Sunday, November 30, 2014

Billy Joel The Definitive Biography by Fred Schruers

Billy Joel - The Definitive Biography by Fred Schruers
I have been a Billy Joel fan for as long as I can remember.  The very first experience I can recall with the Piano Man was when I asked my sister to play a song off of the LP version of Glass Houses she had when I was a child.  I said "play that music on the blue record with the guy that looks like Rocky."  That cracked everybody up, but in my defense with his blue jeans, leather jacket and helmet hair he did kind of look like Sylvester Stallone especially since Rocky was in nearly constant play on HBO when I was five and the album debuted.  Since then I have wanted to listen to Billy Joel's songs over and over again.  It was really saying something when my Chipmunk Punk album had a cover of "You May Be Right" and I said "this just doesn't compare to the real thing".  Even in the first grade I knew what was up, and I knew this man would create the soundtrack of my life.

Billy Joel truly has a song for every occasion.  Every twist and turn I've encountered on the road of life has a song created by this troubadour that I've listened to while rounding the bend.  The breakups and heartache, the doubts that any of this had any real meaning, and the pure celebration of the joyous moments have all been put to a soundtrack by this man, so I had hoped his biography would shed light on some of the many moments of clarity and comfort he'd given me through his songs and I was not disappointed.

Fred Schruers was a wonderful choice to write this book.  As a writer for Rolling Stone he has captured the essence of many musical artists and shaped their stories with a knack for writing in the subject's voice while adding the backing stories that truly define the artist's work.  Mr. Schruers was able to interview many of the key players in Billy Joel's past and add their opinions and memories to round out the stories of him as an entertainer, artist, husband and father.  I also have the feeling that the author is a fan of Mr. Joel's himself which made the book feel like it was written by one of Billy's friends and supporters.  While he doesn't shy away from the troubles and sadness the artist has experienced, you get the feeling that the author is rooting him on and I loved that about the book.

I learned a great many things about Billy Joel that I had never known.  I was stunned to find the song "A Time to Remember" was written about Elle MacPherson, who he had dated prior to Christie Brinkley.  There were also tons of other instances in which songs I have loved for years suddenly took on new meaning when I realized who they had been written for.  "Why, Judy Why?" is one of my favorites and learning that it was being sung to his cousin Judy who he was raised with and considers his sister caused me to listen to and experience the song again as if it were the first time.  There were so many instances when I found myself remarking out loud in wonder on all the events of Billy Joel's extraordinary life as a songwriter and musician that I was sad to have the book end.  I am sure that Billy Joel's current historic run at Madison Square Garden would make an exciting new chapter in the artist's life.  I can't wait to hear his music discovered and enjoyed by future generations.  In the last pages of the book, Billy expresses the hope that his music will survive in some way and have an impact on the time he has lived making it.  I wonder if he knows how many people like me are out there.  Ones who are deeply moved and touched through his tremendous contributions to American music.  His music has certainly helped pull me out of depression and helped me find meaning and hope in the middle of sadness.  It has given me great joy, made me dance and helped me cry.  I will always cherish his songs and music.

A thank you is in order to the good folks at Blogging For Books who provided me with my copy and who made this review possible.  I am thrilled to review for this program and even more excited that a book would come to me with a subject so close to my heart.  Thank you.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Oh Christmas Tree...

Oh, Christmas tree... you stress me out.

I put the tree up yesterday and it only took a few minutes.  I resisted the urge to touch and reposition every branch because I knew I would be decorating it today.  Then I mentioned to Andy that I would really like to get some new garland because even though we have hundreds of ornaments, trees look bare to me without some garland to fill in between the lights and add some sparkle.  We went to six stores today before I found one I liked because the color has to be perfect and I need to have many many strands.  There was a gorgeous one at the third store but two strands weren't going to cut it, and the first store had some very promising beaded garlands that would've definitely come home with us if they hadn't been so crazy expensive.  I ended up with ten 9ft. lengths of a sparkling mesh ribbon and I used 9 of those on the tree.  It only took an hour and a half of tucking and pulling and rearranging and starting over twice to get it right.

The holidays aren't friendly to perfectionists.

Naked tree!
Mesh ribbon garland from Christmas Tree Stores
Ornaments coming soon!
Tomorrow will be all about ornaments and tackling the village houses project where I'll be figuring out how to light them up in the glass display cases we have without them looking goofy.  I have a feeling that will be an even bigger project.

While we were out today Andy bought us a joint Christmas gift of an electric fireplace.  We have wanted one for years and years and even looked for a house that had a real fireplace because it was a feature we'd always wanted.  The one we got is incredibly cool and has color changing less and flames that are projected on a silk scrim that shift and look just like the real thing.  It was going to go upstairs but it became a huge issue because the studs in our walls weren't lining up with the template at all.  There are some new holes in the upstairs wall that were luckily covered up by the picture we had there in the first place.  It was a huge pain in the ass and if Andy had to do it again he probably would've bought the one we saw at Lowe's instead.  It's together in its temporary home and it looks awesome, so I can't complain too much.  The end result was worth it.

I'll leave you with this hilarious Christmas scene that we saw in KMart.  I think we'll have to go back for it because it is ridiculously funny to me for reasons unknown.  The rest of me may feel ancient, but my funny bone got stuck at about ten years old.  Elf butts are hilarious.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Crunchy Oatmeal Cookies

I made some oatmeal cookies yesterday that were a big hit at Andy's Uncle's gathering.  They are really easy to throw together, you can make them without a mixer and they make several dozen crunchy cookies with a nicely caramelized bottom.  It's easy to mix in favorites like chocolate chips or nuts and I eliminated the dairy from one batch entirely so they could be enjoyed by his uncle and cousin who are lactose intolerant.  You can simply replace the milk with water and use carob chips, craisins, nuts or raisins in place of chocolate.   This recipe was found on the back of the can of Great Value oatmeal from Wal-Mart and it turned out way better than I expected it to.  It would be easy to make even if you had guests in the house, and kids could help with the prep.  Each batch makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
(Cream these together adding sugars slowly)

2 eggs slightly beaten
2 Tablespoons milk (or water)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
(Add these next stirring well)

1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
(Add to mixture to form a wet batter)

4 cups oats regular, not instant or quick
(Stir into mixture and quickly add any mix ins)

Mix ins - add a total of 1 1/2 to 2 cups of any combination of these
Chocolate chips
Candy pieces (M&M's or Reeses)
Chopped Nuts
Caramel bits
Carob chips
Any other desired treat

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto baking sheets.  Bake at 375 for 13 - 15 minutes until golden (I used craisins and pecan chips in one batch and chocolate chips in the other, the craisin batch was the best in our opinion.  You may want to add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon if you're making a craisin or raisin variety.)

Hope you enjoy them!  Happy "Black Friday" to all of you.  If you were a shopper I hope you got some great deals.  If you enjoyed your day at home working on putting up the tree I hope you had a good productive day like mine.  If you worked a retail job I hope you're home recovering and you can convince someone you love to make these cookies for you.  You deserve it!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope all of you are having a lovely holiday.  I'm thankful for so many things this year - here are five of the ones that are always at the top of my mind.

1.  I'm thankful for my husband Andy.  I don't know what I did to deserve such a caring and considerate man to call my sweetheart.  He is supportive of my endeavors, unconditionally loving and handsome too  I'm a lucky lucky lady.

2.  I'm thankful for my job.  Having a job that is enjoyable and challenging and that intrests me is wonderful.  No longer working retail on this holiday and tomorrow's madness is wonderful too.  I am in awe that I had the ability to seek out something new and healthier for me last year when change is very difficult for me and I could have more easily stayed in a comfortable retail job that made me depressed.  I'm forever thankful to Bob and Sandy for giving me the spark that drove me to apply for my position.

3.  I'm thankful I have a new beautiful niece.  This is Niah Jane's first year in our world.  She is making it a better place with her irresistible smile and wonderful tiny self.  I'm thankful for all of my family, and the furry four legged kids that live with us too, but my great niece is the shiniest and newest of the bunch so she gets a bump up on the list.

4.  I'm thankful for our home.  I'm amazed that we own a home of our own.  It's currently a bit of a mess, but it's our mess and I'm thankful that after some cleaning tomorrow the decorating will commence.  I'm thrilled to have something we can make beautiful.  Thank you Andy for helping me have this incredible gift and for working so hard to make it something to be proud of.

5.  I'm thankful for my education and for all of my teachers who taught me so much.  Most of all I'm thankful for the gift of literacy.  I gain so much enjoyment from books and stories.  Today I finished Stephen King's latest novel and I am terribly thankful for the ability to be lost in the imagination of another person through their words on a page.  The ability to write is also a great gift, and I'm thankful I can share here each day and process all the wonderful little things life has to offer.  Without my teachers, that wouldn't have begun or continued.  I'm blessed by everyone who shares their knowledge with me and I'm eager to continue learning for the rest of my days.

I hope today is an exploration of gratitude for you and your families.  These are just a few of the many wonderful gifts I've been blessed with.  I hope your blessings are abundant and that as you celebrate this day and every day you look upon the tiny delights and major rewards with a thankfulness and joyousness in your heart.

Much love to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tales of Thanksgivings Past

I just realized that while I have many fond memories of spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my family and friends I rarely take photos on the day.  There aren't any with my husband's uncle and cousins from our visit with them last year, and I can only find two or three taken on a turkey day since we have been married.  I'm not sure why I don't think to take photos on this day of gratitude while there are dozens of shots of the trees, decorations and gifts from Christmases past.  Thanksgiving is almost always a time when I'm surrounded by the people I love and the ones I am truly blessed to call my family, be they relatives through blood or friendship.  I can recall so very many happy Thanksgiving days with folks I love and I'm extremely blessed to have shared this meal with dozens of you dear friends.  In this day of social media and instant access to our daily experiences I hope I will be seeing and hearing the celebrations of those dearest to me even if they aren't nearest.

Tomorrow we'll be headed to Andy's Uncle Frank's house once again to have dinner with their family.  I will be spending the morning making a tray of cookies to share with everyone and some extra for us to enjoy over the weekend.  I'm thinking nut tassies and snickerdoodles, and maybe pizelles if I can dig out my iron to make them in the morning.  Andy treated me to a wonderful rotisserie chicken tonight and now I am stuffed and sleepy but luckily his family eats dinner later in the day so I'll have plenty of time tomorrow for baking while I watch the Macy's parade.

Ah, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade!  My friend Sherwyn works for Macy's and it is my secret dream to be in the parade - maybe next year I can convince him to go and sneak me in as his sister because that would be awesome.  I remember being in highschool and having our band director Tammy try to get our tiny 27 piece marching band to be in the parade.  We had more band front than actual musicians, and we pobably wouldn't have been able to afford to go even of we were selected by some miracle, but man did I hold out hope every year that we would.   I have to admit that I whisper words of encouragement and silently cheer all the kids who are dancing, twirling and playing their hearts out in the parade.  Whenever someone drops a flag or plays a crazy discordant note I send them all the good vibes I can manage, because I know that if I were them I would want someone thinking of me.   I wouldn't want my moment on national tv to be remembered for the way I goofed up out of nervousness and excitement, but considering the fact that I tripped on stage at both my high school and college graduation (and didn't walk at my grad school ceremony for that reason) and fell off the stage entirely at my first jazz band show in college I know I would be that kid!  Tomorrow I will watch the marching bands who did make it and the Broadway numbers and cry because that's what I always do.  I'm not sure if it's from excitement for the kids and performers or nostalgia from watching it so many times with my mom and dad, but I'm pretty much a teary mess so I'll wait to put on mascara until after the dog show starts.

No matter how many years pass or things change, I always wish I were going home to spend the day with my family in Pennsylvania.  Thanksgiving is one of my dad's favorite holidays because as he once said "it is a day that is centered around food which is something I'm always thankful for!".  My mom used to cook for all of us and we would have 20+ people crammed into our tiny living room when my brother and sisters came with their kids.    It was always a day of talking and laughing and playing board games and cards at the kitchen table.  Everybody was underfoot and it was a wonderful time.

There was a tradition in my family that started with my sister Monica when she had her first child Patrick.  Pat was born in February and he started walking early - he loved to pull himself up and toddle around the house reaching out for the edges of the tables and furniture to help him along.  We were all waiting to eat and she said "want to see Pat's new dance?"  She picked him up and set him on the table and started chanting "tur-key tur-key!" as he jumped and she swung him back and forth.  We all laughed and chanted along with him and my mom declared him "the cutest lil' turkey ever" and called us all in to eat.  That was the start of the "Turkey Dance" that every baby in our family would interpret come Thanksgiving day, with a repeat performance at Christmas.  This year will mark Patrick's daughter Niah's first ever turkey dance, and I am so sad I'm going to miss it.  Please Kelli and Pat or Marissa video it and send it to me!

I also miss the wonderful "Orphan's Thanksgiving" dinners that my friend Danny would host when I worked at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.  Since we all had A Christmas Carol opening that week and we needed to be at dress rehearsals and work incredibly long hours to get the show finished, there wasn't a lot of time to head home and visit family.  Danny would host a special meal for all of us that we would share together and he made the most delicious turkey, cornbread stuffing, and hummingbird cake ever.  We would all bring our family's favorite side dishes or cookies and desserts and we would eat ourselves mad.  It was wonderful to share the day with so many friends and to talk about our families back home with fondness and laughter.

There have also been a few Thanksgiving food disasters in my past.  They are so funny now that I look back and the little foibles in dinner preparations are some of the memories that tickle me the most.  I couldn't forget the toothpaste cake we had at one of the Orphan Thanksgivings or the peppermint cookies that were so sharp they cut my tongue if I tried (the names of the bakers are omitted to protect the well meaning and wonderful friends who shared these treats).  The forgotten, burnt and dried out green bean casserole that was proffered as "astronaut green beans" by my mom after we had visited the Dayton Air Force museum and I had my first taste of dehydrated astronauts ice cream still cracks me up.  And finally, the phrase "throw me a roll" will always have a hilarious life of its own after a long ago Thanksgiving day in my family before I was even born.

I wish you all much love, much tryptophan exhaustion and much family tomorrow.  I sincerely wish I could spend a moment with each of you and tell you how your friendship and love touches my heart today and every day.

Kisses and Hugs to you all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Any Suggestions on How to Combat Dry Winter Skin?

As soon as the temperature drops I start to beg Andy to scratch my back for me.  I do this all through the year, but in the winter it multiplies to the point where I ask him every hour or so.  It borders on ridiculous.  He went so far as to buy me one of those back scratchers that is on a telescoping post and I have somehow lost it, and now as the snow starts to fall, I am once again miserable.

When we were first married and I started this seasonal trend of discomfort, Andy watched me scratching my shins and arms and said "why don't you just use sandpaper?"  I honestly thought he was making a useful suggestion and he was absolutely horrified to see me practically removing the skin from my right leg one day when I decided it was worth a shot.  If you ask him he will tell you that I have red welts and places where it looks like Freddy Krueger attacked me up and down my legs and pretty much anywhere I can reach.

I have tried tons of creams, lotions, salves, ointments and treatments.  Hardly anything works.  I've switched brands of laundry detergent to one that is extra gentle and doesn't make the problem worse, but it is persistent and constantly annoying.  I've tried the Le Edge which is a tool that exfoliates but I tend to get overzealous and then I sit and sob because my legs hurt so bad. I need a solution and I'm at a total loss as to how to fix it.

Here are some things I know - I seem to have a sensitivity to Shea butter and it is the moisturizer of the moment.  I read the labels of lotions and creams trying to find ones that are free of dyes, fragrance, parabens and Shea and it is really difficult to locate them.  It seems like the more "natural" a product is the more likely it is to break me out in hives.

I have used products with aloe in them and they will work for awhile but I have to reapply them constantly because the relief they bring is fleeting.  Straight aloe makes my skin feel even drier for some reason and uncomfortably tight immediately after I apply it..

I'm also allergic to wool and lanolin.  I found this out when I played trumpet because my friend  greased the valves of my horn for me using anhydrous lanolin and my hands were raw and bleeding in places after playing a show.  It was horrible and was really difficult to remove and my poor mom had to clean it off for me because I couldn't even hold onto it.

I'm afraid to try new moisturizers at times because I always think the next big allergic reaction is lurking around the corner.  I have used Argan oil and it doesn't bother me, but it is crazy expensive and when I tried to find a cheaper version than the Josie Maran brand (which is what I use as a facial moisturizer) I wound up with something that broke me out so bad I cried.  It had some kind of carrier oil added to it and whatever it was made my skin feel like it was on fire.

If any of you have any suggestion I am all ears.  The more the temperature drops the worse it gets, and I am open to trying just about anything I can afford.  I've already started drinking more water and I also turned the temperature way down in the shower (even though I love the feel of the hot water on my tortured skin) because I know it can be really drying.

Can you help me figure out something that will save me from an all day marathon of ripping my skin off?


Monday, November 24, 2014

Insanely Easy Stir Fry

Our weeknight dinners usually depend on what is on sale when we make our weekly Sunday morning grocery shopping trip.  I rarely map our meals out in advance (although I ought to) but I try to have a solid plan for Monday night.  We always look for proteins that are marked down because they have a quickly approaching "use by" date and are often able to score better quality cuts of beef, pork or chicken at a reasonable price for our Monday night dinner.  This week there was some great looking thinly sliced New York strip for just over six bucks.  It became the base of an easy stir fry with a surprisingly delicious sauce that was so fast and simple to make that I can't wait for it to be on sale again.

I removed most of the fat edge from the steak (which I saved for the dogs) and then cut the beef into small pieces with my trusty kitchen shears.  My friend Jim Greco used to cut everything with his kitchen shears, from garlic bread to pork chops and I have adopted his method of using them on anything and everything.  They are my ultimate kitchen tool.  I truly chop everything you can think of with these awesome scissors and I have several pairs.  My best ones are made by Gingher, but I use them sparingly because they are dastardly sharp and I want to keep them that way.

My kitchen shears live on my crazy colorful fridge.

The steak pieces went into a deep frying pan (since the only wok I ever had is lost somewhere in Alabama - I really need to find myself a new one) with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, some salt, pepper and a little garlic powder.  After it browned evenly I added 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 cubes of frozen crushed ginger (these amazing little flavor cubes are a great secret weapon and time saver) and 4 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce plus a generous coat of garlic powder over the top of the beef.  I had some of my mom's chili  rice left over from dinner a few days back, and tossed it in with the steak after the sauce was combined and had cooked down a bit.  I added a bag of Birdseye steamable stir fry vegetables which were cooking in the microwave while I was letting the sauce marry the steak.  It took less than twenty minutes from start to finish, and even if I had to make the rice for this stir fry it wouldn't have added too much extra time.  Minute rice cooked with chicken stock would be a fast fix if you were in a rush to get dinner to the table.

For dessert I had brownies I made this weekend.  They were just your standard box mix until I threw in a handful of chocolate chips to make them extra chocolatey.  I love throwing nuts, chocolate chips, Ande's mint candies, flake coconut or caramel sauce into a plain brownie mix to make it more exciting.  A quick chocolate buttercream frosting with a few tablespoons of Bailey's or Captain Morgan's can make a box mix extra special.  I was hoping to bake some mini cheesecakes this week and I will probably be topping them with some sort of spiked ganache so you can look forward to that recipe soon!

Hope your Monday dinner was amazing.  Are you getting ready for Thanksgiving?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

How Do You Abandon Beloved TV Shows That Jump the Shark?

Lately there seem to be so very many television series that I have completely lost interest in.  I feel bad when I stop watching a show that I loved.  I often end up hanging in for far too long in the hopes that the magic the show held for me early in the season or series will return, because every so often a show will surprise me.  I was almost ready to throw in the towel on Supernatural once or twice but because I had watched it for so many seasons and loved it so dearly, I overlooked some truly awful story lines and lived for the stand alone episodes that held my attention (Leviathans - I'm talking about you).  I also almost missed out on the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sex and the City and Game of Thrones, all of which became favorites of mine even though I didn't care for episodes that happened very early in the shows.  Full disclosure: I was unimpressed by the Praying Mantis episode of Buffy's first season to abandon it for over three years and I only ever watched the show on DVD.  The first episode I ever saw was the series finale, but thankfully I didn't know the characters well enough to have that color my enjoyment of the series.  When I saw it again I barely remembered it at all and I was still in tears.  Also when Sex and the City started I thought they would always break the fourth wall like they did in the first two episodes.  Thankfully they did away with that convention and my friends kept me watching it.  Similarly, friends begged me to get past the first episode of Game of Thrones which I didn't like at all.  If it weren't for the thousands of memes on Facebook responding to the death of a major character I probably wouldn't have started watching again at all.

Here are a few of the shows I'm saying goodbye to or couldn't even say hello to although I thought they would be such winners.  A few I stuck by for several seasons, but I just had to say enough is enough.

Witches of East End
Every single time I tuned in this season (and most of last season) I asked myself why I was still watching the show.  It was tongue in cheek campy at times and I thought it was best when it laughed at itself.  I really enjoyed a few of the actors and I hope they wind up in a better vehicle.  I was a little sad although not surprised to see it was cancelled.  They made the decision to give up really easy, but if I'm being honest I probably shouldn't have wasted the time I took watching the second season at all.  I hope they will make a wrap up movie to tie up all the questions and loose ends for all of the fans at some point, but I won't cry if it never returns at all.  (I always called this show "Witches of Waverly Place".  The fact that I never learned the title should've been a clue.)

Under The Dome
I loved this book by Stephen King and I stuck around for a whole season as they dropped the most interesting plot lines and drove the story off a cliff.  I recorded the second season and it sat on the DVR for weeks until I remembered that I was so completely uninspired by the show that I couldn't spend another hour with it.  Dear Uncle Stevie - what the heck?

The Paradise
This show taped one day because the DVR was set up to record Downton Abby on Masterpiece.  I watched the first season and screamed at the ending of what I thought was the final episode.  It finished so abruptly and with no fanfare that I was sure the series was cancelled and they had to wind it up in a 50 minute episode.  Imagine my surprise to see it return this year for a second season.  I watched, again and was lured back in although by the fourth episode I despised the main characters with a passion usually reserved for people who abuse animals.  Characters I previously rooted against as villains became the only ones I felt a smidgen of sympathy for and when I just watched the final episode of the second season which once again ties up everything abruptly in a two minute whirlwind, I swore to myself that if a third season arrives I will not be watching this any longer.  No matter how pretty the clothes are.

We have all the available episodes on the DVR.  It looks like such a cool premise, but I just can't bring myself to watch this show.  Batman's early psyche shaping world might be a glorious place, but I haven't even visited it.  I have a feeling this show is going to be canceled before I watch it.  The same thing happened with Resurrection - I ended up deleting that from the queue before I watched an episode.

Is this show even on anymore?  I honestly have no idea.  There was a time when I really thought it was fun and loved the musical numbers but somewhere along the line whole seasons got away from me.  I was so disappointed in the Christmas episode that I started edging away little by little.  When Cory Monteith passed away I watched the episode that was a memorial to him, but I haven't watched since.  I even heard there was a Billy Joel episode, but it wasn't enough to lure me back.

Sleepy Hollow
I really loved the first season of this show, but the episodes are stacking up and I just can't bring myself to care.  I felt really manipulated when Ichabod's wife decided to hang out with the headless horseman for a little while longer because she thought she might possibly have a plan that would maybe stop the horseman from doing something involving the end of the world and their kid and a bunch of other crap that I was and continue to be confused by.  Ichabod moved heaven and hell (or at least purgatory) and defied the passage of time in a literal way to rescue her and she was all "no, I'm good".  Sigh.  Why do I watch this stuff?

Hemlock Grove
I couldn't get into this.  At all.  I tried.  I gave it two episodes, and I know it is there in the Netflix vault waiting for some day to say "you really have absolutely nothing else you could be doing".  Even then I probably won't watch it.  Sorry Famke Janssen.

Okay, this is really not a new show at all but the last season of this on DVD has been sitting in my bedroom for years so I thought it was a worthy mention.  I look at it and I wonder if I even remember enough about the characters to pop it in.  Even Mario Lopez and his rockin' abs haven't been enough to get me to push play and I stuck with the show for almost all of six kind of miserable and kind of hilariously campy seasons.  Sorry Famke Janssen (although you probably don't show up in the last season).  Ironically I'm really hoping you'll play the other Beauchamp sister if there is ever a Witches of East End movie, because then I'd have to watch it).

I loved the movie.  I loved the casting.  I didn't want it stretched into a billion hours.  Billy Bob shot a dog.  I'm out.

Once Upon A Time
I started hating this show in the second season.  There were always enough little Disney inside jokes and story potential to keep me watching but the arrival of Elsa drove a big icicle through the heart of this series.  If I hated the Peter Pan crap (and I did with the exception of the dashing Captain Hook) I really can't watch the Snow Queen schlock.  The first season is something I will remember fondly but it was easy to see this apple was cursed when I fell asleep watching this, or more appropriately while waiting for The Walking Dead to start.

I love Nathan Fillion.  He was enough to get me to watch Castle, and I did watch it for several years.  Then Castle and Beckett went and got all lovely dovey on me.  I was worried that they would go the way of Moonlighting and kill the longing looks and unspoken feelings by rolling around on a white shag carpet and taking out an innocent coffee table.  Even though no furniture was harmed when they eventually realized their feelings for each other, the show nose dived into "I don't care about this anymore" territory for me.  I hear Castle and Beckett got married.  I am sure it was after both of them nearly died for the 200th time and they suddenly felt that if they didn't get hitched right that second they would notice that nearly losing each other the 201st time didn't really sting at all.  It's such a shame too because of all these shows, I think I miss you most of all.

Please tell me - what TV shows have you watched recently that you had to walk away from?  What series are you still viewing while suffering from the "I wish I could quit you" feelings of despair?  What are the klunkers that you let off the hook before you lost any more time to them and which shows keep pulling you back in like television mafia?  I'd love to hear!

Also, if you've made it this far into the post, thank you!  I have a favor to ask - could you pretty please take a glance at a few of my previous posts?  I've written quite a few that haven't gotten any love and if my page views could be a little higher I would gain a lot of confidence.  I am suffering from the "nobody cares" blues at the moment, and I can't keep pretending it doesn't bother me forever.  It sucks to put your time and energy into something and then see only three folks looked at it.  It is especially heart breaking when your own phone and its alternate ip address probably counted as one of the three folks.  So be a doll and click on the highlighted titles of my November blog posts and cheer me up!  Much love to all of you - hope you had a great weekend and that the hours you spent with your favorite shows were worthy of all your super-fan love.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Let The Holidays Begin

I am ready for Christmas...

By that, I mean I am ready for Santa's elves to arrive and magically clean my house to get it ready for decorating while I take a nap.

Naps are awesome.

While I was hard at work doing overtime for my job, Andy was hard at work here finishing the wall that will have our glass display cases against it.  That means my Christmas village houses will finally get to be put up this year!

The cases mean our crazy dog will leave things alone so they can be pretty and sparkling and not eaten or broken.  It also means my Christmas Target Bullseye dogs can be on display as well.  I am so excited!  I really wish Target would've made a holiday Bullseye for this year.  I know St. Jude's has other ways to raise money but I loved buying the dogs to support them.  I would buy two and donate one to Toys for Tots each year so it was a double blessing for kids who needed help.  I will have to look into other businesses that have similar toys sold to benefit charities this year.

Now I'm off to do some dishes, pick up the living room, sort through the huge pile of magazines for things to recycle and sort clothes.  I might take a teeny nap first though.

This is the life folks!

Much love to all of you.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Grateful Every Day

I try to express my gratitude for the little things in life every day.   Be it a new recipe that worked out just right, a book I was able to read, a few dollars I could save or the fact that I have a husband, 2 dogs, friends and a family that all love me, I'm blessed and I know it.  I like to share the things I'm grateful for in hopes that someone else can know how much the little sometimes overlooked or underappreciated gifts mean to me.  I don't want to take my happiness for granted.  If you add up the little joys in life, you end up with a total happiness that can outweigh the depression and anxiety that like to creep around in corners.  I'm working every day to dust those cobwebs of fear and worry away and concentrate on the big beams of sunlight shining in my window.

  Lately I've been thinking about how much happier I am now that I'm no longer working in retail.  It didn't seem like such a big deal at the time, but I am so much more content working for a small company.  I enjoyed my retail job, but it wasn't nearly as challenging or interesting to me as I thought it was.  I was much better at spending money than making it when I worked in retail.  I'm also grateful to be away from an environment that encouraged my overspending and helped me be trapped in the drama of it all.

 Sometimes the work at my new job is frustrating because I'm a perfectionist and I'm still learning.  I'm not quite sure when I will stop calling it my "new" job either - I've worked with this group of folks over a year now, but every single day I am discovering how much of a newbie to this industry I am.  Still, every day I'm engaged and improving.  It's exciting that I have plenty of opportunity to figure out new challenges or work at improving my techniques or speed.  It is crazy hard at times.  But also kind of cool.

 I'm also so thankful that I could share my excitement in this new path with my dad.  I think of him every day as I work on small electronic components.  He would be amazing at the job I'm doing because of his focus and love of details.  I hope that someday soon I'll be half as good as I am confident he would be.

As I come up on the second Black Friday that I will be enjoying at home because my employer has given us the day off in reward for our hard work and contributions, I feel like a million bucks.  When I worked in theatre we worked a lot during the holiday season because we were opening A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker or some other holiday show.  The season would be filled with rewarding work also, and I miss it at times, but I'm lucky that I have been able to have success and achievements in a variety of fields and that I can find happiness and content in many places.

  I feel for my friends who will be working Black Friday in the retail world.  It is a thankless job and sometimes people can be overzealous in their search for the best deals and they can be rude or unfeeling.  I've encountered wonderful folks on Black Friday in my many years as a retail clerk too, but for every expression of sincere thanks or cup of coffee proferred by a well meaning stranger (this happened to me twice!) I have an equal amount of stories where shoppers were less than nice.

My hope is that the retail staff in stores you frequent are always polite and professional, but that isn't always the case either.  Stress gets to everyone and this gigantic shopping day cranks the volume up to 11 on tension and extreme behavior in retail workers too.  It is my sincere hope that anybody who is hard at work on the day is appreciated.  This includes the folks who don't get to take a day off like the nursing staff and employees of the home where my parents are living or other service industry employees.  I'm grateful that they're dedicated to their jobs too.

Last but not least I'm thankful I have the opportunity to work overtime.  It's hard to adjust to the early start to the mornings and to the extra Saturday hours, but it feels wonderful to be necessary.  When the overtime earns me two days of vacation next week it will be even more worthwhile.  I am lucky to have my job, and I never want to take it for granted.

I hope you all will be having fun this weekend.  Mine will have an early start, but I'm glad I'm right where I am.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Songs For Any Occasion (Except Christmas)

I've often thought that Billy Joel has sung a song appropriate for just about anything life has to offer.  My friend Kapoo and I have had many conversations about this and have summarily agreed that when life hands you a moment that you can't quite sum up with words, the Piano Man is where it's at.

I can't count the times that I have put on a Billy Joel song and had it change my mood.  If I'm feeling sad and I need cheering up, any number of his songs are going to make me happier.  It is difficult if not impossible for me to listen to The Longest Time without smiling.  If my day has been the longest day in history I listen to Pressure and bang my head around and play air synthesizer like a fool or scream the "JFK Blown away.  What else do I have to say?" part of We Didn't Start the Fire.  Every heartbreak in my life has had me curled up and crying with Billy's voice in my ears telling me life is "either sadness or euphoria".  Truly, he's always there singing to me about my own feelings and teaching me things about myself that are hard to recognize.

Tonight, while trying to finish his biography and also trying to adjust to overtime hours with an uncooperative and overly tired body, I was struck with a horrible thought.

This man has never released a Christmas album.

I am a Christmas music fanatic.  It seems wrong.  No, not just wrong, but ludicrous that this doesn't exist.  I figured I could probably make my own by just going on ITunes and buying all the tracks he recorded and putting them all together and....

Nope.  Not going to happen.

There are a few records here and there where he appears, singing a Christmas tune.  Rosie O'Donnel got him to sing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  He also sings The Christmas Song in a particularly glorious fashion with Johnny Mathis on the holiday album Mathis released last year, but I want more.  I want my favorite singer singing all my favorite Christmas songs.  And some Hanukkah songs too since both of his parents were Jewish.  I want him to throw in Auld Lang Syne as well.

Here is my short list of songs that need to be on the album.  Billy Joel, if you're reading this, I love you and obviously your choices are going to be awesome and you don't need to use mine, just as long as you make this record.  I know you're retired and all that jazz, but I need this.

Oh Holy Night
Silver and Gold
Holly Jolly Christmas
Happy Joyous Hanukkah
It's Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
I Don't Remember Christmas
Turkey Lurkey Time
Let it Snow
White Winter Hymnal
Must've Been That Ol' Santa Claus
A Christmas Auld Lang Syne

There are so many more.  So many many more.  I will probably be editing this list as I think of them, but this would be a great start, so please Billy.  Sing me a song.  A Christmas song.  Tonight would be good.

Please add your suggestions.  I want to hear them and imagine them in his voice.  And of course I want him to listen up and make this album so I need your input.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How Much Value Does An Hour Hold?

If you could magically stretch your day to include an extra hour would you?

I, like most people, would love to have extra time to do things I enjoy or even to get around to the tasks that need to be done but I never seem to accomplish.  I always think and say the phase "if there were just more hours in the day! when I meet a challenging time frame or I wish I had a moment to catch my breath in the middle of the hubbub.  I bet that if you could put a price on one of those magic hours it would be outrageously expensive.

I'm know there are practical ways to gain time.  You could pay someone else to do your housework or cook your meals for example.  The dinner we bought from Arby's tonight was definitely a time saver, but it probably wasn't worth the $17+ it cost to bring it home.

  I could buy books on CD and have someone read to me, or I could turn on the text to speech function of my Kindle and alllow the disconcerting robot voice to tell me what the pages say while I did something else like work out or bake.  That would save time too, but it wouldn't be as fun or relaxing as devoting some time to the pages myself.

I'm sure that if magic hours existed I wouldn't be able to afford them.  Hopefully they'd have contests where you could win a few.  I thank my lucky stars all the time for the good fortune thrown my way, so I'd probably end up with a few eventually.

I wonder what I'd do with them?

On days like today when I wish I figured things out sooner (finally learning a trick to help construct a project after I built 130 of them - *sigh*), I wonder how much value I'd place on the extra time.  I also wonder if the hours could be saved up and used all at once.  It would be amazing if I could save them up and then use them on a holiday so I could travel home and see my folks, but I bet everyone would have the same idea.  Holidays would stretch into weeks and no one would ever go back to work.  It doesn't sound bad at all until you have everyone in the magic hours at once and they just become regular old hours again.  Then everyone would say "there are too many hours in a day and nothing's special anymore!"

I'd probably be saying it too.

I also wonder if the magic hours were expensive if people would worry about wasting them.  If time were a different kind of magical commodity would we realize how precious it is?  I hope so.  I hope the next time I have "an hour to kill" I'll remember that I can't nudge the edges of the day and slide it in when I need it back.  I will also try my damndest to turn off terrible movies instead of wasting my time with crap like "Jingle All the Way" which distracted me last night.  Ain't nobody got time for that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chili With Mom's Rice

Because I came from a large family my mom had lots of creative and delicious ways to stretch a dollar when she served dinner for us.  When I was growing up and my brothers and sisters were in high school and college there always seemed to be an extra friend or two at our dinner table.  My mom never turned away a a kid who showed up at dinner time.  She found a plate and they squished into our tiny kitchen where they would all eat their fill and miraculously there would still be leftovers.  Mom was used to cooking for an army, so she was always prepared.

One meal that was always a hit in our house was her chili and rice.  Now that I'm older I realize how expensive chili can get when you make it as hearty and delicious as my mom's was.  It had a ton of ground beef and tomatoes and kidney beans, both light and dark as well as onions and spices.  To make it more of a meal she always served it over rice.  It eliminated the need for a side dish and made one bowl of chili a substantial meal.

Mom's rice for the chili was always prepared the same way.  She would toast the rice kernals in the pan before adding any liquid.  Stirring them round and round so they became evenly golden was a part that I could help with when I was little.  I felt very important and grown up to get this task because I had to stand on a step stool and we had a gas oven so I was very conscious that flames were serious stuff and I didn't want to burn the rice or myself.  I also got to unwrap the bullion cubes that she would toss in the rice just before she added the liquid.  They were almost always gold foil wrapped chicken bullion cubes from Lowrey's.  The flavor was infused into the already nutty toasted rice and made it extra delicious.  It's an easy upgrade to any rice dish.

Because of my mom's inventive addition, chili without rice seems weird to me.  I like chili most any way, but when I make it at home rice is always the bottom layer and I often top it with shredded cheese as well.  When my dad ate it he always put pickles on it too, but I'm guessing rice is odd enough for most of you who probably eat it with crackers, cornbread or if you're from Cincinnati spaghetti.  If you've never enjoyed it before try it with rice sometime.  It's delicious.

Tonight's chili was different from what I usually make since I only used one pound of ground beef.  I used a can of Bush's chili beans to try them out and they said they were hot but there was no heat to them at all.  I added Tony Cachere's Creole seasoning, Sriracha and a tiny bit of cayenne pepper as well since Andy and I are both "trying" to get a cold.  The heat seems to help break up sinus congestion and it is something we often make when we're feeling a little under the weather to help zap a cold bug.  I also got to use some of the tomatoes Andy canned from our garden.  I'm so proud that "Farmer Andy" (as his mom teasingly calls him) had so much luck with his plants in the garden.  We have more jars of tomatoes, and lots of squash and zucchini in the freezer for stir fry this winter, and I'm looking forward to using his harvested veggies and blackberries into the spring.

The rice that I make is also slightly different from mom's.  I like to use beef base instead of chicken just because it gives it a richer taste.  I still add it before the liquid and I always toast the rice first to give it that great flavor.  A cup and a half of rice and three cups of water make a perfect amount for the two of us to have for dinner with lots of leftovers.  I will probably be taking it for lunch tomorrow at work - we're starting overtime which is awesome for my wallet but not so awesome for my sleep schedule because I have to be there at 6 AM.  What the heck am I doing posting on my blog so late?  Yikes.  I have to get to sleep!

Hope you all had an incredible day.  Hopefully I'll be able to zip through the last few chapters of Fred Schruer's Billy Joel biography and post a review tomorrow.  So far the Piano Man's life has been terribly interesting.  I'm loving the stories behind the song lyrics especially.  Catch ya tomorrow!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Meatloaf Meatloaf Double Beatloaf

Guess what's for dinner tonight?

I love the movie A Christmas Story and I crack up at the scene where Ralphie and his little brother Randy are sitting at the dinner table with their mother's meatloaf sitting in front of them.  When I was a kid I wouldn't waste time playing with my food or chanting the way Randy did.  When meatloaf and mashed potatoes hit the table they were gone in a flash because I loved them to bits

Tonight's dinner stars a super easy meatloaf that was adapted from the Taste of Home cookbook Fast Fixes With Mixes.  It is the very first cookbook Andy and I bought when we started dating.  It was also our first shared possession.  We bought it after we were engaged with the intention that it be a kick start to us cooking together as we began our new chapter in life.  I have made many dishes from the book but this meatloaf is a quick easy go-to that is bookmarked since I use it so often.  Andy loves it and also loves that I always tweak it and add different ingredients to keep it interesting.

Here's the original recipe:

2 lbs. ground beef
2 eggs
1 6 oz. Box of Stove Top (or similar) instant stuffing mix
1/2 cup water

Add stuffing mix to bowl with water and slightly beaten eggs, stirring well to allow mix to absorb liquid.  Combine with beef, form into loaf and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.  Glaze with ketchup in the last few minutes if desired.

Here's my twist:

Instead of using water I use about 3 tablespoons Sriracha and 4 tablespoons of A1 steak sauce with a splash of water added to make it = 1/2 cup.  Tonight I only had half a package of stuffing mix left (because I also add it to burgers occasionally) so I added about a cup and a half of ranch flavored crackers I got from Rite Aid in the dollar section.  I just crushed them in my hands and left some larger pieces to soak up the flavors of the mix.  Then I made a glaze that I put on at the hour and 15 minute mark and put it back in the oven to finish for 15 more minutes.  The glaze is 3 tablespoons of ketchup, 1 tablespoon of strawberry jelly and 1 1/2 tablespoons of Thai sweet chili sauce.  It makes it sweet and tangy and still gives it a little kick from the chilies.  Additionally it gives it a glossy finish which looks as good as it tastes.  I used ,my "Perfect Meatloaf Pan" which is on of those "As Seen On TV" gadgets which actually works.  I line it in foil so it's easier to clean but it drains all the fat from the bottom and makes it MUCH less greasy and makes it easier to serve as well.  I am also a fan of the "Perfect Brownie Pan" and the "Perfect Meatball Pan" (I am kind of a gadgetaholic).  If there are any awesome kitchen gadgets you own that you think I should try please let me know!  I am seriously considering getting one of those gadgets that slices zucchini into long curly ribbons that you cook like pasta.  If you've tried that, let me know.

Andy made the mashed potatoes because he makes the creamiest potatoes you can imagine.  He uses a hand mixer to get rid of the lumps without having to do as much mashing, but he also uses a traditional potato masher to start them off.  I love how buttery they are and how much black pepper he uses.  The pepper makes the potatoes extra good.  We also had a bag of broccoli on hand that had a cheese sauce.  Amazingly enough I ate it and enjoyed it, but I didn't think I liked broccoli.  I find that my tastes towards vegetables have changed a ton in recent years.  I outright refused to eat them for most of my teens and twenties, but suddenly I think I was sincerely missing out.  Now I watch Food Network and want to try all kinds of green things that I wouldn't have touched as a kid.  I'm not a fan of bitter greens, or canned green beans, but suddenly veggies are pretty darn good.

The Birdseye broccoli was the steamable variety, and the frozen bags were on sale for only 67 cents at Weiss markets this week.  We price matched them on our Sunday shopping trip.  We will definitely be heading back for more because they are usually almost $2 a bag and they have a great variety to choose from.  The stuffing mix is on sale too since it is so close to Thanksgiving and obviously I needed to get some!  I got a crazy good deal on Hershey's chocolate chips too.  I will be using them to bake my little heart out this season.

I can't believe how much money we have saved this year by price matching, and I really can't believe that we didn't start doing it sooner.  We usually save at least ten dollars a week just by looking at the ads and finding the lowest prices which is a big help to our grocery bill.  The new savings catcher at Wal Mart has also been helping us.  We have only had the savings catcher in our area since the end of August and we already have nearly $36 worth of money that we can put on a gift card and use as cash in the store whenever we want.  In 15 trips we've saved anywhere from 55 cents to $6.53 cents per receipt we scanned, and that is after the price matching.  On every receipt we already priced matched with ads at the register to pay less out of pocket and it still caught all those deals from local ads that we either missed or didn't have a copy of.  That kind of rocks, don't you think?

I hope you all had a terrific Monday.  Hopefully you'll be inspired to try out this recipe for dinner sometime soon.  I bet you'll love it (as long as you're not like Randy "Awwwww meatloaf, meatloaf, double beatloaf. I hate meatloaf! - silly kid!).  Much love and good eatin' to all y'all.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Less Than Six Weeks 'Til Christmas?

Only six weeks until Santa comes?  How does this happen?  I can hardly believe that the holidays are coming up so fast.  It seems like yesterday I was planting spring flowers and worrying if they would make it through the frost.  Summer went by fast this year.  Much faster than I thought possible.  It seems like kids only have two weeks of summer vacation anymore.  I remember summers seeming to last forever when I was a kid, but it was probably because I was anxious to be back in school.  I loved school.  I would be in school right now if I had the money to take classes.  I would love to take a photography course or a cooking course at some point.

Andy was hard at work yesterday in the basement.  He has mudded almost all of the drywall and he promised that he will have a coat of paint up on the wall that the display cases are on so that I can put my Christmas dolls and village house on display this year.  I'm really excited to have the basement to decorate.  I have two small Christmas trees I didn't put up last year and this year they will be flanking the TV downstairs.  The walls might not all get painted because it will be too cold to keep the door open and we have to think of Cinna - she won't like the smell of the paint and if we open the window I don't want her to get too cold.  Slowly but surely our house is coming together.  The green and white of the drywall and the mud could be a special Christmas modern art if you have a creative outlook!

Having more room for decorations also means I will get to put up all of my favorite ornaments and that the upstairs tree can be totally themed.  I am thinking of keeping it all snowflakes and crystals and then making an Elsa topper for the tree.  I am already working on ideas for my Frozen themed decor.  I can't believe I waited so long to watch the movie.  It has quickly moved itself up the ladder of my favorite Disney films and it is in good company with The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo.  I've always enjoyed Idina Menzel too and I'm glad she's finally getting some recognition for her beautiful voice and her amazing Broadway career.  My tree from last year had a snow and ice theme already and most of the ornaments are glittering silver and and aqua blue as you can see in this shot of last year's tree.  Elsa is going to make it shine!

I feel like I haven't gotten much done today, but I did get a ton of chocolate chips and candy kisses for holiday baking.  I should have whipped up a batch of cookies, but instead I made some crepes because I have been craving them and had a jar of Lingonberry jam I had yet to open.  I thought they turned out awesome and I was very proud of them, but Andy wasn't a big fan of the jam or the sweet cream cheese filling I made.  He loves pancakes drowned in syrup so I thought they would go over better, but they weren't very exciting to him.  Later this week I plan on making meatloaf which he always enjoys so maybe that will make up for it.

I also got to start yet another book today - Stephen King's Revival.  I don't really need to buy books at all but I have favorite authors that are must buys for me and that includes anything by Uncle Stevie.  So tonight I will be cuddled up with my new blanket, a cup of tea, and a wonderful new hardback and then I get to watch The Walking Dead!  Woo hooo!  I do need to go on the record and say it better not be Beth under that sheet.  If it is I might be crying my eyes out come ten o'clock.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

For Whom The Bell Tolls in Nine Minute Intervals

I have a horrible time waking up.

For years now, I have probably slept more in the nine minute intervals of the snooze setting of my alarm clock than I have at night.  I will often hit that button for several hours and fall into a dead sleep in the brief minutes in between the blaring screaming electronic beeps.

I can't seem to sleep because my mind races at night.  Even if I push myself to exhaustion and I pass weary and tired and I'm near to falling over, when my head hits the pillow I don't sleep.  I worry.  I fret.  I daydream.  I hope.  I wonder.  I wish.  I imagine.  I plan.  I remember.  But sleep is a rare visitor.

It's not insomnia.  It is possible for me to sleep for hours if I'm not feeling well or if I nod off while watching a movie.  I can lay down and drift right off if it is the middle of the day or even the morning.  It is just the night that makes sleep elusive.

My mom had the same problem.  She could function on tiny moments of sleep caught in the daylight or while drinking one of her multiple cups of coffee.  I would call her when I was in college at three A.M. and she would be wide awake and ready to hear about anything that was happening.  In the middle of the night she would be curled up with a book on the sofa.  She rarely spent time in the bedroom she shared with my dad unless she was changing clothes or looking for her glasses since she would leave them there when she took a shower.  I don't remember her ever setting an alarm.  She just always seemed to be awake.  Even when she was napping she could answer questions, tell you where you left your book and knew if you were full of beans.  If you asked her for a million dollars she would say "I'm sleeping and clearly you have me confused with someone else because my last name is not Warbucks".

I have learned to love those little nine minute naps.  If I don't hit the snooze alarm at least three times I feel out of sorts for the rest of the day.  They say that if you can get a 17 minute period of rest you have entered the REM sleep stage and can wake fully refreshed.  I think that I've learned to weave in and out of sleep so seamlessly and hit the button that gives me a few more precious minutes with such ease that I must get all my recharging done in this odd little hodgepodge of stolen minutes.  I hit the snooze nine times after my nap this afternoon.  I'm practically charged until Thanksgiving

I hope all of you are having a great Saturday and that you'll wake in the morning ready to hop out of bed and hit the ground running.   I'll meet you.  I'll just set my alarm for three hours earlier than I need to meet you and I'll catch a whole charge in between the beeps.

Much love to you all.  Love and sleep.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Amazing Thrift Store Finds

I'm sure I'm not the only one who now has Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" buzzing in my head when I walk into the Goodwill.  I may be the only one who thought I was humming it to myself only to hear the employee who was busy hanging up clothing on the rack next to me say "this is fucking awesome" under her breath at the same time I got to that point in the song.  She grinned and walked away.  It made me very happy and also conscious that I may be singing out loud when I think I'm singing in my head.  By "may be singing out loud" I mean "practically always singing out loud to the point where people think I'm in a musical".

Today was a very exciting trip.  I didn't find what I was hoping to (a coffee table and a completely ironic Christmas sweater) but I did find some amazing stuff.  There were also some very entertaining people.  Besides the employee there was a young man who I am almost positive tries his best to style his look after Jean Claude Van Damme in Time Cop.  There was also a guy carrying a tambourine, a stuffed monkey and a Ziploc bag of dice.  I'm not entirely sure they weren't his to begin with because they looked like part of an elaborate game he'd force you to play if you spoke to him.  He was my favorite shopper.

On to the awesomeness that came home with me for less than the $20 in my pocket.

For starters, do any of you remember this commercial?

It seemed to be on a constant loop when I was a kid.  I remember asking my mom and dad about the songs and hearing them both sing "Mairzy Doats" whenever it came on.  As I was flipping through the CDs I found a copy.  I wanted to order it whenever I saw the commercial but $24.95 was big bucks in 1987.  I even asked for it for Christmas a couple of years in a row, but Santa never brought me a copy.  There was an address label on the cover of one of the jewel cases.  I sincerely hope that Irene is well and just decided to give her marvelous CD collection to charity, because I noticed many cases with her address label on it.  I would've liked to have quite a few, but I was so overwhelmed by finding these that I quit while I was ahead.  Irene, I hope that you find comfort in the fact that I was incredibly, blissfully happy and thankful to find these.  Thank you wherever you may be.

Someday I am going to walk in there and there will be a copy of Freedom Rock.  I know this to be true.

I also found the two most recently published Beverly Lewis books for $2 each.  The River was a book I stood in line to have signed when she came to an author event in my hometown. I asked if I needed to purchase it before I got in line and was told it wasn't necessary.  After waiting thirty minutes and the line behind me growing considerably but not moving forward even though the signing had begun, I was told I needed to get out of line, pay for my copy and then get in line again.  When I said I was told paid copies would have a sticker, but it was fine to pay for it after the book was signed if I didn't want a sticker placed on the book, the gentleman in charge of the line said I was being difficult.  On top of all this my mother in law decided she wasn't interested in coming in with me so she was waiting outside in the very hot car in the middle of a sudden downpour, so she couldn't even roll down her windows.  I gave up, gave the book back to the gentleman, snapped a picture of Ms. Lewis signing someone else's book and left.  I wish I would've had the chance to meet her, but I had given all of my Beverly Lewis books to a friend anyway and no longer had any of my old copies left for her to sign (although I've read about 15 of her books and enjoyed them).  Finding these newly published books on the super cheap was a treat.

Beverly Lewis signing copies of The River at the Family Christian Store in September.
Who else would be so excited to find a Coca-cola Santa glass for 59 cents?  I drink out of Coke and Holly Hobby holiday glasses every day of the year.  There was one lone glass on the shelf in the "Michelle's perfect drinking glass" style so it came home with me.  The tumbler is textured and golden with an opalescent finish.  It will be a perfect place to park my makeup brushes and mascara tubes.  It also was only 59 cents.  Everything here is sitting on my $4 sweater which still had the original tags on it from Coldwater Creek.  It is super soft and has a big crazy cowl neck that I love.  It will be worn all over my house, and even out of it. (I wear your grandma's clothes.  I look incredible.  I don't know all the words, so I make up my own).

Finally, on the way out the door I saw a board game that I absolutely had to have.   One of my dad's favorite shows was called "Not Necessarily The News".  It was on HBO and my parents pretty much let me watch whatever was on television as a kid, so I would sit in front of the TV and laugh along with my dad at all the political jokes I didn't really understand.  I watched a couple of episodes of it recently on YouTube and some of them still go over my head because I don't recognize some of the Reagan era television and sports personalities.  The one part I always liked and my dad and sister Marilyn especially loved was a segment called "Sniglets".  Singlets were "Words that should be in the dictionary but aren't".  You could write in suggestions and my sisters and dad were always coming up with new words and definitions.  The one I remember best was "Icestickle", which Marilyn came up with.  It was the last ice cube stuck at the bottom of the glass that you had to retrieve with a straw or by tapping the glass against your mouth to release it.  Marcia gave me a copy of the Sniglets book a few months ago.  My dad had read it so many times the binding was coming unglued.  I know he would've loved this game.  I will take it to my sister's the next time we visit for game night.  My niece Marissa will love it and probably whip the pants off everyone since she is the most competitive person I know and loves to play games.  The most enjoyable memories I have with my family are the ones where we are all in the kitchen at my mom and dad's house or in my sister Monica's dining room playing board games as a family.  This might be the best 99 cents I ever spent!

The pen says to store it with the lid tightly closed in a horizontal position.  It still works so these folks must have been doing something right.  I kind of hoped it would have a few of the slips for the Sniglets filled out already, but it must be a pretty fun game because lots of the pads were used.  I love that this game was played and loved by a family.

A very successful trip was had by all.  My mother in law bought three framed pictures and several turtlenecks for winter.  She says I am a bad influence.  That is probably true, but it is great fun and I'm thankful such little things can bring me so much joy.

Have a great weekend folks!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ipsy November 2014 Glam Bag

This month's Ipsy bag had a "Girl Meets Glitter" theme.  I must admit I wasn't too excited when I heard the announcement and saw a few spoilers on the Instagram Ipsy page.  I kept thinking I should cancel this subscription because it feels like it has changed its focus in the past year to a younger clientele and that they have been sending out products which didn't seem as exciting.  I like to try new things and discover mid range and high end brands in beauty subscriptions, and after recent inclusions of companies like Revlon that were well known and readily available in the drugstore lines I felt Ipsy was a let down.  The "Girl Meets Glitter" was even more of a red flag.  I'm nearly 40.  Do I really need to be wearing glitter?

I shouldn't have worried.  Ipsy is only a ten dollar gamble each month and this month I feel like I won the glam bag lottery with a selection of products that were with one exception generously sized and in formulas that weren't overly glittery but still had a sparkle of sophistication.  The bag itself is a glitter vinyl, and is sparkly and pretty enough that it will go right in my purse to hold my Ipod.  I'm glad that the glitter is sealed in the vinyl so I don't have to worry about it shedding its sparkle.  It was unclear from the preview pictures, but this bag is one of my favorite in recent months and feels appropriate for the upcoming holidays.

Four of the products were in full sizes or travel sizes which I thought had tons of product to sample.  The Demeter roll on perfume in the Pixie Dust fragrance smelled similar to a scent I used to wear from Victoria's Secret called Strawberries and Champagne.  It reminded me a little of the Strawberry Shortcake doll's scent as well.  It may be a little too youthful for me, but it was very subtle and I ended up liking it.  It is a travel size, but there is plenty and it will take me a long time to use it so it is the perfect size for me.  The Elizabeth Mott It's So Fine liquid liner is gorgeous and has an easy to use applicator that enables you to draw a very fine line.  The color is called Glitterati and it is an ebony black shade with silver sparkles, it is also waterproof and the swatch held up through multiple hand washings until I removed it with eye makeup remover.  It seems to be a very "grown up" way to wear glitter and I'm going to rock it tomorrow at work.  I believe it to be full size and if that is the case it retails for $17.99.  I also am a big fan of the Nicole by OPI Guys and Galaxy polish.  The clear base holds fine silver micro glitter as well as larger rainbow holographic sparkles.  I bite my nails so I never wear color on them, but I love to put a little sparkle on them and this is a perfect sheer formula.  It will also be a great holiday topcoat for my toes.  The L.A. Colors chunky lip pencil is probably my favorite item in the bag.  The wine color is great for fall and it applied in sheer layers so you could build the color.  I thought it would be very glossy but it was more of a stain and lasted until dinner which was a very messy (but delicious) sub my friend Sherwyn bought for me to try.  When I wear it again I will probably apply a lip balm first, but the color was beautiful and after finding they are only $2.99 at Dollar General I think I will be looking for more colors.

The only miss for me in this month's bag is the Temptu product.  I know this is an airbrush makeup brand so I found it strange that they would include it.  I swatched it on the back of my hand and it was a very shimmery pale opalescent pink color that I enjoyed, but it was very liquidy and I felt like with my skin tone it would take most of the bottle before it really showed up.  I may try it as a brow bone highlight tomorrow since I plan to wear a pink shadow.  I would've preferred a different product but it is at least from a brand I was interested in and was happy to experiment with.  I wish the sample size would've been a little bigger because I feel like this will be gone in a flash, but I wasn't at all upset since I had four other great items this month and an adorable bag.

This Ipsy glam bag seems to have a total product value of over $40.  In Ipsy land that is a real treat.  Although there are often full size products it is rare that they send ones of such high value.  The bags can vary wildly in content since there are usually ten or more brands featured in each bag.  The only item I wished I would have been able to try this month was the Laura Mercier fan brush.  That would've been a great swap for the Temptu but I might be able to trade some other month's products for it.

Today was pretty awesome.  I got to see two friends who I used to work with and I was so happy to spend the evening out.  I did a little shopping and found an excellent deal on long sleeve tees at Old Navy.  At only $4 each I bought a week's worth of new work tops for less than $30 and I know that they are high quality because I am still wearing Old Navy tees that I bought when I moved to Hagerstown seven years ago.  I also found three new restaurants that I can't wait to try and there is a brand new place in the mall that serves Boba tea!  I absolutely love bubble teas and drinks and I would have gotten one tonight if I hadn't been so distracted at the arrival of my friend Mike who I haven't seen since his wedding.  In all it was a bang up day and I am looking forward to the weekend which should be even better.

Oh and one other thing made today awesome - SNOW!  (It was just a few flakes but I love the winter season and the first flakes mean Christmas is on its way.  Yay!)  Have a great night folks!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Happy Birthday Dad, Sami and Mikey

Today is my dad's 79th birthday.  November is a big birthday month for our family.  My niece Sami turned 19 yesterday and my brother Mikey hit the big 5-O on the 10th.  Every year I think of my brother and father arguing about aging and what constitutes "middle age" when their birthdays pop up.  I just realized that this year, I am half my dad's age, and my niece is half of my age.   My poor brother has reached the exact age that he deemed my father to be "over the hill" and "well past middle aged" while I have reached what my brother (who was probably still a teenager at the time) defined as middle aged.  How time flies.

My brother, my niece and my father are all wonderful people.  You'd like them.  I know this for a fact.

Sami is beautiful and smart.  She's a wonderfully caring person.  Her friends and family are some of the world's luckiest people because she loves them fiercely and would do anything for them.  She just started college this year and a whole bunch of new folks are going to find out how amazing she is.  She has the potential to do anything she puts her mind to and I know that her future will be bright.

My brother is one of my favorite people in the universe.  I've always looked up to him and admired him.  When I was a kid I wanted to be anywhere he was because he just seemed like the coolest person in any room.  I still have (and wear) old t-shirts he wore in high school that he told me would be "worth lots money" when he was famous.  He has always been there for me.  He even dried my tears and drove me across the country to start a new chapter in my life when I had hit rock bottom.  I've no doubt that if I needed him he'd be there for me again, in a heartbeat.

Then there's my daddy.  Joe.  My wonderful, witty funnyman.  My father could have a conversation with anyone.  He is the guy that would talk your ears off with stories of news, history and current events, and listen and marvel at the tales you told him return.  He has a way of making you feel like the most exciting and interesting individual he's ever met, and you're likely to become one of his stories because you're that special.  He met every challenge with the most unwavering dedication and took pride in the simplest tasks.  He exemplifies love every day and I am the luckiest kid to get to call him Dad.

I miss these three every day.  I wish I was there to scream for my niece as she takes the field as a freshman cheerleader, and to see whatever trophy my brother will come home with this season as he is an accomplished hunter and loves to be outdoors.  Most of all I miss my daddy.  Last time I saw him I started to cry as I was leaving the care facility he is in.  "Why are you upset?" he asked.  I told him I was sad to leave him and he said "you'll see me again.  Or not.  Either way I'll love you and you'll know it."  I love my family.  I might not say it every day, but they know it.  That's a fact too.