Monday, November 30, 2015

Nothing But The Best Deals (Or So They Say)

According to Wikipedia, the term Cyber Monday (which is the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States) has been in use since 2005  The day was created to encourage people to shop online.  And, based on my experience this year, encourage they did.

All day long I had a flood of emails (most of which landed in my Junk folder because of my Inbox settings). The marketing department of every retail company I have a relationship with wanted me to know about their one-day only specials.  Each time I checked there was another round of notifications offering great prices on clothes (everyday, exercise, and outdoor), collectibles, cruises (two different lines), home goods, makeup, and shoes.

Two online marketplaces enticed me to click through their links, telling me they had the best prices on things I had to have or gift to someone else.  In addition to me and the people in my life, more messages told me I could buy food and accessories for my pets.  One of the software programs I have on my computer let me know that I could upgrade to the newest version for a good price today.  Even my local newspaper sent me an email asking me to check out their online shop.

I'm sure I disappointed all those marketing departments by not taking advantage of any of the sales that came my way.  Maybe next year.

Five years ago today: Functional Fitness

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Random Acts Of Christmas Cheer

My mind works in strange ways that I've stopped trying to figure out.

Several years ago I read this post by blogger Catherine, in which she wrote about adorning trees in a nature preserve with Christmas ornaments.  For some reason that idea struck me as off the wall, but fun (and similar to when I hung a wind chime in a strip mall parking lot tree back in 2008).   I filed it away for future reference in my To-Do file.  Then, for several years I worked in a retail setting, where the month of December was crazy busy and there was no time for frivolous projects.

This morning I was looking at newspaper ads.  When I saw that a big box discount store had boxes of shatterproof ornaments for sale the whole idea of hanging ornaments in random places popped into my head.  After lunch I went and bought a box of 24 small red balls.

My plan is to share Random Acts of  Christmas Cheer by hang one ornament outside in a public place every day starting December 1st.   I hope the ornaments will make someone smile, but I'll never know.  I'm not planning on adding any contact information.  But will there be photos taken and shared here? You bet!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Who Am I?

Every couple of months I have to use an alias for work projects. The process feels just a little bit cloak and dagger, and I try to have fun with it.

Each time the alias I choose is slightly different.  I always use my real first name ever since the day someone called me by my fake given-name-of-the-day and I didn't realize they were talking to me.  The surname is always unique.  Sometimes I plan the name out in advance, but sometimes I forget until I'm in the car driving to a location.  Then I look around for a street name or landmark that I can appropriate, or listen for something on the radio I can adopt.

For example, yesterday I heard a commercial that said a St. Louis Symphony concert would include selections from the Harry Potter soundtrack.  I decided that 'Potter' was my name for the day.  However, I'm nothing if not flexible, so when someone called me 'Porter' I decided not to correct them.

Five years ago today: Fresh and New

Sunday, November 22, 2015

'X' Marks The Top (Or Bottom)

We had our first really cold weather last night, so today my first project was to replace the cotton sheets on all the beds with their flannel cousins. (Even though two of the bedrooms are empty now, they'll be full for Christmas.  Might as well do the job while I have the time) 

Once the sheets were on the beds it was time to add the rest of the bedding layers.  Each of the beds has the same polar fleece blanket, which have simple hems on all four sides and no satin binding at the top edge.  The ones on the full-sized beds are sized as Full/Queen, and only about 10" longer than wide.  Without any type of top binding, I always have a problem figuring out which way to put those blankets on.  If I do it the wrong way there's not enough to tuck under at the foot and the sides hang down too long..

Today, though, as I was getting ready to put the first blanket on I had a revelation.  After I figured out which was the long side (by folding one corner of the blanket until it met the opposite edge), I used a Sharpie to draw an 'X' on the top and bottom hem.  The marks won't show underneath the bedspread, but it will make it easy for me to figure out the correct orientation.

X marks the top (or bottom)
Five years ago today: Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Tiny New Angel

You may remember last month when I made dinner for a young pregnant woman at church who'd been put on bed rest.  Unfortunately, the story didn't have a happy ending.  Despite the best efforts of the parents, the doctor, and the hospital, the baby was born much too early and much too small.  He lived 25 hours, and passed away last Friday.

The baby had been buried earlier in the week, but today they had a memorial mass.  It was the first time I've ever been to a service for someone who wasn't an adult, and a 'first' I wish I hadn't had to do.  I've known the baby's fraternal grandmother and grandfather for almost 25 years, and the baby's father went to school with one of my boys.  I didn't know the baby's mother until several years ago, but now I also know her mother and father (and her grandmother and grandfather) too.  All of them looked shell shocked.

The service was very comforting. Many of the people who were at the mass were parishioners, and I knew most of them by name or face. It was nice to be surrounded by so many familiar people. During the homily the priest offered reassuring and uplifting words, and the liturgy's music was soothing.

Afterwards the parents, grandparents, and great grandparents lined up in the back of church so people could express their condolences. It was difficult to go through that line and talk with all the grieving people; what do you say? 

On the way out I got a holy card that listed the baby's birth and death dates that I can keep for a remembrance.

Five years ago today: Sunless

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Twist Tie Code

This morning I was making a sandwich to take with me for lunch. (Whole wheat bread, sunflower seed butter sprinkled with extra sunflower seeds, and apricot jam.  It was very good).  I started with the last piece from one loaf of bread, and took the second piece from a new loaf I bought last time I grocery shopped. 

Each bag was secured with a different color twist tie.  The old one was blue.  The new one was white.  Seeing the two colors made me think of the 'bread tag code' I learned about from a friend a while back.  Basically, each day has a different color twist tie to help you figure out what day the bread was baked.

The system was set up to help stores identify which bread is fresh, which is getting old (so it can be put on sale), and which is out of date and needs to be removed from the shelves. As a rule, unless a stocker has missed pulling an old loaf you should only see two tag colors on the shelves at any one time.

There are a lot of online articles that give a definitive twist tie color schedule, but Snopes says there's no industry-wide standard for color coding. Each manufacturer is free to come up with their own system.


Five years ago today: Turkey Trivia

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Prayer of an Anonymous Abbess

By Paul Mercuri [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I'm not anonymous and I'm not an abbess, but I think these observations are right on!
Lord, thou knowest better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity.

Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples’ affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it. But thou knowest, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends.

Keep me from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains — they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.

I will not ask thee for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn’t agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint — it is so hard to live with some of them — but a harsh old person is one of the devil’s masterpieces.

Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy. Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so.


Margot Benary-Isbert

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Good Enough!

Our church is having a progressive dinner tonight. Hubby Tony and I volunteered to host a group of six.  That meant, on top of planning and cooking the meal (salad, pork roast, brown rice, roasted butternut squash, and broccoli) I had to do the cleaning chores that only get done when company's coming. I started with the easy stuff...dusting, cleaning the floor under the dining room furniture, and moving all the clutter out of the kitchen. Once that was done I was forced to think about the hard tasks. At the top of that list was dusting and cleaning the light in the front foyer.

Our foyer is two stories tall, and the light fixture is proportionate to the area's size. The behemoth is about 42" long. It's attached to the ceiling with an (approximately) 90" long chain, and the bottom of the fixture is another 90" from the floor. The fixture's polished brass and beveled glass panels hold ten candle-shaped light bulbs.

To dust the outside I attach a t-shirt to a broom, then walk up to the second floor, stand on the overlook, and lean over the rail. I have to be careful not to push too hard against the fixture or it will start swinging, and I don't know just how much of that it would take before crashing down. As challenging as the outside of the light is, the inside is even harder! Even standing on my eight-foot ladder I can't reach more than the bottom half.

 Yesterday afternoon I gave the fixture a good dust, then attempted to clean it. I thought I did a pretty good job until I turned it on; the glass panels I'd 'cleaned' were so streaky they almost looked worse than the ones I hadn't done. I figured it was time to come up with a Plan B. Plan B turned out to be Son Donald, who is about a foot taller than I am. This afternoon he was able to get most of the dirt off so the fixture is presentable. It's not perfect, but it's good enough.

Five years ago today: Exotic

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The World In Your Cup

Yesterday Hubby Tony and I went to a fascinating exhibition at the Missouri History Museum called "Coffee: The World in Your Cup and St. Louis in Your Cup".

Part of the display is a traveling exhibit. The rest is all about the St. Louis connection to coffee.  I learned that at one time St. Louis was a center for coffee trading, and one of the nation’s leading coffee producers. The city's relationship with coffee started when the French settlers who founded the city brought coffee beans with them.  Later, people heading west stopped in St. Louis to gather provisions, which included coffee.  The city's location on the Mississippi made it a natural hub as a trading center.  That was reinforced when many of the first railroads came through St. Louis.  By the turn of the 20th century, St. Louis was home to more than 70 coffee roasters and a hotbed for coffee imports, manufacturing, and distribution.

The exhibition had a section filled with an arrangement of old roasters, grinders, and coffee pots.  There was even a Civil War gun that doubled as a coffee mill.  A large portion of the exhibit contained examples of advertising, including grocery store storage bins, coffee cans and tins, trays, and signs. There was even a period-appropriate "living room" with a TV showing St. Louis celebrity Dana Brown's Safari Coffee commercials.

The last section of the exhibition was about the history of coffee from a global perspective, how it's grown and harvested, and some of the coffee customs in other cultures.  At the very end there was an interactive area where you could write about your connection to coffee on a cone-shaped filter and display it on one of the shelves.

Mural made out of coffee beans

Five years ago today: Living Thanks

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Secret Stairs

In the last month I've been at the mall closest to my house for job purposes four different times.  Today I had a fifth visit.  Usually when I go to this mall I park in the same section of the parking garage (first floor on the east side).  However, today the store I had to go to was on the other end of the mall, so I tried another 'regular' lot close to the food court.  It was full, so I decided to head towards the opposite corner of the parking garage from my regular area where there's a dedicated entrance for one of the stores.  I could walk through that store into the mall itself.

Because I find this particular parking garage confusing I took a wrong turn and ended up on the roof, where I had my choice of dozens of spaces.  From there you can take an elevator or stairs down one level to the store entrance.  I chose the latter.  When I entered the stairwell, I noticed a large sign that indicated the store entrance was right below, the food court down one more level, and the first floor of the mall below that.   I decided to get a little more exercise and take the stairs all the way down.

At the bottom of the stairs I opened the large set of metal doors and found myself in a service hallway.  There was a sign with an arrow pointing towards the mall.  I walked down the hall, though another set of metal doors into the public area, where I found my store and did my business. 

I decided I would backtrack my route and get even more exercise walking up the several flights of stairs to my car.  However, when I saw the large sign that said 'Employees Only Past This Point' on the public side of the first set of metal doors I almost changed my mind.  However, figuring they had no problem with me coming down the stairs I decided I wouldn't worry too much about going up.  Besides, no one was there to challenge me.

Five years ago today: Yippee!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Have You Seen Any Of These?

20 Signs of A Hard Winter from Dave Murray, a local TV Meteorologist
  • Thicker than normal corn husks
  • Woodpeckers sharing a tree
  • Early arrival of the Snowy owl
  • Early departure of geese and ducks
  • Early migration of the Monarch butterfly
  • Thick hair on the nape (back) of the cow’s neck
  • Heavy and numerous fogs during August
  • Raccoons with thick tails and bright bands
  • Mice eating ravenously into the home
  • Early arrival of crickets on the hearth
  • Spiders spinning larger than usual webs and entering the house in great numbers
  • Pigs gathering sticks
  • Insects marching a bee line rather than meandering
  • Early seclusion of bees within the hive
  • Unusual abundance of acorns
  • Muskrats burrowing holes high on the river bank
  • “See how high the hornet’s nest, ‘twill tell how high the snow will rest”
  • Narrow orange band in the middle of the Woollybear caterpillar warns of heavy snow; fat and fuzzy caterpillars presage bitter cold
  • The squirrel gathers nuts early to fortify against a hard winter
  • Frequent halos or rings around sun or moon forecast numerous snow falls.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Little Rolls Of Pumpkin Goodness

This weekend I'll be attending the statewide business meeting of a group I'm involved in.  I know from past experience with these meetings that there will be a lot of sitting around, and a lot of (non-healthy) eating. To combat the bad diet choices I knew I'd be making I wanted to bring some healthy things to snack on.

Yesterday I started my plan of attack, filling baggies with dried fruit and nuts.  I also wanted to bring vegetable sticks, but when I opened the produce drawer in the refrigerator there wasn't much there.  I didn't particularly want to go to the grocery store, so I figured I'd have to be creative.  The one thing I did have plenty of was pumpkin puree, but that would be hard to eat on the go.  I wondered if I could use my food dehydrator to make pumpkin leather.

Rolls of pumpkin goodness ready to be eaten
After looking at a couple of recipes online I realized the process was doable and pretty easy.  A bag of pumpkin contained two cups.  I combined the puree with a generous squirt of honey (about two teaspoons), three big shakes of cinnamon (about a teaspoon) and a shake of nutmeg (about 1/2 of a teaspoon), mixed everything together, and spread it on the dehydrator fruit leather tray.  I set the dehydrator temperature to 135˚ and walked away.  When I checked four hours later most of the tray was dry and pliable.  There were a  couple of damp spots at the center edge where the puree had been spread a little too thick, but I decided to cut those off, eat them immediately, and call the job done.

The USDA says a serving of vegetables is a half cup, so I cut the leather into quarters and rolled each into a log.  I slid a couple into a bag and set the bag with my food stash.  I'm pretty sure they won't make it back home.

Five years ago today: Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Who's Got The Pumpkin?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

You Are A Child Of The Universe

Has this ever happened to you?  A song gets overplayed on the radio and you get sick of it.  Years later when you hear it again it sounds fresh and new.

Five years ago today: Shower Me Clean

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Mower Movement

For the past month we've been nursing our geriatric lawn mower along, hoping to make it to the end of the grass cutting season.  However, two weeks ago it bit the dust with almost a month of grass growing left.  Its timing couldn't have been worse.  The big box stores had gotten rid of most of their stock for the year, and we weren't inclined to spend the extra money to get one at a specialty store (even though the merchandise was probably better quality).

In the middle of the 'finding a new mower' project Hubby Tony coincidentally got a call from Son Tony.  After they'd chatted about this and that, Son Tony mentioned a friend of his who owns a lawn mowing business might have a used mower he'd be willing to sell us.  Son Tony was right.  Two days and one hundred dollars later we were the proud owners of a refurbished John Deere.

The mower has some quirks.  It has the equipment for an electric start, but a bum battery that would need to be replaced.  There's a weird side discharge chute that makes it hard to get close to things on the right-hand side. The biggest difference between it and our old mower, though, is the fact the new one is self-propelled.

The new system  took some getting used to.  This new mower has two levers- one on he right hand side that controls the drive mechanism, and one on the left that controls the speed (which ranges from 'rabbit' to 'tortoise'). It took me a while to figure out how fast I wanted to mow.  You also have to remember to release the forward lever when you turn a corner.  The first time I cut the grass I left a few divots in the yard until I got the hang of it.  The new mower is quite a bit heavier then the old mower, so the couple of spots in the yard that require backing up require more strength.

At the rate I'm going I suspect I'll have the mower's idiosyncrasies figured out right about the time grass season is finished for the year.

Five years ago today: Movie Night(s)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sometimes There's No Deep Meaning

Today I had a work assignment about 15 miles away from my house.  Since I was already going to be in the area, I scheduled a second one just a mile down the road from the first. 

One of the requirements of the second assignment was to take a photo of the building.  I did. then uploaded and submitted it to the company when I got home in the middle of the afternoon.  Fifteen minutes later they sent me a message that said the photo didn't meet the standards.  They wanted me to go back and re-take it within 24 hours.

At first I thought about telling them what they could do with their request, but then I reconsidered.  It wouldn't be very professional to bail on a job requirement, so I decided to suck it up and make the second trip.  The problem was that my schedule for tomorrow will take me in a different direction.  I'd have to complete the photo re-shoot tonight.  After dinner I waited for rush hour traffic to die down, then got back in the car for the second drive to the area in a day. 

Thanks to the change back to standard time it was dark, which didn't make me any happier.  I try to live my life by the motto 'everything happens for a reason', so as I drove along I tried to figure out why I was needing to make this trip.  Would I talk to someone I wouldn't have encountered otherwise, see something interesting, or hear something new and different on the radio?  However, I talked to no one (unless you could the choice words I sent towards an erratic driver-he couldn't hear me, so they probably didn't count).   There were no outstanding sights at all.  It was interesting, but not earth shattering, to hear the same song playing on two different radio preset stations at the same time.

After a 25-minute drive I got to the store, stood across the street, and took several photos.  I'm no expert, but I think my daytime photos were better.  However, I'm not the one setting the standards, so when I got home I sent the shots off through cyberspace to the company.  As I did it I realized this time there was no deep meaning to the evening's adventure.  The moral of the story is that I should have done it right the first time.

Five years ago today: Squishy Squash