Thursday, November 29, 2012


My area isn't exactly a melting pot, but it's not unusual to see Muslim women wearing modest dress and covering their hair with a hijab.  Usually when I see them they're shopping or running errands, but today on my way to work I saw a young Muslim woman literally running--jogging down the street.

I was getting ready to leave my subdivision, but I had to wait for several cars to pass by before I could make my turn.  While I waited I noticed the woman on the sidewalk on the other side of the street. Her outfit of a long black skirt, plain black headscarf, and navy hoodie didn't look particularly conducive to her type of exercise, but she was plugging along at a moderate pace covered up from head to toe.

Her skirt was flapping against her ankles as she ran, but it didn't look like she minded.  She was headed in the opposite direction as me, so I lost sight of her after I turned, but based on her rate of speed when she passed me it looked like she was in pretty good shape.  I suspect she kept on going.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Breaking News

News that Hostess products would soon disappear from grocery shelves, and the almost certain layoff of 18,500 employees, has had much of the nation in a tailspin. There has been a hue and cry from the general public, demanding that the government do something about the potential confectionery loss.

A source deep within the current administration has provided confidential information to this writer, requesting only that the name of the source, and the federal agency for which he or she works, will remain anonymous. I have agreed to those terms.

Although no one knows for sure what will happen in mediation, it is known that if mediation fails the case will be sent back to the courts for a judicial decision as to whether the Hostess Company can close its doors FOREVER in bankruptcy.

Should that occur, I am assured that the government will swiftly swing into action as follows:

1. The State Department stands ready to hire all the Twinkies.
2. The Secret Service will hire all of the Ho Hos.
3. The generals within the Department of Defense are already sleeping with the Cupcakes.
4. The voters recently sent all the Ding Dongs to Congress.

So there you go. Never let it be said that your government does not stand by fearlessly, ready to jump into the fray whenever the public demands that it should do so.

~Author Unknown

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I Love A Challenge

(I've kept this post purposefully vague--don't want the recipients to figure it out.)

On Friday we had carryout Chinese for dinner. The clerk didn't put enough fortune cookies in the bag, so Hubby Tony and I shared one.  We received this fortune:

Tony thought that sounded negative, but I figured it could be fun to turn "challenge" into "hunt" as we set out to do the first of the Christmas shopping.

Last week I figured out a great idea for a present; the idea was obscure and might be a challenge to find.  A Google search turned up several potential stores, and yesterday afternoon Tony and I headed towards one of them, a specialty department store.

Traffic was backed up at the light to turn into the parking lot, but once we pulled in it was easy to find a space.  As Tony locked up the car I looked across the parking lot and saw an interesting-looking small store dedicated to selling one type of merchandise.  We decided to check there first.  When we walked in the first thing we saw was an end cap holding a selection of goods for sale.  They didn't have exactly what we were looking for, but there was something that would work. I needed more than one and there weren't enough on the shelf, but the clerk told us he could check with other stores and get more.

I felt compelled to check the original store, but when they didn't have anything close to what we were looking for we walked back across the parking lot and I placed the order.  They'll call me when the it arrives in a week or so.

That challenge was so easy, I'm wondering if we should pick another one!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Early To Rise

I work at a mall.  Take a guess what I did for Black Friday.

By some miracle last year I was off the day after Thanksgiving, but this year we were advised that EVERY Customer Service desk associate would be working today.  The mall officially opened its doors at 6 AM, although many of the stores welcomed customers at midnight.  My shift started at 6:30, and was over five hours later.

When the alarm went off at 4:00 I was NOT ready to roll out of bed.  It hadn't been a restful night.  I had trouble getting to sleep, then woke up when Hubby Tony fed the cats at 10, when he came to bed an hour later,  and again when the kids got home from their Thanksgiving after-party.  In addition, I'd drank too much liquid later in the night, which led to the inevitable result of multiple trips to the bathroom.  Even Pepper the cat was part of the conspiracy. He's very antisocial and had made himself scarce as soon as our Thanksgiving company arrived.  But he decided at 3:00 that he'd like some attention, walking over me until I rolled over to the very edge of the mattress. 

It was cold and dark when I made it down to the kitchen, and so early the newspaper hadn't been delivered yet; there was nothing to read while I ate my breakfast.  I had to navigate a minefield of Thanksgiving leftovers in the refrigerator to get a container of yogurt from the back.  I added fruit and ground flax seed to the yogurt, ate the healthy dish, then followed it up with one of daughter-in-law Nicole's homemade sourdough cinnamon rolls.

I figured traffic wouldn't be a problem on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and I was right.  Getting into the mall's parking area was easy, and I was in the building with 20 minutes to spare.  I spent the time walking around looking at the store displays and watching the people who were crazy enough to come out shopping so early in the morning.

The mall was doing a Black Friday gift-with-purchase promotion, so I spent my shift handing out premiums to shoppers who'd met the requirements.  At first we had a rush of people who'd been waiting for us to open.  That was followed by a lot of dead time, punctuated by short bursts of activity.  About a half hour before the promotion ended people started lining up, and the remainder of the shift was a frenzy of activity.

When I left the mall parking was at a premium, and I had to stop for five different cars who were waiting for someone to vacate a parking space.  The line to get into the mall stretched a couple of blocks on the main street.  I was glad my shift was over and I could go home and take a nap.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Plan Of Attack

For more than 25 years the family has divided up the hosting of the holidays.  Our house is always in charge of Christmas, and all I have to do for Thanksgiving is prepare two dishes and show up.   However, this year is changing slightly.  Last week when I emailed my sister-in-law about the plans, I got this response:
How would you feel if we bring dinner to your house? 
Umm....sure.  The issue is that her house is just too small now that the kids are old enough to have significant others. The past few years we've gathered in the fellowship hall of her church, but that option wasn't available this year.  I talked to Hubby Tony about it, and he agreed.

When I found out I was hosting Thanksgiving I started thinking about the table.  I only have two tablecloths (white and ecru) long enough to cover the dining room table when the leaves are pulled out.  Since I always have the crowd at Christmas, my napkins and accessories are predominantly red and green, which aren't appropriate for a fall holiday.  However, the next day I remembered the rustic woven tablecloth Tony brought home from a business trip to South America in the mid-1980s.  The cream-colored cloth has stripes of brown, yellow, white, and red running down the length.  It's not long enough to cover the large-sized table, but it will look nice on top of the ecru tablecloth.  The family is too big to all fit around the dining room table, so we also need a card table in a corner of the dining room.  That table will get a square white cloth.

I spent last Wednesday morning visiting several thrift stores, looking for napkins.  Some of them are larger than others, but I don't think anyone will notice since Thanksgiving is all about the food. I may do without a centerpiece, or fill a large bowl with apples.  I haven't decided.  Yesterday I polished the silver with Betsy's tip, and discovered an everyday slotted spoon that's been missing since Christmas.  Today I'll pull out the china, do the last-minute cleaning, and prepare my dishes.  (I'm tempted to set the table, but I'm afraid the cats would think it's a great place to take a nap.)

We're not sure exactly how many people will be here.  My nephew's wife is pregnant and due any day, and a great niece has been having some health issues that may keep her and her mom away.  We're nothing if not flexible, though.  No matter what happens, it will be a GREAT Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Random Notes From The Mall Customer Service Desk‏

  • They've been doing maintenance on the parking structure for the last six weeks, blocking off different sections at a time.  The last two weeks have been particularly bad, and I never know where I'll have to park.  The other day I wasn't in my usual place, went out the wrong door, and nearly panicked when I couldn't find my car.  Today I set a reminder on my phone to help me remember.
  • Even though I usually work on Wednesdays, the boss was nice enough to leave me off the schedule for tomorrow without being asked.  How did he know I had a lot to do the day before Thanksgiving?  
  • Based on the piped-in music I heard today, the holiday season has officially started.  Today the tunes alternated between smooth jazz, recognizable instrumental Christmas melodies, and a few holiday tunes with lyrics.  I actually found myself singing along with a couple of them.  Wonder how long it will be before they start to get on my nerves?
  • In the middle of the afternoon a crestfallen-looking woman came up to the desk with her husband and three young children trailing behind. She told me they were from out of town and staying in a hotel with a pool.  She’d packed everyone else’s swim suit but forgotten her own. Since it wasn't exactly swimming season she knew it was a long shot, but could I recommend a store that might sell them? I sent her to Macy’s and told her I’d do a Google search; she could check back if she didn't have luck. Twenty minutes later she returned smiling, told me she’d found a suit, and said I’d saved the trip.
  • Later in the day I glanced over at the seating area next to the desk and noticed a man trying to sleep in one of the low-backed chairs.  His head was stretched back at a 90 degree angle and he looked extremely uncomfortable. Two minutes later when he gave up and came over to ask me what time it was I noticed he had on a uniform shirt from one of the mall’s restaurants. He went back to the chair and tried again, but this time his head kept rolling over to one side. After another five minutes he again asked me what time it was. I felt sorry for him and jokingly asked him if he’d like a wake up call. He said, yes could I make it in ten minutes, and I was awesome! At the appointed time I left the desk and walked over to him.  His eyes immediately popped open.  He got up and stretched, thanked me again, and was on his way.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tastes Like Chicken

Back in September I purchased a Groupon for a new-to-me butcher shop close to my house.  On Friday I finally got around to redeeming it.

It was easy to find the store on the south side of Manchester Road in Ellisville.  I learned that C&C Butcher had opened in July.  The small store had a nice selection of beef, pork, and chicken in display cases (both full service and self serve) and small displays of salads and side dishes, produce, sausage, and cheese. Another display case was devoted to Boar’s Head deli meats and cheeses, and a free standing shelf in the middle of the store held jerky, dried meat sticks, and condiments.

I felt like a kid in a candy shop. It was hard to figure out what to get, but when I saw the large tubs of marinated chicken breasts behind the counter inspiration hit.  I decided to get one of each type (House, Caribbean, Buffalo, and Teriyaki) and suggest that Hubby Tony and Son Donald cook them for dinner on Sunday.

They were agreeable to that plan.

When Donald arrived after lunch today he and his dad got busy planning.  Since the weather was nice they decided to barbecue the chicken and serve it with brown rice and sauteed kale.  The only thing I did was de-stem and chop the kale for Donald when he realized he was running short on time.

I've heard of tastings of wine, coffee, tea, cheese, olive oil, beer, and chocolate, but never chicken.  However, ours tasting turned out to be a hit.  The perfectly barbecued breasts were juicy; the marinade permeated every bite.  As much as I tried, I couldn't pick out a favorite flavor.  Fortunately, there were plenty of leftovers so I'll get to taste everything again.

In addition to chicken breasts, the store also had tubs of marinated steak tips.  I might just have to find out if those are as good as the poultry!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Have Coat Will Walk

If you're a regular reader, you know that over the past few months I've been doing a lot of walking, which has helped me get back in shape.  Now I can walk faster, for longer distances, without feeling tired.  Clothes that were tight are fitting better, and when I bought jeans last week I was able to get a size smaller.

However, now that the weather's turned cold I'm finding excuses not to be outside.  It doesn't help that we're back on Standard Time, so it's dark shortly after dinner.  When I woke up this morning I knew I had a very busy day planned, but I wanted to make sure I got some exercise in.  I figured the best way to do that was to make it the FIRST activity of the day. Even before coffee!

Before I left the bedroom I threw on yesterday's shirt, a pair of lined wind pants, and walking shoes.  I stopped by the kitchen long enough to get a drink of water and my cell phone, then grabbed my winter coat (with gloves already in the pockets), a headband for my ears, and a neck scarf from the hall closet.  When I walked out the door a little before 7 AM it was 30 degrees.

In the morning I'm a real creature of habit, so the change in my morning schedule was just enough to make me feel like I was pulling a fast one.  There weren't many people out, but I did see several cars getting ready to leave, and I had to stop a few times and wait for someone to pull out of a driveway.  When I got to the main street I noticed that rush hour was in full swing, with a long line of cars waiting to turn at a stop light.  I was glad I wasn't one of them.

Fifteen minutes into the walk I got warm enough to loosen the scarf around my neck.  Five minutes later I took it off and put it in the coat pocket.  By the time I got back to the house I was unzipping my coat halfway and pulling off my headband.  Inside, I noticed that I'd worked up a sweat.

In the hot weather it took me a long time to cool off after a walk.  Not today.  I was ready for a shower by the time I hung up all my outerwear and walked upstairs.  Afterward my shower, the rumblings of my stomach made me remember I still needed to eat breakfast and have that cup of coffee.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Bittersweet Song For the Veteran's Day Holiday

This year we have TWO days to honor  veterans.  Yesterday was the actual day, but today is the Federal holiday celebrating Veteran's Day.  Today the banks, stock markets, and government offices will all be closed.

I like the idea of extending the celebration.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Emergency Or Scam?

Have you ever been approached by a stranger who told you they needed money for an emergency? What would you do?

Last week I got an email from the city's police department letting me know about several recent cases of panhandling in the area.  Although each incident varied somewhat in the details, the basic story was always the same--a city resident is in a retail parking lot when a young person approaches him/her crying and states that they need money for an emergency, such as an ill child or needing gas to drive home.

The email stated that if you were approached there's an easy way to deal with the situation without giving the person money. All you have to do is say something like, "I can't help you, but I'll call the police for you." If it's a legitimate emergency they'll welcome police assistance and stick around, but if it's a scam they'll will argue that police are not needed and leave.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Die, Leaves, Die!

Outdoor yard season is almost over for the year, but yesterday I fired up the lawn mower again.  Not for the grass, though; since the weather's been cool it hadn't grown much in a week, but it was time to mulch some leaves!

The trees in our 25-year old subdivision are growing and producing more leaves every year. Our yard has a maple in the strip between the sidewalk and the street.  The neighbors on one side have a maple, and the others a locust.  Our back yard has a redbud tree and a sugar maple.  The hot, dry summer caused the redbud to drop its leaves early, but everything else produced the normal amount, and large sections of the yard were covered with a smooth, even layer of leaves.

Getting rid of the leaves is good for the lawn; if you don't remove the layer of dead matter the lawn will suffocate.  I could take care of that by raking and bagging them, but I mulch them with the lawn mower because I think it's MUCH easier and quicker than raking. And, it's satisfying to watch the dead leaves get cut into tiny pieces, which eventually disappear with no additional work on my part.

I stared in the front yard, mowing across in straight rows.  When I was finished there was a clear demarcation line between our yard and the neighbor's, which was very satisfying. After I finished the front I took care of the small strip to the left between the two houses (where there were no leaves) and moved to the back.

The leaves here were thicker, and mainly concentrated  in an eight foot ring around the maple tree.  The first pass of the mower didn't cut up the leaves completely, so I went back over that part of the lawn again.  The last step was to finish with the strip on the opposite side of the house (which again had no leaves).  I got to the front of the house, turned the mower off, and wheeled it to the garage.

There's still quite a few leaves on the trees so the mowing ins't over yet.  As a matter of fact, when I was putting the lawn mower away I noticed the next layer of leaves had already started to fall.  I'm ready, though.  Bring them on!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

You Can Never Have Too Much Garlic

Over the summer Hubby Tony and I went to the taping of a Travel Channel show at Saleem's West restaurant. We were told the episode would air this fall, so I kept expecting to hear about the date. However, last week I received an email, which said in part:
Travel Channel is at it AGAIN! They are coming out to re-film. One of the cameras they were using had a malfunction when they uploaded it to the server.
The re-filming was tonight.  Guess where we ate dinner?

Traffic was bad on the way home from work tonight, and it was almost 7:00 by time we got to the restaurant.  Just like last time, there was a sign on the door stating that if you didn't want to be filmed you shouldn't enter--which we ignored.  It was fun to watch the film crew at work while we ate our way through appetizers of roasted garlic and garlic potato dip, entrees of Chicken Safina and Falafel-Tabouli Combo, and Lebanese Ice Cream for dessert.

Although they asked us to sign a release form, I think that if we show up on TV it will just be as part of the background.  I'll still be looking forward to watching the show, though...when it finally airs.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Can Get Used To It

Change is always hard.

About a month ago I tried to turn on my computer in the kitchen, and nothing happened. We took it to Bill, our computer guy; his diagnosis was a dead mother board. The computer had been built quite a few years ago (although we'd had it updated and refurbished a couple of times).  In computer terms it was geriatric, and the Windows software was several generations behind, so we decided to get a new computer.

Bill ordered the parts and built the tower for us.  He brought it to the house over the weekend and set it up.  I'm still trying to get used to it.

I was very familiar with the old programs.  The departed computer had the XP versions of Word, Excel, and Outlook. The new system has Office 2010.  My laptop has 2007 versions of some of the software, so I'm not completely unfamiliar with it, but the new Microsoft Outlook is messing with my mind!

The files from the old computer all got transferred but some of the programs did not   Every day I look for something I need and it's not there.  I've already added iTunes and a couple of time-wasting games, but the Quicken and photo software is still MIA.  I'm sure I'll find more.

Learning new things can be stressful, but I'm confident that I'll master this!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Meaning Of Life

On the first day, God created the dog and said, "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past.  For this I will give you a life span of twenty years."

The dog said, "That's a long time to be barking.  How about only ten years and I'll give you back the other ten?"

And God said that it was good.

On the second day, God created the monkey and said, "Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh.  For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span."

The monkey said, "Monkey tricks for twenty years?  That's a pretty long time to perform.  How about I give you back ten like the dog did?"

And God again said that it was good.

On the third day, God created the cow and said, "You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years."

The cow said, "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years.  How about twenty and I'll give back the other forty?"

And God agreed it was good.

On the fourth day, God created humans and said, "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you twenty years."

But the human said, "Only twenty years?  Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back?  That makes eighty."

"Okay," said God, "You asked for it."

So that is why for our first twenty years, we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves.  For the next forty years, we slave to support our family.  For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren.  And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you.  There is no need to thank me for this valuable information;  I'm just doing it as a public service.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Customer Is NOT Always Right!

The other day I had an older woman come up to me at the Customer Service desk. She had one of those faces that was hard to date, but she was probably in her late 60s or early 70s, with dull skin that hadn't seen the sun in quite some time and dishwater blonde hair with a few streaks of grey.

She asked me about a particular store. I answered her question. She said it was good that I was here, then leaned in conspiratorially.  I expected her to say something about how nice it was to have the desk available, or how helpful I was, or even how well I knew the mall. But I was flabbergasted when she stated it was BECAUSE I WAS WHITE. Otherwise she wouldn't have stopped.

Although I try to treat everyone with respect, the woman lost mine with her statement.  I wasn't sure what to say, but I guess she didn't need a response. She simply turned around and headed in the direction I’d pointed her.