Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Recipe for a Happy New Year

Take 12 fine, full-grown months. See that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor and hate, and jealousy. Cleanse them completely from every clinging spike; pick off all specks of pettiness and littleness. In short, see that these months are as fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of time.

Cut these months into 30 or 31 equal parts. This batch will keep for just one year. Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time (so many persons spoil the entire lot this way), but prepare one day at a time as follows:

Into each day put equal parts of faith, patience, courage, work (some people omit this ingredient and so spoil the flavor of the rest), hope, fidelity, liberality, kindness, rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing— don’t do it), prayer, meditation, and one well-selected resolution.

Then put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a jigger of laughter, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of good humor.

Cook thoroughly in a fervent heat, garnish with a few smiles and a sprig of joy, then serve with sweetness, unselfishness, and cheerfulness and a happy New Year is a certainty.

~~Author Unknown

Five years ago today: New Thing #355--Auld Lang Syne

Sunday, December 29, 2013

An Accurate Description?

A friend recently showed me this puzzle.  Within seconds I found the words amazing, proud, and strong.  Care to take a stab and comment on what you find?

Michael Josephson/whatwillmatter.com
Five years ago today: New Thing #353--Chill Out

Friday, December 27, 2013

Petite Predicament

One of the Christmas presents I received this year was a pair of black yoga pants. They're beautifully made out of heavyweight stretch material and have a nice flare at the bottom. When I tried them on they fit perfectly--except they were too long.

I'm 5 ft 6 in tall.  Regular-length pants used to fit me just fine. Recently, though, I've had a problem finding bottoms that don't require hemming...and I don't think my legs haven't shrunk!  After many frustrating sessions in store dressing rooms I came up with a solution that works for me.  I shop for pants in the Petite department. 
(According to Wikipedia, "a petite size is a standard clothing size designed to fit women of shorter height, typically 160 cm (5 ft 3 in) or less".  I'm three inches taller than that. Something doesn't make sense here.)
Today I took my long yoga pants back to the store.  Although they come in a petite version, they'd sold all the black ones, so I grabbed another color to try on for size.  Sure enough, they were the right length.  Since they didn't have what I was looking for in stock I figured I'd have to return my present and order the new ones from the store's website.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the store offered free alterations. 

I put the long pants on, had them pinned up to the right length, then left them at the desk.  They'll be ready to pick up in a couple of days.  I wish all my clothing issues could be resolved so easily!

Five years ago today: New Thing #351--Going Bananas

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Pizza For Christmas

This year we celebrated Christmas differently. Because of scheduling conflicts the extended family got together last Sunday (instead of Christmas Day) for a big dinner and our traditional Rob Your Neighbor present exchange.

Today was just our family.  There wasn't anyone awake before dawn to see what Santa brought, but the early risers were moving shortly after 7:00; eventually they coerced the others out of bed.  A couple of hours later we'd had breakfast and were seated around the tree in the living room. We opened all the presents, ooh'd and aah'd at everything, then started playing with them.  It was really nice not to have to start hustling around getting things ready for a second round of festivities. 

Eventually it was time to eat again.  Since we'd already had a large Christmas dinner on Sunday, today we decided to go casual.  Yesterday Hubby Tony had picked up two half-baked pizzas from a local restaurant.  It only took five minutes to finish them in the oven.  Pizza, salad, and crudites made for a fine holiday lunch.

Five years ago today: New Thing #349--Swap It

Friday, December 20, 2013


This is my third holiday season at the Customer Service desk, so I knew it would be busy.  I'd forgotten, though, how draining it actually is.  There are more people in the mall asking questions, and gift card sales have increased exponentially.  Each day I come home brain-dead, unwilling or unable to move.

Regularly scheduled blog programming will return in a week or so.  In the meantime, here's another holiday song for you.  When I heard it for the first time this season on the radio today I found myself dancing around the kitchen banging on an imaginary set of drums. Enjoy.

Five years ago today: New Thing #344--Commencement

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Something Different!

When I walk into the mall to go to work I hear the Christmas music. It doesn't stop until I walk out at the end of my shift.

It wouldn't be so bad, but they play the same songs over and over.  Probably not obvious to the shoppers, even if they're there for several hours, but I'm at the Customer Service desk about 20 hours a week.  Each day I can count on hearing multiple versions of "Santa Baby", "Jingle Bell Rock", "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Do They Know It's Christmas".  It's enough to turn me into a Grinch!

So, here's one of my favorite Christmas songs I haven't heard at the mall this year!  Hope you like it, too.

Five years ago today: New Thing #342--Furbish

Monday, December 16, 2013


The other night Hubby Tony and I enjoyed carryout Chinese food for dinner.  At the end of the meal when we opened our fortune cookies Tony's said:

And this was mine:

Wonder what those words of wisdom will be?

Five years ago today: New Thing #340--When You Care Enough

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Advent Of Midlife

I rediscovered this poem (originally received in an email in 2006) when I was cleaning up my Inbox today. It inspired me back then, and it still does today.
Advent of Midlife
I am no longer waiting for
A special occasion;
I burn the best candles on ordinary days.
I am no longer waiting for
The house to be clean;
I fill it with people who understand that
Even dust is sacred.
I am no longer waiting for
Everyone to understand me;
It’s just not their task
I am no longer waiting for
The perfect children;
My children have their own names
That burn as brightly as any star.
I am no longer waiting for
The other shoe to drop;
It already did, and I survived.
I am no longer waiting for
The time to be right;
The time is always now.
I am no longer waiting for
The mate who will complete me;
I am grateful to be so
Warmly, tenderly held.
I am no longer waiting for
A quiet moment;
My heart can be stilled whenever it is called.
I am no longer waiting for
The world to be at peace;
I unclench my grasp and
Breathe peace in and out.
I am no longer waiting to
Do something great;
Being awake to carry my
Grain of sand is enough.
I am no longer waiting to
Be recognized;
I know that I dance in a holy circle.
I am no longer waiting for
I believe, I believe.
 -- Mary Anne Perrone, published in National Catholic Reporter December 15, 2006
Five years ago today: New Thing #338--Fun On The Freeway

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I Love A Parade

Last week a woman called me at the mall Customer Service desk and asked about the mobility scooters we provide for shoppers.  She said she was bringing a group of older ladies to the mall; could she reserve the units in advance?  I explained that they were given out on a first come, first serve basis, but if they were at the mall close to opening time I could practically guarantee there would be scooters available.

This morning about 20 minutes after the mall opened the woman showed up at the desk asking to borrow three scooters.  Her group consisted of her mother and several of her mother's sisters; each older woman seemed to have a middle aged woman with her.  (I didn't ask, but wondered if the younger women were all daughters.)

I got the scooters out and lined the units up one behind the other.  One person claimed each, and they were off. During the course of my shift I saw the group several times, usually riding one behind the other like floats in a parade.  Each time they looked over in my direction and waved before they chugged off into the sunset.

Five years ago today: New Thing #336--Electrifying

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bag It

Every year our church does a Giving Tree outreach program to people in Southeast Missouri.  In late November several artificial trees hung with envelopes pop up in the back of the church.  Each envelope represents one person, and has a list of things they're asking for.  To participate, you select one (or more) from the tree, buy the things on the list, then return the wrapped gifts several weeks later.

This year Hubby Tony and I each picked a man's envelope.  A couple of days later I did the shopping.  Both of the men wanted shirts and socks--simple requests to fill.  I also purchased personal care items for each of them.

Last night I wrapped everything.  I covered the shirt boxes with colorful paper and slid the packs of socks into gift bags.  Unfortunately, I didn't have anything the right size to hold the personal care items.  I did NOT want to go back to the store, so I started looking through my stash of material to see if there was anything I could use to make a bag.

There was a piece of green burlap that looked nicely masculine.  It only took ten minutes to cut and sew up the sacks.  After they were filled, though, I couldn't figure out what to tie them with.  I went on another hunt through the house and stumbled upon packages of white athletic shoe laces.  It was easy to weave the stiff aglets at the end of the laces through the holes in the burlap.  I used one pair of laces for each bag (which will be a tiny additional gift) then drew them up tight and tied the ends in a bow.  Even though the laces still have some fold lines in them I think the finished result looks pretty good:

Five years ago today: New Thing #335--In The Studio

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Snowman, Snowman, Who's Got The Snowman?

Hubby Tony, Son Donald, and I put up the tree and decorated the house for Christmas today. 

Our family room has a fireplace with a large mantle which is flanked by built-in bookshelves, and a large entertainment center on the other side of the room which all hold a collection of books, artwork, and mementos. I took many of these items down and dusted, then the men took charge of the room, filling it with seasonal items.

Over the years I've acquired more decorations than there's room for, so each year we pick and choose which ones to use. Everything has a memory.  For example, there's a painting of a snowy winter scene that came from Tony's great aunt.  The Santa and Mrs. Claus ceramic statues came from my Mom.  I bought the batik painting of a dark red poinsettia from a craft show our ladies group at church used to organize.

Some of the items go back to the boy's elementary school days, although most of those things don't get set out.  This year, though, Donald found three white athletic tube sock snowmen that have been around for decades.  (The boys each made one of the fiberfill-stuffed cuties when they passed through kindergarten or first grade.  They're now all in their 20s)  As you might expect, the craftsmanship on those snowmen isn't the greatest but they were made with love.

 Donald lined them up on the bottom shelf on the left side.  They don't stand up well, so he had them leaning against each other for support.  Ten minutes later I looked over and saw one of the socks laying on the ground.  Upon further investigation I noticed there was only one left on the shelf.  The other one was in the living room next to the tree.

Since I knew those snowmen couldn't walk on their own I suspected the cats has something to do with it.  Sure enough, I watched Pepper come over and pick up the one on the floor in his mouth and start to carry it away.  When he saw me he dropped it and ran out of the room.  I picked up all of the snowmen and returned them to a decoration box.  They aren't staying out this year!

Five years ago today: New Thing #332--Slumber

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Getting The Hang Of It

I've been attending meetings of a fellowship for several years.  Three years ago I started being active at the state level, representing my local group.   Last month when they elected new officers and people to run the various committees I volunteered to help with the organization's website. 

There are actually two of us splitting the task.  My job will be to keep a database updated. The other woman will work with the webpage software.  Today we met with the retiring website coordinator to learn our jobs.  He's had the task a couple of times over the years (developing both the website and the database), and as we got started he said he was ready to relinquish it! 

I'd already installed the software I'll need on my laptop, so it was easy to follow along as we talked about the things I'll need to do each month.  I took notes and thought I understood everything, but when I got home and started playing around with the software I found out I had quite a few questions.  Fortunately my job doesn't officially start until the first of the year, so I have time to figure everything out.

Five years ago today: New Thing #331--Give Presence

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Son Brian and DIL Nicole (along with their dog Yves) came into town last week for Thanksgiving.  They stuck around through the weekend, then flew out on Monday for a conference in San Francisco. They left their extra things here....some clothes, a gym bag, and a few shopping totes.  They also left Yves.  Hubby Tony and I were the designated dogsitters until they came back this afternoon.

I knew it would be an interesting couple of days.  The first time Yves visited the cats didn't know what to make of her.  Since then she's been here many times.  Jackson and Pepper no longer run and hide when she's here, but their relationship is chilly.  Now they'd have to co-exist with the dog for a long period of time.

There were a couple of issues we had to navigate.  The first was Yves's food. At home she has a bowl of dog kibbles readily available to her and she nibbles throughout the day.  On their first visit Nicole tried setting the bowl out in their bedroom.  Later that day we caught Jackson eating from the bowl, so letting Yves eat at will was not an option.  The solution--close the bedroom door when she's out with us.  Yves gets to visit the room on a regular basis, and we shut her in until she's finished eating.  She didn't seem to mind at all.

Resting on Brian's clothes
In addition to figuring out the food, we also had to think about sleeping patterns.  At bedtime Yves is used to sleeping with Brian and Nicole, and reportedly likes to cuddle up next to someone.  Pepper is used to sleeping at the foot of the bed around Tony's legs.  Which animal would end up with the prime real estate in our room when the lights went out?  The first night we left both bedroom doors open (and put away the food bowl).  At bedtime Yves trotted into 'her' room and jumped up on that bed.  As far as we know she's never ventured into ours (although Son Donald reported she greeted him at the front door each night when he came home from work, then disappeared back upstairs).  When Tony got up to fed the cats he put Yves's food out, too, then closed the door. Yves never complained.

A third issue was bathrooming.  We don't have a fenced yard, so each time Yves went outside she had to be on a leash.  It was easier to take her out the front door then navigate the flight of stairs from the deck to the back yard.  She had a great time walking around, sniffing at the tree, the utility box, and random patches of grass until she picked just the right spot to take care of her business.  By the second day I was remembering to bring a newspaper sleeve outside with me to pick up her messes.

Five years ago today: New Thing #329--Beautify

Monday, December 2, 2013

(Not Quite) A Partridge In A Pear Tree

Today a woman came up to the mall Customer Service desk and told me there was a bird walking around in the food court. She said she wasn't complaining, just wanting me to know.  I thanked her, told her I'd pass on the information, and she went on her way.  I did call the mall office, although I wasn't telling them something new.  We've had resident birds for some time now.

A couple of weeks ago I was coming into the mall when I heard a sound near a water feature. I traced the source of the sound, and located a small brown bird perched on a tropical plant.  It was some distance away, but based on its size I guessed it was a sparrow. I reported my finding to the first security officer I saw, but they were already aware of the issue.

Days passed. I was walking around before the mall opened and saw two birds flying down the main corridor.  When I told Security, the officer said they were trying to remove them, but hadn't had any luck.  Since that time I've have sporadic bird sightings. Once they were hovering around the huge Christmas tree in the center of the mall. Another time they were up on the second floor close to an atrium window.  I hadn't seen them in the food court, but it didn't surprise me to hear they'd found their way there, since it would have crumbs to nosh on.

I wonder how the birds got in?  The mall has automatic doors that open and close quickly, and the loading dock area is below the mall; you have to use an elevator to get up to the shopping area.  However it happened, the birds will have to go.  Word on the street is that they've set some live traps, but so far the birds haven't cooperated. 

Wonder how many more bird reports I'll get?

Five years ago today: New Thing #326--Fragrance

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Special Session

Son Brian and DIL Nicole (along with their dog Yves) came into town for Thanksgiving.  They'll be here the rest of the weekend.  Even though we see them every month or so it's always good to have them visit.

Nicole is training to be a yoga instructor at her gym.  This morning she asked me if I'd like to help her by being her "student" while she practiced.  Of course I said yes!  Who wouldn't want a private yoga session? 

The class she'll be teaching is choreographed.  She has to memorize the flow of the stretches, moves and poses, and make sure they coordinate with the music.  There wasn't enough time this morning to do the complete class, so she skipped one of the sections.  It was still a good workout.

We moved the coffee table out of the way in the living room and set up our mats facing each other.  Nicole turned on the music, and we got started.  My mat does just fine on the wood floor at the gym, but it slipped around quite a bit on the carpet.  I stopped a couple of times to readjust it, and tried not to let the distraction break the flow.   I knew how to do most of the poses; when I didn't it was easy to look over at Nicole.  When I was finished I felt stretched and refreshed.  

Even though Nicole lives halfway across the state, I told her I was looking forward to taking an official class with her when she starts teaching.

Five years ago today: New Thing #324--You're Invited...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Early To Rise

4:00 AM is awfully early to get up.  But that's what time my alarm was set for, because I had to be at work at 6 AM.

All of the Customer Service desk employees were scheduled today.  Originally my shift was supposed to start at 8, but that had me clocking out mid-afternoon.  I told the boss I'd rather come in  when the mall opened and have more of the day free.

After I rolled out of bed I showered and came downstairs.  It was so early the paper hadn't been delivered yet.  No comics to read with breakfast!  I settled for checking my email and Facebook while I ate, then drank a large mug of coffee.  Next I put together my lunch--baked chicken cut into bite-sized chunks, vegetables (carrot sticks, cauliflower, and broccoli), and a muffin.  I also added a handful of almonds for a snack, then put everything into the lunch box along with my water bottle.

There were three people working at the desk working at the desk this morning (the boss, a co-worker, and me). We took turns walking around the mall answering customer questions and passing out shopping bags.  At one point the other two people were gone; I decided I was hungry and it was time for lunch.  I had eaten half the bag of vegetables, then looked at the clock and started to laugh.  Even though it had been four hours since breakfast it was only 8:30 in the morning!

I ended up putting the rest of the vegetables away until an hour later.  At 10, I got my lunch break and finished the rest of my meal.  A little after 11, when I'm starting lunch on a normal day, I ate my snack.  Why not?

Five years ago today: New Thing #323--Creative

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On The Eve Of Thanksgiving, 2013

Count Your Blessings

Count your blessings instead of your crosses;
Count your gains instead of your losses.

Count your joys instead of your woes;
Count your friends instead of your foes.

Count your smiles instead of your tears;
Count your courage instead of your fears.

Count your full years instead of your lean;
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.

Count your health instead of your wealth;
Count on God instead of yourself.

~~Author Unknown~~

Five years ago today: New Thing #321--Negotiation

Monday, November 25, 2013

Easing Into It

I've been surprised, and pleasantly pleased, that the mall hasn't started playing non-stop Christmas tunes. Instead, they've been sprinkling them into the regular music mix, getting us ready for the holiday music blitz.

 Last week it was about a quarter holiday songs, but today it was more like half and half.  An example--mid-morning the speakers delivered this set that had almost had me dancing behind the Customer Service desk: "Let's Groove Tonight" (Earth, Wind, and Fire), "Let's Stay Together" (Al Green), "Freeway of Love" (Aretha Franklin), "Where is the Love?" (Roberta Flack/Donnie Hathaway), and "Red, Red Wine" (UB40). These were followed by a big band version of "Frosty The Snowman", a pop-y version of "Little Drummer Boy" (singer unknown), "I'll Be Home For Christmas" (Bing Crosby), and a classical arrangement of "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear".

All day it went back and forth. Sometimes the crowd noises, or someone coming up to ask me a question, drowned out the ambient music, but I could hear most of it. I know that eventually it'll switch over to nothing but holiday tunes, but this is a good way to ease into it.

Five years ago today: New Thing #319--Contribute

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mid-Morning Nap Time

Today was Put Flannel Sheets On The Bed day.  I got the job halfway done, then got distracted. The cats decided I could finish the job later.

Five years ago today: New Thing #318--Experiment

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Worth The Mess

Hubby Tony and I have a long list of home projects that we want to have done.  This week we crossed one off the list when we replaced the shabby-looking vinyl floor in the kitchen and adjoining laundry room with ceramic tile.

Tony got the project started last month when he stopped into a couple of tile stores "just to look".  Soon there were installers coming for estimates.  Finding someone we were comfortable working with was easy.  The hardest part of the job for us was picking out the actual tile.  One of the stores allowed us to bring home samples.  For a couple of days there were a half-dozen tiles arranged in various parts of the room so we could look at them while we decided.  After we agreed on 'the' tile we went back to the store, picked out a coordinating grout, and paid for everything, then waited for Jim (the installer) to contact us.

The actual job started a week ago Friday when Jim, along with his assistant Tony, came and took off the baseboards in the room.  Son Donald helped me remove and relocate our things.  For the duration of the project, the cat litter box was in the master bath tub, and I had plants on a ledge next to it.  The laundry baskets were in the master bedroom.  We moved the kitchen table into the family room and arranged a temporary food area on the wet bar which held the coffee things and a selection of cups, dishes, plates and utensils.   The computer (monitor on a bookshelf, keyboard and mouse on a TV tray in front of it and tower on the floor) was also in a corner of the family room.  The dining room table became the paperwork staging area. 

The actual job started on Monday.  Each morning I'd greet the installers, then leave for work.  When I got home I'd admire their progress, and figure out what I could and couldn't do in the room.  For example, the first few nights we had to untape the side of the plastic covering the doorway and climb through the resulting slit.  We had no laundry capability for the week, but could get to the refrigerator and microwave every day but one. 

The first day of work they removed the old floor along with the washer, dryer, and stove.  The doorways into the dining room and family room had plastic taped across them so the rest of the house was unscathed, but everything in the kitchen was covered with a thick layer of dust.

Tuesday they began to level a sloping corner of the floor and installed the backing board.  They also brought in the first stack of tiles in anticipation of the next day's work

Every night the cats had to explore!

Wednesday much of the tile was laid, and we couldn't walk on it until the next morning.  No cooked dinner that night!  Thursday they finished laying tile and started grouting.  At the end of the day they used blue tape to show us the parts of the floor we couldn't step on.  The refrigerator was plugged into an outlet across the room by the door to the family room.

Stay between the lines

Friday they finished the grout, cleaned the floor, and moved everything back where it belonged.  After they left, Tony, Donald and I moved our things back in, hung pictures, and celebrated with dinner eaten where it was supposed to be eaten.


Five years ago today: New Thing #317--Well Read

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Flu-Fighting Foods

I work with the public, and know I'm going to have germs flying my way.  However, I was still startled (and grossed out) today when a woman sneezed right in my face as I was answering her question about the closest mall rest rooms.  I could tell by the look on her face she hadn't meant to; she claimed it was allergies, but still!

Last month I got a flu shot and I'll do whatever else I can to stay healthy.  I remembered last month's issue of the AARP Bulletin had a list of 9 Natural Flu-Fighting Foods.   When I read it I'd been pleasantly surprised to see I already ate many of the foods on a regular basis, but now it was time to look the information up again and put it to good use.

The foods:
  • Black-Eyed Peas (along with pinto beans, peanuts, roasted pumpkin seeds and wheat germ) are full of zinc, a mineral that helps keep your immune system in working order.
  • Carrots (and dark green vegetables, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and winter squash) contain beta-carotene, which your body uses to ward off respiratory infections.
  • Tea (green, black, oolong, and decaf varieties, but not herbal) contains compounds that reduce the risk of flu, including quercetin, a powerful antioxidant, and L-theanine, an amino acid found only in tea.
  • Yogurt (along with its fermented cousins cottage cheese, kimchi, and sauerkraut) are full of probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that strengthen the immune system.
  • Tomatoes (including tomato juice) are loaded with Vitamin C which boosts the body's natural defense system.
  • Mushrooms are rich in selenium, which increases the body's resistance to viral infections.
  • Almonds are a rich source of Vitamin E that helps your body ward off viral infections. (Chopped almonds, almond butter, or almond oil are best to maximize the vitamin absorption)
  • Salmon is high in vitamin D, which the immune system needs to kill harmful bacteria and viruses. Wild salmon has more Vitamin D than farm-raised salmon, but it's also a good source.
  • And, although it may not prevent the flu, Chicken Soup can help your immune system fight off the virus in its early stages, thanks to a compound called carnosine. The only catch--a 2012 study says you need to consume chicken soup throughout your illness to reap its benefit.
Based on this information I mentally put together the perfect flu-fighting meal: a bowl of chicken soup; a main-dish salad with leafy greens and salmon, beans, tomatoes, and mushrooms, topped with a dressing of yogurt and almond butter; and a cup of tea.  Doesn't it sound yummy?

Five years ago today: New Thing #315--Extreme

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Speak! - The Sequal

Yesterday when I got to work I discovered the Customer Service desk phone would only operate on speakerphone.  After a little experimentation I figured out how to answer the calls that came in.  It was a pain, though, and I wasn't looking forward to having to do it another shift.

Fortunately I didn't have to. The Boss has Mondays off; when he returned to work today he decided the phone situation was unacceptable and used his authority to take care of the problem.  I arrived at noon today just as Maintenance was finishing up.  The phone now functions perfectly.  In addition, they also installed some new computer wiring we've been waiting for since last month.

Five years ago today: New Thing #313--Don't Slurp!

Monday, November 18, 2013


The Customer Service desk has a standard multi-line office phone that's stored on a shelf inside a cabinet that also holds computer equipment, with a chest-high counter running across the top.  The phone's shelf is in the middle, at hip level, and easy to access.

When I opened the desk today I noticed we had a voice mail.  However, every time I tried to access it the phone went directly to speakerphone.  I tried pressing different buttons to fix the problem, but had no luck.  Eventually I found notes my coworker left from yesterday where he mentioned having the same problem.   I called the mall office to inform them of the situation, then considered how I was going to handle the incoming calls.

This is what I figured out.  To answer a call:
  • Take the phone off the shelf and set it on the counter top.
  • Remove the handset and place it on the counter next to the phone.
  • Push the button to activate the speaker. Start talking.
  • Lean over so your face hovers a foot above the speaker because you can't hear anything above the sound of the mall music.  Talk extra loudly because you assume they can't hear you, either.
  • Hope that another customer doesn't come up to the desk to ask a question, because they can hear everything that's being said.
  • To finish remember that hanging up the handset doesn't work.  You have to use the speaker button.
Fortunately, didn't receive many calls during my shift.  I wonder how long it will take to get the phone fixed?

Five years ago today: New Thing #312--Neighborly

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lazy Lasagna

A couple of days ago I discovered a container of cottage cheese shoved in the back of the refrigerator behind a large bowl (which I must have purchased it two weeks earlier when I did a big grocery run.)  The container was still sealed, the contents looked fresh, and the 'use by' date wasn't until later in the month.  Still, since it had been there so long I decided it might not be the best idea to eat this cheese straight up.  Instead, it was the inspiration ingredient for a pan of lazy lasagna.

Traditional lasagna is good, but it's a pain to make. Messing with slippery lasagna noodles and making all those layers is too much work for a family dinner. I figured out a couple of years ago that if I used regular pasta I could mix and bake all the ingredients together. No one's ever complained.

Today I cooked a box of rotini, then added it to a mixing bowl along with sauteed onion and garlic, a pound of browned hamburger, a jar of spaghetti sauce, the cottage cheese, and part of a bag of mozzarella (the rest went on top). The dish usually includes frozen spinach, but there was none in the house. I did have a Costco-size bag of frozen kale, though, so I thawed some of that and stirred it in, too.  At the last minute I decided there might not be enough liquid, so Son Donald added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of mushrooms.

The mixture went in a greased baking dish and I sprinkled the rest of the cheese on top. It went into the oven covered with foil for 45 minutes, then uncovered another 15 until the cheese browned. A traditional lasagna sits for a while after baking to firm up; there was nothing in this dish to firm, but it rested on top of the stove while Donald finished cooking a zucchini/yellow squash mixture to serve with it.

Donald, Hubby Tony and I each had a large piece.  I put the rest into the refrigerator.  It'll make great leftovers later in the week.

Five years ago today: New Thing #311--Contest Central

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Leaves Be Gone

The back yard before I mowed it today:

And afterwards:

Much easier than raking!

Five years ago today: New Thing #308--Fascinating!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Calendar Coincidence

Today is November 12, 2013, which can also be written as...

How to commemorate this special day?  Someone challenged me to find an interesting Bible passage based on today's date numbers. I accepted the challenge.

Thanks to the Internet it was easy to search through all the books of the Bible.  Many of the two-verse passages didn't stand well on their own, but after a couple of tries I found a section of Proverbs that worked quite well.  I compared several Bible versions and decided the wording in The New American Bible, Revised Edition really spoke to me.
Proverbs 11:12-13
[12]Whoever reviles a neighbor lacks sense,
but the intelligent keep silent.

[13]One who slanders reveals secrets,
but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence.

Five years ago today: New Thing #306--Transformation

Monday, November 11, 2013

Soon, But Not Yet

Last week they started fixing up the mall for the holidays. When I arrived at the Customer Service desk for work on Monday the base for the massive two-story-tall tree was being erected. On Tuesday half of the branches had been installed, and when I left on Wednesday the tree was finished (but undecorated). By Thursday afternoon the lights, ornaments, and ribbon garland were complete and the installers had moved on to the Santa stage area.  Today when I showed up the stage was furnished and waiting for Santa to show up on Saturday. 

The rest of the mall is being decked out, too.  Inside the building large pots holding glitzy floral arrangements grace the hallways and all the parking lot entrances are decorated.  Today the plant people were swapping out the fall-colored bromeliads for more festive plants.  Most of the stores have seasonal window displays, filled with overt holiday symbols or glittery party clothes. Or both. 

With all the seasonal activity going on I halfway expected to encounter holiday songs when I entered the mall today.  I was delighted that the speakers were still playing the standard mix of smooth jazz, big band standards, and soft classic rock from the 1970s and 1980s. The music is pretty subtle, and after a while I barely notice it, but occasionally something I haven't heard for a while snaps me to attention.

Like the dulcet sounds of Charlie Rich singing "The Most Beautiful Girl".  Easily the best song of my five-hour shift.

Five years ago today: New Thing #305--Good Manners

Sunday, November 10, 2013

In Breaking News...

The Pity Train has just derailed
at the intersection of
Suck It Up and Move On
and crashed into
We All Have Problems
before coming to a complete stop at
Get the Heck Over It.

Any complaints
about how we operate
can be directed to

This is Dr. Sniffle
reporting LIVE from
Quitchur Fussin'.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pumpkin Butter

Earlier in the week Son Donald prepared a large amount of pumpkin puree.  He put most of it in the freezer, but per my request left one gallon-sized bag in the refrigerator.  The next day I used it to make a crock pot full of pumpkin butter.

I stared out by looking at a variety of recipes for pumpkin butter on the Internet, and learned that it's simply a mixture of puree, sweetener, and spices cooked at a low temperature until it caramelizes and reduces in volume. Sounded easy enough.  My concoction was a mashup of four different recipes.  I was originally going to make a smaller amount, but when I added sugar to the puree it was way too sweet for my taste; I dumped the remainder of the bag of puree into the crock pot (which made it just right) then added cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg.  I put the lid on the crock pot, turned it on low, and went to bed.

When I came downstairs the next morning the kitchen smelled wonderful!  The butter had reduced in volume by about a third and was a beautiful medium-brown color.  I immediately added a large scoop on top of my granola for breakfast.  Since then everyone in the house has had it on toast, and I even brought some to my boss.  I used some in a batch of muffins and used some to the pumpkin bars I made for a church event.

Five years ago today: New Thing #302--Run, Run, Run

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Location, Please

In addition to the permanent stores, the mall I work at has a fair number of booth tenants.  Some of them are more permanent than others (for example, the cell phone carriers have sturdy walk-in stands) and show up on the mall directory, but the modular kiosks are wheeled into place as needed by the management department and removed when no longer needed.  Because they're so transitory they are not listed in the directory.

In the past month the temporary stores have been popping up like mushrooms.  Several of them have similar-sounding names and I have trouble keeping them straight.  This morning before I started my Customer Service desk shift I walked around the mall and made a list of all the booths and their location.  

At first the list was only for my personal use and included just the new stands, but then I realized we'd be having some temporary holiday help at the desk and that person might find the information helpful, so I included all of them.  When I got back to the desk I put the information (organized alphabetically by floor) into a document, then printed out two copies and put one by the phone.  I set he other one at the end of the desk where we greet customers.

 I actually had a chance to use the list today.  A woman called asking about a cell-phone repair booth.  We have three different "i-"kiosks; based on her description of where the booth was located I was able to find the store name and give her the phone number.

Five years ago today: New Thing #301--A boost?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bogus Birds

This morning I took an Indian Summer walk through the subdivision next to mine. I had a great time seeing the riots of fall color on the trees, bushes, and late-season flowers.

It had rained overnight so there were as many leaves on the ground as on the plants.  At one point I was busy concentrating on not slipping on wet leaves spread across the sidewalk.  When I looked up I saw this in the front yard of a house:

I was momentarily alarmed until I realized the birds weren't real.  They were a spread of Canadian geese decoys.  Why they were there I had no idea, but I'd love to know.

Five years ago today: New Thing #300--The Burn

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pumpkin, Pumpkin...Who's Got The Pumpkin?

I was out of town this weekend. On Saturday afternoon I got a call from Son Donald that went something like this:
SD- "What would you do with a really big pumpkin?"

ME- "I'd bake it to make puree, then use the puree for cooking."

SD- "I've heard that big pumpkins don't have much taste."

ME- "I think by time you add all the extra ingredients it doesn't matter so much. How big is the pumpkin?"

SD- "About 150 pounds."

ME - "Ha Ha." (and thinking to myself there's no way he could be right about that weight)
I thought wrong.  When I arrived home this afternoon Donald was in the middle of a pumpkin-baking frenzy.  There were two pans in the oven and the counter top roaster was filled.  A disposable aluminum pan of pumpkin puree was set on the island next to the pulp-coated food processor, and Hubby Tony was filling gallon sized Ziploc bags with puree from the stock pot.

Cut pumpkin (full-sized shovel added for size perspective)
While I unpacked my weekend things and tried to get organized I learned the story of the pumpkin.  The massive squash was left at Donald's friend's house.  The friend didn't want it there, and Donald felt responsible for removing it.  The two of them put it in the trunk of his car and Donald drove home with it.  He and his dad used a Sawzall to cut it into large pieces, then Donald processed one piece at a time, cleaning and cutting it into pan-sized pieces for cooking.

The pumpkin-processing went on for several more hours. Now there are 12 gallon-sized Ziploc bags of puree (which has a  pretty good flavor) in the freezer downstairs, and a couple more pans of squash to cook tomorrow.  Or to throw in the compost pile, depending on what Donald feels like doing.

I guess I'll be serving a lot of pumpkin-flavored dishes this  winter!

Five years ago today: New Thing #297--Plug It

Thursday, October 31, 2013


When I started work at the mall Customer Service desk today I knew from past experience the phone would be ringing a lot.  Sure enough, throughout my shift I fielded a steady stream of calls from people asking if the mall was hosting trick or treaters tonight.  I'd reply that there was no organized activities, but the individual stores could hand out candy if they wanted.

I even had a couple of store employees who asked me about the evening's plans; they hadn't gotten the no-organized-activities message.  Mid-morning a heavily tattooed and pierced man wearing a porkpie hat approached me.  He told me he worked at the electronic cigarette kiosk and asked what time the trick or treating started tonight.  He was visibly relieved when I told him there was none. 

Before he walked away he said that he didn't mind giving out candy, but he didn't know how many parents would let their kids accept treats from a stand that sold nicotine-delivery systems.

I was inclined to agree with him.

Five years ago today: New Thing #294--Hang 'Em High

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Love Your Cats

This morning Hubby Tony sent me an email that he'd learned that today was National Cat Day.  I'd never heard of the holiday before, but as a cat lover I was happy to join in the cat celebration.

One of Tony's co-workers went out on his lunch break and came back with treats and a toy for his cat.  We didn't buy our 'boys' anything, but we did give them extra attention.  From the happy purrs, I'm guessing they liked it.

Five years ago today: New Thing #292--At The Sound Of The Bell

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Nothin' But Baseball

For the past month Hubby Tony and I have been busy watching our hometown St. Louis Cardinals in the baseball playoffs...first the League Division, then the League Championship, and finally the World Series. Everything came to a halt at our house at 7:00 on Wednesday and Thursday night for the first two games.  Last night we attended a potluck/game watching party, and we'll be glued to the TV again for the rest of the games until a winner is decided.

In honor of postseason baseball, here's a funny bit with Dan St Paul as Harry Caray announcing the first baseball game.

Five years ago today: New Thing #290--The Fix

Friday, October 25, 2013

Processing Pomegranate

I love to eat pomegranate seeds.  When I saw that my local Aldi had pomegranates on sale this week I decided to get some.  Even though I didn't know how to remove the seeds from the fruit without making a huge mess, I knew I could figure it out.

Where does the modern inquisitive cook go when they need to learn something? The Internet, of course. A Google search for seeding pomegranates yielded more than a million results; I clicked on the first one and started reading.  When I was done reading I put my knowledge into action.

I cut off the top and bottom of the fruit, then took a knife and scored the rind into quarters from top to bottom. Next I put my thumbs in the center and gently pulled apart the sections, peeled away the white skin covering the seeds, then inverted the skin.   (I tried to be as gentle as possible so the seeds didn’t burst, but several of them didn't get the message. I ended up with juice splatters on my shirt, wrists, and face.)

I placed the pomegranate pieces in a bowl of water and used my fingers to gently separate the seeds. The seeds sank to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane pieces floated to the top, and it was easy to fish them out.  I drained the seeds in a colander, then dumped them in a storage container.

My original plan was to use the seeds in a salad for a potluck tomorrow night, but I've 'sampled' so many that now I don't have enough for the recipe.  I'll either need to eat the rest or go back to the store for more pomegranates.

Five years ago today: New Thing #288--Lawn Mowing 201

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Disappearing Act

Yesterday a nicely-dressed middle aged woman approached me at the mall Customer Service desk. She asked if she could borrow a wheelchair for her mother, who she'd left sitting on a chair at one of the mall entrances. Per our policy she left an ID, and I gave her the wheelchair.

Several hours later she came back pushing her mother, who was holding several shopping bags on her lap. The woman explained it would be easier if she could wheel her mother directly to the car. However, that would require someone to bring the empty chair back to the desk. I called Security and asked if they had an officer that could help. The dispatcher said they were short staffed, but someone would be there as soon as possible. I relayed the information to the women. The wheelchair borrower asked for her ID back; I handed it to her and watched them make themselves comfortable in a nearby seating area to wait.

I watched them sit and chat for almost 15 minutes, then someone came up to the desk. When I finished answering the person's question I looked up; although no Security officer had come by the women were gone. With the wheelchair and her ID, the only insurance I had that she'd return my property.

My shift was over 45 minutes later, and I spent the time waiting for her to bring the chair back. No luck. I suspected she would ditch the chair by the mall exit, so I called Securiy and asked them to be on the lookout for it.  When I got to work this morning the first thing I did was check the holding area and was thrilled to see all the chairs were there!

Five years ago today: New Thing #287--Welcome To The Club

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shoe Tune-Up

My work shoes are black Mary Janes with microfiber uppers, polyurethane bottoms, and Velcro straps.  They're so comfortable that I bought a second pair when the first one wore out


The second pair is almost a year old.  I've taken good care of them, and I think they have quite a bit of wear left.  However, the straps had stretched out so my feet were wiggling around when I walked.  In addition, the Velcro on the end of the straps was worn and didn't stick like it used to.

After work one day I stopped by a shoe repair shop to see if anything could be done.  The cobbler told me he could take care of both issues by removing the old Velcro, cutting off the end of the strap, and adding new fastening tape for much less than the cost of new shoes.

Original detail on the strap

I had another pair of shoes with me, so I took off the work ones and handed them over. When I picked them up a couple of days later they were perfect!  The shorter straps hold my feet tightly, and the new Velcro never comes loose. 

Repaired strap

Now that my shoes are repaired I have some time to think about what I want in my next pair of work shoes.  When I get them.

Five years ago today: New Thing #286--So, What's It Like?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Would You Like To Join?

I have several people who stop to talk to me at the mall Customer Service desk on a regular basis. One of them specializes in jokes...most of which have a punch line that ends up with a really bad pun.

Last week he shared the following list.  Looking at some of the cultural references, I would guess this has been around a long time.

The Yoko Club? Oh no.
The German philosophy club? I. Kant.
The Ford-Nixon club? Pardon me?
The Arafat club? Yessir.
The Alzheimer's club? Forget it.
The Ebert movie club? Roger.
The Groucho Marx club? You bet your life.
The Peter Pan club? Never. Never.
The Japanese theater club? Noh.
The quarterback club? I'll pass.
The Rhett Butler club? I don't give a damn.
The compulsive rhymers club? Okey-dokey.
The Spanish optometrists club? Si.
The anti-perspirant club? Sure.
The pregancy club? Conceivably.
The Procrastinator's Club? Maybe next week.
The Self Esteem Builders? They wouldn't accept me anyway.
The Agoraphobics Society? Only if they meet at my house.
The Co-Dependence Club? Can I bring a friend?
The Prayer Group? God willing!
Five years ago today: New Thing #285--The End Of An Era

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why Me?

I rarely get headaches, but after breakfast this morning I developed a doozy.   Because I wasn't sure what was causing it I took aspirin and allergy medicine, figuring one or the other of them would take the pain away.  They didn't.  Over the course of the morning I felt worse and worse.

I drank a big glass of water and an extra cup of coffee.  I tried eating a protein snack.  Nothing helped.  Mid-afternoon I decided to try napping.  I went upstairs to the bedroom, stretched out on the bed, and closed my eyes.  Just about the time I was drifting off to sleep I was awakened by a loud MEOW!

The cats thought it was time to eat.

Our cats Jackson and Pepper get fed three times a day.  (It's a long story, which you can read about here if you're interested).  Pepper's always takes the lead in asking for food.  Jackson sits in the background and eggs him on.  Today's harassment followed a familiar pattern.  Pepper would jump on the bed and make noise. I'd tell him to be quiet. He'd stop for a few minutes, then repeat the whole process.  I could hear Hubby Tony and Son Donald downstairs talking and watching TV. Why were the cats bothering me?

After fifteen minutes of Pepper's antics I'd had enough and got up.  Pepper ran to the bathroom thinking it was food time, but I grabbed him and carried him to the hallway.  After I made sure both he and Jackson were outside the room I closed the door.  Then I went back to bed.  A half hour later I woke up feeling better.  When I opened the door Pepper was sitting right outside  waiting for me.  I found out later he never went downstairs.

Five years ago today: New Thing #283--Up On The Roof

Friday, October 18, 2013

Future Chefs Meal

Last night Hubby Tony and I went to the Presentation Room Restaurant at L’École Culinaire, a local culinary school.

The school has been around for almost a decade, but we'd never been there before.  A couple of weeks ago I saw a Groupon for the restaurant and quickly snagged it.  The food at The Presentation Room is prepared by almost-ready-to-graduate students under the guidance of professional chefs.  I was excited to think we'd not only be helping to further their education, but we'd get a good meal out of it too!

During the week the restaurant is reservation-only.  When Hubby Tony called they suggested we wear business casual dress. It's been a long time since I've gotten dressed up to go out to dinner on a weeknight, but it added to the fun.  We got there early and had to wait five minutes to be seated. The Presentation Room is very small, with about ten tables situated at the end of a long room. There was a 'bar' station (with a small selection of beers and wines) at the other end next to the door to the kitchen area. Our waitress brought us water and asked if we were ready to order.

There were about a dozen small plates available. Our Groupon allowed us to choose four, and we picked chicken empanadas, flat iron steak encrusted with mushrooms on a bed of mashed potatoes, salmon with a teriyaki-type sauce and roasted fingerling potato chunks, and asparagus in a vineigrette with red and yellow tomatoes and feta cheese.

Like other small plate restaurants I've been to, at this one the plates came out one at a time. "Small" was a misnomer; each portion was enough to share. I was so hungry I didn't think to take any pictures, but the food was beautifully presented.  Tony found the steak too rare for his taste, and sent back his portion.  When the plate came out again there held a fresh piece of meat cooked to the exact same degree of doneness, but he decided to eat it anyway.  Everything else was perfect.

Service was just acceptable (we didn't get our water glasses refilled until the last plate had been taken away), but we realized we were dealing with students.  What they lacked in professionalism they made up for in friendliness   There was no desserts listed on the menu; when we inquired the waitress went back to the kitchen to see what they had.  Based on the available choices we decided to pass.

Settling our bill was much harder than it usually is when we use Groupons.  The waitress was completely unfamiliar with the process and referred us to the front desk clerk, who insisted she needed to have a paper coupon instead of the phone app I always use.  Finally the chef (who I'm guessing was an instructor) came out and showed both of them how to do it.

Five years ago today: New Thing #281--Swab The Deck

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


A couple approached me at the Customer Service desk and asked if there was a spot in the mall they could exchange euros for dollars. There isn't, but I did a Google search and found the closest place for them.

The computer was running slow, so while I was waiting for the information I asked them where they were from and what brought them to the area. They replied they were from Slovania and had come to sightsee in the States. In St. Louis they had been looking forward to seeing the Gateway Arch.

But the Arch and its grounds are part of the National Park Service, which is closed due to the partial shutdown of the federal government. Tourists who flew halfway around the world to see an attraction couldn't cross it off their bucket list thanks to politcians who can't work together.

Getting off the soapbox now...

Five years ago today: New Thing #279--Mixed Ticket

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Red Light, Green Light

On Tuesdays I get off work at 5:00, then fight rush hour traffic on the way home.  My trip takes between 40 to 50 minutes (compared to 30 minutes when traffic is light).  I'm on the highway for about 9 miles, then get off and wind my way on surface streets for another 6 miles.

Today I was walking away from the mall Customer Service desk when I got a call from my boss, who'd left a half hour earlier and takes the same highway I do.  He was calling to let me know he was stuck in a huge traffic jam; three of the four traffic lanes were closed because of a spill.   I thanked him for the heads up and started thinking about alternate routes to get home.

I called Hubby Tony to let him know there was a problem and I'd probably be late getting home. There are a couple of major roads that run roughly the same direction as the interstate--one to the north of the mall and one to the south. I decided to take the northern road, and pointed my car in that direction.

I figured a lot of other people would have ditched the highway, too, so I was pleasantly surprised when traffic moved at the speed limit for the first few miles.  After that, though, things bogged down and came to a halt. I'd stop for several minutes, then slowly move forward and halt again.  I suspected the problem was the traffic light a mile up the road.  Based on past experiences with this light I knew it would take quite a few green cycles until I could get through.

Normally the stop and go would be annoying, but I had my Kindle with me.  I pulled it out, turned it on, and happily passed the time between green lights reading.

I was almost disappointed when I got through the light.

Five years ago today: New Thing #278--The Rub

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lucky Me!

Some family members just came back from a trip to Paris and brought me wonderful gifts--a beaded cross ornament from the Notre Dame cathedral and tubes of my favorite hand cream from L'Occitane en Provence.

I could buy the same L'Occitane products at several different stores in this area, but since these were lovingly carried across the Atlantic especially for me they feel extra-special.

Five years ago today: New Thing #276--Quickie

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sausage, Anyone?

One of the companies I liked on Facebook (a pizza restaurant) was nice enough to let me know that today was National Sausage Pizza Day.  

I'm all about celebrating food-related holidays, but I went out to eat yesterday and had no desire to do it again tonight.  I could have taken the time to make pizza dough, but the weather was beautiful and I wanted to be outside.  Hubby Tony and I decided to walk to the nearest grocery and buy ingredients for our meal.  Halfway there I had an inspiration.

Our entree was pizza with a Mexican twist...a flour tortilla "crust" baked until crisp, "sauce" of refried beans, melted cheddar cheese, and the chorizo I bought at the store.

 They didn't say the sausage had to be Italian!

Wouldn't it be nice to have a camera that takes round photos?

Five years ago today: New Thing #274--Forting

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Presentation Is Everything....

I ate lunch early today, then got dressed and went to work. When my boss offered me a break mid-afternoon I was hungry, so I wandered down to the food court to see what I could get for a snack that would be relatively healthy.

After checking out all the options I decided to get an order of edamame at the sushi restaurant. Unfortunately they were out. They did have miso soup, so I decided that would be an acceptable substitute.

At other Japanese fast-food places I've eaten at they ladle the miso soup out of a large urn. It usually has large pieces of seaweed and tofu floating in chicken broth. I was shocked to watch them 'prepare' the soup today by pouring packets of freeze-dried mix into a styrofoam container and adding boiling water.  They handed it to me and said I should make sure to stir it well before I ate it.

The soup tasted OK, especially after the vegetables and tiny cubes of tofu reconstituted, but their presentation certainly left a lot to be desired!

Five years ago today: New Thing #272--Get The Lead Out

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Gratitude In All Things

It's easy to be grateful for the big things in my life.  I live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood.  There's enough food to eat.  Although Hubby Tony's caught up in the government shutdown mess he'll eventually get paid, and since there's only two of us in the house our expenses are low while we're waiting it out.

The little stuff, though, often slips by unnoticed. Today I made an effort to notice and be grateful for them, too:
  • On the way to the gym I got stuck behind a slow-moving car. The signal turned yellow just as he was pulling through a light, forcing me to stop for the red.  However, that car was long gone by time I started up again; since I was the first car at the light I could set my own pace.
  • After the gym I was on my way to work, driving east on a major street (two lanes in each direction with a turn lane in the middle).  They were doing some road work on the westbound lanes, forcing all the traffic to move into one lane.  The traffic jam was a half mile long.  I sailed by all of it.
  • Before I started my shift at the mall Customer Service desk I was killing time by checking Facebook on my phone.  One of the cleaning people stopped by to talk with me.  She could have just as easily walked by.
    • It was a beautiful fall day, and I didn't particularly want to be stuck inside, but if I hadn't been there I would have missed talking with a nice family from Denmark.  I also would have missed out on a compliment I received from a sales clerk when I returned some paperwork to his store.
    • When I realized my phone needed to be charged I was happy that the boss uses the same type of charger and has an extra one in the office.
    • I was glad I ate an orange on the way home instead of with my lunch; it was so juicy I ended up with orange splotches all over the front of my shirt.
    Five years ago today: New Thing #271--Can You See Me?

    Sunday, October 6, 2013

    What's In Your Bin?

    Last week I opened the lid of the compost pile to toss some coffee grounds in and noticed the surface of the pile was gently undulating.  I bent in for a closer look, and saw a layer of light brown maggots.


    After thinking about it, though, I  decided the maggots might not be so bad.  The purpose of the pile is to break down the kitchen and yard waste; if the new bin tenants helped in the process, who was I to complain?

    I started keeping a better eye on what was going on in the bin.  Amazingly, even though I was adding a lot of waste it looked like the compost level was going down.  A cantaloupe peel and seeds had disappeared by the next day, as did cooked vegetable scraps from broth making.  A paper coffee filter with grounds piled on top left in the bin today would be reduced to a groundless hole-riddled filter the next day and three days later nothing would be left.

    I decided to figure out what had taken up residence in my bin.  A little Internet surfing revealed that our maggots were the larvae of black soldier flies (often referred to as BSFL) and a good thing.  Black soldier fly larvae are not pests. They quickly reduce the volume and weight of compost scraps, and prevent flies from laying eggs in the bin. I even found a story on NPR from a couple of weeks ago about a company that's using BSF larvae to commercially process food factory waste.

    Black soldier fly larvae can live for several weeks, but our compost bin party will be coming to an end soon.  They'll slow down as the weather gets colder, and probably won't make it through the winter.  If that happens next year I'll have to figure out a way to re-introduce them to the bin.  I like having them there!

    Five years ago today: New Thing #269--Make Your Own

    Saturday, October 5, 2013


    Dictionary.com defines perseverance as "steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement".

    When I was out walking this morning, I saw these blooms in a weedy strip between the sidewalk and the street:

    It's a native plant called frost aster, which if left alone would stand about three feet tall. Despite being mown back to just a couple of inches it's found a way to bloom.

    What an amazing example of perseverance.

    Five years ago today: New Thing #268--A Good Deed

    Wednesday, October 2, 2013

    Mall Miscellany

    • Two women came up to me at the mall Customer Service desk saying they'd heard that one of the mall stores was a registration point for an upcoming charity walk. I hadn't heard anything, so I Googled it.  The first several results led to the website of a local radio station, the main sponsor of the walk, but when I clicked through I was greeted with a stark black-and-white graphic (which I'd never seen before) indicating the site had been blocked due to corporate policy.  I ended up using my phone to come up with the information, but I wonder why that Website had been restricted?
    • If customers ask, our desk gives out information about other mall departments.  The other day the manager of a department came up to the desk complaining we were giving out the wrong version of one of his forms.  There was only a slight difference between the two, but he'd been told not to use the incorrect one.  He tried to make it into our desk's fault, but I pointed out that since both versions had the same revision date (Month/Year) it was difficult to figure out.  I told him to email the correct version to my boss or make and give us a supply of the correct forms himself. 
    • This is the third fall I've worked at the desk, and the third time the Cardinals have made the baseball playoffs.  I decided to treat myself to a new pair of earrings to wear with my required black pants/white shirt "uniform":

    Five years ago today: New Thing #265--Toilet Paper Origami

    Monday, September 30, 2013

    Cover Me

    When I go to bed in the winter I pull the sheet and comforter all the way up under my chin. As the weather turns warm I gradually get used to sleeping without heavy covers on top of me, and by time summer comes I don't even use a sheet and need the ceiling fan on to circulate the air.  As the weather cools off the process gets reversed, but it takes me a week or so to get used to the change in temperatures.

    When I got into bed last night I couldn't get comfortable; it was too cold for just a sheet but too warm with the comforter on.  I tried using the heavier cover and sticking my feet out, but they got cold.  I tried pushing the comforter down to the end of the bed and sticking my feet under it while putting the sheet over the rest of my body.  That was too hot.

    I needed to find a way to cover up only my neck, shoulders, and feet.  Eventually I came up with an ingenious solution;  I got a large scarf out of my closet, wrapped it around my body like a shawl, then climbed into bed and pulled the sheet halfway up.  I was asleep in no time!

    Five years ago today: New Thing #263--Strike A Pose