Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Try (A Quote For The New Year)

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” (Neil Gaiman)

Five years ago today: The Sixth Day of Christmas

Monday, December 29, 2014

Fill 'Er Up!

If you drive a car, you know that gas prices are going down. According to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, right now there are two states (Missouri and Oklahoma) where the average cost of regular gas is under $2.00 a gallon.  Missouri is THE lowest in the country. When I pulled into my local Costco to fill up today, this is what I saw:

I was able to fill up my tank for a little under $18.  When I saw the final cost I almost did a happy dance at the pump!

Five years ago today: The Fourth Day of Christmas

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Now You Know

Some interesting science discoveries from the past year you may have missed:
  • According to the results of a study published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology, dogs apparently prefer to defecate while facing north.
  • In a paper published in the online issue of Social Influence, researchers found when a man holds a doors open for another man it affects the "holdee's" self-esteem.
  • Science Daily reported that research shows that all people with blue eyes have a common ancestor, which was caused by a genetic mutation that took place 6,000-10,000 years ago.
  • A study of men's facial hair published in the journal Biology Letters found that men who buck prevailing facial hair trends are rated as more attractive by both women and men.
Five years ago today: The Third Day of Christmas

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Hot And Saucy

At our extended family Rob Your Neighbor game this year Son Donald ended up with a large boxed hot sauce collection.

It offered a sauce for everything...there were small bottles of green pepper sauces, red pepper sauces (and even hotter red pepper sauces), and even Asian-inspired sauces.

The present stayed unopened until tonight's Mexican meal.  I was sitting in the other room when I heard Sons Brian and Donald discussing how they'd pick the correct sauce to use in the salsa they were making.  Should they go by the name of the sauce, the special ingredients, or use some other method?  Finally Donald turned all the bottles around and let Brian choose by the color.  It sounded like they were having a lot of fun. 

(And the 'Horned Lizard Sauce' salsa ended up being delicious.)

Five years ago today: The Second Day of Christmas

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Greetings

The Graphics Fairy
"Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And suddenly the star they had seen rising went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight"   Matthew 2:9-10

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What? Me Worry!?!

Tomorrow is, of course, Christmas Day.

Today has been a flurry of cooking, cleaning, and errands.  Hubby Tony made two separate trips to the airport to pick up arriving out-of-town children and spouses.  We'll open presents in the morning, then regroup and get ready for the extended family who will arrive mid-afternoon.

How many people will be here for dinner?  I don't know.  Could be as few as14.  Could be 16 or 18.  If it's the larger number there will also be preschoolers and toddlers in attendance.  Years ago the uncertainty would have me in a panic.  Now?  Whatever.....

I planned food for the maximum number.  (In my book leftovers are never a bad thing.)   The dining room table is completely stretched out and oriented diagonally to make room for a card table in one corner. Between those tables we're good for 14. If more people show up I can get out more china and silverware and squeeze a couple more at the main table or have some people eat in the kitchen. 

It's all good.

Five years ago today: Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Grow, Baby, Grow

Several years ago I bought a small asparagus fern from a local garden center. At its size, the plant was really more appropriate for tucking into a larger container garden than growing in a stand-alone pot, but I liked the way it looked (and the price was right) and so it came home with me.  I put the pot in a north-facing alcove behind the garage with several other plants.  The plant grew well, and the critters didn't eat on it.  At the end of the season I brought it inside, where the lack of sun caused it to shed yellowed leaves like crazy, but it survived until I put it outside again in the spring.

Fast forward a couple of years.  We had roller coaster weather this fall, with the low temperatures almost reaching the danger zone a couple of times before I actually brought the plants inside.  When I picked up the asparagus fern the pot was as hard as a rock, and I suspected it was full of roots.  I wasn't inclined to do anything about it until spring, though.  The plant went in it's normal place in the master bathroom.

A couple of weeks afterwards I noticed a shoot sticking up from the top of the plant.  That shoot grew and grew, and it was followed by a couple of more shoots.  It's never done that before, so I wonder if after being outside in the chill the warmer temperatures inside the house tricked the plant into thinking it was spring.  This is what it looks like today:

As much as I admire the plant's tenacity I'll need to trim the shoots soon.  When I sat down on the toilet the other day I got hit in the face by one of the long sprigs.

Monday, December 22, 2014


In the last eight days we've only seen the sun once (and that was a fleeting glance).  The other days we've had clouds, gloom, and more clouds.  Sometimes precipitation comes with the clouds, sometimes not.

It's the last push before Christmas.  I have a lot to get done, but this morning when I woke up to the sound of raindrops hitting the roof it was hard to get out of bed.  The darkness really put me in a funk,  but I still managed to get a lot done.  I:
  • went to the gym and ran a couple of errands, including navigating through a gauntlet of crazed basket-pushing shoppers at the grocery store.
  • came home and took a long, hot shower, then cleaned the shower stall.
  • cooked and froze some dishes for later in the week.  One of them called for separated eggs, and there were two that didn't perform as they should have soI scrambled them and tossed them in the large salad I made for dinner.
  • listened to holiday tunes on my favorite community radio station.
  • wrapped the last of the Christmas presents and hid them with the others.  I can't put them under the tree yet, though.  A couple of them would be of real interest to the cats.
Five years ago today: Mr. De Mille, I'm Ready For My Close-up

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Time

In honor of today's winter solstice

by Robert Louis Stevenson
Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding cake.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Last night Hubby Tony and I treated ourselves to a great night out.  We went to a local steak restaurant, where we ordered it all....drinks, appetizer, entrees, and dessert.

When we got home, I had some work to complete on the computer.  Tony watched part of the TV news, then went to bed.  It took me another 30 minutes to do my necessary work, then I spent another 20 minutes checking my email and Facebook.  By now it was seriously past my bedtime but I didn't feel particularly tired.  I went upstairs, changed into my nightclothes, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and settled into bed.  I tossed and turned, and tossed again.  Pepper the cat jumped up on the bed and tried to cuddle with me, but I was squirming too much for his tastes and he went to lay down by Tony's feet.

After 30 minutes of laying there wide awake it hit me...I bet our waitress had made a mistake and served me regular coffee with my dessert instead of the decaf I'd asked for.

I enviously listened to Tony's even breathing. He wasn't showing any caffeine side effects. I tried listening to the radio, counting sheep, and visualizing peaceful things. Nothing helped. Eventually (almost ninety minutes later) the caffeine wore off and I drifted off to sleep. However, the sleep was fitful, and I was full of crazy dreams all night.

When the alarm went off this morning I was tempted to turn it off and go back to sleep. However, I had somewhere I needed to be so I reluctantly rolled out of bed. A hot shower didn't wake me up, nor did a morning cup of coffee. I spent the day in a fog. Finally I gave in mid-afternoon and settled down for a nap, setting an alarm so I wouldn't sleep too long. The nap helped for a while, but after dinner I found myself nodding off when I sat on the couch.

I'm really looking forward to bedtime.  There will be some serious sleep-catching-up done tonight.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sounds About Right

I haven't started wrapping my Christmas presents yet, but when I do this chart will be a pretty accurate representation of how I spend my time.

Five years ago today: Can You Relate To This?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Action Of Altering

Two weeks ago when I needed new pants I went to my local Goodwill.  There I found two pairs; brown corduroy with a fancy mall-store label inside and a nice pair of tan dress pants. Each pair cost a whopping three dollars.

The corduroys were the perfect length, but the dress pants were too long and needed to be shortened.  I've been sewing since 8th grade Home Ec, so hemming is an easy job for me.  The pinning up part is not.  I don't have anyone to help me, so I have to do a lot of trial and error turning up until I get the length just right.  This time I didn't feel like messing with it, so the next day I dropped the pants off at a tailor shop not too far from my house.

The woman who runs the shop has been there as long as I can remember.  She's friendly but businesslike.  You get in, she does her job, you get out.  There's no chit-chat.  The shop has a small front section that has a cash register on the right and a curtained-off changing room on  the left.  In the middle of the area is a raised platform.  From the cash register you can see a large back room where the work is done.

I arrived about noon.  The staff was in the back eating something wonderfully Middle-Eastern smelling.  Without coming up to the front, someone asked loudly if I was dropping off or picking up, then told me to change into the pants in the dressing room and the tailor would be right there.

She was.  When I came out I stepped up on the platform, and was admonished to stand up straight.  It took less than a minute for her to fold one leg of the pants up and pin them to the correct length.  She made a horizontal chalk line across the back of both legs and told me I was done.  While I changed in the dressing room she asked my name and told me the pants would be done in a week.

Seven days later I returned.  Once again everyone was in the back and someone asked loudly if I was dropping off or picking up.  The tailor got my name, disappeared into the workroom, and came back holding my pants folded neatly over a hanger.  They had a professional-looking hem and sharp creases down the front.

The hem cost me nine dollars.  That's three times the cost of the pants, but I know I couldn't have found such a nice pair for the total cost of twelve dollars.  And I didn't have to do it.  And, I helped out a small business.  It's a win-win-win.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Tree Crudités

Last week I was invited to three holiday potlucks (a Tuesday night snack event, a Thursday night dinner, and a Friday brunch).  On Sunday I decided I would bring a vegetable platter as my contribution for the first party.  When I went to sleep that night the topic must have been on my mind, because I woke up the next morning thinking about how broccoli florets in the shape of a Christmas tree would be cute. 

I hadn't been reading or watching anything about food or crafting, so I'm not sure where the idea came from.  Sometimes my mind works in mysterious ways. 

The project ended up being easy.  I had to look in a few thrift stores for just the right tray, but at the third stop I found what I was looking for.  The shape is filled with broccoli accented with yellow and orange pepper strips, mushroom pieces, radish wedges, and small grape tomatoes.  I served the vegetables with chipotle ranch dressing on the side.

Thursday we had been instructed to bring a dessert, but because the 'tree' was so well received the first time I repeated it again on Friday.   I don't think I have any more pot luck events this month, but can you guess what I'm taking if I do?

Five years ago today: The Third Time's The Charm

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Spruce Up The Spruce

Although our house has already been sporting Christmas decorations inside and out, we didn't put the tree up until today.  I think tree trimming is a job properly done with a group, and this is the first day everyone living in the house was available to participate.

Over the years we've figured out a pretty good tree setting-up distribution of labor. First, everyone pitches in to carry the artificial tree pieces up from the closet under the basement stairs and helps put them together. Next the males go off to test the lights, then they string them on the tree. Once that's done everyone pitches in to put the ornaments on.  After the ornaments are in place, whoever feels so inclined pitches in to string the garland. 

(The cats wait until the end, when the tree skirt is spread, to do their own decorating underneath the tree.)

While the men are figuring out which light strands need attention, my job is to be the tree 'fluffer'.  I straighten out the branch tips that got bent when we stuffed the tree back into the box last year, then position the branches to cover all the gaps.  The job takes a while to do well.  Usually I get bored with it halfway through and give the rest of the tree short shift. 

This year after we got the tree set up Hubby Tony and Son Donald left for about an hour to do a volunteer job.  That gave me extra time to do my fluffing.  When boredom set in I was able to walk away come back later.  By the time they returned home the tree was shaped better than it's been for years!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Returning To The Scene

Today I did evaluating at two different malls, one of which has the Customer Service desk I used to work at.

I've driven by the mall several times in the last two months, but this was the first time I'd gone in since my last day as an employee.  It felt strange getting into the turn lane off the highway and pulling into the mall parking lot becauseI didn't have on my work uniform, my water bottle, or any of the things I used to bring to keep myself occupied when the mall was slow.

The lot was full of holiday shoppers, and I knew there'd be a fight for the prime parking spaces.  I figured if I went up to the roof of the garage where I used to park it wouldn't be as busy.  Sure enough, when I rounded the last corner and pulled onto the roof  'my' parking space (the second one on the right right across from an entrance to the mall) was waiting for me.

 Once I got into the mall I took the closest escalator down to the first floor.  I noticed on my way to the store that Santa had set up shop in his usual area, but there were also two new kiosks and some new signs. 

I completed my business and rather than backtracking I decided to go by the Customer Service desk on the way out, hoping I could say hello to my old boss.   He wasn't there, and I didn't recognize the woman sitting behind the desk; she was either my replacement or the temporary hire for the holidays.

Five years ago today: Fiesta

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What Does Your ZIP Code Say About You?

The other day I found out about a fascinating interactive website called Esri ZIP Lookup, which can give you some insight as to what your ZIP code says about you.

The Esri company compiles demographics data on population, income, employment, and consumer spending.  The website uses their Tapestry database, which organizes US residential neighborhoods into 67 segments based on their demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

After you type in your ZIP code, the site shows you the top three segments that live in that code. For example, my neighborhood is composed of Savvy Suburbanites (21%), Soccer Moms (18%), and Professional Pride (16%).  The median household income for my ZIP code is above the county average, as is the population density, but the median age is right on target.

I thought that my section of the county was pretty homogeneous, but if you look one code to the south of us all of the numbers drop and the segments change. Go one code to the north and the numbers are higher and there's a different variety of segments.

Intriguing stuff.

Five years ago today: Solid As A Rock

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Second Week Of Advent

The second week of Advent brings another nontraditional wreath from the folks at Catholic Memes.

(Someone should have told the engineer that candles don't need electricity to work.)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Creature Comforts

Today was a medical 'take care of me' day.  In the morning I had an appointment for my yearly mammogram at the Women's Center of a nearby hospital.  After that I walked up a couple of floors in the same building to my OB/GYN's office and took care of that annual visit, too.

These appointments aren't my favorite activities, but they're not a big deal.   Things have certainly improved over the years.  The mammography room now has a private dressing area attached to it.  There's no more changing into a hospital gown in a dressing room down the hall, then waiting in a chair outside the screening area for your name to be called.

The doctor's office has also done their part to make things more comfortable by changing from paper to cloth covers in the exam room.  After the nurse took my blood pressure today she handed me a neatly-folded cape and throw to put on before the doctor arrived. The cape overlapped in the front and had a button at the top to hold it closed. The throw was long enough to wrap around the lower part of my body.  That made waiting for the doctor much more comfortable!

Five years ago today: ....gnitseretnI

Sunday, December 7, 2014

No Sweat

Right after Thanksgiving each year our church starts their 'Giving Trees' outreach program.  Several artificial trees are set out in the vestibule and hung with envelopes, each envelope representing one person's gift requests. Hubby Tony and I both select an envelope, buy the items on the list, then return the wrapped gifts for delivery. 

This year I chose a teenage girl, and Tony picked a 30-something man.   It wasn't until I got home and looked at the envelopes closely that I realized that the man said he wanted size 36 pants.  No length was given.

I think it's hard enough to guess at the tastes of someone you don't know without the extra wrinkle of having to guess their size, too.  I asked several people what they thought the average men's inseam was (the consensus was 32 or 33), then pondered their answers for a few days before I headed out.  At the first store I found the pair of jeans the girl wanted, and a nice pair of men's dress pants on the clearance rack. 

Because I didn't spend as much on the gentleman as I'd planned, I decided to buy him a second pair--basic sweat pants with elastic bottoms, which would avoid the length issue entirely.  However, those basic sweat pants ended up being surprisingly hard to find.  The first four stores I went to had upscale fleece or fancy polyester pants with open bottoms.  I finally broke down and went to Walmart, the bastion of basic. 

Even at Walmart it was difficult  I had to walk around the men's department a couple of times to find what I was looking for.  The first display I saw only had pants that were way too large, and the second had the right size, but only in a weird medium blue color.  (I grabbed them, just in case.)  On the third pass through I saw the wall of sweat shirts and pants and happily exchanged to strange-colored pants for a more traditional dark gray and called it done.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Spicy Bean and Vegetable Salad

The holiday calorie overload has started at our house. Hubby Tony and I have four parties to go to in the next 11 days, (and we each have a couple more to attend by ourselves). Three of the parties include dinner, but all of the events will have some type of food.  There will be a lot of eating!

For tonight's potluck I wanted to bring something tasty and healthy.  This Spicy Bean Salad fits both requirements, and it's easily adaptable.  Today the grocery store had a sale on colored peppers, so I used half red and half orange.  You can add more oil to make it less acidic, or leave out the oil and reduce the calories.  Use cilantro or not.  It's all up to you.
Spicy Bean and Vegetable Salad

15 oz can (1 1/2 cups) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz can (1 1/2 cups) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bag frozen corn, thawed
4 green onions, chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can chopped green chiles
1/4 fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

2 limes, juiced
3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine beans, corn, green onions, red pepper, garlic, chiles, and cilantro in a large bowl.  Mix dressing ingredients, add to bowl, and mix to combine.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Five years ago today: Non-Corporate

Friday, December 5, 2014

Let's Unite The Whole World At Christmas Time

When I was shopping a local thrift shop yesterday they were playing an interesting variety of Christmas music. As I browsed through the racks I heard the rough voice of James Brown come through the speakers, singing a soulful song that I'd never heard before.  I had to know what it was, so I came home and did a little YouTube surfing to come up with the answer. I thought you might like to hear it too.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Something For Everyone

Today my business and errands took me to "the Valley" (aka the Chesterfield Valley), home to the longest outdoor strip mall in America.

Years ago the area used to be called Gumbo Flats. Although there were some houses and a handful of businesses it was mainly farmland, because it's in the Missouri River flood plain. In the Flood of 1993 the levee broke and the whole area was under water. After the flood subsided the levee was rebuilt to withstand a 500-year flood.  The property owners cleaned up and started rebuilding. And building. And building some more.  Now the stores stretch for more than a mile along one side of Chesterfield Airport Road, the main thoroughfare  They share a common parking lot, and there are several cross streets through the lot to improve the traffic flow.  On the other side of the road there are more strip malls and some office buildings.  (There's also a traditional mall and two outlet malls not too far away.) 

If you can't find what you're looking for at a store there, you probably don't need it.

Five years ago today: Changes

Monday, December 1, 2014

Four Burners, One Light

Yesterday was the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the church year for Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists.  When we went to Mass yesterday there were purple pillar candles on stands in front of the altar, and before the opening procession the priest blessed the large Advent wreath in the back of the church.

Two of my blogging friends (Dkzody's Weblog and Bee's Blog) posted nice discourses about the season and its meaning, and I expect to read others as the season winds on.  However, I don't think any of them will make me laugh out loud like this one I found on Catholic Memes.

Five years ago today: Mmmmm.....