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today was verrrrry sad...

Saturday, April 25, 2015
...though I did it to myself, so have no one else to blame. Due to volunteering to go to work. There was only one other person doing the prep. work in the produce department, so I offered myself. Thinking I could go in a work a few hours that would improve the condition of my paycheck, that would otherwise be remarkably slim and trim due to limited hours. And the sad part was due to spending most of the day prepping for slicing. Mostly onions and some squash.

Management or whoever has authority to make decisions has recently started requiring a variety of sliced vegetables to be available for purchase. Saving the customer the labor part of taking home a whole squash or onion or bell pepper and having to wash and slice it before using in the recipe for supper.  Just another way we continue to build a reputation for excellent customer service. Amazing how many people are buying little black styro. trays with a combination of squash and onions, or colorful array of sliced pepper rings, or tasty mix of mushrooms, peppers and onions for steak or pizza toppings. Amazing how many people are willing to pay for someone else to do the slicing.

So I was slicing peppers into rings. They look so pretty, artfully arrayed on the black tray covered with shrink wrap. And cost nearly double what the price would be if you took it home and sliced it yourself. But then you would have to buy all four colors, and have 'way more peppers than you could use in your recipe. So the extra would sit in the drawer in the bottom of the fridge and grow pennicillin cultures.

I was thinking about the game you see when you go to the carnival. Where the innocent are lured in to trying to guess which walnut shell, or over-turned cup is the one the pea or coin is hidden under. The rubes are persuaded to bet their funds on being smarter or more able to keep up with, visually follow which vessel the little item is secreted under. I would slice the pepper's stem end off, and clean out the seeds, then turn them sliced end down, so I would have a row of upside-down vegetables lined up on the cutting board, ready for me to slice each different color into thin rings to stack up on the little rectangular trays. Orange, yellow, red, green.  Wondering what I should put under the pepper to use as the' pea' to trick the un-suspecting carnival goers...

Then I had to peel and quarter thirty onions. Don't let anyone convince you the 'sweet' variety are not as heart-wrenching as the old fashioned yellow or white one. I wept. I cried. I grieved. I made sad faces, and walked away a dozen times but had to keep coming back to get it done. They are huge onions, as big as the locally famous Vidalia Sweet onions grown in west GA, nearly the size of the head of a newborn. They made me so unhappy. Over and over. But I got it done, and was able to regain my cheerful disposition.

it was a reaaallly ....

Friday, April 24, 2015
....productive day, even though I did not actually do anything that shows, for demonstrating accomplishment. I swept most of my house this morning, as the plants that over-wintered indoors just recently relocated. It was raining recently, and I put most of the green things out to get a good drink, thinking it is warm enough to not have to bring them back in. There was a lot of stuff left when they moved back outside, in addition to miscellaneous deceased bugs and multiple dust bunnies surreptitiously lurking.

Then I went to Kmart garden shop and bought plants. Several different kinds of tomatoes, to put out in the garden spot. When I started digging, I was thinking of the year my parents brought me a load of cow droppings for my birthday. A hilarious gift, for sure, to enrich my little plot, adding manure to make good dirt. When the house was built, all the top soil was scraped away, leaving nothing but rock-hard clay. The little spot in the back yard I have tiller-ed, enriched, mulched, fertilized, planted, nurtured for years has the nicest black dirt. And a huge community of earth worms. You cannot dig, turn over a spade full of dirt, without unearthing a wiggler or two. I've always thought that earthworms are the sign of good healthy dirt. They won't live someplace that isn't and they, by doing what they do, make it richer and more organic.

When I go in the garden shop, and plan to buy the ones in the little multi-plant pack, I always peer around and under the leaves to search out the ones with an extra plant or two. Whether it is vegetables or blooming annuals, I am always hopeful for a little lagniappe. An extra plant or two that the growers did not pinch when they put several seeds in each cell. I found several of these in the tomatoes, so in addition to digging holes to put ten in the garden, I have six more that I put in pots to grow a bit more before they permanently relocate.

Also bought some portulaca to go in the strawberry pot, put a bright pink geranium in a big pot by the front door where it will bloom and make me smile all summer. Planted two little six-packs of marigolds in the edge of the bed where the daisies are laughing out loud.  I must have pulled up hundreds of weeds out of the beds and in the lawn, where they are: growing like weeds. Thanks to all the recent spring rains, that we will be even more appreciative of come mid-summer when things start to look parched.

cookin' at work: yummy fresh green beans...

Thursday, April 23, 2015
... will blow your socks off (and not just due to the fact that we all know beans come equipped with a certain flatulence producing ingredient). I made the dish five times and had great reviews. Some customers who would stand around, forking food into their faces, humming to themselves, thinking: 'yum', then saying 'this is so good.' Hang around, looking optimistic, dally long enough for the next passers-by to hear them, providing a little testimonial to the goodness of the recipe. They would comment that I was a good cook, I'd say 'thanks'. Knowing that is not necessarily true: you just follow the instructions that have been tested, proof-read, evaluated, proven to be practically foolproof. Not that I am suggesting anyone might be a fool, but that the written directions are so clear and simple it would be pretty difficult to mess up.

The bean recipe starts with four slices of bacon, diced. I cut them really small, about 1/4 inch, though the instructions were for about an inch. Heat the skillet and put the bacon in, stirring until it is browned and crispy. Take the bacon out and put the beans in. Stir about five minutes, until they begin to get done, then add a thinly sliced yellow onion, and a box of sliced mushrooms. I cut the mush. into smaller pieces, so the servings on a small sample plate would be more manageable. When the onions and mushrooms are tender, stir in a couple Tbs. of cider vinegar, a Tbs. of sugar, salt and pepper to taste. When sugar is dissolved, add the bacon bits back in. This is so good, you will eat too much, then realize the beans, onions and mushrooms are sooo tasty because they were cooked in bacon grease. You knew that when you were doing it, but once you start eating, you will loose your self control.

All the nutritional value of the fresh vegetables just went right out the window due to the overwhelmingly heart-detrimental effect of a third of a cup of bacon fat. So this is something you should make when there will be other people around to prevent you from eating the whole thing by yourself: like a family gathering or potluck dinner. Sorry - between the tasty bacon and the yummy sweet and sour effect of the vinegar and sugar, you are pretty much guaranteed to regret it tomorrow.

Theory of Life...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
...would be things I do that amount to giving away bits of my life in small increments.  Reminiscent of my profound yet mundane discovery of how we all make decisions related to how we will spend. Time vs. $$$$. I was astounded when I came to the realization that the most valuable commodity we all have is Time. The thing everyone on the planet has in a limited supply, but we often seem to be willing to squander, be frivolous in how we spend, while we will make  every effort to be so frugal with cash.

There is so much in print about how important it is to save, save, save and put aside a nest egg. To have sufficient resources to enjoy retirement when we are not longer in the work force, getting up and trudging off to employment every day. We are so saturated with information about the necessity of making more, to save more, to set aside more, to have more when we no longer have a weekly income: for the Golden Years. Then find that health has gone downhill, or we need to buy a new roof for the house, or family circumstances change.

But we often fail to consider that every day only has so many hours and minutes, and we should be making as many decisions about how we spend the Time as how we spend/save the $$$. Wisely or not. Pondering, and thinking about the ways in which we choose to deliberately devote our free time, to things that will have meaning, either for ourselves or others.

I recently read a publication from the workplace about a store manager who received a service award. At the annual meeting of stockholders, so the recognition was a pretty big deal: company wide. I do not know the details, but he is a man who has obviously devoted a huge chunk of time to community projects. In addition to the fifty hours a week the company expects him to put in as a store manager. Which means he has taken that same amount of time away from what he could have otherwise spent with his family, home-care projects or other endeavors. Pretty impressive. I don't know him well, or have any insight into his motivations. But chose to believe that a portion of the reason he does what he does in service work has to do with the way he was raised, the family he grew up in. Parents and grandparents who modeled the attitude of giving. People who instilled the belief that those who are blessed with much, have an obligation to do what they can to provide for the less fortunate.

My list: the one I started making a week ago, of things that I have participated in over the years. Different organizations that have benefitted from my willingness to devote my time to assist, provide support, labor hours in exchange for: nothing. Maybe some personal gratification. In the form of smiling faces of people who have received assistance. Or happy little girls who learned to do a craft they did not think they could accomplish. Or flowers planted to brighten the secret garden of a community center. I have been pondering my own personal service, and have been surprised to see, as I have added things to my list over several days,  the number of places I have donated my skills, resources, talents. Basically - the ways in which I have chosen to live my life by giving my time to organizations I believe in, people and places I find worthy of my Time.

making a donation...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
...to the ARC. Which requires me to really double up on iron supplements. I often go to the donor center to try to give a pint., only to be rejected. Which is troubling, as it is difficult to understand why when one is making a volunteer effort, the offering is not accepted. I do understand the risk of being considered to have insufficient hemoglobin to be considered as a prospect, but again: I am volunteering myself to get poked and the donor center workers turn away a perfectly good, clean, needed pint of blood. I'd be forever low, lacking in red blood cells if I did not take the supplements, due to not being a red meat eater. And think they would likely turn me away if I told them what happens before they take my blood. Sort of like 'carb-loading', but not?

In anticipation of making a donation I have been consuming more iron than usual. Routinely, I will only take a supplement every other day, in addition to the usual multi-vitamin. But as preparation for the offering, I have been taking supplements every time I think about it: often more than once a day. So I had vast quantities of red blood cells today, and was welcomed by the staff to come in, have a seat, and let us poke you in the arm with a huge needle. Surprisingly, it was not nearly as miserable as usual. I told the phlebotomist when she finished: that was the easiest experience I have ever had with giving blood.

I usually make a beeline for Wendy's to treat myself to a burger when I am a pint short, but today I came home and had a glass of wine. They told me to increase my liquids for the next twenty four hours: I was just doing as instructed!

cookin' at work: steak and rice...

Monday, April 20, 2015
... the recipe for the next couple of days. I'm not planning to put a piece of cow in my mouth, but the response from the tasters has been very positive. Everyone who tried it said they really liked the steak. I cooked it in the skillet, though the recipe calls for putting it on a grill. Debated about putting it in the oven, but decided to 'just do it', and see what would happen. Pretty good results, according to the passers-by who gave it a try.

The steaks started with a New York strip. How could you go wrong with that for a beginning? It's going to be tender no matter what you do to it. The recipe has you mix up some marinade: a combination of sundried tomato salad dressing with a packet of brown gravy mix. Shake it up in a gallon zipper bag to mix, then add steaks, making sure they are well covered. Refrigerate. Then you put it on the grill for about four or five minutes in each side. So I did that in the skillet. They thought I was so smart! When all I really did was follow the recipe to the best of my ability, without an actual grill.

The really good stuff, as far as I am concerned, was the rice. So good, I could have eaten the whole bowl. It starts with butter, melted in the skillet, then add diced garlic. Stir in diced onions, bell pepper and celery. (You can buy a container of this in the produce dept., mixed, diced, RTU.)  Add a handful/half a box of sliced mushrooms. Stir in a package of rice (the recipe calls for the RTU stuff, like Uncle Bens' shelf stable variety, but I'd cook some to stir in.) Then add a half cup of Alfredo sauce and two Tbs. of grated parmesan. Stir while heating. When ready to serve, sprinkle on some finely diced basil.

Oh, my goodness. I'm thinking: if you added some shredded chicken from one you buy in the deli, you've got a complete meal. Yummy.

leaving work one night ...

...last week, after doing the food demo. I was gathering up the flowers I would need to take to TN, and about to walk to the register to pay for my goods. As I went to pick up my bucket of cut flowers, a couple of people walked up and said: do you work here? Of course, I said 'yes', and they asked if I could make a boutinierre. I was sort of anxious about saying yes, as I know there are generally consequences to face when anyone does any sort of work that is not 'paid', on the clock. I wanted to help them out, but worried about getting caught. Which is sort of strange, when the company puts so much emphasis on Doing The Right Thing.

But they told me a story about the teenager going to the prom, and the mom with her having surgery on her foot the following day, and this being the only, very last chance, for the girl to get what she needed to go on a Big Deal Date. So I said: let me look and see what sort of roses there are in the back storage/stock room area. And found what she needed, made her flower, and both were happy to have the dilemma resolved.

I told the young girl I was about thirty seconds from leaving the store, and she was very fortunate that they walked up when they came in. And that it was pretty obvious to me that the reason I was still there, when I should have been gone, out the door and on my way home: to be there and help people who were in need of a blessing. They did not get it for free, but they did get what they wanted when they wanted it. So I was happy to help, and think they were happy to have found me.