How to REALLY enjoy the Holidays…

selective focus photography of ceramic mug near candy cane
Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

The holidays are a wonderful time.  The holidays are a stressful time.  Both of these statements are true.  With the right kind of attitude (and effort), you actually can have Happy Holidays!

The holidays can bring on financial distress and stress.  We all want to give just the right present to our loved ones.  Those loved ones don’t want to see us in money trouble just because of gift giving.  Part of what will help is accepting your reality.  If you have money issues during the year, you will have money issues at the holidays.  Those issues won’t go away if you ignore them and spend needlessly.  If you do, you’ll end up feeling bad that you didn’t behave responsibly, as well as feeling more debt pressure than you felt before.  The key is planning.  You have to come up with a budget before the holidays and all the preparations are right there in front of you.  You need to be prepared all throughout the year.  When you see something you know would be a good gift, buy it.  Put it away in a spot you will remember.  Forgetting where your hiding spots are is a two-time loss – you’ll lose the money you spent for the lost item, and you’ll still need to purchase a gift.  Be realistic with your amounts.  If you have to cut down, so be it.  I have found that even simple gifts are well received with pretty wrappings – it shows you made an effort.  A cute little upgrade to a bow is a candy bar or lollipop.  Trust me, it goes over real well!

You also need to decide what stays and what goes.  Maybe if doing a cookie baking exchange stresses you out, eliminate it.  Suggest to the people involved that you have just a general get together – to eat cookies, not to make them.  Then again, if this is a tradition that you truly enjoy, make time for it.  And get rid of something else.  The fact is that there is just so much time between Thanksgiving and Christmas – you can’t do everything, nor should you.  If it doesn’t seem like there will be enough time to full on decorate like a Hallmark Christmas movie – accept that and put up a few of your favorite decorations.  And then like they say in that movie – LET IT GO.  The Holidays are a time to be together – you shouldn’t avoid being with family and friends just so you can hang Christmas lights.  You don’t need a perfect new Christmas sweater or outfit.  You can look just as festive with black pants or a black skirt and a green or a red blouse.  If you want, even pair red and green together (not a usual clothes combination).    Use sparkly accessories too.  Being together and thankful at this time of year should be the focus – not what you’re wearing.

It’s also a good time of year to keep both your eating and drinking in check.  It’s the holidays!   It is a special time of year, so yes – you can treat yourself, and you can indulge in treats, etc. that you normally don’t have.  If you go overboard though, it’s pretty much a guarantee you’ll feel bad afterwards.  Normally, if you’re not a big drinker – don’t turn into one just because you’re at a party.  Behave as a slightly more fun version of yourself, but keep your self respect.  There will be no worse feeling than waking up the next day, wondering yet knowing that you were acting ridiculous the night before.  The danger of overindulging in food isn’t noticed quite as quickly.  A day in January might come and you’ll try something on to wear – and it won’t fit, or at least it won’t fit right.  Though the treats and drinks were good at the time, you will immediately regret having them when your clothes feel snug.  Our hospital has a program that a lot of people join at this time of year – it’s called Maintain Don’t Gain.  It’s a really good idea.  It keeps a lot of us honest.  It truly does help in keeping people on track.

The holidays can be somewhat overwhelming with all the togetherness, especially if you’re not used to it.  Or if you prefer time to yourself, even if it is just now and then.  The fact that it is holiday time doesn’t change the fact that you still may need time to yourself.  Maybe you won’t be able to keep up routines that you normally have.  Being busy is not a reason to ignore what you want and need.  I have always been a firm believer in treating myself good in addition to taking care of those around me.  It’s like they say on airplanes – put your mask on first before attempting to help others.  It is the same with the holidays, and life in general if you think about it.

Old traditions are wonderful.  This is such a special part of the holidays – thinking back and remembering all the good times, and being thankful for them.  You can put out cookies for Santa Claus long after you have non-believers in your house.  It will always be fun driving around and looking at the lights and decorations in your neighborhood.  Everyone can get their pictures taken with Santa – old, young and all those in between.  For as important as your old traditions are, it’s always a good idea to add things to do.  You can start some new traditions.  It could be going to a different church for services.  Maybe not on the actual holiday itself, but maybe just before.  Why not start a goofy gift exchange?  There are so many versions of these kinds of things.  The internet is a good source of ideas for new holiday traditions.

Eating and drinking for my family has always been an important part of the holidays.  My sister and I have always loved the special Stuffing my mother used to make, and the one special kind of Cookie she made at the holidays really signifies Christmas for us.  I think it is important to have all of your traditional favorites.  When I was raising my boys, they always loved these certain kind of rolls – it wouldn’t be a holiday for them if I didn’t make those.  I think it is important to include your favorites, even if others could call them “unusual” at holiday time – or for fancy dinners.  My sister loves ketchup, so no matter whether we are eating fancy or casual, on our table there it will be – a large bottle of ketchup.  My middle son Kevin had been a picky eater when he was young.  I was very laid back about it, which turned out to be the right choice.  He grew out of it, and eventually developed a wide variety of food likes.  Back then, years ago – he ate peanut butter and jelly.  A lot.  If I was laid back during the year, I certainly wasn’t going to take a stand on Christmas (or any other holiday).  So while we all ate turkey, or ham, or prime rib – Kevin had his peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  It was served on the same china the rest of us were using.  Not typical, but it worked for us.

You have to take care of yourself.  It is important to get enough sleep.  You should eat right and try to stick to a somewhat normal routine so you don’t feel “off.”  Don’t neglect to drink water – it is amazing how quickly a body can become dehydrated.  Be as organized as you can be.  It will make everything a lot easier for you.  But don’t be stressed out over it.   Relax and breathe.  As they say, this too shall pass.  And in line with taking care of yourself, treat yourself good.  Buy yourself a Christmas gift.  Since I was old enough to buy presents on my own, from me – I always included myself as a gift recipient of my own.  If money is an issue, I get it.  I would not want to take away from my loved ones in favor of myself, but the fact is…I matter too.  If funds are tight, get yourself something small, something trivial, something fun – to make your own self smile.  You are important as a gift recipient – don’t ever forget that.

The holidays will come fast, and they will go even faster.  So, relax – if you can.  Focus on all of the good in your life.  Ignore the bad, if possible.  Forgive and forget.  Help others, by giving back.  You’ll never have THIS holiday season again – make sure you enjoy it!

It’s the little things…

cat paws in shallow focus photography
Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

The holidays are quickly approaching.  Before you know it, we will all be sitting around the table enjoying Thanksgiving dinner.  And soon after that, Christmas will be upon us.  These are fun times, but they are also stressful times.  There is pressure to have the perfect dinner, to have your home decorated just so, to buy the presents that you know your loved ones will appreciate.  I really try to focus on small things to help me get through the tough times – like food that doesn’t turn out like you’d hoped, or the worry about finances and going over your intended budget.

Last night Ellie and I were out looking at cell phones.  Mine is in bad shape, and she was coming onto our Plan.  We decided pretty quickly about which one we wanted – we both got the same iPhone.  Sounds quick, easy, cut and dried, right?  Oh no, no such luck.  It was the most drawn out visit you could imagine.  It didn’t take me that long to buy my Chevy Spark back in 2016.  There were hardware issues, computer problems, freezing screens, you name it.  Finally after an hour and forty five minutes, we were done.  It was ridiculous.  The little thing that I focused on during this debacle was that we truly did have the nicest salesman ever.  He was funny, yet professional.  Apologetic for the delays yet not in a kiss-your-butt kind of way.  We had a lot of laughs with him.  He made a bad situation (almost) bearable.  After we finally got out of there, we went had dinner at a nice place.  Delicious wings and pizza, which was a great way to end the night.

As you know, we have seven cats.  Thankfully, their flea problem seems to be taken care of.  I am ninety-nine percent sure that this is true.  We have had a newer issue – one of them seems to have worms (gross, I know).  It is hard to figure out who is the infected one when you don’t see who deposits what into the litter box.  The guilty party had decided to pee outside of one of the boxes, and poop as well.  He or she did it no other place in the whole house except in this one spot.   We took Natasha and kept her overnight in our room.  I thought she was the one.  Turns out she was not, because in the morning when I came down – there was the usual “present” he or she left.  In the meanwhile, we gave all seven deworming medication – even though we didn’t think they were all affected.  The medication is fairly mild, thankfully.  Two weeks went by and the gifts that greeted me each morning were still coming.  And then, Monday morning – I guess I got up a little earlier, and put the television on.  I looked – nothing there, no wetness on the pads.  I was watching a few seconds of Dr. Phil when it happened – there went Stanley, into the spot – and he pooped (complete with worms).  I was upset I had to clean it up again, but the bright spot (i.e. the “little thing”) was that I no longer had to give medication to the cats who didn’t need it, and I knew who it was and could properly treat him.  A little victory, but a victory nonetheless.

I loved the Bee Gees, and I love the cover band the New York Bee Gees.  We saw them locally in the summer and we have tickets to see them in December with Christine and her husband.  Recently I had realized that a show they were having in Maryland wasn’t a show with a few acts – it was just them.  I had to find a way so we could go.  It was difficult since I had worked until after 11 pm the night before.  My boss arranged to have me make up my hours, but I had to do it at 6 am the next day.  I got out at noon.  I was exhausted in the car, the drive was over three hours long  and I would end up being exhausted the next day – but we were there!  We saw them, and they were incredible.  The hotel we stayed at was reasonably priced and very nice.  My focus was being happy we were able to attend, and the “little thing” of being tired seemed very minor.  I’m already looking forward to December!

WrestleMania 36 will be in Tampa next April.  Yes, there HAVE been thirty-five of them so far!  Today was the internet presale for tickets.  Ticketmaster on-sale days never really go smooth.  They implemented a new system which at first seemed to work well.  It wasn’t as good as it first appeared to be.  The site was freezing, and jumping – and when I thought I had tickets – I didn’t.  I thought we were going to be shut out and would have to brave the true horror of the regular sale on Friday.  We breathed a bit, took a break for awhile and tried again later on.  I was thrilled to eventually get a text from Christine saying she’d gotten our tickets!  Knowing we will be in the building again was worth the hassle, the worries and the bad words we were saying!  We ended up with what will basically be nosebleed seats – but we don’t care!  The little thing was knowing we won’t have good (or even decent) seats, but that is a minor detail.  She will be attending her fifteenth Mania and I’ll be at my sixteenth!  Roll on, April…

Sometimes it is hard to look on the bright side.  At times there doesn’t even seem to be one.  But there usually always is.  Attitude is everything.  Well, almost everything.  Focus on the good, try as much as you can to minimize and ignore the bad – and be thankful for all the good you’ve got…

 

 

 

Oh no, you didn’t…

(Photo courtesy of spreadshirtmedia.com)

Yes, I did that.  But no, I didn’t do that other thing.  What?  Do you admit to some things and not others?  I’ve been thinking about this lately, as I’ve seen people doing odd things and behaving in ways that just makes me shake my head.  It got me to think of things I’ve done that I might not necessarily be proud of.  Oh, nothing major and nothing illegal – just…weird things.

So, here – in no special order or significance – is a list of things I’ve done (or not done) that some might consider “suspect” in one way or another…

Jeff and I bought two souvenir cups at a baseball game we went to.  As we finished the beers that came in them, we thought of how nice the cups were, and how we’d like more.  We just didn’t want to spend the extra money to get them – it cost a higher price to get these cups rather than just getting a regularly priced beer.  So…as the game was coming to an end, we looked around for people who had left their cups.  There were quite a few.  When the game was over, we casually walked past these left-behind cups and took two of them.  We brought all four home – by that point, we didn’t realize which ones were ours and which ones we’d taken.  All got washed in hot, sudsy water.  We now have a nice set of four matching commemorative cups.

I have ON OCCASION bought used underwear.  Now before you get all grossed and disgusted out, know that these supposed used articles looked brand new.  They actually looked as though they’d been in a package of several – that the original owner appeared to have not liked.  I got these items at a steal.  I don’t make a habit out of this, yet I can’t resist a bargain.  I would never purchase a garment like this that appeared to be used.  I wouldn’t buy ANY kind of garment that looked like it was previously owned.  My goal in thrift store shopping is to look good – not to look as though I’m wearing old junk.

We went out to a very nice diner for breakfast yesterday.  It was very nice, and it was expensive.  I didn’t want to appear greedy.  Our server brought us a basket of small muffins with butter and jelly – far too many for us to finish with the breakfast we ordered.  I knew I was entitled to a point to take the muffins home, so I did – along with the little jelly samples.  These little jellies will come in handy at work.  We sometimes have bagels of rolls – and having some jelly to add will make a nice addition.  Should I have taken them?  Maybe, or maybe not.  I decided to go for it and put them in my purse as we were leaving.

I was sitting in traffic for a long time the other afternoon, on my way to work.  I was getting impatient.  As I sat there waiting and watching cars coming at me from the oncoming direction, I realized that our light was only coming on for a left hand turn – and a regular, green, going straight light was only every fourth or fifth light change.  I was the first car waiting, when I had enough.  I made sure no one was coming – from any direction.  I went through the red light.  If I hadn’t, I bet I would still be sitting there now!  Well, not really.  I’m sure you get my point though.

Who in the world would serve something as messy as Loaded Nachos without a fork?  You’d have to be some sort of an animal to eat them with your hands, or fingers.  I was at WrestleMania when this happened.  I sat down in my seat and tried to make a fork/scoop/I don’t know what out of cardboard.  It wasn’t working.  A nice man and his son were sitting behind us, and he offered me a fork.  Either the man or his son had used it.  The Dad wiped it off with a napkin, and handed it to me with a smile.  I smiled back as I took it.  I shook my head, smiled back.  I wiped the fork myself, and used it – I dug right in to my nachos.  I know – using a stranger’s fork could be considered gross.  Somehow, at the time it didn’t seem that way.  This happened years ago – I am still alive today.  It didn’t kill me.

I once worked in an office building that had individual single bathrooms.  Each and every time I seemed to need to use the ladies room, they were occupied.  It never failed, it really didn’t.  Rather than waiting, and risking getting back to my desk past their “time limit” – this place was very, very regimented – I would use the men’s room.  You were in there alone anyway, I’d reason to myself.  What difference did it really make?

So…what things have YOU done that you may not be proud of, but aren’t really ashamed of?  Care to say?

 

 

 

Hungry…need food! Quick!

 

flying plane leaving contrails
Photo by Juhasz Imre on Pexels.com

When I am hungry and I really need food, I want it quick.  Speedy.  With rapid fire.  I want it immediately, and I want it ready in a snap.  Because I know that I am this way quite often, I have come up with a few different food options so I don’t have to wait.  A hungry person is not a patient person.

An easy and fast meal is Swedish Meatballs.  Well, technically these are not exact replicas, yet to me they are close enough.  It makes sense to always have some of your favorite frozen meatballs on hand.  These can be either your own homemade ones, ready to go.  Or they can be premade by a manufacturer or the deli or meat department of your favorite supermarket.  I use wide egg noodles.  While the water is getting ready to boil, put your meatballs in a pot.  If you want to cut down on “pot time” you can microwave them for 1 1/2 minutes to soften them a bit (this is what I do).  After they are in the pot, cover them with a can of Beef Gravy – depending on how many people you’re cooking for, you may need more than one can.  Recent additions to the gravy that have turned out to be delicious have been the leftovers in containers of dip from parties we’ve had – I have used both Ranch and French Onion.  Bring them to a boil on a medium flame, and reduce it to low once they’re bubbling.  Finish your noodles.  Pour your meatball mixture over the top and get ready to eat.  PDQ!

You can make a Chicken Dumpling Dinner dish fairly fast.  The key to this though is having chicken ready and prepared in advance – if it’s frozen, defrost it quick (microwaves are a great thing).  You can also use canned chicken, which is always a good item to have in your house.  Decide how much chicken you want to use, and use a can of cream of chicken soup.  Again, depending on how much is in your pan will determine how many cans of vegetables to use – the mixed vegetable variety is good.  Then add a can of chicken broth, or 1 1/2 cups of chicken bouillon (hot water).  Mix all of the ingredients together, and spread the mixture in the bottom of the greased pan you’ve decided to use.  Have your oven preheated to 350.  Before placing your dish into the oven, take a can of refrigerated biscuits – I think the standard size gives you 8-10 of them (the regular not Grand size).  Again, you need to take into consideration the size of the dish you’re cooking.  I prefer to use clean kitchen scissors to cut the biscuits into quarters – placing them all over the top.  You don’t want to use too many because they’ll expand as they cook and it will be a mess.  Place your dish in the oven, keeping watch to see the biscuits browning.  Once they’re browned to your liking, remove the dish from the oven and you’ve got your meal!

A really quick but good meal is Tomato Soup with Rice.  Get your favorite kind of Tomato Soup into a sauce pan and heat it slowly.  If your soup is condensed and calls for milk or water – if you don’t want it too rich, do half water and half milk.  While the soup simmers, make white rice in your microwave.  It’s fast.  Follow this guideline – for 3/4 cup of rice, use twice the amount of water (or broth to perk it up) and cook for nine minutes.  For 1 cup of rice, use two cups of water (again, or broth) and cook for twelve minutes.  Adjust up accordingly.  Once the rice is done to your liking, add it to your soup.  In no time at all, you have a fast yet stick-to-your-ribs meal.

The key to a quick meal is to have things on hand that makes your cooking job easier.  For this recipe, I will use either cooked chicken or canned chicken.  I make rice the way I do above.  As the rice cooks, I will get my vegetables ready – for this dish, I usually use either canned or frozen peas and carrots.  If I have chopped frozen onions, or if I feel like taking a bit of time to chop some fresh ones – I’ll brown and soften them, and then sort-of stir fry the vegetables with them, soon adding the chicken.  By this time, the rice is usually just about done and then I combine everything together.  I will put in a splash or two of soy sauce.  I will have a few packets of hot mustard and duck sauce if the mood strikes to use these.  I always have a hefty supply of these things from takeout times.

You can make quick Chicken Parmesan sandwiches.  To make these you will need precooked chicken patties, spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese (the slices work really good for this) and rolls (hamburger type rolls are what I usually use).  Put your chicken patties on a plate, and microwave them for a little more than the instructions say.  Take them out of the microwave, turn them over and then put the sauce on and the cheese on top of that.  Microwave for at least the total of required cooking time.  You might need to melt the cheese more.  You might not.  Eyeball it.  Take the melted cheese and chicken goodness out and transfer to your rolls.  Easy.  Quick.  Really good.

A very quick and easy meal is Macaroni and Cheese.  I am talking about the boxed, prepared kind.  For recipes I like to use  Shells and Cheese.  I will begin to prepare according to the directions.  Making Macaroni and Cheese this way usually doesn’t even take fifteen minutes.  The key to making this more of a meal is add-ins.  There are so many things you can add in to make your Macaroni even better.  You can cut up pieces of ham.  You can add a can or package of frozen peas (those should be already cooked/warmed up so they don’t throw off the heat and warmth).  Try adding a can of canned tuna or chicken.  Try bacon bits.  If you want something with more of a Mexican type feel and taste, add a half can of diced tomatoes and sprinkle with some chili powder.  You can put Rotel in too.  If you want it simple yet with something a little extra, sprinkle a sizable topping of bread crumbs or crushed croutons.  Broccoli mixed in with Macaroni and Cheese is delicious.

A quick meal is a Baked Potato.  It is not just the potato but what you put on top of it.  Baking potatoes in the microwave doesn’t take that long.  While they are cooking, you can get out whatever toppings you might want.  The standard stand by is butter and sour cream.  And to that, you can add grated cheddar cheese and bacon bits.  It’s never a bad thing to have a can of whatever kind of canned chili you enjoy and drizzle that over the top.   You can do the same thing with cream of whatever kind of soup – prepare the soup, using about half of the liquid and pour over your potato.  Though it might be a bit gassy, canned baked beans over the top is good too.

My last quick go-to meal is pasta.  With spaghetti sauce.  This is not a deluxe meal.  It is plain, yet there are ways to make it more substantial.  My personal way to perk it up is to cook the pasta, pour warm sauce on and then put a lump of ricotta on top.  I love that, it’s SO good.  You can also add shredded mozzarella cheese.  Adding just grated parmesan cheese is good, too – using a substantial amount makes it really good.  If you have frozen cooked shrimp, adding them to the pasta with sauce and mozzarella cheese gives you (almost) Shrimp Parmesan.

The key to all of this is to use your imagination.  I do have to say though that in times of hunger that needs to be satisfied immediately, a large bowl of your favorite cereal or a quick peanut butter jelly sandwich is never out of line!

A is for Apple…

apple fruit healthy food
Photo by Bruno Scramgnon on Pexels.com

Fall is such a nice, crisp time of year.  It’s nice to see the changing colors of the season.  With autumn brings pumpkins, but it also is the time of year for apples.  Pies, cobblers, candy apples and carmel apples – they are everywhere.  An apple a day keeps the doctor away, so they say.  It’s easy to focus on apples when they are all around us now it seems.  There are a lot of interesting facts about apples – both silly and smart ones.

Apples are a super fruit.  They are (obviously) good for you, and an average apple only contains between 80-95 calories.

The skin of an apple contains healthy fiber, and apples themselves contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that protect against many ailments, including the effects of asthma.

Did you know that most apples these days are still picked by hand?

Do you know what the science of growing apples is called?  Well, I will tell you – it is pomology.

Apples contain no fat, no sodium and no cholesterol.

It takes approximately forty apples to make one gallon of cider.

Apples are hard core energy, and they really can fuel a workout.

If you start a meal with apple slices, you can expect to eat about 200 calories less per meal than if you don’t.

Apples aid greatly in digestion, and they are rich in iron.  People suffering from rosacea need to be careful when eating apples.

The best time to eat applies is in the morning, as they act as a metabolism booster.

A great snack is apples slices with peanut butter.

The states producing the largest amounts of apples are Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, California and Virginia.

Apples have been referred to as the “forbidden fruit” but nowhere are they mentioned in the Bible.

Apples symbolize health, love and fertility.

The fear of apples is called malusdomesticaphobia.

Apples symbolize teachers.

New York City is the Big Apple, but the world’s biggest apple was grown in Hirosaki City, Japan in October of 2005.  It weighed 4 pounds, 1 ounce.

Apples are America’s most popular fruit, yet Apple Pie is rated as the number one pie on only a few websites.

The life expectancy of an apple tree is about a hundred years.

And there you have it – apple facts.  I actually just ordered some apple candles and apple air fresheners.  I can’t wait to light the candles and plug the fresheners in!

 

I would do anything for love…

See the source image

(Photo courtesy of clipart-library.com)

…but I won’t do that.  Anyone remember that Meatloaf song?  Am I dating and aging myself here?  Maybe, but…there are some things I will do, in the name of saving money.  I want to keep my finances in check so I can accomplish all I want to do.  But there are things I won’t do, extremes I won’t go to in order to reach my goals.  I am not sure who will agree with me, but there are lines that I just can’t and won’t cross.

I will always have cable television.  There is no sense in thinking that getting rid of it is a reasonable option, because it is not one for me.  I think people are “television people” or they’re not, and I clearly am.  That being said, I will try to get the best deal I can – and I will leave a service or provider if I don’t think the deal I’m getting is a good one.  In fact, I just did this the other day.  I enjoy certain programs that I’m just not willing to forego.  I fall asleep each and every night to Forensic Files.  My local ABC station is just the best, and I couldn’t be without it.  I need to have certain channels – I just do.  I have to be able to see my crime shows, and of course wrestling.  I’ve purchased the NHL Center Ice package for the entire season.  I live in Scranton, PA and being here, it is hard to follow the Tampa Bay Lightning, the New York Islanders, the Washington Capitals and the Colorado Avalanche – none of these teams are exactly local.  I am glad that the availability of watching them is possible to me.

My friends and family will always get gifts from me.  I enjoy buying things for those I love.  I take extra care to try and buy things I know (or at least hope) they will like.  Getting a good deal on gifts is important to me.  Preparing and planning is key – I am always on the lookout for items I know will be good gifts.  Recently I am becoming organized, and I’m happy knowing what I have – and who I still may have to buy for.  I have even gone so far as wrapping things in advance – yet that may not have been the best idea when you have three very active and nosy kittens in your house!

As much as I love buying things for people, I also love just being with them.  And because of that, I will never stop entertaining.  It’s fun just being together.  I am lucky to have very generous friends and family.  When we have a get together, everyone usually brings something.  This makes the cost of having a “party” not fall on one person – everyone pitches in, and it works very good for us.  I love having people to our house.  Especially when they bring a lot of food, which means tons of leftovers and less cooking for me in the days afterwards!

Something I will never skimp on is pet care.  I love our cats so much, and I couldn’t live with myself if I did something that compromised their health or well being.  I do research all different ways to cut costs – I purchase their food wherever I can get the best deal, and I am not brand loyal – they are really good in that they are not picky.  At all.  I do stick with the 9 Lives Urinary Tract formula – because years ago, Stan had an infection and I never, ever want to go through that with any of them again.  If they get sick with something that looks like we can’t handle – off to the vet they go.  I do try home remedies with them, just like I do with myself.  If what I do isn’t working, then we consult the professionals.  I have thought about pet insurance, but just as I was about to make a decision – I heard about a different kind that might be a better fit for us.  So it’s back to the drawing board with this, so to speak.

Wrestling is another essential interest for me.  I have been a die-hard wrestling fan since January 4, 1999 (yes, I do remember the actual date).  Since that time, I have attended countless events both close to where I live and far away.  I have been lucky enough to attend fifteen WrestleMania’s.  For an interest that for the most part started on a whim to satisfy my oldest son, it has given me so much more than I had ever thought.  I have made friends and I have made memories.  My mother had once told me she always wanted me to do “that trip you take” because she said I looked so happy describing it to her, and all the fun I had.  Despite the costs and despite the fact that the WWE is in a real downward spiral (why, I don’t know – they have such good talent) it will always be an important part of my life, and therefore will always be fit into my budget.  It is essential.

Traveling is important – I enjoy seeing new places, and visiting places that I’ve enjoyed before.  I don’t want to give that up.  We are trying to use our money towards experiences and not things.  We have so much that we own.  It’s fun to go away – it doesn’t have to be far, and it doesn’t have to be fancy.  I use a travel site that I earn points on.  I get email coupons that give us discounted rates.  I choose places that have decent ratings – we don’t look for perfection.  The places we decide to stay at have to be reasonably priced, clean and safe.  Reviews on travel sites really do help.  One time though, they were way wrong – my nephew and I stayed at a place that really was like a no-tell motel – not sordid with people, but…dilapidated!  It was a horrible place, but it gave us laughs and many memories which made it money well spent!

Looking good is important to me.  I want to look clean, put together and presentable.  I don’t buy what some people would call “high quality” items.  The items of clothing and shoes I own that are what would be referred to as “good” labels have come from thrift stores.  I care for my clothes as if they cost me a fortune.  And it’s because of this care that my clothes last for a long time.  My t-shirts are washed inside out, and hung on hangers to dry.  The only things that go in the dryer are the more durable items I have.  I have washed sneakers in my washing machine to make them look new again.  Yes, you can do this.  I take small risks to see if I can continue to look good for pennies.  It doesn’t cost a lot to wash a pair of canvas shoes and perk them up.  It would cost much more to buy a new pair.  When it comes time to retire an item (that no one else would wear) it goes in the trash.  If it is still in good shape, and I just decide I don’t want it anymore – I will donate back to the thrift stores, which is usually where the item came from in the first place.  It’s the circle of life in thrifting.  As long as there are reasonably priced options for me to look good, I will take advantage of these ways.

I am thrifty.  I want money for experiences, as I’ve stated – not necessarily for things anymore.  Even though, there are bottom lines that I just can’t and won’t cross.  What things do you refuse to do, in your financial quest for a comfortable future?

Close but no cigar (yet, good enough)…

two women standing on grass field
Photo by willsantt on Pexels.com

Close but no cigar.  A classic phrase I heard way back during my Freshman year in High School.  I had never heard it before, and I don’t know why it made me laugh the way it did (probably because of the teacher who said it).  To me, this statement meant that things were close, yet not exact.  That was always ok.  I have a few things that to me are…close enough.

I like to entertain.  I like to make people’s birthdays special, and to celebrate special days.  Something that usually makes people smile is ice cream, and cake too.  What a perfect match when these two things are combined.  Purchasing an ice cream cake can be pricey, so why don’t you make your own?  The only part I’ve found difficult while doing this is clearing out a space in my freezer that is big enough, and flat enough.  I like to make ice cream cakes in a spring form cake pan.  You have to eye ball how much you think you’ll need to use.  I started off with two half gallons of ice cream, and let them soften.  I sprayed the bottom and sides of the pan with “butter spray.”  Then I spread the bottom layer (I think I used chocolate).  I smoothed it all out.  On top of this layer I spread crushed “Oreo” type cookies (processed in one of those small choppers).  Then on top of the crunchies I spread vanilla ice cream.  At this point, the finished product should go into the freezer in a flat, fairly spacious area.  Once the ice cream firms up a bit, you can add sprinkles or some kind of toppings for decoration.  When the cake is frozen, you can cover it with clear plastic wrap if you won’t be serving it soon.  Remove it from the spring form, and place on a serving platter.  It is SO good.  Of course, you can use whatever flavors of ice cream you want.  If you want to get creative, fancy – you can try more than the two layers.  Is this as good as a store bought ice cream cake?  Some may think it is not, yet some think it is better.  For me, I think it tastes good – and that makes it good enough.

I’m a thrift store shopper, as you know.  I buy many things in these stores.  I will take a chance on all different kinds of items.  I have bought clothing that I found to be very nice, yet very reasonable – even though some have labels that say “dry clean only.”  Some of these garments can be washed by hand or washed in your machine on the gentle cycle.  Then they need to be hung on hangers to dry.  It always pays to take a chance, especially if the item was purchased for a good price.  Of course, there are exceptions – like the gown I wore to my niece’s wedding.  That cost me more in dry cleaning fees than the dress itself did!  I bought a sports jacket for my middle son Kevin.  It was in very good condition, and really did fit him like a glove.  I sprayed it with a “Febreze-like” kind of solution, and fluffed it in the dryer (no heat) for about 10 minutes.  It came out crisp and almost new looking, and Kevin looked great at the wedding he wore it to.  The tricky part of this is the ironing.  You need to iron these items kind-of precisely.  It is always best to start with a low temperature and adjust up slowly if you think you need to.  I have always tried doing this, because I cannot see paying high prices to care for clothes that you got for a bargain.  Go slowly, go gently.  I think you’ll be happy with the results.  I almost always am happy.  I think my results are good enough.

When I was a child, I didn’t really care for mashed potatoes.  I do like them now.  I’m not really sure why I changed, but I did.  I will make them from scratch from time to time, but I really do like the instant ones.  I know, a lot of people shy away from them.  But you really can get them to taste pretty good.  At least I think so.  I usually add a little more milk in place of the water that the instructions suggest, and I will use butter (not margarine or spread).   Another advantage of these potatoes is that they cook really fast.  Once they are done (average time seems to be about five minutes), you can perk them up even more.  Using grilled onions (also made with butter) is a nice addition.  Cut up green onions or parsley adds a bit of taste, and also color.  Another delicious add in is bleu cheese.  You can make cheesy mashed potatoes by stirring in shredded cheese – cheddar is good, and if you want something with more kick, use shredded Monterey jack (with the little jalapeno flecks).  Jarred, roasted garlic is also good.  Use your imagination – add whatever you think might taste good.  I think these additions make instant mashed potatoes good enough.

I love Dunkin Donuts coffee.  I think it’s the best around.  I will make coffee at home, and I enjoy it – just not as much as the real, legit Dunkin.  The other day, I did something I used to do – to fake myself out, so to speak.  I had a cup from Dunkin that I (for some reason) had rinsed out and kept.  So, that morning I was going to an early doctor’s appointment, and since I am not a morning person really – I knew there wasn’t going to be time to stop at Dunkin (I don’t go there routinely, I go for special occasions, special times when I just HAVE to have it).  I made my morning coffee in the used cup from Dunkin, and went on my way to the appointment.  Driving there, drinking the coffee I made – it was good.  I really believe I psyched myself up however subconsciously to enjoy the coffee as much as if it was the real Dunkin.  It tasted delicious and it was good enough.  And it didn’t cost me $2.59 either.

You can make fried Chicken Tenders that don’t require the mess (and unhealthiness).  Prepare your tenders (or nuggets, if you want that shape) the way you would if you were going to deep fry them.  I dredge mine in flour, an egg wash and then through some bread crumbs.  I place them on a cookie sheet that is sprayed a bit with “butter spray” or I use parchment paper.  As each piece of chicken is done, I arrange them on the pan.  When every piece is done, you can drizzle some oil over the top of the chicken, and bake.  Depending on the size of the chicken pieces, they should be in the oven for about 20 minutes.  Keep your eyes on them, checking frequently because you don’t want them to burn.  This way to make fried chicken to me is good enough (and almost healthy – well, ok not really but…)

My last “good enough” is knock offs.  I like nice looking things, yet I am not really concerned about labels and names.  Though I do admit liking certain handbag lines and types of clothes.  Being a bargain hunter is who I am.  And because of that, I would rather have more in quantity than quality.  That is not to say I would only buy junk, because I wouldn’t and I don’t.  To me, it is more important that I have a pair of flats that look like Tom’s, a denim jacket that looks like it came from True Religion or a purse that looks like it could be a real, legit Michael Kors.  I like the styles, not the names.  Some might want one Coach bag instead of several no name ones – not me.  I do want to really keep scaling down the things I own.  Anything I have that does have a “name” was more than likely purchased at a thrift store, and if it looks like it should have a name, that’s great.  And it’s good enough for me.

What is good enough to you?

I’m scared…

art fingers foggy hand
Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

…of scary movies.  I always have been, and I probably always will be.  Recently we were talking at work about this type of movie.  I don’t mind suspense, but I really prefer comedy over any other kind.  Rest assured, I won’t be attending the showings of “It” and “Annabelle 2” – or whatever it’s called.  I started thinking of other things that I am afraid of.  Some are serious, and some are not.  These things make me uncomfortable if not down right afraid.

My absolute worst fear is something happening to one of my children.  I know people who have suffered this kind of a horrible loss, yet they still manage to somehow survive.  I am sure they can’t be living their lives anywhere close to where they had imagined they would be.  My children have been my greatest joy, and the best thing I have ever done (this doesn’t sound quite right, but…I digress).  I try not to gloat, but I am very lucky with my boys.  Yet, even if they disappointed me and did things I was not proud of – I would still love them beyond words.  I can understand a mother’s love, even for criminals.  They are still someone’s child.  I can only pray that those I love never go through this pain, because the thought of this terrifies me.

I am afraid of possums.  I think they are the ugliest animals (or rodents or whatever they are) on this planet.  I remember seeing one up close for the first time.  It was late on a Christmas Eve.  I had been with the kids and my ex, and came back home to my sister’s (where I was living at the time) to start getting ready for work the next day.  I was working the day shift on Christmas.  Everything was ready – food packed, coffee pot set up, clothes set out.  I decided to put out some fresh food and water for a cat we were feeding outside.  I walked over to the sliding glass door, about to open it when I saw him – the most vile creature.  He just stood there, staring me down.  His long, skinny, narrow face was horrifying.  And that long, disgusting tail!  I screamed in terror, and despite the fact that there were three other people living there in the house, no one heard me.  I eventually calmed down, but I have been terrorized by those “things” ever since.

School violence scares me.  I lived in Colorado (very close to Columbine High School) back on that awful day in 1999.  Ever since then, I feel a little ping in my heart when I hear of another shooting.  Whether there are only injuries or in the worst case fatalities, it is an awful feeling.  It makes me feel very nervous knowing that children are vulnerable to such horrible crime.  Even when the crime is just a threat, it is no less scary.  In that case, you just don’t know.  And no chances can be taken.  We do live in frightening times.

I get a little overwhelmed (and I guess you could say scared) when I look around at all the “things” I have.  I’m very lucky to not really be in need of anything.  Still, I have so much.  I am trying to go through and organize my things once and for all – the right way this time.  I don’t want to be gone one day and have my children really think I had issues, like being a borderline hoarder – when I don’t think I am.  I have tried for quite some time to defend myself, saying just because you have a lot of items does not mean you are a hoarder.  I don’t want to leave anything behind that would let my children be anything but proud of me.

I am afraid, I am scared and I am sad that I cannot do more for the cats of this world.  A year ago at this time, I had three cats.  Between late December and mid-May, four others came into my life.  Fast forward to now, and Jeff and I have seven.  I never imagined myself having this many, but I do – and now I couldn’t imagine it any other way.  In early Spring, I cared for an outside Mama and her four kittens.  None of them are around anymore.  In mid-to-late Summer, I began caring for another outside Mama and her four babies.  Out of the five, only two come around now – and not all that often.  I am determined to save these two, and find them homes.  I know they can’t come to live with us, but through the grapevine I know many good, loving cat owners.  I am afraid to lose these last two.  I am going to do all I can to help them.

I am afraid of this blog.  Yes, there – I said it.  I am scared it won’t turn into what I want it to be.  I am just so not technical.  I want it to grow.  I want it to look professional.  It’s going to take time, and it’s going to take hard work.  I will work to improve things.  I’m just a little afraid I will fail.  Not in all areas, just in some.  And that is where all of you who are reading this – it’s you and your kind words that can calm my fears!  I thank you in advance for that.

What makes some of you afraid?

 

Happy Fall, y’all…

leaves hang on rope
Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

Happy Fall, y’all…it’s a common term around this time of year.  You see it in ads, you see it on decorations.  We have been saying it for a year or so, when we were sure our Beavis made it up himself.  Don’t ask me how a cat could be responsible for this, or why it caught on and stayed in our minds this whole time – I don’t know.  In any case, that’s what I wish everyone – a good and happy season.

Besides October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, it is also the month where Fall gets kicked into high gear.  Everywhere you look, there’s pumpkin.  And it’s not just in decorations.  It’s in the food you eat and the drinks you drink.  Since pumpkin came back in August (so early) I have seen it in coffee, creamers, donuts, cakes, pancake mix, cookies, cereal, bread, bagels, muffins, yogurt and ice cream.  I have even seen a few varieties of pumpkin beer.  I like certain things with pumpkin, mostly pumpkin donuts.  And I will have one or two pumpkin coffees during the Fall.  But really, since I’m not a pumpkin maniac, I think most of it is really overkill.   Oh – I forgot about the pumpkin room spray and pumpkin candles.

It can be kind of nice to wear different kinds of clothes in the Fall (for those of us who live in seasons).  Fall is nice, because you can wear boots and a sweater – it’s been a while since we’ve done that.  Fall is easy, because while it’s cool – it’s not cold.  You can get away with wearing a jacket or a hoodie.  Your long sleeves can be worn again.  It’s nice relaxing in the Fall knowing you still have a few weeks to go before you have to bundle up before leaving to go anywhere.  It is a good feeling to be able to wear your long sleeve Tampa Bay Lightning jersey without, as they say – sweating bullets!  And if you look good in one (I certainly do not), Fall is a great time for hats.

The things we do in Fall are fun, too.  I can spend hours walking around Craft Fairs.  You can find such interesting things.  I am always on the lookout for unusual gifts for people.  I am not an apple cider type of person, but I love going into stores or restaurants and smelling it cooking, warm on a stove.  So great!  The stores have great dresses out for semi-formals at colleges and for homecomings at high schools.  And for those of us shopping for dresses for their son’s upcoming wedding (of which one would be me) this is the time of year (along with before prom time in the spring) that you can find really beautiful things.  Of course, you have to be age appropriate but there really is something for everyone.

One of the best things about Fall for me is – hockey is BACK!  I love hockey, and it’s been hard being without it these past four months (more than five if I’m considering my Lightning’s early and unanticipated exit from the playoffs).  I watched Lexi’s namesake last night as they beat the Senators in OT, and tonight I get to watch Nik’s namesake.  Nikita Kucherov was voted to be the league’s best last year.  That was a vote I agreed with.  For sure.

Fall signifies change.  Fall signifies things to come.  Halloween is fun, for both young and old alike.  There’s something funny and light-hearted about seeing people dressed up as things they would or could never be.  When we lived in Colorado, the parents in our neighborhood would sometimes trick or treat with the kids, they themselves dressed up as well.  And some of the houses, the owners knowing parents went too – would have adult beverages available.  One of the funniest memories I have of a Colorado Halloween is one of the Dads – a large man, he must have been at least 6’3″.  He was dressed up as a giant Dalmation, and he had a clear cup of wine in his hand.  It was so funny, so cute.  This was before the time of cell phone cameras, otherwise I’m sure I would have inserted a picture of him here!  Thanksgiving is a delicious Holiday.  No matter where we eat, whoever we eat with – we all bring something, and it’s usually a specialty to make being together even more special.  As Fall comes to an end, we can start thinking about the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

Fall has just begun, so let’s enjoy it for what it is.  A beautiful, crisp time on our calendars.  This year, I challenge you – take pictures.   Take more pictures than you think you should.  Take more pictures than you think you will need.  And as Fall comes to an end, put them in frames, or a book – display them somehow.  Looking back, you will realize what a gorgeous time of year Fall really is.

 

 

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

awareness cancer design pink
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

Tomorrow starts a very significant month for me.  October is when the awful disease of Breast Cancer is spotlighted to bring awareness.  The Pink – the articles, written reports, media, awareness and remembrance walks, all of it – it is undertaken with a goal in mind – to make the public aware of things to know about Breast Cancer.  With awareness comes knowledge, and knowledge can help find a cure.  Each October begins and ends with the hope that an October will eventually come when Breast Cancer is no longer the threat it is now.

Cancer survival rates have gone up significantly since the 1970s, but there is still a long way to go.  So many good people have been lost to this disease.  We lost actresses Ingrid Bergman and Bette Davis.  Breast Cancer also took Ethel Mertz, who was played by Vivian Vance.  Paul McCartney lost his wife Linda to Breast Cancer, and Charles Bronson lost his wife Jill.  Roxie Roker aka Helen Willis of the Jeffersons also died from Breast Cancer.  Men have been lost, too – Rod Roddy from The Price Is Right died from Male Breast Cancer.  Yes, it happens.

Bernice Gemmel died from Breast Cancer in July of 2008.  She was my Mom.  She had a left-mastectomy in April of 1992 and lived cancer-free until February of 2005.  For her last three years, we like to say she lived with cancer rather than dying from it.  I am forever grateful for the last six months of her life – she lived with me and my family.  It was nice having her around us.  And she liked the loud hustle and bustle of living with two older teenage boys, a younger teen, and two kittens…Beavis and Stan, who are still with me today.  She really was only in what they would call “bad shape” for maybe the last three weeks of her life.  She looked gorgeous up until the end – the woman had style!  I am proud to have had her for my mother and proud to have been her daughter.

Tomorrow I will again start something I have done for the last several years.  For every day during the month of October, I will be wearing Pink.  It will either be the dominant color in whatever outfit I’m wearing, or it will be prominently featured.  I might wear a pink blouse with black pants, and carry a pink purse.  Maybe I’ll have pink slacks on with a white blouse.  I may wear black and gray with pink accessories, shoes and a purse.  My jewelry will have pink overtones, or will be pink beads, earrings or bracelets.  My toes are painted Pink.  Everyone who sees me this month will see Pink.  I am spreading the word and bringing attention to Breast Cancer.  I want people to remember their loved ones.  I want them to be aware of the warning signs so they themselves get checked out.  I want Breast Cancer to be no more.