Monday, December 30, 2019

The Bag That Gets Around

Hubby Tony and I continue to declutter and purge superfluous house items before our move to a smaller residence later this month.

For years, I've maintained plastic tote boxes for each of the boys that contained what I thought was the best of their schoolwork and things that would interest them when they grew up. Now I need to get the things out of my basement, which is hard to do when two thirds of those boys live out of town. Back in September Son Tony waded through his things and decided what he could get rid of. Ultimately I sent him the things he wanted to keep via UPS.

I thought our Christmas trip to California would be a great time to bring Son Brian his things. We were flying on Southwest, which allows two free checked bags per person. I thought that maybe one of those things could be his things. I mulled over the best way to box them up for shipping. One day I was browsing through a thrift store, saw some luggage they had on sale, and the light bulb over my head went off. I realized I could buy a case to pack Brian's things in, and he could keep it re-donate it after he was done.

I came home and measured how many cubic inches the case needed to be. Armed with the information I went back to the thrift store and found a wheeled duffel bag that was the perfect size.

Ready to go
All the things from Brian's tote fit in there, and I was also able to add a plastic shoe box full of Christmas ornaments. The bag was heavy, but well under the 50-pound maximum and I checked it with no problems.

I didn't tell Brian we were bringing his things, and I think he was a little surprised, but he put the bag in the garage to go through at his leisure. When Son Tony arrived a couple of days later, I mentioned in passing what I had done. He said jokingly he might have to have Brian empty the bag, so he and DIL Ie could take it on the second leg of their trip to carry the things she was picking up at her mom's house. The next day he did mention, and Brian did empty. (And as an added bonus Tony told me it was actually his container of ornaments, not Brian's. It was all meant to be.)

When Tony and Ie left they put the duffel bag in their rental car for the trip into the Central Valley area and then back to Dallas loaded with things. I wonder who will be using that bag next?

Five years ago today: Fill 'Er Up!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A West Coast Christmas

Over the summer, long before I had any idea what Christmas presents I would be buying or receiving, I knew what the holiday would look like for the family. As the boys have moved around the country and expanded their families it's getting harder and harder to get together. This year Son Brian and DIL Nicole stated they would not attempt to travel this year with a three-year old and five month old twins, and Son Tony and DIL Ie would be visiting her family in California. We figured out that a West Coast Christmas would be the most logical option and booked our tickets in August.

Hubby Tony and I flew into San Jose and stayed for six days. Other members of the family were there for parts of that period, and the entire family overlapped for about 36 hours. Brian and Nicole rented a nearby house through Airbnb. The house was close enough to walk to, but Brian also offered the use of one of their cars to get back and forth.

I have never not been in my own house for Christmas, but the opportunity to see Twins Ell and Dee was enough to get me excited:

Impossible to get both of them to be still at the same time
And then there was Big Brother Jay (hanging out here with a dog they were sitting for a friend):

On Sunday morning we exchanged our gifts. After lunch Son Tony and Ie gave us the best gift of all when they announced they were expecting a baby in late June!

The days flew by all too quickly, and it was time to get back on an airplane to come home. I was surprised that there were a substantial number of travelers on Christmas Eve, but we made it through both airports without any issues. As wonderful as our time in California was, it was good to be home.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019


I had decided last night what clothes I would be wearing to Christmas Mass today. After breakfast I went upstairs to get dressed and quickly realized I had a problem. My carefully-chosen outfit was way too warm, due to the almost record-breaking high temperatures the weather people were predicting. The next set of clothes I tried on were too tight (the result of too much pre-Christmas celebrating). Eventually I came up with two items that fit and coordinated acceptably well. On the way out of the door I put on my lightweight winter coat. It made me so hot I couldn't take it off fast enough, and I substituted a cardigan sweater over my short sleeved shirt.

After the greeting, the priest started Mass by saying "Merry Christmas from Florida". Everyone chuckled, but I had to agree that it felt almost tropical outside. It was even warmer on the way out of church, and I left my sweater in the car while Hubby Tony and I ran into the Asian market for a couple of items and some lunch. Back at home I changed into jeans and pulled out the flip flops from the back of my closet.

Later in the afternoon we decided to take a walk and enjoy the beautiful weather. On a normal Christmas day, the temperature would be closer to 40 degrees. Today the electronic billboard at the local high school said it was 75 degrees. We saw kids out playing with their new toys, people walking and jogging, and even a man dressed in a Santa suit riding a motorcycle. Halfway through our route I was wishing I had put on some capris instead of jeans.

Good thing I had the Christmas tree lights to help me remember what time of the year it really was!

Five years ago today: Christmas Greetings

Monday, December 23, 2019

An Early Present For You

I forgot to ask what you wanted for Christmas, but everyone can use some humor at this time of the year.
  • What do you say when you give someone a set of spices for Christmas? Season’s greetings.
  • What did Santa and Mrs. Clause name their daughter? Mary Christmas.
  • Why was the candy cane so expensive? It was in mint condition.
  • Did you hear about the dog who wrote his own Christmas song? It’s called Dachshund Through the Snow.
  • What kind of music do elves love the most? Wrap.
  • What do you call Santa when he accidentally falls in a fireplace? Krisp Kringle.
  • What kind of linens to gingerbread men put on their beds? Cookie sheets.
  • What nationality is Santa Claus? North Polish.
  • What’s the difference between a normal alphabet and the North Pole alphabet? The North Pole has no L
  • What’s the most popular breakfast cereal at the North Pole? Snowflakes.
  • What did the wise men say after they offered up their gifts of gold and frankincense? Wait, there’s myrrh.
  • Do Christmas lights work over the holidays? Off and on.

Five years ago today: Grow, Baby, Grow

Sunday, December 22, 2019

"Let Mommy Rest"

Have you seen this Nativity, called "Let Mommy Rest", that Pope Francis referred to in his December 18th General Audience? It has Mary sleeping in the manger while Joseph is trying to get the Baby Jesus to go to sleep.

Somehow this makes the Holy Family seem more real.

Five years ago today: Beclouded

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

What A Difference A [Couple Of] Days Makes

On Monday the sky was full of clouds and snow. Today is quite a different story.

The sun is out, the snow is melting, and I even heard a bird singing. With just one week to go until Christmas, it's a great day for some classic mellow music. Enjoy.

Five years ago today: Action Of Altering

Monday, December 16, 2019

White As Snow

Late last week predictions of winter weather started to trickle in. With a gleam in their eye, forecasters predicted multiple waves of snow, sleet, and freezing rain over the weekend. The upcoming storm was the topic of conversation at every event I attended. Depending on their tolerance for snow, people were either frantic or unconcerned.

The whole mess was supposed to start somewhere between 9 am and noon yesterday.  Hubby Tony and I went out right after breakfast to run a couple of errands, and at that time the only sign of the impending storm was a cold breeze and a heavy layer of clouds that completely blocked the sun. Tony had a volunteer commitment at noon. When he left, there was a dusting of flakes on the ground. By the time he returned 90 minutes later the driveway was covered with a layer of snow. The snow came down most of the afternoon. When it stopped I went outside to shovel a couple of inches off the drive, walkway, and sidewalk.

But we weren't out of the weather woods yet. There was a little freezing drizzle predicted overnight, and then somewhere between three and six more inches of snow today. This morning the walkway looked clear, but when I stepped outside I almost slid into the grass and realized they were right about the ice part. After breakfast, the snow started coming down with a vengeance. It tapered off mid-afternoon, but continued to flurry for most of the rest of the day.

Tony brought his work computer home on Friday, and today his "commute" involved walking down to the basement office. Most of the things on my To Do list required leaving the house, which I decided wasn't going to happen. Instead, I spent the day straightening the house, packing up some things to take to Goodwill, reading, and piddling on the computer.

I wasn't surprised to hear that the local schools declared a snow day, and as the day wore on social media informed me that many stores and even grocers were closing early. The holiday dinner party that we were scheduled to attend tonight got cancelled. I was really looking forward to not cooking tonight, and fortunately we had leftovers that I could just throw in the microwave.

Early in the afternoon I was getting a little stir crazy. The snow had pretty much stopped, so I went outside to shovel the driveway again. I felt like I was all alone in the world. There were no people or cars visible, and the only tire tracks on the street were from the mail truck. It was magical. And cold. I finished up my job as fast as I could, so I could get back inside.

Five years ago today: Christmas Tree Crudités

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Good To Keep In Mind

Next year February will have a Leap Day (Saturday the 29th), which aligns the calendar such that many of the major holidays will also fall on the weekend.

Five years ago today: Spruce Up The Spruce

Friday, December 13, 2019

It's Closed And Ours!

When Hubby Tony and I started our downsizing house hunting, we looked at both single family houses and condominiums in several parts of the metropolitan area. Eventually we decided it would be nice to have no exterior chores to take of, so we started concentrating on condos. Even then there were a lot of choices. Did we want a villa? A townhouse? A single story or multiple floor building? Each time we went out with our agent we figured out a little more about what we were looking for.

Five weeks ago we signed a contract to sell our current house and decided to purchase a condo on the second floor of a two-story building with a parking garage tucked underneath it. We liked that unit's layout and the fact that the seller had already updated the kitchen and bathrooms and put new carpet throughout. Another thing that was important to us is that the location is convenient. It's close enough to church, several grocery stores, a couple of restaurants (and even a mall) that we can walk if we desire.

Then two weeks later our selling contract fell apart. We could have used that as an out on our condo contract, but after a lot of discussion Tony and I decided to go through with the purchase. Yesterday was our closing date. It was exciting to wake up and know that some big changes were going to start happening in our lives. Our appointment at the realtor's office was shortly after they opened. It took about an hour to sign a whole stack of paperwork, then we received a set of keys and instructions not to go to our new place until we received a text that the soon-to-be-ex owner had completed his paperwork.

That text came in the early afternoon, while we were out shopping for lamps. We drove to our new home, where we found some product warranty information and two garage door openers waiting for us on the kitchen island. We put light bulbs into each of the lamps we had purchased, set them on the floor in each of the bedrooms, then did a little happy dance.

Today after my morning commitments I visited the condo, parking my car in the assigned garage spot for the first time. I brought a small table for one of the lamps, a couple of plates, bowls, and cups, and soap for the kitchen and bathrooms. While I was there I measured all the rooms with an eye for where furniture will go and mentally assigned kitchen cabinets for our dishes.

Tony and I went back this evening, bringing our dinner with us to heat up in the microwave. We also brought our camp chairs that will be our seating until we get something more permanent there.

(So are you wondering about our current house? Over the weekend we received another contract for its sale, and after some negotiating signed off on the sale. The closing date will be mid-January, which will give us plenty of time to get out things organized and out.)

Five years ago today: Returning To The Scene

Sunday, December 8, 2019

1 Corinthians 13 (Christmas version)

(A friend sent this to me. I thought it was a good reminder that during this busy time of the year I need to slow down and concentrate on what is really important.)
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ (the true reason for the season), I have missed the point.

In other words....

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way, but is thankful that they are there to be in the way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love never fails.

Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust. But the gift of love will endure.
Five years ago today: No Sweat

Thursday, December 5, 2019

From Me To You. You're Welcome.

During one of my kitchen downsizing sessions I came across a stack of three cast iron corn stick pans shoved in the back of a cabinet. The pans had belonged to Hubby Tony's mother, and I rarely use them. I think it's easier to pour batter into a large pan or skillet rather than fiddle with trying to get it neatly into the small molds, so I decided they could go.

I suspected the pans might have some value, so I did some internet research. Based on the information on their bottoms I determined that two of them (with corn-shaped reservoirs) were pretty common, but the third (that had wheat-shaped wells) was pretty unusual. The online posted prices for the rarer one ranged from twenty to hundreds of dollars. Because I just wanted to get rid of the pans I settled for prices on the low end and offered them as a lot on both Craigslist and the Facebook marketplace.

It didn't take long for me to get my first response. Through messages and texts we decided that I would meet the woman at the Costco parking lot after dinner for the hand off.

In good shape, but need to be seasoned!

The woman showed up exactly as promised. I asked her if her interest in the pans was as a cook or a collector. She told me both, and showed me a magazine photo of a wall full of cast iron pieces she was hoping to duplicate in her kitchen. We talked about the different types and brands of cast iron. I learned that she had been on the hunt for a wheat-shaped pan for quite some time, but each time she saw one for sale it was always over her budget. She told me she was thrilled to actually get one. So thrilled that after she gave me the agreed-upon money, she added an extra $20. (Which thrilled me too!)

Five years ago today: Let's Unite The Whole World At Christmas Time

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Come Sail Away

When I was brushing my teeth this morning I saw this fascinating shadow on the wall across from the window:

It was a sheer coincidence that I happened to be there at the right time for the angle of the sun to hit some tree branches and the window mullions, then reflect through the pane of glass. Fifteen minutes later when I went back into the room it was completely gone.

As one does in this social media age, I shared the interesting image on Facebook. One of my friends decided it looked like a ship. I guess his comment resonated with another friend, because she suggested this video. (Doesn't the background behind the letters feel similar to what I saw?)

Five years ago today: Something For Everyone

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Base In Box

As part of downsizing for moving to a smaller home, Hubby Tony and I have gotten rid of a lot of things. One of them was the 8-foot tall artificial Christmas tree that we've used for several years. It was beautiful, but almost four feet in diameter at the bottom, which would take up much too much space in a new, smaller living area.

Our original plan was to close on the sale of our house late next week. Because I would just have to box everything up to vacate the place, I was OK with not putting up any decorations. However, two weeks ago the sale contract fell through. Unless someone shows up in the next day or so and wants immediate possession, we'll be in the house longer than originally planned, and I decided that it was important to bring in a little bit of the holiday season.

I never shop on Black Friday, but when I was looking through the huge stack of ads that came with our newspaper on Thanksgiving Day, I saw that one of the home goods stores had a six foot pre-lit tree for only $20. The price was certainly right, and the size would be perfect in our new condo, so I decided to wake up when it was still very dark out and make a trek to the store. Even though I arrived 15 minutes later than the opening time, they still had plenty of stock.

Our old tree came in a box that was so big and heavy it took two of us to get up the basement steps. This new one came in a box I could pick up with one hand! It took less than a minute to assemble the base and put the tree together, but a lot longer than that to 'fluff' all the branches out to make the tree look realistic. Once it was in the living room I realized that this tree was too small for the space, mainly because of the 9-foot tall ceilings. It also had a long, unattractive-looking metal trunk. After pondering on how I could make it look better, this is what I came up with:

Still needs a couple more ornaments

The bottom box brings the top of the tree up to the height of the windows on either side of it. The base of the tree is sitting inside the top box, which hides the base. I think it looks much better now.

Five years ago today: Four Burners, One Light