Save $$$ on Food

(Photos credit – nbc news and midwestcommunity.org)

In line with my renewed commitment to saving money (for things that really matter), I have re-read and re-familiarized myself with different ideas and strategies for saving money on something that we have to spend money on – food.  Obviously food is not something you can go without, but it is something you can and should be smart about when you are shopping and making your choices.  In no certain order below are my thoughts about spending your hard earned money on something that is absolutely necessary.

First of all, food choices are just that – choices.  You have to determine where your dollars go.  Are you satisfied with cheap white bread, or do you like (or require) more of a specialty kind?  Either way, whatever you decide – you should be smart about it.  If you know you’ll need some fresh bread for sandwiches, but maybe not the whole loaf – freeze what you won’t need.  Bread frozen in the freezer can be defrosted slice by slice – it does not have to be defrosted by the whole or even half loaf.  You can extend the life of your loaves this way.  You can put two slices in a ziploc bag and they’ll be ready for toast at your office.  And at home, you can toast frozen bread slices.  It works.  I’ve done it.  A reasonable breakfast that even includes a bit of protein is toast with peanut butter, a cup of coffee (or whatever you drink in the morning) and a piece of fruit.  Not too bad for the supposed most important meal of the day.  Eggs are not too shabby either, and they are economical – they are protein, and aren’t as restricted as they were years ago.  Scramble or fry one or two, pair them with some toast and your drink, have some fruit – and there you go, another reasonably priced and reasonably healthy breakfast.  The same can be done with instant oatmeal – make it to your specifications, grab a piece of fruit and your drink and you’ve got another choice.  If you want more choices, make some pancakes and some French toast – freeze them in separate ziploc bags.  For work breakfasts, have small size containers that you can put syrup in for taking with you.  Having frozen “go to’s” are good for home too, on the weekends – when the lure of donuts and coffee at your local favorite place is calling you.  Have fresh fruit (or even canned, which in many ways is just fine) on hand to pair with these choices and your morning drinks will always ensure a good way to start your day.

Lunches can be costly too – if you spend in your cafeteria at work, it can add up to a high amount before you even realize it.  If you have a refrigerator and a microwave at your job, that means no excuses as to why you can’t bring lunch from home.  Even if you don’t have these things, you can get freezer cold packs, and pack items that don’t have to be heated up or take things that are good at room temperature.  An obvious choice for lunches would be leftovers – either what is actually left over, or leftovers that are purposely made for having extras for other meals.  You can make sandwiches with your bread (frozen as stated above) or you can get wraps (of course, watching for sales).  Sandwich fillings do not have to be costly lunch meat purchased from a deli.  You can make egg salad with the above-mentioned reasonably priced eggs, or you can make tuna salad (watching for sales, I have gotten tuna for 67 cents a can).  You can put refried beans and shredded cheese in the wraps for Mexican Bean Rollups, which travel very well. Pre-made grilled cheese sandwiches can be cut into strips and made into a fun lunch.  With all the cooking I do at home, in our freezer there are always a few portions of soup that can be a good lunch meal.  And the standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich plus an apple (and your drink) is the perfect lunch – I was told this by my kids’ pediatrician many years ago.

Dinner can be more of a challenge, a more costly one – mainly because the meal tends to be bigger.  I have always shopped and bought what is on sale.  It always made sense to me unless we were in dire need of something for whatever dire reason – what that could be, I don’t know really – that is why planning ahead is so important.  Given the way I shop, I usually always have a decent variety of meats in the freezer.  I plan dinners more than I plan the other two meals (or snacks).  I always (if possible) try to buy meat for less than $1.99 per pound.  I can usually accomplish this with chicken legs, drumsticks and thighs, certain kinds of pork and on the rare occasion, ground beef.  Walmart has great little frozen “chubs” of frozen turkey, frozen turkey sausage and frozen Mexican turkey for $1.50 a pound.  I have gotten frozen tilapia for $5 a bag, and making that for some reason always feels like a sort-of gourmet meal to me.  For a treat once, we bought a box of New York Strip Steaks at Walmart.  Now we didn’t have great expectations, because they were $9.97 for a box of five.  They were surprisingly good!  They will be our food splurge, and once in a while we splurge on a bag of frozen shrimp for $5.  I stock up on pasta and sauce when other stores have them on sale, but you really can’t beat the 82 cents for pasta and 88 cents for sauce at Walmart.  I always have them on hand, and shredded mozzarella cheese as well.  I’m a pasta type person.  I enjoy it very much.  Recently I have started adding canned spinach to my pasta – not a whole lot, just enough to boost up the iron and vitamins, and to give the meal a different taste.  You can further add to a pasta dinner by putting in a chunk of cream cheese as the sauce and spinach cooks.  The key is to be creative.  Be creative with the lesser priced ingredients.  When you do this, you can turn these meals into something kind of special.

The way to really save money on food is to eat it at home.  Not out in restaurants.  That being said, sometimes it IS nice to go out and splurge.  If you value this, do not let others make you feel wrong for enjoying it.  You can have a nice romantic dinner at home, but to me – once in a while, if you’re not drowning in debt, and it’s worth it to you – go out.  Go out but be smart about it.  Go to your favorite restaurant on an off night, where they might be having specials.  Find coupons to different restaurants – maybe ones you have been to, maybe ones you would like to try.  Go earlier in the day, say…for lunch maybe.  Have drinks and appetizers at the bar area of a restaurant.  Sometimes it is nice to go out with your significant other.  Dress up and show each other off.  If this is something you enjoy, do it.  Go for it.  This is the point of being frugal and being smart with your money.

Yes, you want to be free from debt but you also need to enjoy life.  And enjoying life means doing the things you like.  It’s just all about planning.  That’s really the key in all of this – you have to be smart, you have to plan – and if you do, and you’re really honest about it all – you should start seeing success.  Remember, this is your life, your money, your debt or lack thereof – and let no one dictate how you need to handle things.  Again, though, be honest with yourself.  As they say, get real.  Get real with yourself and with what matters.

 

Fast. Cheap. Desserts.

(Photos courtesy of pixels)

Below you will find easy dessert ideas that will pack a punch, but will not punch you in your wallet.  I have mentioned versions of these before, but with entertaining, etc. always a constant (at least in our home) they are worth mentioning again.

Melt some chocolate in a double boiler or microwave it – whatever your method is for melting chocolate.  Dip half of a chocolate chip cookie into melted chocolate. Before it completely hardens, dip this chocolate part into something of your choosing – sprinkles, crushed cookies, crushed nuts, crushed candy bars. Lay on wax or parchment paper to avoid “cookie ruination.”

Prepare instant pudding – in the flavors you would like. I usually choose chocolate and vanilla. Have these ready in their own serving bowls. On the side, put out individual serving bowls. Offer add ins and mix ins – be creative. You can use sprinkles, chocolate chips, crushed candy (of whatever kind you’d like), mini marshmallows,nuts, M&M’s or even gummy bears. Have whipped cream handy.

Depending on the season or the party you’re celebrating, make appropriate color (and therefore, flavors) jello.  You can choose to float fruit inside the jello before you even set up it up.  Serve the jello in large bowls, having smaller ones available. You can be as elaborate or as simple as you want – have whipped cream ready to go along with sprinkle shaker bottles in corresponding and alternating colors. Pretty.

This costs about $2, give or take.  In advance, bake up a batch of cake-mix cupcakes. Have them on a serving platter, and put things out in a “decorate your own cupcake” bar. You can put pre-made frosting (or whatever you normally use) in small serving bowls, have whipped cream available. Offer sprinkles, crushed nuts, crushed candies – you can even put out peanut butter and powdered sugar for an almost in-the-moment peanut butter frosting.

Bake or buy a pound cake. Serve it on a platter in slices. On the side, have fruits and jams. This is a simple dessert, so simple that other add ons are not needed. Maybe include a shaker with powdered sugar.

This takes no time at all, and is always a hit. Offer a few different kinds of ice cream, have cones, bowls, cone bowls – and syrup, whipped cream, nuts, cherries and sprinkles. It is the always popular “Make Your Own Ice Cream Sundae Bar.” It’s fun to use ice cream-themed dishes, but truthfully – people like ice cream so much that it really won’t matter.

I have also bought a few of those small, 50-cent pies from Walmart – in all different kinds of flavors. Arranging them on a platter, there will be a sample of each flavor for everyone – depending on how many guests you have. It’s a good idea that has gone over very well in the past.

Again, for about $2 you can’t really beat this. Buy a cake mix and a container of frosting.  You can make it in a layer cake form, or in a sheet cake – it can be sprinkled with sprinkles or powdered sugar. If you want to perk up the mix, bake with milk instead of water, use melted butter instead of oil and add an extra egg or two. Is this deluxe or fancy? No, but rest assured it will taste very good.

For full disclosure here, the parties and get-togethers we have usually involve A LOT of food.  If your gatherings tend to be the same way, you could get away with one of these options, or two at the most.  If you have mega sweet-tooth attendees, you could do a few options, just in smaller quantities.  You know your guests best…enjoy!

Planning for Valentine’s Day…

three red heart balloons
Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

Jeff and I are very lucky – this year, our Valentine’s Day is planned ahead for us – we will be on a cruise on that day.  And since we will be sharing a room with Ellie, plus a bunch of other family members will be there – it will be a nice holiday, yet it won’t be an intimate time.  That is more than ok – who in their right mind would complain about being on a cruise?  Certainly not us – that night is one of two elegant nights on the trip, so Jeff will dress up as will I – I will find something in Valentine’s red to wear.  It will be a nice night I am sure.

We will celebrate our own Valentine’s Day a week later.  We are going away on the night of February 21st – we will be seeing my favorite hockey player of all time (John Tonelli) have his jersey retired – finally!  Jeff will be going with me because he knows it will make me happy – and he always makes the best of things and has a fun time.  That’s what love is – doing what will make the other person happy, which ends up making you happy.  We will be attending the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony to see Derek Jeter inducted this summer – Jeff loves baseball and Jeter is one of his favorite players of all time.  I’m glad we will be able to be there – even though the only motel we could reserve is forty miles from Cooperstown!  That’s crazy, but it’s what is necessary if we want to be there.  That will also be a nice time away.

Yet as we are trying to save and get on a good, straight financial track – we still want to have fun, be silly and enjoy dates.  We’ve done a few things that haven’t cost much money but ended up being fun.  We made memories and took pictures, and looking back on these times – they were as nice as expensive dates, just in a different way.

One Saturday we took a walk around Scranton – around all the streets we drive past as we are going to work, running errands or whatever.   We got a cold slushy drink (they make good ones with alcohol at a market downtown) and walked around.  We went onto side streets with interesting looking buildings, and went into stores we really didn’t realize were there.  We walked all around Courthouse Square, and learned a lot about Scranton that we didn’t know before.  There was an interesting tribute wall/statue devoted to people who were reported missing in the city, yet never found.  Some of the sidewalk tiles around the County courthouse had quotes from and dates involving significant Lackawanna County residents.  Driving through the city, you never would know this stuff was there.  We learned a lot that day strolling through town.

It is a good idea to get a newspaper and check out events happening around town.  There are some High Schools who perform plays that are worthy of Broadway – really!  The bands from certain schools are amazing.  Of course, it is always more fun if you go to a play or a game from a school where you know some of the students.  But it is not always necessary.  These games, plays and concerts are minimal in cost, yet you get maximum entertainment for your dollars.

You can work out together – even if one of you doesn’t like it too much.  That would be Jeff and me – he loves it, and let’s just say I don’t.  But if we go together, it shows him that I am willing to do things with him that he likes.  And honestly, every time we do go to the gym, I am always glad I went – even if I didn’t want to go in the first place (and I never do).  It’s even nice to see others checking your significant other out – you can feel proud that he (or she) is yours!

A fun thing to do is an indoor picnic.  Have it complete with a blanket, and everything you’d take if you were outside.  Planning an indoor picnic is a good idea, because no matter what the weather, your plans won’t be affected.  A picnic, yet there won’t be any mosquitoes, flies or ants.  Yes!

What we’ve done and is always fun to do is to make some drinks, have some snacks and watch our favorite movie together.  We love Austin Powers Goldmember, and always laugh no matter how many times we’ve seen it.  Laughing is a good thing.  Yet if your favorite is suspense or horror, that’s ok too.  It is just important to watch something you will both enjoy.

Have a spa night together.  I did this with my sister and Christine when we had a girls weekend away.  It was a great success.  There is no reason why you can’t make a spa night a date night.  Currently, I have the world’s itchiest back – I carry a back scratcher in my purse, and I have one on each floor of our house.  Jeff and I plan on doing one of these nights soon – I need a back facial.  Yes, go online and look – there are instructions for this.

If you decide you do want to go out, try going for lunch or drinks and appetizers.  This in general will be more economical than dinner in most cases.  And coupons – always look for coupons, and use them whenever you can.  This doesn’t make you cheap, it makes you thrifty, it makes you smart – you’re getting more for your money.  And that is a really good thing.

Have a game night – if you’re into computer games, play them.  Or try playing board games.  You can even play cards.  The winner gets to choose the next game, the loser has to go along with that choice no matter what.  You can make up your own rules as you go along.  The main thing is to have fun.

Teach each other something, even if it is something minor. I frequently explain little things about wrestling to Jeff.  He appreciates knowing some of the moves and how the characters are related so that when he watches with me, he understands more of what’s going on.  He explains different things to me about baseball – about the players, who’s the current highest paid, why a certain player turned out to be a “bad deal” financial wise.  It is nice learning something you didn’t know before about something your significant other thinks is important.

Write little lists, little notes.  These notes don’t have to be very big or anything earth shattering.  It is just nice getting a note that says “five things you do that makes me feel special” or “five ways I know I’m lucky for having you.”  It’s a small little thing to do that can have a big impact.

Make a meal together, maybe a kind you’ve never cooked before – make it from appetizers to dessert.  Try an all Chinese meal or maybe something really outrageous, like Arabic food.  Christine’s son spent time in Korea with the Army.  After he came home, he cooked us an entire Korean dinner from beginning to end, and it was delicious.  It will be an experience you two can do together.  You won’t forget it, I promise.  Whether it was a success or a disaster.

Grab a drink and sit down – and make plans.  Make a plan for the weekend, make a monthly plan.  Make a 6 month plan, a one year plan and even make one for five years out.  It’s a great motivator to have things to look forward to.  Sometimes having things written down old school on paper gives you goals to aim for.  It’s not enough to say that “oh a year from now we want to take a trip to California.”  Make a plan and make it happen.  You know you’ll be planning together to be together.  And that can make you feel really excited for the future as well as feel really fortunate to have one another.

I feel like Michelle Duggar…almost.

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(Photo credit TLC Network)

I admit, I’ve always had an odd fascination for the Duggar family – you know, the ones with 19 kids, who now have spouses and children of their own.  Though my interest in them has waned in recent years as more scandals of theirs have come to light, I have maintained a curiosity about the big brood.  I thought a lot about how each child could maintain their individuality in a family so large.  And, in a way I understand it now.  I am the “mom” to seven cats.  I never intended to have so many felines, it just kind of happened that way.

Beavis and Stan were my first two.  At twelve years old, they are still perfect.  We had JB for a time – a time that wasn’t long enough.  We lost him in June.  Between December of 2018 and May of last year, we acquired five more – Nik, Lexi, Malenky, Boris and Tasha.  They had a sister who I named Anastasia.  My ex-husband and his girlfriend took her in and renamed her Gilly.  I like to refer to our brood as the Magnificent Seven.

Enjoying each cat and appreciating them for who they are is not hard.  That’s why I’m understanding Michelle Duggar more.  I know children and cats are not the same, obviously – but their unique personalities makes it easy to love them each exactly as they come.  Like people, each one is different – they have different moods and different tendencies.

Beavis was given to me by my ex-husband and children after I was mugged, and they didn’t know what to surprise me with at Christmas to make me perk up and feel better.  They found him in a pet shop, and he was a sweetie from the very first time they picked him up.  He’s a gorgeous tabby, and recently lost a lot of weight after being chubby for the past several years.  I think he is the only one of our cats who has never, ever gotten in trouble or yelled at for anything.  He turned twelve years old on October 10.

Stanley was originally my sister’s cat.  Due to a change in living situation for my Mom, my sister and I had to play musical cats, and he became ours.  My kids liked Stan right away, it took the ex and I a little longer.  For some reason, Stan has always been in love with me.  When I lived with my sister (I had the cats with me there) Stan would sit by the door every afternoon about a half hour before I was due home and cry for me until I got there.  He is a character, a cat who is always around.   He is always under foot, helping with every project he can get his hands on.  He is a gorgeous long-haired gray cat who is also twelve years old.

JB was our Florida cat.  He hung around outside the house I shared with my cousin until I was leaving for Pennsylvania.  He came with us.  He adjusted to life with us as an inside cat very well.  He always had an odd way of breathing, like he was snoring.  Long story short, he was older than the vet in Florida had said, and what he had wasn’t a breathing problem, it was nasal cancer.  He lived with that from January until June 2nd when, as they say, he crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.  JB went over that bridge knowing he was loved.

Going to a shelter to drop off some food that our cats didn’t like led me to Nik and Lexi.  They were a foster fail on our (well, my) part.  We took them in on December 29th.  That’s their “Gotcha Day.”  They are both cows – white with black splots.  Nik is rough and tough, and is a big boy.  Lexi is the perfect female – she really is a Queen.  Nik tries very hard to be the dominant male cat in the house – Beavis doesn’t mind, but Stan resists Nik’s effort and they do tend to fight.  Lexi is the perfect sister in addition to her being royalty.

Malenky was a total surprise.  Sitting on the living room couch, I heard a meowing in the basement.  I went down there, and saw and heard nothing. Of course, as soon as I went back upstairs I heard it again.  I went back down again, and issued an ultimatum – come out come out wherever you are, that kind of thing.  And then, out from underneath a dresser walked the smallest kitten I have ever seen.  A tiny, beautiful black and white kitten.  I fell in love with him at first sight, for sure.  He was no more than three weeks old.  His ears weren’t even fully extended.  I had no idea how to care for a kitten so small – thank God for the internet.  I taught him how to do everything – how to eat, drink, how to pee and how to poop.  He is a gorgeous Tuxedo boy, and he is my success story!

People were right when they said that where there was one, there would be siblings.  How right they were!  Three weeks later, we found the three siblings – two girls and a boy.  We toyed with the idea of what to do with them, when I think we’d really known all along.  My ex-husband took one of the Tuxedo girls, the cute one with the black splatch on her nose.  He renamed her Gilly.  We have kept the all black boy, Boris.  What a nut he is!  He keeps us laughing every day with his antics.  He chases his tail in many ways, like it is his own built in toy.  His sister is Natasha, and she is the perfect Princess.  She is a quiet, dignified Tuxedo girl.  She also is Beavis-like in not really doing anything wrong, though she can stick up for herself for sure when her siblings try to strong arm her away from food she thinks is hers!

So that’s our brood- – all different, all perfect.  We love them all the same, yet love them for different reasons.  They are each their own individuals – which I’m guessing is even more relevant (if that is even the right word) with the Duggars – no matter how many of them there are.  As much as I would love to have more, I realize we are full up.  Inside.  I do however feed some of the outside ferals of our West Scranton neighborhood.  Ginger, Gloria and Olga are well taken care of on N. Bromley Avenue…

Below, in order are Beavis, Stan, Nikita Adam and Alexi Eve, Malenky Lewis, Boris Alexander and Natasha Jean.

 

 

 

 

Why why why…

 

 

black and white business career close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve been wondering a lot of odd things lately.  I don’t even know why these questions have run through my head, yet they have.  It’s random thoughts through a distracted mind.

Why do people always look up towards the floors an elevator is going to and coming from?  No one looks at each other, nor do they look down.  Everyone always seems to be looking up.

I tense up when I’m driving in bad weather, as if having stiff muscles is going to help me navigate rain, snow or ice.  It makes absolutely no sense, yet I do it all the time.

Why do people drive extra slow in a parking garage, as if driving like a snail will automatically make a good spot appear?

I always turn down the radio’s volume when I am feeling I’m about to be lost.  I’m not the only one who does this.  Why?

In my kitchen cabinets and in the refrigerator, I have to have the bottles, boxes and cans neatly arranged, and the labels always have to be facing front.  When I have a plastic bag secured by a clip tie, I always trim the plastic so it’s even and not all jagged.

Why does a great comeback come way later to a response you wish you’d given hours earlier?

I always arrange the bills in my wallet in worth order – 20s, 10s, 5s and then ones.  I don’t go as far as to arrange them by their serial numbers though.

Why do we smile awkwardly when we know we should be saying something and standing up for ourselves?

I check my flat iron a lot before I leave to go anywhere – even though I know I’ve unplugged it.

If I’m going out later on, and I’m taking a shower first – I never put my going out clothes right on.  I put on clean pajamas.

I hate it when a drawstring or hoodie string is uneven.

My son used to have two twin beds in his room, in case he had a sleep over.  When no one was there, he would always sleep in the bed furthest away from the door.  The reason?  So it would be harder for a bad guy to get him.  Seriously, Chris – you were only about two feet more safe.

I hate being “carded” when I’m buying beer.  It is obvious I am, well let’s just say…old enough.

I will shake the cats’ dry food around in their bowls to make it look evenly distributed.

So there I said it.  Odd, just weird.  Both me and others.  What weird quirks do you have?

 

3, 2, 1…Soup!

 

brown cooking pot
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Let me start by saying the past two days have been unusually warm, weather-wise – and I am loving it!  I know this warm-up can’t last, and it won’t – and for this reason I’ve been revisiting soup ideas in my mind.  Soup is a hearty meal.  The following three recipes are easy, taste good and make you feel good – good as if you’ve slaved for a long time, but you really haven’t.

My first easy soup is Italian Meatball Soup.  The easy part of this recipe is you can tailor it to how you like it, or by what you have on hand.  The amounts can be adjusted to however many people/servings you’re needing.  The ingredients are canned carrots, celery seed seasoning, an onion chopped into tiny pieces (or minced onion), sprinkles of Italian Seasoning.  You’ll need a 32 ounce container of beef broth, and a 24 ounce package of frozen Italian meatballs (again, adjust your amounts).  Use two cups of water and two cans of drained, chopped tomatoes.  Add a splash or two of dry red wine, and if you have it – a can of spinach.  Combine all of these and simmer – simmer for as long as you feel you want or need to.  While the soup is simmering, boil water and cook some ditalini (or other small pasta).  When you determine the soup is done, you can dish it into proper sized soup bowls, add the pasta – and before serving, sprinkle some grated cheese on top.  Done!

I also enjoy Easy Pea Soup.  You don’t have to put in too much effort to get yourself a delicious meal.  Again, like above – use your own discretion as to the quantity of ingredients (based on how many servings you will want).  Use a decent size pot.  Brown some chopped onion and minced garlic in oil, butter or margarine. As they cook up, add three cans of peas and two cups of chicken broth.  To this, add a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper.  Let this warm – let it bubble.  Transfer half of this mixture into a blender or food processor, and puree.  Put the puree into a different pot.  Repeat the pureeing and combine portions.  Simmer.  At this point, feel free to put some add ins in – you can add a can or two of sliced or diced carrots, or a chunk of ham cut into cubes.  Keep simmering, and before too long you’ll have a great bowl of soup!

A hearty, stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup is Creamy Baked Potato Soup.  This soup starts with some mashed potatoes – again, in the quantity you think you’ll need.  You can use fresh cooked potatoes, canned potatoes or instant potatoes – any kind you want.  Once they are mashed in a proper size pot, start adding milk, water and chicken broth, alternating small amounts of each.  The idea is to get this mixture to a soup like consistency.  As you’re adding and simmering, you can put in a dash of salt, pepper and garlic or onion powder.  Once you are satisfied that there is enough liquid with the consistency you like, you can simmer some more.  If the soup seems too thick, thin it out with more liquid.  If it is too thin, soup (or many broth based items) can be thickened with corn starch or my favorite, instant mashed potatoes.  Once your soup reaches what looks to you to be almost done, you can add shredded cheese, mushrooms, bacon bits – whatever sounds right to you.  I serve this soup like a baked potato – with a bit of sour cream on top.  It is so good!

You can freeze these soups too – though it may not be advisable with the Meatball soup, since it includes (previously) frozen meatballs.  I hope you enjoy all of these – I know that I do!

Ups and Downs, Good and Bad, Yes and No…

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I feel so very fortunate to be able to say that the Year 2019 was more good than bad.  Being on social media, I see that many others cannot say the same thing.  I did experience some downer moments but for the most part 2019 treated me pretty well.

The year started off great as we had just welcomed Nik and Lexi into our family right before 2018 ended.  What started out as a temporary arrangement turned permanent as we fell in love with them.  They have grown into happy, healthy and funny cats.  We couldn’t imagine our lives without them.  Lexi is our Queen, and except for the fact that she scratches where she shouldn’t she is absolutely perfect.  Nik is a big boy – big and masculine, yet he sleeps so funny – like a baby bunny rabbit or something.

Early to mid January we got news that we would have never expected.  After a few weeks of back and forth trips to the Vet, our JB was diagnosed with a form of nasal cancer.  I have never been so devastated and heartbroken in my life (as odd as that sounds, having lost both of my parents to cancer).  We were told in Florida that JB was around two years old, but during his cancer diagnosis the Vet here in Pennsylvania said he was closer to ten years old.  This was such an unexpected revelation.  The crying I did when I found out, I didn’t really realize it was possible to go through something that hurt so bad.  We were lucky enough to have him with us for almost five months after his diagnosis.  I loved that boy with my whole heart and soul and I miss him every day.  Still.

From good to bad to good – the day after my birthday in April, I was watching the news and I heard meowing.  I thought it was in the basement, so I went down to investigate.  Nothing.  (At this point, I should note that our basement isn’t exactly sealed – there are openings in the foundation, however small.) I then went back upstairs and heard it yet again.  I made a final trip to the basement, to the area where I thought the meowing might be coming from.  Issuing a last-ditch request to come out wherever you are, walking towards me was the smallest little kitten I had ever seen.  His ears weren’t even fully up.  He is my miracle boy – we learned together.  Kittens of three weeks old (that’s about how big he was) need help to do everything – to pee, to poop, to eat – all of it.  Besides being my miracle boy, he is my success story.  His name is Malenky, which means little one in Russian.  Though now at nine months he’s not so little anymore!  He’s black and white, and he is beautiful!

People said to me that where there’s one kitten there’s probably more.  They were right.  About three weeks later, I heard a noise when I was in the basement.  I didn’t think it was anything – this time there was no meowing.  Imagine our surprise when Jeff opened up a dresser drawer and three kittens were in there!  We were in shock!  Initially, the plan was to get these three new additions homes – I was able to find a home for one of the little girls – my ex husband and his girlfriend took a Tuxedo and named her Gilly.  That left us with two – all black Boris and black and white Tuxedo Tasha Jean.  There were no takers, so we kept them.  And I am so happy we did!  Boris is the crazy relative you’d meet at a wedding, acting the fool.  Tasha is quiet, laid back – the absolute perfect lady!  I love them so much, and it’s been great for Malenky to have siblings his own age.  The antics the three of them pull has us laughing each and every day.  Combined with Beavis and Stanley, seven cats seems to be the perfect number for us!

My cats and my family (friends are included in the family term) are everything to me.  Yet my interest in hockey is pretty strong.  The 2018-19 season was supposed to be THE year for my Tampa Bay Lightning.  They finished first overall in the entire league, and Nikita Kucherov (our Nik’s namesake) was on fire.  All the promises of this season ended when they lost in the FIRST round of the playoffs.  And they didn’t just lose – they lost BIG.  Four straight and it was terrible.  It was the worst buzz kill of any sports experience I think I’ve ever had.  For a year that had the promise of a potential Stanley Cup to end the way it did – I think the team is still suffering the after effects of that horrible loss.  I am a Bolts fan forever and for always – some things from last season should be remembered, but some – just no.  Not at all.

My hockey heart is pumped up as the New York Islanders announced they would FINALLY retire the number of my favorite player – John Tonelli.  It certainly has taken them long enough.  Better late than never though.  The banner with his name and number will no longer only be retired on my leg (as a tattoo) but will be raised to the rafters at the Barn – Nassau Coliseum, where SO many Tonelli milestones were achieved.  We have our tickets, and we will be there!  February 21st cannot come fast enough.

2019 brought some bad current events.  There were church shootings, school shootings and bombings.  We had fires and floods and mudslides.  There was a terrible attack that thankfully turned out to be something fraudulent and made up.  Jussie Smollett was a storyteller who caused time, money and resources to be wasted on a sham.  It’s fortunate that this was a farce and it wasn’t real – that something so awful never happened.  We lost many famous people, including Don Imus, Carol Spinney (the voice of Big Bird), Doris Day, Luke Perry, Valerie Harper, Lil Bub and Grumpy Cat.

Yet 2019 had some notable good things, too.  Speaking of Sesame Street (above), it turned fifty.  A 95 year old WWII Veteran in Oklahoma earned his High School diploma.  There is new technology that is able to possibly detect breast cancer five years sooner.  A man on his last day of chemotherapy in North Carolina hit the lottery for $200,000.  And we had little Baby Archie come into the world on May 6th.

It was good Jeff and I were finally able to get back to Florida.  Yet it was bad (if you could even say it) that we were only there from Thursday until Sunday.  I am so very happy to have gotten my old job back here at the hospital.  Yet I just wish Jeff and I had more time off together – it is hard when you work opposite shifts.  We worked on getting our bathroom up to date, yet we still have the rest of the place to go.  Patience, woman…patience!  I have to have my extra large kidney stone removed – surgically, sadly.  The good part of that is I will never get that kidney pain again.  My youngest son got engaged which is a very good thing, and my oldest son graduated from College, which is also a very good thing.  Our oldest cat, Beavis has lost a significant amount of weight.  This could be considered a good thing – since he had been pretty overweight at one time.  But it could also be bad, despite the fact that the Vet said all is ok – how can a living thing lose half of it’s body weight and have things be alright?  The good thing is that his mood and personality hasn’t changed – he’s the same old happy, laid back boy he has always been!

So we will bid farewell to 2019, and will be ready to welcome 2020 with open arms.  I’m lucky – life is good, and I don’t expect anything to change.  Still, though – fingers (and toes) crossed!  Happy New Year!

 

Merry Christmas…

photo of string lights
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..and Happy Holidays!  What a wonderful time of year.  And a stressful and tiring time of year, too.  We wouldn’t have it any other way though, right?  I say that now, but each and every night after work was spent doing Christmas-related things from November until yesterday afternoon.  All the hard work put in made the holiday great, but honestly – it will be nice to come home from work now and not HAVE to do something because an absolute time deadline was approaching.

Yesterday was our family’s Christmas get together.  As the boys have grown and gotten married and engaged (and have full time jobs in industries that don’t chiefly operate on a Monday-Friday nine to five schedule), it’s harder and harder to make the day and date decided on work for all of us.  Luckily, yesterday worked out for everyone.  We have certainly come full circle in our family.  When the ex and I separated in 2014, we never let our issues affect the kids and our Christmas traditions.  We have spent every holiday together since then.  It’s worked out very well for all of us.  Our get togethers have included the ex’s girlfriend Lorraine, and for the past two Christmases we’ve also been lucky enough to have Jeff with us.  Things changed as well, and we’ve come to include my sister, her boyfriend and her son.  It truly was a family Christmas.  Hosted by my youngest son and his fiancé, they did a wonderful job and a good time was had by all.

I’m so thankful for my family.  We are all very generous to each other.  Luckily none of us are really in need so the gifts were fun type presents.  Some were practical gifts that had a funny edge.  The kids Christmas stockings had things they enjoyed as little boys despite the fact that they are 31, 29 and 24.  Jeff and I went silly and got Bre and Chris a small wedding dress and tiny tuxedo along with a certificate – we are going to Build a Bear.  I never did that activity with the boys when they were little, so we’re going to do it now – and soon.  Between all the kids, my ex, and my sister (plus Christine and Keith who we will see on this coming weekend) I bought treats (and made gifts) for twenty three cats and three dogs – and that doesn’t even count our seven!

Jeff and I didn’t get each other all too much stuff – but we haven’t exchanged yet, so it remains to be seen how much we actually do have.  His gift to me was our recent long weekend away in Florida, which was wonderful.  I have made arrangements to go to Long Island to see my favorite hockey player’s number retired – finally!  We will have a February weekend away to celebrate this.  One of Jeff’s favorite baseball players is going to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer, so a July weekend away will be planned for this time as well.  I have so many things around our house that I really don’t need much.  What we want to do now is make memories, and not buy things.

I hope everyone had, is having and will continue having a Holiday time that makes you and your loved ones happy.  Merry.  Happy.  Celebrate!

Promises. Not Resolutions.

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The phrase “New Year’s Resolutions” brings to mind a few things.  The promise of a new day, a new start and a new beginning.  For those of us who have made many of these resolutions in the past (and didn’t end up keeping them) it also brings up a feeling of a kind of failure.  It’s a reminder of something you didn’t do that you initially had wanted to.  I want to make some changes in the upcoming year, but I am not going to call them resolutions.  I am going to call them promises.  They are going to be promises to myself.

Jeff and I have lived in our house (a rental from our dear friend and landlord, Ellie) for almost fifteen months.  We have taken time to get settled in.  We are very happy where we are.  After all, who else but such a wonderful woman would let us have seven cats?  In all this time, we have done one project.  It was redoing the bathroom, to a minor extent.  We had Jeff’s brother come to help us install a new bathroom sink and vanity, and we painted the walls and ceiling.  A border for the center of the walls has been purchased, and that will be put up soon.  But other than this project, we have done nothing.  Not a thing.  That is going to change in 2020.  First on the list is shaping up the kitchen.  It isn’t going to be a major project – all we really plan on doing is painting the walls and the ceiling, and little improvements (painting the outlet covers, buying new curtains).  Also, we really don’t need to have both a kitchen and dining room set up, so we plan on combining the two.  It remains to be seen how this all works out, but this plan is set and will begin right after the holidays are over.  We bought too much paint for the bathroom – and so we have enough to get a good start on the sink and cabinet part of the kitchen (it’s in an alcove by itself).

The painting of the rooms will continue as the kitchen gets done.  Combined with trying to beautify our place we will be getting organized.  And getting organized once and for all.  When I moved to Florida, I brought with me a whole bunch of things that I never really did anything with.  They sat in a storage unit that I had to pay monthly on.  I brought all of these things with me when we returned to Scranton.  This is combined with things from my sister’s basement that I never even took to Florida.  I have an overabundance of “stuff” and it needs to go.  I like having things – I know I will never, ever be a minimalist. Yet I have realized that a limit needs to be set.  This is not going to be just a promise to myself (and to Jeff)  It is going to be an ongoing project.  I want to get organized right this time.  I am going to discard, donate and declutter.

Some of these promises are going to have to take a break for a time in January – I am scheduled to have kidney surgery on the 20th.  I have been plagued with kidney issues here and there for almost two years, and it is time to get them taken care of once and for all.  I am not a nervous patient at all, and luckily I know from previous surgeries that I have had that I heal quickly.  I am looking forward to having these problems behind me.  I realize that not all aging is graceful.  I have to keep aware of what is going on with my body and my health.  It is irresponsible to the people who love me to do anything less.  This means eating better, drinking more water, and trying to exercise (despite the fact that I detest working out).

Lastly on my list (if I really have a list) is getting this blog up and running more, so to speak.  I am a tech preschooler, I really am.  What makes me think that I can really do this “blogging thing” is that I have gotten quite a few compliments on my writing.  To me, that is the main thing.  I have been told that all the rest of this “technical mumbo jumbo” can be learned.  With some effort, hard work and determination – who knows where I will be a year from now.  Here’s hoping it’ll be somewhere good!

 

I had a dream…

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…that I woke up with green hair.  Yes, green hair.  Just like the girl in this photo.  Why in the world did I dream of such a thing?  Who knows – maybe it’s because I just had my hair professionally colored for the first time in a long, long while.  A cut and color was one of Jeff’s Christmas gifts to me.  My hairstyle was looking a little rough, and the color was, let’s just say…uneven.  I guess the fact that I don’t often pamper myself in this way could have contributed to me dreaming about hair.  But green hair?

I try to do the things for myself that I actually can do.  To me, there is nothing worse than a gnarled up, nasty foot – so my feet always look good.  I soak them, trim my toenails, and always have nice polish on them.  I rub them in with lotions and creams and then put socks on.  My fingernails currently have no tips on them – I am thinking of going back to acrylics and gel polish at my old “nail place” once the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over.  I try to keep them neat and trimmed, but I have no luck with regular polish besides anything but clear.  I shave my legs with an electric razor, and I do my eyebrows with an old fashioned pair of tweezers.  No waxing for me.  I don’t think I would care for the feeling, nor would I care for the cost of these services.

I think something like a facial is wonderful to have done.  In the past, I have had a few of these.  Again, it’s costly so a lot of times when I think my skin needs some help, I’ll do my own version of a facial.  It in many ways is just a more involved way of cleansing my face.  It is not the same of course, but it helps me feel better and more in control of how I look.  The truth for me is that when I look good, I feel good.  For the most part.

The one thing I cannot do for myself is a massage.  Massages are wonderful and they are a perfect way to treat yourself to something you will enjoy.  I had a massage during a “day of beauty” right before I moved to Florida two years ago.  It was wonderful.  I had had a few massages in the past, but this one was incredible.  She made me feel so relaxed that I fell asleep.  I felt so good that I could have cried.  Jeff and I are going on a cruise in February, and it would be a wonderful indulgence for us to do one of those couples massages.  The spas on cruise ships are very expensive.  If we can put aside some money for something special, this is one thing I would like to do.

I always mess up sayings (well a lot of times I do), but there really is a means to an end.  If you save your money and spend wisely most of the time, you’ll have extra cash to use towards something that you need or want – something special to splurge on.  I am so happy with the way my hair came out, and I’m even happier that I have Jeff to spoil me with special things once in a while.  Now I just have to follow what Jennifer (the stylist) told me to do.  Keep up with it by using the spray roots in a can, and resist coloring it myself.  A haircut lasts about six weeks, and Jennifer says I should be able to last that long with the spray.   I would like to just go to her from now on, keeping this as a nice treat for myself.  From me.  I think I can do it.  I hope!