Friday, December 29, 2017

What I'm Reading This Week #52

Welp, it's the last What I'm Reading of the year.  The past 6 weeks have gone so quickly and now it's time to get ready for the new year.  Can you believe it?

Let's break out the noise makers for...

5 Health-Focused New Year’s Resolutions You Should NOT Be Making   (Word up!)

10 Thoughts All Regular Gym-Goers Have in January   (This is why I'm so thankful we workout at home.  None of this gym crap for 6 weeks)

Thinking of Setting Up a Home Gym?  (You totally way would we have lost the amount of weight we did without ours!)

Surprising Things That Might Make Birth Control Pills Less Effective  (Holy sh*t, my pills are right by my diffuser/humidifier!  *runs to put them in drawer*)

Everything You Should Know About Functional Medicine  (Definitely worth considering especially given how many side effects conventional medicine has)

Puppy Pilates Might Be the Cutest Workout Trend You've Ever Seen  (Sign me up, STAT!)

30 Everyday Objects You're Using All Wrong  (Love the keyring just have to remember where I put it)

What You See First In This Image Reveals Your Hidden Personality   (Fun thing to waste a little time.  Tell us what you saw first in the comments.  I'm not going to say because I don't want to influence what you see.)

18 Absolutely Beautiful Winter Quotes About Snow  (Winter is officially here...let these quotes soften your heart about snow beautiful snow!)

Thanks so much for starting or ending your Fridays (or reading when you need to pass time at work when the clock seems stuck) with me.  Wishing you all a happy, healthy, prosperous new year!

How do you celebrate New Years Eve?  What would be your ultimate New Years Eve if money were no object?

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

My Classic Year

I think if most people asked what their favorite new movies of the year were, many would tell you it has been a real stinker of a year for cinema.  I must've known this was going to be true when I made my 2017 resolution to start watching what is referred to as "classic" movies.  It can be hard to go back to movies of previous generations because the styles are different or maybe the same social mores aren't accepted but if you have a broad mind, you can enjoy these movies for the way they shaped our pop culture.

Here's the list of classics I watched trying to make the cut off the year I graduated high school to qualify in my book. (The exception being Apollo 13 which I have scheduled to record on the 29th)

The Warriors
A Few Good Men
Singin' in the Rain (GK)
An American in Paris (GK)
Bonnie and Clyde
Annie Hall
Breakfast at Tiffany's
For Me and My Gal (GK)
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
The Fly
The Pirate (GK)
Rear Window (God that was awful!)
Swing Time
Three Musketeers (GK)
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane
Young Frankenstein
Anchors Aweigh (GK)
Nosferatu (kind of half watched but saw most iconic scenes)
Soylent Green
On the Town (GK)
Summer Stock (GK)
Les Girls (GK)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
North by Northwest
Dial M for Murder
Brigadoon (GK)
Harold and Maude
Take Me Out to the Ball Game (GK)
Inherit the Wind (GK)
Some Like It Hot
The Seven Year Itch
Cover Girl (GK)
It's Always Fair Weather (GK)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The Way We Were
The Elephant Man
Say Anything
The Ghost Comes Home
The China Syndrome
An Affair to Remember
Fried Green Tomatoes
Places in the Heart
An Officer and a Gentleman (I've wanted to see this forever!)

I still have 4 other movies set to record before the end of the year

You'll note all of the GK's which stand for the incomparable Gene Kelly.  I didn't know Gene's body of work before the year started, I only knew him from Xanadu.  Yep.  I only knew him as the sweet, adorable older man playing Danny McGuire and had no clue that Xanadu was a modern take on his classic movie Cover Girl (affiliate link) which I didn't know until well into the summer!  You can imagine when I saw Singin' in the Rain for the first time that I became instantly smitten!  So much so that we even went to see a one-woman show by his wife, Patricia Ward Kelly in Toronto in March.  I became so enamored, I wanted to see everything he did and while I made a nice dent this year, I still have a long way to go.  So if my classics spree did nothing, it got me to another country for a nice long weekend trip and a fantastic show.

What I learned

I'll tell you one thing, I didn't realize how many things from my favorite Saturday morning cartoons (most made in the 60's and 70's) to songs to TV took from these classics as though everyone knew what was being referred to.  For instance, does anyone remember that horrible 80's version of Puttin' on the Ritz by Taco?  Here, refresh your memory.  Well at the end of the song when he's yelling "gotta dance", I had no idea he was referring to the Gotta Dance number sung by Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain.  Or the way robbers or suited men talked in Bugs Bunny cartoons was a riff off of Gene's speech and demeanor from his time.  I always just thought it was an exaggerated way of talking.

I quoted movies I'd never seen like saying "soylent green is PEOPLE!" or "you can't handle the truth!" without ever having seen Soylent Green or A Few Good Men.  To me, as I see the culture I knew and loved slipping further away, it was important that I was able to better connect to the things my parents and grandparents generations considered classics.

I found that I'm not a fan of Hitchcock or Woody Allen movies.  I spent more time yelling at the screen during Rear Window and further cementing my disdain for Jimmy Stewart.  (I know, I know and yes I hate It's a Wonderful Life...both the Mr and I do which is why we're soulmates.)  The only one I've seen that I half liked was Dial M for Murder.  I found that as much as I want to watch true classic silent movies, I just don't have time to devote 60-90 minutes to read a TV screen.

Some movies I had to really dig in to finish and couldn't really tell you how they ended because I was so relieved they were over like Harold and Maude, Breakfast at Tiffany's (but George Peppard...yowza!) and Cabaret.  Some movies I didn't anticipate liking but did like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Some Like It Hot. (affiliate link)

I plan to continue this trend of scanning TCM and Sundance to put some more under my belt in the new year though I suspect not with as much regularity as I did in 2017.  I like being able to see what great acting looks like and not have to rely on special effects or gimmicks like many of today's movies.  Now...pass the Geritol.

Name 3 of your favorite classics 25 years or older.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Holiday Round Up

Welp, it's over.

I know it was over for most yesterday but I had a friend come to town and we did our Christmas and a big dinner with her so we had one last chance to make merry.  She and I have been friends for 30 years this year and it's so weird to be able to say that we've been friends for as long as a full grown adult has been on this Earth.  She was a mutual friend of a girl I went to school with in 5th grade, then she moved and they became friends and we all came together in 7th grade in middle school.  Apparently, the first thing I said to her was quoting Kelly LeBrock from Weird Science "don't threaten me, Al!  You're out of shape, I'll kick your ahhhssss."  Thus began my rep as someone who had thrown down in many fights and won so don't mess with me.  Who knew quoting movie lines with badassery to them is all you needed to get a rep!

We enjoyed our Christmas Eve with mom and we sat around gabbing for quite a while before opening presents which I'm sure made the Mr bounce off the walls inside.  Adult Christmas gifts are so boring but I got a lot of things I asked for like a roll up dish rack and a new shower head.  Good times eh?  Unfortunately, I didn't even get a chance to take a breath from after our workout to prep to the first 30 minutes she was here so when she left around 10pm, I was pretty tired.

You know you've hit middle age when you turn to each other in the morning, pop out your mouth guards and then say your traditional "it's Christmas mornin' man."  Sigh.  Christmas morning was a leisurely pace which was nice and I'm glad I can still surprise the Mr from time to time.  Then it was time to go down the road for Christmas with the fam.   I set a mental cut off of 3 hours since we still had company the next day and I wanted to clean up from the morning's mayhem and not have to do a bunch of crap in the morning.   I think we stayed right about on time and while the other two gatherings were a little more pleasant, I could already tell there was something in the air when I came in.  Words were apparently exchanged before we got there, Grandma's husband saw it fit to make the only words he spoke were ones of negativity and thus began our mental countdown of Christmas out of town next year.  Don't think I didn't think to myself "359 days" the second we left.  The Mr and I both know this was for sure Grandma's last Christmas.  She's not eating well and is going into final stages.  At this point, I'm praying for her to go soon because I am not up for watching her turn into a skeleton and she's on her way already since Thanksgiving.  We're down to months.  We went home, reviewed the day (which wasn't all bad, thank God for a few cousins!) and I pulled out the pre-made beef roast and broth and mashed potatoes and got out my ingredients for my pumpkin ginger ale loaf for entertaining the next day.  As usual, the day went too fast but I think the Mr still enjoyed time to play with his toys both before and after the family gathering.

The Mr surprised me with taking the day off so Tuesday morning I baked cookies for my friend since she requested them and got them all boxed up.  I made my bread and put the beef roast and the mashed potatoes in the Hot Logic  (affiliate link)  so I was as prepped as I could be.  It was a lovely visit and we don't get to see each other nearly enough since she moved down South two years ago.  I'm sure the Mr is tired of hearing the same 30-year-old stories for 26 years but that's how it goes...welcome to the family.

Now I'm exhausted and plan to sleep for 24 hours and if I ever see/eat another Christmas cookie, I'm going to hurl.

How was your holiday/weekend?

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Right about now, the Mr and I are probably both in a half in and out of it state knowing it's too early to get up it's Christmas morning so ya know.  One of us will finally be the one to move, look over at the other one and say...

Then all bets are off.  He'll do the fastest bathroom run in history while I try to straighten my bod out to get moving for the day.  He'll go down and turn on the lights and Christmas music (my childhood music of 1965's Pickwick's Living Voices The Little Drummer Boy that was taped over from an 8 track so the warbles are in all of the right places.  You can listen with us if you have Amazon streaming)  We'll eat too much crap from our stockings that every year we say we're not going to fill as high but always do, tear through presents within 10 minutes and that'll be that before it's time to head off to the fam later in the day.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and hope your day is filled with your favorite things, people and traditions old and new!

Enjoy your holiday or if you're not in the US or don't celebrate...Happy Monday!

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Friday, December 22, 2017

What I'm Reading This Week #51

Well, it's here!  The time of year you either love, dread or tolerate.  HA!   Obviously, I'm in the love camp (okay, maybe tempered with a little dread and tolerance in there on a few things.)  I hope you all have all of your shopping done and your lists checked twice.

Let's sled right into...

Stress Is No Joke: An Expert Explains How It Affects Your Physical Fitness    (This makes a lot of sense)

Keep These Diet-Busting Ingredients Out of Your Smoothie If You Want to Lose Weight  (Good info for smoothie drinkers)

Older Adults' Forgetfulness Tied To Faulty Brain Rhythms In Sleep  (I really need to make a regular sleep schedule a priority in the coming year)

4 Signs You Need to Increase the Weights in Your Strength-Training Program    (Good tips to know when to lift more)

10 Habits for a Blissful Morning, Every Morning  (Am I the only person lemon water doesn't do squat for?)

Your Toothpaste or Mouthwash Might Actually Be Staining Your Teeth  (I noticed that after using Crest 3D that my toothbrush cap was starting to yellow and wondered what it was doing to my teeth.  So I now "re-brush" my teeth with water (swishing doesn't work) and there hasn't been a problem.)

Christmas at Pop’s  (In case you wanted to know what a real Norman Rockwell Christmas was like)

Eating What You Want Over the Holidays Like...  (Such a crack up as the Mr just told me "I'm at the point I don't give a f___ ... give me all the cookies")

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.  Lots of busy work and getting the house together but I'm hoping for a chill day tomorrow for our 26 year dating anniversary.   Try to take a moment to savor the next few days.  It all goes so quickly.  Take an hour and drive around to look at Christmas lights, heck even bring along some hot chocolate or pick some up.   Plug in the tree and get lost in the twinkle of the lights.  Watch your favorite Christmas movie that you can recite dialogue along with it.  Most of all, remember the reason for the season.  Be nice to people who are cranky on the roads or in stores...they can't help it they're not as together as you are.  ;-)

I plan to post some next week but I've got company coming so I may not be around until mid-week.  We'll see!   Have a very happy holiday - whatever you celebrate.

What do you have planned this weekend?

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Make It Stop

So many Hallmark movies.

Remember when watching the Hallmark channel was for 80 year olds or something to be publicly shamed for?  The past few years and this year in particular it seems everyone has been super stoked to dive into these movies despite them all basically being the same movie with a slight circumstance changed here or there.  I swore I was not going to get into those damn movies.

27 movies later.

If you haven't imbibed, let me give you the plot of 80% of the Christmas movies.

NYC girl lets work overwhelm her and gets detoured or spiritually called to New England...likely Vermont.  (Which I totally get btw)

She's likely dating some d-bag that treats her less than she deserves.

She will likely meet a small town boy with simple values that she will fall in love with and move from her entire life she's known because five days is enough to make such a life decision.

There will be an inn or bed and breakfast involved with staff that will become family.

A snowball fight, horse and carriage ride in the snow, sledding or tubing in the snow or all three will ensue.

A huge misunderstanding ala Three's Company will happen threatening the new dude's status and no one will bother to ask any questions that could easily resolve it and save us all 10 minutes.

The kiss of Christmas magic between the newly formed couple will happen and credits will immediately roll so you can watch it all again under a new name with a new cast.

There was one about some DJ getting secret Santa gifts that was completely cringeworthy but I don't remember too many others getting major side eye.  Most are just background noise for the most part but a couple stood out for me.  A Crown for Christmas (affiliate link) with Winnie Cooper Danica McKellar which I actually bought because who knows when they'll yank it.  There was one with Brooke Burns and Henry Winkler on the other day that I really liked called The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. (affiliate link)  It's almost 9 years old though.  There was one called Christmas Homecoming I think with Julie Benz from Dexter that was decent but it's been in heavy rotation and I'm kind of sick of it.  One called Finding Father Christmas (affiliate link) and the sequel which I think was new this year, Engaging Father Christmas.  I liked those two.  A Very Merry Mix Up with Alicia Witt was original and very cute and a little of a detour from every cliche.

Have you gotten sucked into Hallmark movies this holiday season?  What are your favorites/the ones that made you cringe?

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Reframing the Holidays

The holidays over the last five years have been one of transition for me.  I do not take well to change and given I was the daughter of a teen mama, I have been blessed to have not much change in a long stretch of time where the holidays were concerned.  This blessing has made the inevitable transitions that families go through that much more emotionally devastating to me and occur at a later age than most, I'm sure.

Just like Frank Sinatra sang about wanting his old-fashioned Christmas and all that entailed, I am just another person in the circle of their life that longs for the holidays of their youth.  As I go into this middle-aged phase of my life, I also know that in all likelihood, I have less time ahead of me than behind me unless I pick up a few of my relatives longevity genes.  Christmas is just as important to me as it was as a kid because I still believe in that magic that comes with it.  Sometimes I feel like Linus in a world of Charlie Browns who are dead set on bringing down the Christmas mojo.  Then by mid-season, they get to me and I want it over with which is about where I was this time last week.  Usually, I rebound and hit my stride again and I think I'm about there now.  But knowing I am truly at that point in my life where I will never be able to have what I had for so long, I am faced with reframing the holidays.

So much emphasis has always been put on Christmas Day and I think a lot of that has to do with that childhood wonder that is buried deep inside us.  As I type this, I see in my peripheral vision a stack of gifts from my bestie waiting for Christmas Day and it builds that anticipation.  It's not about the gifts necessarily, it's about someone going to the trouble to show they were thinking of you.  That they want to show you how much you mean to them whether it's a gift or a Christmas card.  I so cherish the time of Christmas Day that I have with the Mr before we go to the obligatory family gathering.  We'll have already exchanged gifts with my mom the night before and it's just a nice time to sit back and be lazy.  He was always forced to hurry through his childhood Christmases because he had to go sing in the church choir for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning services.  So I always make sure we can sleep in if he wants to and no hurrying through anything.

The holidays are getting more fun as the kids get older and all develop into their own personalities.  A few of them have really been cracking us up this holiday season so it's been a joy to see that and have them interact with us more.  I do look forward to that and I have a sneaking suspicion my mother relayed to her sister what I said when I flat out told her a few months ago how much I dread the holidays now because these past few gatherings have felt more relaxed.  Hey, whatever gets the job done.  I'm hoping it made some take stock about how their attitudes and/or stress levels when just entering the house can instantly send people into a funk.  That has been what I've been rising up against the past few years and what had me Googling "cabin for Christmas" on December 25th, 2015 at 11:53pm.  I remember the Mr thinking I was joking but when I found the place and told him I talked to the woman and we could book it, he knew my burnout over the situation was real.

If we learned anything in our Christmas adventure to Vermont last year, it's that Christmases spent with your beloved with nowhere to go except maybe snowshoeing your property can be some of the best Christmases ever too.   That maybe every other year we need that holiday to claim for us and wrap ourselves in traditions that are exclusively ours.  It can mean that seeing family after the holidays when you're usually in hibernation mode can count just as much because you can invite who you want and be in a more relaxed setting.  These plans can change year to year but the family knows we will not be home next Christmas and seem to have accepted it which takes an immense pressure off of my shoulders.  I know that I only have so many Christmases left with my Grandma but I said my goodbyes to her last year when they thought it would be her last.  I also know that people can live quite a few years after diagnosis and honestly, who knows how many Christmases *I* have left on this Earth.  We can't all assume we'll get to a ripe old age even if that's how it should go.  This holiday means enough to me that I want to continue to make it more magic than mayhem or morose depending on the mood.  If that means being holed up in a cabin in the woods eating homemade snickerdoodles after sledding with my honey in our Christmas jammies then so be it.

My heart is open to anything because I need it to be.  I can't go on wishing for holidays I can never have again but I can create ones that will feed our souls.   I cherish the memories of Christmas past and have finally accepted they are the past.  With the option to make our own Christmas how we want them, I feel a freedom in that and know that we don't have to give up the traditions that mean most to us like the gift exchange with my mom.  We proved that it doesn't necessarily have to fall on Christmas Eve to feel like it's Christmas Eve.  It's not an easy transition and I know everyone has to approach their transition differently.  Whether it's a middle-aged daughter or son taking over hosting for the mother who is no longer here or doesn't have it in her to host anymore.  The family who takes over Christmas dinner and visits a loved one in a home to share their holiday cheer.  The family who has to adjust to a family member not being there because they married or moved and holidays are being split now.  Transitions come in all forms and remember that if your family is going through a transition due to these issues, that not everyone will handle them the same.  It doesn't make them right or wrong...just different and it doesn't mean that's how it will be every year.

When did you go through your first major holiday transition?

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sharing YOUR Holiday Cheer!

I absolutely love sharing your holiday decorations.  There is just something about seeing how people celebrate the season warms the cockles of mah heart.  So without further adieu, let's get right to it!

Cheryl's son is in the Army and they showed their pride for his commitment with this awesome tree!  Army green lights and army men toys adorn the tree for this patriotic beauty!  A big thank you to her son for fighting for our freedom!

Donna loves her some red trucks at Christmas time!  It definitely gives a cozy, country Christmas feel.  She does a lovely job of creating a festive feel using red trucks in her decorating from the tree to the hearth!  Thanks so much for sharing your darling decor!

Dawn is spreading Christmas cheer singing loud for all to hear!  Her gorgeous tree is brimming with multi-color lights and topped with a beautiful angel!  I love how the tree branches leave you lots of room in between to fill it with holiday treasures.

EML can't decide between formal and whimsical so she chooses both!  Now that's a girl after my own heart!  A lovely formal tree with a beautiful poinsettia tree skirt adorns one room while an elf caught in a precarious position decorates another.

Marybeth shared all of her beautiful holiday decor from the decked out tree to stockings!  I love the porch vignette and the traditional Christmas place settings just beckon you to sit down for a lovely holiday meal.  It looks like there is even a nice little coffee bar so you can warm up on a cold winters night.

Thanks so much to everyone who participated and shared their holiday cheer! 

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Holiday Merriment weekend round up

Happy Monday all!

Friday started on a down note as I was vexed because UPS screwed up the gifts and cookies I baked for my bestie not once but TWICE and it was a case of human error twice.  So we get to spend today fighting with them once it's delivered getting all or some of our money back.  Thanks for making sure my friend gets 5 day old cookies, asshats.   So if you were going to wait for a few days to send out your packages so they arrive closer to Christmas,  DO IT NOW...TODAY or your stuff may not get there in time depending on which carrier you choose.  Consider that my consumer tip of the season.

The weekend was full of all kinds of merriment.   Friday I busted my hot crossed buns baking all day.  Eleven different kinds of cookies and dark chocolate pecan pie minis for my friend.  The biggest victory was not sampling as I went.  It was the day before a weigh in so that worked as an incentive.  I was rewarded with a 2 lb loss but only because Aunt Flo is in town...its the only gift she brings me.  The Mr had been wanting to try a cinnamon roll recipe he found that he thought would make it easier for me so we made it together.  Unfortunately, the recipe was totally off on flour ratio and many people commented on it so I knew to expect it.  We put it in the fridge overnight like it said and hoped for the best.

Saturday we got up to check the dough and it looked like we saved it.  We made the goo and rolled it all out and it was fun to make them together.  My goal is should I croak to have him proficient in his favorite things.  (But who am I kidding...if I croak, he's going to the grocery store to buy a pan of cream cheese cinnamon rolls, sit in his underwear and play video games.)  After the rolls were baked, and quality control tested, I divided them out.  A few for us, a few for our friends and a few for my grandpa's wife as her baked good from me this year.  Then we stopped by a bakery to grab some pizzelles for my friend's partner who just lost his Italian mama a few months ago then delivered the cookies and presents to my friend.  We had a nice long visit and gabbed then went out for a late lunch.

I made spice cupcakes so I could get rid of these Christmas liners and picks I bought at Sur La Table a few years ago.  I usually do a bundt cake for it but I had no patience in me to cross my fingers hoping it would flip out of the pan.  I made homemade mac and cheese because they make these sour cream potatoes that I don't like so I make good mac and cheese for me.  Note to self:  don't use a six cheese Italian blend...too stringy.  Havarti and fontina only. 

It was a pretty good gathering.  The Mr got a sound bar  (affiliate link) and a pair of New Balance shoes.  I got the towels and hand towels I wanted, a gift certificate toward a cooking class and my beautiful French Gray La Crueset 8x8 pan

So I was a happy girl.  We were there about 3 1/2 hours and then headed out with everyone else.  We came home and ate a little dinner and the Mr set up the sound bar while I did dishes since we left it in a heap when we left at the precise moment that would get us there on time.  Oy.  Then it was time to settle in with the tree lit, watch a bit of A Christmas Story Live where someone we knew was in it and then cringe and fast forward through the rest.  Then the real Christmas merriment of A Charlie Brown Christmas (affiliate link) with our hot cocoa.

What did you get into this weekend?

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Friday, December 15, 2017

What I'm Reading This Week #50

Well, that number means we're down to the last two full weeks of the year.  Sigh.  We've been lucky enough to get a few bits of flurries here but I have to say our hearts are really aching to go on those trails at Trapp Lodge after seeing their snow this week.  12 inches!  Waaaaahhhhh!

Enough of my snow envy, let's get to...

A Holiday Visit to Stowe, Vermont  (Okay, so maybe we'll dwell on my snow envy a little.  Our countdown to next year begins now!)

People In Canada Are Doing Yoga with Bunnies  (Yeah and probably peeling "milk duds" off of their feet when it's over)

Get Rid of Neck Pain With These Physical-Therapist Approved Moves  (I can vouch for the chin tucks)

Cover Collection: The Best Santas Ever  (SEP has some of the most iconic Santas ever.  Love!)

Psychologists Explain The Benefits Of Baking For Other People  (Yep, this is me.  I'm baking today!)

Why We Get Depressed At The Holidays, And How To Deal  (I totally relate to some of these particularly the doing too much part.  I may have to re-evaluate.)

Why Some Of Us Dread Opening Gifts In Front Of Other People  (I think I'm pretty good about faking it without going overboard if someone goes rogue.  Just smile and in your head say "note to self: look up nearest Goodwill location.")

11 Brilliant Ways Therapists Control Their Holiday Stress  (Excellent tips this time of year!)

23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert  (Well, that settles it once and for all.  Total introvert)

As you can see by the links, mental health has been piquing my interest more.  I am in the midst of "that time" coupled with walking the edge of burnout/panic since Christmas is basically next weekend and I haven't even thought about what I'm making for Christmas Eve, dealing with a binge monster that is trying to wreck me for emotional eating.  I've won some battles and I've lost some.  Nothing over the top but I feel like that could change any moment.  Friggin' cycle man.  (On all fronts)

This weekend I'm dropping off cookies to my friend who will have 73 individual treats, which he refuses to share with his S.O.  Literally.  Like he will put a bear trap around them which bolsters my baking confidence but won't win him any participation ribbons for sharing.  We have a Christmas gathering, one that we look forward to so I hope all goes well there.  The Mr is looking forward to seeing Star Wars, of course and I'm looking forward to him taking my cousin as has been their tradition so I don't have to go.  I know he will buy it and I will have to sit through it, I don't need to pay theater money for a movie I wouldn't personally watch for free.

What are you getting into this weekend?

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sharing our Christmas cheer

Since I've asked you to share your Christmas cheer (deadline is Sunday), I thought I'd share ours.

Our tree hasn't changed in 20 years so it always looks the same but we like it that way.

We are suckers for the red, white and green lights and I can get lost just staring at them with the lights off.

I know they are making reproductions of ceramic trees now but I was more than happy to get this antique at a little shop because I'm all about authenticity.  The mantel is pretty traditional with a kind of woodland feel complete with fresh greens and decorative snowshoes.  I took vintage bulbs and painted them with clear glitter and string them on bakers twine and of course, red and white stockings.

The armoire is my woodland vintage feel with birch, deer, bottlebrush tree, Currier and Ives two-horse open sleigh tray, some vintage ornaments in a lantern and of course, Grandma's gumdrop tree.

We had two new additions this year.  One of them was this small tree.  A friend of mine was closing his store and had this small tree they used in their window display.  I thought it would be the perfect size for holding our travel ornaments.

I don't like to put them on our main tree because I like a uniform look but this lets us display our travel ornaments in their own way and I put it on a lazy susan to be able to spin it...gently.

The second new addition is these vintage snowshoes from Vermont I got on eBay.  They weren't too expensive in comparison to some I've seen and I really wanted a pair.  I sewed some little white balls onto these mittens I bought probably 15 years ago to use as silverware holders.  I tacked them together and made a pine cone cluster to hang off of it.

I just love the cozy feel it greets you with.

I bought this tree shelf last year from Pottery Barn kids pretty close to Christmas since it went on sale for almost 50% off.  I filled it with some vintage spice jars I gussied up and little odds and ends like a vintage songbook, ski and snowshoe ornaments and a baby snowman mug I had no idea what to do with but fits in nicely and a little jar of Christmas Nougats.

Once again, Sunday (17th) is the cut off to share a picture of your Christmas/holiday decor to be featured in a post next week.  You can either Facebook message me or send an email to mrs{at}successalongtheweigh{dot}com.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Food Review: Halo Top Gingerbread House

I love gingerbread so you can imagine when I heard Halo Top was doing a gingerbread house flavor for the season that I was all over it.  Actually, the only place that tends to carry the seasonal flavors is this little health food store close to our house and we thought they didn't have it.  Then the Mr. spotted a little cooler up front by the register and when I saw it, I yelled "they have it" and whipped the lid back (which I thought would be heavier) and it echoed through the store.  If the Mr could've shrunk any smaller, he would have.

So let's dive in.

Here's the nutritional info:

The reveal shows us a nice vanilla ice cream with bits of gingerbread.

But how does it taste?

I liked it though I do wish it had a slightly more gingerbread taste.  The vanilla had a very slight eggnog taste to me but it could've been a spice like cardamom or nutmeg.  It had a nice, creamy texture with little bursts of gingerbread.  I think if I were going to get it again, I would do it with the intent of a gingerbread milkshake and maybe add 1/4 tsp of cloves and 1 tbsp of molasses so I would get that punch I was looking for.  However, if you have gingerbread made already, this would make amazing fillings for gingerbread ice cream sandwiches since Kemps cruelly yanked away the Mr and me's favorite gingerbread ice cream sandwiches a few years ago.

Are you a gingerbread fan?

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Releasing the entertainer

I may have told you guys this before but indulge me, if you will.  My grandpa's second wife left quite the impression on how I turned out on the entertaining front.  She loved to entertain and I mean loved it.  She would have these huge spreads in her big U shaped kitchen with every available space covered with elaborate dishes, cake plates of treats and delectable sides.  When you come from a family of somewhat picky eaters, this dazzles you in a way that is bound to stick with you.  I knew when I grew up, I wanted to be that way.  I wanted to pay attention to presentation and make fancy pants dishes.  Her chicken cordon bleu was the first time I had it and I loved it so much we had it at our wedding.  That marriage ended after almost 10 years and I never saw her again but her mark had been made on me.

As an adult, it's been a little frustrating that my pension for culinary flair can't be exercised more often.  The Mr benefits of course, and it's not unusual for me to come up from our workout at 7:00pm and sear a pepper crusted sirloin with a twice baked potato or make mango glazed tuna over barley and red rice with vegetable melange.  Don't get me wrong, sometimes we just have a chicken quesadilla and Brussels sprouts.  But many of you comment on Facebook (when I remember to post dinner pics) about how pretty my presentation is.  Most of the time, it's nothing more than a crumble of asiago or cut scallions but still, it makes a difference.  Sometimes when I have family over for what is a normal dinner for us, I'll get: "What is this "fancy" lettuce??"  Um, it's spinach and arugula.  "What's in this?...*sniff*"  Just eat it!  I know it doesn't come from a box or a chain restaurant but I assure you it's good.  They get scared because we eat stuff like hummus and quinoa and what if I make them eat (delicious) "weird" things?  So to guard my thin skin, I rarely invite people over anymore that I know may make me feel like I'm serving them head cheese.  The entertainer in me feels like she's in a straight jacket bouncing off the walls.  It stinks to want to buy everything in Sur La Table but know that no one is going to see those serving platters.  (I know Mr...we don't have room for them anyway.)

I love making an 'experience' for people when they come over.  I've done Christmas afternoon teas when a friend was in town and a healthy afternoon tea for a friend who is in town but is awed by my entertaining skills because she doesn't have time to cook herself.  Sadly I only get to see her maybe once a year.  I got to cook for a friend and his girlfriend that came in from Chicago a few months ago and made Croque Madame, sweet potato hash with bacon date jam and pumpkin scones.

(Damn that was good)

So unless I've got people taking vacations to my neck of the woods once or twice every other year, that entertainer takes what she can get.  I told you that to tell you this.

You all know how soul-sucking the holidays are for me since Grandma's diagnosis.  (Though Thanksgiving was quite nice.  I'll take more of those, please.)  I decided that I'd invite my mom and aunt over for an 'experience.'  I made up a little invitation for "cookies, cocoa, and Christmas lights" and asked if they were available and dinner would be provided.  Now if my mama is a somewhat picky eater, my aunt is twice as picky.  Plan for your audience.  I knew while spinach and arugula would get maybe eaten by mom that the aunt would pass, so I got romaine which I'm fine with and made a main dish that I knew they'd probably both like.

I set up a hot cocoa bar with all the fixins so we could make hot chocolate...

To be more specific, truffle hot chocolate.

and load up on cookies but made different kinds than the ones I knew we'd OD on in the next week or two.

These aren't so pretty but taste damn good.

The idea was we would get our hot chocolate and cookies, pile into the car to go look at Christmas lights.  Mom and I used to do that when I was a kid and the Mr and I usually try to do that once a season if not more because I still ooh and ahh like I'm 5 years old.

Unfortunately, we got sucked into a time warp and there was no time for Christmas lights with the four of us.  Three and a half hours flew by in a flash but there was gabbing and good eats (well, to us at least.  I don't know how you don't like basically the baked version of fried macaroni and cheese but I didn't get the feeling they liked it and mom snubbed the salad feigning she was saving room.  Mmm hmm) so should I decide to do it again, dinner won't likely be involved.  But they loved the little parting gifts I gave them.  I did a few homemade Christmas crackers with stuff like lip balm from TJ's, lipstick, purse-sized hand lotion and a few little candies.  Then the stuff that wouldn't fit in the cracker was in a little bag which was a pashmina and spruce candle which is mild enough for even my sniffer so I knew it should be okay.  They said they felt so special and how nice it was to do something different so, in the end, I guess mission accomplished.  It was nice to get them outside the normal setting and just enjoy the evening. 

The Mr and I didn't miss out on the Christmas lights though.  When they left, we went out and looked at Christmas lights ourselves.  We loaded up the cookies I made for the purpose and another cup of hot cocoa (which we probably should've skipped, we're not used to that rich milk and were rather symphonic later) and spent over an hour driving around.  This one is always our favorite.

Do you like to entertain?  Who was the person who inspired you to if you do?

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Monday, December 11, 2017

When Winging It Paid Off

Despite having basically 3 months to plan our long weekend in the Detroit area, I didn't.  I was too busy and I think I sat down two days before at midnight and planned the addresses of places I knew were close to the hotel area in Dearborn.  I knew I wanted to see downtown Detroit but no time to really research due to my schedule.  So the morning of Greenfield Nights, I pulled up "things to do in Detroit" and the Eastern Market came up as a favorite.  I'm always down for a good market but having never been to Detroit or knowing the area, we said we'd scope it out first to see if we were going to have to wander aimlessly to find parking, if it was a madhouse, etc. 

It is one of the oldest markets in the United States (est. 1891) and it has a massive layout.

If you want a quick idea of what they're about, click here.

We hit the first weekend in December so the holiday vendors were out in full force.  The poinsettias at this vendor were absolutely stunning and reasonably priced.

Of course, you had lots of wreaths, greens and even a tree lot out back where many people were getting their trees for the season.

I took a particular interest in the Charlie Brown trees and this guy in between the sheds was selling ones with birch bases which I fell in love with.  Or you could buy and plant a live one that would stay Charlie Brown size for a year or two.

We shared some mulled cider as we walked and I got the warm squishees inside from all of the holiday spirit.  Everyone seemed to be in a good mood and ready to make merry.  There are tons of vendors for fresh produce, baked goods, gifts, and locally sourced items.

Kid Rock Kitchen Commons is relatively new and it's a community kitchen where events can be held.

There are some great food trucks on site as well and the smells wafting from all of them make you wish you had three stomachs like a cow.

We got a mini chess pie from a local bakery because...chess pie.  But I also had to go back for that Charlie Brown tree to sit on our porch.

Ain't that birch purty!?  The guy said he has repeat customers every year who said they last until anywhere between January and March which is pretty darn good considering you can't really water them.

Honestly, I would make a return trip to Detroit for this market alone and at holiday time it really seems to shine.  Parking was $5 in the lots closest to it, there's an ATM on site and be ready because some vendors are cash only.  The market is year round so if you're going to be within 1-2 hours away, I highly recommend taking a gander.  Here is the market schedule so you can plan your trip and some FAQ's.

Have you ever been to Eastern Market?  What's the best indoor/outdoor market you've been to?

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Friday, December 8, 2017

What I'm Reading This Week #49

Happy Friday all!  I can't believe it's the 2nd weekend in December!  No more freebies for us on the weekend front as I'm sure is the same with a lot of you.   I didn't have a chance to read too much this week so excuse the randomness of the links.

Now, let's dive right into:

The Age When People Feel Most Confident Is Way Older Than You Think  (We're definitely feeling that 9.2%.  I'd actually say closer to 33.8%)

8 Easy Ways to Up Your Entertaining Game  (I had to crack up at #6.  Do you know how hard it is to make "casually dropping a throw" on a chair or couch look?  I've tried and failed.)

20 Ways to Beat Post-Holiday Weight Gain  (There's part of me that wants to wire my mouth shut but I'm pretty sure I'd just puree cookies with egg nog ice cream and sip it anyway so I'm saving ice cream calories.)

A timeless debate: how do you pronounce caramel?  (I've always said "car-muhl" because cara-mel sounds like you're trying too hard to my ears.  LOL  I'm guessing it's more of a regional thing though.)

The Art of the Post: The Rockwell Cover that Led to a Marriage  (What a sweet backstory!)

Hollywood’s New Maestros: The Rock Stars Who Are Composing Film Scores  (Awesome read for those who grew up in the 80's!)

Your Weekly Checkup: How Much Water Should I Drink?  (I think my happy spot is actually my 40 ounce bottle along with my mug of morning/evening tea and whatever water comes from my garden at lunch time)

Hop on the Meal Train (This is perfect for new moms, those who are ill or have a family member recently passed and need one less thing to worry about.)

The Progression of Alzheimer's Through My Mom's Crocheting  (Try not to reduce to a heap when you see the physical evidence of what this horrid disease does to a person's mind.  She mentions her mom grinding her teeth incessantly.  Grandma has gotten to this stage and the sound has been compared to her "chewing a bag of rocks."  No dental devices are accepted by her but some anti-anxiety meds they gave her seemed to have taken care of the issue in case anyone else experiences this.)

This Woman's Hallmark Christmas Movie Drinking Game Wins the Holidays  (In case you're looking to 1) get your spouse to watch the movies with you and 2) make sure you're both blitzed out of your friggin' minds within 20 minutes and comatose by the end which you will undoubtedly miss!)

It's our last semi-free weekend of the season.  I decided to invite my mom and aunt over for dinner and to go out looking at Christmas lights.  I wanted to take them out of the usual setting and actually do something fun and merry.  I'm not going to promise to do it every year but while I was feeling the spirit, I figure I'd better strike and they need the break.  The Mr's co-workers dad passed so I'll be spending some time making her a few meals so she doesn't have to worry about it.  I've already got a batch of chicken and rosemary dumplings made and frozen and will probably make either meatloaf and/or spaghetti.  Comfort food shall reign.

Oh and I'll need any Christmas decor submissions by December 17th at the very latest.  Facebook message me or email:  mrs(at)successalongtheweigh(dot)com.

What are you guys doing this weekend?

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Our Old Timey Adventure

When I was looking for places to relive that old fashioned Christmas, Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan came up in a search.  I gave their website a peep and it looked like just the ticket.  I saw they start selling tickets in mid-September so I made sure I hopped on it the day they went on sale since I figured the day we wanted to go was probably one of their busiest days.  I was right.  That place was jam packed to the gills with families, cranky bebes, and people adorned in lights and glow in the dark swords that would both be burnt out by night's end.

When we finally got through the line, we decided to follow the posse of carolers on a mission.

Because it's at the Henry Ford Museum, you are able to hop a ride in an old Model T around the block.  You must watch out for them though because people of a certain age might know what an old time horn sounds like but those born after 1995 may not and therefore run the possibility of becoming a hood ornament if they're not careful.

The city hall (I think) boasted the best set of carolers which explains why they had the best amp system.

It was supermoon weekend so we had some assistance from the heavens to light the way.

I'll be honest, without it, we probably would've been a little disappointed.  It was hard enough to see the attractions in the village unless you were right up on something so if there'd been a new moon, we might've been groping in the dark.

The streets are lined with lanterns which are nice but don't give off much guiding light.  The horses seemed to like them though.

Some of the homes in the village had demonstrations and if you were up to showing off your muscles, they'd put you to work!

(Dude is putting his weight into it!  Get it, sir!)

On Maple Street you could choose to walk the village to see Santa on his balcony or barrel past him in a carriage ride that took corners a wee fast whilst belting out Christmas carols as they zoomed by.

At the end of the street, booming music was beckoning us to come close and we stumbled upon these lads and lasses.

They were excellent and the little house next to it had a nice warm fireplace to heat us up for a few minutes before moving on to the next attraction.

I am a friggin' Cotswold NUT and this home was actually too beautiful for me to want to go inside.  I told the Mr my heart couldn't take it, I would flop on the floor and chain myself to the furniture.

He assured me we should go in and just as I suspected, I fell in love immediately.  A Christmas radio broadcast featuring Judy Garland and other performers of the day was playing, a sweet little tree by the window, a spiral staircase and beamed ceilings.

I wanted to push everyone out and pay them to let me stay the night.  I heard a heater coming on so I knew I'd be fine.  Seriously, I love that place and just like Henry Ford, I would've paid to have it labeled brick by brick, moved from England and reassembled on an idyllic plot of land.  They actually do afternoon teas there in the summer so that may have sold me on a return trip.

More carolers were in the lit gazebo.

Some very calm, friendly horses stood patiently letting the Mr and I (and everyone else) pet them.

There were quite a few neat exhibits but they were so crowded and rushed, I felt like I didn't get to see much of them.

They have a cafeteria type restaurant by the church called A Taste of History and when we saw they had a turkey dinner, I was sold.  We had turkey, mashed potatoes, that awesome wet, old fashioned stuffing, a bit of plum pudding (YUM!) and a biscuit (left it in favor of pecan pie, not that it helped me feeling like Violet Beauregard pre-juicing)

That's Cool Whip by the way which made the Mr and I squee.  She wasn't shy with it either.

They had a carousel you could ride.

You could buy Christmas wreaths, kissing balls, garlands and greens for your home.

The line for the Model T rides never seemed to dissipate so we skipped it.

If you're into getting your ice skates on, they've got rentals for you to zoom around the rink.

The night ends with a fireworks display and it is truly one at a time.

They are LOUD too, they sound like cannons!

We both agreed that we likely didn't see all of it but also that we didn't know if we'd need to make it a return trip.  We might though at some point in the future, maybe for that afternoon tea.  There is just so much to see and not enough time to see it all in 3 1/2 hours without being rushed.  If you took the time to go to each house in the village, well, I honestly don't think you could.  So it might be a good idea to visit the village some other time to see that stuff but it's only open at night during December but 9:30am-5pm from mid-April to November.  If you do that, then it might be worth considering a membership because members get discounts on food and certain goods.

It was a great way to kick off making merry in December.  Of course, now I want to learn how to make plum pudding.

Have you ever been to Greenfield Village?  What event/attraction do you like to go to for the holiday season?

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