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).