Treat Yourself…

 

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If there is ever a time to treat yourself, now is that time.  We are all going to be spending quite a bit of time at home (and we should be).  You can be “cooped up” and mad about it, or you can take this time and use it to your advantage. I love being home, because I am happy there.  I enjoy doing things in the kitchen – trying new recipes and making old favorites.  None of what you do or try in the kitchen has to be fancy and it doesn’t have to be expensive for you to enjoy yourself.

This time of year can be iffy, weather-wise.  Soup goes good around now.  You can use homemade chicken broth (I usually have some in the freezer) or canned broth.  Heat a portion up on your stove, and make dumplings to include.  They are easy.  All you have to do is gather your ingredients – one cup of flour, two teaspoons of baking powder, one teaspoon of white sugar, one half teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of margarine and one half cup of milk.  Mix this into a soft dough.  When your soup/broth is boiling, drop a heaping, rounded teaspoon and take out when your dumplings rise to the top.  If you feel like it, add a can of canned carrots (minus the liquid).  You’ll have a nice, warm and comforting meal.

Why not try a peanut butter sauce to pour over noodles, like they do in Chinese restaurants?  The ingredients include a bunch of green onions/scallions, two tablespoons of sesame oil, a teaspoon or so of ginger (I use powdered), one third cup of peanut butter, a quarter cup of soy sauce, one quarter cup of hot water, one teaspoon of white sugar, and one quarter teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.  Heat consistently until mixture gets hot and bubbly.  Have your pasta done in advance – I use regular spaghetti or fettucine noodles – toss with the sauce, and enjoy!

Most of us have cans of tuna (or even chicken) in our pantry – but sometimes, a boring tuna (or chicken) sandwich is just that – boring.  Jazz it up a little bit – google some tuna casserole recipes (I’m not really a heated-up tuna fan, that is why I can’t recommend any).  I do like tuna melts – try to melt it with some Monterrey Jack cheese, it’s really good.  And you can get away from the boring sandwich idea of you cut lettuce leaves (iceberg works best) into bread shapes and make your sandwich like this.  It’s at least something different.

Bananas are a great snack.  If you want to jazz them up, peel one.  You can then roll it into crushed cereal – it’s sweet and it’s pretty if you use Fruit Loops.  A banana can be rolled in cinnamon sugar, some mini chocolate chips, or even coconut.  You can get about ten little banana rounds for yourself.  Very good, and good for you too.

Going with the Chinese food idea, make some white rice.  Open up a small can of peas and carrots.  Heat/cook up a few chicken nuggets if you have them.  Toss everything together and serve – use some of the little packets from Chinese takeout that we all have in either our cabinets or refrigerators.

Everyone (well just about everyone I know) likes Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches together.  If you don’t want to bother making your sandwich grilled, why not have toasted cheese?  While your soup is heating up, take two slices of bread with two slices of cheese on top – and put them in your toaster oven.  When they are done, cut them into shapes – you can make squares, long strips, some kind of angled ones – whatever strikes your fancy at the time.  I like to make them big enough so I can dip them into the soup.  It’s a nice change from the ordinary and usual.

Have a good old fashioned snack – enjoy milk and cookies.  You would be surprised that when you ask people if they still have these two things together at how many people will tell you no.  Another thing to try that you may not have (or probably haven’t) had recently is chocolate milk.  Every time I have chocolate milk, it makes me feel like I am eight years old again.  I really like a glass of it from time to time.

So, what other comfort foods will make you feel good during this time of boredom, uncertainty, and whatever else we are going to call it?  It is a time to try to be as happy and content as we can be.

Permission to Binge!

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Now is the time to binge watch and catch up on television programs (or movies) that you’ve been dying to see.  I don’t binge watch – I never have.  I do, however have favorite television shows that if I decide to binge,  these would be the ones I would watch.

My current favorite television series is Modern Family.  I enjoy each and every character on the show.  I don’t know how actors are chosen for roles, but this show is absolutely perfectly cast.  Ed O’Neill is as perfect as Jay Pritchett as he was when he was Al Bundy.  The rest of the cast makes you believe that they ARE who they portray.  There are so many fun, warm and real relationships on the show.  Despite the bickering that goes on in the family, the love is there and it is obvious with the portrayals of the actors.  Modern Family is set to have their series finale on April 8th.  This is a series that I plan on buying every season on DVD to keep for always.  I don’t say that about many programs.

Another television program I enjoy immensely is The Odd Couple.  This is one of the few shows where I own the entire series on DVD.  To me, Felix and Oscar are the perfect couple.  When they fight, they fight hard.  Yet when they are getting along and band together for a cause, there are no two closer friends in the world.  Felix is so neurotic.  Oscar knows this.  My favorite scenes on the show include Felix apologizing or explaining his odd behavior, and the look on Oscar’s face while watching his friend.  The two of them are priceless, they absolutely are.  No matter how many times I watch my favorite episodes, I laugh hard as if I’ve never seen them before.

I have watched many episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond.  My oldest son loves this show almost as much as he loves Married With Children (Ed O’Neill’s portrayal of Al Bundy is so magnificent to Michael that he can’t and won’t watch him in another role – he’s never really watched Modern Family).  Every time I have watched Everybody Loves Raymond I have enjoyed it – and I’ve laughed.  I’ve laughed hard.  When this show was coming to an end, there were a lot of interviews on television, on line and in magazines.  I listened to a television critic who described all the good points about the show, the actors and the writing.  He described it as the overall best series on television ever.  My son would almost tend to agree (even though he has an Al Bundy tattoo on his leg).

All in the Family was a classic television program in every sense of the word.  It was laugh out loud funny.  The cast worked perfect together.  It broke barriers, and it got away with situations and comments that would never be tolerated on television today.  The show tackled controversial topics with humor – racism, religious prejudice, menopause, crime.  It was also said to have made one of the biggest errors in television history when the writers killed off the character of Edith Bunker in response to actress Jean Stapleton not wanting to continue in her role.  Carroll O’Connor was able to (partially) break free being typecast from his role as Archie Bunker when he starred in the series In the Heat of the Night in the late 1980s up until the mid 1990s.

You have to give credit to All in the Family for the show The Jeffersons, which was a spin-off.  The Jefferson family had been neighbors of the Bunkers – Edith and Louise got along famously, but Archie and George – they butted heads.  The Jeffersons moved on up, leaving Queens for the high life of Manhattan.  They had a wise cracking maid named Florence, an odd neighbor named Mr. Bentley and upstairs neighbors Tom and Helen Willis.  Helen and Tom  were an interracial couple who had a daughter named Jenny who was dating the Jefferson’s son Lionel.  This didn’t make George happy at all.  But as the series went along, they all grew to love one another, and George and Tom became best friends.  One of my favorite scenes happened when George, Louise, Helen and Tom had a pillow fight.  It makes me laugh just picturing them hitting each other.

The Golden Girls is another good show to binge watch.  This program is so much funnier than I ever remember.  I also would say that I believe it is even more popular in reruns than when it was a prime time regular season show.  Again, a show perfectly cast with actors who made you believe that they really were Dorothy, Sophia, Blanche and Rose.  The girls took everyday situations and made them funny.  They were older women, yet they never lacked male attention.  They all had their signature character traits.  Dorothy told it like it was.  Sophia also spoke her mind, usually with her pocketbook in hand. Blanche loved men, and they loved her.  Rose was sweet and ditzy.  They ate cheesecake frequently in that beautiful Miami Beach house.

As you can tell, most of my favorite programs have been comedies.  I do (and did) like dramas also.  There were quite a few over the years that I have enjoyed, but three favorites come to mind – The Sopranos, NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues.  Each show had classic episodes that are hard to forget.  Tony Soprano was not the same at home as he was out in the street.  NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues both had actor Dennis Franz, who played classic television characters Detective Sal Benedetto (and later Lt. Buntz) on HSB and Detective Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue.  The Sopranos was a great show that had many notable scenes, with the most popular and talked about one being the way the show ended.  The screen cut to black and viewers were left to think that the broadcast had malfunctioned (it hadn’t).  NYPD Blue had it’s most emotional scene with Detective Andy having to deal with his partner dying.  Dennis Franz and Jimmy Smits put on one of the best tearjerker performances of all time.  Their portrayal was brilliant.

So there you have it – my choices for a binge watch.  Some of these programs will make me cry as I laugh, as I have memories of watching them with my parents.  But as I cry and laugh, I will smile.  I will enjoy them, again and again – just like I did the first time.

 

When Worry Is Overwhelming…

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It is hard to stay positive in a situation where worries are in the forefront.  The recent situation with the COVID-19 virus seems to change every day (or even every hour) and the news is not good.  It can be overwhelming and concerning for almost anyone, even those who claim to be handling it well.  As a society, we have never experienced anything like this before.

When your fears get the better of you, write down your thoughts.  It can be in a journal, a piece of paper, or you could even email yourself.  Acknowledging fears, finding coping mechanisms and possible solutions can be freeing by putting these thoughts into written words.

Accept the situation for what it is.  These are frightening times.  When negative thoughts come into your head, if you can – immediately try to replace them with something positive.  There is always something good to focus on.  Every cloud can have a silver lining.  You just have to look for it.

Keep your thoughts neutral.  Make them gray.  Keep clear of  black and white.  Avoid words like always, every, and never – use them with caution.  Don’t assume – we all know what happens when you assume (just trying to be light and easy during this rough time).  Also, forget must, should have and have to – these words can bring up preconceived thoughts that might leave you feeling guilty, frustrated, worried or just plain sad.

Follow your passion.  If possible, do what you enjoy.  Watch what you want on television.  Listen to the music you like.  Take this time “being home” to indulge in your favorite guiltiest pleasure – there’s never been a time like this before.  Get organized.  Catch up on some extra sleep.  Make phone calls to people you haven’t spoken to in a while.  Write a letter – try an old fashioned snail mail one.  People love receiving actual mail instead of always just getting email.

Remember, this too shall pass.  It doesn’t appear that it will, with the news seemingly getting worse every time we listen to a report.  Try not to pay attention to the doom and gloom.  Understand that this darkness will not last forever, and we will emerge into the light – maybe not soon enough, but it will happen.

If you think it will help, let yourself have a cry session.  Cry to clear out the bad feelings.  Acknowledge that this is awful, and this is scary.  Let yourself feel.  Do not let it go on for too long, however.  The goal of this is to feel better, not worse.

Give back.  Be the reason someone else feels better.  Do something to make them laugh, to make them smile.  Try to comfort them into a good mood.  When you make someone else happy, you will feel happy also.

Exercise.  Eat well.  Be active (as active as you can be at home).  Get extra sleep, which is a good thing for everyone.   It is helpful to find something to watch (or listen to) to make you laugh.  Laughing and smiling are very good things to experience when life and problems have you feeling down.

Be vigilant.  Wash your hands as directed.  Sanitize objects you come in contact with, like door handles, gas pumps and shopping cart handles.  Stay away from people who are showing obvious signs of being sick.  Don’t go out in crowds unless it is absolutely necessary.  Listen to the recommendations of those in charge.  If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be very well prepared to weather this storm.

 

 

 

My List of Aggravations

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There are some times when I seem to be more annoyed than at other times.  I can’t even pinpoint why this happens – it just does.  People and events can just irritate you, and you feel as though you can’t take it.  Much of it goes according to my mood – if my mood is good, then things won’t bother me as much.  But if my mood is not good, then every little thing bothers me.  The following is a compilation of things that annoy me, regardless of my mood.

I don’t like hearing people constantly cracking their knuckles.  I don’t know if it is a necessary thing for them with their bones or whatever.  Or maybe it is just a nervous condition.  All I do know is that it annoys me and also almost makes me feel weak in the knees, if that makes any sense.

I cannot stand people who chew with their mouths full.  No one needs to see what is in your mouth, buddy.  And I also do not need to hear you chew.  So, please – in consideration of those around you – stop this.

Why in the world would you sprinkle on a toilet seat and not wipe it off?  Do you not have any pride or decency?  And on the same topic, why would you use a toilet and just decide, you know what…I’m not going to flush.  Because I don’t want to.  I cannot tell you how many times I have encountered these two situations recently – within the past six months or so, it’s been too many times to count.  And it’s been at different places – at work, at restaurants and at arenas.  Just disgusting.

I do not like people who are intolerant of the political leanings of others.  We don’t all have to agree, but I think it’s the responsibility of everyone to behave like decent human beings.  It is very disturbing to read an exchange between political rivals on Facebook.  You see supposed friendships getting fractured by name calling and holier-than-though attitudes.  It is just wrong.

I can say that I absolutely hate when people use the word cancer to describe something they are opposed to or something that they strongly dislike.  Cancer is an awful disease.  My opinion is that it should never be used as a descriptive term to describe personal likes and dislikes.

I don’t like when people get away with poor behavior and bad actions because “that’s how they are.”  This shows they are petty and immature.  It gives them an excuse to act and say things however they want without consequences, and with no responsibility for their words and actions.  I find this irritating and offensive.

Show offs and Know It Alls – who do they think they are?  People should show humility, even if they have more than the average person.  Grace goes a long way in showing a person’s character.  Those who claim to know it all – well, maybe they do know a lot.  That brings it back to humility and grace.  Yet if they don’t know it all, that will be revealed soon enough and their secret will be out.  Why lie?

I cannot stand when you hold the door for someone, they take it from you – and avert their eyes, not saying thank you.  Two simple words to be polite and to not look like a social buffoon.  I say thank you to anyone who does anything for me.  More often than not, I get a nice response from those who hear me.  Seems to me that some people were just not raised right.

Put your shopping cart back in the corral at the store.  Besides saving cars from dents and dings, you’ll be saving the “cart wrangler” some work.  My son did this job, and he did it in all kinds of weather – rain, snow, sleet and burning hot heat.  It doesn’t take much effort – do the right thing.

I do not like to be waiting with a “line stepper.”  They will either move closer to you, to the side of you and before you know it, they are outright waiting to take your spot.  Wait your turn like everyone else!

So, what other day to day things grinds your gears, as they say?  I would be very interested to hear…

Small Tips for Large Savings…

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I have so many things I want to do!  So many places I want to travel to!  In order to do these things, I’m going to need money.  I’m pretty frugal, so I have no doubt I’ll be able to pull off most of the things I want.  Even so, I’m always on the lookout for more ideas and different tips to help me out.  Sometimes a little goes a long way.

To keep yourself busy while saving for something you really want, do a google search of “free things to do in (insert your town here)” and see what comes up.  Looking at results of a search for things here in my hometown, I found several parks, museums and libraries that all have interesting and fun things to do – things I didn’t realize that these places even offered.  The list included activities that had minimal costs as well.  You really can have a good time without spending a whole lot.

Drink water – but don’t buy it.  Refilling your own containers is not only cost effective, it is good for the environment.  There is really no better liquid in the world for you to drink, and the fact that we all have access to it at no cost makes it all the better.

Stop using your dryer – especially for items that could be considered gentle or delicate.  It will save electricity and/or gas, and it will be better for your garments.  For t-shirts with screened prints, I have found that washing them inside out in cold water, and then hanging them to dry on a hanger really extends their lives.

Go through all of your subscriptions – all of the things you pay money for monthy.  Maybe these are things that are mindlessly deducted from your bank account.  Once you have a complete list in front of you, decide what you really want to keep spending money on – and cancel the rest.  Of course, research whether there will be a fee or not before deciding.

Regularly schedule no-spend days or no-spend weeks – this is a time when you spend NOTHING except what is absolutely essential.  Be honest with yourself during this challenge – only you know what is truly necessary.

Reevaluate your entertaining budget.  You don’t have to cut out entertaining entirely.  Maybe you should scale down how you entertain.  Instead of offering several snacks before hand, offer one or two.  Offer soda and beer, or soda, beer and wine – it is not necessary to put out a full bar set up complete with mixers.  Make your main meal (if this is a kind of event where you’ll have one) one main dish, and one side to go along (if needed).   For dessert, it’s the same way – simple is the way to go.  You can have one main dessert, and an additional tray of cookies.  The most important aspect of entertaining is being with people you want to be around – if they’re judging you on the things you serve, maybe they shouldn’t be coming over in the first place.

Travelling by car is without a doubt more cost effective than a bunch of people getting on a plane and paying those high flight fees.  But do the math – one person driving a long distance (which means only one person paying for gas) might not be cost effective.  In this situation, check out flights and do the math.

Unless you are absolutely and totally desperate, do not ever buy an item that is not on sale.

Tuesday.  Some say it is the most boring  day of the week.  And yet some others say it is the best day of the week to get special deals.  It has been said that you can book the best flight special on a Tuesday.  Many restaurants run specials on Tuesdays.  Movie theaters sometimes have special deals on a Tuesday.  It’s time to give Tuesday the respect it deserves, and a thank you for saving us some money as well.

If you like a particular product, go to the website for it – or to the website of their parent company.  You can frequently find discounts, deals and coupons there.  Why not save money on something you’re going to buy anyway?

What other money saving tips have you used recently?  Always on the lookout for good ones..

 

Not the last, but the first…

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We were talking about driving the other day at work.  The topic turned to the last time we had all driven in really bad weather.  I remembered thinking as we spoke about the first time I drove in a bad snowstorm.  It was much more scary at first.  That got me thinking of a few more firsts that I’ve had.  It was fun remembering them.

I don’t remember who I had my first real crush on, as in a boy I knew – but I did have celebrity crushes when I was young.  I liked Don Adams who played Maxwell Smart on Get Smart – I even insisted on naming our cat Max.  I also had a crush on some host from the game show Supermarket Sweep.  He was appearing at a store near my Grandmother’s house, and I remember chickening out on going to see him.  I was nervous back then – I am very much NOT nervous around famous people anymore!

The first trip I ever went away alone to was on a plane to visit a high school friend who had moved to Florida.  I felt like a big shot – I was just about to turn seventeen, and while it wasn’t the first time I flew, it was the first time I remembered it.  I flew frequently with my mother when I was a toddler.  My grandparents lived in Florida at the time.

The first trip I ever took to another country was a summer vacation with my family to Niagara Falls.  We spent time there, and even drove to Toronto and saw the Hockey Hall of Fame.  It was a great time, a special trip that my sister and I remember with great fondness.

The first pet I ever remember owning was the one I spoke about above – Max.  Our landlord at the time had a cat who gave birth to a few kittens, and she said I could take one as a birthday gift.  My mother said there were three or four beautiful white ones but I insisted on the tabby in the back.  He was the absolute best choice.

My first sporting event was (of course) a hockey game.  I guess I didn’t ask my Dad – I just assumed there would be play by play announcers, giving us details.  Imagine my surprise as we sat there, watching the game – yet only listening to the other fans.  I remember feeling shocked.

I went to see David Cassidy in concert – it was the first one I ever attended.  I was young, maybe seven years old or so.  My mother said I seemed jealous that so many other girls loved him too.  It was as if I thought it was me and him alone forever.

My first job was as a Cashier at a Supermarket, and I can remember the first paycheck I ever received – $39.93.  As a sixteen year old, I thought I was rich!

The first car I ever owned was one my then-boyfriend (later ex-husband) and I bought.  We got it from an elderly neighbor of mine.  It was a 1976 Pontiac Ventura, and it was manila-folder yellow.  I think quite possibly it was the ugliest car of all time.  I believe this.

Growing up, I had a very happy life.  The first time though that I ever remember feeling  absolute joy was the afternoon of May 24, 1980.  This was the day that the New York Islanders won their first Stanley Cup.  They won it in dramatic fashion – they won in overtime, and it was simply amazing!  It is a feeling I am so glad I was able to experience.

In contrast, I remember feeling terribly sad when my Grandmother died.  It was 1975, and I was twelve.  We were very close, and her passing surprised a lot of people.  I missed her very much, but what made me the saddest was later on during that first night, with all the hustle and bustle of people being there – I looked over to see my father sitting in a chair, head in his hands.  Crying softly.  It was heartbreaking.

My first health scare was when I was pregnant with Michael.  Things were going very good, and then all of a sudden – I started bleeding.  I was only in my seventh month. The doctor didn’t know why this happened.  He said there was no real reason.  I was put on bed rest and told not to do much of anything.  I didn’t – I absolutely complied.  It worked, because Michael was born pretty much on time and was perfectly healthy.  It was frightening.

So, what other firsts come to your mind?  Please, share them – this is a good conversation starter…

Thoughts on the Corona Virus

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The Corona Virus is all the rage.  If you’re not careful, you can get very carried away with all the hype and information that is being presented.  We would all be wise to be prepared and aware, but not crazed.  Here are a few guidelines to follow and recommendations to look into…

Be aware of where germs can grow.  They can be found on money, ATMs, touch screens, utensils at buffet type restaurants, gas pump handles, shopping carts, office phones, office keyboards.  Have supplies available to properly sanitize your hands after coming in contact with these surfaces. You can make your own hand sanitizer by mixing 2/3 cup of isopropyl alcohol with 1/3 cup of aloe vera gel, and to make it smell nicer feel free to add 8-10 drops of scented oil.

Do not hoard items. If you do want to prepare (though some people say “over prepare”) an appropriate time period would be to have supplies for about two weeks.  This simply means having in your possession the items to sustain you and your family for this time period.  Take advantage of freezing items.  Have a supply of canned goods that your loved ones enjoy.  Start bottling your own water – in reusable bottles and containers.  You will need an adequate amount of paper goods, not an excessive amount.  Be reasonable.

It is not time to be in large crowds unless you need to be.  Do not become a hermit, but do not take excessive risks.  When you are in a crowd, stay away (if you can) from people who are exhibiting obvious signs of being sick.  If you yourself feel the need to sneeze or cough, properly protect others from what you might (or might not) have.

As an employee, do not go to work if you are sick.  Also, do not take advantage, staying home and saying you are “sick.”  As an employer, do the responsible thing and tell employees who say they are ill to stay home – and do not have repercussions against employees who don’t show up for work.  Employers and employees need to be both responsible and honest.

Keep your hands off of your face.  The more your hands are where they don’t need to be and then are on your face, the more germs of any kind you’ll get on you – and not just those that can cause the Corona virus.

Do not be lulled into thinking you’re protected if you wear a mask.  You won’t be.  The proper mask to protect people against this Virus is the N95 mask.  This mask needs to be properly fitted to your face by a professional.  Regular citizens should not be ordering these, reducing supply.  These items need to be worn by the people on the front lines against this Virus – medical professionals.

Be diligent and careful when using chemicals, etc. to sanitize your home and items.  Improper ventilation with these cleaners can potentially damage the mucous membranes in your nose, making you more vulnerable to irritation and infection.

Most importantly, wash your hands often and properly.  We have been taught this for our entire lives; it seems kind of ridiculous that this advice needs to be in the forefront now.  Officials have said to wash your hands with soap and water while (maybe silently) singing “Happy Birthday” two times.  This small recommendation is our best defense against many illnesses – not just the Corona Virus.

 

Too Extreme Saving Money Tips?

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I have been doing a bit of computer surfing lately.  I don’t even know why.  I have found myself viewing videos and reading all sorts of things.  The other afternoon I stumbled upon episodes of Extreme Cheapskates.  This show used to be on (I think) the TLC Network.  I’m not sure if it is still on the air.  This program showcased people who went to extreme lengths to save money.  And extreme lengths they were!  There was a woman who no longer bought toilet paper, one woman who peed in a jar and put it on her lawn once a week (to use as a supposed fertilizer) and a woman who cooked an entire dinner for two friends entirely from items she scrounged from area dumpsters.  These people were very intense cheapskates.

I started thinking about the things I’ve done to save money.  I’ve stated before that I have purchased what could have been used underwear – even though it looked new, yet it didn’t have tags or come in a sealed package.  I’m proud of the things I have done, knowing I didn’t have to resort to measures taken by those extreme savers.

You should “shop” your neighborhood and other areas on their Trash Day.  I am not advocating going inside closed cans with lids or opening up garbage bags, but if you see something interesting that is obviously being put out to be taken away – there is no law against and no shame in taking what is there.  If I only needed children’s large toys – I frequently see things like this.  I’ve seen those little beds that look like kid race cars, play doll carriages, all sorts of items like this.  I’ve seen storage bins, storage units with drawers, mirrors, golf clubs, tracks for race car sets – you name it.  You may see a random chair or two.  Keep your eyes peeled, and if you spy something – take a chance, stop your car and walk over to the pile – you may be very glad you did.  What have you got to lose?

As a big fan of thrift stores, I say to always consider second hand furniture.  Unless you get very lucky with finding an entire set at once (my cousin had this happen in Florida), your guide to redoing your home and/or certain rooms is usually on a piece by piece basis.  We have a nice bedroom set (new) and a nice dining room set (table given free at the end of a yard sale) with thrifted chairs.  Last weekend we picked up the EXACT drop leaf table we had been looking for, and for the time being we will use two of the dining room chairs with this table.  What we really need to replace is furniture for our living room.  We do however go back and forth with this, because some of our cats are still young and tend to scratch.  I am not sure if we want to spend a lot of time yelling and scolding them to stop, yet I know the furniture we have is in bad shape – and we can’t keep it forever.  Even so, with cats in the house (in many ways it is like having small children) we will probably be buying used or second hand furniture.  We will need one couch and one love seat.  They can be bought at the same time, or at different times – we will take them whenever we find a deal that we just can’t pass up.  We have a coffee table and an end table that will look much better when we repaint them to match the television stand we have.  All of this furniture was given to us by my cousin’s boyfriend as we were leaving Florida – for a very nice price.  He didn’t charge us much at all.

I am not now nor will I ever suggest you eat road kill.  I will however give advice to step out of your comfort zone when it comes to different cuts of meat.  There are so many articles and tips online about how to tenderize a lesser expensive cut of beef.  Chicken is very good, and not just boneless breasts.  You can make a dinner that comes off very expensive looking by just baking chicken legs and split breasts.  You can season them and bake them, and when served with a green vegetable and a yellow vegetable and a starch (and of course some gravy) you have got a nice, deluxe meal to serve.  Open your mind to other kind of meats besides ground beef – buy what is on sale, what is on special – I have been able to tell the difference if we made burgers out of these different kinds of meat, but if you’re just going to brown it and add it to a kind of sauce, we have found that you really cannot tell the difference.  With any of these tips, it goes without saying that if you try them and don’t end up liking the results, the answer is simple – you just don’t have to ever have them again.  If you are lucky, you will end up with a few more meal choices for a good price.

These tips involve saving water.  Do your laundry whenever you think you need to, but really figure out what your load size should be.  You don’t want to over stuff your machine to the point that the clothes don’t move around freely, but there is no reason to have a small load washing on the large setting.  If you can get away with cold water, use that – it will cost you less in the long run.  And then there is this – to save water, flush your toilet less often.  I’m just going to leave this one right here for you to figure out if this is something you would like to do.

What about going meatless?  You can save money by going meatless once or twice a week.  Unless you’re a hard core carnivore, this shouldn’t be too hard for you.  You can eat healthy and nutritious meals without consuming meat.  A simple meal like this for me is a plate of spaghetti with pasta sauce, and a lump of ricotta cheese on the side.  I enjoy the taste of the cold cheese with the warm sauce, but I have also put the ricotta on top of the pasta and then whirled it around in the microwave.  Complete with a sprinkling of grated cheese, it is a satisfying and filling meal.  Sautéed spinach in your sauce, over pasta with some shredded cheese is also a good meatless meal.  You can make a nice meal of rice and beans – it can be any kind of beans, and you can use whatever kind of rice you’d like.  You can make the dish Mexican style, Chinese style or even Italian style – use your imagination, the possibilities are endless.  There’s also the old standby of Breakfast for Dinner – without the bacon, of course.  You can serve different kinds of eggs, you can include French Toast, waffles or pancakes and have some toast also.  This meal, paired with some milk, juice and fresh fruit would make a delicious choice, and a different alternative to dinner should you want to change things up a bit.

Speaking of eating, some of us do enjoy eating out from time to time.  And those of us who do enjoy this also know that it can cost money – sometimes more than we want to spend.  A way to get around this is to clip and search for every coupon you can get.  This way, when you do go out, you’ve got a bunch of places to choose from that you know you’re already going to be saving at least a little bit.  Take advantages of all the special clubs, etc. that certain restaurants offer.  From time to time, you may get a buy one entrée, get the second one half price.  Another good tip for eating out is to go for lunch – who’s to say a proper celebration or just a treat for yourself has to be dinner?  Lunch portions might be smaller, yet they might not be.  In general, it costs less to eat lunch out than to eat dinner out.  Get used to the idea that good food outings can happen before dark!

I’ve said it before and I will say it again – saving money really is for the most part a personal decision.  Some cannot and will not give up, say…cable – and others could give it up without a care in the world.  It comes down to what’s really important, what you can live with and what you can’t live without.

 

Some Things I’ve Learned On My Recent Cruise…

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(Photo – Carnival Pride – carnival.com)

This is the wonderful ship my family and I spent seven glorious days on recently – the Carnival Pride, docked in Baltimore, Maryland.  Last week’s cruise was the second I have taken, and my second time on this beautiful ship.

Though after only two cruises I cannot be considered a seasoned or veteran cruiser, I do feel as though I’ve learned a few things while on the high seas.  Some are common sense things, some are things you’ll only learn with time – and after making some mistakes.

The cruise line we took (Carnival) has food available virtually around the clock, and with that goes an endless supply of coffee, tea, lemonade, iced tea and water.  There are cups provided for your use – and while they are plentiful, they are small.  After my first cruise, I remembered to take a large plastic cup with a lid and straw.  This enabled me to have what I feel is enough to drink (and especially with my recent kidney issues, it was more important than ever for me to stay hydrated).  I was going to do the same with a reusable coffee cup – you know, one of those reusable ones.  I decided against that, but I saw quite a lot of people who had those with them.  I can’t speak for other cruise lines, but Carnival provided milk and half and half – but no flavored creamers.  If they’re essential for you, I’d suggest bringing a few of those little creamers you get from convenience stores – or getting a small bottle of the powdered kind.  I think they even sell boxes of the little liquid creamers.  I know they did a few years ago when I was hooked on a certain flavor and I had a trip planned.

As far as clothes go, don’t over pack.  Just don’t do it.  When we were waiting to disembark last year, I sat I made a list of what I’d needed on that cruise.  I looked at the list before packing for this year, and while I stuck to it for the most part – I went overboard again.  There are two elegant nights on the cruise when you need to dress up (if you don’t want to, that’s fine – these nights are just a little fancier than the other ones).  This time I brought two different dresses that each needed a different pair of shoes.  Next time I will bring two dresses that the same pair of shoes can be worn with.  We left out of Baltimore, so the first day and most of the second day it was still cool.  Coming back it would be the same thing – so for these days, one pair of jeans or pants on your body and one in your suitcase would be enough.  You can wear one long sleeve shirt and as long as you have a hoodie or sweater or sweatshirt, you’ll be fine.  Footwear – my recommendation is one pair of closed toe shoes (I wore flats), one pair of flip flops, one pair of nicer sandals and the heels to go with the dress.  That’s all you need.  As far as everything else goes, besides a bathing suit and cover up (they provide towels) you’ll need an outfit for each day – and no more than that.  Next time I am going to REALLY try to follow this advice.

Do not forget to bring extension cords.  The bathroom in our stateroom only had an outlet for a shaver, and there was only one electrical outlet by the desk/vanity area.  That clearly is not enough.  There were three of us in our room, so we plugged an extension cord in and then one into that – giving us access to five outlets.  That suited us just fine.  Check with your cruise line – Carnival prohibits using ones with surge protectors.  This meant that the plain, basic ones we had worked well.

If you want to attend the comedy shows, get there early.  The nightclub where the comedians appeared on our ship was sort of small – not tiny, but seating for the most part was limited.  Getting there early ensured we got a seat.  The comedians they bring in are usually hysterical, but after a long day of cruising we were tired – and just didn’t feel like standing.  You will probably have better luck with seating in the bigger theaters.  This is usually where the big shows take place.  Don’t miss them – they are fantastic!

Check out Facebook, and see if your specific cruise has a group dedicated to it.  Ours did, and all through the months planning and leading up to leaving we made great friends.  There were events that had been planned, different kinds of contests to enter – it was great fun.  One of our group members took it upon herself to order and sell (for a nominal cost) lanyards printed with our group name.  You know, the lanyards you carry your Sign and Sail card in.  It was a great bonding experience high fiving other “green lanyard people” even if you didn’t know who they were – you knew they were part of your group.

Get involved.  Step out of your comfort zone.  Dance with your waiters if they ask.  Sing (even just with a group) during trivia contests.  If you’re not brave enough to sing karaoke solo, sing along with whoever is on stage.  Smile at your fellow passengers, who undoubtedly will be smiling at you.  I swear, cruising is one of the few activities where EVERYONE seems happy.  And no matter what you do, even if you don’t participate in your ship’s version of the QUEST, by all means attend – you will be so happy you did.  The laughs are beyond compare!

Little things for your stateroom – bring magnets with hooks – they’ll stick to your walls, and will be convenient if you need to hang things.  Running a cord between two of them will give you an extra wash line of sorts.  There is not a lot of room for storage, though there is some.  I left most of my clothes in the suitcase under the bed (remember though we had three in the room).  Also, bring extra hangers.  The closet we had included a second bar we could put halfway up, to double the hanging space.  We never used it though.  A small pen flashlight might be a good idea for the middle of the night – those rooms get dark!  There are also no clocks on the wall, so if you need (or like) to see the time in the middle of the night, keep your phone close by – or bring a travel alarm clock.

Whatever you do, do it comfortably.  You will eat on the cruise – a LOT.  And eating a lot makes you feel bloated, big and uncomfortable.  Bring elastic waist garments – you’ll be glad you did.  One night after dinner we were planning to go to one of the comedy shows.  I knew I wouldn’t last through half of the first performance feeling the way I did.  So do you know what I did?  I went back to our Stateroom, and I put on my pajamas – well, just the pants.  I was so comfortable!  I had my nice blouse showing through the zippered sweatshirt I wore, and I had my black sparkly slippers on.  I can’t say that I noticed anyone else in pj’s, but I wasn’t really looking.  My pajama pants also didn’t scream out PAJAMAS – they kind of looked like sweat pants or jogging pants.  The funniest thing was that the comedian who came out first was a woman who had just turned 50.  Quite a bit of her act was saying how being 50 was great, because you’ve lived your life and you’re at the point when you don’t care what people think.  I thought to myself “wow, how true.  Here I sit in a nightclub, in pajama pants and slippers.  Guess I really don’t care what others are thinking!”

Food on a cruise – it should be an entire post by itself.  The amounts of food available and consumed on a cruise is unbelievable.  It is the perfect time for you to try something you’ve never had before, and to eat massive amounts of things you love.  You can have a buffet breakfast, or you can go to the restaurant for a sit down meal.  The buffets have made to order omelettes, and the restaurant has amazing offerings that are without a doubt very deluxe.  Everything is delicious.  There are plenty of buffets open from lunch until past dinner, offering sandwiches, salads, all different choices of different cuisine (Mexican, Chinese, etc.) and desserts to go along with it all.  There’s a great Burger Bar also that was really popular on our ship.  The fancy dinner at night is beyond compare – you can order whatever you want off of the menu, and however much you want of it.  You can get three appetizers and four portions of dinner – it’s ok. When dessert comes, you don’t have to decide on just one – you can have three if you just can’t choose.  The table you get is the same for all nights of the cruise – your wait staff gets to know you, and they make each meal fun – they make dining with them an experience you won’t ever forget.  A few of the nights they even do performances, and the guests get to participate.  The made to order Pizza station is open 24 hours a day, and so is the Ice Cream Station (though, besides bowls and cones we think they should include sprinkles).  Rest assured, you will never go hungry on a cruise.  And if you do, it’s no one’s fault but your own!  It’s not right to talk about food on a cruise without mentioning the drinks.  They are so good – they are fruity and strong and tropical and delicious!  The bartenders make sitting at their particular bar fun – they’ve usually got smiles on their faces – you can tell they enjoy being there.  You can have practically unlimited drinks if you purchase the CHEERS package, but if you do – everyone in your stateroom needs to get it as well.  That is the only drawback.  Of course, buying alcoholic drinks costs extra money.  If you decide to not drink alcohol and only have water, lemonade or iced tea, you don’t have to pay another cent for anything onboard (with the exception of small gratuities here and there – these workers really earn these tips).

Deciding to go on a cruise was one of the best travel decisions I have ever made.  The memories are wonderful, and the value – it can’t be beat.  In closing, I have a few more tidbits to help you enjoy the cruise I hope you take…

Stay in your departure city the night before you leave – there would be nothing worse than stressing out about if you’re going to miss the boat or not.  And while you’re at it, investigate and then stay at a hotel that offers parking and transportation to and from port.  Have a bunch of 1’s handy – you’ll want to (and you should) tip many of the wonderful workers who take care of you.  Put your phone on airplane mode as soon as you board – you want to avoid high charges.  Take Ziploc bags and Wal-Mart bags in your suitcase – you’ll never have enough of these, trust me.  If you like flavored water, bring a few of those packets for individual bottles along.  For your carry on, if you have one – use a backpack.  It will be especially helpful when you’re leaving to go home.  It’s sad enough when you leave, and everything will annoy you – best to be able to have your hands free if possible.  Be extra careful with your passport – losing that is not something you want to have happen.  Call your credit card company before you leave to inform them you’ll be away, and make sure your debit card is up to date.  Pack yourself a health kit – with anything you think you’ll need, like sea sickness tablets, bandages, cold pills, pain relief, especially something to treat potential sunburn.  Put your room key in a holder on a lanyard, around your neck.  If you’re a wine drinker, bring a corkscrew.  And last but not least, staterooms are not big – scents travel fast – bring room deodorizer spray (or poo-potpourri).  It will help, I promise you that.

Have a fun time on the high seas…

Thankful, and grateful…

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Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

I’ve been away awhile – I think some posts may have auto-posted, but for the most part – I have been out of commission for the last month or so.  I went in for kidney stone surgery, which went very well.  Fast forward a few days when I was then readmitted to the hospital for “gross hematuria” which, basically is…massive blood loss.  It was scary, and I am not a patient who gets frightened easily – but this, it spooked me.  And facing what-I-thought-could-be-my-own- mortality, I did a lot of thinking.  A lot.

I was hospitalized in the hospital that I work at, and/or in – it was wonderful.  The staff is beyond caring – I knew this.  They took care of me beautifully, almost like I was royalty.  I felt loved and cared for and knew I was in the absolute right place that I needed to be. I was released and then readmitted 4 1/2 days later.  This was something Jeff and I never thought would happen, mostly because I was healing good – with no problems.  My home health nurse guided me back to the hospital, and I stayed there for almost six more days.  But this time, when I left – I was done.  I was good, and healed.  And on my way to recovery.

All during this ordeal, the cruise we’d had planned for over a year was weighing on my mind.  At some point, I checked with the doctor and he said he didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t go on our cruise – but we needed to proceed with caution.  After staying for observation, antibiotics through an IV, a blood transfusion and an iron infusion – I was given the go ahead to go, to leave – we were going to be cruising!  My son and daughter in law drove over two hours to get me home and settle me in – they love me so much, and I love them.  A week later, we were all on our way – out of Baltimore, onto the Bahamas!

The cruise was wonderful – the perfect combination of rest, and fun.  We had a group of ten – it was me, Jeff and Ellie in our room – we had a Three’s Company theme!  My sister, John and my nephew Dan were across the hall, and Amanda and Kevin (my children) were down the hall.  My ex-husband and his girlfriend were a few floors up from us.  We all did our “thing” during the day for the most part, and we all met for dinner – we had the late session, at 8:15.  Once dinner was done, we all did activities together – whether it was a show, an interactive game, attending a comedy performance or just hanging out in the Night Club (which once it got a bit too “young” for us, we’d just leave!)  I am truly thankful and so very grateful I was able to be there.  I don’t get religious too much, but in this instance – God was good.

I am thankful that I have recovered from complications I never thought I would have.  I am grateful to all of the staff at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton, PA for taking care of me, and making me well.  I am thankful that I have the family I do – that after the hurting of years ago, we’ve all gotten past it and we’re good – it’s not the family dynamic we thought we’d have, but it is what it is.  I’m proud that the Ex and I have handled things like adults and we’ve remained friendly – the kids are happy about that, they see it.  It’s the right thing to do, and the right way to be.

Life is good right now.  And judging from recent events, there’s no reason to think that things won’t continue right down this highway line!

Love my family, love my friends.  Without a doubt 🙂