First blog post

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Ornaments, ultimate recycling

I finally was able to decorate my Christmas tree even though it had been up with the lights on it for about 4 or 5 days. I had to wait for my son to come over as he always wants to do it with me and he gets out of work very late on some days so it is a juggling act. We went during a snow storm to buy the tree, got it home, set it up, then trimmed off the top as I don’t have 9 foot ceilings, so now the star is nestled at the top not really attached as I had to cut that part off. My husband insisted we had put it in the tree stand crooked so he came in to correct the whole thing and it still lists a bit to the right, but it is up, a victory in itself. My son insisted it would be fine!

When I was growing up, we were not allowed to have the tree up until Christmas Eve (when we celebrate) as my father and grandmother were in charge of the set up and decorating. You see we put real candles on the tree so it had to be pretty sparse with alternating branches. We always had people come to see the tree lit up(could only be done once), but I think they just wanted to see the crazy family with the flaming Christmas tree! We never had a fire. When I had my first tree of my own I got a very fat little tree with a lot of tiny white lights and then went out and bought about 3 boxes of the exact same same ornaments I was in heaven! This was nothing like what I grew up with and I could put it up as early as I wanted.

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When my daughter was 10 months old we went to visit my father in Hawaii where he was living. He had a Norfolk Island Pine in his house and he put lights on it for me, but it was a little weird. We had a great visit and came home the day before Christmas Eve, I knew I wouldn’t have a tree, but even though I was sad about it exhaustion was taking over. I fell asleep with my daughter on the couch and my husband had gone out. I did not know but he had felt bad that I was missing my father and sad about the tree so he went on the side of the road in a rural area and pulled up a white pine sapling, put it in a pot and fished out a few ornaments so I would have a tree. It was the most beautiful tree I have ever or will ever have.

Over the years we have gotten ornaments from our vacations, special moments (babies, new home etc) and were starting to amass quite a collection. I wanted the kids to have their own ornaments when they were finally on their own so I bought one for them every year; they never went on our tree, and they were allowed to take one from our collection. We put these away for their future tree. I still get them ornaments every year. I try to pick out ones that have some connection to their lives at that moment. My daughter, who is the older of the two, got her tree first and it was great fun opening up the box with her and going over each one and the memory it invoked.

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While decorating the tree we always pick up an ornament and talk about the memories. We still have ornaments from a time when the dog used to take them off the tree to chew on. We don’t have that beloved dog anymore but we have the ornaments and the memories. We still put the little brass bells at the bottom of the tree so we know when the dog is near it. Thought to be honest this dog isn’t really interested.

My mother left us all ornaments from our childhood, most of these are antiques, beautiful delicate glass ones, most still have wax on them from the candles. I do not know if my siblings still have them or put them on their trees, but I do and bring out those memories every year. If those ornaments last I will pass them on to my kids who can do with them as they please, as they are not really their memories but they will remember them as my memories. You don’t throw out ornaments, you glue them, give them new hangers and revisit them once a year as a sacred ritual. It is recycling at it’s best.

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The tyranny of email

It used to be you could just recycle your junk mail and your kitchen/front hall would be better for it. Now that we have email in addition to the items that arrive in our mailbox our work is doubled. I can delete most from my phone but it doesn’t delete it from my laptop so that involves sitting down turning on my computer, logging in to my email account and going through it all again.

I have tried going through some of the accounts to unsubscribe (that doesn’t seem like a real word) and it has cut it back, but I will save things, articles that I want to read and before I know it the inbox is out of control. There are days when I really don’t want to even turn on my computer but I know all that stuff is waiting so now what used to be fun (getting mail) is now a chore. It is almost as if my computer is ganging up on me.  I have enough chores to do, I really don’t want or need another. Snail mail can still be fun. I love getting a handwritten note, Christmas card, thank you note etc, you can take it with you, read it over again, it is the gift that keeps on giving.

I write letters to friends and relatives and enjoy the process of writing it as well as receiving one in return. I wish more people would do it. I know it adds to our carbon footprint ( I like recycled paper and cards) but the whole process forces you to slow down and be a human. Let’s try it!

Thank you for listening, my rant is now over, I have to finish cleaning up my email.

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Euro Games or how to exercise your brain!

Now that I am of a certain age I am constantly reading about how to keep my brain sharp, so that my cognitive abilities don’t decline. Well isn’t that a cheery thought. I do crossword puzzles so that is a step in the right direction, but I figured I could do more so here goes.

Soduku a plot against people who do not like numbers. I mean seriously who can do those things? Hey, I know you are out there, well guess what I can do a sunday crossword in ink! There may be a few cross outs but otherwise pretty good.

Jigsaw puzzles these really do help with spatial relationships. I will admit to liking ones where I can tell the top from the bottom, maybe with writing or lines etc. my only problem is a space issue. I don’t want to give up my dining room always,  so I have to space my puzzles around holidays and projects that require a large flat surface.

Board games can be a great way to engage your mind and they are generally  social, now I am not talking about Monopoly or Sorry here. My son has started me on playing Euro games, these are very intense, require strategies, planning and a sense of humor. When he first brought one over and we opened the 20 to 30 page rule book I almost choked! The game can take 20 minutes to set up! I know it sounds like torture but really it is great fun and I really have to stretch my mind in different ways to fully understand and play the games. The ones he likes have quite a few pieces (worker placement games have a lot) game boards and cards. The one thing that I find pleasing about them is they have an end. I have played way too many Monopoly games that have gone on for entire weekends, These have a certain number of rounds and when they are done you count up the points, simple. Of course, we have had to watch Youtube videos in order to learn the game. I have a tendency to skim when face with rules that go on for 28 pages. You know you are in trouble when the first 2 pages are for set up then they start explaining that they will discuss certain points on page 16! The games have names like Caverna, Feast for Odin, Scythe, Terra Forming Mars, Euphoria and on. I have really begun to enjoy these and how it keeps my brain working on so many different planes at once. I have even won a few times. He has about 20 and they are not inexpensive, but so much better than video games, because you engage other people and really have to think, not just have good eye to hand coordination, which I do not have.

So go work your mind in anyway that you find enjoyable, but if you get a chance to try a Euro Game don’t let the rules scare you, live dangerously and give them a try.

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Instant Gratification

I must state at the beginning that I love HGTV, nothing like an afternoon binge watching House Hunters, that being said I believe that it is either mirroring society or causing society to want everything all at once and finished.

I love to watch House Hunters because it gives me a glimpse into what other areas of the country have in their respective housing markets. I hardly ever see people buy “starter homes”. What has happened to them? People want them all done, no equity building, a “forever” home. Are there really so many people out there that are that settled in where they live, their tastes are never going to change etc.? Home fashions change almost as quickly as regular fashion, some of these things that everyone hated in the past 5 years are now coming back into style. People have you learned nothing from fashion? I personally don’t like granite counter tops or stainless steel appliances and they are starting to fall out of favor, but people are requesting them and want to replace things that are even new but they are not their style, wasteful. I was always told to live in a space for a year to figure out how you want to use it. When you walk in and first see a home you think you know how you will be living in it, but it usually changes.

I like Fixer Upper and Joanna Gaine’s style, some of her designs really resonate with me. Obviously they are resonating with a lot of people because her carefully curated Waco, Texas style is now being mass produced. You can walk into at least 3 different stores in my area and outfit your home if you have enough money. We do not all live in an area where antique flea markets are as large and plentiful as she does, but if you want to shell out some of your hard earned money, your house can look like hers along with thousands of others. You can buy all those cute accessories, furniture, dishes, towels, candles and pillows at places like Target and Pier One.20171201_122811 You can also go online to http://www.magnoliamarket.com and buy directly from them. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that; do people not want to buy things on their own journey through life, so they tell their story not a copy of someone else? I do appreciate the thought and purpose that are reflected in her designs, but really most of the items I recently saw in Target and Pier One were not made in this country. That rings a little false to me. I have an eclectic style one that has changed, grown and refined itself over the years and it has been fun putting it together over time from our first apartments to our starter home to our current residence, this is part of life’s journey. If I got everything I wanted when we got our first home I would have had a very large yard sale 2 or 3 years later! Tastes change over time,this is as it should be. While picking up a reproduction of some sign or window(antique or vintage) that Joanna Gaines picked up at an antique fair or auction in Texas is fun, it isn’t the same as you finding something on a trip that provides you with the memory of that time.Magnolia_Market_Aug_25_0552_1024x1024 You can’t buy memories.

Why is it that people want everything all at once and are not willing to wait or do it a little bit at a time? The digital age now bring other people and their stuff into your home via television, phone or computer so you can see all there is out there. It is one thing to keep up with the Jones’s but now we all want to keep up with all of them all across the country and the world. We need to slow down look around at all we have and figure out our style, we all have our own, it is easy to copy someone else but it is harder to own your style and work at it. Sometimes you take a wrong turn and have to reboot, but that is really part of the maturation process.

Personal style is fluid and changes with age and circumstances. I have furniture from when we were first married and I would like to change it for something different, it works fine and was a solid piece when I bought it, but my taste has changed over 38 years and I think I have grown so a little bit down the line I may replace it or maybe first change it a bit who knows? If you get everything all at once you take the fun out of the hunt. Life is a wild and wonderful ride, experience it as you go, don’t rush to the end.

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Now I know this sounds like a bashing of Joanna Gaines and I do not mean it to be. She is a very talented person who has connected with a lot of people. People want to copy her style and are now able to buy pieces as well as her furniture line. I like her magazine and parts of her style but I live a different life in a different area of the country and I can’t see just buying into the entire look. I love the process and she has enjoyed and will probably continue to grow and change as should we all. Living everyday has it’s ups and downs but it is a journey not something to be presented as a finished product all at once.

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Routine to Ritual

I heard this phrase the other day as an ad on the radio in the car (my book on tape ended) and it stuck with me not because it was an ad for playing Keno either. I thought of all the routines in our lives that we go through on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis and I thought’ there really is no way that these routines cannot be elevated to a ritual. Think positively.

Your morning: I figure out what time I have to leave to get to work, how long getting ready takes and then build in my breakfast. I sit down at the kitchen table with real plates and coffee/tea mug and either read a quick article, write in my journal or just revel in the quiet. It has turned into a ritual instead of just rushing out the door with my coffee and grabbing something quick. Now I will admit to not having a big breakfast, but my toast and jam with either coffee or tea gets me started on the right foot. I know it sounds like a lot of trouble when you would rather hit the snooze, but remember you really are not getting any benefit of 8 minutes of half sleep, rather get up and make yourself a priority.

The morning commute: I drive to work and it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on traffic, bad weather will up it some more. I have found a way to de-stress and I actually look forward to the drive. The morning fare on the radio is awful, can’t find just music, no talking heads so I get books on tape. They are novels; no self-help here just fun stories preferably read in some sort of an accent. I am transported to that world with those characters and don’t mind the traffic. I actually look forward to the drive because it is like a little escape. Part of this ritual is going to the library and finding just the right one and then listening to the first chapter on the way home.

Food shopping: Okay stick with me on this. I am not waxing poetically about buying toilet paper. I go food shopping once a week, same day and roughly the same time. I never really minded it and I know that some people find it an onerous chore so this will not be for you. I hit up the produce section first and I spend 3/4 of my time there. I look over all the fruit first and decide by touch, smell and looks what I will get, load up my reusable produce bags(love them, organic cotton) and move to the vegetables and think about my menus for the week, how my husband is always up for trying something new and maybe deciding to experiment. I then breeze through the rest of the shopping as most of that is replenishment and I have been cutting back on processed food so perishables are my biggest purchases. The ritual of planning meals and cooking for people I have always enjoyed, but I will admit that there are days when I am screaming for take out Chinese food and we have that.

Getting ready for bed: I get ready for bed roughly around the same time, although it is usually well before I go to bed. I get cleaned up, changed and then I use all my various beauty products, nice smelling serums, creams etc. I use an natural organic line of serums and creams and I feel soft and pampered after I finish. I take my time and really enjoy the experience. It is worth it to me to spend this time relaxing at the end of my day and hey, all this suppleness takes time, might as well enjoy it!

So think of your days and any routines that you can elevate to a ritual. It won’t work with everything, but if even one can be why not try. Living everyday should be enjoyed not just gotten through, so let’s enjoy the little things.

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Posted in downtime, everyday life, habits, relaxing, routine, shopping, stress, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

How to enjoy being the host.

Hosting a holiday meal or get together no matter the time of year can be stressful. We seem to be throwing the word stress around a lot lately, ways to reduce stress, how to make stress work for you etc. I have offered to be the host for many gatherings, family or friends because I like to have people enjoy what I have to offer: a comfortable home, good food, and great conversation. This does not mean that I don’t stress about everything beforehand. I am a bit of a perfectionist and I always think that if I can get everything perfect it will be so much better for everyone, but once we are up and running I let it all go. Here are some tips to enjoy the task of being the host or hostess with the mostest!

Plan backward. About 3 or 4 days out I figure out the time I want people to eat or arrive. This is especially important with a sit down meal such as Thanksgiving. This particular meal is all about the timing. Once I figure that out, I plan the days leading up to it and work in times to relax, go to work, walk the dog, do laundry, shower etc. These should always be part of the planning process. They all take time from your day and need to be done. I set the table as soon as I can. I have a dining room and while not everyone does, you can still get all the dishes, napkins, tablecloths, cutlery and serving pieces all pulled out and put somewhere so you are not frantically hunting for Gramma’s special dishes that you only use on special occasions. If you need more table space, folding tables can be borrowed or rented, with a matching cloth on it who will know? I have entertained large groups in different apartments and houses and not one person complained that they were eating at a rental table. This is where it helps to plan so you know where the space will be laid out and if you have to borrow or rent anything.

Delegate. I know this sounds like something you have heard many times before, but it bears repeating. My husband will always run to the store for something I forget, and yes that is usually the case. I always ask for him to run the vacuum downstairs so I don’t see dog hair everywhere. He is always so proud of himself that he will point out what a good job he has done and I dutifully thank him even if I would like to point out that I do it all the time and he never notices! Breathe and let go!

Accept people’s offers. People will always ask what they can bring. I usually have a list of items that can be contributed without messing up my menu. If a guest is working a lot of hours ask for wine and rolls, something they can pick up easily on their way home from work. They won’t feel stressed and will feel as if they contributed. It is all in how you ask; Thank you I just can’t  get out and get the wine, ice, rolls whatever! This also goes for that guest you know doesn’t cook well or makes a dish every year that no one will eat. When they offer give them something else that will fit into the menu, I would love your (insert horrible dish here) but I already have a vegetable planned can you bring an appetizer or wine? See it just takes diplomacy.

Embrace imperfection. No one likes to eat at a someone’s house that embraces Martha Stewart, it is not relaxing, you feel as if you have to love everything and comment on how beautiful it all is. Frankly, it is exhausting. I have a family member like that and it isn’t fun. I will forget the rolls(many a burnt roll episode, we have pictures!), not enough gravy to go around, dog steals something off the table, something gets broken, stained or destroyed. You and your guests are human and you connect with everyone over the mishaps. Quarrelsome guests are going to happen, so diffuse this by moving people out of the line of fire by asking for them to help.This always happens with a large family gathering and then becomes family lore!

Enjoy your work. Once everyone is there and of course settled into your kitchen because really where else would they be give them a drink, something to nibble on and a pot holder for when that dish is ready to come out of the oven. No one minds helping it is in people’s being to help. Many of my guests over the years have plated, helped to mix served as bartender etc. Nobody enjoys a stressed out harried hostess. The best parties I have been to have been where guests are helping. So unless you have staff that serves, cheerfully ask guests to help.

Don’t worry about the kitchen. After dinner the kitchen is a mess but we are no longer in there. With the table cleared we can all grab a drink and relax in the living room or at the table. My husband does like to clean up and he is better than he used to be. He used to do it immediately but will now relax with guests. This is why I do not understand why people want the open concept kitchen. It is hard to relax with all your dirty dishes staring at you from the kitchen. Once the meal is consumed I want to relax with my guests not worry about cleaning and really as a guest do you want to have that going on while you are digesting a good meal.

So in closing, relax and enjoy things, nothing goes perfectly to plan but it is fun to have family and friends around your table enjoying each other and living everyday to it’s fullest. Please enjoy all your hard work.

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Posted in being the host, everyday life, Friends, perfectionism, planning, relaxing, stress, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

5 ways to reward yourself this holiday season

If you are anything like me, the holidays are all about doing things for others. I like to put quite a bit of thought into presents, do a lot  of cooking and decorating as well as working in retail, so the holidays can take a toll, so I have come up with some ideas to reward myself and take a step back to recharge.

Take a class. Recently I took a class at a local vintage boutique. It was a floral arranging class and a friend joined me. It was great fun and I came home with a half decent looking floral centerpiece. There were about twenty women there and although we all used the same ingredients we all came up with something different. This was so out of my normal day to day that those 2 hours were a much needed break.

Get a manicure. I know some people do this regularly but I have had only one in my life and it was very relaxing and lasted longer than my at home ones. It contains no calories and you feel put together even when running errands.

Go to the library. This is totally free. Give yourself an hour or two of quiet bliss. Read a magazine that you do not subscribe to, check out a book and start reading it right there or research a project you want to do in the new year. Libraries range in what they offer bu they always have books and magazines so give yourself some quite to read, who knows it could become a regular thing.

Walk outside. I have a dog so I walk twice a day everyday, but even if you don’t you can take a nice walk around your neighborhood or drive to a park and walk there. Take notice of the sights and sounds and experience them. This is not a walk to a destination it is a walk of experience.

Now there a quite a few things you might think of, too. The point is to do something for yourself that doesn’t involve shopping, decorating, cleaning etc. A lot of people enjoy volunteering and while it is a great thing and I believe everyone should, at this time of year it adds another stress to your calendar another responsibility. I don’t know about you but I don’t need another right now. I can only be pulled in so many directions before something snaps. We tend to put ourselves and our need to be recharged on the shelf until after the holidays and this will not help anyone. I have spent holidays so totally stressed that things were not perfect that on one enjoyed them, least of all me.

I would love to hear from you all what type of things you do to relax during the holidays.

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Posted in downtime, relaxing, stress, Uncategorized | 4 Comments