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No Excuse Not to Party…

 

I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but it is downright gloomy in Chicago and it has been this way for weeks.  Might as well live in Seattle for Pete’s sake!  I am starting to get that syndrome where you don’t absorb enough sunlight and get all depressed and want to watch sad movies like “Beaches” and overeat bags of Cheetos.  As if we don’t already have enough things to be depressed about.  Oh, you know what I mean…!

Ok, so enough of Paula’s Pity Party!  Get up off the couch, lose the old, pilled sweat pants from twenty years ago with a hole in the fanny and generate a little happy for yourself and others, dammit!  This world ain’t gonna become any rosier with your frown or your stench. Right now there is a whole lot of unhappy out there and you and I must find ways to eradicate the ugliness any way we can, whether it’s my friend, Sharon, who has decided to say hello to everyone even if people think she’s a nut bag (I know you are not, Sweetie), to serving at soup kitchens (yes, Son, you are going to do that next month), to just flippin’ smiling more (is that so HARD?!).

February is supposed to be the month of LOVE.  Say it with me, People: LUUUUUV!  Send some Valentines and NOT the electronic ones.  You know the best kind are homemade.

Have a Valentine card making party!  Oh, come ON!  Really!  This is so fun, so easy and very memorable.  I have been putting on the VC party for years and it is a blast.

People don’t have parties anymore mostly because they are afraid to fail.  Martha has ruined it for people.  They think parties have to be perfect.  Well, parties don’t.  People LOVE to be invited to soiree’s and that is half the fun.  You don’t have to serve a perfect souffle’. Just buy a salad, wine and bread….I swear, it’s enough.  Put Pandora on the speakers, turn on the fireplace; that is the perfect recipe for a darn good throw down. Well, that and give the bathroom a quickie swipe….

Oh…. you say, “I just hate Valentine’s Day! I don’t have my own Valentine!”  Suck it up, Buttercup! You don’t even need to have a special Valentine. Make cards for seniors and take them to an assisted living facility.  Take Valentines to a firehouse for all of those hunky firefighters! Send missives overseas and thank a serviceman/woman.  Show the love, man!

Craft stores nowadays have a gazillion cool trims, stickers, glitter, glue dots, ribbons, etc. that it is super fun to collect pretty adornments to decorate the cards and envelopes with .  The dollar bin near the front door of Target also has fantastic Valentine decorations.  I found a whole bunch of blank cards and envelopes for mere pennies the other day.  One year, I was flat broke, but wanted to have the party, so I asked my guests to bring five dollars each to help pay for supplies, which they happily did. Five bucks is a good deal, considering they had a night of thrilling entertainment and came home with several beautiful cards and a good buzz…

 

So here’s what you need to do:

Cover the table in protective paper and whip out a few glue guns. Ask your friends to bring extras if need be.  Stock up on Elmer’s glue, glue dots and double stick tape.  Buy Valentine stickers, ribbon, trims, etc. Purchase blank cards and envelopes.  Find pretty markers with fine tips.  Scissors with interesting patterned blades are cool.  Go as nutty as your budget allows.  There will be plenty of supplies leftover to save for next year, too. In fact, if I am crazy enough, I plan to have an after school party for Kate and some of her gal pals to make cards, too. Sssshhh….don’t say anything unless I change my mind!

I usually keep the guest list down to six to eight neighborhood friends since we are all crowded around the dining room table, making cards, while drinking copious amounts of wine.  I set the party time to seven pm, so dinner is not expected and I serve Valentines cookies and drinks, usually spritzy water and wine.

We gals, create, laugh, drink, get our fingers covered in glue and glitter and we end up with amazing Valentines, each one uniquely different and beautiful.

Share the love!  The world needs it now!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Pick a Word, Any Word

The celebrated Chicago Tribune columnist, Mary Schmich, wrote a wonderful piece that appeared in this morning’s paper about foregoing new year’s resolutions in favor of following a one word theme.  Her words inspired me because we all too easily spout resolutions that fade by February tenth, “Lose fifteen pounds!”, “Ease up on the screen time!”, “Run in the Shamrock Shuffle!”  Let’s not kid ourselves….I’m not doing that.

Anyway, you know what I’m getting at here.  But think about it, what if we chose a word, just one little word to define our outlook on the year?  A word such as kindness, love, charity, listen, hug, smile or forgiveness. Last year Mary chose the word, pause.  She used the word to remind herself to pause before making quick responses to others via the internet or person to person and as a way to think before reacting in many ways.  Another man in her article chose fish; literally and metaphorically as a way to “fish” for opportunities in the year ahead.

There are so many great words out there to define your year.  Think about it.  What should your word be?  I have chosen mine and it will be open.  After such a divisive election that has created a political and moral abyss in our country and among our neighbors, now is the time to be compassionate, loving, caring and open.  It starts with the individual and I am going to start with me.

So, this year, I will view each person with an open heart and it will not be easy.  Yesterday as I walked into the local Aldi there was a scarey looking homeless guy patrolling the parking lot.  He was waiting for people to emerge from the store to help them load their groceries into their cars for money.  I have seen him there before and have judged him as a frightening nuisance, because he looks menacing.  He sort of creeps up on you as you walk to your car.    Well the same thing happened to me yesterday and I could feel him shadowing me.  I whirled around and quickly murmured, “No thanks.”, and he walked away, but it made me feel angry and nervous.  He soon followed a little old lady and I worried for her, but what did she do?  She agreed to the help and he happily helped her out.  She paid him and went on her way.  Maybe this guy isn’t so bad, I thought.  Maybe I should give him a chance.  Be open.

I know people who celebrated Friday and many more who celebrated Saturday, but all of those people, I know, are kind, caring folks who love their families and want the best for America.  I will be open to their opinions and ideas and will hear them out. If my major had a minor, it would be Listen….

What will your word be?  Please tell me.  I’d love to hear it!


Get Your Sh*t Together…

It’s January and there are a lot of important things being commemorated this month, like Bath Safety.  Go easy on the shower gel….you don’t want to fall and not be able to get up out of the tub!  It’s bad enough when the paramedics arrive and you aren’t wearing your good underwear, but hurt and stark naked is another level of embarrassment.

Then there’s National Blood Donor Month.  That’s a good one!  Time to help the blood banks, especially for those of you slipping in the tubs….

January has a weirdo, like National Black Diamond Month, you know, because there needs to be more awareness of, ahem, Black Diamonds….what?!

Then there are the most logical celebrations in January; National Hobby, Hot Tea, Oatmeal, Sunday Supper, Soup and Slow Cooking Month.  These make sense because what else are we going to do when it is minus four hundred and sixty  two outside with ninety four inches of snow  than eat and drink?  More on that later….

The other sensible thing to do after we put away the Christmas decorations is get organized.  At least that is what ladies crave.  Men just want to burrow into their favorite Lazy-Boys with a beer and a remote and watch the NFL/NHL/NBA or whatever Sports  Center show they can watch before we commandeer the TV.  Organizational activities are no sooner top of most men’s minds than celebrating National Braille Literacy Day (also in January), but I digress.

January is that fresh start we crave.  Purge!  Throw out his old socks and T shirts from college while he’s not looking!  Donate the kid’s Fisher Price airplane and Hot Wheels when the kids are at school!  Clear out two years of Popular Mechanics before they notice and the feng shui is suddenly so apparent!

I swear, I feel a surge of energy when a shelf is empty and a garbage bag is full.  During the holidays, I gave our sitter a challenge to organize the pantry, laundry room and linen closet for a fee and she attacked the rooms with aplomb.  It was good that she did it without me, too, because she was ruthless.  When I returned from work one night, fifty percent of my pantry was gone.  It was shocking how much of the foodstuffs had expired and I would have talked myself into keeping most of it.  “Oh, that marmalade is only six months past its time…..how bad can it be?”  “Let’s keep those pickles.  They’re canned, right?  2014 isn’t THAT long ago….”  Oh yeah…she opened up some serious feng shui in there!  I could see the back of my pantry walls, which I hadn’t seen since Bush was president.  I could walk to the back without hazard of tripping with every step.  It was glorious!  Now I need to buy some Pinterest worth plastic bins for pastas and grains for the lipstick.

Organization Orgasms: 21 Well-Designed Pantries You'd Love to Have in Your Kitchen | Apartment Therapy:

In the laundry room, she covered foam core with contact paper to make the wire shelving prettier and easier to use.  Fabulous!  And we got rid of so much junk.  The linen closet was an easier task, but I am inclined to go OCD and use baskets to enclose the sheets and even whip out the label maker.  I can see how Martha can get caught up in this persnickety organizational life.  It is really nice when things have a place….

What’s next?  The utility closet, front hall closet and my bedroom closet.  The kid’s rooms are a lost cause until they leave for college….

And what about those celebrations for eating and drinking in January?  Forget about exercising this month!  Curl up with a hot bowl of this, a glass of wine and a hot slice of crusty bread instead………

Slow Cooker Chicken Congee


Ice Capade

Mama is having a glass of wine…  The adrenaline is wearing off, I’ve stopped trembling, but PTSD may be in my future.

It all started last night when Kate came to bed  and said, “Gosh, it was freezing in the apartment; I could see my own breath!”  She had been watching TV down there since we do not have tenants right now.  I sat straight up from my deep sleep and ran downstairs.  The thermostat in the apartment said thirty four degrees.  It was seven outside.  Awesome. Immediately, I set the faucets dripping to avoid burst pipes and went to check out the furnace.  The pilot light was out and after following the directions, it became clear this handy girl was not going to get it lit.  I turned on the fan to keep the air circulating from the upstairs and could do nothing but call the repairman in the morning.

Thus, in the am, the guy came and determined that a super expensive part (not under warranty) was needed and not available until next week.  However, he fixed the furnace temporarily and fingers were crossed it would hang in there until the new part arrived.  We also noticed hot water was not coming out of the taps.  The pilot light was not working in the tankless water heater.  The repairman fixed that, too, and he noticed the pipe leading to the water heater was frozen.  I suggested placing a space heater near the pipe and he agreed  it was a good idea.

Home repairs are no fun for anyone, but they stink, in particular, when they are exacerbated by weather and when you are alone.  Alone, as in the only adult in the house.  It seems that wonderful events like this only happen when Tom is away.  Sure, I have neighbors, but in times of crisis, you want your spouse suffering right there with you!  I mean, it was colder than a well digger’s butt in the apartment and I worried about the pipes.  This is an emergency best shared!

Furthermore, I had no time for this nonsense, as if anyone does.  The weekend was chock full of hockey practices and games and I had a friend coming in from out of town to visit for the day.  There was no place in the weekend for dead furnaces and water heaters!

And then it seemed things were falling into place.  The guy sort of fixed both appliances, although I would have to be available another day for the final furnace repair.  My friend cancelled her trip due to poor weather, so although I was sad she was not coming, the weekend opened up.  It actually looked like despite the frigid setback, I could get a few errands done, buy groceries, visit my mother.

Just to be sure, I went downstairs to check on the apartment….

It’s hard to describe the horror of hearing rushing water and then discovering the icy cold cannon of water exploding across the room.  The laundry room in the apartment was a shower of frigid water.  I was frozen in place, not knowing what to do.  The shut off valve did no good since the break in the pipe was below the valve.  There was a second burst in another section, sending a waterfall of bitter cold water down the wall.  Luckily, a trap door in the floor sent most of the water into the basement, which is still dirt, keeping the water out of the rest of the apartment.

I screamed upstairs for Jack,  who bounded down, three stairs at a time.  We realized we had to turn off the water under the house, which is an unfinished dirt pit, now turned into a mud pit.  Murphy’s Law made sure that wifi would be weak and communications would be severely compromised as we sought guidance from Tom, way up in Canada, as to the location of shut off valves. Needless to say, there was a fine sprinkling of French language and sailor speak as we glopped through the Arctic mud, flashlights in hand.

Finally, I could stand the cold no more.  I was soaked to the skin from the initial barrage in the laundry room, my socks and sweater wet and icy.  Kate took over in the basement while I shouted direction and indicated water flow as Jack turned off the water to the apartment and reinstated water to our unit.  The whole ordeal lasted about an hour, but it seemed like three. When it was over, we all took smoking, hot showers.

Here is what I learned:

  1. Frozen pipes must thaw SLOWLY.
  2. Water cannons belong outdoors.
  3. Thank goodness the apartment has no tenants.
  4. Kids rise to the occasion when the shit hits the fan
  5. I might just need that second glass of wine…

 

 


A Deck of Cards…

 

Today is my birthday and my son joked that my age now represents a deck of cards. heheh….slow clap, whatever.  I guess it’s a snappy way to answer someone rude enough to inquire about my advanced age.  “I’ve reached The Deck of Cards status, Dammit!  Wanna play Fifty Two Card Pick-Up?!” , as I hurl my cosmo at their face….  Of course I would never do that;  it’s just that I can’t even moan about turning fifty anymore because I’m in the thick of the decade.  Even my own mother wants to commiserate about wrinkles, age spots and stray chin hairs while I look longingly back to my mid-thirties when my joints didn’t ache at five am and I could read anything without squinting.

Birthdays are awkward for me.  There are those camps who want major celebrations, hooplahs and full- on attention and there are those who crawl into their caves for self reflection, flagellation or aged despair for one more year gone. I’m sort of in the middle, I guess, liking a little fun, but not too much. The day is personal since you and you alone emerge into the world via your mother’s womb to stare into the face of some stranger in ill-fitting cotton medical garb who smacks your kiester for no good reason.

How you choose to celebrate is your business.  I find it slightly embarrassing to have friends and family call, text or Facebook me to  wish me a happy day that I was born. Don’t get me wrong; it is lovely and kind and I really appreciate it, but okay I was born, you know?  I am beginning to sound like Woody Allen.

Maybe it’s because my birthdate is one of the worst ever on the calendar.  I have posted blogs about this before.  January Second equals broke, maybe still hungover, definitely NOT in a party mood, possible combination presents with Christmas and positively lots of apologies for my being born on such an inconvenient date.  “Have a half birthday in June…”  If I had a nickel for the number of times I have heard that….ummm yeah.

Despite my Eeyore-like attitude toward my birthday my family goes to lengths to make it lovely.  My children appeared with breakfast in bed this morning, many, many of you Facebook Friends have sent good tidings, family and friends have called and texted and my sweet sister in law is going out to dinner with the kids and me tonight.  Really, I cannot complain.

So, what will be the significance of the next birthday?  All I could find is that it is the atomic number of Iodine.  So there.

 


The Little Black Book

 

Yesterday a whole mess of Christmas cards lay wait in my mailbox.  I know, Friends, it’s been one helluva a year and getting holiday cards mailed out rated 1,748th on your priority list.

On my list was to finally create a Christmas card address list and transfer names and addresses from my worn, bulging, pebbled leather Liz Claiborne address book from the 90’s to an Excel electronic form that could be instantly updated.  Until now, the trusty “Black Book” wouldn’t close anymore because each year I would slip received Christmas card  envelopes with the changed addresses of friends who had moved or of new friends whom I wished to send cards to next year.

The girth of the book grew.  And each year as I thumbed through the well worn pages to locate the addresses of friends and family to send Christmas cards to, I had to search among the multiple cross outs, scratch outs and new addresses scribbled here and there to find the current place of residence.

This new sleek, modern spreadsheet will be the answer to my prayers!  Not only will it keep me current but I will be able to instantly print out address labels for the Christmas card envelopes!!  So glad I learned this only ten years after all of you did!  Better late than never I say.  Wait, did I hear there is a movement to hand write addresses again because it’s more personal?  Oh crap, I’m confused…

 Regardless, I was ready to toss out my little black book  that was manufactured the year The Simpsons premiered, until I took one last look over the yellowed pages.  Those crossed-off names and addresses are my history, be them old work acquaintances, ex boyfriends or family members who have passed.  Those pages are remembered years that stir up strong memories of adventures, strong friendships, of loves spurned or lost.  I have no need for you anymore, Little Black Book, but you served me well.  Oh hell, maybe you can sit on my shelf a bit longer….

Are you as sick of cooking as I am?  Here’s a dinner recipe that is easy and comforting. Serve with salad and hot French bread and use the saved time to binge on  The Ctown!

 

 

 

 

 


Ad-Vent…

Hello!




It has been awhile since my last post mainly due to a chaotic fall, what with managing a new job, helping a fourteen year old navigate high school (oh LORD..), surviving an all-consuming hockey season while maintaining  domestic order (haha!).  Naturally, things fall through the cracks, like shaving my legs, remembering to pick up the dry cleaning for months on end and well, writing blog posts.

And then, of course, November ninth happened, and I became bogged down reading Facebook posts by Pantsuit Nation as I slowly came out of shock.  At this point, I don’t care who you voted for; what’s done is done.  I’m allowed to say how I feel about it and so are you; at least until January 20th, when martial law begins…

So why post now?  Life has NOT slowed down.  In fact, it’s the Christmas season, for Christ’s sake.  I’m more stressed and freaked out than usual.  The lists are so long at this time of year and it is no coincidence that all of the ladies magazine headlines tout holiday “Stress Busting Tips” in their December issues.  It’s universal…Once  Black Friday hits the planning begins!

1.Order 100 Christmas cards, buy stamps, address and send out.

2.Buy the Tree, decorate it, light up the exterior of the house, Griswold-style.

3.Make Cookie List, buy ingredients, bake cookies with Grandma.

4.Create Gift List.  Shop in stores and online.  Ship gifts to family out of town(by 12/15).

5.Wrap a gazillion presents.  Uuuggghhh…….

6.Buy Holiday outfits, Christmas Jammies, Winter Coats, gloves, hats and boots.

7.The teachers get presents too, and don’t forget your sitter….Make homemade Salted Caramel Sauce(Pinterest) for teachers. Cold, hard cash for your sitter, always.

8.Plan the Christmas Eve and Day menus.  Make sure there is plenty of prosecco….

8.5 Speaking of bubbly drinks, attend a champagne tasting with a friend and accidentally get toasted.  Oh wait, cross that off the list already…hee hee! hic *

9.Remember to show up for the kid’s Holiday Hooplah at 10:15am in a hot gym on an inconvenient day…

10.And then there is the ADVENT CALENDAR……

So, the other weekday morning, these lists were running through my head and my blood pressure was rising steadily as I was unloading the dishwasher while rapidly making my daughter lunch with my feet when  the same daughter exclaimed, “Mom!  The Advent gifts start in two days!!”

My stomach dropped in horror.  You see, I made the fatal Pinterest mistake when the kids were really little and fashioned beautiful little bags of treats for them, starting on December first, through the 24th.  Since they were just tiny tots, I got away with stuffing the bags with a single Hershey kiss or an itty bitty trinket, so it was easy.  As the kids grew older, the expectations became larger, so that challenge to delight  started to be onerous.  One year, I sold out and bought the Trader Joe’s Advent calendar where you open the little paper door and get minescule chocolates.  Oh yeah, that went over like a lead balloon. See, I ruined it for my spoiled, entitled urchins with this whole damned Advent calendar thing…

So this year, I cut down Advent from 24 days to the 12 Days of Christmas, starting on December twelfth.   Problem is, I forgot about it until last week.  After work, I frantically raced to Walgreens to scan the seasonal aisle and to Target’s dollar bins for ideas.  Luckily I found plenty of goodies to add up to 12 treats for each kid, at a reasonable price.

I found the red bags on Amazon Prime and mission was accomplished.  This weekend the flour will be flying as we bake dozens of cookies and Sunday marks the first bag of the Advent adventure.

There better not be one little peep of dissappointment or the days of Advent will done cease and desist.   Honestly I might have made that executive decision already….

One less list……