Friday, February 28, 2014

The Random Acts Of Kindness Adventure #4

Today I'm linking up with Betsy for The Random Acts Of Kindness Adventure.

 A couple of days a week I drive home in rush hour traffic.  After more than two years at my job I'm familiar with the sections of the Interstate that bog down.  They don't (usually) bother meWhat does drive me crazy is the exit ramp I have to use when I get off the Interstate.

The exit leads to a major north/south state highway.  It's about a half mile long.  For part of that distance it joins up with the outer road and becomes four lanes wide before each lane splits off to go in a different direction.

The lane I need to be in (to go south) has the most traffic.  During peak times traffic's backed up all the way to the end of the ramp.  Cars from the office buildings located on the outer road are trying to merge across that lane to get on the Interstate.  I don't mind letting them in.

However, every day there are cars that use the far left lane to bypass the jam of traffic, then cut into my lane at the last minute.  THEY annoy me.  I usually cave and begrudgingly let them in.  This week, though, in the interest of performing my random act of kindness I thought positive thoughts about them as I let them go in front of me.

It wasn't easy.

Five years ago today: Dance, Dance, Dance

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Goin' Groundhog Hunting

Our five day forecast (Fahrenheit):
  • Today 11°/22°--Sunny but cold
  • Friday 21°/32°--Chance of PM snow showers
  • Saturday 19°/34°--Partly cloudy and cold
  • Sunday 15°/26°--Chance of wintery mix
  • Monday 5°/23°--Mostly cloudy and cold
(The average temperatures for this time of year are 30°/48°.  We're way below average.)

Five years ago today: Improve Your Brain

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sense and Detect

Last month Hubby Tony had an electrician come to the house and give us an estimate for some work.  While they were walking through the house, the electrician pointed out that our smoke detectors looked old.  He said they should be replaced every ten years.  That job wasn't on the estimate list, but it was probably time to have it done. 

Our house was built about 25 years old, and when we purchased it from the original owners a couple of years later it came with a hardwired, interconnected alarm system.  Somewhere in the mid-90s those alarms were recalled. The company sent replacements for the five units (two on the main level, two upstairs, and one in the basement) which I swapped out for the defective ones. 

Tony scheduled the detector replacement work, and today we had the new equipment installed.  We got four dual sensor smoke alarms, which have both ionization and photoelectric detectors to alert us quickly to any type of fire, and one for the basement that also monitors the area for carbon monoxide problems.  All of them have a battery backup so now we're now ready for any fire-related contingencies that might occur.

Just like I did with the old ones I'll test these on a regular basis.  I hope that's the only time I hear them go off.

Five years ago today:  A Good Impression

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Keywords Unavailable

I've had a web tracker installed on my blogs for years. The tracker lets me know all kinds of interesting facts...such as the most popular posts, where visitors come from, and the keywords they used to get to my blog.

Over the past few weeks I've noticed that more and more of the keyword activity results are blocked. Instead, I get the message "Keywords Unavailable". This week almost 90% of the results weren't accessible. I had to find out why!

It didn't take long to find out the answer. The culprit is Google, using something called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). According to the Google Blog:
"Google Search uses SSL to encrypt the connection between your computer and Google to help prevent intermediary parties, like internet cafes, ISPs, and wifi hotspots, from intercepting or interfering with your search activities."
I'm not sure if the security is entirely positive.  As a Web searcher I appreciate that my surfing won't get into the wrong hands.  On the other hand, it's not as much fun looking at the statistics any more.

Five years ago today: Our Daily Bread

Monday, February 24, 2014

What WERE You Thinking?

Dear Inconsiderate Store Manager,
I just talked to the associate you sent to the Customer Service desk with a collection of items found in your store.  She had no idea how long you'd been collecting them, but judging by the amount of stuff in the overflowing bag I'm guessing you must have been holding on to it for weeks.

Granted, as far as I could figure out the four pairs of sunglasses weren't valuable, and the 'cheater' glasses could easily be replaced with a trip to the drug store.  The hoodie wasn't in the greatest shape, and I doubt the folding umbrella cost a lot of money.  However, people come to the desk all the time looking for things like this.

And some of the items were more significant.  I'm sure someone missed the tote they were using as a diaper bag.  If you'd bothered to look in the faux Coach clutch you would have noticed that along with a bunch of receipts there was a $20 bill in there.  I KNOW someone was looking for that!
Our desk only holds on to lost things until the end of the day.  You'll be happy to know I turned everything over to the correct department.  If they're not claimed after a predetermined amount of time they'll be donated to charity.

If you lost something I'm sure you'd be anxious to have it returned.  You might want to think about that next time you start accumulating misplaced objects.

One of the Customer Service desk staff
Five years ago today: For Me!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sometimes You Just Need A Mindless Activity

Tonight's about zoning out, watching the Olympic closing ceremony, and playing a couple of games of Hangman.

I like this version of the game.  The words are challenging enough that I don't always win. 

Five years ago today: Overcoming Obstacles

Saturday, February 22, 2014


The church we go to is very large.  When we moved into the area in the mid-80s it was the biggest in the Archdiocese (although since that time the distinction has shifted to a church in St. Charles county to the west of us).  The church building holds about a thousand people, and there are five Masses each week--6 if you count the Spanish language one.

Over the years I've met a lot of people there, but I know that in such a large parish it's easy to feel anonymous. Recently I signed up to be on the Welcoming Committee.  One of our tasks is to open the door and greet people as they're coming into the building.

Last week it was too cold to be outside so  I stood in the vestibule to do the job.  Tonight, the weather was nicer so about 20 minutes before Mass started I stood next to the outside door and opened it whenever someone came up.  It was fun to smile and greet people as they walked by.  A few were confused and told me to go in before them. I told them opening the door was my "job" for the day.

At first I let the door close in between groups, but as it got closer to Mass time the crowds increased and I just held it open.  After ten minutes of opening the heavy door with my left arm it started to get tired. I don't know how a professional doorman could do the job all day!

Right before Mass started I left my post and took my place in a pew where Hubby Tony was holding a seat for me.  Anyone who came in late would just have to open the door for themselves.

Five years ago today: Whiter Than White

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Random Acts Of Kindness Adventure #3

Today I'm linking up with Betsy for The Random Acts Of Kindness Adventure.

The other day before my shift at the customer service desk I took myself out to lunch in the mall food court.    The mall has a nice large food court with almost a dozen stands; after thinking about all my options I decided to grab a burrito from the Mexican place.

The person who made my burrito must have been new to the job.  He had a hard time rolling it tightly and the meat kept coming out.  However, he finally finished the job, encased the burrito in a foil wrapper, and handed it to me.  I paid at the cashier stand and found a seat at a table in the back of the eating area.

Even though I only partially unwrapped the burrito as I ate, stuff kept falling out of it.  I managed to corral the bigger pieces of meat and beans, but by the time I was finished eating there was rice all over the table and the floor underneath my chair.

At self-serve eating places I always throw my trash away and try to leave the table crumb-free.  This time, though, I went the extra step and cleaned up the stray rice off the floor with a napkin.  Since it's 'my' mall I know all the cleaning people in the food court.  I didn't want to make their job more difficult

Five years ago today: Cozy And Comfortable

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Don't Tell Her, She Doesn't Want To Know

One of the regular mall walkers stopped by the Customer Service desk about 3:30 this afternoon to say hello. She said she couldn't talk long because she had to get home by 4:00 to watch the USA Olympic ice hockey game.

(I knew she had her facts wrong. The news this morning said the game started at 11:00 local time. Before lunch I'd seen posts from several businesses on Facebook cheering the team on, and all the restaurants proclaimed they'd have a TV showing the game. On my break I Googled the results and knew who'd won.)

Her lack of knowledge surprised me, because this woman's a big sports fan and usually knows her stuff. She started to argue with me and I started second guessing myself; I used the desk's computer to verify the information again, but turned the monitor so she couldn't see it.

When I told her I knew who'd won she asked me not to tell her. We decided she would be watching a rebroadcast of the game, which would be as good as the original if she didn't know the result.

Five years ago today: No Reaction

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Just Me

My birthday was a little over a month ago. About a week before the day I started getting offers for free food and merchandise from restaurants and stores.  I've used many of them, but there was one left (for a local Italian restaurant).  It about to expire, so I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner out last night.  Hubby Tony had a meeting to go to, but I didn't need a date. I went by myself.

At the hostess stand I announced "it's just me tonight", and she led me to a booth against the wall.  The waiter came promptly and took my order for a house salad and small pizza.  He came right back with bread and a small plate of seasoned olive oil, then brought the salad out a couple of minutes later.  I always enjoy the classic St. Louis Italian combination of iceberg and romaine lettuce mixed with cheese, red onion, and pimiento, tossed with sweet Italian dressing.

There were only a couple of other tables in use, so not much people watching to be done.  In between courses I pulled my Kindle out of my purse and read. 

After the bread and salad I was getting full, but when the waiter brought the main course I was immediately ready for more food.  The pizza was hand tossed and topped with just enough sauce, sausage, mushrooms, and a mixture of mozzarella and Provel cheese.  I immediately asked for a to-go container so I wouldn't be tempted to eat the whole thing.  When half the pizza was gone I boxed up the rest to take home.  For just me.

Five years ago today: Pour Some Sugar On Me

Saturday, February 15, 2014

On The Money

My horoscope for the day (according to Jacqueline Bigar) sounds like it was written JUST for me:
You might experience an urge to explore a different setting. You would get bored if you were not always expanding and having new experiences. A loved one will be simply delighted to join you and experience today's twists and turns. Tonight: Opt for a different type of cuisine.
Hubby Tony and I went different directions this morning and early afternoon, but eventually we both arrived home and started thinking about the rest of the day.  We had plans for the evening; there was no time for an earth-shattering new experience, but there's always time for a small adventure.  We decided to eat dinner at a Jamaican restaurant, using the Groupon I'd purchased a couple of weeks ago.

I ordered oxtail stew, and Tony chose jerk chicken.  Both entrees came with steamed cabbage and a large scoop of rice and peas.  Both were quite tasty.

Five years ago today: Going To The Dogs

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Random Acts Of Kindness Adventure #2

Today I'm linking up with Betsy for The Random Acts Of Kindness Adventure.
When my boys were in elementary school they always had Valentine's Day parties in their classrooms, complete with card exchanges.  Each year at the beginning of February I'd take them to the store, where they'd pick out a box of inexpensive cards featuring some cultural reference they and their friends were into.

There were always more cards in the box than they needed, and I'd tuck them away.  A couple of weeks ago when I was wrapping a present I found a stash of the school valentine-exchange cards in the wrapping paper organizer.  Although some of them were from long-cancelled and forgotten TV shows, many of them were still in fashion.  There  were cards featuring the Flinstones, Lion King, Looney Tunes, and Mickey Mouse.  

I grabbed a handful of the cards, put them into envelopes, and took them with me when I ran errands today.  At each of the stores I gave a Valentine to the cashier (and at one store a couple of people I walked by in the parking lot).  All of them looked surprised to receive a card from a stranger. 

I purposely didn't sign my name on the back; if any of my 'valentines' want to re-gift the card to someone else I think that would only increase the pool of random acts of kindness.

Five years ago today: Valentine's Groaners

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Brotherly Love

The ancient Greeks came up with terms to describe four different types of love: agape (brotherly love), phileo (warm and tender platonic love), storge (family and friendship love), and eros (physical love and sexual desire)

Five years ago today: Spice Of Life

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Information I Hope I Never Need

Today I got a note from my boss reminding me it was time for a yearly reading of the mall's Emergency Procdures Guide. It's not a task I particularly enjoy; I understand the importantance of knowing what to do in case of an emergency, but I also think it's a little depressing to think about all the bad things that could happen.

I follow the rules, though, so this afternoon in between fielding Customer Service Desk questions and phone calls I read through the manual. It lays out-in alphabetical order-what steps to take for any conceivable issue: bomb threat, chemical emergency, civil disturbance, explosion, fire/fire alarm, firearm assault/active shooter, mall evacuation, medical emergency, natural disaster, and severe weather. The manual is gerneic for all the company's malls (so I was able to skim through the sections on floods and wildfires) but I paid close attention to the rest.

After I read through the guide I put it back in the drawer for the next person to look at. Hopefully I'm done with it until next year.

Five years ago today: Queen Of Thrifty

Monday, February 10, 2014


The Cupcake Project blog has been around since 2007.  It came to my attention sometime in 2009 because it was local (written by a St. Louisian, Stefani Pollack) and I added it to my ever-growing list of  blog subscriptions.

Last spring Stefani announced she was putting together a new group called the Cupcake Project Pinterest Explorers.  Even though I don't bake many cupcakes anymore I still like reading and learning about them, so I joined and became an Explorer.  I also joined their Facebook group to talk about all things cupcakes. For the past few months I've had a great time finding cupcake recipes on the Internet, pinning them onto the special Pinterest boards and learning more about my fellow Explorers. 

Fast forward to yesterday, when I received an email announcing I've been appointed the Cupcake Project Outstanding Pinterest Explorer!   For the next week I get to feel special, and then I get to pick next week's top dog.

Mine for a week.  Then I pass it on.

Five years ago today: The Whole Array

Sunday, February 9, 2014

It's Amazing What Happens When You Stop Looking

I've had my black wool dress coat for quite a few years. It's shin length, with a large hood that frames my face when it's pulled up.  I thought about getting a new coat this winter, but I only dress up a couple of times a year; even when the stores started running 50% off coat sales I couldn't justify the cost.  I resigned myself to keeping the old coat.

Today I walked into the Goodwill store closest to my house to look for a blanket for my bed. Immediately to the right of the door there was a display rack of coats.  The first one on the rack was a classic double-breasted wool camel hair, with a notched collar and center back vent which looked like it had never been worn. Amazingly, it was my size!

Of course I bought it.  When I got home I removed the black one from the closet, folded it, and put it in the Goodwill pile.  Hopefully it will be the perfect coat for someone else.

Five years ago today: Remembrance

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Random Acts Of Kindness Adventure #1

Today I'm linking up with Betsy for The Random Acts Of Kindness Adventure.

The mall I work at has a large bank of bubble gum and candy machines.  This week I stuck quarters in a couple of them and walked away. The next person who uses those machines will get their treat free.

Five years ago today: Prospects

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sugar, By Any Other Name

One of my goals for this year is to to choose more healthy foods.  My biggest weakness is sweets. (I don't think I've ever met a candy or dessert I didn't like!)  However, slowly but surely I'm removing the sugary foods from my pantry and refrigerator. 

Sugar can be a sneaky ingredient, though.  According to, an organization of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all of these are names for added sugars:
  • anhydrous dextrose
  • brown sugar
  • confectioner's powdered sugar
  • corn syrup
  • corn syrup solids
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • lactose
  • malt syrup
  • maltose
  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar)
  • pancake syrup
  • raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • sugar
  • white granulated sugar
Five years ago today: Mother Of Invention

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Snow, Snow Go Away

This is shaping up to be a very white winter for the area.  In January we had three times our average amount of snow, and so far February looks like it's going to continue the trend.  The latest storm started this afternoon.  By tomorrow morning we're predicted to have 3-6" on the ground.

That doesn't sound like a lot of snow to me, but it's got the weather people in a frenzy.  They've been hyping the storm up for the past couple of days.  Before a single flake even hit the ground several schools had cancelled classes for the day or announced they were having early dismissals.

I started working at the mall Customer Service desk at noon. Fifteen minutes later I received the first call asking when the mall was going to close.  At that point there was no snow on the ground.  Every fifteen minutes or so I'd answer the phone and tell the person that the mall would be open regular hours tonight.  (If that changed they'd post it on their website and social networks.)  At least answering the phone gave me something to do.  There weren't many people in the mall, because they'd been warned not to be on the roads.

With all the hysteria over the snow I wasn't looking forward to driving home during the peak of rush hour, but my commute was very easy...probably because so many people had left work early.  It normally takes me 35-40 minutes; today I walked in the house 50 minutes after I got in my car. 

A funny twist on the snow predictions:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Five years ago today: Color Talks

Monday, February 3, 2014

Misbehaving Mommies

When I get to the mall early to open the Customer Service desk I'm liable to see one of the informal stroller exercise groups that show up when the weather is too hot or too cold to be outside.  Sometimes the groups only have three or four women pushing large strollers holding babies or toddlers.  Other times there might be six or seven. 

After I get the desk ready for the day I have a few minutes to walk around before the mall opens.  It's always interesting to see what the "mommy platoons" are up to.  Occasionally I hear them before I see them.  Other times they'll startle me when they come up behind me and power walk past; sometimes single file, sometimes two or three abreast.  In between walks they stop in the mall alcoves to exercise. I've seen them doing squats, lunges, or pushups leaning against a rail. Sometimes they spread mats out on the floor for crunches, or use a resistance band.  There's always a woman who's in charge and calls out the exercise moves.

I never asked, but I assumed the groups weren't official. Today after the mall opened a woman came to the desk to complain that she'd seen a cluster of women jumping on and off the upholstered benches in one of the seating areas.  She said since she was a regular mall walker she wanted the building to look nice, and it wouldn't if the seats weren't used properly.

I passed the information on to the mall office.  Turns out this isn't the first time they've had issues with the exercise groups.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

Five years ago today: Bloomin' Amazing!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Game? What Game?

Tonight we had a family-only Super Bowl watching party.

At least, the men watched.  Before the game started I gathered enough projects to keep me busy sitting on the couch, because for me the game is something that happens between breaks in commercials.  My pile of projects included:
  • Today's newspaper
  • Newspaper crossword puzzle pages from the past few days
  • Laptop computer and a stack of  'memory jogger' reminders of tasks to do online
  • A week's worth of ads and magazines to go through
In the four hours it took for the game to play out I was able to get a lot done.

Five years ago today: Chuck It

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Value Added

Yesterday I went to the ethnic market to buy a bag of brown rice.  It's much cheaper there than at my local grocery store, and I have a great time wandering the aisles looking at all the unusual products.

This store has dozens of types of rice stacked on pallets close to the door. I picked out the cheapest one (which happened to be a ten-pound bag of basmati with convenient carrying handles), then added a couple of other things to my basket before I checked out.  When I got home I threw the bag into the freezer to kill any weevils that might be lurking.

Today I removed the bag to fill up the pantry container and discovered that in addition to handles, my bag closed with a zipper.  When it's completely empty it will be a nice tote bag.

Five years ago today: Fido First Downs and Puppy Penalties