Monday, March 30, 2015

Asparagus Tips

I'll be doing a stock-up grocery trip later in the week, but today the refrigerator crisper drawers were almost completely empty. On my way home from the gym this morning I stopped in at my local Aldi to pick up enough produce to get us through.

This time their fruit "Produce Picks of the Week" were strawberries, cantaloupe, and pineapple, and the vegetables were broccoli crowns, celery, and sweet potatoes.  I grabbed one of everything but on my way to the check out I saw a hand-written sign which said they were having a Manager's Special on asparagus; it was on sale for only 99¢.  Underneath the sign there was an almost-empty box that held what was left of the one pound packages.

What a deal!  I love asparagus, and the pencil-thin stalks looked like they'd be nice and tender.  Visions of roasted spears tossed with balsamic vinaigrette danced through my head. Or I could use them to make a nice asparagus risotto.  Or a stir fry.  So many possibilities!

I grabbed two.

When I got home, I realized I had already taken beans out of the freezer to make chili for dinner.  There would be no asparagus tonight.  I wanted to keep them fresh, so I decided to try a trick I'd read about.  Basically, you treat the spears like fresh flowers and stand them up in water. 

With a sharp knife I cut off an inch of the tough bottom ends of each stalk, then put them in a tall cup and poured a couple of inches of water in it.  I wrapped some plastic wrap loosely over the cup so it didn't touch the asparagus, and used a rubber band to keep it in place.  Since tonight's meal yielded enough for leftovers tomorrow night, I hope that my asparagus stays fresh until later in the week.

Five years ago today: Who Comes Up With These?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Holy Batstamps!

I buy far fewer postage stamps than I used to, but last week I needed to go to the post office and stock up. I like to get commemorative stamps, and enjoy the process of picking out just the right ones. This time there were quite a few choices available, but when I saw the Batman stamps my decision was easy. The sheet of 20 stamps had eight different designs, and the clerk pointed out that some of them were very unique.

Tonight I used the stamps for the first time when I mailed a birthday card. To make it extra fun, I used one of the four Bat-Signal stamps:

Friday, March 27, 2015

How To Make A Palm Cross

Since Palm Sunday is this weekend, I thought a step-by-step guide for making a cross from a piece of palm might come in handy:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Better To Be Safe Than Sorry

This evening I was lazily browsing Facebook.  Halfway down my home page I noticed a link to an article about how everyone is deficient in magnesium. The person who posted it has a reputation for being on the medical fringe, but I since I didn't want to get up off the couch I clicked the link to see what I could learn.

According to the article, pretty much any illness or symptom could be a sign of magnesium deficiency, and not even trained doctors can notice it. Why is it such a problem? We're poisoned by our food. We're stressed out. We're eating too much sugar.  All pretty dramatic stuff. 

I was pretty sure most of the facts in the article were a little overblown (especially when it segued into an advertisement for the author's patented supplement which was guaranteed to restore health) and decided to find some more information on the subject.  The National Institutes of Health had a much more balanced view of the issue.  It said that most people could stand to have more magnesium in their diet, but a deficiency due to low dietary intake in otherwise-healthy people is not common.

I eat a pretty good diet. The only supplement I take (on the advice of my OB) is a combination calcium and Vitamin D tablet.  Just to be on the safe side, though, I decided to take a nice hot bath and throw some Epsom salts, otherwise known as magnesium sulfate, in the water.  Better to be safe than sorry, right?

Five years ago today: Not Just For Kids

Monday, March 23, 2015

I've Been Looking Forward To This For Weeks!

When I went out to the compost pile today, I saw tiny green leaves poking out of the ground:

I know the dandelion's really a weed.  However, since it's been years since we've applied fertilizer or weed killer to the yard, last summer I experimented with 'harvesting' it and other weedy greens and plants. I'm looking forward to continuing the practice this year.

Once I started looking closely around the yard I saw tiny dandelions popping up in several places.  I grabbed a shovel and dug some of them out.  I also scooped up some day lily shoots that were growing in the wrong place, and a few wild violet shoots.  (I could have had handfuls of chickweed, but I don't really enjoy it-it tastes too grassy to me.)

I brought my greens inside and washed them in several changes of water, then chopped them up.  I cooked them and added them (along with some other vegetables) to a bowl of rice and beans for lunch.  The greens added a nice fresh taste of spring.

Five years ago today: Get A Job!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The $2.00 Bill I Tried To Spend

A friend sent me this funny story in an email. I decided to share it with you, but first I wanted to track down the source. It didn't take long to do that; according to Snopes the author is "Captain Sarcastic", who posted it to a couple of newsgroups in December 1993.

The following is a true story. It amused the hell out of me while it was happening. I hope it isn't one of those "had to be there" things.

On my way home from the second job I've taken for the extra holiday ca$h I need, I stopped at Taco Bell for a quick bite to eat. In my billfold is a $50 bill and a $2 bill. That is all of the cash I have on my person. I figure that with a $2 bill, I can get something to eat and not have to worry about people getting mad at me.

Me: "Hi, I'd like one seven layer burrito please, to go."

Server: "Is that it?"

Me: "Yep."

Server: "That'll be $1.04, eat here?"

Me: "No, it's "TO-GO" [I hate effort duplication]

At this point I open my billfold and hand him the $2 bill. He looks at it kind of funny and . . .

Server: "Uh, hang on a sec, I'll be right back."

He goes to talk to his manager, who is still within earshot. The following conversation occurs between the two of them:

Server: "Hey, you ever see a $2 bill?"

Manager: "No. A what?"

Server: "A $2 bill. This guy just gave it to me."

Manager: "Ask for something else, THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A $2 BILL."

Server: "Yeah, thought so."

He comes back to me and says:

Server: "We don't take these. Do you have anything else?"

Me: "Just this fifty. You don't take $2 bills? Why?"

Server: "I don't know."

Me: "See here where it says legal tender?"

Server: "Yeah."

Me: "So, shouldn't you take it?"

Server: "Well, hang on a sec."

He goes back to his manager who is watching me like I'm going to shoplift.

Server: "He says I have to take it."

Manager: "Doesn't he have anything else?"

Server: "Yeah, a fifty. I'll get it and you can open the safe and get change."


Server: "What should I do?"

Manager: "Tell him to come back later when he has REAL money."

Server: "I can't tell him that, you tell him."

Manager: "Just tell him."

Server: "No way, this is weird, I'm going in back."

The manager approaches me and says:

Manager: "Sorry, we don't take big bills this time of night." [It was 8pm and this particular Taco Bell is in a well lighted indoor mall with 100 other stores.]

Me: "Well, here's a two."

Manager: "We don't take those either."

Me: "Why the hell not?"

Manager: "I think you know why."

Me: "No really, tell me, why?"

Manager: "Please leave before I call mall security."

Me: "Excuse me?"

Manager: "Please leave before I call mall security."

Me: "What the hell for?"

Manager: "Please, sir."

Me: "Uh, go ahead, call them."

Manager: "Would you please just leave?"

Me: "No."

Manager: "Fine, have it your way then."

Me: "No, that's Burger King, isn't it?"

At this point he BACKS away from me and calls mall security on the phone around the corner. I have two people STARING at me from the dining area, and I begin laughing out loud, just for effect. A few minutes later this 45 year old-ish guy comes in and says [at the other end of counter, in a whisper]:

Security: "Yeah, Mike, what's up?"

Manager: "This guy is trying to give me some [pause] funny money."

Security: "Really? What?"

Manager: "Get this, a two dollar bill."

Security: "Why would a guy fake a $2 bill?" [Incredulous]

Manager: "I don't know? He's kinda weird. Says the only other thing he has is a fifty."

Security: "So, the fifty's fake?"

Manager: "NO, the $2 is."

Security: "Why would he fake a $2 bill?"

Manager: "I don't know. Can you talk to him, and get him out of here?"

Security: "Yeah..."

Security guard walks over to me and says:

Security: "Mike here tells me you have some fake bills you're trying to use."

Me: "Uh, no."

Security: "Lemme see 'em."

Me: "Why?"

Security: "Do you want me to get the cops in here?"

At this point I was ready to say, "SURE, PLEASE," but I wanted to eat, so I said:

Me: "I'm just trying to buy a burrito and pay for it with this $2 bill."

I put the bill up near his face, and he flinches like I was taking a swing at him. He takes the bill, turns it over a few times in his hands, and says

Security: "Mike, what's wrong with this bill?"

Manager: "It's fake."

Security: "It doesn't look fake to me."

Manager: "But it's a $2 bill."

Security: "Yeah?"

Manager: "Well, there's no such thing, is there?"

The security guard and I both looked at him like he was an idiot, and it dawned on the guy that he had no clue. My burrito was free and he threw in a small drink and those cinnamon things, too. Makes me want to get a whole stack of $2 bills just to see what happens when I try to buy stuff. If I got the right group of people, I could probably end up in jail. At least you get free food.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cash Drawer Arrangement

This year I volunteered to work as a cashier at our parish fish fries every other week.  Tonight was one of my nights., so at 5:45 I was in the cafeteria to relieve one of the first shift volunteers.

During my work career I've had two jobs that involved handling money.  At both of them, the cash drawer was set up with the small bills to the left and the larger on the right (in numerically consecutive order).  That's how I learned how to do it, so in my mind it must be the right way.  The person who sets up the tills, though, does it the opposite way.  When there's a long line of people waiting to order, I'm afraid I'll get confused and start giving out the wrong change, so the first thing I do when I start my shift is change things around to suit me.

There are three cashiers working, so I don't feel bad about keeping customers waiting the few minutes it takes me to switch the bills.  All of my volunteer co-workers are aware of my quirk and tease me a little about it.  Doesn't bother me one bit.   I'd rather get it right than be embarrassed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Toss, Toss, Toss

It's the third month of the year, and I'm decluttering and organizing a third room in the basement of our house.  It's the most difficult one yet, because the room is the office, which is used for so many things.

One wall is lined with bookshelves. A second wall holds Hubby Tony's desk and a large filing cabinet. Across from that is a smaller desk that holds the printer.  (Its drawers are filled with miscellaneous cords and old software boxes.) My sewing area is along the fourth wall. The corners of the room hold milk crates, boxes, and other 'stuff'.

I started with the bookshelves.  A couple of years ago I'd purged some of the books,, but now I was ready to make another pass. I went through and made a pile of things to donate (and made Tony do the same). Soon most of the shelves were looking tidy. However, several shelves of one of the bookshelves held photo boxes and old albums that needed to be culled through.

I've never been the world's greatest photographer. Back in the days of film that meant for each roll of 24 photos there might be a couple of excellent ones and a handful of acceptable ones. The rest were too dark, too blurry, or poorly composed. I felt guilty about throwing them away, so they all ended up in boxes. However, now I was determined.

I tackled the four boxes in chronological order. Some images were easy to get rid of. If we had
two dozen photos of the same event I only kept the best ones. Same with pictures of scenery. If the photo was an unflattering image it got tossed.  I tried to ask myself if anyone would want to see the photo (other than Tony and me) twenty years from now.  In the end I had half as many pictures. Not all of them are great, but all of them bring back memories.

With that done it was time to tackle the albums.  Most of them had been my mom's, filled with the Polaroids she was so fond of taking.  Sadly, most of them were faded and stuck to the adhesive album pages. I was able to salvage a couple of family events, but didn't feel at all guilty tossing out the ones of her work colleagues, people I'd never met.

I still have a little more work to go, but I'm pleased with  the results so far.  The shelves look much neater, and it's easy to find things.  Now to tackle another part of the room.....

Five years ago today: Sharing Local Information

Monday, March 16, 2015


It was mid-afternoon, my list of errands weren't going as quickly as I wanted them to, and I was getting hungry and cranky.  When I couldn't find the Epsom salts at the drug store I almost threw a temper tantrum, and realized I needed a snack. 

A bag of nuts or a granola bar would have been a healthy choice, but my stomach cried out for chocolate, and told me it wouldn't be satisfied with anything else.  I wandered up and down the candy aisle looking at the options, then turned the corner to the Easter candy section. Halfway down the display I saw 'it'--

the display of Cadbury Creme Eggs.

Cadbury eggs are one of my favorites. I love their combination of thick chocolate shell and gooey fondant filling.  (Thank goodness they're only available part of the year.)  Not only could I satisfy my craving in a marvelous way, I wouldn't have to spend a lot of money to do it.  A sign on the shelf said that this week the eggs were on sale Buy One Get One Free. 

I picked up two eggs and headed towards the register. As I walked I debated with myself. Even though I'd try and eat only one egg, I have terrible self control. I knew I'd end up eating both, then feeling bad. But on the other hand,  I'd pay the same price whether I bought one or two. Shouldn't I try to get the most for my money?  The debate continued the entire time I was waiting in line.

Right before I reached the cashier I figured out a solution. After I paid for the candy and received my receipt I turned to the woman behind me and handed her the egg, explaining she was helping me practice portion control, and quickly walked away.

Five years ago today: NOT America's Next Top Model

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi Day 2015

Taking myself out to dinner on Pi Day 3.14.15:

Slice of veggie pizza on whole-wheat crust

Slice of Key Lime pie

Five years ago today: Blog Redesign Part 1

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Good Neighbor Reward

This afternoon I was upstairs in the bedroom cleaning up a cat hairball mess when I heard the doorbell ring. When I got downstairs I saw a woman standing at the door holding a tall bag. I opened the door, and realized it was something from a florist.

The Graphics Fairy
For a second I thought it was for me, but the delivery person explained she was trying to get the package to a neighbor who lived halfway down the street. She'd tried leaving it with one of the closer houses, but no one was home at any of them. Would I accept it?

At first I said I would (if she'd leave a note on the neighbor's door letting them know I had it) then I thought about the cats. They LOVE flowers. I didn't know if they'd sense what was in the package and be able to get into it. When I expressed my doubts, the driver asked if perhaps I could put them in a room and close the door.

Why didn't I think of that?

Problem solved, I signed for the package and the woman handed it to me.  The very lightweight container was wrapped in a delivery sleeve, so I couldn't see what was in there.  Before I closed the door she handed me a 'good neighbor' coupon that will get me a free carnation at the florist's shop.

Five years ago today: Electrifying

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cast Iron Skillet TLC

For dinner tonight I baked a sweet potato and spinach fritatta in one of my cast iron skillets.  When it was done and I removed it from the pan I noticed a thick layer of baked-on egg all along the sides of the pan and realized it was time to re-season it.

I've had my cast iron for decades.  I used to use it on top of the stove and in the oven, but several years ago we got a range with a glass cook top.  I was afraid the heavy pans would scratch it up, so now I only used it for baking.  I like how cast iron cooks food evenly,  but I don't like that evenly-cooked food stuck on the pan!

The seasoning process is easy but time consuming.  First I removed the cooked-on crud by scrubbing it with a mixture of salt and oil, rinsed the pan thoroughly in hot water, and dried it well.  Next, I smeared it with a light layer of shortening (inside and out, while I was at it), then put it in a 300 degree oven and baked it for 2 hours.  When it was done I took it out and wiped it down with a paper towel.  I noticed the outside was nicely seasoned, but the inside still looked a little dull so I repeated the whole process again. This time it looked better, but I'll know for sure the next time I use it. 

A good seasoning should last for months, as long as the person cleaning up after dinner remembers not to wash the pan with soap!

Monday, March 9, 2015


I get to do a lot of different things in my job as an independent market evaluator.  Today was one of my favorites; I got to shop in a very upscale boutique where some of the items can cost as much as a house payment.  In real life I'm nowhere close to being able to afford the merchandise in the store, but I can act a role well.  The most important thing is to look the part.  I don't want to stand out by being flamboyant or showy.  Instead, I try to go for an old money, don't-need-to-look-wealthy look. 

The last time I played a role like this the weather was much warmer.  When I looked in my closet I discovered I needed to add some appropriate cool weather pieces. I went to several thrift shops until I found a designer black jacket, which I put over a satiny top.  Instead of dress pants I wore my nicest jeans, which have an expensive women's brand label (but mine came from the outlet mall).  I added a strand of fake black pearls and earrings that coordinated with the shirt, polished my black shoes, and swapped out my fabric Vera Bradley purse for a slouchy black model.

Yesterday I scrubbed the garden dirt out from under my fingernails, filed them into shape, did some cuticle maintenance, and removed and replaced the peeled polish.  This morning I spent extra time fixing my hair and doing my makeup.  Cleaned up from top to bottom, I got in my car and drove to the store, where I had a great time looking at all the things I wouldn't be buying. 

Five years ago today: Adventures In Cooking

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Winter Be Gone!

After a string of substantially below-average temperature days that lasted more than two weeks, our area finally warmed up over the weekend. Yesterday it was 15 degrees higher than the historical average of 52°. Combine the nice weather with the first day of Daylight Savings Time today and I felt almost giddy.

This afternoon I decided to swap out the winter-themed art.  Gone is the snow-covered barn painted by Hubby Tony's great aunt:

It was replaced by a painting of boys flying kites in a flower-covered meadow:

Instead of this bare-branched tree with an angry winter sky that was in the living room:

There's now a colorful vase of flowers hanging on the hook between the windows.

Now the house looks much better.  Bring on Spring!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Snow Good Deed

You may have noticed that for the past Fridays I've been participating in the Random Acts Of Kindness Adventure 2015 over at My Five Men .  Betsy asked us to share simple things we did for someone else with the blogosphere.  I've had a great time showering kindness on people I didn't know.  However, I think it's also important to let the people we know the best also be on the receiving end of kind acts....just because.

Along that line, last Saturday night Hubby Tony and I had an event to attend.  He was in charge of a portion of it, and I was going as a spectator.  The forecast called for snow, so all day we kept checking the skies.  In the middle of the afternoon the first few flurries started falling, and they picked up steam about 5 PM.

Our original plan was for Tony to leave early with another one of the event organizers, and I'd show up closer to the start time and be available to drive him home.  As he left, I asked him to text me when he arrived and let me know how the roads were.  The trip usually takes 20 minutes, but it was twice that before Tony called to let me know I shouldn't come.  He said he'd ride home with the person who brought him.

All of a sudden I had the evening free.  Even though the snow was still coming down, I decided to go out and shovel the driveway and walk leading to the front door.  We weren't supposed to get enough snow to make navigating on the driveway impossible, but I thought it would be nice for both Tony and the person who was driving to not have to deal with the mess.  I put on a pair of lined nylon pants and my warmest gloves and hat and headed outside.

There was a couple of inches of fluffy snow that was easy to push to the sides of the driveway. When I got done I couldn't feel my fingers, so I passed on doing the sidewalk.  Instead I came inside to warm up.  All my clothes were damp, so I left my boots by the garage door, hung the coat over a kitchen chair, and set my gloves and hat on top of the dryer.  I went upstairs and changed into jeans, leaving my snow pants hanging in the bathroom to dry.

Two hours later I received a text from Tony telling me he was on the way home.  When I looked out the window I noticed there was a substantial amount of white stuff on the drive again.  Once more I decided to bundle up and shovel.  There was less this time, and the job went quicker, so I shoveled the sidewalk, too.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

National Grammar Day


I'm a bit of a language Nazi, so I was pleased when I learned that today is National Grammar Day. I'll be celebrating by making sure my subjects and verbs agree, using apostrophes correctly, and generally avoiding grammar gaffes.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Test Samples

A while back when our cat Pepper had intestinal issues, the vet sent us home with a bag of easy-to-digest prescription food.  It took Pepper about a month to finish that bag, then Hubby Tony started filling his daily food container with the regular brand that he's been eating for several years.  Within two days Pepper was howling in intestinal distress again.  

I called the animal clinic to ask what we should do.  The vet wasn't available, but when the technician said I could come and buy another bag of the prescription food  I immediately changed my shoes and got in the car.  (I know, what we do for our pets!) 

The first time we bought it the cost of the prescription food was just one of several charges on the vet bill, and I didn't stop to figure out how much it cost.  By itself, though, the high cost of the special kibble was obvious.  As the technician was running my charge card I asked her if she had any suggestions.  She said that maybe Pepper had developed an intolerance for an ingredient in his normal food and we might want to try other brands.

The cats have been eating the same holistic cat food for several years, which we buy at a branch of a chain pet food retailer, Each of the branches are owned by independent franchisees, and the staff at the store is extremely friendly and helpful. Last week I stopped in to see if they could give me any advice about choosing a new cat food.

I found an associate in the cat food aisle and explained the situation.  She said she'd look in the back and see if they had any sample sizes we could try.  This is what she came back with!

Each of the bags weighs between four and six runes.  Tony is trying one at a time, mixing it in with the prescription food to see how Pepper likes and tolerates it.  It will take quite a while to get through all the bags (unless Pepper says it's OK to share some with his brother Jackson).

Five years ago today: Books For Free

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Plays On Words

I like puns...the more they make me groan the better I like them. Here's some doozies:
  • When you get a bladder infection urine trouble.
  • Broken pencils are pointless.
  • I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.
  • What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.
  • England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
  • I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.
  • I dropped out of communism class because of lousy Marx.
  • All the toilets in New York's police stations have been stolen. The police have nothing to go on.
  • I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.
  • Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
  • Velcro — what a rip off!
  • A cartoonist was found dead in his home. Details are sketchy
  • Venison for dinner again? Oh deer!
  • The earthquake in Washington obviously was the government's fault.
  • Be kind to your dentist. He has fillings, too

Five years ago today: A Piece Of The Puzzle