Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Polished Piggies

Yesterday I realized that Spring was coming.  With the warmer weather my "piggies" will be showing a lot more, so last night I decided to treat myself to a pedicure.

I don't often get my toes professionally done. Last time was at a spa across town where I had a gift certificate.  They did a good job, but I didn't want to drive that far this time. I knew that wouldn't be a problem, though; just about every strip mall around here has a nail salon.  A Google search revealed that there were six places to choose from within five miles of my house.  I didn't know anything about any of them, so I picked the one closest to me.  Except for the fact that I was getting my nails done and didn't want to mess them up on the way home I could have walked there.

When I walked in there were two technicians, but no other customers.  Both of the technicians looked to be Vietnamese.  One of them greeted me in pretty good English, and started the water at a seat.  She asked me to choose my polish color from the dozens lined up on a rack.  I was feeling adventurous, so I picked a bright pinky-orange color.  The second technician got out supplies and sat on the stool at the end of the seat.  She did all the work, not speaking the entire time.

While my feet were soaking in the warm water, the technician handed me a price sheet and asked me what type of pedicure I wanted.  I chose the least expensive, which I figured would get me clipped and pushed cuticles, pumiced heels, and polished nails.  I got all that, and more.  I also got a leg massage and a foot wax dip.  And pretty piggies that will make me smile for the next few weeks.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Let There Be Light

As far as I’m concerned we’ve had a great winter, with above-average temperatures and not much snow.   No matter what the weather’s been like, though, some things about the season can’t be changed, like the length of the day.  At its shortest, things are dark when I wake up, and dark when we’re sitting down to dinner.

The nice thing about the seasons, though, is that they change.  This morning when my alarm went off at 6:30 I was DELIGHTED that it was bright enough to see in the room without turning on a light.  That’s the first time it’s happened since last fall.  Knowing that the longer days mean warmer weather is coming soon was enough to put me in a great mood.   Instead of moving through my morning activities slowly, I finished them with time to spare, and got extra things done before I had to leave.

When I got in the car to go to work, I chose an up-tempo CD to listen to--not because I needed to motivate myself to start the day, but because it felt good to sing along to the music.  Loudly.  And with feeling.  I got off the highway and waited for the green light at the bottom of the exit ramp still bopping away.  When I looked over at the car to the right of me, the driver was smiling at me. Whoops!  I just smiled back, and didn't let it bother me.

The days may be getting longer, but I know I'll still have to turn on the kitchen light when it's time to eat dinner tonight.  Soon, though, the day will be long enough that will be able to go by the wayside. I can't wait.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Children As Pets - The Cat Years

I was going through old emails today, and found one I'd received in way back in 1999.  It made sense to me then, and still does now.  I tried to find the author, but had no luck.  If you have any information, please let me know so I can credit it appropriately.
I just realized that while children are dogs - loyal and affectionate - teenagers are cats.  It's so easy to be a dog owner.  You feed it, train it, boss it around.  It puts it's head on your knee and gazes at you as if you were a Rembrandt painting.  It bounds indoors with enthusiasm when you call it.

Then around age 13, your adoring little puppy turns into a big old cat.  When you tell it to come inside, it looks amazed, as if wondering who died and made you emperor.  Instead of dogging your doorsteps, it disappears.  You won't see it again until it gets hungry -- then it pauses on its sprint through the kitchen long enough to turn its nose up at whatever you're serving.

When you reach out to ruffle its head, in that old affectionate gesture, it twists away from you, then gives you a blank stare, as if trying to remember where it has seen you before.  You, not realizing that the dog is now a cat, think something must be desperately wrong with it.  It seems so antisocial, so distant, sort of depressed. It won't go on family outings.

Since you're the one who raised it, taught it to fetch and stay and sit on command, you assume that you did something wrong.  Flooded with guilt and fear, you redouble your efforts to make your pet behave.  Only now you're dealing with a cat, so everything that worked before now produces the opposite of the desired result.  Call it, and it runs away.  Tell it to sit, and it jumps on the counter.  The more you go toward it, wringing your hands, the more it moves away.

Instead of continuing to act like a dog owner, you can learn to behave like a cat owner.  Put a dish of food near the door, and let it come to you.  But remember that a cat needs your help and your affection too.  Sit still, and it will come, seeking that warm, comforting lap it has not entirely forgotten.  Be there to open the door for it.

One day your grown-up child will walk into the kitchen, give you a big kiss and say, "You've been on your feet all day.  Let me get those dishes for you."

Then you'll realize your cat is a dog again.

Friday, February 24, 2012


A group I belong to is having a potluck dinner tomorrow night.   I volunteered to head it up.

Since it's February, the theme is Love.  For centerpieces, I bought tiny red gift bags at the craft store and flowers from Wal Mart.  I inserted pieces of floral foam in each bag, then stuck flowers in and added tissue paper on top to cover the foam.

Here's the 20 centerpieces, which will be arranged on tables covered with pink, red, and white plastic tablecloths, Valentine's conversation hearts candy, and Hershey's kisses:

We're expecting approximately 200 people. I've bought plates, utensils, cups, and napkins. Now all I have to do is figure out just how much coffee, tea, and lemonade that many people will drink!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Clean It Or Leave It?

Today is Ash Wednesday.   It's the first day of Lent, a period of prayer and fasting before Easter.  On this day, Catholics are easily identifiable; we're the ones sporting a black mark on our foreheads.

The black mark is ashes, a symbol of the need to repent, confess our sins, and return to God.  I went to Mass this morning before work.  After the homily, we received the ashes.  Usually the priest is the one who does it, but because we have such a large church, several ministers also assisted. When it was my turn, I stepped up to the minister, who dipped her thumb in the ashes and, making the Sign of the Cross on my forehead, said, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel".   The mark is supposed to be a cross, but some of the people administering the ashes were a little better artists than others; some of the crosses looked like a smudge.

After Mass I had a decision to make.  For many years I've worked in places that were heavily Catholic, so everyone had a black mark on their forehead.  This year, though, I was torn. Should I leave the ashes on, or clean them off?  I could think of reasons for both:
  • Clean it off:  In one of the Mass readings for today, Jesus says “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.”  By leaving the ashes on, was I trying to insinuate I was holy?
  • Leave it on:  Every time I look in a mirror and see the mark on my face, it's a reminder of my desire to try and be a better person during Lent.  It's also a sign to other people of what I'm trying to do.
In the end I left the ashes alone (and was glad I did).  My choice led to some interesting conversations I wouldn't have had otherwise.  I thought everyone knew about Ash Wednesday, but several people asked me why I had "stuff" on my forehead, so I did my best to explain.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What Diet?

It's not my fault a piece of Key Lime pie jumped in my bag at the grocery store!  My horoscope said I should "buy a treat on the way home", so I did.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

That Darn Cat (Part 2)

A couple of days ago, one of our cats ripped a hole in a plastic bread bag, then helped himself to some of the bread.

I was convinced it was Jackson who did it.   He's the one who lost quite a bit of weight through diet and exercise last year.  The lifestyle changes weren't HIS idea, though, and he's always sniffing around under the kitchen table and in the food preparation area looking for edible bits.  We also catch him in the act of jumping off the counter when we come into the room.  Sometimes he's joined by his brother Pepper, but it seems like Pepper's more about the novelty of finding things than actually filling his stomach.

After dinner on Friday Hubby Tony and I left the house for a Costco run.   I put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, but left the small pile of plastic bags that had accumulated from a day's worth of lunches and snacks on the counter to wash out later.  We ended up making a couple of other stops, and it was close to two hours later when we got home.  When I put my coat away I sensed something out of place on the stairs next to the hall closet.   I flipped on the light and was horrified to see Pepper scrunched up on the bottom step with a quart-sized zip lock bag on his head!

I'm guessing he jumped up on the counter to explore, put his head in the bag to check out something that smelled good, and then couldn't get it off.   I have no idea how long he'd been wearing his accessory.  Fortunately, there was enough room on the sides of the bag that air could get in.  I took the bag off Pepper's head.  He was quite traumatized, and slunk quickly upstairs.  We checked on him regularly, but there didn't seem to be any physical damage.  His skittishness lasted until it was time to go to bed, then he curled up in his regular spot down by Tony's feet.

I hope that Pepper has learned his lesson, but only time will tell.

Friday, February 17, 2012

That Darn Cat!

I have a couple of big projects coming due in the next two weeks, and not much time to do them.  Today was jam-packed with activities and errands, including grocery shopping.  After I did the "big shopping" at Aldi I stopped by the house to drop off the food, because it was too warm to drive around with perishables.

When I walked in the house at 1:30 the cats were waiting for me in the kitchen.  They thought it was time to eat!  However, I reminded them it was too early for their meal. (Yes, I talk to my pets.  Don't you?)  I brought in the bags and set them on the counter, then took all the refrigerated items out and put them away.  The rest of the food could wait.  I picked up my purse and keys, told the cats I'd see them in a bit, and left to go cross a couple more things off my list.

When I got home 45 minutes later the cats weren't anywhere to be found.  I sat at the kitchen desk and caught up on emails and Facebook posts.  By the time I was finished the cats were back.  Jackson circled around under my feet, and Pepper jumped up on the desk and walked across it a couple of times trying to get my attention.  I finished what I was doing, and told them I'd take care of them after I put the groceries away.

This was a small shopping trip, and everything (except for the gallons of milk) had fit into two large flat-bottomed cloth shopping bags. The first bag contained produce and miscellaneous groceries.  The second bag held a couple of boxes of cereal, some canned goods, and a loaf of bread, which I'd placed on top of everything else.

When I pulled the bread out, I noticed something wasn't right.  There's not supposed to be a hole eaten into the bag:

Who did it? As they always do, both cats looked at me innocently when I asked. I tried to figure out the message they were sending. Were they announcing they need more food, or annoyed that I ignored them?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Do You Have A Reservation?

Anyone can go out for a fancy Valentine's Day dinner.  Last night Tony and I said "I Love You" with fast food at White Castle.

White Castle is a Midwest chain that's known for its small, square hamburgers called sliders.  Sliders are steam grilled on top of a bed of onions.  The buns are also steamed, and the finished sandwich is topped with one small pickle slice, but no condiments (although they're available, if you want to add them).

The restaurant has been doing their special Valentine's Dinner for several years, and it's extremely popular.  Tony called for a reservation three weeks ahead of time, but the two White Castles closest to us were already completely booked.  The one we ended up going to only had openings at 5:30 or 7:30. We chose the earlier slot, and I met Tony after I got off work.

When we walked in, I noticed they'd done their best to give the room some ambiance.  The windows sported curtains of red and white streamers, and the lights in the suspended ceiling had been covered.  The tables had plastic tablecloths, and each table held a bowl containng a battery-operated votive light surrounded by Valentine candy.

After we were led to our table, a waitress came by to take our drink order and give us menus.  We chose the "Sweetheart Special"...hamburgers, fries (we added cheese), and drinks.  Since this was a fast food restaurant, it only took a few minutes to get our food.  The waitress brought it out on a tray, along with packets of ketchup and horseradish mustard.  We admired the food for a few seconds, then dug in.  When we were done there wasn't any food left, but the meal wasn't over yet--we also got dessert, a chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick.

A half-hour after we arrived, our meal was over.  We paid our bill at the table, then stood in front of a Valentine's backdrop and had a digital photo taken.  We'll be able to retrieve it on the company's Website; it will be a nice memento of our Valentine's adventure.

Monday, February 13, 2012


For years I've read the Everyday section of  the newspaper with breakfast. The section has four pages: the two outside ones are comics, and one of the inside pages contains advice columns and the daily horoscope. I've always ignored the fourth page, which is filled with puzzles and word games.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I realized that stuff I’d been ignoring could come in handy. Since malls are traditionally slow in February, it's no surprise that the Customer Service desk where I work is too. Half of the time I'm scheduled by myself, and time can pass pretty slowly.  To solve the problem, I've started taking that page of puzzles with me to do when I'm not assisting customers

After I've finished my breakfast reading, I put the newspaper section next to my purse, then tuck it into my lunch bag as I'm heading out the door.  I never remember to bring a pencil, so before I start working I grab a pen from the drawer, then fold the page into eighths, turning the paper into an unobtrusive rectangle. I set my things up at the far end of the desk so I can keep one eye out for anyone who needs help.

I always start with the most mindless puzzle, Wonderword, a word search. Each 15 x 15 grid has a theme, and all the words you're looking for have some relation to the theme. Once you find and circle all the words, the leftover letters spell out another word that goes along with the theme.

After the Wonderword I refold the paper to a new section, then do the Wordy Gurdy (a rhyming pair of words that fit into empty letter squares) and the Jumble (a word puzzle with a clue, a drawing illustrating the clue, and a set of scrambled words). Sometimes the answers jump out at me and sometimes they don’t.  I don’t get too worked up over finishing these, but do as many as I can.

There are two crossword puzzles each day. One is “unbranded”, and the other is the New York Times. After more paper refolding I spend time with both. On rare occasions I can complete one, but usually I work until I’ve filled in as many answers as I know or I get something incorrect (Remember, I’m using ink so I can't erase.)

Doing these puzzles takes somewhere between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 hours, depending on how many times I answer the phone, how many people I help, and how quickly I give up on a given puzzle.  By this time I’m tired of straining to read the tiny newspaper font, so I pass on the Cryptoquip, Word Scrimmage, and Word Game.  Besides, by this point traffic in the mall is picking up. I get paid to help customers, not read the paper!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Work Out

Thursday was the anniversary of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move!, a campaign to end childhood obesity in the United States.  As part of the initiative, BeyoncĂ© Knowles reworked the lyrics to her song "Get Me Bodied".  The new version is called "Move Your Body", and has a video showing BeyoncĂ© dancing with a group of kids.

When I was in elementary school we also had an exercise initiative, called The President's Council on Physical Fitness.  Of course, this was long before video, but in 1961 the president asked Robert Preston, of The Music Man fame, to record a song called "Chicken Fat".   If you're of a certain age, you probably remember doing calisthenics to it...

Friday, February 10, 2012

What's To Eat?

I recently completed an online health assessment that was offered through our health insurance plan.  It had questions about my health history, exercise habits, and diet.  At one point, I had to figure out what I ate.  The assessment approached the serving size concept in a way that was new to me. Instead of asking how many servings of fruits and vegetables I ate each day, the question was how many cups of each I consumed.  I didn't know, but I gave it my best shot.

I wondered where they'd come up with the "cup" concept, so I did some research.  Last year the food pyramid I've been used to seeing gave way to a new model, MyPlate, which emphasizes "whole" foods.  According to the model plate, my diet should be 30 percent grains, 30 percent vegetables, 20 percent fruits and 20 percent protein, and a small portion of dairy.  Another Website, Fruit and Veggies Matter, suggested that women in my age bracket should eat 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day, and 1 1/2-2 cups of fruit.

 I think I have a pretty good diet, and have the guidelines covered, but I thought I'd see just how I was doing.  Yesterday I was making  my lunch for work.  After putting some leftover roast beef, a muffin, and grapes in my bag I cut up some broccoli, then used a measuring cup to see how much was there. It was substantially less than I would have guessed; my portion wasn't a real serving!  I got out two small carrots and cut them up too.  When I was done the vegetables almost filled a sandwich-sized Ziploc bag.  Other than the times I've had a main dish salad, I don't think I've ever had that many vegetables with a meal.

At lunchtime, I started with the vegetables, which really filled me up.  Instead of getting hungry two hours later, I was able to make it until the end of my shift without feeling familshed.   That's a good thing; I hate to talk to customers when my stomach is growling!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Sentiments Exactly

Back in November (on the first Sunday of Advent, at the start of the liturgical year),  the Catholic church began using a new English translation of the Mass, which is closer to the original Latin texts than the one that came out after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

When I walked into church that first Sunday, in addition to the Missals and hymnals in front of each pew there were cards outlining the new prayers and responses.  Since things had been the same for decades, I could say all the prayers by rote, so it's probably not a bad thing that I really have to concentrate now on what I'm saying.  When I started, I didn't have the new words memorized, so I read all the prayers.  Almost three months later I've committed some of them to memory and I'm gradually phasing out the sheet.

Most of the changes in wording are pretty minor, but there's one that continues to trip me up...and judging by the mumbling I hear from the people around me at Mass, I'm not the only one.  At five different points in the ceremony, the priest says, "The Lord be with you".  The response used to be "And also with you".   Now, its "And with your spirit".  The first few weeks I always said the old words.  Now I get it right more than half the time.

I had to laugh when I got this in an email today:

That's exactly how I feel when I get it right!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Opportunity Doesn't Always Knock-Sometimes It Calls

Hubby Tony and I were at dinner Saturday night when his cell phone rang.  It was a call from Son Brian.  Tony let it go to voice mail, figuring he’d call Brian back after we got done.  After dinner, I checked my phone and was surprised that I had a missed call from Brian earlier in the day.  (I keep my phone in my purse, and if I'm not in the room when it rings, I don’t always hear it.)

Since Tony and I both received calls, we tossed a coin and I returned mine.  After we got past the ‘hellos’, I asked him what was up.   He said that he and Wife Nicole were thinking about going on a Caribbean cruise later in the year, and would we be interested in joining them?

I told Brian to email me the information, then hung up the phone and told Tony what I’d found out.  We’ve talked about vacations for this year, but hadn’t decided on anything yet.  (It usually takes us a while to figure things out.) Here was an opportunity dropping itself right into our laps!

Sunday we checked our home and work calendars—nothing that couldn’t be changed.  I looked at the information on the link that Brian sent us, then called the travel agent and set things in motion.  Five hours later I was giving her my charge card information.  This morning, less than 24 hours after Brian called, I got an email from her that our cruise was paid for!

We've been on several cruises before, so I know that booking the room is just the beginning.  Now we have to start thinking about onboard activities, meal seatings and shore excursions.  This is going to be a lot of fun!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Possible Confusion

When someones approaches the Customer Service desk and asks if there's a "Mac" store in the mall, I have to determine if they're looking for:

MAC Cosmetics (which doesn't have a dedicated store, but does have a nice-sized counter at Macy's), or

The Apple store.

If I guess wrong, it can be very embarrassing.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Two of my three boys were born in the summer.  When they were in elementary school, they couldn't bring birthday treats on the actual day, so we started making a big deal out of their half birthday. They enjoyed picking out something to share with all the students in their class and all the extra attention that goes along with the celebration.   At home, instead of getting more presents and cake on the half birthday, we turned the tradition around.  On that day you had to do something for OTHER people.  That usually involved trying to be nice to their brothers for the whole day (and since there wasn't any bickering, it was nice for me, too).

Birthday celebrations aren't the only thing that happens twice a year around here.  I change out my winter clothes for summer ones, and reverse the process several months later.  I go to the dentist and get my teeth cleaned.  I also have my wedding ring serviced.

After 31 years I still have the same ring.  We bought it from a family friend when we first got engaged.  That store is closed, but several years ago Tony took it to another jeweler and had some work done on it.  Their guarantee stated that if I bring the ring in for an inspection and cleaning every six months they'll fix anything that goes wrong.  I have enough trouble remembering everyday things, let alone things that only happen twice a year. However, I use the Outlook Calendar on my computer to help me with that. On August 2 (my anniversary, and the date of my ring "redo") and February 2 a reminder pops up, telling me it's time to take the ring in.

The store I need to go to isn't in the mall I work at, but it's close, so after my shift ended today I drove to the jeweler and took care of it. Since it's getting close to Valentine's Day I was surprised that weren't busy.  It only took ten minutes to get my ring inspected and serviced. I slipped it back on my finger, noticing the way it shined after its good cleaning.  Job taken care of for another six months

Seeing that reminder last night made me stop and think: we always make a big deal out of the date of our wedding, but we've never celebrated our half anniversary. I wonder why? Tonight we went out for dinner. Nothing fancy-just pizza and salad at a place not too far from us, but it was a good way to  commerate our half day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Walk With Me

The temperature's been well above average here every day this week.   Even though today was supposed to be in the upper 50s (ten degrees cooler than the last two days), it was still warmer than the average high of 41 for this time of year.  I knew I had to fit in some type of outdoor activity!

I was off work today, and this morning was all about grocery shopping and errand running.  I left the house a little before 9, and in two hours I'd made five stops...chiropractor, drug store, hardware store, book store, and discount club.  The next item on the list was a local grocery store with several branches near us.  I decided to go to the northernmost one, mainly because I could turn right from the discount club parking lot and avoid a stop light.

As I was getting close to the store, I realized that I was very close to Hubby Tony's office and it was about the time he often breaks for lunch.  I called him, asked if he was wearing comfortable shoes, and if so would he like to join me for a quick walk.  It only took him a few seconds before he agreed.   Instead of turning left into the store parking lot, I turned right and maneuvered my car through a couple of parking lots till I reached his building.

Tony's worked at this place for more than two years.   In that time, I've chauffeured him once or twice when his car was in the shop, and picked him up after work a couple of times when we were on our way to some event.  I've never been there in the middle of the day.  The lot was pretty full, so I took a spot near the back and waited for Tony to come out.

His building is tucked behind a larger one-story building that was originally built as a shopping center, then converted to offices.  It's surrounded by several other buildings, but there's a lot of green space between each one.  The area's not particularly pedestrian-friendly (the street doesn't have any sidewalks), but we walked single-file along the left hand side until we came to an apartment complex and cut over.  There was no traffic, so we were able to walk side by side through the complex's winding streets.

We passed some tennis courts, a pool, and a small lake before the road ended in a cul-de-sac.  When we looked over to the left we realized we'd ended up right behind Tony's office!  It was separated from the apartments by a row of scraggly-looking trees and brush, but at one end there was an opening which we took to get to the main street.  Tony wasn't ready to go back to work yet, so we followed the road around to the other side of the building, where he walked me to my car, said 'Goodbye', and headed towards the building.

As I drove to the grocery store, I thought about the great time I'd just had.  Spending time outdoors on a beautiful day getting exercise with my hubby...that's a win-win-win!