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