Saturday, October 5, 2013

Girls Night Out

It sounds like a fun, sexy night but in reality it is just five old married or divorced women getting together to talk, drink and have some fun without their husbands and boyfriends around.

Every couple of weeks we meet at someone’s house or at a restaurant to talk, eat, and drink. We talk about hot flashes and our families and jobs. Sometimes we cry but mostly we laugh our asses off, especially after a few drinks.

Last week I hosted a taco salad night for the five of us. I sent my husband and visiting adult son off to get haircuts and then to visit their favorite restaurant. I served lettuce, taco meat, fajita chicken, and shredded cheese. The chicken was John Soules Fajita Chicken from the freezer department of Wal-Mart which was simply heated in a skillet for 5 minutes – so easy! I browned a few pounds of hamburger earlier in the day, added taco seasoning and water. I simmered it in the Crockpot all afternoon. I set out festive red plates and green napkins. The girls brought tomatoes, onions, chips and salsa. Someone brought cupcakes for dessert. We had a variety of beer and wine. Delicious!

We got a little crazy with the cupcakes. There were eight of them and they were giant sized. There were 4 different flavors. How were we going to divide them between 5 people so we could try each flavor? Well, we cut the first four into 5 pieces and shared and saved the others to take home. We each got a small bite of each flavor. I don’t know about you but I would rather have had a whole cupcake and I am talking about the chocolate fudge one.

We seem to be talking a lot about our aging parents and problematic adult children lately. We discuss
and try to figure what to do with these needy people. We all have them and we are happy to have them but they are very tricky to care for.

This week we got off topic on why does your urine smell bad after you eat asparagus. We looked it up on the internet but couldn’t find a satisfactory answer. Somehow this led to a discussion about airing out your privates. We all decreed that you should not sleep in your underwear! We laughed so much that night! Everyone had a really good time.

Laughing is good for you. Life is stressful and laughing makes you feel better. It causes your body to take in more oxygen which stimulates your all your vital organs. It relaxes your muscles. Frequent laughter can improve your mood and reduce pain. We really need to find more things to laugh about. Laughter is truly the best medicine, especially when shared with your friends!

I can’t wait to do it again.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Home Sweet Home


 
Last summer we moved into a new duplex. We wanted to simplify our life by moving closer into town and buying a new home requiring less work. We love it! It is actually bigger than our old home but the yard is much smaller. We are closer to shopping and work. We no longer have to take care of a big yard and swimming pool.
 
I miss my old neighborhood and the small town adjacent to it.  It was roomier and quieter. There were great places to walk and a lot less traffic. I especially miss the library. It was the best library in the world. I can still use it but take some time to drive there.  

I thought a new home would be less work but it is a lot of work setting it up. We moved 33 years of stuff. While we were selling our house, we had moved most of our stuff into storage to stage the house. It worked. We sold our house the first weekend. We discovered we liked the decluttered look so we put everything in a storage space in the new house’s basement except the basic furniture. Most of the stuff is staying in the basement, which means we really don’t need all that stuff. I am still  
sorting it out.

Deciding where to hang the pictures was really difficult. It was so hard to hammer a nail into those nice fresh clean walls. We still have a lot of stuff to hang but we are still thinking about it. 

The hardest thing has been decorating for the holidays. Everything is different and I need a lot less decorations.

 

I love the space in front of my front door and window. It has taken me a while but I have it just the way I like it. The brick of our house is cream with a pinkish tint so I have learned to stick with cream, pinks, purples, and dark reds. I bought a daisy bench from Lowes which was yellow. It looked horrible out there. I spray painted it cream and it looks fantastic!
 

 

For fall, I replaced my summer flowers with purple and white mums and added one pumpkin and a couple of standing scarecrows. I made a wreath for the door by wrapping a fall leaf garland around a large grapevine wreath. I placed bunches of cinnamon sticks all round it and tied them on with pretty fall ribbon in little bows. It smells so good!    Simple, festive, and easy to do! Good from early fall through Thanksgiving! 

                                                                  Simplify! I like it!
 
 



 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Alzheimer's Association Walk


Tomorrow morning, September 21st is the Alzheimer's Association walk in the Springfield area. It's purpose is to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer's disease for patient care, support, and research.

My father died from this disease and it is a truly devastating disease. He was a sweet, brilliant man who lost all control of his brain functioning bit by bit until he was not able to feed himself or even get out of bed. It was  most heartbreaking when he got to the point where he could not even recognize us.

Any one of us could get Alzheimer's. It develops slowly so you might not even know you have it. it cause the deterioration of healthy brain tissue. This leads to a decline in brain function which causes difficulty in functioning in day to day living. There are drugs and therapy which can help prolong functioning but research is needed to find out about the causes, prevention, and possible cure.

I will be walking with other people who care about ending Alzheimer's and wish to help raise the necessary funding to do so. Please join me or donate a few dollars to the Alzheimer's Association.

Lucky Bird Poop


Yesterday a bird pooped on me. I was riding my bike out on a trail when it happened so I couldn’t even wash it off. Then I thought, oh I think I heard that it is good luck for a bird to poop on you.
 

Not true! My day continued to go down hill after that. I read my horoscope and it was not a  good one. The computer program I was using would not work.  I turned on the oven to make lunch and smoke filled the house. The last time I baked, tomato sauce had spilled over and was now burning off the oven bottom creating a huge stink as well as smoke.  

The mail delivery did not bring me a check I was expecting. It did bring a much anticipated new purse. It was wrapped tightly in a box and when I pulled it out it, I created a 2 ½ inch scuff. I was so disappointed! 

The afternoon brought news that our friend who was fighting pancreatic cancer did not have a successful surgery. He had a bowel obstruction that could not be repaired and was given a feeding tube.  

I got in my car to go pick up a few groceries but it wouldn’t start. I called our mechanic and he said it sounded like the battery and he could stop by on the way home and try to jump it. He arrived at 5:30, tried to start it, and said it was the starter. He hit something under the hood with a hammer and we got it started. He said I needed to take it to his shop because it might not start again but he had to go home. I left it running in my garage while I called every one on my contact list to get a ride back home. No one answered their phones. My husband was at a bank function where you cannot use your phone and it was the commute from work/ dinner hour so no one else was available I guess. I decided to drive it over to the shop and take a taxi home and that worked just fine. 

After a dinner of scrambled eggs and toast, my oldest son called and told me his apartment had been robbed this afternoon and all his computers were stolen. He makes his living from working on his computer so this is truly bad news. He called the police and the pawn shops will be watching someone trying to sell his computers. However, he wants to come to live for awhile. Not sure if this is a good thing or bad but what can you do? 

I had a mostly sleepless night last night – upset stomach and nightmares.
 

Although today is a little depressing; it is cool and rainy outside and I am really tired; I am feeling a little more hopeful. It could be the xanax I took at 5am this morning to get back to sleep but I think I overlooked all the good things that happened yesterday.  It was a beautiful sunny day, I had time to take an enjoyable bike ride out in the country, I received a lovely anniversary card from my mother, I have a really nice, talented mechanic, today is my 33rd wedding anniversary, I am healthy,  it is a whole new day and I have a whole new attitude. 

May we all have a happy and peaceful day today!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fat and Middle Aged


Well I just found out that I am obese. I thought I looked OK.
 
I had my 6 month check up on Monday morning. I have high blood pressure and have to see my doctor every 6 months. I am on several medications for high blood pressure and I watch my salt intake. We were hoping it would start to go down but my blood pressure is high and I am gaining weight. Can you believe it? I ride my bike for an hour 5 times a week. I watch what I eat. I don’t understand how I can be gaining weight. 

My doctor is checking my thyroid to see if it is functioning correctly. My exercising is good. He says that maybe I am not aware that I am eating too many calories.  Since I do not want to go on a diet or join Weight Watchers, he has advised me to see a dietician who will analyze my current food choices and recommend the changes I need to lose weight. He also said that due to my history of high blood pressure, I might be eligible for lap band or gastric bypass surgery. I will be researching those surgeries in the days to come. 

I am waiting to hear the results of my thyroid test before I call the dietician. I am pretty sure she will have me start with a food diary. Yuck!  

Monday afternoon I joined the YMCA. They were having a week long special where the yearly fee was waived if you signed up. Plus, you can quit with 2 weeks notice. Perfect! I was thinking that I needed a place to work out when the weather starts getting bad this fall and winter. I have been twice and I love it. I am learning to use the weight machines which will help me build muscle and protect my decaying bones.  I can ride their bikes while watching TV and/or listening to my Ipod. I also have access to the pool and pool exercises and group floor exercises too. I am thinking the yoga classes will help me relax a little. I’m hoping to get a little more socializing too. It’s all good!
 
More exercise and relaxation will help but I still need to lose a few pounds. 

Now I need to get my couch potato husband to join me.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hollywood Adventure


We went to Hollywood yesterday! The Hollywood Casino in St. Louis that is!   It was Harrah’s Casino until last November when it was purchased by Penn National Gambling, Inc. and renamed Hollywood Casino. We go there whenever we are in town. We enjoy a little gambling. It's fun!
 

Anyway, we were not in town but Hollywood offers free bus trips to the casino from several cities in the area. It is a very relaxing day if you are careful not to lose too much money! Springfield schedules trips to the Hollywood on Sunday and Wednesday mornings and Saturday evening. Free! You pay nothing for the ride. All you need is a Hollywood Marquee Rewards card.
 

We took the Sunday morning trip. It was our second time. The bus leaves the Capitol City parking lot at 8:50 and returns at 5PM. It is a perfect time to sit back and relax, drink some coffee, chat, or read the paper. The bus is large and comfy and there is even a restroom stall at the back of the bus. It stops in Litchfield, IL and Livingston Park on the way.  

We had the Sunday Champagne Brunch at the Eat Up Buffet. It is all you can eat plus champagne for $19.99 per person. There is a breakfast section, salad section, carved meat and side section, Chinese section, and a dessert section. Delicious!!! If you gamble enough there you can win rewards to apply towards the cost of the meal. There are other restaurants for lunching but some are closed for construction. 

Right now the Hollywood is undergoing a lot of construction so some of the restaurants are closed and the layout of the casino changes daily. The hotel part does not seem to be changing. We have stayed in the hotel a few times and it is very nice although it could probably use some updating. You can easily win free weekday nights by gambling. Be sure to use your Marquee Rewards cards to earn freebies. 

After brunch we played blackjack, roulette, and slots. My favorite is the Wheel of Fortune game. I lost $50 dollars but I played for 3 hours. It was fun. I am not a big gambler and I am not a very good gambler. I set a budget and I stick to it, However, if I am having a really good time I will get carried away and spend a little more.  Sometimes I win but usually I just break even. 

Riding the bus back is very relaxing. You can have a few drinks at the casino and not worry about having to drive home. You can read a book or even take nap. 

I highly recommend it! Takes your mind off all your problems as long as you are careful not to overspend so just take a good book, travel pillow, and as only much money as you want to spend!
 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Middle Age and the Empty Nest


 

I am sooooooo depressed!    I knew it was coming!   I just didn’t know how much it would hurt! It is so unfair! I am already trying to cope with the ravages of middle age and the changes it brings. Now I have to adapt to life without children.

 

I am retired. I have spent the last 13 years caring for my home and family and working at home on my eBay store. I live in the Midwest. I have two sons – one in Florida and one in Las Vegas. So far away!

 

I just don’t know what to do with myself. I am still a young 57 year old. I have been married for almost 33 years.

 

I am suddenly undecisive. Should I start a new career? Should I get a job? More hobbies?  I enjoy my freedom from having to work but I need a new purpose.

 

My friends tell me that it is best to do nothing when you are undecided. Perhaps I should think about what I like to do and what makes me happy. Another friend said I should get a puppy to replace my sons.  I’m not sure I can make that kind of commitment.

 

Time goes by so fast!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Festive Outdoor Christmas Decorating

Yesterday on my daily walk through the neighborhood, I noticed some really striking Christmas decorations. In the evenings, you see a lot of pretty Christmas lights on houses and shrubs and those blow up figures. During the day, you notice evergreen swags and wreaths and red velvet ribbons and figurines. This year I am seeing a lot poinsettias sitting in planters and hanging baskets.

At first I wondered if they could be real but that's just not possible in this climate. Poinsettias like a warm climate of  about 60-70 degrees. They had to be silk or plastic and they were just beautiful.

I saw some arranged in planters sitting on steps and in hanging baskets on porches. They look best with a little greenery.

I made a planter for my own front step. I had a planter full of dirt still sitting outside from the summer. I stuck in some evergreen branches that we had cut off the bottom of our tree. I went to the dollar store and bought a couple of bunches of poinsettias and a large plastic candy cane and arranged them in the pot. I love the way it looks!

This morning I took some pictures of the poinsettia decorating in my neighborhood and will post some of the better ones including the pot I made. You can get really creative with these pots by arranging ribbons, ornaments, birdhouses, lights, etc. to your greenery.

Another great idea is to make a little tree from an old tomato cage. Just turn it upside down, secure it to your pot with some u shaped states or cut some from an old clothes hanger, wrap with garland, and decorate.





Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hot Chocolate Weather

The Crafty Cupboard

I am in love with McDonald's Hot Chocolate. It is so  hot and creamy and sweet. They add whipped cream and fudge sauce to it. A small nonfat serving with whipped cream has about 250 calories. The problem is, I've had a large one for the last two days. The large hot chocolate with skim milk has 460 calories so with whipped cream and fudge sauce, I'm probably looking at a 600 calorie drink. All the good foods have too many calories in them!  I wonder how many calories are in an eggnog shake? I'm not sure I want to know until I've had one because that will surely ruin it for me!

We had our first snow yesterday. It was only flurries but was very pretty. I love the first snow - hate it the rest of the winter. Snow puts me in the mood for hot chocolate.

Hot drinks are very soothing on these cold, dark and dreary days of pre-winter. They truly warm you from the inside out. Hot chocolate, coffee, tea, cider, hot buttered rum - any of these can make you feel toasty warm.

It's quick and easy to make a cup of hot cocoa by dropping a package of hot cocoa mix into a cup and adding some hot water. However, with a little time and effort, you can make a truly rich and delicious cup of cocoa using a few basic ingredients.

Hershey's  Easy Microwave Hot Cocoa
Ingredients:
2 tbsp. sugar
2-3 tsp. Hershey's cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. vanilla
dash of salt
1 cup milk
Directions:
Mix cocoa, salt, and sugar in a large mug.
Heat milk in microwave oven for 1 - 1/2 minutes or until hot.
Gradually add milk to cocoa mixture in mug stirring until well blended.
Stir in vanilla.
Variations: Use  up to 2 tablespoon of cocoa for a richer chocolate. Substitute artificial sweetener and nonfat milk to cut calories.

All Recipes.com has a variety of hot chocolate recipes and also some recipes of hot chocolate mixes you can make and give as gifts.

Here are some hot chocolate making tips:

 1. Using whole milk or cream will make a creamier drink but you will need to stir it more often as it cooks to keep from scorching.

2. Whisk until foamy to make a more creamier and tasty drink.

3. Garnish with marshmallows, whipped cream, cinnamon, coconut, hot fudge sauce, caramel sauce, sprinkles, or chocolate candies.

4. Experiment with different flavors. Try dark chocolate, white chocolate, milk chocolate powders or chips. Try adding different amounts or combinations of milk and cream. Add liqueurs such as Kahlua, Grand Marnier, peppermint schnaps, amaretto, rum cream, and Baileys. Add other ingredients such as a tsp. of peanut butter or a tsp of brown sugar.

There are a large variety of hot cocoa mixes that can be bought in grocery stores. You can jazz them up by using hot milk instead of water and by adding a dash of vanilla and any of the garnishes and additions listed above.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gingerbread Cookies

The Crafty Cupboard
I love the taste and smell of gingerbread and gingerbread men are so cute! I decorate my kitchen with gingerbread men every Christmas. I have gingerbread towels, dishcloths, potholders, garlands, cups, ornaments and even a teapot. My family and friends love to give me gingerbread stuff for Christmas.

Gingerbread cookies are delicious. Gingerbread cookie dough can be quite expensive and time consuming to make. Spice and molasses can be costly. As an alternative, you could buy a packaged mix at the grocery store for $1.99 and Pillsbury has refrigerated slice and bake gingerbread cookie dough. Check out the free Pillsbury baking coupons on the web. You can print out and save a lot of money. Pre-made dough can be sliced and baked as well as rolled and cut into shapes.

I've always used the gingerbread cookie recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook. I like to roll out gingerbread men and decorate. It's fun to eat gingerbread men and kids love 'em. I did see a really cute cookie that I am going to make this year. It is easy and very quick to make. They are called Gingerbread Snowmen. You need a round cookie cutter or you can use a glass. You could also use the slice and bake method or even a drop cookie. Frost with white icing. Decorate the face with mini chocolate chips and a piece of candy corn for the nose.