Thursday, December 31, 2020

It's Finally Here

The last day of 2020.  I think so many people have used this day as a coping mechanism to get through this year.  "If we can just make it until the end of 2020, this nightmare will be over."  Unfortunately, that's not how pandemics work.  We still need the compassion and cooperation of all to ever put this in our rear view.  

I know if you're like me, you're thinking back on last new years eve and how ignorance was bliss.  I had to actually look back at my One Happy Year to even see how we spent it.

12/31- got post written for 1/2,  the Mr arranging cheese and crackers, looking out at the great room from the kitchen with the Mr admiring our cozy abode,  made filet mignon, twice baked potatoes and carrots for dinner with FrostBitten wine FINALLY, finished You (I called it episode 7!), finished reading OHY September-today.  Happy new year!

Oh the carefree evening of enjoying our cozy home with a homecooked kick ass meal with ice wine binging the last of a favorite show while reminiscing over the year.  If we only knew what would await us 3 1/2 months later would we have done things differently?  Would we have had people over?  How would we have spent our winter knowing the last few days of it and the rest of our year would never be the same.  Our lives may never fully be the same.  We're all coming out of this year different in ways from what we were this time last year.  

So look forward to this year with the gift of hind sight.   Think of all of the ways you are stronger, better or adapted than you were.  Think of all of the things you want to do to make 2021 better.  You're truly writing your own history now more than you ever were.

I want to send all of you a virtual hug for getting to the end of the year even if it feels a little more mentally tattered and torn than you hoped.  I wish you all a 2021 filled with hope, love, health and safety.  You mean more to me than you'll ever know.

Raising my glass to you, my friends!

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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Post Holiday Hump Day Poll

It's all over and we've had time to take that all in. 

How was your holiday?  Do you have anything planned for tomorrow night?

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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

How to Be Optimistic About 2021 in the Aftermath of 2020

(Aww, if you think you're sad the party is over now girls, just wait 3 1/2 months!)

We have all been through the wringer this year.  It will undoubtedly go down as the most stressful year in our history.  Pandemic.  Election Year.  Protests.  Wildfires. Hurricanes. Homeschooling.  Depression and anxiety.  Teleworking.  Zoom meetings.  Being separated from family and friends to keep them safe.  Job and/or home losses in record numbers. We're all affected differently and all had our crosses to bear.  It was a year of learning a lot about ourselves and those around us for the good, bad or disappointing.  Then you start seeing memes like this and a little sense of dread may come where laughter should be.

(via Pinterest)

There were memes popping up July 5th saying something like "let's cook Thanksgiving, decorate for Christmas and yell happy new year and get 2020 over with."  While flipping the calendar to a new year usually means a clean slate, that isn't the case in our current situation.  So how do we go into 2021 with a sense of optimism when we got blindsided in March and our world's were never the same?

If there is one thing I've learned, it's that every single person I know has handled the pandemic differently.   What is reckless or dangerous in our eyes is "common sense" or normal to others.  It was quite easy to spiral mentally and emotionally.  We learned that what is best for our family of two is what we are sticking with and are not apologizing for it.  I purposely am not on social media much because it just triggers too much to see people acting a fool or saying things that are inconceivable to me.  I follow my little home décor sites on IG and that's about it.  (Much to the dismay of our wallet.)   I do not want a continuation of 2020 mentally and I will reflect on the lessons that most seriously affected my mental health to try not to get caught in those traps again.  This is the perfect time to sit down and truly reflect and think of how you want to continue or change things that affected you this year.

If you're active on social media at all, you've probably added people over time you rarely talk to, see or worked with years ago.  You probably also have a family member or two whose posts/rants make your blood pressure spike.  You can mute or snooze people easily on most platforms.  As you go into the new year, it might be a good time to re-evaluate the people in your digital neighborhood.  You don't have to block them completely but if you find yourself rolling your eyes or bracing up when you see they've posted, that's your body's way of saying they are bringing unnecessary stress to your life.  That goes for businesses and email too, even ones you signed up for.  If you find yourself not going to these places anymore or never buying from them, unsubscribe or send 'em over to spam so they aren't in your face.  Our digital lives have taken over our actual lives, let's make sure it's content you actually care about or lifts you up.  If that means I have to say goodbye to some of you, then it's been nice having you around and I understand.

Winter is going to hit the food industry particularly hard without outdoor eating options.  If you have a favorite mom and pop pizza place or other restaurant, make sure you continue to get takeout/delivery as much as you can if you want them to stay around.  Same for any local business.  Even the big boy retailers have folded or filed for bankruptcy this year so you can see without that kind of money backing them up, the small business is at even more risk.  This doesn't even have to apply to local businesses in your area.  When we had to cancel our trip to Cape Cod for our anniversary in May, there were several stores I was looking forward to visiting that I bought from online.  Laurel Grove in Sudbury MA is responsible for 6 new finds for our home and they offered free shipping which enticed people to shop.  We also got orders from our second home of Hawaii from places like Aloha Spice Company and Kauai Kookie.  Places that depend on tourism dollars with stringent measures like Hawaii has had to implement need even more help.  Buying online or purchasing gift cards for (hopefully) future use are ways you can help.  It not only makes you feel good to get happy mail from your favorite places but they appreciate it too!

Memories are always good to look back on.  The reason cancelling a vacation or not being able to see important people in your life hurts is because you have memories of how fun doing those things or seeing those people are.  Revisit your favorite memories often.  Look at that camera roll and those videos.   Listen to that playlist that takes you back to a special time.  (Someday by Sugar Ray ALWAYS takes us back to our 1999 trip driving on the Hana Highway.)   We may be limited but we can continue to make memories even if they look a little different.  There is time that many of us might not have slowed down to have with our family members.  When you have to come up with new things to keep you and your family entertained, you have new memories and hobbies waiting to be made!  I know it might feel like you've done all of the things but with a new season upon us, it may just become your favorite.  Oh, stop rolling your eyes summer lovers!  If you're lucky enough to have snow, get the heck outside!!  Go sledding, build a snowman, go snowshoeing, have a snowball fight, make snow ice cream, learn how to ski or go tubing.  Being outside this time of year is good for you in so many ways!  Even just cozying up and enjoying hygge season is memorable.

It can be very easy to 'doom scroll' and get pulled into negativity of the news cycle.  Limit yourself to 15 minutes of that crap and then the rest of the day, purposely seek out good news or genres of videos that make you smile in your downtime.  If you love animals, go to for sweet and funny animal stories.  The Good News Network can give you a dose of good stuff to make your heart smile.   Despite not always feeling like it, there is good news to be found if we choose to seek it.

I know gratitude journaling almost seems to be a ubiquitous term these days with the rise of  'self care.'   Kind of like when I go to the craft stores and see 40,000 items with the term "grateful, thankful, blessed" and want to yak because for me, it's taken the intended meaning out of the words.  We've done this for the past 5 years and I'm not going to lie, some days it feels forced and we don't want to do it.  At the end of every month, we read them to each other and it's always interesting to see if we consider the same things happy or not.  On New Years Eve, we've made it a tradition to re-read the whole year and it does take a while but we remember so many things we forgot about!  After 2020, it could be really easy to consider the whole year a bust but there are many things that have made us happy so I'm thankful (actually thankful not craft store thankful) for the reminder.

Now that we've gotten through nine months of navigating things, we pretty much know what we can and can't...rephrase...should and shouldn't do to keep ourselves and others safe.  That doesn't mean we can't carefully make plans to take advantage of off seasons and off peak hours for some fun.  Look at places you might want to day trip to and plan a mid-week hooky day if possible for minimal crowds.  Look for cabins or homes to rent on lots of land so you can have a change of scenery.  (Make sure you check the state restrictions first or you could be quarantined for two weeks before you're allowed to have fun outside of your abode.)  If you don't feel comfortable doing those things, start saving for the blow out vacation you've put off for years and spend this year planning it.  (Honestly, planning can be half the fun!)  When the time is right, jump on a good deal and enjoy your well planned sabbatical!  

In the beginning of the pandemic, it was almost novel to some degree.  Posts popping up everywhere, including here, about ways you can pass the pandemic time without getting sucked into binge watching the tube.  Color coded homeschooling schedules that were well intentioned were chucked out the door once consistent good weather was in the forecast.  I still stand by that post and it might be time to revisit some of those early activities.  Now is the perfect time to start a puzzle or go through old family photos to put into albums.  It's so easy to get sucked into the day to day and feel like Groundhog Day and meaningless.  I've fallen into the same trap as well so I know how hard it can be to dig out of that mentality.

No one knows what 2021 holds but I hope I can say most of us are going into each month saying "expect the unexpected."  In an outside world of chaos, it's more important than ever to hone your surroundings and expectations based on what you've learned.  Create an environment that makes you feel comforted and start rituals to bring you some peace.  I think the old adage of "life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it" that sometimes makes me want to smack someone when thrown in my face, unfortunately after this year, applies.  Use whatever options you have at your disposal to maintain your sanity without hurting yourself or others.  (If someone gets that reference without having to look it up, high five!)

On with the show.

How do you stay optimistic?

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Monday, December 28, 2020

How to Maximize Space in a Small Kitchen

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Have you ever yelled at those house hunting TV shows with a blinding fury when they gripe about how small the kitchen is and it's the size of your bedroom or larger?  Then this post is for you.  Chances are if you have what we call a "1 1/2 butt kitchen" you live in an apartment, condo or tiny home.  Space is at an utter premium and if you have been in your kitchen for the holidays, the frustration is real.  When we did our kitchen remodel, we were using the same footprint as our old kitchen because there is no new way to redistribute the cabinets.  You walk in and your triangle of stove, fridge and sink can all be accessed from one spot never moving once.  Convenient?  Yes.  Great for cooks who like to not feel like they're in a shoebox?  No.  The only thing we have to gain is cabinet and counter space and that is where you have to get creative.  I'm going to share my must haves to make the most of your small kitchen so when the holidays are over and you need a new year project, this will help you reclaim some lost space!

We had an entire cabinet dedicated to spices.  While that was fine, it also meant our vitamins and other stuff that wouldn't fit were jammed where there was room.  Usually that was in between stacks of plates and bowls in the dish cabinet.  I wanted to be able to put all of that stuff in one spot.  I also knew that digging around to find the right spices I used nightly could be irritating.  Enter these magnetic spice jars and we freed up quite a bit of space in there!  Originally, I got some steel looking one that turned and you could either lightly shake out of the 4 holes or twist a little more and dump it out of a large hole.  The problem with that was, they only worked for about 2 weeks before any microscopic residue of spice would make some of the spices inaccessible because the lid no longer turned.  While I was bummed these don't have a shaker option, I will take that over the litany of new curse words I created trying to open the previous ones.  I've got one more set on my wish list because I have a few random spices I wasn't able to fit on the side of the fridge and I'd like to free up even more space.

I originally got these to put herbs beside the window.  While that worked for a while, the gnats were a con and out they went.  Now I was stuck with these shelves and nothing to do with them.  For a while, they housed the drinks waiting to go in the fridge for the delivery people but I didn't like that long term.  Then I got the bright idea that I could move the shelves down and use them to hold things that usually took up room on the counter like bananas, potatoes, onions and garlic, etc.  It has worked out amazingly and I was able to use the space previously occupied by the bananas as a small tea center that uses vertical space to free up another section of countertop!  The other day I had 2 lbs of bananas on one (2 bunches) and one heavy cantaloupe on the other.  Neither moved an inch!

We've had this thing forever!  We got it at the Container Store but they don't make this version anymore.  Honestly, the magnets need to be a little stronger.  If I had to do it over again (and I might soon!), I would likely go with this version.  The magnets appear to be very strong just like the shelves I use and I would probably spray paint the bolts a gold or black color to go with our scheme in there.  It's a great way to keep paper towels off of the counters or not drill holes in your cabinets for an under the cabinet version. If you need a small shelf with a paper towel holder, this model looks like it would do the trick!

I usually keep all of my stuff like flour and sugar in the basement then I forget about it until Christmas time.  Actually I did have a sugar canister in that cupboard but it was polished steel and I always got my sticky baking handprints all over it and wanted a change.  My only requirement was they are stackable because if I was adding items to a limited space, I was going vertical with them.  I also wanted something with wood lids if possible.  When I found these canisters, I was in love!  I measured the height of the two biggest ones to make sure they'd fit and they would.  MINE!  There are other options for stackable canisters like these that are a West Elm kind of look.  Or if you prefer to see what's inside, you can go for these clear ones and stack all of the things!

If you cook a lot the way I do, you've likely got a lot of utensils and a utensil crock to put them in.  That can stick out further than you'd like and in a small kitchen, every inch of counterspace counts!  I got this set of seagrass wall baskets to use the large one to replace an outdated piece on the wall.  I wasn't really sure what I was going to do with the smaller one then I wondered if all of the utensils would fit in it.  They did and I LOVED the way it looked.  It freed up a few inches of space and brought a nice texture to the area.  I was also able to take our food scale, which sat on the counter taking up space, and stand it upright next to the basket.  MORE space gained!  Yesssss!

There is nothing more irritating than looking at wasted vertical space.  If you have a sweet mug collection or things you need to store in cabinets, these cabinet shelves are life savers.  There are lots of different colors and sizes to fit into your decor.  I used one in my tea/cookbook cupboard that allowed me to store my tea chest under it so I could get more storage above it.  I use one in my glass cupboard to store smaller glasses and am likely getting one more for the mug shelf so I can best utilize that space as well.

(I added the cork so they didn't bang every time you open the door.  (That's what she said.) )

Everyone knows Command Strips are your best friend and these metal hooks are no exception.  There's SOOOO much space just waiting to be used inside of your cabinet doors, it's not funny.  These Command hooks are my favorite because there is nothing I won't hang on them.  From our measuring cups and spoons to loose tea holders to potholders and anything in between.  

It frees up so much space in your cupboards or drawers.  I'm sure I'll find other uses for them too!

I always like to have large, heavy duty Command Strips on hand.  You don't just have to use them with hooks, they can also be used to hold up other items.  Here are some of the ways I've used them.  I refill bulk spices but hate running to the basement to get the bag off of the makeshift pantry shelves.  We had a small spot in our pantry that I was able to fit these baskets and put them up with Command strips.  I also used the same baskets to hold extra items that were clogging up an under the sink basket.

I also used them to put up this metal bulletin board inside the pantry door.  

It's nice to have a shopping list, holder for pens, magnetic chip clips, etc all right in one spot and not junking up the side of the fridge.

I hope this has given you some great ideas for your own or someone starting out in their own 1 1/2 butt kitchen.  Any space gained is precious space when you're working with a limited footprint!

What are your favorite space savers?

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Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas to you and yours

From us and ours!

May you enjoy the magic of the day even if it looks a little different this year.

Love and holiday wishes to you all!

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

-Frank X. Cross, Scrooged

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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Final Holiday Hump Day Poll

First off, wishing the Mr a happy "I love you" anniversary.  We've been together 29 years today.  I cannot believe this time next year we will have been together for 30 years because that just sounds like old folk talk.  We're not old enough to say "30 years" and still have memories, are we!?!  


We're in the home stretch y'all and it's time for today's

What do you eat for your holiday dinner and is that changing this year?

We've always had beef roast and noodles.  Any time I make beef roast, I immediately think of Grandma because of it.  We'll have that and all of the usual fixins this year.  Christmas is still Christmas and for us, it wouldn't be the same without our usual comfort foods.

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Monday, December 21, 2020

Be a Kid Again

I'm taking this week to kick back and just "do us."

In the meantime, I thought I'd give you something fun to do since if you're like me, you might be antsy with it being Christmas week.  

I hope we're not the only ones who went through the Wish Books back in the day and circled what we wanted Santa to bring us for Christmas!  This is one of our favorite things to do every few years or so is to look at this website and look through old Wish Books and pretend to be a kid again.  It's so fun to see old toys or things your parents had like art, clothes, appliances, etc. 

If you're bored or even if you're not, have fun going back in time.

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Friday, December 18, 2020

Final What I'm Reading This Week for 2020

This will serve as #51 and #52 of What I'm Reading This Week.  Next Friday is Christmas and y'all shouldn't be on the internet, you should be enjoying the day even if it's curling up with a good book or binging crap TV.

It's been a week.  First off, my laptop decided to fry after 3 years.  (Thanks Dell.)  I asked the Mr if he knew how much we paid for it and he wasn't sure just that it was a gaming laptop because we needed the bigger video card.  We were on a time table and I was not going to trust Amazon, so I had one delivered the next day from Best Buy.  After I bought it, he found how much we paid for the last one...HALF of what I paid for this one and this one doesn't even have a number pad on it which I use daily.  How does a laptop over $1000 NOT have a number pad?  Needless to say, I opened a good bottle of white wine and the Mr only got a few swigs out of it.  

We've got an impending death in the family with a grandparent I'm not close to.  It's always weird to temper other people's expectations of what is 'expected' of you (especially in these times) vs. what you're willing to do (or not do) to appease others.  I'm just throwing this out there but please allow everyone to grieve (or not, if they choose) in their own way.  There are plenty of people who have a good relationship with someone that I do not based on how they've treated me and vice versa.  I don't begrudge anyone their relationship with someone regardless of how I feel about them but don't push your expectations on people when it comes to illness or end of life situations.  Worry about the time you have with them and let everyone else take care of themselves.  I'm not saying I've been pushed to be a certain way during this situation but I see it far too much with illness and death and it makes me very sad and sometimes angry.  "You "should" do this or that."  No, you should do what your soul is at peace with and everyone needs to worry about themselves.  If I (or anyone) regrets doing or not doing or saying something, that'll be my (your) cross to bear.  Sorry it got deep there but there's a lot of emotional history with this grandparent and if only one person who needs to hear this, you are not obligated to mourn someone who has treated you like shit just because of their relation to you.


Monday we made a recipe I've had my eye on for most of quarantine, Ina Garten's Lobster Pot Pie.  I heavily adapted it though.  I HATE anise so no fennel or Pernod.  I used a russet potato (about 10 oz), added about 1/4 cup of skim milk and used peas and carrots as well as 1/2 cup frozen corn.  I used TJ's langostinos but I think I needed 2 bags to really feel Ina "fabulous."  I didn't buy enough clam juice (only 8 oz- DERP) so I used low sodium veggie broth for the rest of the 1 1/2 cups of liquid needed.  Next time I would probably do 2 cups of clam juice and 1/2 cup of veggie broth when I pass my reading comprehension test.  I also used a random piece of puff pastry I had in the freezer for the topper instead of making her crust and just used it on top, not top and bottom which I think would be a bit much, honestly.

We really liked it and had it with a salad.  I froze the rest for another cozy couple of nights in when I don't feel like cooking.  Workout was The Work week1 Pull strength.  Jerk.

Tuesday we had a tried and true fave of homemade General Tso's chicken with cauliflower rice.

We use Iron Chef's General Tso's sauce which has become harder to find so I blow up Vitacost's website and order a bunch at once during a sale.  Workout was 21 Day Fix Real Time  Day 5: Cardio Fix.

Wednesday was seared ahi with TJ's jalapeno sauce, TJ's sweet potato gnocchi and roasted broccoli.

Workout was for 21 Day Fix's Dirty 30.

Thursday was pizza.

Workout was Tae Bo.

Now let's work into...


How to Turn Off Your Brain Before Bed, So You Can Finally Get a Good Night's Sleep  (What's that?) 

How to Deal with Constantly Feeling Overwhelmed  (Great tips to not lose your ever lovin' mind.)

Toe-Rific! Here Are a Couple of Feet Stretches You Can Use While Working From Home  (Or at work or wherever.  Go 30 seconds in for the actual stretches.)

How to make sure your pet has a stress-free holiday  (Keep the furballs zen.)

Trying to Manage Your Toxic Family? What You Need to Know  (Practice up for when you have the first big family gathering post-pandemic!)

15 Ways to Make Less Trash at the Holidays   (Good ideas but I am NOT down with not sending Christmas cards.  Christmas cards can be recycled into gift tags.  Just follow this tutorial and save money on gift tags for next year.)

10 Clever Ways to Shamelessly Regift This Holiday Season  (There is much debate about regifting and as the recipient of many a regift over the early years from my MIL, you'd think I'd be in the "no" camp.  I'm in the camp of "if I know someone will actually be thrilled with something I'm not, I throw it in as an extra."  Sometimes I won't even wrap it, I'll tell them, 'someone got me this and I can't use it but thought you might like it.  You won't hurt my feelings if you throw it away."  I never put my name on a regift I'd be embarrassed about, just donate it and thank the person for the thought and Kondo that beeotch out of your space.)

Hot Cocoa Charcuterie Boards Are a Thing, and They're Filled With Marshmallows, Cookies, and More  (Super festive idea for this coming week or to do on a random winter's day.)

This cheap holiday party hack will blow your mind  (I did the runner trick last year and LOVED it and it was the two of us!  Nothing says small needs to be boring.)

The Flavanols In Cocoa May Support Brain Health, Study Suggests  (We have our 2 squares of 72% every night.  TJ's Pound Plus FTW!)

There's A Reason You May Get Antsy During Meditation — A Psychologist Explains  ("If your mind is on fire...notice the fire, accept and move beyond the fire." - Marc Maron)

Fake Treehouse, Real Memories: Life Inside the Home Alone House  (Wonderful story for you Home Alone fans!)

The 5 Craziest Rankin/Bass Holiday TV Specials  (There's certainly nothing like them.  I love the looks of all of their puppets back in the day.  That vulture in the Shiny New Year one was FREAKY!)

The Most Common Holiday Accidents—And How to Avoid Them   (Botulism anyone?)

Is Tinsel Canceled? (Yes, I use clear tinsel (hopelessly outdated- don't care) and guess what, I've reused the same 3 boxes I bought back in 1996 ever since!!  I also gifted our old tree to my aunt before getting our new fake tree.  Take that 'eco-elves!')

42 Funny Christmas Gifts People Actually Received  (I think I've got 'em beat.  I received a pair of earrings with ear crud still attached and a plaster toucan pin with blood stains on the back.  I still wonder if the person who gave them to me (who could fully afford to buy a crappy candle or something of equal ambivalence) stripped a dead body and called it a day.)

The Joker's still getting away… How 'Jingle Bells, Batman Smells' became the ultimate holiday spoof  (Pretty neat seeing the origins)

I know Christmas is looking different for all of us this year to keep our families and friends safe.  You can still do video chats with loved ones that day to let them know you're thinking of them.  (Play a game if you both own it or these ideas.)  Maybe all agree to make an easy dish that you all can see each other enjoying to feel more connected.  I am praying that this time next year, we might have a chance to be able to enjoy our families and friends if people get with it.   This has certainly been a holiday season to remember though one I'm sure we'd all like to forget in some ways.  Make the best of it.  

We're looking forward to some Christmas cheer this weekend and soaking everything in so I'll be scarce next week.

Any plans for the weekend?

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Holiday Hump Day Poll

What traditions from your childhood holidays did you take into adulthood and which ones were you happy to ditch when you could do your own thing?

It should be no surprise that I cling to most of my childhood traditions like a life raft.  I can get high on nostalgia especially at holiday time.  Obviously, Grandma's noodles are the glue of the holidays for us and even though my family opts for the lazy version some years (which we don't eat because eww and all of us grandkids agree), I will make my wonky version.  I can never make them as good as she did but I will try til my dying day.  When I roll the dough with her rolling pin, she's right there with me.  I also make sure we have cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning which my mom and I always did.  I love going out and looking at Christmas lights in neighborhoods like I did as a kid.  (Though sadly, there are far less people putting up lights the past 10 years.)  We also listen to the Christmas music I loved as a kid and the cool thing is since the Mr and I basically grew up together, my Christmas music is the Christmas music of his youth too even if not from his childhood.

The ones I was happy to ditch were the multiple visits to varying families.  When my parents were together, we would go to my dad's parents house on Christmas Eve and my mom's mom (Grandma I always speak of) on Christmas Day.  Somewhere in there we would have to fit in my mom's dad's get together with his wife and two kids.  (She is where I got my love of entertaining.)  We were Easter Christmas Catholics because of my dad's upbringing so we'd go to midnight mass until I was seven.  Needless to say, even though I was bouncing off the walls because it was Christmas, I was pretty tired.  Then we'd go to Grandma's on New Years Day.  When the parents got divorced, it was SO much worse.  Christmas Eve was and still is my favorite day of the year and that meant my dad got me that night to be with his family.  I was NOT happy and thankfully by the time I was 13, he moved across the country so we didn't have to worry about that anymore.  Then we had to get together with the new wife's family and even though they were all kind to me, I just never totally felt like I fit in except with her grandma who was an absolute joy and just thinking of her brings tears to my eyes.  It was a lot to fit in.  So I was glad to leave like five different holiday gatherings behind for sanity's sake but I also dearly miss the people at them with my grandma and grandpa being gone.  I suppose you could say since we now go away every other year for Christmas in Vermont that is a big change but not one I necessarily wanted to make.  But boy am I GLAD we did!  There is something about just having PEACE on Christmas Day, nowhere to be, nothing to do and eating the same food you'd eat anyway that is heaven.  I highly recommend it at least once.  Nothing says you can't get together with the family before or after for a holiday celebration.  (When it's safe.)

Your turn!

What traditions from your childhood holidays did you take into adulthood and which ones were you happy to ditch when you could do your own thing?

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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Top 10 Posts of 2020

I am kind of horrible about checking things like spam folders, inboxes and stats this year.  I was never great at it to begin with but this year just kind of wiped out any and all f**ks given on so many fronts, that seemed to be the least of my concerns.  I thought I'd check my stats to see what people have been reading here this year and it's clear some are quarantine driven.  From projects to do to products to buy and needing to know others are feeling the same, it runs the gamut.

I'm taking it easy at the end of the month so consider this kind of my 2020 recap as chosen by people who have stumbled upon my corner of the internet for one reason or another this year.

I have a feeling many of us were asking ourselves that question about that time.  I do regret that was the only time we got out to paddle this year.  Too many people inundating the waterways and lack of motivation.

Funnily enough, this was months into the pandemic but I also assume many of us felt that 'pandemic fatigue' setting in so I can see why the title was alluring.

I don't know if people got what they were after when they saw that title but I think it was most of my regulars given the number of hits.

I think this was the first one where I started featuring dinners on the regular.

Yet another on how we were handling the pandemic and written after several people reached out to me personally because they were struggling.

That one is pretty self explanatory.

While it didn't turn out the way I expected, it did have some lasting perks.

These top three are ones that are not new and get constant traffic all through the year.

Review of an anti-snoring apparatus.

This one gets a ton of hits and honestly, I'm shocked TJ's hasn't discontinued it given their track record.

The most popular post of 2020 is...

I don't know if people were looking to upcycle for their new WFH space or what but this gets the most hits every year since I posted it.

There ya have it!  My top 10 of 2020.  

Scintillating but it's the closest y'all are probably going to get to a yearly recap of the year of doing nothing.  LOL

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Friday, December 11, 2020

What I'm Reading This Week #50

Good Friday to you all!  Did the week treat you well?  Are you done with that Christmas shopping?  Just remember the USPS shipping deadlines which go into effect starting today if you're choosing to use that service.  I have unfortunately experienced way too many problems with them the past 2 months (still am) to be able to rely on them so I chose UPS and FedEx to ship stuff this year and everything got where it needed to go.  (Not that I haven't had a snag or two on that front either.  Thank God for honest neighbors.)  I really hope USPS gets it under control and I know their poor workers are severely overworked...all delivery services are.  Bless all of those people who do that job.  Consider leaving out some snacks for them this holiday season as a way to let them know they're still appreciated.  I can tell you it's quite heartwarming to see the smiles or read their notes letting you know they are grateful to be remembered.  

Did anyone catch yesterday's Home and Family on Hallmark Channel?  There was a segment where Debbie and Maria were about to show you how to make some Santa ring toss game.  They kept an outtake in there and Debbie was like "everyone has a chance to win?  I don't understand that because it's hard.  It's a lie...everyone's a loser."  I lost it laughing.  I haven't been that happy in a long time and they should totally keep stuff like that in the show.  I was PRAYING she was going to curse which is the only thing that would've made it better.  

Here was our eats this week.  Monday we made Brussels flatbread with lemon ricotta and walnuts.

Workout was Joel's sandbag strength session but with weights.  I pulled a ham and butt string on that one.

Tuesday was BBQ pork loin, half a baked potato with Borsin and Brussels.

Wednesday was pineapple passion fruit glazed orange roughy with sweet potato gnocchi and veggies.

Workout was strength.

Thursday was potato leek soup and salad.

Now let's get to:

The Most Scenic Winter Drive in Every State  (Lots of beauty to explore this season!)

15 Old-Fashioned Christmas Traditions to Bring Back  (Mr-  you have the eggnog, I'll have the wassail.)

This Is Why 350 Degrees Is Your Oven's Magic Temperature  (For anyone getting baking in the kitchen.)

Unpopular Opinion: I Actually Really Love Winter (So do we Caitlin...this post should help convince a few.)

Winter Squash Lasagna  (This sounds SO good!  Definitely making it!)

Bring Them a Figgy Pudding  (Did anyone else read the end and wonder if she checked the trash instead of assuming what she did?)

37 Fun Christmas Games for Kids  (Don't let 'em get bored!)

Reunited Apart: Wayne's World (Courtesy of the Mr.  Schwinnnng!  If you want to skip past a non-sensical eye rolling portion at the beginning and get the meat of the interview, click here.)

Hallmark’s Formula for a Very Sappy Christmas  (I wonder if they'll end up together?)

Baby boy's face lights up as he sees snow for first time  (I know how ya feel buddy, I do the same thing!)

We're gonna be busy as heck this next week as I'm sure many of you are.  It's that week where it's the last of any leisurely holiday activities and then going "holy crap!" and trying to cram in as much as possible before it's all over.  Just trying to remember to enjoy it all and not freak out.  All of my presents have already been sent/delivered to their recipients so I have to remember that and breathe!  Maybe a Christmas movie marathon is in order.

Any fun plans this weekend?

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Thursday, December 10, 2020

How to Give a Memorable Gift

(This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.  If you buy through them, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you for blog expenses.)

One thing I have always loved is giving people gifts.  I'm not trying to brag but I've also been told I'm an amazing gift giver.  😁  I attribute much of this to being a type A personality and an empath.  Type A's are detail oriented and empaths often put the joy of others before their own.  Plus it gives me great joy to put together an unforgettable gift.  I am ALWAYS tuned in to what others say for hints they unknowingly give me to something they want or like.  Everything from their favorite candy/treats they mention in passing to scents from their favorite businesses and more obvious sources like Amazon lists and Pinterest boards.  Someone can mention something one time and it will stick with me.  Early in the pandemic, we were having a distanced chat across the street with a neighbor.  When we walked away, I said out loud "1000 piece puzzles and chamomile tea."  The Mr looked at me and I said "I might get her something for Christmas, she said she likes those" and the Mr smiled because obviously that was what I heard and remembered.  

Not only is giving someone a gift you know they will like or need fun to do, how it's presented is also very important on making a big impression.  I'm not talking necessarily how it's wrapped but more of how it's put together if you're giving multiple gifts.  Here's a good example.  One of my best friends was having her bridal shower and I put this together for her:

She needed new luggage that was on her registry so I got her the suitcase and carry on.  I also got her the phone dry bags on her list (one for her and one for her fiancé) and tucked them in the inside pocket as well as the guidebook on her list.  This way when she opened the suitcase, she saw it had all kinds of goodies in it.  I also added two small additions she didn't ask for but hoped they could use anyway:

Custom luggage tags, one for each or an extra if he didn't need one.  I also read reviews and saw a few people had issues with the handle screw coming out.  It wasn't a lot compared to how many didn't have problems but even one would be enough to make me sweat.  So I got some flathead screws with nuts and tucked them inside explaining if she had an issue, she'd have a temporary fix until she could contact the company.  No, most people aren't that neurotic but I would crap if that happened to me on vacation!  People oohed and ahhed over the presentation and she laughed and said "this is so YOU to put it together like this!  I love it all, you are so thoughtful!"  Then I had two people tell me when their birthdays were if I wanted to gift them with anything.  
Another good way to be memorable is to surprise someone.  For example, back in the day when home theater systems first came out the Mr wanted one in the worst way.  I kept saying we had no room for it and don't use it enough to justify it, knowing all along I would save up to buy it.  ($600 at the time which is no drop in the bucket then or now.)  A well timed out of town training trip allowed me to run and buy it.  This was before Amazon so I had to find a way to get this 100+ lb monster in and out of the car AND up the stairs without having a heart attack and no one to call the ambulance when I keel.  I did it and immediately wrapped it and kept it in the closet.  When he came home, I casually told him that my mom asked if we could store a chest she wanted to give her sister that we would bring Christmas day.  He saw it and said "Wow.  Doesn't every adult want to get a gift that size?  I'm jealous!"  He thought nothing of it and on Christmas morning, I gave him a card as his last gift that said "that box in the closet isn't for my aunt."  He tore upstairs, ripped it open and figuratively pooped himself.  Luckily sound bars give the same effect for much less bulk and back pain!  I did the same with a huge Sony VEGA TV he wanted but it was so big, we had to end up renting a truck to get it home!  

So many gifts these days are virtual but it's no fun just getting an email...physically opening something is what makes it feel like a present!  The Mr always has Kindle books on his list.  To make sure he has something to open, I copy the image of the book cover from the listing and print it out on cardstock.

(Source.   I will save the image of the book to be printed for gift giving.)

I'll put the print out in a box and wrap it like a regular gift.  If I want to throw him off, I'll weight it down with something so he doesn't catch on.  He has said it does make a difference and it's always nice to open something.  He gets annoyed when a certain family member notorious for just leaving a gift in the shopping bag hands it over.  (I'm glad it's not just me!)  "That feels more like "I picked this up on the way here", not an actual gift."  While we never look a gift horse in the mouth and are always grateful someone thought of us, if you are over the age of 30, it's likely you have one large gift bag stuffed with 25 other smaller gift bags you've accumulated over the years so put those to use if wrapping isn't your thing.  Even to a dude that isn't super worried about details, it shows some effort that is much appreciated!

I've had people ask me how to put together that perfect gift bundle.  Here's an example to give you an idea of how to think about it.  Say you have someone who likes tea.  You can assume they probably have more than their share of mugs so skip that part.  This Harney & Sons Tea Bag Sampler 40 Ct with By The Cup Honey Sticks would be a great way for them to try other teas without having to buy a box themselves.  If you want a fancier presentation, this Harney & Sons Silken Sachets Tea Gift Set will certainly make them feel fancy pants!  The first one is casually wrapped in a non-descript white box with 15 flavors and some honey sticks and the second one has a more formal feel with 8 flavors. If you get the less formal option, you could fancy it up by getting a tea chest and putting the teas inside.  Or if you think they'd appreciate a less formal option, they have these clear tea bag organizers.  A tea timer could be a fun add on too so they can get their perfect brew every cup.

You get the idea.

Also, make sure you research when you're getting gifts for men.  Nothing ticks the Mr off more than these Christmas lists that come out for the "perfect gift" for men.  

Booze!!  (He doesn't drink.)  

Grilling tools!  (I'm the griller, not him.)  

Golf stuff!  (Doesn't play.)  

Ties!  (Hasn't worn one in probably 15 years.)  

Work stuff!  (Would you want something for your work unless you specifically asked for it?!?!)   

This is where wish lists come in incredibly handy to make sure the man in your life gets what they want from grandpa to teen.  If you don't want to ask the person directly, ask their spouse or someone close to them for ideas.  The Mr likes to game but not the way typical gamers do, he's more PC oriented and has no desire to listen to 12 year old's smack talk the 'old man' on multi player.  (Old man being anyone over 30 apparently.)   Steam or Game Stop gift cards can be a good idea for the gamer in your life.  They can get what they want, when they want.  You can couple it with something like a headphone stand.  Got a car lover on your hands?  Maybe some gift cards for supreme packages at a car wash to get the winter muck off.  Partner it with some waterless car wash and some microfiber towels for more in-garage cleaning until the weather gets better.   If they are handy and are talking about running to Home Depot or similar stores a lot, gift card them with that "for their next awesome project!"   Couple it with something like this cool home project calculator or this foldable LED light for when those projects run later than expected. I know giving gift cards can feel impersonal but personalizing them to their taste and hobbies will be appreciated much more than getting a more generic option.

The hardest to buy for is my mother in law and I think we all have those people, usually older who say they don't need anything.  She absolutely refuses to give gift ideas.  On a typical year, we take her out for her birthday at the beginning of the month and then go shopping and let her pick out her Christmas gift.  I always give her a little something to keep to open on Christmas Day.  You never know if she actually liked or used what you gave her because you just get a blanket thank you note unless she's blown away by something so it makes it especially hard for me to gauge her.  We got her a gift card to her favorite store for her birthday that we usually go to after lunch since she always gets a coupon for 20% off and darts to the clearance section.  She said to "surprise her" when I begged for a gift for Christmas morning so I had to put on my thinking cap.  She was very close to her mom who passed in the early 90's and the idea popped in my head to have one of the recipes she gave to me from her mom engraved on a cutting board.  I did that for my mom with a handwritten recipe we had but I didn't have a handwritten one from MIL.  So I took the card she typed out and contacted this Etsy store that had the best prices and delivery times and got the ball rolling.  They have several different types of wood, styles and fonts to choose from.  I had her put "from the kitchen of" and her mom's name on it.  Because there was no scanning involved, she had it printed and shipped out the next day!  So I've got that, she's a tea drinker so I got her a Harney and Sons sampler to go with it and we'll get her favorite candy from her hometown candy shop to wrap with them.

The Mr said it was their favorite recipe as a kid and they had it all the time so I think she'll like it and hopefully will pull at the heartstrings this year when we all just kind of want our mommies.  

As you can see, the biggest component to any of these suggestions is thoughtfulness.  It's about giving them not only something you know they want but presenting it in a way that sticks in their minds.  What's the saying?  "You may not remember what a person said but you always remember how they made you feel?"  Same goes for gift giving!  The person may not remember the exact gift 10 years from now, but they'll remember the love and thought that went into giving them something that made them happy!

What's the most memorable gift you've ever gotten?

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