Friday, January 31, 2014

Cookies In Cups

An hour after my nice healthy dinner tonight I realized I needed to have dessert.  I don't have any sweets in the house, so I ate a handful of raisins thinking that might satisfy my stomach.  It didn't, and I pulled out the ingredients for cookies.

However, in the interest of portion control I made TWO (one for me and one for Hubby Tony) and cooked them in coffee cups in the microwave.  Less than five minutes later my craving for sweets was satisfied.

(Sorry, no picture. we ate them too fast!)
Chocolate Cookies in Cups for Two

1 T. butter
2 T. sugar
1/4 t. vanilla
pinch of salt
1 egg
3 T flour
1 T cocoa

Melt butter in microwave. Stir in sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add egg. Stir in flour and cocoa. Pour into two coffee cups.  Cook in microwave for 40-60 seconds. Serve warm
Five years ago today: Creative Currency

Thursday, January 30, 2014


My church established a new Welcoming Committee a couple of months ago.  One of my friends is on the committee, and she invited me to join. Among other projects, the group will help maintain the front page of the parish website and publicize events on a newly-installed electronic bulletin board (AKA big-screen TV) in the church vestibule. 

Earlier this month I went to a meeting to learn more about the tasks.  At first we're focusing on publicity, using the TV to show a slide show of things happening each week.  Even though the little I've learned about computer artwork came from adding images to my blog, I volunteered to quarterback the job. 

Since this was a new task for me, there was a learning curve. My first practice attempts looked great on my computer monitor but too small on the TV.  When I tried to size them up they looked skewed.  I finally figured out the correct size for the background and learned how to add text.  It's still a cumbersome process, but every time I put a graphic together I get better.

After I figured out how to produce the graphics I had to learn how to transfer them from my computer to the big screen. We bought a new TV for our house a couple of months ago; I didn't realize it was 'smart' until someone showed me where to plug the jump drive (containing the files) in and how to access the contents of the drive on the screen.  I followed the same process at church.  The first time I saw one of my slides on the TV I have to admit I was really proud of myself.

TV screen shot

Five years ago today: Kind of Blue

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cold Weather Is Good For Something

Twice a week (Monday and Thursday) I open the mall Customer Service desk.  On those days I bring my lunch with me; I get hungry before I can take a break, and as long as I have things cut into bite-sized pieces I can eat in between fielding customer questions and answering the phone.

This week the boss asked if I could change my schedule and come in early every day.  I rearranged a couple of things, then told him I could do that.  However, that meant I had to come up with manageable lunch food four days in a row.

My go-to protein is chicken breast, but I don't want that every day.  This morning I looked in the refrigerator for the package of sliced turkey Hubby Tony took  out of the freezer last night.  It wasn't in the meat drawer or on any of the shelves.  (As I was putting the finishing touches on my lunch I found it in the fruit drawer.  I'm guessing he was in a hurry to get out of the house this morning, or his coffee hadn't kicked in yet.)

The only other protein option was a carton of eggs in the refrigerator door. I decided to scramble a couple for my lunch.  They'd be messier than cubes of meat, but it would have to do.  I cooked the eggs in the microwave then cut the mass into pieces.  I now had a piping hot serving of eggs ready for my lunchbox, but there was a problem. All I had to package them in were plastic containers, and I didn't want to put the hot chunks in there.

Mother Nature came to the rescue.  My phone said the outside temperature was 1°. I dumped the eggs on a plate and set the plate outside in the garage.  Fifteen minutes later they were completely chilled and ready to go.

Five years ago today: Perfect Potion

Monday, January 27, 2014

Gung-ho About Galoshes

Saturday night Hubby Tony and I got together with some friends for a "Guys and Dolls" night; the men meet at one house to play poker, and the ladies gather at another house for companionship, dinner, and a movie on the TV.

I was the first to arrive at the Doll house, and had a chance to chat with Sally, the hostess.  She mentioned she had a new job as an Independent Sales Consultant for Grub's boots. When she showed me the section of her basement devoted to her products I could tell she was excited. Before I knew it she'd talked me into taking home an awesome pair of fuchsia-colored waterproof rubber boots.

(In case you're interested, here's Sally talking about them):

Five years ago today: Put A Shine On It

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Car Wash

Most years our area has a short winter weather reprieve in mid-to late-January.  It came this weekend.  Just a few days ago it was 14°, then it started warming up.  Yesterday was 43°. Today is 58°; time to get outside, because tomorrow will be back down to 12°. 

We've had a couple of minor snow events in the past few weeks, which left my car with a thick layer of dried salt residue and road grime.  After lunch today I decided to go to a nearby do-it-yourself car wash and give my vehicle a cleaning. I wasn't the only one with that idea; when I got there every bay had two or three cars lined up.  I picked one of the lines and waited for my turn.

I use this place several times a year.  It's always been coin operated, so I have to make sure I have a pile of quarters with me to feed the machine.  Last time, though, I noticed they'd upgraded the payment stations.  Now you could pay with quarters or use a credit or debit card.

The new option was handy because Hubby Tony had just cashed in his change cup at the bank and there were no quarters to be had.  When it was my turn to use the washing bay I swiped my card and waited for the signal to start.  Using coins, you start with $2 worth of time.  It's always a challenge to guess just how long the wash is going to take and add the appropriate amount of quarters (or risk running out of time before the car is completely washed and rinsed).  Today I didn't have to keep an eye on the time meter, but I did have to remember to hit the STOP button so I didn't get charged for time I didn't use!

Five years ago today: The Writing On The Wall

Friday, January 24, 2014

Drink More Water!

Today I pampered myself and used a gift certificate for a massage I got for a Christmas present.

It's always a treat for me to get a massage.  When I called to make an appointment last week, they didn't have any appointments that suited my (somewhat limited) schedule before today.  However, the delay gave me time to anticipate how good it was going to feel when I actually got there.

This massage studio is located inside my chiropractor's office.  There are two dedicated massage rooms located just past the room I go to for my adjustments.  I arrived a couple of minutes early to fill out paperwork, then moved to a room where I undressed and laid on the table under the covers.  After a couple of minutes the masseur arrived and got started on my hour of full-body massage bliss--back, legs and feet, arms and hands, then shoulders and neck.

Before I knew it my time was up.  I took my time getting dressed and came out to the reception area to hand in my gift certificate.  The masseur handed me a bottle of water and said I should drink extra liquids today.  When I asked him why, he said that when your muscles are manipulated during a massage waste materials and other toxins are released.  The extra liquid helps flush out the toxins.

Now I know.

Five years ago today: Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Back In Business!

It took 72 hours, three service calls, four different technicians (five if you count the one working remotely from the cable company office), and all new equipment, but our house has re-joined the digital world.

Last night I was thrilled to see the Internet access icon at the bottom of my computer monitor when I got home from work. I didn't realize until this week just how much I rely on it.  Of course I had trouble reading my emails and checking in on my bloggy friends, but the less obvious repercussions really surprised me:
  • I found out the newer versions of Microsoft programs assume you're online.  Tuesday I needed some clip art for a project I'm working on. Normally it takes just a couple of minutes to find something in Word. However, without the Internet there was no gallery of pictures to choose from.  To get what I needed proved to be a laborious process of using an ethernet cable and zip drive to transfer files from a laptop to my main computer. 
  • Then later in the project I had a question about the Paint program.  I tried using its 'Help' menu, only to find it had been moved online.
  • My cell phone's calendar doesn't have an option for manually syncing with the Outlook I use on my main desktop computer.  Everything is done through the cloud, and I had no Cloud.
Five years ago today: Makes Scents

Monday, January 20, 2014


When I woke up this morning it figured to be a good day. For the first time in weeks it was less than completely dark when my alarm went off; I could make the bed without turning on a light. After I got out of the shower I heard birds chirping. When I got down to the kitchen there was fresh coffee made, and there were a lot of choices for breakfast.  All of this put me in a great mood.

Then I remembered we were having Information Highway issues, and my great mood vanished.

The problem started yesterday morning.  When I tried to get online after breakfast I got an error message telling me our home network wasn't available. Son Donald did some moving-around of wires and determined we could still surf the Web by going downstairs and plugging the computer directly into the ethernet cable. Mid-afternoon that stopped, too.  (We get our service through the cable company.  The TV still works.)

All day I wandered around like a lost soul.  I checked emails on my phone a couple of times. However, I have a small phone data plan because I count on using the network in the house.   There wasn't anything urgent enough to drive to a coffee shop for free WiFi, but I missed checking in on blogs and websites.

This morning, with no ability to access the Internet I finished all my To Dos quickly.  I decided to go to work early and use my laptop with their WiFi.  I put the computer in a tote bag, then added my lunchbox and some other necessities and left for the day.

Traffic was light.  I got to the mall 45 minutes before I had to clock in at the Customer Service desk and set up in an area with a hotspot.  It was SO satisfying to be able to access the Internet!  Time flew, and before I knew it I had to go to work. I had a chance to use the computer a couple of times during my shift, and at the end of the day I checked the Internet once more.  After I hit the 'Publish' button for this post I packed everything up and left the mall.

The cable company is coming out tonight. I hope they're able to fix the problem so I don't have to go through the same procedures tomorrow!

Five years ago today: Bingo!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Things Are Not Always As They Appear

Just the other day a Facebook friend invited me to befriend Pope Francis.

I never Friend anyone who I don't know personally, but in this case I thought I might make an exception, so I went to the page to see what was there.  It only took me a few seconds to notice an error in the first post, which started with “A MESSAGE FROM THE ALTER IN ROME THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT”.   I'm pretty sure the Pope would know the difference between alter (which means to change) and altar (the table in a church where religious ceremonies are carried out).

After that bad sign I was suspicious, and started doing some research.  I found that there were TEN pages using Pope Francis's name, none of which had an 'official' designation.  My target page was just created on January 10th of this year.

 Needless to say, I won't be adding this Pope Francis to my Friends list.

I wanted to let the person who recommended the page know what I'd found out, and decided the least embarrasing way would be to send her a personal message.  It was really hard to compose something that didn't sound know-it-all, but I eventually found the right words and sent the message on its way. Never got a response back, but that's OK.

Five years ago today: I Kicked My Science Teacher In Line At The Bank Because I’m NOT Crazy

Friday, January 17, 2014

Any Friend Of Yours Is A Friend Of Mine

A Facebook friend of mine sent me this Friend Request yesterday:

Should I accept?  Somehow it doesn't seem right not to!

Five years ago today: Do The Jerk

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Operation Cold

Last weekend I had a runny nose and scratchy throat.  I figured I was getting a cold, but the symptoms only lasted for 12 hours and disappeared as quickly as they came. I congratulated myself, deciding my healthy habits had allowed me to nip the virus in the bud.

Not so fast, though! The virus didn't go away; it just disappeared to regroup. Yesterday I was at work when it returned with a vengeance. My nose ran, my eyes itched, and I sneezed on a regular basis. The symptoms continued the rest of the day.   At bedtime I used my neti pot, took a decongestant, and smeared a generous amount of Vicks on my chest.

This morning I was sneezing less, but I still had a runny nose.  Since I didn't have a fever and wasn't coughing I didn't think about calling in sick to work.  Instead, I prepared for my shift. The mall tissues are scratchy and not very absorbent, so I threw a couple of purse packs in my lunch box. Right before I walked out the door I took a decongestant, and made sure I had another one for midday when  the first one wore off.

When I set up the Customer Service area I placed a pack of tissues and a bottle of hand sanitizer at the end of the desk, and tucked a small trash can under the seating area for used tissues. I sneezed into my sleeve, and used liberal amounts of hand sanitizer.  Fortunately the mall wasn’t busy today so I didn’t have to interact with too many customers (and several of the 'regulars' moved on when I told them about my symptoms). 

Right before my replacement arrived I spritzed the things I’d touched with alcohol spray and wiped them down.  As the day wore on I noticed that I wasn’t blowing my nose as much. I hope that means I’m on the downhill slope of this cold.

Five years ago today: Tacky

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Plait Plight

The other day a man came up to me at the mall Customer Service desk.  He had normal looking hair, but his beard was the strangest-looking thing I've ever seen.  It was braided, about six inches long,  with bright blue pony beads at the ends of the braids.

The whole time I was talking to him I had to concentrate on not staring at it. 

Five years ago today: Apply Yourself

Monday, January 13, 2014

You're Only As Old As You Feel

Yesterday was Part Two of this year's birthday celebration.  Hubby Tony, Sons Brian and Donald, and DIL Nicole (Son Tony wasn't able to come in from Arizona) joined me for lunch at Crown Candy Kitchen. After that we played at the City Museum.

It's impossible to describe the City Museum in just a few words. Wikipedia  calls it an "eclectic mixture of children's playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel." The museum is in a former warehouse building and contains many repurposed architectural and industrial objects.  Unlike most museums, at the City Museum you're encouraged to touch, climb on, and play in the exhibits.

Even the weather got into the spirit of my birthday celebration. It was a beautiful day to be out; sunny and mid-50s, a far cry from just seven days earlier when we had frigid temperatures and ten inches of snow. 

During our visit we saw culture high and low in the Architecture Museum, Natural History Room, and Beatnik Bob’s, a tribute to the carnival midway.  (The world's largest pair of underwear is on display there). We also stopped at the Shoelace Factory, which has a collection of working vintage shoelace machines.

However, we did active things, too.  We climbed up and slid down the skate ramps, half pipes, and basins in the Skateless Park, and went down a couple of awesomely tall slides.  Some of us ventured through the Enchanted Caves, a large labyrinth of tunnels.  Eventually we all ended up outside at MonstroCity, a playground built from things like wrought iron, rebar, stone turrets, old trolleys, and airplane fuselages.  Son Donald and I started climbing and eventually made it to the highest point, four stories above the ground!

At bedtime last night my back and knees hurt. I also had a bump on my head from banging it on a lowhanging ridge. I took some Advil and smeared analgesic on the offending achy areas.   When I woke up this morning I still had sore body parts, but it felt like a good ache...a positive soreness from exercised muscles. Even as more spots cropped up over the course of the day (my glutes, quads, and biceps all told me they'd worked harder than they're used to) I tried to tell myself they were from good activity...not because I was a year older.

Five years ago today: The End

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Back To The Future

Today I received a letter I wrote to myself in 2009, delivered to my Inbox from FutureMe

When I composed the letter back then I predicted I'd be surprised to receive it five years later; I was correct.  It was interesting, and challenging, to read the words I wrote back then. The letter:
Dear FutureMe,

Today you're 55 years old. Happy Birthday!

This e-mail was sent in July 2008--one day after the halfway point between your 49th and your 50th birthday. It was an exciting time; you gave yourself a challenge starting in January 2008 to do one new thing every day for a year.

At 50, when the project came to an official end, you challenged yourself to continue to think creatively and to consciously do new things.

Now, 5 years AFTER that milestone, how are you doing? Do you like the direction your life has taken? If not, it's time make some changes. Find a new hobby, or pick up an old one that you haven't done in a while. Talk with new people, do new things. Don't be afraid to look foolish.
Good stuff! 

The email offered me the chance to write another letter to my future self, which I've done.  I'm sure I'll be surprised again when I receive it.

What would YOU say to a future You?

Five years ago today: New Thing #366--Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pass The Buck[et]

After breakfast on Tuesday I was hand washing the coffee pot innards in the sink.  When I pulled the plug to send the water down the drain is gurgled, then started coming UP on the other side.  We had a blockage.

That's not good.

I tried using the plunger, and poured baking soda/vinegar/boiling water down the drain.  Nothing helped.  I taped a note on the sink so no one else would use it, then left for work.  During the day I got a call from Son Donald who said he'd removed and cleaned out the trap under the sink.  The problem wasn't there, so he suggested we try using a plumber's snake.

Hubby Tony picked up one from the hardware store on his way home from work.  That evening he threaded the auger into the pipe a couple of times but wasn't able to break up the clog and admitted defeat.  Yesterday he made an appointment to have a plumber come and look at it today.  Hopefully by time I get home from work the problem will be taken care of. 

In the meantime we've resorted to using buckets to wash for soapy water and one for rinsing:

If we were at a Scout event we'd have to find a third bucket to sterilize the dishes, but since it's just us I'm not too worried about it.

Five years ago today: New Thing #364--Why Yes, It IS All About Me!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Yes, We're Open!

Our area received ten inches of snow yesterday, then the temperature started dropping. When I woke up this morning my phone said it was -8°F, the coldest it's been in a couple of decades.

It seemed like every school had cancelled classes for the day, and many of my Facebook friends who aren't teachers were reporting they had the day off, too. The mall I work at was closed yesterday; this morning I checked their website a couple of times and emailed my boss to see if he'd heard anything, but eventually I gave up and realized I'd have to go to work today.

I allowed extra time to get there and left the house at what should have been the height of rush hour. Instead, this is what traffic looked like:

Where are the cars?

It took me twice as long as usual to get to the mall because parts of the highway were snow covered and made it difficult to see the lane markers.  (Although there were no cars parallel to me in any of the other lanes, so it didn't matter.)

My strange shift started by clearing out the 18 voice mail messages from yesterday; all but one of them wanted to know if the mall was open.  When I turned the Customer Service desk lights on at 10:00 the mall was eerily quiet, and I could see several stores that were still dark.  Foot traffic picked up as the day wore on, but it was still a fraction of what it would be on a normal day.

The majority of the phone calls today were from people who wanted to know if the mall was open.  My answer was 'yes', but I'd ask them if they had a particular store in mind.   If I didn't know that store's status I'd suggest they phone there before they came.  A couple of calls were from parents who just wanted to have a place for their children to run around in, and a handful from disgruntled store employees wanting to know if the mall was closing early or if they'd have to come into work.

My replacement relies on the light rail transit system to get to work.  I'd heard the trains were running slow, but he showed up right on time for his shift.  He clocked in. I clocked out, and wished him a happy evening as I left the mall.

Five years ago today: New Thing #361--Doggie Depiction

Sunday, January 5, 2014

How To Clean A Toilet - The Dog's Way

  • Put both lids of the toilet up and add 1/8 cup of pet shampoo to the water in the bowl.
  • Pick up the cat and soothe him while you carry him towards the bathroom.
  • In one smooth movement, put the cat in the toilet and close both lids. You may need to stand on the lid.
  • The cat will self agitate and make ample suds. Never mind the noises that come from the toilet.  The cat is actually enjoying this.
  • Flush the toilet three or four times. This provides a "power-wash" and "rinse".
  • Have someone open the front door of your home. Be sure that there are no people between the bathroom and the front door.
  • Stand behind the toilet as far as you can, and quickly lift both lids.
  • The cat will rocket out of the toilet, streak through the bathroom, and run outside where he will dry himself off.
  • Both the commode and the cat will be sparkling clean.

Five years ago today: New Thing #360--Assistance

Thursday, January 2, 2014

It Felt Like A VERY Long Day

Several weeks ago I made an appointment to get some work done on my car, and yesterday I dropped it off at the shop so they could start on it first thing this morning. 

Without a car, I had to figure out how to get to work today.  Hubby Tony agreed to let me take him to the office and use his car.  However, he then forgot our arrangement and made a dentist appointment for 3:30 this afternoon.  In order to get there he'd have to start work at 6:30 (which when my alarm  goes off on a normal day).  His office is only fifteen minutes away, though; I'd just have to get up a little early and work a little faster when I got back home to get everything done before I had to leave again to get to work at 9:30.  Sounded like a good plan to me.

However, Mother Nature didn't consult us about our plan when she scheduled an overnight snowfall. 

Depending on which weather outlet you listened to we were supposed to get somewhere between one and five inches of snow starting at 6:00 last night.  When I went to bed shortly after 9 there was nothing on the ground and I was hopeful the forecast was wrong, but in the middle of the night I got up to use the bathroom and saw everything was covered with fluffy white stuff.

This morning Tony rolled out of bed before I did.  By time I made it downstairs after my shower he had the coffee going and the two inches of snow removed from the driveway.  He'd turned the radio on in the kitchen and the TV in the family room to catch the forecast and latest road conditions.  It sounded like the snow had moved out of the area, leaving a trail of messy streets and fender benders that would snarl traffic for the next few hours.

The more I thought about it the more sense it made to take my work things with me and keep going after I dropped Tony off.  His office is only a mile away from the Interstate I use to get to work.  It would take longer to get him there (and also longer to get back home).  I'd also have to allow extra time to get to my job going back the same direction again in the middle of the morning rush hour. 

I put my work clothes, laptop, and lunch in my gym bag, then quickly ate breakfast, poured my coffee in a large commuter cup, and got on the road.  It took longer to get Tony where he needed to go, but once I made it to the Interstate it was running fairly smoothly.  I pulled into the mall garage with two hours to spare. 

My vehicle wasn't the first one there; the mall opens at 6:00 for walkers.  It was so early, though, that the mall lights were still on overnight mode which made it very gloomy in the building.  I picked a table next to the Starbucks and used their wifi to do the computer things I usually do at home.  When I got caught up with all things Internet I locked my things in the Customer Service desk office and walked.

By the time I clocked in for my shift it felt like I'd been at the mall for a very long time....and I still had a five hour shift to go!

Five years ago today: New Thing #357--The Crib

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Last Night/First Night

Last night Hubby Tony and I went to our city's First Night celebration.  Over the course of six hours we watched performances at five different indoor venues, and saw parts of several others at outdoor stages as we were walking from one place to another.  When the last show ended at 11:30 we made our way to the main stage where a video DJ was playing.  We danced (which turned into swaying in place as the area got more and more crowded) until midnight, then watched a fireworks display.

Before our first concert, though, we stood in line to get our faces decorated, something I've always wanted to do.  The airbrush artists used templates and stencils to create unique art on each person's face.  This was mine:

Five years ago today: New Thing #356--Hand It Over