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

    Perseverance 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