Monday, September 29, 2014


Last month I had to figure out how to switch the Customer Service Desk computer's Google home page back to English after a store employee accessed her email in Hebrew.  Today another employee from the same store asked me if she could fax something (which we routinely do for mall employees and customers.) The twist was that it was going to an overseas number.

First I had to verify with the mall office that I was allowed to make an international call.  Then I had to figure out how to do it.   A quick Internet search led me to the website, which told me:
For calls to most countries dial the following: 011 + country code + phone number. For calls to countries within the North American Numbering Plan dial: 1 + area code + 7 digit local number, same as dialing a US state to state call .
The employee knew the country code, so once I found out the procedure it was a simple task to send the fax.  I like figure out new things, so I was happy to do it for her, but she was so appreciative it made the task even more enjoyable.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Chocolate Milk With A Twist

What would I do without my Facebook friends updating me about weird unofficial holidays? This morning I learned that today is National Chocolate Milk Day.  Time to celebrate!

I love chocolate, and I love milk.  Put the two of them together and it's heavenly.  Over the years I've come up with my own spin on the drink by substituting coffee and nonfat dry milk for the more traditional ingredients.  In honor of the day I poured myself a mug, added milk powder, a spoonful of cocoa, and a healthy splash of agave.  I stirred everything together and added a couple of ice cubes to chill it.

It didn't take long for me to drain the cup.

Five years ago today: Road Trip!

Friday, September 26, 2014

In the Hoop

Did you know that hula hooping is a great way to exercise?  I didn't until I went to a hooping class.  It was a lot of fun.

Two weeks ago Jill, the woman who teaches a piloga class at the gym, said she was a certified hoop fitness teacher and was going to offer a introductory session.  There would be no charge, and you could bring your own hoop or borrow one of the loaners she'd bring. I used to be pretty good at it back in the day, so I made plans to attend last Sunday morning.

By the time the class started there were about a dozen women scattered throughout the large room.  The first thing I learned was that hoops that are sold in the toy department will NOT work for most adults.  The bigger the hoop, the slower it will rotate around your body, and the easier it is to use.  I picked a 42" model, placed it around my waist, and started spinning it.  It didn't take long to remember how to keep it going. 

I'd give myself an 'A' on basic hooping, but when we moved on to different types of tricks I was less successful. I didn't do too bad walking forward and backward while keeping the hoop spinning, but when I tried to turn my body in a circle the hoop would quickly fall to the floor.  Every time I tried to do a 'halo', where the hoop spins around your hand extended above your body, the hoop would fly off my hand and across the room.

At the end of the class Jill asked if anyone was interested in signing up for additional lessons. I declined.  The session was a lot of fun, but the gym was too far away (about 30 minutes from the house) for me to go on a regular basis.  I did decide to buy my own hoop, though.  I emailed Jill and asked her to bring one to the piloga class.  After dinner this week I've gone down to the basement, turned on the radio, and hooped away..

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Who Can Understand The Mind Of A Cat?

Today I'm tired and grumpy.  I have no energy, I keep yawning, and there are dark bags under my eyes.  I'm blaming it all on the cats.

Hubby Tony is out of town for training this week.  Normally he gets up earlier than I do in the morning, so he has cat duty.  (You may remember that years ago when the 'boys' had an unattended food bowl Jackson took advantage of it, leaving nothing for Pepper.  We solved the problem by putting their food bowls in separate parts of the house and dividing their daily portion of kibbles into several meals.)  One of those meals is in the morning.

I had resigned myself to the fact that the cats would expect to eat a couple of hours before my alarm goes off.  My plan was to get up, feed them, and return to bed.  That's easier than trying to shut them out of the bedroom; they just scratch on the door and wake me up anyway.

Every night this week after I got into bed Pepper comes up to the head, climbs on my pillow, and settles himself along the top by my head.  However, last night the settling in was accompanied by loud purring and tail-swishing.  His tail kept hitting me in the face until I rolled over the other way and fell asleep.  At midnight when I had to use the bathroom he showed up and we went through the whole process again. 

Pepper is the main instigator at 'wake up and feed us' time.  He walks over my body and meows.  If that doesn't work he pounces on me until I give in.  When I get out of bed I have to be careful not to trip over Jackson, who's waiting on the floor not too far away.  This morning I was half awake when I fed Pepper in the spare bedroom, then took care of Jackson downstairs in the laundry room.  After my business was done I rolled back into bed and pulled the covers up to my chin.

Usually after he's eaten  Pepper disappears or curls up at the foot of the bed.  However, this morning shortly after I'd fallen back asleep his pouncing (accompanied by loud meowing) resumed!  I had to kick him off the bed a couple of times before he got the message.  Unfortunately, after that I was completely awake.  I tossed and turned until the alarm went off, then grudgingly got up.

Tony will be home tomorrow night, so this term of cat duty is almost of up.  Thank goodness!

Five years ago today: God's Acre

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Time To Get Ready!

It's not even close to the end of October, which marks the start of "Hallowthanksmas" (the time between Halloween and New Year's).  However, the seasonal craziness will be here before I know it:
  • I've already received an email from the boss informing the Customer Service desk staff that, due to the holiday season, no requests for days off would be accepted after November 1st.  
  • Last week I sold a gift card to a woman who said she was getting a jump on her holiday shopping.  
  • Yesterday the first temporary seasonal store opened at the mall.

WHAT Was The Problem?

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Bite Of A Bell

On Saturday night Hubby Tony and I went out to dinner.  The Italian restaurant we chose has huge portions, and we're both trying to watch our weight, so we decided to split an entrĂ©e (which came with salad, side dish, and rolls) and add an extra dinner salad.

It didn't take long for the waiter to bring a plate of warm rolls, followed shortly by the salads.  Just as we finished the salads he came out with the main course and an extra plate. The dish featured a large charbroiled chicken breast and pieces of yellow squash and zucchini, carrots, broccoli, and mushrooms, all topped with a white wine sauce.  The side of spaghetti was covered in a spicy red sauce.  We moved half of everything to the extra plate, and dug in.

When the food was gone I was comfortably full.  No calorie-laden dessert for us!  We decided if we got hungry later on, we'd eat a piece of fruit.  We paid the bill and left for our evening's activity--an outdoor jazz and blues music festival.  Tony snagged a great parking spot.  We followed the sound of music to a stage a couple of blocks away, where we found seats about a dozen rows back and settled in to listen.  As I looked around I noticed an ice cream store right across the street from where we were sitting.  I'd passed on dessert at the restaurant, but now I was second guessing my decision.  When Tony suggested we walk over to the other stage and see what was playing there, I quickly agreed.

Shortly before we got to the second stage, I saw a grocery store, and knew I could buy a piece of fruit there!  I started thinking about what I'd get.  Maybe they'd have a nice late-season peach or pear.  Certainly there would be a nice selection of juicy apples or pears, or a bunch of grapes.  Any of them would be good. 

However,  there was a sign on the entrance door that completely changed the direction of my thoughts.  The sing said that the store had red, yellow, and orange peppers on sale three for a dollar.  Vegetables aren't a traditional dessert, but I can always go for a sweet colored pepper. We got two--one yellow and one orange.  I rinsed them in the water fountain, then used a plastic knife from the eat-in area to cut and seed both.  Tony and I munched on half of each.  I thought they really hit the spot.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Where Do I Start?

Do you ever get overwhelmed by everything you have to do?

The workshop I was chairing last weekend went off without a hitch.  Since then I've been trying to catch up on all the projects I put on the back burner.  Every time I think I'm close to the finish line,  the line moves a little bit and I feel like I'm back where I started.  This weekend was filled with several blog-post worthy activities, but when I sat down to write about them I was reminded of the housework and gardening activities that needed to get done.  And when the list of errands was added in, my To-Do list stretched out forever!

When I have so much to do I get paralyzed and don't know where to start.  So I decided to fill the day with mindless activities   I read the newspaper.  Washed the sheets and remade the bed.  Cleaned the bathrooms.  Made breakfast, lunch, and dinner;  filled the dishwasher, ran it through a cycle, and emptied it.  Simmered a ham bone with vegetable scraps for stock (which will be the foundation for a pot of beans down the line).  Dug up some weeds in the yard.

And spent some time doing nothing.  Just like the cats.

Five years ago today: Remembrancer

Friday, September 19, 2014


Today is Talk Like A Pirate Day, a silly day devoted to.....talking like a pirate!  In honor of the event, I decided to have some fun with an English-to-Pirate translator.  

The translator was easy to use.  You just type words in the box, hit the AHOY button, and check out the result.  The hardest part of the task was figuring out what my pirate should say.  I wanted something absurd and pointless, so I decided to use the first sentence of a spam blog comment I received earlier today.  The sentence read: 
What most people don't know is that plumbers get their name from the type of material that was used to make water and sewage pipes in ancient times - plumbum, which is the Latin word for lead.
And the same thing in pirate-speak:
What most people don't know be that plumbers get their name from t' type o' material that was used t' make water and sewage pipes in ancient times - plumbum, which is t' Latin word for lead.

Five years ago today: Type Fast Or Die

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bathroom Down The Hall

Three months ago Hubby Tony and I went to a presentation about bathroom remodeling.  I left feeling extremely overwhelmed, and not exactly sure how to proceed with our master bathroom project. It didn't help that (despite their promise) the showroom that sponsored the presentation never followed up on their offer of a consultation.   I started looking at ideas online, but nothing of substance got done on the project.

One day in mid-July I was out running errands when I drove by a kitchen and bath store on Manchester Road close to the house.  I stopped and talked to a designer.  After I described my bathroom, he said he thought he could do the job for about half the cost of the guidelines we'd been given at the presentation.  That sounded good to me, so I arranged for an estimate.

The designer came out and took measurements. A week later Tony and I went into the store to see his proposal.  It was nice, but more than what we wanted to pay.  The designer went back and made some changes, ran them by us, and we signed a contract to have the work done.  After we gave the store a hefty deposit check for materials we waited for some things to be specially fabricated.  Just about the time I'd almost forgotten about the project again we got a call that the job was scheduled for this week.

Last night we removed everything from the bathroom, and this morning a carpenter came to start the disassembling.  When I got home from work the room looked completely different.  The sink and vanity were gone, the large plate glass mirror had been removed from the wall, and the shower was completely disassembled.  Only the toilet remained, although eventually that will be taken away, too.

It will be somewhere between a week and ten days until the job is done.  In the meantime everyone had to change their routines.  Tony claimed the downstairs bathroom for showering.  I decided to share the small upstairs hall bath with Son Donald.  Pepper the Cat's food and water bowl is temporarily in a corner of the bedroom.  He and his brother Jackson are the only ones that aren't happy about the change.

Five years ago today: Information I Hope I Never Need

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Still A Kid At Heart

Today I didn't have to be at work until after lunch, but I had a morning full of errands and activities. One of them was getting exercise. (I was hoping the weatherman was wrong about a slight chance of rain, so I could walk outside and not get too sweaty). After I showered I threw on a t-shirt and capris and stowed my work clothes in the car so I could change into them before my shift at the mall Customer Service desk.

 The first stop was at the chiropractor's office for an adjustment. When I came out of the office a light drizzle was falling, and I figured there'd be no outside walking for me. However, after I was done at the bank the rain had stopped, although the sky was still ominous.  I decided to go to Queeny Park, a nearby county facility with nice hiking trails.  When I drove into the parking lot there were only a handful of  cars, and I wondered if I was the only one foolish enough to be outside. I took an asphalt path that I knew went around in a loop so I wouldn't be too far from the car in case it started raining again.

It wasn't too long before I passed the park's playground, which brought back good memories. I used to take my boys there on a regular basis when they were young.  The area's had some updating, but the main features were still there. In the center there's a pyramid-shaped structure made out of irregular-shaped stones that are perfect for climbing. The structure has tunnels, nooks, and crannies to crawl and hide in.

There were no kids anywhere to be found, and a spiral slide beckoned. Would anyone notice if I went down it?  I decided to take a risk. To get to the slide, first I had to navigate across the pea gravel covered ground, being careful not to kick any of the tiny stones into my shoes.  Next, I had to go up some steps, across a small wooden bridge, then up another set of steps to a platform. At the top I sat down on the slide and gave myself a push off. The slide was damp and I didn't go around the turns as fast as a smaller person would have, but it was still fun. There were several pieces of gravel at the bottom of the slide, and I was glad I was wearing longer pants.  I think rocks up my shorts would be even worse than rocks in my shoes!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fun In The Mall...For Almost All

Today was a slow day at the mall, so I had a lot of time to observe the people go by from my seat at the Customer Service desk.  When I'm people watching I think it's fun to try to figure out a story behind each person or group.

For example, shortly after noon a multi-generational group set their shopping bags on the floor next to the chairs in the seating area closest to the desk and made themselves comfortable. There were two women--one older (I'm guessing the grandma), and one middle aged (probably the mom).  In addition to the women there was a teenaged boy and a girl who looked to be four or five years old. After they got settled the women talked and the teen sulked, but the girl made good use of her time.

She opened up one of the shopping bags and removed a toy set, opened it up, and took out the multiple figures. Once those were arranged on the floor she started pulling toys out of her backpack.  Soon there were stuffed animals, toy cars, and toy accessories scattered everywhere. I watched her have an extended conversation with a stuffed dog, then she set him down on the floor and picked up another animal.  A couple of times she tried to engage the teenager. He wasn't having it.

The group was there about 20 minutes. When the adults were finished talking they told the girl it was time to go. She quickly cleaned everything up, and the group walked away.  My fun observation time was over.

Five years ago today: No, It's NOT Time To Wake Up!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

And What A Difference A Day Makes

For the last week our weather has been like a September yo-yo. The beginning of the month was above-average hot, which moderated over the weekend.  On Saturday it was nice enough to turn off the air conditioner and open the windows. Each day this week the temperatures inched up a couple of degrees, and yesterday the weather was humid and oppressive. Normally when it's that sultry we'd turn the air conditioner back on, but the forecast said a front was coming through, bringing a big change.

They were right.  Compare these numbers to those from just 24 hours ago:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How Humid Is It?

Check out our "Feels Like" temperatures (a combinations of heat and humidity) for the next few hours!  No wonder the house feels a little uncomfortable.

Five years ago today: What A Tangled Web We Weave

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Final Countdown

This weekend a group I belong to is hosting a two-day workshop. I am the chair of the organization committee.

The committee's been working up to this since January, when we found a location and a speaker. Then there was a long lull with sporadic flurries of activity and little else to do except for monthly updates to the group (and I almost forgot about the project). However, over the past month the requirements have gradually ramped up. Starting last week a steady stream of emails between different parts of the committee began coming in. Sometimes they're just informing me of what's going on. Sometimes I need to do something with the information.

As a result of all the information I keep remembering things I have to do at odd times and places.  I've started keeping a note pad in the bathroom and carrying others in my purse and car to jot down reminders. This week every minute of every day is accounted for, and I've been multitasking wherever possible. (Except at work, where all I have to do is interact with customers.).  The mall has been beginning-of-fall slow.

Of course the normal household activities still need to be done. Or not. I'm managing to get meals on the table, but for the past week I've had trouble keeping on top of the housework.  Right now the kitchen island is covered with an even layer of papers, interspersed with a few taller stacks for emphasis. It will all be there until I carry it out to my car and take it to the workshop venue.

The good news is that the whole thing will be over on Saturday night. Then I can pass the binder on to next year's chair and take a break for a while. However, next year I'll be the 'chairman emeritus', answering questions and providing support as a consultant.  But I'm pretty sure that part of the job will be less intense.

Five years ago today: Oh Nine, Oh Nine, Oh Nine

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sprouting Beans

Bean-sprouts / Wikipedia

The other day I was rummaging through the depths of my pantry and came across a dusty package of mung beans shoved way in the back.  I bought and used them a couple of years ago when I went through a 'make my own bean sprouts' phase.  Frankly, I don't know why I stopped. The process isn't hard, and the sprouts are much better than what you can buy at the grocery store.

This morning I started another batch.  I use the method described at How to Grow Sprouts:
  • Rinse beans and soak overnight (I use a gallon-sized wide mouth glass jar).
  • The next morning, cover the top with cheesecloth and secure it with a rubber band.
  • Drain the water off. The cheesecloth will keep the beans from falling out.
  • Rinse the beans with fresh water, and drain that off, too. The beans should be just slightly damp.
  • Set the jar in a warm place. (I lay it on its side on top of the refrigerator so the beans can spread out in a thin layer).
  • Continue the rinsing process in the morning and again in the evening until the sprouts are 2"-3" long (which will take somewhere between three and five days, depending on the room temperature).
Soon the half cup of beans that was left in my bag will turn into a pound of sprouts.  Next time someone in the family goes to the ethnic food market I think we'll get a new bag and continue the process.

Five years ago today: A Pint Of Ice Cream Can Speak Gallons About Your Character

Friday, September 5, 2014


The community radio station I listen to is having a pledge drive.  This afternoon I volunteered to answer phones.  I had a good time talking with my fellow volunteers and most of the people who called in.

However, there was one call that really infuriated me.  When I asked if I could take the pledge information the man on the other end of the line said, "I won't give any money to the station until they stop playing hip-hop and rap music."  Then he hung up.

This station is run by volunteer DJs; they choose their own music so each show is different.  If that intolerant person doesn't want to hear a particular type of music he just don't have to tune it at that time.

Five years ago today: What Are The Chances?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


There have been a couple of times recently I've had a second job to do at the mall after I clocked out from my job at the Customer Service desk.  On those days I stopped in the mall bathroom to change out of my work clothes, then put my things in the car and came back in to shop 'secretly' in a store.

It's been a little over a month since I signed up with a secret shopper company.  Since then I've evaluated several places.  I'm learning that the vast majority of mystery shopping is done for chain businesses and restaurants.  By contracting with a mystery shopping company the Corporate office can keep tabs on how their branches are doing.  So I report on things like an associate's greeting, the sales team's knowledge, how long I had to wait to be served, and the availability of merchandise.

When I'm on a secret shopping adventure I always feel like I'm acting out a role, but somehow it seems even more clandestine to check up on a store that's not too far from where I do my regular work.  So far everything at the mall's been commendable (which makes me happy; I take a lot of pride in my workplace).

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bumpy Bar

Have you ever seen a bumpy bar of soap?  It was a new concept to me.

top view

from the side

I couldn't figure out why the bar looked the way it did, so I asked around and got a couple of different answers.  The first was it was designed to help keep the bar dry in a soap dish (set bumps-down so the air could circulate better). A second response said that the bar was to be held in your hand with the bumps out so they could give you a mini-massage. 

Which idea do you think is correct?  Or do you have another explanation?

Five years ago today: Go Cards!