Friday, December 29, 2017

Random Thoughts On The Christmas Season

  • Nine days ago both Sons Brian and Tony, along with their families, flew into town. Today they all climbed into a rental car for the trip to the airport to catch their flights.  Just like that everyone was gone, and the house was weirdly still.
  • Not everyone was here for the entire time. The day after Christmas Brian, Nicole, Grandson Jay, and Yves the dog left for a trip to Columbia, Missouri. They returned last night.  While they were gone we got to have some quality time with Tony and Ie.
  • The week was a mixture of ups and downs. Grandson Jay ended up having an ear infection, diagnosed at an urgent care on Christmas Eve morning. The illness muted his normally bubbling personality (but the good news is that he was better by the family's return).  The day before everyone arrived I started with cold symptoms, which got worse and worse. By Christmas evening my voice was raspy, my throat was sore from trying to talk, and I had a cough that wouldn't quit. The next day I laid around with no energy, and ended up going to the urgent care after dinner. My diagnosis was bronchitis, which is better but still not gone.
  • The cats have never been in close contact with a baby before. Jackson pretty much stayed in my bedroom for the entire time (the first two days under the bed), but Pepper was brave enough to make an occasional jaunt downstairs. Jay thought it was great fun to toddle along trying to catch him. Pepper wasn't quite as excited.
  • Our extended family celebration was smaller this year.  Thanks to a new baby born just four days earlier my nephew and his family stayed home.  However, the set of one-year old twin great nephews that were still in the hospital last Christmas were able to be here.  Including Jay, that was the first time in years there were so many little ones in the house.
  • We had a dusting of snow on Saturday morning, the first time Jay had seen anything like it.  He enjoyed looking out the family room door at the deck, but wasn't too sure about touching the white stuff when his dad took him out in it.
  • I had done quite a thorough job of organizing the kitchen, but Jay spent hours trying to improve on my work.  It will take me quite some time to get everything back where it belongs.
Pans don't go in the cabinet, Grandma!
Five years ago today: Make It Easy

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A List To Live By

I run across these beautiful thoughts every couple of years.  This time I thought I'd share them with you. Enjoy.
The most destructive habit ~ Worry

The greatest joy ~ Giving

The greatest loss ~ Loss of self-respect

The most satisfying work ~ Helping others

The ugliest personality trait ~ Selfishness

The most endangered species ~ Dedicated leaders

Our greatest natural resource ~ Our youth

The greatest shot in the arm ~ Encouragement

The greatest problem to overcome ~ Fear

The most effective sleeping pill ~ Peace of mind

The most crippling disease ~ Excuses

The most powerful force in life ~ Love

The most dangerous act ~ A gossip

The most incredible computer ~ The brain

The worst thing to be without ~ Hope

The deadliest weapon ~ The tongue

The two most power-filled words ~ I can

The greatest asset ~ Faith

The most worthless emotion ~ Self-pity

The most beautiful attire ~ A smile

The most prized possession ~ Integrity

The most contagious spirit ~ Enthusiasm

~~Author Unknown
Five years ago today: Busted!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Not Just Presents Get Wrapped Up. Projects Do, Too.

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Christmas is finally here. I hope your day is filled with friends, food, and meaningful activities.  And presents. 

Today is also the accounting day for my Advent of Gratitude challenge.  When I started at the beginning of the month I had no idea how the 24 simple prompts could open my eyes to all of the everyday blessings I have in my life.  As the directions specified I added up the money I contributed each day; it came to $68.00!

I sent the proceeds (along with a little bit extra I'm throwing in) to the Circle of Concern food pantry, which serves clients that live in the three West County-area school districts closest to my house. At the suggestion of the Advent of Gratitude Facebook page I included a copy of the daily prompts along with my check. 

Even after sending that donation off in the mail I had a little bit of money left over.  I read in the newspaper that the Salvation Army was behind on their red kettle goals this year, so the other day while I was out shopping I dropped my extra money off with a bell ringer.  This time I didn't provide an explanation.

Five years ago today: From Our House To Yours

Sunday, December 24, 2017


This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for

Today's prompt said, "If you have a pet, pay $2. Pay an additional $2 if you have more than one."

Synchronized napping
Do I have pets? If you're even a casual reader here you know all about my cats Jackson and Pepper.  They're certainly worth the four dollars I added to my total.

Five years ago today: I Guess You're Never Too Old

Saturday, December 23, 2017

I Love You. Do You Love Me?

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Today I was asked to pay $2 if I could name more than 5 people who love me.

Is it egotistical to assume that someone loves you? I think not, but just in case I came at the project from the back side and listed all the people I love.  There were more than five, and I think for each of them the feeling is mutual.

So that added two more dollars to the total.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A Coat For Every Need

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

The prompt for Day 22 said:
"Count the coats in your closet. Pay .25 per coat or jacket."
At the end of last winter I took a hard look at the coats and jackets on my side of  the coat closet, and got rid of the ones I don't use.  However, there are still quite of few left.  The winter section has a casual lightweight quilted jacket, a heavy coat, and a camelhair dress coat.  For in between weather there's a grey fleece, a lined twill jacket, and a knee length raincoat with detachable lining. And, if all I need is a little coverage, there's a short raincoat.

Seven items times twenty five cents adds up to $1.75, which I added to my total.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Today the prompt told me that if I was traveling more than 65 miles for Christmas festivities I should pay a dollar into my kitty, and if I was confident my vehicle would get me there it would I should add an additional two dollars.

The only traveling I will be doing for Christmas this year happens today, when I drive to the airport to pick up Son Brian and family.  Actually, both he and Son Tony are flying into town with their families today, with the flights arriving approximately 90 minutes apart. Hubby Tony will make the second run to the airport after work. (Son Donald has been home since last weekend, when his college semester finished.)

Tonight, for the first time since last December, all the bedrooms will be filled. I am so ready!  The house and tree have been decorated with an eye towards Grandson Jay, who I understand is into everything. The bathrooms are stocked with extra toiletries, and the refrigerator and pantry hold everyone's favorite foods.

From our house to the airport is 20 miles.  Double that and it's still under today's guidelines.  However, I'm so happy to have everyone here that I'm going to pay the two dollar 'vehicle confidence fee' anyway.  Even though my car is old and has a lot of miles it gets me where I need to go.

Five years ago today: A Poem For The First Day Of Winter

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Today, I read that if my parents had a high school education, pay $1. If one attended college or university, pay $2. $3 if both attended.

My father graduated from high school, but my mother didn't.   Neither one of them attended college.  Thinking about their lives makes me especially grateful to be where I am today.   And that's all that needs to be said.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Bountiful Books

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Today's prompt said:
If your home has more than 25 books pay $1. If more than 50, $2.
I didn't even bother to count, but instantly added two dollars to my total. Even though (thanks to a mold issue in the basement that caused us to do a purge) we have far fewer books than we used to, there's still more than 50 on the shelves. 

And I'm happy to pay money for the privilege of having them.

Five years ago today: On The Case

Monday, December 18, 2017

One For You, None For Me

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Today the Gratitude list said that if you bought gifts for others this season you should pay a dollar. If you added ‘a little something’ for yourself, you needed to toss an extra one into the kitty.

This year the adults in the immediate family drew names, so my main shopping list is greatly decreased. I also chose two envelopes from our church's Giving Tree and purchased items for a 19-year old woman and a 19-year old man. And, in addition to the person I received in the gift exchange there's also gifts to get for Hubby Tony and Grandbaby Jay. Then there's an item to buy for the extended family Rob Your Neighbor game. I also keep thinking of additional people I need to buy little items for before Christmas arrives.

This year though, maybe as a function of doing less shopping overall, I haven't found anything to buy for myself. So today only cost me half of what it could have.

Five years ago today: No Covers Allowed

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Spigot Summing

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Today I was asked to count the faucets in my home and pay 50 cents for each of them.

At the beginning of the month I counted light switches, and came up with quite a few in my large house. Today I was sure my total would be pretty small.  However, when I started counting there were a lot more than I thought.   I came up with two faucets (sink and shower) in the basement bathroom, three on the main level (sinks in the kitchen, powder room, and wet bar that never gets used).  Upstairs there's a faucet for the sink and bathtub in the upstairs hall bathroom and FOUR (two sinks, bathtub, and shower) in the master bathroom. I almost forgot about the two hooked up to my washing machine and the two outdoor faucets, but added them in at the last minute.

So that's 15 faucets, and another $7.50 added to my total.  Things are starting to really add up, and there's still another seven days to go in the challenge!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Doctor Will See You Now

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Today, the challenge said that if I had visited the doctor during the past year for something relatively minor it would cost me $2.

I have been very healthy the past year.   However, when I checked the past year's claims on my health insurance company website I was amazed to see that there were 13 of them!  Eight were from chiropractor 'tune ups', which I schedule to keep my minor aches and pains at bay.

I had a routine physical in August, blood work done, and then a follow up doctor visit to discuss the findings.
Also in August I saw the dermatologist to ask him about a weird looking patch.  It turned out to be nothing, but while I was there I had a large skin tag burned off.

Good thing I only have to pay a flat two dollars for the year, and not for each visit!

Five years ago today: It's On Us

Friday, December 15, 2017

Warm and Cozy

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

If I slept in a warm bed last night, my instructions told me to pay $2. I did, and I did.

When the temperatures dip, one of my first tasks is to remake the bed for winter.  The first layer is a set of flannel sheets. Next is a soft fleece blanket, and a comforter goes on top of everything.

Hubby Tony and I have different nighttime requirements.  He actually gets colder than I do, so he uses all of the bedding layers (and sometimes even wears a long sleeved shirt). I go to bed with a short sleeved, knee length gown.  Depending on how hot my internal thermostat is running I will use one or two layers of covers.  Often the covers go on and off multiple times during the night.

It doesn't help my temperature fluctuations when Pepper the Cat joins us on the bed to lend his body heat to the mix.  He doesn't seem to get insulted, though, if I kick him over to the other side to wrap himself around Tony's legs.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

An Accounting Of Accounts

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Advent of Gratitude asked me to pay $2 if I had more than one bank account, and pay an extra $2 if I have investments that earn income.

Hubby Tony and I have a joint checking account, and I have another checking account I use for business purposes. For reasons I don't remember the accounts are at different banks. That does make it convenient when I need to cash a check, though, because there are twice as many possible locations to choose from.

We both also have investments that earn income.  Tony's pool is larger, because he's always worked full time. Due to my spotty job history my fund is much smaller, but I proudly put money into it on a regular basis.  For the most part the account grows, which is satisfying to see.

Two dollars plus two dollars equals four dollars, which is the amount I added to my total today.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Well Stocked

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Today's challenge said:
Open your pantry. If there is more food than you can consume in 2 days, pay $2.
I do most of my cooking from scratch, and my pantry has a lot of ingredients in it. It would be an interesting experiment to find out just how long we could eat on its bounty.  For purposes of this post I did a quick pantry inventory.

There are canisters of all-purpose and whole wheat flour, white, brown, and powdered sugar, and three types of oats (quick, old fashioned, and quick cooking steel cut). Plastic jugs hold brown rice and cornmeal. One side shelf has dried fruits (raisins, craisins, and plums) and nuts/seeds (always walnuts, almonds, and flax seed. Occasionally peanuts or pumpkin seeds). There's multiple kinds of dry beans ( black, pinto, great northern, garbanzo, and lentils).  .

I have my choice of vegetable oil, olive oil, and non-stick spray. White, apple cider, red wine, and balsamic vinegar. Bottles of soy sauce and several types of hot sauce are ready to be opened, as are jars of yellow and Dijon mustard. If I need liquid sweetness I can pull out jars of honey and molasses. The canned goods shelf has three varieties of tomatoes (diced, sauce, and paste). There are cans of chili, black, and lima beans, a couple of cans of tuna, and one can each of corn and green beans. 

The coffee (regular, decaf, and green beans waiting to be roasted) and tea (bagged-regular, decaf, and herbal) is housed in several different sections of the pantry. One lower shelf holds a selection of salty snacks and crackers. I try to keep sweet snacks out of the house, but what we have is next to the crackers.

My inventory didn't include the selection of spices, which are in a cabinet close to the stove.  And because I took the prompt literally I didn't include the food we have in the refrigerator or freezer.  Yes, we could eat a lot longer than two days on the available bounty.

Five years ago today: Five Star Day

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What's On Your TV?

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Today's challenge called me to pay $1 per TV, and pay $1 extra if I subscribed to Netflix.

We have two televisions in the house, but the one downstairs is an old CRT model that we only use for the occasional exercise DVD.  Since it won't broadcast any more I didn't count it.  That's one dollar.

It was just last month that Hubby Tony and I discontinued our cable service.   Now the only paid video option we have is Netflix.  It's ironic, considering that Consumer Reports says that there are more than a dozen different video streaming services.  I posted that point on the Advent of Gratitude Facebook page, and got the response  "I wrote this according to what I subscribe to -- never expecting thousands of people to also participate! The original intent was to make ME grateful -- and I have one TV AND Netflix."

And I'm grateful, too.  As such I added an additional dollar to my total.

Five years ago today: Once In A Lifetime

Monday, December 11, 2017


This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Today I was invited to pay $1 per degree if I graduated from college. I did. I'm the proud holder of a 1981 Bachelor of Arts in Education and Special Education.

Neither of my parents went to college, but from my youngest years the expectation was that I would.  When I completed my degree I was confident that I would spend my career using that piece of paper.  That hasn't turned out to be the case.  For the first three years I was a teacher.  Then my career turned into full-time mothering.  Years later I was back in the classroom as a classroom volunteer and then a substitute teacher.  Still later I ran a tutoring center for teenagers who were completing a correspondence curriculum and worked as an aide at a preschool.

Even though my non-teaching jobs outweigh the degree related ones, I'm glad I had the opportunity to go to college. I can't imagine my life today without the experiences I had during my four years on campus.

Five years ago today: Merry Christmas To Me

Sunday, December 10, 2017

To Toss Or Not To Toss

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

On the tenth day of Advent I was asked to count every cell phone in the house and pay a dollar per phone.

I was surprised to find out that it had been more than two years since I last cleaned out the electrical junk drawer. Since then both Hubby Tony and I have upgraded our phones...and tossed the old ones in the drawer for 'just in case'.   However, today I was in a purging mood and decided that it wasn't worth saving them anymore.  I did some research on disposing of old cell phones and found out there's an ecoATM kiosk a couple of miles from my house.  Mine may have some residual value, which I'll be able to determine after they charge up enough to figure out exactly how large the hard drive is.  If they do, that amount will help me pay for the ever-growing balance I'm accumulating for this Advent project. If not, the phones will go into our electrical recycling box and get dropped off the next time our city hosts a drive.

 Maybe I should have counted the old models in my tally, but I didn't.  Since Tony is keeping his own Advent Gratitude list he counted his current phone.  I counted mine.  We each added a dollar to our amounts.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Keep It Cool

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Today's challengs said "Pay $1 for every refrigerator/freezer in your home."  In my case, that would be two.  We have a standard upright refrigerator with a top freezer in the kitchen, and a deep freeze in the basement.

We bought the refrigerator back when there were five people in the house. Now that there's only two of us you'd think it would be too large, but we buy a lot of bulky produce, and right after trips to the grocery store it's often hard to fit everything in. The door is filled with condiments and liquid staples, and there's usually a variety of leftovers on the shelves for quick lunches and dinners.

Two years ago we updated our freezer to a smaller, more energy efficient model.  I use it to store surplus items and food I've bulk cooked in advance.  Even though it's not necessary, because there's room I also store non perishables like rice and flour.  I don't know what I would do without it.

Five years ago today: Fuyu

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Nice Way To Make A Living

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

The list told me that if I went to work today and earned an income it would cost me $2.

Right now I'm a self employed independent contractor, which means each day I have the flexibility to choose whether to schedule work for myself or not.  Today I happened to have something scheduled, so I added the two dollars to the till.

It turned out to be a great day.  Hubby Tony had his office holiday luncheon, then he took off the rest of the afternoon.  I picked him up at the end of the event and he helped me with my assignment.  After it was completed we ran errands together and grabbed dinner, seguing the work time into date time.

Five years ago today: Cheesy

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Good, But Not Gourmet

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for. 

Today I was asked to contribute $2 if I had bought a gourmet coffee in the last month.

At first glance, the question sounded like it would be easy to figure out.  However, I spent too much time overthinking the whole thing, disappearing down a rabbit hole of Google searches and websites trying to figure out what made coffee "gourmet".

Eventually I realized that the answer didn't really matter.  The only important fact was that I had only purchased one cup of coffee from a shop in the past month.  It was black.  No flavors, no shots, no foam on top. Everything else I drank, although it was very good quality, came from my own house.

So, I didn't add anything to my kitty today.

Five years ago today: Basket Of Produce

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Travel, Trips, And Tours

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Today the gratitude list told me that if I had traveled outside of the country I needed to pay $2, and if I had traveled within the past six months it would cost an extra $2.  I spent a couple of minutes reviewing all the wonderful trips we made this year, then happily added the money to the pot.

Years ago Hubby Tony and I were quite the homebodies, but as the younger generation has grown up and moved around the country that's really changed.  This year is a great example.  In June we attended our niece's graduation in Seattle, then we boarded a ship for an Alaskan cruise (which included stops in Canada). In August we visited Son Tony in Dallas. In October we got on a plane again and flew to California to help Grandbaby Jay celebrate his first birthday.

The instructions didn't say I had to, but because I'm so thankful to be able to make all these trips I took each into account.  If you're keeping track, today added up to eight dollars.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Cozy and Bright

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.

Today, the challenge said "If you have never experienced having your electricity or heat shut off due to inability to pay the bill, pay $5."  I was overjoyed to be able to add that sum to my total. 

The request was very timely: 
A cold front came through yesterday, and all of a sudden the weather changed from fall to winter.  Since we're well into the month of December, I don't think there's a good chance of it changing back.  Yesterday I wore capris and a tee shirt. Twenty four hours later I was using my heavy winter coat. 

Because Hubby Tony and I are fortunate to be able to afford to pay the utility bills the house was warm and the lights were on.  Life is good.

Five years ago today: Lights!

Monday, December 4, 2017

From Gardening Shoes To Galoshes

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.
For the fourth day of the challenge I was invited to pay 10 cents for each pair or shoes or boots I own.

Back when I worked in an office I used to have more shoes.  However, my career and lifestyle have changed, and as the footwear wore out it wasn't replaced.  Right now I have one pair of dressy sandals and one pair of 'sensible' black dress shoes.  Everything else is casual.

In the summer my choice of footwear is flip flops around the house and tennis shoes or sandals when I leave.  During the winter my house shoes are an old repurposed pair of tennies.  When I go to the gym or if I'm wearing jeans I use athletic shoes whenever possible.  If it's really cold our, or if the occasion requires it I have brown and black loafers and booties.  In addition, I also have a pair of shoes dedicated specifically to yard work and a pair of snow boots in the coat closet.

When I was getting dressed this morning I counted the shoes in the closet, the out of season pairs stashed in a box under the bed, then remembered to include the boots. The total was 20 pairs, which added two dollars to my donation total.

Five years ago today: Don't Waste Any Of Your Seconds

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Lights and Switches

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.
Today I was asked to count the light switches in my house and pay a quarter for each one. 

If you've been reading here for a while, you know that my house used to have quite a few more occupants back when the kids were all at home.  Now it's just Hubby Tony, me, a couple of cats, and a lot of excess space. (Except during the holidays, when everyone comes back for a visit.)

I guess it makes sense that a large house would have a lot of switches  Each of the four bedrooms has one. The dining and laundry rooms have controls at either end, as do the stairs to the basement and upstairs levels.  The kitchen and family rooms have zoned lighting, with switches for each area.  Each room in the basement has its own light source, along with its own switch.  And we can't forget the ones for the front, deck, basement, and garage doors, which turn on the lights directly outside them.

This morning before I rolled out of bed I tried to mentally count up all the switches.  After breakfast walked around the house and did a physical count to see how close I was, and was pleased to find out that both numbers were the same.  Hubby Tony is also doing the challenge, and he counted independently. We compared answers, which were close but not exact.  After we discussed exactly what the phrase 'light switch' meant (for example, should we include the switches that turned on the garbage disposal and bathroom ceiling fans or not) we agreed that there were 38.

In the end I rounded up my answer to 40, which made my donation a nice even $10.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Behind The Wheel

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.
The prompt today centered on transportation, suggesting that I pay one dollar if I rode in a car today and an additional dollar if I drove it.  I rarely stay home for an entire day, and the suburban neighborhood I live in would be difficult to navigate without a vehicle, so I  knew before I started the day I'd be adding to my fund.

I've spent most of my life living in neighborhoods that don't have great public transportation.  Shortly after my 16th birthday I received my first car (used, but serviceable), to help me get to the after school job I was expected to find.  Since that time I've never been without wheels.

There are three grocery stores that are within two miles from the house.  Add another two miles and you can make it to Costco  Hubby Tony and I  have been known to walk to those groceries, but the trips are more about the exercise then bringing home large amounts of food, because it's hard to carry more than a small tote bag or back pack that distance. This morning after breakfast I got ready for the twice monthly 'big' grocery shopping trip.  The 12-mile circular route took me to three places for food and a pet store to buy cat litter.  And, thanks to my trusty vehicle I was able to save money by getting the best deals at each of them.  Definitely worth two dollars in my Advent fund.

In the afternoon Tony and I went to Mass.  Although the church is within walking distance we were headed to dinner afterwards so Tony drove. It was nice to be a passenger this time, and definitely worth adding an additional dollar.

Five years ago today: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

Friday, December 1, 2017

Grad And Glad

This December I'm participating in An Advent of Gratitude to help remind me of the gifts I already have, what I often take for granted, and what I can and should be grateful for.
Today's prompt was to pay 25 cents for each woman in my family who graduated from high school.  Being the mother of three boys and the only female in my house, I guess this was a painless way to ease into the challenge.  However, even going back a generation didn't help me add to my total.  My Mom, a member of the Greatest Generation, left high school early to find a job to help support her family (which was not particularly uncommon back then).  Her strategy backfired decades later, when the only work she could find was low-paying, but that's another story for another day.

So try as I might, all I could come up with today was a pittance.  And an appreciation of  my diploma.

Five years ago today: Christmas Traditions

Thursday, November 30, 2017

An Advent of Gratitude

Last week I came across the Facebook page for An Advent of Gratitude, which is "a 24 day challenge to shift the focus of the Advent season from consumption to gratitude...born out of an over-coffee conversation between three friends".  I thought it was a wonderful idea, and it didn't take me long to like the page to make sure it showed up on my own wall.

The page's guidelines say:
Most Advent Calendars present us with a gift each day leading up to Christmas. The purpose of this Advent of Gratitude is to remind us of the gifts we already have, what we often take for granted, what we can and should be grateful for. Each daily reminder includes a suggestion for payment, a small monetary gift that in 24 days will grow into a donation, payable to a charity of your choice. At the end of this challenge, please donate to a charity, preferably somewhere local, that serves those less fortunate than you.
My challenge starts tomorrow.  I've slightly changed the wording for Day 6 (which originally said "traveled outside of Canada"), Day 11 (they used the term "graduated from university"), and Day 21 (their reference was "more than 100 km", which I converted to miles and rounded up). 
  • Day 1- Pay .25 for each woman in your family who graduated from high school.
  • Day 2- If you rode in a car today, pay $1. Pay $2 if you drove the car.
  • Day 3- Count the light switches in your house. Pay .25 for each one.
  • Day 4- How many pairs of shoes and/or boots do you own? Pay .10 per pair.
  • Day 5-If you have never experienced having your electricity or heat shut off due to inability to pay the bill, pay $5.
  • Day 6-If you have traveled outside of the United States, pay $2. Pay an extra $2 if you have traveled within the past 6 months.
  • Day 7- Pay $2 if you’ve bought a gourmet coffee in the past month.
  • Day 8-If you went to work today and earned an income, pay $2.
  • Day 9- Pay $1 for every refrigerator/freezer in your home.
  • Day 10- Count every cell phone in your home. Pay $1 per phone.
  • Day 11- If you graduated from college, pay $1 per degree.
  • Day 12- How many televisions do you have? Pay $1 per TV. Pay $1extra if you subscribe to Netflix.
  • Day 13- Open your pantry. If there is more food than you can consume in 2 days, pay $2.
  • Day 14- Pay $2 if you have more than one bank account. Pay an extra $2 if you have investments that earn income.
  • Day 15- If you slept in a warm bed last night, pay $2.
  • Day 16- If you have visited your doctor this past year, for something relatively minor, pay $2.
  • Day 17- Count the faucets in your home. Pay .50 per faucet.
  • Day 18- If you’ve bought gifts for others this season, pay $1. If you added ‘a little something’ for yourself, pay an extra $1.
  • Day 19- If your home has more than 25 books, pay $1. If more than 50, $2.
  • Day 20- If your parents had a high school education, pay $1. If one attended college or university, pay $2. $3 if both attended.
  • Day 21- If you are traveling more than 65 miles for Christmas festivities, pay $1. Pay $2 if you are confident your vehicle will get you there.
  • Day 22- Count the coats in your closet. Pay .25 per coat or jacket.
  • Day 23-Pay $2 if you can name more than 5 people who love you.
  • Day 24- If you have a pet, pay $2. Pay an additional $2 if you have more than one.
Would you like to join me in this challenge?

Five years ago today: Modestly

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

It Was Nice While It Lasted

Weather Song (to the tune of "Oh My Darling")
What’s the weather?
What’s the weather?
What’s the weather, everyone?
Is it windy?
Is it cloudy?
Is there rain?
Or is there sun?
(Author Unknown)

The calendar says it's late November, but the temperatures here don't agree. Ever since last Friday the highs have been 10 to 20 degrees over our average 50° Fahrenheit, and a couple of days they've flirted with record-setting. 

This morning when I left the house for a work assignment all I needed was a light jacket.  By the time I was finished it was warm enough to ditch the jacket and walk around in my shirtsleeves.  I drove around doing some errands, and the sun beaming into my car made things downright toasty.  I really wanted to fritter the day away, but (sadly) had to get back home to do paperwork.

When I walked into the house I realized how stuffy it felt compared to the outside. It was all closed up and the furnace was on, because it hadn't occurred to me to turn it off.   So that's the first thing I did.  It felt delightfully decadent to open up some windows and let the fresh air in.  The cats weren't particularly impressed, waking up from their nap just long enough to notice that something was different before going back to sleep again.

I also pulled my flip flops out from the back of the closet, but stopped short of changing out of my jeans.  Things stayed nice until the sun went down, then the temperature started dropping enough that I regretfully closed the house back up and turned the furnace back on.  According to the forecast tomorrow's temperature will be close to normal and we'll need it.

Five years ago today: Breaking News

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Roast Your Own

We are a house of coffee drinkers. During the week our ground of choice is Costco Colombian Dark Roast, but on the weekend we treat ourselves to whole beans, freshly ground immediately before brewing.  Often, we've roasted the beans ourselves.

It all started when Son Tony sent us some coffee he'd roasted for Mother's Day 2015. Later, he gifted us with the equipment to do it ourselves. (I was surprised to learn roasting can be done in some hot air popcorn makers, which is what we have). Tony's education had come from  the website Sweet Maria's, which sells a wide selection of green beans, roasting supplies, and brewing supplies.  The equipment gift included a personal roasting lesson.  Since that time Hubby Tony has been the main coffee producer, but I've been known to roast a bean or two myself.

My latest session was this weekend, to take advantage of the sunny, mid-60 degree weather. (Coffee roasting produces quite a bit of chaff and it's much easier to do outside.)  Before I started I gathered all the things I needed  for the project-the bag of green coffee beans, the popper, an extension cord, a measuring cup, a colander, a funnel with a large bottom opening, and jars to hold the roasted beans. 

After setting everything up on the table on the deck I got started.  Our popper holds a little over a half cup of beans.  After pouring in the beans I put the popper's plastic hood in place and turned it on.  A batch takes somewhere between seven and eight minutes.  After approximately three minutes the beans will 'crack', start smelling fragrant, and the chaff (dried husk) flies off. The darker roasts we like eventually do a second crack and get an oily exterior. 

I was using my phone's timer, but I still looked into the popper chamber to check on the color of the beans every once in a while to make sure there were no surprises.  When the beans were done I dumped them into the colander, agitated them until they were warm to the touch, then used the funnel to pour them into a glass jar. Freshly ground coffee gives off quite a bit of CO2, so I placed the jar lid on loosely and set it on the kitchen countertop overnight.  This morning I tightened the lid and stored the jar in the pantry.

In case you're interested, here's more information on the process:

Five years ago today: I Love A Challenge

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Random Pre-Thanksgiving Thoughts

Have you ever received a Thanksgiving card? A couple of days ago this showed up in my mailbox:

It came from my college alma mater. Inside, in addition to a pre-printed Happy Thanksgiving there was a handwritten note from a current student that said "Thank you for supporting my education" along with her name and graduation year.  I thought it was a nice thing for the school to do.


Today, in addition to all the normal chores and activities, I've been busy with pre-Thanksgiving meal cleaning and preparation.   Once again I'm hosting the extended family, but the majority of the food is being brought by other family members.  The house is in a bit of a shambles--the tablecloth is draped over chairs in the dining room, and a pile of napkins is set on a chair waiting for their once over with the iron.  I've made and cleaned up multiple cooking messes.  After dinner we'll start the dishwasher so it will be empty for the big load tomorrow.

The last dish I prepared was the pumpkin pies.  After I filled the two crusts I had extra custard, which I poured into a greased bowl ,microwaved, and ate.  Had to do something with it, right?


After dinner I was going through some paperwork when I realized I had volunteered to attend a meeting tonight.  I had ten minutes to change my clothes, throw my coat on, and get out of the house.  Now, all of the tasks I had planned on doing tonight are pushed back until tomorrow.  Good thing our big meal isn't until the evening.

Five years ago today: Turkey Time!

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Do you know about Uncyclopedia, otherwise known as "the content-free encyclopedia that anyone can edit"? The satirical website does a good job of parodying Wikipedia, and some Uncyclopedia articles actually contain a link to the corresponding Wikipedia article.  Some of the humor is too juvenile for my tastes, but many of the articles slyly lampoon the real thing.

Just like the original site, you can click the "Random Article" button. I've enjoyed "learning" more about:
  •  Puerto Rico ("The United States government refuses to recognize Puerto Rico as a state, solely for the reason that they don't feel like going around the world painting an extra star onto each and every American flag in existence ")
  • The Dictionary (Today, the “Dictionary” has become a key tool for parents and teachers alike when they are too embarrassed to admit they don’t know the spelling or meaning of a word. “Go look it up in a dictionary,” has become one of the most popular phrases in American schools.)
  • Mold ("Mold is a miraculous artificial life form. Without mold, society as we know it would not exist today. One can find mold in such environments as rotting produce, unmaintained apartments, Petri dishes, and Jell-O.")
Five years ago today: Tastes Like Chicken

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Conspicuously Concealed

Several weeks ago Hubby Tony and I 'cut the cord' and told the cable company bye-bye. We reactivated our lapsed Netflix subscription, and Tony bought an HD antenna, which lets us steam the local channels. However, because of the set up of our room the antenna did not work well positioned behind the TV. Instead, it's placed on an adjoining wall about a foot away.

The black wire draped across the space looked unsightly, and my first thought was to somehow camouflage it. However, after a lot of thought I decided to hide it in plain sight.

First I ran the wire tautly across the wall, and used a staple behind the entertainment center to keep it in place.  Next, I poked around on the internet until I found a bird silhouette, then bought a piece of heavyweight felt at the craft store. I printed out the bird shape, attached it to the felt, and cut two shapes out.  The last step was to use some adhesive putty to stick them in place so it looks like the birds are roosting.

Five years ago today: Gratitude

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Why Rake When You Can Mulch

We've lived in our house for 25 years. When we moved in friends gave us a housewarming gift of a six foot tall maple tree. Hubby Tony and I figured out the tree's mature width, and planted it in the back yard appropriately close to the north side of the lot line. The small specimen took a lot of knocks from the three young boys that ran around the yard on a daily basis, serving as second base for baseball games, and home for games of tag.

But the tree grew. And so did the trees our neighbors planted. Now we're surrounded by mature leafy specimens.  And, at the end of the growing season those leaves turn beautiful colors.  Then they fall off.  The other day the lawn was nearly covered. In the front yard the leaves were red from the neighbor's tree. In the back yard they were yellow from our maple.

There was rain in the forecast, so I wanted to get the leaves off the grass before they turned into a wet, clumping mess. Instead of pulling out the rake, I reached for the lawn mower. 

It only took a couple of swipes before its mulching function turned the leaves into bits of colored leaf confetti.  Based on past experience, I know those chopped up bits will disintegrate and decompose into the ground.  When I was done my side of the grass was neat and clean.  There was a clear delineation between our yard and the neighbor's

Here's a Before and After shot of the areas:

Front yard----------------------------------Back yard
I put the mower away knowing that my work was just a temporary fix.  Both trees still have a substantial number of leaves left on the branches. Based on past experience we'll have  to repeat the process two or three more times before we can call it done.

Five years ago today: A Bittersweet Song For the Veteran's Day Holiday

Saturday, November 11, 2017

More Than Just Veteran's Day

Today is, of course, Veteran's Day (or Armistice Day/Remembrance Day, depending on what country you live in) which commemorates the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

However, today is also the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours, one of the patron saints of soldiers.  On Facebook today uCatholic, one of the pages I've Liked, posted a link to an interesting article called The Catholic Origins of Veterans Day.

 From the article I learned that:
Advent, like Lent, used to be a 40-day period of fasting called “Quadragesima Sancti Martini” (Saint Martin’s Lent). Because Saint Martin’s day fell the day before this fasting would begin, like Fat Tuesday for Lent, “Martinmas” as the day was commonly known, was a great day of feasting after the fall harvest and before Advent, and was a marked with major celebrations, traditionally starting at the 11th hour.
As was a centuries-old tradition in Europe, warring nations and parties who sought to end conflicts would sign their treaties on his feast day November 11 in Saint Martin’s honor and in preparation for Advent.  In accordance with this tradition, the official armistice that ended “The Great War” or World War I, was signed on the feast of Saint Martin during the 11th hour.

Friday, November 10, 2017

By The Light Of The Exit Sign

Yesterday before dinner Hubby Tony and I walked up to church, where I installed the week's slide show of activities on the three monitors placed around the campus. I realized that I had gotten one of the slides wrong, so after dinner I drove back up to correct the mistake.

Thanks to the time change it was already dark at 6:30 pm.  Although the parking lot was half full from a soccer game going on, there was no volleyball practice in the parish center gym.  The building was dark and the door was locked. I let myself in with my limited access key and had started messing with the TV screen in the lobby when I heard a tap on the door.  When I looked up I saw a man who looked to be in his late 60s or early 70s motioning at me to let him in. Although we live in a safe area I momentarily hesitated, but that seemed rude. After a couple of seconds I decided he looked harmless and opened the door a crack.

The man explained that 'they' had talked to someone in the parish office who directed them to this building.  He said they were getting married in the church this weekend, and wanted to practice their dance for the reception in the multipurpose room tonight.  Could they?

I was torn about what to do.  On the one hand I'd be leaving in just a couple of minutes and the couple would be alone in the building.  On the other hand he didn't look like he could cause any problems, most of the building was behind a locked door, and there would be some evening meetings starting at 7:00.  I told him I though it was a beautifully romantic idea.  The man stuck his head out of the door and yelled over to his fiancee to come in. Several minutes later the woman (who looked to be about the same age as the man) arrived carrying a small boom box.

They thanked me profusely.  I left the building as they were headed towards the multipurpose room, and I said a quick prayer that I had done the right thing.  As I drove away I realized that the room would be pretty dark.  Its overhead lights are controlled by a timer, although there are a couple of dim emergency lights and two large plate glass windows on the north side of the building that would let in some light from the parking lot. 

I had another errand to run, and after I finished it my curiosity got the better of me.  I had to see what was going on, so I drove through the church parking lot, stopping at one of the large windows. Sure enough, I could see the couple dancing in the middle of the room.

Five years ago today: Emergency Or Scam?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Figure Of Scrutiny

Several years ago a self-storage facility popped up about a half mile from my house. The two story building has rows of large windows on the wall that faces the road, which showcase the bright red doors of the interior storage rooms on the second floor.

The speed limit on the road is 40 miles per hour, fast enough to drive by the building without seeing all the details.  It wasn't until I was out walking one day earlier this summer that I noticed a security guard standing on the second floor next to one of the storage room doors.  When I took a second look I realized it wasn't a real person.  Instead, it was a cardboard cutout of a security guard.

After that I started being more observant whenever I passed the building.  It's always fun to see what the 'guard' is up to. At night the corridor is brightly lit, and the figure really stands out.  During the day it's less visible, but definitely there if you know what to look for.  The cutout shows up in different areas on the floor.  Sometimes there are two identical models, each looking over half of the area.   

We live in a safe neighborhood, and I'm sure the building has a good traditional security and surveillance system in place.  To the casual observer it also looks like the facility has a 24 hour lookout, too.  And just the sight of a guard, real or not, is probably a enough to deter people who have the wrong idea.

Five years ago today: You Can Never Have Too Much Garlic

Monday, November 6, 2017

National Saxophone Day

According to Wikipedia Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone (and other 'sax' instruments), was born on this day in 1814. Somewhere along the line an unknown person designated today as National Saxophone Day in his honor.

In honor of the day, here's one of my favorite pop songs featuring the instrument:

Five years ago today: I Can Get Used To It

Friday, November 3, 2017

Who's Your Cat Daddy?

Last night Hubby Tony and I went to a book discussion and signing by Jackson Galaxy, a cat behaviorist and host of the Animal Planet show My Cat from Hell.   He was promoting Total Cat Mojo: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat!

Left Bank Books
If you've ever seen the show you know that Jackson is a colorful character with two full-sleeve tattoos, a shaved head, sculpted sideburns, and facial hair that changes on a regular basis who carries his cat toys around in a guitar case.  He helps families who have misbehaving cats, teaching them techniques so they can coexist with their pets.

The price to attend the event was only a couple of dollars more than the price of the book itself, so I put it on the calendar and Tony bought the tickets. We received an email on Tuesday indicating the event was sold out, and encouraging us to carpool to the venue. The event began at 7 PM, but the doors opened at 6 PM, allowing time for everyone to get their books and a signing line number. Tony and I figured we'd be there on the early side. When we pulled into the parking lot a couple of minutes before 6, there was already a line of people (we guessed about 150) in front of the building who had gotten there even earlier.  However, the doors opened right on time the the event was well organized. 

We were in our seats 30 minutes after we arrived.  I spent the time leafing through the book, which seemed to have a wealth of information about cat behavior and provided lots of practical tips.  The room filled up, and  when the author came out on the stage about 400 people were waiting expectantly.  He spoke for about 45 minutes, answered questions for another 10, then left the stage and got ready for the signing portion.

The line signing tickets were divided into groups, which was a civilized way to handle the large amount of people.  We were in Group 3, so we waited in our seats until it was time to line up.  When it was our turn the line was escorted out of the auditorium, down a short hall, and through the lobby where the signing table was set up.  Halfway through the line there was a person who asked us if we wanted the book personalized. He wrote the information on a Post-It note and attached it inside the front cover.  When we reached the top of the line another person took the book and opened it to the correct page.  Jackson signed the book, gave us a short personal comment, then moved on to the next person.

Thursday, November 2, 2017


Last night I was in a meeting. My phone was on silent, but I still have it set to vibrate when a call or text comes in. Halfway through the meeting I sensed a series of three tones, one after the other.  Normally I don't check my phone when I'm otherwise occupied, but the rapid succession had me somewhat concerned. Even though I knew it was rude I pulled my phone out of my purse and held it under the table to see what was up.

All of the texts were from Son Tony to our family group.  The first one started off by saying that he and his girlfriend Ie had exciting news to share.  The next one contained this photo:

There were a couple of additional photos, and then a flurry of messages from others in the family. I lost all interest in the meeting's topics.  I wanted to share my congratulations, but decided to wait until the meeting was over. The next 45 minutes were the longest of my life.

Five years ago today: The Customer Is NOT Always Right!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Knock, Knock....

I love Halloween...the decorations, the costumes, and (especially) the candy.  I particularly enjoy answering the door for the trick or treaters.  Our area's Halloween tradition is to make kids “do a trick” to get their treat. The vast majority of the time the trick means a joke, usually a punny one-liner. The best I heard tonight:
  • What’s an optimistic vampire’s favorite drink (B positive)
  • What kind of shoes does a chicken wear? (Ree-bawk-bawk-bawk-bawk)
  • What’s the difference between Halloween egg nog and regular egg nog? (Halloween egg nog has more boos)
  • What do you get when you mix Frosty the Snowman with a vampire? (Frostbite)
  • What do witches put on their hair? (Scarespray)
  • What’s a mummy’s favorite music? (Wrap)
  • What is a ghost’s favorite dessert? (Booberry pie)
Five years ago today: Whistle A Happy Tune

Monday, October 30, 2017

From Lethargy To Energy

Hubby Tony celebrated a milestone birthday earlier this year, and today he continued the celebration by completing one of the recommended screening tests for people his age. 

The doctor's instructions called for someone to bring Tony home after the test was over, so I became the designated driver. This morning, just about the time I would be leaving for the gym or morning errands we were getting in the car to drive to the testing center. When we arrived Tony signed in and took care of his paperwork. Fifteen minutes later the nurse called his name and he disappeared behind the office door.

I had come prepared for my wait, and passed the time sitting and doing the newspaper crossword puzzles. When Tony was in the recovery area they called me back, and I sat next to his bed until he was ready to get dressed and leave. On the way home we stopped at Whole Foods for lunch, then swung by the pharmacy to drop off a prescription.  We finally arrived back home about 1 PM.

Thanks to the change in my schedule and all  the sitting around my daily rhythm was now all out of sorts. I'm used to being active during the first part of the day, and try to get a lot done.  By the middle of the afternoon my energy starts flagging.  All afternoon I tried to turn things around with not much success. It didn't help that it was gloomy outside, better for napping than crossing things off my to-do list.

After dinner Tony said he was feeling recovered enough to attend the meeting that was scheduled for the night and left. I was waiting for someone to come by to pick up some paperwork from the house.  She came and went, then I debated whether I should get out and take a walk. I spent fifteen minutes coming up with reasons why it wouldn't be a good idea, but eventually kicked myself in the rear, put my shoes and coat on, and got outside.

The wind had died down from earlier in the day; it was brisk but bearable. As a matter of facts, after a couple of blocks I was able to partly unzip the coat. I enjoyed checking out the Halloween decorations along the way. Several houses had gone all out with inflatables.  I walked for a half hour. By the time I returned home my lethargy had vanished. It ended up being a good day after all.

Daily Clip Art

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Dueling Diagnoses

Tonight I was doing some mindless Internet surfing and came across an article (with accompanying slide show) called "What Your Nails Say About Your Health". In the middle of the slides I found out that rippled nails "may be an early sign of psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis."

My thumb nails are particularly rippled, with ridges running from the bottom to the tip. As far as I know I have no psoriasis or arthritis, so I decided to get a second Google opinion. This article told me that the most common reason for ridged nails is aging.

I liked that diagnosis much better, and think I'll go with it.

Five years ago today: Mama Needs A New Pair Of Shoes

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Eat The Whole Thing

Tonight after dinner my body started telling me it needed ice cream. Tonight a piece of fruit for dessert just wouldn't do.

Hubby Tony had a meeting, and I had to run a couple of errands. After everything was done I stopped at the grocery store to buy a small container of ice cream.  The first thing I saw when I walked into the aisle was a display of Halo Top.

I'd heard of the brand, but never tried it before.  Its main selling point is that it's low-calorie, low-sugar, and high-protein.An entire pint contains as many calories as a single serving of other ice creams. As a matter of fact, the label lists the total calorie count on the front of the carton in very large font, although the official serving size was a quarter of the carton. 

Based on past experiences, I knew I would eat the entire pint of ice cream in one serving, so I chose the Chocolate Banana flavor.   After I paid for my treat I walked out to my car, where I pulled out the spoon I keep for for reasons like this and dug in. The carton lid gave me permission to “Stop when you hit the bottom”. I did.

Five years ago today: Signs Of The Season?