Wednesday, December 9, 2015

It's Beginning To Look...

A little, tiny bit like Christmas. Lol.

I have now viewed approximately one million blogger Christmas home tours/house walks/what have you, and I've been inspired to share mine, such as it is.

I usually don't go "all out" on decorating until Hanukkah is over. (My husband is Jewish, so we celebrate both.) This year, Hanukkah ends on Sunday. The tree will go up Monday. In the meantime, Christmas is tiptoeing in. I just can't help myself!

(Although you may not be surprised to learn that, even when finished, the Christmas decor is minimal. I prefer to call it "tastefully simple." Much like my fall decorating!)

So, pour yourself a cup of coffee (sorry, no hot chocolate bar here...) and come on in.

I'm super happy with how the planters came out this year.

Just try to ignore the meters in the background, okay?

Wasn't feeling the need for a bow on the wreath, in keeping with the minimalist "theme" I'm going for. I did have some extra winterberries, so I just stuck them in there.

Moving inside on this "home tour," I "created" a centerpiece for my dining room table. I'd light it up, but then I'd need to go back to Michael's for more candles. And this baby needs to last until at least the 26th!

And now for the mantel reveal. I know...I've been building up to this! Bet you can't wait!

Even I will concede that this looks a little bare. Not to worry, fresh greens to be some point.

Christmas "artwork." (Picture frame plus scrapbook papers.) I actually really like how this came out.

Cranberries in the water...I love this idea. Hoping it will disguise when the water gets murky in a few days.

And that's it for the home tour. I'll add pictures of the tree, once it's up...maybe!

(I was thinking this year of getting a fake tree. You know—the pre-lit ones? I've heard they look very realistic now...and I can always burn a candle to get the scent of fresh greens. Vern Yip says his looks amazing—it came from Frontgate I think. So I clicked right over there and found that the pre-lit trees start at $600! Are you kidding me? Um, no. Guess it's a live tree for us, and I'll be finding stray pine needles on the floor well into the summer...or is that just me?)

Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by! A very Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Good Kwanzaa/whatever you celebrate! And a happy, healthy, and peaceful new year to all.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hodgepodge: Books, Bread, and Being a Redhead

This Hodgepodge was right in my wheelhouse. Took me zero time to complete. To join in, answer the questions yourself and link up at Joyce's blog!

1. Besides Thanksgiving, something you're looking forward to on your November calendar?

Girls weekend with two college buddies! We're meeting at Deep Creek Lake in friend has a place there.

We don't see each other often, but when we do, it's like we were never apart. No one makes me laugh like they do, or knows me better. We've been through everything from our first fraternity party, to our first jobs, to weddings, to dealing with babies and now teenagers.

It's hard to believe that our kids are almost the same age we were when we met! And two of them are applying to the college we went to! Boy, would Parents' Weekend be fun....

2. If I gave you a thank you card right now who would you send it to and why?

Dear Son,
Thank you.
Thank you for putting up with all of my college application nagging. Thank you for working so hard on your essays, which I know were not easy for you to write.
Thank you for being the kind of son any parent would be proud ofhonest, trustworthy, a loyal friend, and a hard worker, whether you're in class or on the field/court/track.
Thank you for making me laugh every day.
I'll miss you next yearso muchbut I can't wait to see you take the next step in your life! And to see you grow into the man you are fast becoming.
Love you always,

3. Of the breads listed, which one's your favorite...bagel, cinnamon, sourdough, garlic, banana, biscuit, pita, Naan, or plain old fashioned white bread?

I don't eat gluten now, so all of these sound delicious. I guess that I miss sourdough the most...although I love biscuits, too.

4. What's something you have in abundance? Is that a good thing?

I'm trying to think of something we have more of than other people...maybe books? We have lots of books. And it's really, really hard to let go of them. I'm good at decluttering other things, but books? I just can't.

5. November 5th is National Love Your Red Hair Day. Are there any redheads in your family? Who's your favorite redhead?

Ha! Easy one. Many, many redheads on both sides of my family...I actually wrote about this once.

And here's my favorite redhead:

Kidding! My favorite redhead is my little sister:

Hard to tell here, but yes, the hair is red.
And, please, don't call us gingers.

6. The travel website Busbud recently calculated the most Instagrammed spot in every state. Go here to see what made the list where you live. Are you happy with your state's #1? If not what do you think should be the most photographed spot in your state? Have you snapped a photo there? If you live outside the USA answer as it relates to your state, city or province.

Wow, I never would have thought that the Pittsburgh Zoo would have been the most Instagrammed place in my state! I've never been there, and I lived in Pittsburgh for two years!

Maybe I'm showing my eastern Pennsylvania bias, but I would have chosen this spot (which I'm sure I've never photographed, since I'm really, really bad at remembering to take pictures):

7. I'm going to try to have something related to gratitude in this spot each week during the month of November. Here's this week's question

What's something you've learned about yourself this year that you're grateful for?

I learned that I can run! I've always been horrible at it, and hated it. I did gymnastics and played softball as a kid, so running was not something I had to do often. I always struggled with the mile run in gym class (and came up with the most creative of excuses for why I couldn't participate).

Last January I resolved to walk 10,000 steps every day (thank you, Fitbit!), and then one day last spring I decided to try jogging a bit of my walk. Now I'm comfortably running 2 miles at a time (and I was up to 3 before I sprained my ankle last summer). I know this doesn't sound like much. But to me it's huge.

I'm so grateful that I've been able to achieve something I never, ever thought I could do. And so grateful to be healthy enough to even try.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Good times at our house. The chimney had a leak, so we had all the stucco pulled off. It's clear now that the plywood underneath is completely rotted. The whole length of the chimney needs to be rebuilt.

I can think of so many other, more satisfying ways we could have spent the money this will cost.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Zombies Would Be Preferable

Uh oh.

You guys. I click on articles like this?

Now, in addition to the typical worries that keep me awake at 4 am (thank you, perimenopause), I can add to the list a solar storm.

Evidently, a large solar storm could knock out the power grid. For months or longer. For a large portion of the country. And there's a 12% chance of it happening in the next ten years? What?

This is the kind of news that makes me wish that I was a Doomsday Prepper. You know—the kind of person who is stocking a year's supply of food and water, plus the arsenal of weaponry I would need to defend it.

So I've decided to take stock of my current supply situation.

  • Water. Um, there's a pond on the golf course by my house. Can water filters remove fertilizer run off, does anyone know?
  • Food. Let's hope I would've just gone to Costco. Of course, if it were summer, we could count on our community garden supply us with basil and tomatoes for a week or more! But how do I make pesto without a blender?
  • Fuel. Yeah. I can just see my husband felling one of our 90-year-old oak trees. 
  • Candles. I own two scented candles plus a bag of pine-scented votives. Really gonna smell good in here. 

To defend my stash, I plan to use my father's old navy sword. Never mind that it couldn't cut a stick of butter. I will hone it. On the curb out front.

I'm going out shopping now to start my preparations. First stop: the one item that is obviously first on the list for any emergency.

What? It's for medicinal purposes.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

More Downsizing

Have I mentioned that my mother- and father-in-law are moving here from Ohio?

They have lived in the house where my husband grew up for almost fifty years and are finally ready to give up being homeowners. (They reached their breaking point after the terrible cold and snow the Midwest had last winter.) Their previously active social life is dwindling. FIL says that their friends (a) have moved away, (b) don't want to drive at night, or (c) can't remember that they've made dinner plans. So they're moving east to be near their children, two of whom live in the Philly area.

We are so excited for them to arrive. My kids have not lived near grandparents since we left Washington—more than eleven years ago. I'm envious of my friends who grew up here and have family close by. Growing up, my family lived 4+ hours away from our nearest relatives. I hated that, so I wanted my kids to always live near family. And to be rooted in one place.

I've lived in so many states that it's hard to say where home is. In Massachusetts, where I went to elementary and high school? In Washington, DC, where I had my first job, met my husband, and had our children? In Philadelphia, where my kids have grown up?

(I will say that I feel like I've come home when I see a sign like this one, which are seen at the borders between towns in Massachusetts.)

Not actually from my hometown, which evidently is too small to have its sign in Google images. Source

As for my kids, I think we may have succeeded in giving them roots here. My daughter has lived in Pennsylvania since third grade and is in college in Philadelphia. My son started first grade here—and could end up at college in-state also. (Fingers crossed. He's also considering schools in California, which in theory sounds great—isn't college a great time to explore a new part of the country!—but in practice would be very hard, on his mom at least.)

Having grandparents down the road, along with the cousins who live just across the city, will make Philadelphia even more of a hometown for our family. My fondest dream is to have the kids settle here. I could babysit for them! Between the trips to exotic locales we'll be taking as retirees, of course. ;)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hodgepodging Halloween

A slightly scary, somewhat Halloween-themed Hodgepodge this week. To join in, and you know you want to, visit Joyce and link up with your answers!

1. Are you comfortable with silence? If you're home alone, do you like silence or do you need regular background noise? Do you seek out times and places to be silent? What's your favorite place to find silence/be silent?

I'm perfectly happy to have it quiet when I'm at home alone. After a while, the TV or radio on as background noise gets on my nerves. I remember when I was a stay-at-home mom with my babies, I tried hard not to have the TV on during the day. (Only exception: Regis and Kathie Lee. I love Reeg!)

I don't seek out silence, but I do enjoy being in quiet places—like church on a weekday or at night. I was going to say at the library, but I don't think they are quiet places anymore? At least ours isn't.

2. October 28th is National Chocolate Day. Can't let that go by without a mention now, can we? Will you celebrate? How? Let's say you can have one of the following right this very minute... a cup of hot chocolate, a strawberry dipped in chocolate, a bowl of plain chocolate ice cream, or a slice of chocolate pie...what's your pleasure?

I've already had way too much chocolate this week, thanks to my lack of willpower and the Halloween candy in the cupboard. I'll pass for now.

3. How do you feel about blue jeans? Favorite thing in the world to wear or nope, don't own a single pair? How often do you wear blue jeans in a typical week? Do you own a blue jean jacket?

I basically wear jeans any time I can. Dark wash jeans = dressed up in my book!

I wore a Levi's jean jacket in college constantly. (I never wear it now, but I just can't part with it.)

4. Are you superstitious? If so, in what way?

I don't consider myself superstitious. I do always knock on wood when I'm talking about something good about to happen. I also throw salt over my left shoulder if I spill any.

A black cat has crossed my path twice this week. That's good, right? It cancels out?

Like I said—I'm not superstitious. ;)

5. If you had to come up with a costume using only things you have on hand right now, what could you come up with? 

I have used this in a pinch (here demonstrated by my son, years ago):

It's a conversation starter.

6. What scares you a little? What do you do when you feel scared?

What scares me just a little? Like a good kind of scared?  Umm. We are watching the new season of Fargo. That's a little scary! But not the kind of scary that would keep me up at night.

7. Perhaps today will be the day I...

Order my son's senior pictures. I can't decide which pose I like best! And he (being a boy and all) couldn't care less what his yearbook picture looks like. (Maybe I'll just use the picture above!)

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Daylight savings time starts (or ends?) this weekend! I'm looking forward to a little more light in the mornings, as it is very hard to haul myself out of bed at 6:00 lately.

I don't mind the dark in the evening. (It means that the holidays are just around the corner!)

Also: Go Temple! Beat Notre Dame!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Filed Under: If We Win the Lottery

Four round trip tickets, British Airways, Philadelphia to London:

Hotel, two nights:

Matinee and evening tickets for four at Palace Theatre:

Seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on opening night:

In case you haven't been following the latest Potter news, here's the story (from
Based on an original new story by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new play by Jack Thorne, will receive its world premiere in London’s West End at the Palace Theatre in the summer of 2016. 
Featuring a cast of over 30, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. 
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places. 
I would so love to take the kids to see this! Daughter and son grew up reading Harry Potter, and we are veterans of midnight book release parties, movie openings, and at least one year of Halloween costumes.

Wingardium leviosa!

Unless I develop magical powers, however, it looks like we Muggles will just have to wait until the play comes to New York.

Friday, October 23, 2015

It's the Little Things

I was listening to a podcast recently (maybe This American Life?), and they were talking about how many studies have shown that the older you get, the happier you are. 100% true for me, so far. And I think that at least part of why I'm so happy is that I have more time to look around me and enjoy the little things.

So here's what's making me happy this week.

1. This book review.

"The free-living dolphins of the Bahamas had come to know researcher Denise Herzing and her team very well. For decades, at the start of each four-month-long field season, the dolphins would give the returning humans a joyous reception: 'a reunion of friends,' as Herzing described it. But one year the creatures behaved differently. They would not approach the research vessel, refusing even invitations to bow-ride. When the boat’s captain slipped into the water to size up the situation, the dolphins remained aloof. Meanwhile on board it was discovered that an expeditioner had died while napping in his bunk. As the vessel headed to port, Herzing said, 'the dolphins came to the side of our boat, not riding the bow as usual but instead flanking us fifty feet away in an aquatic escort' that paralleled the boat in an organized manner.

The remarkable incident raises questions that lie at the heart of Carl Safina’s astonishing new book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. Can dolphin sonar penetrate the steel hull of a boat—and pinpoint a stilled heart? Can dolphins empathize with human bereavement? Is dolphin society organized enough to permit the formation of a funeral cavalcade? If the answer to these questions is yes, then Beyond Words has profound implications for humans and our worldview."

2. Fall decorations. 

Minimal, as usual, but the little that I have done is making me disproportionately happy.

(You can see why I don't pretend to be a lifestyle blogger.)

3. Gluttony.

The Halloween candy has been purchased. Unfortunately, it has also been opened. This happened in the parking lot at Target.

4. Magazines.

Does anyone else have the Recycle Bank program in their town? All of our curbside recycling is weighed and each household is awarded points for each pound. These points can be redeemed for various rewards.

It was off my radar for years. So I checked our account a few weeks ago and we had 17,000 points accumulated! We looked and looked through the available awards and were having a hard time finding anything we really wanted, until we discovered that we could get free magazine subscriptions. So we ordered four: This Old House, Cycling, Cooking Light, and Afar. It's fun to get something in the mail other than bills.

Only 16,800 points to use up now!

5. Fall weather.

I don't have to get up at dawn to go for a run! (I can loll in my PJs until noon.)

6. Next on my reading list.

Loved, loved, loved the Little House books. I can't wait to get the real story.

Predictions: (a) Almanzo = not actually Laura's first choice (clearly it was that cutie Cap Garland); (b) Mary = not quite so saintly; (c)  Pa = closet drinker?  (Okay, maybe not that last one.)

7. Tea tree oil.

Bought some of this because Dr. Google has diagnosed me with rosacea, and it's supposed to help. I think it's working!

Now it's like My Big Fat Greek Wedding around here with the Windex. I'm using it on everything.

8. Fan belt.

For months my car has been screeching when I start it. You know how you just ignore these kinds of problems? The car is totally driveable, and fixing was not a priority. Well, we got to the point where people were jerking in horror when the car started. The whole neighborhood could hear it.

Now, sweet purring of the engine is all I hear when I start up. And the neighbors can finally relax.

9. Email string.

I've been emailing back and forth with my college roommate for months and it's so much fun! (We don't live in the same city anymore, and she's not really a texter.) The title of the string is "Joined at the hip" and every time I see it come up I smile. We've been commiserating on, ahem, aging issues—I'll spare you the details—but it's uncanny how we are having very similar experiences.

(I was going to do ten things, but maybe I'm not really THAT happy.)

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