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

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cats Like Sun, Too

Pepper the Cat stretched out on the bedroom floor soaking up the rays on a beautiful sunny fall morning.

Five years ago today: New Thing #262--Safeguard

Friday, September 27, 2013

Operation Dust

Our kitchen ceiling project finished up yesterday.   It took a little longer than we expected (the contractor didn't work on the weekend, then he had a sick kid to take care of) but the results were worth the wait.  For the first time in years we have a pristine ceiling without cracks or spots.

Installing drywall is a tedious, multi-step job that I would not want to tackle:  Attach the material with screws.  Spread a layer of joint compound over the screw holes and seams, apply tape to the seams, and let dry.  Put up the edge bead, mud it and add another layer of compound to the joints. Sand everything, prime, and paint.

As I was making out a check to pay the contractor he told me how he'd used a  low-dust joint compound, covered everything with plastic before he sanded, then swept the kitchen floor after he pulled up the plastic to keep things clean, but I know from past experience that didn't mean much. Drywall dust is fine and attaches itself everywhere on surfaces horizontal and vertical no matter how much you try to contain it.   Now that the construction job was done it was time to do some cleaning.

The wood floor in the front hall sported a thick film of dust. I wiped it off with a damp cloth, then continued my wiping on the dining room floor. I got a new rag and tackled the furniture.  Several rags later the furniture was dust-free and I went back to the kitchen to wipe down the counters and cabinet tops.

The next time I left the kitchen and walked down the hall I turned around I saw a trail of dusty footprints behind me.  The floor was NOT clean!  I grabbed the mop and buckets and washed the kitchen floor.  Twice.  When I was done it looked and felt much better.

 However, I know the drywall dust battle isn't won yet.  When I sat down at my kitchen desk this morning I saw a white deposit on top of the white chair rail I'd missed last night.  There's also a lot of floating dust that will land in the next few days.  I'm confident that if I'm diligent I'll come out on top.

Five years ago today: New Thing #260--Recipe for Repotting

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

Two weeks ago my local Aldi had cabbage for 75 cents a head. That was a good deal, so I grabbed a large one. There was a lot of food in the refrigerator, and the cabbage got shoved to the back of a shelf behind a bowl.  By Sunday the refrigerator had emptied out, and I spotted the cabbage  Its outside leaves looked wilted and were sporting a couple of dark spots.  Time to figure out a way to use it!

I threw the outer layer of leaves into the compost pile, then julienned  the next layer and added them to a pot of chicken vegetable soup.  Even after that there was still a lot of cabbage left; I wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and put it back into the refrigerator.

This morning was about cooking, mainly figuring out a way to use the cabbage.  I love stuffed cabbage, but the full-fledged rolls take hours to prepare.  I didn't have that much time, so I used the basic ingredients to make a casserole.  Less than an hour later tonight's AND tomorrow night's dinner was done.  All it needs is a quick reheat in the microwave.

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole
(serves 4)

1 lb ground turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 head of cabbage, roughly chopped (or approximately 8 cups)
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 15 oz can of chopped tomatoes
1 1/2-2 cups chicken broth
2 T. dried parsley flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

  1. In a large pot over medium heat brown the turkey, onions, and garlic until the turkey is no longer pink.
  2. Drain juice from tomatoes into a measuring cup. Add chicken broth until you have 2 cups of liquid.
  3. Stir cabbage, rice, tomatoes, liquid, and seasonings into pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 45 minutes.

Five years ago today: New Thing #258--Are You Up To The Challenge?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Just A Little Creepy

I was working at the mall Customer Service desk today when a customer came up and inquired about something she'd lost at the mall last week.

We turn lost things over to Security, so I told the customer I'd call their office and ask if they had the item. The dispatcher answered with the office's standard greeting, then added a "Hi, Kathy" at the end. I was taken aback, and a bit disquieted. The Security office isn't anywhere close to my desk; how did he know who was working at the desk?
(Then I remembered--mounted on the ceiling not too far from the desk, next to a couple of light fixtures, a stereo speaker, and a head for the sprinkler system was a security camera. They could see me.)
I knew the camera was there, but had conveniently forgotten. Until today's reminder.

I decided to give the officer the benefit of the doubt; the mall was very slow and there probably wasn't too much action to keep on top of.  However,  for the rest of my shift whenever I had to do any potentially embarrassing things I stepped into the desk office where the camera couldn't see.

Five years ago today: New Thing #256--Tattoo You

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Change Yourself First

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world.

As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.

But, it too, seemed immovable.

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.

And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family.

From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.

--Written on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop buried in Westminster Abbey.

Five years ago today: New Thing #255--Are You Interested?

Friday, September 20, 2013


I love Land's End clothes, especially their shirts which are comfortable and wear like iron. If you looked in my closet you'd see long and short-sleeved tees and casual shirts or all seasons.

This spring when I was getting ready for our New York City vacation I needed to replace a white shirt in my travel wardrobe. I searched for weeks for a boxy all-polyester model that would pack well and easily wash out in a hotel sink with no luck.  Everything was too form-fitting, too short, or just not right.  I was browsing through a Land's End catalog one day and found their "Women's Athletic T-Shirt".  It looked like it might meet my requirements so I stopped by my local Sears store to see it in person.  They didn't have it in stock, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn I could order it in the store and have it delivered to my house.

When the shirt arrived I tried it on.   IT WAS PERFECT!   Long and boxy enough to cover my midsection, lightweight, and wrinkle-free. It went to New York with me, and to Nashville later in the summer. In between trips it was my "go to" shirt for church and casual events when I only needed to dress up a little. I wore it maybe seven or eight times and looked forward to many more.

Sadly, the last time I took it out of the dryer I noticed there were several large snags on the front of the shirt. I figured I'd have to use it as a gym shirt, and then only when I didn't care what I looked like.  A couple of weeks later I was browsing through yet another Land's End catalog and noticed their guarantee, which says
"If you're not satisfied with any item, simply return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price."
I called the customer service number and talked to a nice representative.  I explained the situation, then pessimistically sat back and waited for her to tell me why the guarantee didn't apply in this case.  Boy, was I wrong!  Five minutes later I had a new shirt ordered and on its way to my house.  They charged my card for it, but when I took the old one to Sears I got a refund so my net cost was zero.

I'm looking forward to wearing the new shirt for a very long time.

Five years ago today: New Thing #253--Extra Credit

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Where To Eat?

The drywall on our kitchen ceiling is cracking and peeling.  As we got estimates for repairing it we found out the easiest (and most effective) fix would be to add an additional layer of drywall on top.

The job started today, when the contractor dropped off his tools and went to the store for materials.  I removed all the breakables from the area, and the contractor helped Hubby Tony move the kitchen table and chairs out.  When I got home from work there was a stack of drywall leaning against the wall in the garage and the kitchen floor was covered with tarps.

The job will take portions of several days.  In the meantime, we have two choices for eating our meals:

 "Table" in kitchen

Kitchen table in family room

Five years ago today: New Thing #252--Get Well Soon

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

No Seedlings Wanted!

A couple of years after we moved into our house we were gifted with a cutting from the Rose of Sharon shrub that Hubby Tony remembered from his aunt's yard. I planted the small shoot in the back yard.  Now, more than 20 years later the bush is about 9 feet tall. We keep the bottom branches pruned off to make it easier to mow around it, but above that line the bush is about 6 feet wide.

Every year I enjoy the plant's beautiful white flowers with pink centers. However, since the plant is a heirloom variety it doesn't have some of the improvements newer cultivars have. Every flower on our bush produces a seed pod, which if not removed ripens and releases seed, which leads to hundreds of seedlings sprouting in the spring.

The solution is to make sure those seeds don't end up on the ground.  One option is to deadhead the flowers right after they bloom, but the bush attracts so many bees I usually leave the job until the fall. Last year I forgot to do it until after many of the pods had ripened, and I was pulling tiny Rose of Sharons out of the grass around the bush for months. I was determined not to repeat that again this year.

After dinner last night I began the removal process by pulling off the eye-level seed heads (which are about an inch in diameter and look like a fat bud). The shrub is much taller than me, but the branches are very flexible and I could bend them down to my level. Each branch had somewhere between ten and fifteen seed heads on it. Most of them were still green, but there were a handful that were turning brown and a couple that were almost ripe.

I spent a half hour on the job and only stopped when it got too dark outside to work. The debris filled half of the 2-gallon bucket I was using. This morning I went out to check my work and found there were a lot of branches in the bush interior I'd missed, so I began pulling again This time my bucket was about a third full.

I think I'm done now. Even if there's a few left that ripen and fall from the bush there won't be too many seedlings to take care of next year.

Five years ago today: New Thing #250--Not Just For Kids!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Apple Pear

There was a new-to-me fruit in our produce basket this week.  It looked like an apple, but tasted like a pear.  Appropriately enough, it was called a apple pear.

According to wikipedia, Pyrus pyrifolia (colloquially known as apple pear due to its appearance and texture) is a pear species native to China, Japan, and Korea.  The variety in our basket had skin the color of a Bartlett.  When I took a bite it was perfectly ripe.  And messy.  The juice ran down my arm as I was eating it.

Five years ago today: New Thing #248--Garden Garments

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thanks For The Information

Every couple of weeks I see a woman standing at the bottom of the highway exit ramp I take to get to work. She looks like she might be about my age, and she's always holding the same cardboard sign that says she's homeless and looking for help.

She may be homeless, or she may be a scam artist. I don't know.  I make donations to several organizations that help homeless people, but I choose not to give individuals money when I see them on the street. For the first few months when I saw her I'd always find something to look at in my car when she passed by, but after awhile I decided that was silly and started acknowledging her.

Today she was in her spot. I happened to be the first car in the turn lane, and I looked over and gave her a little wave. She waved back. I realized I had a raggity fingernail, so I grabbed the emory board I keep in the car visor and started filing it, but I sensed the woman was still looking at me. I glanced over again, and saw that she was trying to get my attention.

I rolled down my window, hoping she wasn't going to ask me for money or food. She held up a large plastic cup that had seen much better days and told me that the fast food restaurant across the street had a water main break today and she hadn't been able to get any water.

I thanked her for the information, and told her to stay cool; it was going to be a hot day. She nodded, I nodded, then the light turned green and I moved on.

Five years ago today: New Thing #245--What Does It Mean?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

May We Always Remember

'By a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001 (Public Law 107-89), Congress designated September 11 of each year as “Patriot Day,” and by Public Law 111-13 (April 21, 2009), Congress has requested the observance of September 11 as an annually recognized “National Day of Service and Remembrance.”'

'Presidential Proclamation each year calls upon all departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the United States to display the flag of the United States at half-staff on Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance in honor of the individuals who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. President Obama proclaimed, “I call upon the people of the United States to participate in community service in honor of those our Nation lost, to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities, including remembrance services, and to observe a moment of silence beginning 8:46 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time to honor the innocent victims who perished as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.” (Presidential Proclamation—Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance, 2012, The White House, Office of the Press)'--Source: U.S Department of Defense Education Activity
Five years ago today: New Thing #244--The Missing Link

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Muggy And Mucky

Earlier this year I thought spring would never get here, and now I'm thinking the same thing about fall!

The high temperatures this week have been in the upper 90s, flirting with triple digit, and record-setting. (They're projected to be here a couple more days before dropping back to more normal.)  In addition to the heat, the famous St. Louis humidity is sticking around.  It only takes a few minutes outside to have sweat dripping from your forehead and your shirt stuck to your sweaty back.

Just how humid is it?
  • Last night I watered the plants on the deck. We recently had it sealed, so the water that ran out of the pots pooled on top of the planks instead of soaking in. This morning when I went out to put some things in the compost pile there were still a few puddles of standing water.
  • Today when I left the comfortably air conditioned mall at the end of my work day my glasses fogged up.
  • I put my mat in the car this morning several hours before I left for a yoga class at the gym. My warrior poses weren't very fierce-looking; I was too busy slipping around on the mat that was damp from humidity.
Five years ago today: New Thing #243--Watch Your Language

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Choose Me! is an online charity that lets individuals donate to projects at public schools.  Teachers request materials and resources for their classrooms and list them on the Website. People make donations towards the requests. When the project is completely funded, the supplies are purchased and shipped to the teacher.

I was introduced to the site a couple of years ago, and since then I try to help fund a project each year (usually during back-to-school time).  I don't have to buy school supplies for my boys anymore, but old habits die hard and that's when I think about it! 

Last week was donation time.  There are many different criteria you can use to pick a project, but I always try to find something the metropolitan area.  I searched by school district--which also brings up a list of the schools that have projects. The district I live in didn't have anything posted, so I looked at the districts that did.  When I saw there was a project at the elementary school I attended many years ago I knew where my money would be going this year!

A 6th grade teacher was looking for an iPad for language and reading activities for her 27 students and behavior management apps for her use. That's a pricy thing to wish for, but I saw a corporation had kicked in some money and the teacher was halfway there.  I added my donation, and in the section where I could include a message I indicated I was a former student of the school.

I was pleasantly surprised the next day to receive an email from the teacher that her project had been completely funded.  They were getting their iPad!  Ten minutes later I received another email saying that when the teacher told her students that a school alumnus helped their project they couldn't believe it.  I always enjoy helping out teachers, but I have to admit that with my connection to the school made this project especially satisfying.

Five years ago today: New Thing #241--Single or Double?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Clean Enough?

On the days I work until 5:00 Hubby Tony gets home before I do.  I try to have a dinner suggestion that's easy for him to put together or reheat.  Yesterday I decided to make a fritatta. It would taste good that night and even better the second; the vintage Pyrex tart pan with handles I use is large enough to hold four servings!

To make the fritatta I chopped onion, garlic, and kale, then mixed them with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. I dumped the mixture into a greased round tart pan, set that pan on top of a pizza pan, and put it into a 400 degree oven.  Twenty minutes later the onions were translucent and the kale had shrunk in volume.   I poured a mixture of eggs, milk, spicy mustard, and mozzarella cheese on top, mixed everything together, and cooked it another 20 minutes until the top was brown and a knife came out clean.

After the fritatta was done I put it top of the stove to cool.  When it was time to get ready for work I moved the dish to the refrigerator.  I was holding the pizza pan with one hand and opening the refrigerator door with the other.  The pizza pan tilted, the tart pan tilted, and the fritatta slid out and fell on the kitchen floor where it broke into two jagged halves!

What should I do?  

If I was serving the dish to company I probably would have thought about it longer, but since it was just family eating it I used a large spatula to cut each half in half again, then lifted each quarter up and placed it back in the pan.  This time I was more careful when I opened the refrigerator door.

Five years ago today: New Thing #238-- All Cracked Up

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Bowels Of The Mall

Two days a week I work the middle-of-the-day shift at the mall Customer Service desk.  When I arrive the boss (who opens) leaves to take his lunch, then spends a good chunk of the rest of his day doing boss stuff like meetings and paperwork.  Today he took the day off.  He asked me to open the desk, and scheduled a coworker to do my usual shift.

We had the normal employee afternoon overlap, and since the mall has been pretty slow since school has started, not really enough work for two people. I decided to use the time to clean out a pile of empty boxes that had accumulated in the storeroom.  However, there was just one problem--I didn't know where to take them.  In the two years I've worked at the mall, someone else has always done it.

There's a large network of halls, elevators, and docks behind the scenes at the mall, but I didn't know which ones to use.  I asked a security guard where to find the trash and box receptacles.  Turns out there's more than one; he gave me directions me to the closest.  I could see the door leading to the area from my desk.  When my coworker arrived I told her what I was going to do.  She really got into the cleaning idea, and started breaking down the boxes that were stacked in the corner of the desk office.  At my request she saved one box for me to stack others into.  After cramming in as many boxes as I could I was off on my adventure.
Once I went through the doors to leave the public area of the mall the atmosphere changed. Instead of ceramic tile the floors were cement, and the farther back I went the dingier they became. It was interesting to pass by the back doors of the stores I'm used to seeing from the front. My directions were spot on, with one exception.  The dock I was directed to didn't have trash and box compactors, but I saw someone who directed me a short distance to the next dock that did. 

I ended up making five trips.  When I was done I was sweaty and my white shirt had patches of dirt on the front and sleeves, but my shift was over so it didn't really matter.  While I was busy my coworker had borrowed a broom from one of the maintenance people and swept the office.  It looked much nicer.

Five years ago today: New Thing #236--Towering

Monday, September 2, 2013


Earlier this summer the St. Louis Art Museum opened a new building.  According to all the media sources, there were swarms of people visiting it. Hubby Tony and I wanted to check it out, but we decided to wait until the crowds died down. Yesterday we made the museum's new East Building the focus of a field trip.

The original Beaux Arts museum building is a remnant of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, and it's now an iconic symbol of the city.  Over the years the museum's added to its collection, and there wasn't enough room in the building to show all of the pieces. The new expansion has 21 galleries that display more than 200 works of art, many of which come from the museum's collection of contemporary works.

The museum is located at the top of a large hill in Forest Park.  There were a lot of people in the park; we had to park at the bottom of the hill and walk up.  I was hot and sweaty by time we reached the building, so we entered through the closest entrance into the Main building and had a guard point us in the right direction. The two sections are separated by large glass doors. I passed through, and everything felt different.

The original building has beautiful mill work and dark wood floors.  Some of the gallery walls are painted in deep colors.  The new section was brighter and more modern.  There was natural light coming from skylights (covered by light diffusers) in the coffered concrete ceiling, light-toned wood floors, and white walls. Several galleries also had floor-to-ceiling windows which made them look particularly airy.  Tony and I spent a couple of hours wandering from gallery to gallery, then decided to call it a day.

Before we left, though, there was one more exhibit we wanted to see. I enjoy looking at art, but I can't say I know many of the artist's names. Right outside the south door of the main building was an exhibition from someone I HAD heard of--the Wish Tree project of Yoko Ono!

Yoko began her project in 1996 in memory of John Lennon. The participatory exhibit asks visitors to write a wish on a piece of paper, then attach it to a branch of a Wish Tree.  In the last 17 years more than a million wishes have been collected!

The St. Louis installation of the exhibit ends on September 2nd, so we were just in time.  Both Tony and I grabbed a white tag and wrote our wishes, then added them to one of the three potted trees arranged in a row.

I wonder if my wish will come true?

Five years ago today: New Thing #235--Move It