like the tomatoes and peppers I'm growing don't tolerate cold weather, and our warm temperatures are coming to an end. Yesterday we had most of the windows in the house open, and it was nice enough to wear shorts in the afternoon. Later in the week, the lows will be in the upper 30s. Tomorrow is trash day, and one of the trucks that come through the neighborhood picks up yard waste, so I could pull up the plants and immediately get rid of them. I carried the "green" trash can out to the back yard and got started.

This summer I planted three pepper plants and four tomato plants. Over the months, they'd grown and become intertwined and morphed into a tangled mass of plant, so I started by removing the larger stems from each plant, removing the fruit and putting it in a bucket. As each individual plant was revealed, I pulled it out and added it to the can.

Next, I removed the weeds that had sprouted underneath the tangle of plants and next to the chicken wire fence that protected the garden. They got tossed into the trash can, too. The last job was to pull out the stakes that held the chicken wire surrounding the small plot. I wound the wire around the stakes so it would be ready to use again next year, then carried everything to the garage.

When I came inside, I washed the vegetables and spread them on a towel to dry. The bruised or blemished fruits went into the "broth bag" I keep in the freezer that holds odds and ends I save to make broth. Everything else got poured into a five quart bowl (and filled it to the brim). The majority of the tomatoes were of the cherry and grape varieties, although there were a few standard-sized ones. There were also a half dozen sweet green peppers and an equal number of hot ones. I'll decide what to do with all my bounty tomorrow.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Retreat (riˈtrit) A retirement or a period of retirement for religious exercises and meditation.
By the time you read this, I will have left for a retreat weekend with a group of women from church. The retreat officially starts tonight after dinner, but since I'm part of the organizing team I have to get there early and set things up.

Although we've been working on the retreat since July, this week has been a flurry of last-minute activities.  Each day I've gotten multiple emails from different team members, reminding me of things not to forget.  Be yesterday, I had a large pile of shopping bags in the dining room.

Last night I started packing my suitcase and getting my things together. The weather will be beautiful, but with a forecast for temperatures in the low- to mid-70s, it's hard to know if I should bring short sleeved or long sleeved shirts. I packed both, including two "church" outfits for Sunday. I've gone on week long vacations with a lighter suitcase!

Time to load the car and get on the road for my adventure!