Thursday, July 31, 2014

Descriptive Writing

Prezi Link: Descriptive Writing


Step One to a Better Marriage: Communication (For Baby Boomers & Anyone Else who needs Help)


    
     What do older couples talk about? It’s difficult to find new and exciting things to say with someone you’ve known for 25+ years. Most of the time, I will know what my husband is going to say before he even says it, same goes for him. Many older couples, who have been married 40+ years, sit in front of the TV for dinner. Mike and I started watching the cooking shows while we were cooking and before we knew it, we were keeping the TV on as we were having dinner. Our conversations were brief at best, and we usually waited till commercials came on! Dinner in front of TV is hazardous to a marriage's health. Once I started the post of Baby Boomers getting divorces, I decided to change our dinner arrangements.

     I wrote the article in the morning and by dinner time, I set the table instead of the counter (which faces our TV). Mike prepared dinner and watched as I placed dishes, forks, knives, and glasses on the table. I placed a beautiful bouquet of flowers from our garden in center, played some Bocelli on Pandora and then stood back to view the setting.

     After saying grace, my husband asked why we were changing our usual pattern. I told him about the research I had done and about how many baby boomers were getting a divorce. I explained that much of the problem was communication and lack of conversation, “So, I think we should stop watching TV and start talking more about the day’s events.” He was fine with this. I explained that we should try to discuss subjects of interest and not only the children and grandchildren.

     The first night, we spent forty-five minutes at the dinner table and talked about the news events, and whom we had seen and spoken to during the day. The second night we talked about golf, the blog, and some news we had heard about a common interest of ours. Tonight we discussed the books we are reading. So far, it’s working like a gem.

     I used to think that my husband was the only male alive who responded with "nothing," when I asked him a variety of questions like, "what are you thinking?, or "what did you and John talk about at golf?" or "what did your sister have to say?" Then I found out that most men respond the same way. First of all they really aren't thinking of anything when they look blakly into space, and second their conversations with male friends during golf is minimal. Many men do not find it easy to get into philosophical discussions, women do. And, that's where the work comes in. Men and women are very different.

     Sometimes couples forget that marriage is work just like any relationship. Nothing about marriage is easy because it involves so many variables such as different personalities and characteristics, likes and dislikes. If one were to purchase a car regardless of whether it is a Ford or Mercedes, both would need maintenance and adjustments. Like a well cared car, a marriage needs tender loving care in order to continue running successfully.   

Decadent Chocolate Fudge

Imagine chocolate so decadent you believe you are a sinner - a dietary one. This chocolate fudge is truly to die for. My mother in law used to hide it, so no one would eat it before Easter. It's that good - honest.

Ingredients:
¼    lb. margarine
1½  cups  Hershys morsels
1           cup toasted almonds, cooled and chopped
¼     cup raisins
¼     cup coconut
¼     cup small marshmellows, cut in half


Melt butter in double boiler, add chocolate morsels and melt.  Once chocolate is melted, let set awhile, then add almonds, raisins, coconut and tiny marshmellows.  Mix  all ingredients and place mixture in 8 ½ x 11 inch no stick baking pan.  Smooth chocolate fuge out till top is even and refrigerate one hour. 

The Orchestration of Wine




A soothing concerto
 is set in motion
The conductor leads
Players with instruments ready.
Break, cut, remove
bitter
stems, leaves, and raisins.

Plump, succulent, vine ripened
California Grapes – sugar sweet.

Crusher cranks and cracks
In smooth symphony
As fresh scent of earthy grape 
pervades the crisp air –
And batch after batch
Of stemmed clusters
Fill the pails, pungent.

Full week of Fermentation
And many months of stacking

Till simple grape turns to luscious wine.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Life Well Lived


Looking at life in a different way
As age crawls day by day
Through cracks and ripples
As a well used road.

Realizing what is important
What is false, what is true
Learning priorities
Times
Of family lost and friends gained
Of money earned and money flitted away
And the only thing that makes sense
Today
Is the love of  those few
Who never wavered.

Of learning -
That love survives because it forgives
encourages, comforts, and caresses. 

That’s love
and
a life well lived.

Crispy Baked Chicken

You will find this chicken to be crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. My mother in law was famous for this chicken, and the secret is quite simple, bake high at first and then reduce the temp. Of course, the marinate has to be tasty as does the breadcrumb mixture. I hope you will enjoy this wonderful old time favorite of ours.

Ingredients:
8 pieces of chicken – legs or thighs or both
Wet Ingredients:
1 cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Rind of one lemon
1 tsp. oregano
2 garlic cloves - crushed
Pinch of salt
Pepper to taste
Marinate chicken for several hours – the longer the better.
Dry Ingredients:
2 cups bread crumb
1 cup grated Asiago
1 tbs. garlic powder
2 tbs. parsley
Pinch of salt
Pepper to taste
Preheat oven - 450° and grease a baking tray.
Combine all dry ingredients.  Take marinated chicken and dip into dry ingredients and then place onto baking tray.
Bake on middle rack in preheated oven till outside appears crispy – about fifteen to twenty minutes – then lower oven to 350° and continue baking for another thirty minutes.
Serve with spring salad, corn, and mashed potatoes.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Baby Boomer Blues


     Nearly 30% of the U.S. population is from the Baby Boom era. There are many of us between the ages of 55 – 65, so what do we baby boomers want? According to a variety of articles, this group of older Americans does not feel their age and continue to work, travel, spend, and thrive. They are trying new things and calling it their “bucket list” of things to do. They jump out of planes, go bungee jumping, experience zip lining, white water rafting, scuba diving, and much much more.

     The one unsettling bit of news that I learned about Baby Boomers is that more and more of them are getting divorces! I was both surprised and saddened. But, here’s what I learned. An article in the New York Times declares that in 1990 only 10% of divorces were from those over 60. By 2009, the percentage tripled. Women across the globe, in Europe as well as in the good old U.S.A., are initiating divorce proceedings. Why? Most women claim they are not ready to hang up their dancing shoes to sit home and watch TV.  AARP states that the majority of reasons behind this escalating divorce rate are: lack of communication, lack of interest, lack of passion, and lack of love. I believe there is also the factor that many of those old habits that one put up with when the children were growing up are now no longer tolerable. It's the old adage, enough is enough.Women over 60 are beginning to realize they not only don’t want to put up with a bad marriage but also realize they don’t have to. Most women over 60 are financially able to take care of themselves, so they are not held back for financial reasons; whereas, the majority were dependant on their spouse when in their 30's.

     I think what happens in a long lived marriage say from 25 – 45+ years is that the couple falls into a rut of predictable and mundane routine. This is so very easy to do. Sometimes, the rut happens without even knowing it is happening. At a certain time in the marriage, the husband knows his role just as the wife knows her's. They chit chat about little things, nothing life shattering, and when they do go out, there is no longer the interest to make the evening a memorable one. Little by little love fizzles and before one knows it, they have separate bedrooms and meet each other in passing and talk only about what’s for dinner. This may seem drastic, yet this is actually quite common. In some baby boomer marriages there is more yelling going on than talking, and each person suffers with high blood pressure from stress and unhappiness.

     The good news is that one can save a drowning marriage, but it takes work, and both have to be willing to put forth some effort. Of course as with any post, I did a little bit of introspection and came up with a few of my own ideas on how to improve my marriage. More to follow.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Penne with Asparagus


This recipe was contrived one night when Mike and I thought we were going to go out to dinner, but after a very long day of working outdoors, we were too tired. So, since we had yet to go food shopping, we looked in the fridge and spotted some left over asparagus from a few days before. We also had mozzarella and of course pasta. It was delicious, light, and filling. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Ingredients for two people:

1/2 lb. asparagus - cut in bite size pieces
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 onion - chopped
3 tbs. olive oil
1/4 lb. penne (or a little more)
1 cup shredded muzzi
fresh chili pepper - diced

Boil asparagus in chicken broth till tender. Braise chopped onion in olive oil till translucent. Boil penne till al dente, drain and add to asparagus broth. Continue cooking till pasta is a little softer - add onion mixture. Place in serving bowl and then add diced chili pepper and shredded muzzi.




Lemons


I’ve come to the conclusion that I am just a bit crazy
Ok maybe more than just a bit – maybe a lot
I obsess over the lemons in my fridge
I know I can make some delicious lemonade
But I refuse to do so – I would rather sour the sweet.

Saving for Independence

   
 I would like to start this post by saying that what I am about to say is strictly my opinion. I realized  as I was writing it long hand, that there will be some (maybe many) who will disagree with me, but I came about this belief from years of listening to women tell me that they could not get out of a bad  marriage because they were financially dependent on their spouse. “What am I going to do? I have no money!” I understand that creating a personal checking account and savings account when living in an abusive relationship can be near to impossible, so that situation is one that needs to be dealt with on an individual basis, but what I’m talking about is a marriage or common law relationship where there is no physical or emotional abuse.
     Regardless of whether a woman works outside the home or is a stay at home mom, she should put aside some money for her own investment or savings. Why? Because, I believe this will avail her  the opportunity to be independent. Money like education gives women power, and I happen to think power is good. I believe when a woman has set aside some money, she will not feel reliant on her husband as though she has no individuality.
     I also think that learning about finances is crucial, so decisions regarding financial security are mutual and not one sided. It pains me to hear how some women have no idea what their financial situation is. They don’t know what’s in the family savings or checking accounts. They don’t know if there’s a trust fund or if they own stocks, etc. Women should be cognizant of the family’s financial status, and all decisions regarding finances should be met as a couple.
     Women need to become more financially savvy and financially independent.  I don’t think a wife or partner should secretly stash away money (unless this is necessary, i.e., abusive situation); it should be discussed, so the spouse understands the premise behind the independent saving or checking account. Unless the husband feels threatened, there shouldn’t be a problem.

     I really wasn’t going to write about this topic because I thought this generation of married couples were quite different from past generations; after all, women’s lib took care of our independence, didn’t it? The answer is no. This generation still depends on the man of the family even though the majority of women work! So, I thought, what the heck. I’ll write about it. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dos and Don'ts In Writing

Prezi Link: Dos and Don'ts In Writing



Adopt a Pet

   
Pets bring much happiness and joy to our lives. Doctors suggest they even help us become calmer and more relaxed. It is true that some breeds can put us in the dog house (or is it poor house?), but they don't have to, especially if one is willing to adopt a pet.
     The local Humane Society usually has well stocked inventory of many different breeds, sizes, and personalities. They offer dogs, cats, bunnies, and birds. Owners bring them to the local pound for a variety of reasons, but the end result is always the same, the adoptee ends up with a wonderful pet at much less than half the actual worth, and most of the time the pet has been fixed and is up to date with immunization.
     Our chocolate Lab came from a Humane Society in Long Island. I adopted Buster when he was only six months old. He brought us fifteen years of love and joy! Billy, our Yorkie, was adopted from a woman in Georgia who was about to bring him to the Humane Society because he did not get along with her other Yorkies. We get along just fine with our Billy and have had him for six wonderful years. A neighbor of ours adopted her Pit Bull (who by the way have been maligned for no reason), a few years ago. He had been severaly abused and left to die. The Humane Society took care of him, but few people wanted the Pit Bull. My neighbor saw him and fell in love with him. He is the gentlest and kindest dog ever!
     Adopting a pet can literally save its life. Your home can become the loving home it needs and your home can give it a loving chance at a good life. So, adopt a pet instead of buying one. Check one out in your neighborhood. And, if you're not sure about adopting a pet; perhaps, you might want to consider volunteering at your local society. You get to play and then go home. It's almost life being a grandparent.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hydrangea Blue


Cool Summer evenings
warm Summer days
the Hydrangea glories
vibrant.

Long Island perfect
front yards filled
with blue and pink
floral arrangements.

Hampton splendant
sorrounded by pebble, shells, 
or crisp green grass
framed. 

Fruit Salad

An easy lunch and it's good for you too!! I enjoyed this simple lunch because I had everything in the house and I felt good about eating light.

The ingredients are obvious:
Watermelon
Orange
and whatever else you would like to add.
Dressing:
2 tbl. olive oil
1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
Salt to taste
I added mint for color and taste.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Flea Bite - A Short Story

The building looked inviting, yet I didn’t know why it called to me. I was going to work, and would be late if I stopped for any length of time. However, I could not resist. The façade was convivial to my imagination. The architecture was obviously influenced by the Federal Era, blending the beauty of Victorian detail while incorporating the strong arches and columns of Roman architecture. There was an elaborate porch, as well as decorative eaves. There were corner quoins and arched cut-glass windows which were paired, regardless of their location. A lovely clock on the tower declared it was only eight a.m.
“I suppose,” I thought, “I still have some time, for I needed to be at work at nine. I rarely left home early, yet this particular morning I had felt a sense of wonder. I wanted to experience the loveliness of the morning, so I had decided to walk the half hour to my shop. There was an ugly “For Sale” sign placed smack middle in the yard, and it looked so out of place that I instantly hated its presence. I looked up at the one stained glass window and thought I saw a shadow watching, lurking, but the specter did not hinder me from opening the door to the screened porch. It squeaked but I thought nothing of it except perhaps it needed oiling.
“Hello,” I whispered, “is anybody here?”
Nothing, not a sound.  All was silent. Perhaps, I had not spoken loud enough, “Hello!” I yelled out, “is anyone here?”
     I knew I shouldn't venture further, but my curiousity pushed me, tempted me. I heard the screechy sound of a door opening somewhere within the interior, and so with little trepidation, I entered.
I walked into a large Great Hall with dark hardwood floors and three layered crown molding. It was a bright and cheery room as sun light filtered through the skylight from the tower nearly forty feet above me. I was overjoyed. I basked in the warmth, thinking my day was going to be full of happiness and joy. I had to tear myself away from the sun’s embrace, for I knew I had little time left to peruse this magnificent mansion.
            As a literature professor, I had read many stories by Victorian writers, and I loved their descriptions of massive libraries with thousands of books, leather couches, and Turkish rugs. Usually, the library was the door directly opposite the entrance, so I ventured forth to the massive mahogany doors.
“Surely,” I thought, “this door must lead to the grand library.” As I placed my hand ever so delicately on the brass door knob, I heard a giggle. At first I thought it was my imagination, so soft it was, but then I heard the abrupt, loud slamming of the front door while at the same time the library doors opened as though through magic welcoming me into the womb of my demise.
I was truly anxious now. I no longer believed in coincidence. Too much had already occurred what with shadows, slamming of doors, and bone chilling giggles. I was beyond the belief that my imagination was playing tricks. I stood in the center of the beautiful library, decorated exactly as I would imagine a Victorian library to look. There were books from floor to ceiling, and directly in front of me, was the massive desk with the high backed leather chair facing the multitude of books. An ornate Turkish rug dressed the worn wooden floor. But the warmth of the hall was gone and in its place was darkness and cold. There was no sunlight streaming through the brocade draperies, nor was there any light coming through the octagonal stained glass window placed high above the organ that graced the outer wall of the room. That entire side of the room resembled the interior of a flamboyant church resplendent with religious icons on the walls as well as an immense crucifix just beneath the stained glass window. I looked at my watch and panicked at the time. I honestly thought I had been in the house perhaps ten to fifteen minutes, giving me plenty of time to get to work; however, my watch showed ten thirty!
“What the hell!” I exclaimed, “Where did the time go?” Well, I was late for my first class. My students were gone by now and my next class did not begin for another three hours, so I set out to leave the library, promising not to linger any longer. The library door was closed. I didn’t remember closing it, but I dismissed my confusion and promptly went to open it. It would not! It was stuck or locked, or someone was holding it closed from the other side, but it would not budge one iota. Then I heard the giggle, only this time it was not far in the distance, it was in the library enclosed with me!
“Where are you?” I asked, “Show yourself,” I demanded.
The giggles became louder, sharper and older than the timid giggles from before.
“Stop it,” I yelled, “If you’re trying to scare me, you’re doing a good job. I want to leave, now,” I said. I was beginning to fear for my life because the giggles became cackles, yet I could not find the source. Then it dawned on me, the chair with its back to me. How stupid could I have been? Of course, a child could hide behind the tall back without any chance of being seen. I immediately walked to it and swung it around to face me. What I saw next sent shivers down my spine and caused the hairs on my neck to stand out.
“Don’t stare so,” it demanded, “I’m not all that ugly. Why after a while you’ll get used to me and won’t think I’m ugly at all.”
I think I fainted because when I awoke I was lying on the velvet settee facing the desk.
“I’m sorry you fainted. You’re not the first. One visitor actually died of a heart attack upon seeing me. Imagine that?” it said.
“What are you?” I shook as I spoke. I had never seen anything like it. It was hairy from head to toe and its features resembled a huge flea, yet it stood on four legs and spoke as a human.
“I’m an anomaly, as you can see. No, my parents were not fleas; although, come to think of it they were annoying. They abandoned me the minute they laid eyes on me. I think they thought I was going to die from my ugliness, but Hector has taken good care of me. He’s the only one who has not fled from my hideous visage.”
“I really must leave,” I managed. Its voice had become gentle as it told its story, yet I could not and did not want to look at it any longer than I had to.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you go,” it said, “it would be much too dangerous to let you out now that you have seen me. The first person you tell will tell others and so on until they will all want to look at the monster.”
“I won’t tell anyone, I promise,” I pleaded but to no avail. It shook its head.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. Now, what book would you like to read?”
I watched it as it lumbered toward the book shelves. It removed two books from the shelf.
“Which do you want?” it asked.
Beauty and The Beast or the Hunchback of Notre Dame was my choice. I chose Quasimodo’s story for in the end he dies and Esmeralda survives.






The Bedspread

   
      I went to the bank today to cash in my coins; after all, yesterday I talked about saving every penny. I waited in line because this lady had brought a freezer bag filled with coins. She walked away with nearly forty dollars. She apologized for keeping me waiting but informed me the money would go to her grandchild for school supplies (a woman after my own heart). By the time I got to the machine, it was full. So, I waited again for an employee to bring a fresh container. I digress. By the time I completed my transaction, I walked away with six dollars. Not bad for a few weeks collection of pennies, nickels and dimes.
     My story does not end there. There is this wonderful teller at my bank who is cordial and efficient. He works there full time and works at Wal-Mart on weekends. He told me he was leaving to work at a different branch, but in the meantime we talked about his two jobs. We talked about how it is sometimes necessary to work two jobs in order to afford the luxuries. He told me he wanted his wife to be a stay at home mom while his children are young, and that is why he works the two jobs. This sparked a conversation on how years ago many men worked two jobs because most women did stay home to raise the children.
     What I walked away with was that there is nothing wrong in wanting the better things in life as long as one is willing to wait and work for them. Perhaps patience is the key word toward having what we want. Waiting for a desired item to go on sale requires patience as does saving for that special something you have always wanted. It is only when we purchase without the funds that we fall flat on our faces with the weight of our debt.
     It is also a good idea to think before purchasing something and ask those all important questions, “Do I really need this?” or “Why am I buying this?” There are times when we buy for the wrong reasons. Today, I was ready to purchase a new bedspread because I had seen a great sale. I procrastinated and then realized I was putting off purchasing the bedspread because I really did not need it. I saved a hundred dollars. Good move since my doctor bill came today and it’s a little more than that. Sometimes, I actually listen to my own advice.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Art of Husbandry

   
     The first time I saw the word husbandry was on my SAT’s. I had no clue. I looked it up and found out it meant, “The economical and sensible management of resources.” There should be a class on Husbandry; it should be taught before middle school when children are still somewhat malleable. After that, children tend to argue about everything and will not understand that being frugal can eventually lead to having your favorite piece of clothing, smart phone, or car. My favorite story about husbandry happened about twenty or so years ago. One of my husband’s customers, who was very wealthy, wanted some electrical work done. My husband gave him a certain figure of let’s say $740.00, which was spot on regarding expenses of material and man hour. This gentleman wanted my husband to reduce the price by forty dollars. My husband explained that the price was the best he could do. This man argued that forty dollars bought a lot of milk at the store, so he would not give him that extra amount. My husband finally acquiesced. The incident taught both Mike and I a great lesson. Every penny counts!
     There are some individuals who buy what they want when they want it, thinking it’s only $1.00 or it’s only $10.00. What they fail to realize is that every dollar counts. Believe it or not, every penny counts. I save all my coins and turn them in at the end of the month. At that point I have enough for a manicure or pedicure. Many of my friends, my daughter, and my daughter in law cut out coupons and literally save $50 - $70 dollars on food shopping. The money they save is set aside for vacations or children’s clothing and extracurricular activities like gymnastics, violin lessons, etc. Some people just do not understand that husbandry can lead to a wealth of surplus. Living within one’s means does not mean always living without. It means knowing when to buy, what to buy, and at what price one should buy.
     I find it sad that some people have to have brand names though they cannot afford them. They have to have the most up to date smart phone or I Pad even though they don’t need a newer version. Some individuals look at luxury items as necessary items, so they have all the “little” stuff and then are upset when they don’t have enough money to go on vacation or buy a better car or bigger home. They blame everyone except themselves. My mother’s generation survived the depression; my generation survived the civil liberation and women’s liberation movements. Women learned to become independent and we did so by having our own savings and checking accounts. We learned the art of husbandry and liberated ourselves from our husbands.
     I think what many need to learn is that being frugal does not mean one is denying oneself of the finer things in life. The truth is that in being frugal, one is preparing for the finer things in life. Poor Richard’s Almanac declares, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Good old Benjamin Franklin had it right. He lived the concept of husbandry. He could well afford anything he wanted, yet his home was not extravagant. He travelled the United States and abroad; he ate three square meals a day; he had fine clothing, and he provided well for his family. I think everyone should learn the art of husbandry, so we will never succumb to the temptation of buying what we cannot afford and be led into debt. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Good Cleaning

   
      I took a walk around my cabin this morning and realized there are several ways to clean a house. For the past three weeks, I've tackled a room and cleaned till everything gleams like a polished silver tray. I devoted a few hours each morning. Now, every room is complete, yet as I sit here writing, I realize I did not clean enough, for cleaning also means discarding the unnecessary, the overflowing, the superfluous one has accumulated through the years. I did not discard one item.
     As I consider my house, I am forced to consider my personal house. The one that resides in my brain. Every human being has many rooms in our mental home that we should clean just as thoroughly as our concrete house.
      Over the years I have brought home fun items that in retrospect suck the energy out of my home. There are items that require too much attention and too much space4. I think that sometimes I do the same thing with people and with causes. Am I the only one who feels the need to clean out each room in my mind? Perhaps not.
      Here are some rooms you might want to consider that will ultimately sap your energy as well. There's one room in my house called guilt. This one needs to be fumigated! It is filled to the brim with enough junk that I don't even know where to begin. The next room is regret - it consists of things I should have said or done, and they clutter and spill over. I should call Goodwill and have them pick up the excess. The ugliest room of all, for me, is resentment. This is the room that takes away my blame and places it on someone else's back. It causes me to be a victim instead of a survivor.
     There are plenty of other rooms but I'm already exhausted thinking about how much cleaning I have left. Friends and family tell me they have just as many rooms except perhaps they don't express it in these terms; after all, I'm the English teacher who creates metaphors of everything and whose every other sentence is, "let me give you an analogy" (my husband hates when I say that)!
 But don't we all have garbage or luggage or whatever you want to call it? Of course we do. The problem is that few of us are introspective enough to admit it and then proceed to clean out those rooms, that house, that luggage. We pretend everything is fine, never seeing anything but the superficial, pretty house. Maybe every Spring, from now on, everyone should clean the mind as well as the house. I know I will.

The Purifier

I like the rain
sometimes better than the sun
I'm forced indoors
to contemplate.
The shimmer on the lake
The drumming softly on the roof
Music for the eyes and ears
bring me great joy.
Cuddled deep with a good book
and Billy by my side
quietly snoring for he too
is tranquilled by the sound.
Rain cleanses and purifies
it rejuvenates and revives
clears my mind
and soul with ease.
There's beauty in the pitter patter
and even in the deluge
for it is then I find
my respite and my refuge.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Economy of A Good Marriage

     
     Years ago newlyweds were just starting in life. We finished school and began work in our twenties and married in our twenties, so money was not plentiful. We waited to purchase big items like furniture, t.v., and new appliances. In our case, most of what we had were hand me downs from parents or siblings. Our living room furniture was Salvation Army special. As we worked and saved, we purchased the most important items on the list of, “we need.” I was fine with this set up for I would say about six years, and then I met Angela (I've changed her name).
     Tim and Angela (I changed his name too) were wonderful people. Mike met Tim on one of his jobs and both decided it would be nice for the four of us to go out, so the wives could meet as well. We were about the same age and we both had two children. We got along great. Our husbands had a lot in common and Angela and I had the children to talk about and shopping.            
     That’s where the problem began. Anglea loved to shop, everyday. I shopped but only when my family needed something. Angela got a weekly salary of about three hundred dollars (about six hundred dollars by today’s standards); whereas, I got what I needed for grocery shopping. Both she and I were stay at home moms, so we depended on our husbands to provide for our family's needs. Angela needed a lot! I didn’t think I needed a lot until Angela started telling me that I should ask for a weekly salary as well. “You deserve it!” she exclaimed. And, innocently I began to believe she was right.
     I began to believe that Michael was making all this money (I had no clue how much he made), and that he was not sharing with me. I stayed up nights thinking about how much he owed me if he would only pay me what I was worth!! One night, I could not sleep from thinking about this. I was upset and I was crying. It was twelve o’clock in the morning. Mike woke up from my loud sobs and asked what was wrong.
     “Well, Angela gets three hundred dollars a week, and I get grocery money that barely covers what we need for our meals!” I said.
     “I can’t give you more than that,” Mike said calmly.
     “Yes you can. She says you make a lot of money,” I cried.
     “Babe, Angela doesn’t know how much I make, and she has no clue what our expenses are. Do you want to see what I make and what we spend?”
     “Yes,” I said, sure I was going to find out we were worth thousands.
     So, at nearly one o’clock in the morning my husband, who by the way had to get up at five that morning, took me to his office and showed me every penny he made and every expense we had. I learned more in that one night than one can imagine. I learned not to compare myself to anyone. I learned that one cannot spend what one does not have. I learned that I needed to know what came in and what went out. I learned to talk to my husband as situations came up and not wait until situations became detrimental.
     My husband was willing and happy to talk to me about our financial situation. There are husbands who want control and do not share, and there are wives who want and don’t care how their selfishness is affecting and effecting their financial status or their marriage. By the way, Tim and Anglea got divorced. There were plenty of problems with their marriage, but the most crucial one was her obsessive shopping. She literally spent every penny he made.
     Husbands and wives should work together to balance the checkbook, save and invest. Both should know how much can be spent without depleting the nest egg. Communication about what is needed, wanted, and expected is so very important. It is a known fact that finances are at the top of the list for break ups. How much better to discuss and compromise, so that the family flourishes not just one person.



In The Stillness

In the stillness of the morning
When my mind is clear of worry
I think with my heart
Of the man I love and our journey.
Before the sun rises
And its splendor’s known to me
I count my blessings one by one
And know the Lord exists.
I think of His glory given freely
His mercy and His peace
I bow my head in morning thanks
And await His wondrous gifts.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Garage Sales, Auctions, and Salvation Army Deals


     Years ago my husband and I purchased a home in the mountains. We were very young, yet we already had both our children. We had saved up some extra cash and had made some profit from the sale of Food Lion stocks. Upstate New York is beautiful anytime of the year, and I only wish we had more pictures of those fun filled vacations. Anyway, I’m drifting down memory lane, the house was purchased with furniture included, yet we did not have dishes, pots and pans, curtains, sheets, etc. All that would take a lot more cash than we had. That’s when I began garage sale-ing.
     By the end of our first summer, our home was fully functional, and I managed to purchase some toys for the children as well as some antiques for our vacation home. I had no idea that one could purchase exquisite and expensive items at garage sales. What I finally figured out was that most people had no idea what treasures they were giving away. Sure, some items were sold because the children out grew them, but there were some items like paintings, furniture, vases, etc. that were being sold for as little as fifty cents or a dollar yet worth a small fortune.
     Before moving to Florida, I had a garage/estate sale and in retrospect sold some of my own items for way too little, but that’s the name of the game. Today, I go garage sale-ing for items that appear valuable and for second hand toys that look brand new. When my grandchildren were born, I bought everything I needed for them, from clothing, to bedding, to toys. Many items were new, still in wrapping, and many were barely used. I have never paid more than a dollar for anything because I am always bargaining, which is also the name of the game. Mike usually finds what he wants, tells me about it, and then I bargain.
     I have found wonderful treasures at garage sales, auctions, and Salvation Army stores. I used to be embarrassed but soon dismissed the feeling after I purchased a painting for a little over one hundred dollars only to find out it was worth thousands. That was a good buy and a good sale. I have begun selling some of my purchases, and if I had the time, I’m sure I could have a lucrative business. Anyway, whether you’re trying to furnish a second home or just looking for that wonderful treasure, try these three venues and see what you will find.



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stuffed Portobello Mushroom & Penne



This is one of those, "what shall we have for dinner?" moments when you look in the fridge or freezer and decide to use what's already at hand. Some meals don't have to be intricate to be delicious. 

For Two
Ingredients:
2 Large Portobello mushrooms – cleaned – as in remove interior
3 turkey sausage links – removed from casing and cut into small pieces
¼ onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbs. chopped parsley
Pepper to taste
3 tbs. olive oil
2 slices smoked Gouda
3 cups marinara sauce
¼ lb. Penne pasta
Clean mushrooms and place in baking tray. Oil inside with one tablespoon of olive oil. Bake in 400 degree oven for twenty minutes. In the meantime, sauté chopped onion and garlic in remaining two tablespoons of olive oil. Once translucent, add sausage and cook until brown. Add black pepper and chopped parsley. Set aside.
When mushrooms are cooked, place sausage mixture on top, (leave left over sausage mixture for pasta) lightly cover with some of the marinara sauce and then cover with slice of Gouda. Bake in 400 degree oven till Gouda is brown. In the meantime, cook Penne till al dente, drain, combine with remainder of sausage mixture and pour remaining sauce into mixture. Add grated cheese once plated. Serve pasta with stuffed mushroom.


The Harvest


String beans, corn, and squash
I picked till my back ached
Yet it was glorious
Harvesting at sunrise
While the air was yet chilled
And the sun had not warmed
Fruit or vegetable or me.
I looked for the perfect bean
Yet picked a few that were not clean
I wanted the largest squash
Yet found out smaller is better – less seeds
Corn when ready has brown hair
Not ready – and it’s blond
When do we look ready?
I wonder.


Monday, July 14, 2014

The Glutton


I picked blackberries from my garden today
This time I waited till they were ready
Plump and juicy – sweet and sour
And black as the midnight sky.
I ate all three – by my - self.

Look Like a Million


   
 I am not a shopper, but I do purchase clothes and accessories at minimum three times a year: before each college semester and around Christmas. My favorite places to shop are Macy’s, Kohl’s and Cato’s. The prices are right for my budget, but sometimes I like to look like I’ve spent a lot, but actually have spent less than when I shop at Macy’s.
     A few years ago, I volunteered at a thrift shop. While working there, I realized that some people get rid of stuff that is brand new (some still had tags on) and were name brands. Wow, what an eye opener that was for me. I bought a few pairs of jeans, which cost me about three dollars each, and they fit like a gem. I thought I would wear them to knock around with, yet when I put them on, I realized I could wear them at work as well. Thus began my love affair with thrift shops and consignment centers.
     I go to places that are clean, not overstocked, and look like regular retail stores. If they look like you wouldn’t want to step foot into one, then don’t! The store should have a dressing room, items should be labeled, and racked according to size, beware of bins. This one particular consignment center I frequent looks like an upscale boutique. Customers are sure to find name brands for less than regular price. I also like to shop online consignment stores like: michaelsconsignment.com, tradesy.com, and couterereborn.com. Most online consignment shops have free shipping and these particular ones have upscale name brands like Alaia, Hermes, and Armani, but they will cost less than half their retail prices and in some cases one quarter of the retail price!
     One does not have to spend a million to look like a million. I love purchasing after season when items are fifty to seventy-five percent less than at the beginning of the season. Visit the sale rack before you purchase something on the prominent racks or on the mannequin. Department managers will always place sale racks toward the back, hoping costumers will purchase before they walk to the back. Mannequins are dressed with the most expensive items, so be careful you don’t fall for that manipulative tactic!




Saturday, July 12, 2014

Poached Eggs for Lunch


Here's comfort food at its best and simplest. This recipe takes minutes to prepare and less than  one half hour to complete. This is a Sicilian recipe my mother made usually during the fall months yet delicious all year round.
4     jumbo eggs
1          medium size potatoes, cubed
2     cups water
salt  & pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley
1     chicken bullion
2           tbs. olive oil

In medium size saucepan boil the two cups of water, add bullion,  salt &  potatoes.  Cook till  potatoes are tender. Break eggs one at a time into a cup.  Then, add them to boiling water.  Just  before you are ready to serve, add parsley and olive oil.  Most sicilian dishes are simple, but they are healthy and usually light. This particular soup has its starch and protein; it also helps the digestive system with the addition of chopped parsley. Believe me when I tell you it is going to become one of your favorite comfort foods. My mother served this soup with homemade bread, so you can well imagine the aroma we were greated with on fall days!!

My Georgia Spring


Quiet stillness of morning
The silence of the homecoming
Geese return to splash and play
Upon the mirror smoothness of the lake.
Cows from red barn linger
Slowly they awake.
A distant owl hoots –
Too early to quiet down
And the robin that is nearby
Barely makes a sound.
The joy of silence as the
Pearls of droplets dry upon
My picnic table.
The tulips and daffodils drink their fill
Before the orange glow filters still
Announcing the joy that it will bring
The arrival of Georgia Spring.


Healthy Nails

  

   I truly do not know why my nails are so brittle, but my sister Marie swears that when she worked at the Pizza place and worked with olive oil on a continuous basis her nails were not only strong but long. She’s right, they were. So, my only answer to brittle nails is that they are unusually dry.
     According to the Mayo Clinic, one should consult a doctor if nails show any signs of the following: change in color or shape; thinning or thickening; bleeding or separation, and redness, swelling, or pain. They recommend that nails should always be kept clean, dry, trimmed, and filed. My sister’s idea of olive oil is excellent or one can use a daily moisturizer. Nail polish is a good idea to protect nails; however, one should be careful about strong nail polish removers that create dry, brittle nails.
     I am always leery about nail salons, since I have had several incidences when a manicure or pedicure has resulted in damaged nails or infections. The Mayo Clinic suggests one check that the salon and the workers are licensed and that the place as well as the instruments are sterile. They also warn against having cuticles trimmed, since this may lead to infection.

     Every woman I know has had one or two nightmare nail stories. I think if one is careful and observant, these nightmares will not happen. My nightmare happened at a well respected nail salon. The place was very pretty, yet immediately I noticed the table where my nails were to be manicured was not clean. Instead of walking away, I mentioned it and the employee smiled and dusted it off. The next day my nails were tender and sore. I removed the nail polish and noticed they were infected. It has taken two years for them to get back to being healthy. Now, I am much more careful. If I’m not happy with the place, I get up and walk out.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

He Doesn't Sing Love Songs

Suppose one sings love words
To dying embers on wet wood
Nothing will take place
Perhaps, nothing should.

Love words should be sung
Along the aging road
So embers are kept alive
And flame may easily glow.

It's All About Hair!


    
     Beautiful hair doesn’t happen naturally for all women. Some of us have to truly take care of our hair in order for it to shine and reflect those variations of color that are so popular today. Most women are not satisfied with their hair, so we try different techniques to create straight hair if we have curly and visa versa. If we have brown hair we want blond and if we’re blond we want red. All those chemicals do damage our delicate tendrils. I have been dying my hair since I was sixteen. I’ve been every color in the charts with a few outside the charts, like orange and green (chlorine turned my attempt at blond hair into a lime color disaster)!
    So, I’ve researched some natural methods that will not destroy hair and if lucky might even enhance the shine and brilliance. According to healthsite.com hair should not be washed everyday, since this tends to dry hair. Those with dry hair should use moisturizing shampoos and conditioners and cut down on use of hair blowers and curling irons. During summer months, one should use hair protection against chlorine and beach water. Some ideas for fine or thin hair are to get a blunt cut because having it grow too long will cause it to become straggly. Also, one should apply conditioner to ends and not roots, since this will weigh hair down and let it appear finer. Those with thick hair should consider a layered cut to relieve some bulk and try semi permanent colors, so hair will not increase in bulk.
     Another really fun site wellnessmama.com has ideas for natural hair color. I’m trying my own concoction of cinnamon tea and chamomile to keep my gray hair from reappearing before my next hair appointment. Here are some natural hair colors for three different shades.
                Blonde: ½ cup lemon juice; ½ cup chamomile per two cups water – brew and set aside. When
               cool, apply to hair and let sit till dry, an hour or two.
                Red: 2 cups water, ½ cups calendula flowers or fresh marigold petals and 2 tbs. hibiscus petals.
               Follow above recipe for application.
                Dark: ¼ cup nettle leaf; ¼ cup rosemary leaf; ¼ sage leaf, and 1.5 cups water. Follow above
               recipe for application.

     I hope some of these will work, so we can stop damaging our hair and make it healthier and stronger. I’m trying my own recipe and applying the color to my eyebrows as well. To tell the truth, the eyebrows are already appearing a bit darker. I’ve been applying the color for only two days and already see a difference! Good luck everyone!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Ode to Gertrude Stein


Insanely sane so sane she
Envisioned truth where there was none
Till eventually everyone became insane
And saw truth as she saw it
Jumbled
   Mixed up
      Integrated
In the dung heap of lies
She found sense in Picasso
His abstracts and cubes
Became her language with
Words configured just as abstract
Her own form of Cubism
Her quest for sane love
Found in Alice B, Matisse, Picasso
Yet remaining insane because

It made so much more sense.

Healthy Skin

     
My mother had beautiful skin. I don’t remember her ever having a blemish, and when she passed away at the age of 89, I don’t remember too many lines or wrinkles. She never wore makeup except for the occasional lipstick at weddings. She rarely ventured out to sunbathe, though she did not shun the sun. She ate well and took one daily vitamin for as long as I can remember.
I’ve done some research on obtaining and maintaining beautiful skin, and this is what I have learned.
1.     Wash face twice a day with gentle soap and never scrub around the eye area because it is a very delicate area and bruises easily.
2.   Use make up remover to get rid of stubborn makeup.
3.   Use a toner like Witch Hazel on nose and forehead.
4.   Use SPF 30 on face every morning regardless of whether you are going out or not, and don’t forget the neck, décolletage, and ears.
5.   Exfoliate at least twice a week with recipe I mentioned a few days ago – olive oil, kosher salt, and coconut extract. Or, look one up that you may like even more; for instance, in womansday.com there are recipes for masks, toners, scrubs, moisturizers, and much more. I particularly like the one for moisturizer – 1 tbs. fennel tea, 1 tsp. honey, and 1 tsp. ground oatmeal.
6.   Use retinol cream every night and include vitamin A in your diet. I am trying out, for one week, to use the vitamin A oil directly on my skin. I will let you know if I can see a difference.
7.   Consume antioxidants found in salmon, and in deep colored fruits and vegetables.
8.   Break a sweat! Exercise to improve circulation and oxygen capacity.
9.   Get a good nights sleep.
10.Use serum instead of cream; it’s more effective and less expensive.
     Most of these “rules” seem to be common sense. However, how many of us go to bed without washing our face? How many of us concentrate on the types of fruits and vegetables we eat? See what I mean? We truly do have to make a conscientious decision to do what is right for our skin, so we can have the type of skin we have always wanted. And, remember, we are not getting any younger. The older we get, the more we need to take care of what we have.



Saturday, July 5, 2014

Uprooted

I uprooted four trees 
They blocked my view of the lake
They blocked my view of nature
They blocked my tranquility.
I uprooted them and then felt guilty
I pulled them out – tossing dirt and life
To the wind.

Now, they lay in a heap by rubbish
Next to grass clippings and leaves
And I’m not tranquil –
Not at all.

Diet pills don’t work!


    
     Staying healthy relies as much on diet as it does on exercise. I know that exercise can be a real pain in the butt, yet I promise that exercise has to play a role in good health.
     We are a machine that needs oiling. Exercise is the oiling. Without exercise, we may run but we don’t run efficiently. Walk twenty minutes everyday. Take up dancing if that’s your fancy. Join a gym, sometimes paying for something forces one to use it. Swim if you have access to a pool (that’s the best overall exercise). Take up a sport if you think that might interest you. Anything, as long as you move your body continuously for at least twenty minutes a day. This does not mean housework or yard work or any other work related movement. The secret is to get that heart pumping! A healthy body must be fueled and oiled.  That’s why fast fixes like diet pills do not work.
     I’m sure they work for a period of time, but one must also consider the mental aspect of healthy living. Staying healthy requires not only a physical makeover through diet and exercise but also a psychological makeover.
     Imagine that you are experiencing severe headaches that are brought about by a stressful event you have not conquered. You take aspirin or Tylenol and for awhile the headache goes away, but four hours later the headache returns. Diet pills work in a similar way. You take the pill, your appetite lessens, but you have not focused on the real problem, which may be one thing or many, so you still eat the wrong things or too much of one thing, etc.
     Assessing one’s eating habits is very important. You may realize that you overeat or under eat because of a traumatic event in your past, or it could be as simple as learning which foods are healthy and which are not. Perhaps over eating or under eating is one’s way of dealing with a stressful situation; if that’s the case, then learning to work through those stressful times with a different tool or skill would be helpful. Sometimes counseling or therapy will help evaluate and analyze certain problematic situations.

     Taking a pill will mask the need for a true makeover. Healthy living happens when we evaluate our eating and exercise habits. Taking a pill and then eating a cheeseburger will not solve obesity. Sometimes going to a nutritionist or a therapist is the only way to get down to the real reasons for one’s obesity. Until then, nothing will help, not even a diet pill.