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