Toastmasters, Because I Love Toast

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I was getting ready to come home from Costa Rica with No.1 and No.2 Sis. They were talking about their membership in Toastmasters. I said I wanted to join, because who doesn’t love toast?

Of course, Toastmasters is about making speeches, not about making toast. Now that I’ll be joining  No.2 Sis’ Toastmaster club tomorrow, I’m having some feelings. And you know I hate feelings. Especially these feelings. Fear, anxiety, terror, PANIC!

I didn’t have trouble getting up and speaking in front of people until 7th grade. We had to make a speech in front the class about any topic. I gave a humorous speech about why cats are better pets than dogs. Apparently, I’m no Henny Youngman (Steve Martin? Chris Rock?) because it got no laughs at all.


Also, the teacher, a very mean and vicious nun (aren’t they all?) shamed me in front of the class for using a little off-color humor. Like the lack of laughs wasn’t humiliating enough.

Then in 9th grade, we all had to take a speech class. I researched the hell out of all my topics, and gave some very dry, humorless speeches. In a small, shaky voice. I’d get an A for prep and a C for delivery.

No.5 Bro was in the same class, and he’d just go up in front of the class and wing it (and even get laughs). He’d get a D for prep and an A for delivery. If only we’d been able to combine my research with his confidence.

So tomorrow I begin facing one of my biggest fears, public speaking. Even though he never joined Toastmasters, I think I need to call No.5 Bro for some tips. I hope none of them involve first getting stoned (not that my brother ever did that…wink, wink).

Stay tuned…


Last Woman Standing

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No.2 Sis looked out at the rain, and the trees being whipped by 30 mile per hour winds and said, “I hear that Costa Rica is such a beautiful country. We must not have seen very much of it.”



This is true. We haven’t toured at all in the months that we’ve lived here.



Instead, we’ve taken turns being sick. This latest bug was delivered by No.3 Bro and his girlfriend just before Christmas.

Then No.1 Sis came down with it. She passed it to her son, Dude, who was visiting. No.2 Sis got it next.

I’m the last one standing. I haven’t gotten it, knock on wood.

We managed to get a grocery order delivered in spite of the lack of an address. The driver called several times to describe where he was, and we guided him to Casa Amarilla.

I’m thinking we should have asked how much the zucchinis weighed before we ordered two of them.



Know any good zucchini recipes?

Stay tuned…


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The last month has been crazy busy with getting the house (Laurel’s Cottage) ready to sell.

It went on the market Friday about noon. By Saturday at 4:00 I was whining, “Why is it taking so long to sell?” By Saturday at 6:00, it was sold.

I got my full asking price after 30 hours on the market.

Thanks to my nephews, Jamie and Jake, for moving furniture and hauling away junk.

Thanks to my nephew, Steve, for drilling all the holes for cabinet and drawer hardware (35 knobs).

Thanks to No.3 Bro, for being my realtor (and for apologizing that the house was on the market so long).

Thanks to No.1 Sis, No.2 Sis and No.8 Sis for helping me paint.

No.1 showed up to paint in nice clothes, so I gave her a shirt that fit her like a dress. She took her shirt and pants off and set them aside. No.3 Bro came by to check on our progress so No.1 put her pants back on before I let him in. She and No.3 Bro chatted so long, that No.8 yelled at No.1, “Take your pants off and get back to work”! Bro took that as his cue to leave.

Special big hugs to No.2 for spending every free moment in the last month helping me declutter, and to No.8 Sis for staging the house so beautifully!

My next adventure is a secret to be revealed soon.

Here are some before and after photos highlighting No.8 Sis’ fantastic staging.








queen bath-3

























More pictures and final bag count coming soon!

Stay tuned…

The Ghost of Christmas Present

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CHRISTMAS #1: Potluck lunch at “The Company”.

Each year, near the winter solstice, my fellow employees of “The Company” arrange a potluck lunch for all to share.

There were about 18 crock pots full of main dishes, a dozen platters of sausages, cheeses and crackers, multiple chips and dips, a plethora of salads, and a few things that defied categorization. There were also about eleventy-hundred desserts.

I brought napkins.

Approximate calories ingested: 10,000.

CHRISTMAS #2: Dinner with my BFF “L” and her family.

I went over to “L”‘s house on Christmas eve, laden with gifts for her and her twin boys, age 14. I didn’t get anything for her husband this year, because I don’t want him to get too spoiled.

After dinner and desserts, we played Cards Against Humanity. It’s very raunchy, and we had to explain some of the terms to the boys. We’re such good role models.

Approximate calories ingested: 10,000.

CHRISTMAS #3: Buffet lunch at the casino.

On Christmas day, I met No.1 Sis, and BFFs “V1” and “V2” at Mystic Lake Casino for the buffet lunch (prices extra high for the holiday) and a little light gambling.

My tip: Avoid the sugar-free desserts.

My other tip: Try the new slot machines that have the huge video screens. You’ll probably still lose money, but the graphics are awesome.

Approximate calories ingested: 10,000.

Money won: $35.

CHRISTMAS #4: Potluck lunch at No.1 Sis’ house.

No.9 Bro, along with his wife and two kids, were visiting Minnesota from their home in Washington state. We all gathered at No.1 Sis’ for a potluck lunch and some game-playing.

I brought celery.

Approximate calories ingested: 10,000.


“Christmas Belle” with Halie Duff, 1 time (don’t bother).

“A Christmas Carol” with Patrick Stewart, 1 time (the best “Christmas Carol” ever filmed).

“Elf” with Will Ferrell, 3 times (listen to the phone conversation the secretary is having the first time Buddy comes to visit his Dad).

“Arthur Christmas”, an animated British Christmas movie, 1 time (highly recommend).


Antacids ingested: Approximately eleventy-hundred.

Blood sugar: Too afraid to check.

Weight loss, against all laws of nature: 2 pounds.

Stay tuned…

P.S. A co-worker informed me there were 27 crockpots at The Company potluck!

P.P.S. I forgot, I still have one more Christmas to celebrate! That makes 5 this year!



Domesticity, or 304


As we got older, most of my siblings and I moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul to start our careers. That left No.1 Sis and her 3 kids in our hometown to look after Mom.

Sis would visit Mom in her palatial manse trailer, and sometimes Mom would cook for Sis and her family. My nephew would help set the table and his keen, young eyes would sometimes spot bits of caked-on food debris on the dishes. Mom didn’t have a dishwasher, and the lighting in the palatial manse trailer was none too bright.

When Sis pressed her son to help wash dishes at their home he complained, “Aw, can’t we just wipe them and put them in the cupboard like Grandma?”

No.5 Bro, No.1 Nephew, and me in 1977

No.5 Bro, No.1 Nephew, and me, in 1977

This is why I’m so proud of myself when I do anything domestic and do it well. Why, just this week I ran a load of dishes in the dishwasher and also ran a load of laundry through the washer and dryer. Where’s my gold star?

I know, I know, this is what adults do. And I have a dishwasher, and lights. Oh, and a housekeeper. Let’s not forget the housekeeper.

With all my chores done, I decided to go back into the art studio and make some headway on the next tower of crap. I got about halfway down. That netted 2 boxes and a bag of donations.

I found some junk jewelry I’ll have to go through to decide what to keep, what to donate and what might be sold. And I found a box of funny money! You know, silver dollars, mercury dimes and wheat pennies. Sweet!

Speaking of money, I made nothing extra to apply to my bills in October. However, I did get a better than expected yearly raise, and my health insurance premiums didn’t go up. Shocking, as they have always gone up every year!

And, my homeowner’s association is lowering my HOA fees by $50 per month next year! Lowering? Amazing!

I’m so grateful for all the little windfalls. And with the added 3 boxes and bags donated this week, I’ve gotten rid of 304 bags, boxes and small pieces of furniture since January, 2014. That means every week, my house is getting bigger and bigger.

I hope the housekeeper doesn’t notice.

Stay tuned…

p.s. I originally posted this on Thursday, November 12th, but accidentally put it on a different page. Reposting today, Sunday, November 15th.

Progress During My Stay-cation

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I just finished my “stay-cation” and now I can go back to work feeling rested and ready to tackle my next goal. Perfection. I don’t know why I think I can radically change my thoughts, habits and circumstances after a week off, but it hits me after every vacation. Just more of my delusions, I guess. I’ll bring that up with Dr. Ima Shrink. I’m sure she’ll have some insights.

I got a lot done during my week off. I finished one and a half jigsaw puzzles, read at least 4 novels, watched a few “Brooklyn 99″‘s (great show- check it out) and took oodles of naps.

I also joined No.2 Sis, No.4 Sis, No.5 Bro and his wife, and No. 9’s wife  “J” and daughter “L” for brunch on Thursday. We ate at Ze’s Diner, a red-and-white 50’s diner. Good food, good prices and good service. Check it out if you’re in the Twin Cities. My 3 year old niece, “L”, sang “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” for us after brunch. After an exuberant round of applause, she bowed and said, “Thank you very much. I’ll be here all week”. That got her another ovation.

On Friday we all got together, with the addition of a few more nieces and nephews, for an Independence Day potluck.  The only sibling missing was No.4 Sis, since she was hosting her husband’s family down on the farm. We took lots of pictures, because it’s rare for 8 out of the 9 of us to be together at the same time. I think it will become even more rare, as No.9 Bro and family have decided to move to Seattle come August 1st.

Projects, you ask? Ah, yes, I made some more progress on the patio project. No.2 Sis came over on Saturday, after I’d been off work for a week, and helped me sand and paint the patio table. We did find some rusted through pin holes, but all in all, I think the table has maintained structural integrity. We put six coats of paint on it in one day, and it looks marvelous. Now, I need to paint and plant a big pot, and hang the beautiful wind chimes that were a gift from a friend. I’m so, so close to having a finished project!!!

Sunday, my last day at home, I pulled together outfits for work and cooked for the week. I had a hankering for Tater Tot hotdish (casserole for you non-Minnesotans). I got a recipe from Pinterest, and it looked so good. I ate a serving for supper, and about an hour later found myself in some minor gastric discomfort. I brought some of the hotdish to work for lunch on Monday. I had the same gastric distress that afternoon. Damn. I don’t know exactly what’s wrong with it, besides being a food no one over the age of 10 should eat, but it has to be thrown away. Well, it has to go into the freezer until it can be thrown away on garbage day. I don’t want to draw vermin, especially vermin with gastric distress. I think it’s a little sad that I want a bigger freezer just so I can store my cooking debacles.

I’m pretty sure I won’t achieve perfection this week. Maybe next week.

Stay tuned…


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I took this whole week off work to finish ALL my home projects. Then I heard No.5 Bro is coming into town with his wife. They’ll be here all week. Parties will be scheduled. Dinners, brunches, picnics, cards. Projects will have to be fit into the gaps, much as they are during the regular work week.

No.5 and wife will arrive late tonight (Monday), so I had yesterday and today to do projects.I have a water spigot on the front of the house and one on the back. With the help of a 14 inch length of pipe, I was able to turn on the water in the back. I can’t even see the lever for the front. It’s all tucked behind the water softener. Or as I explained to my sisters, the salt machine. You know, the salt machine that makes water good? They were able to figure it out.

I linked together 2 hoses and ran them from the back spigot to the front of the house. Not quite long enough. So I ran to the hardware store AGAIN (the first time was for the pipe) and bought another hose. I linked the 3 hoses and added the power wash nozzle. Then I saw this:



Damn vandals! Unscrewing doorbells and running away! Kids these days! Why, when I was a youngster….wait a minute. The entire door frame has been freshly painted. Oh, the association must have sent someone out to do repairs. Cough, cough, well…I’m a little embarrassed by my reaction. So glad I didn’t call the police.

For a brief moment I toyed with the idea of replacing the doorbell because it’s butt-ugly. I knew that that would turn into a several hundred dollar project with the potential for serious injury, so I just fastened the doorbell back on (the screws were sitting nearby).

Then I power washed the entire front entry. The light still needs a little scrubbing. Apparently, it’s been a birdie rest stop. Eww. I took a picture, but I won’t include it here. I do have SOME boundaries!

Today, No.2 Sis came over to help me continue painting the patio chairs. The chairs look awesome! We haven’t even started the table yet. Between coats of paint, we worked on cleaning the house. We took out 3 bags of recycling and 1 bag of garbage. I also packed 2 more bags for donations, mostly clothes. It’s getting easier and easier to decide what to wear in the morning! That puts my count at 137. Sweet!

I promise I’ll post some pictures when I finish cleaning the entry and put some flowers out. I’ll also put the rug, chairs and pillow on the patio for a half-way there photo. No table, lanterns or flower pots yet. If I wait until it’s 100% done, you may not see it for a long, long, LONG time!

Stay tuned…

P.S. I almost forgot, we (meaning Sis) replaced the old, flimsy Throne Room toilet seat with a sturdy new one (buy here)! Yay, cross one more thing off the list!

Note to readers: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using the link (whether it’s the product I recommend or another). Thanks for helping me earn margarita money!



Family Dynamics; or Why I Rely on My Sisters

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With all my talk of sisters, have you ever wondered if I have brothers? I do, I have brothers and city sisters and country sisters, but I almost always call on my city sisters when I need help. Here’s a rundown to help you keep things straight.

No.1 Sis is a city sister, that is, she lives here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. She’s 62, divorced, has 3 grown kids and 3 grandkids. She’ll become a great-grandmother in a couple of months. Bwahaha! No.1 great-granny. That cracks me up. She’s probably about the same level of handiness as I am. That means she’s game to try and she’s on the clumsy side. Between the two of us, something will get broken or someone will be hurt.

No.2 Sis is also a city sister and she lives closest to me. She’s 61, married, has 3 grown daughters and 12 grandkids. The oldest grandkid just graduated from college and the youngest just graduated from diapers. No.2 Sis is probably about the same level of handiness as I am, but unlike me, she reads directions and takes common-sense safety precautions. For example, she didn’t let me try to trim the hard poly-something ceiling medallion on my lap. She made me put it on the counter before working on it, no doubt saving me a trip to the ER. Isn’t the femoral artery in the thigh? Anyway, her direction reading and safety mindedness puts her far above me on the Handy Ma’am scale, and I call on her the most.

No.3 is a brother! He’s 60, divorced with 2 grown sons and about to be a grandpa for the first time. He lives here in the Twin Cities and  he’s quite handy. However, between his realtor work, his art play and his intense dating schedule, it’s hard to get his help. Plus I think he hires handymen for his own maintenance and improvement jobs nowadays, so why would he want to do my projects?

No.4 Sis is a country sister. She’s married, has 1 grown daughter and 2 grandkids. She’s a fantastic quilter and held my hand through the making of my 2 quilts. I know No.4 Sis and her husband renovated their 100 year old farmhouse together, so I assume she’s very handy. Either that, or she’s very good at letting her husband know what she wants. But, as I said, she’s a country sister and she lives about 90 miles south of the Twin Cities, so I usually don’t ask her for help with my non-quilt related projects.

No.5 Bro is 56, just 13 months older than me. He’s been married only 18 months, still a newlywed! He doesn’t have kids. He and his lovely wife live in Michigan. He went to college there and decided to stay. No.5’s the only sibling to move out of state. I haven’t assessed his handyman skills, but he’s too far away to help out anyway.

I, Laurel, am No. 6. I’m 55 and I’m single with no kids. I’m a city sister, and glad to be one. How do people live in the country? There’s so much…outdoors. Don’t get me wrong, I love nature…when viewed from the air-conditioned indoors, preferably from my easy chair.

This may be a good opportunity to mention that after 6 kids in 7 years, Mom started to go a little crazy. It may have also been about this time when she started questioning whether or not Catholicism was right for her. Moving on…

No.7 Sis is the other country sister. She’s 52 and has 2 grown kids. She’s the go-to Sis for all garden questions, as she’s a horticulturist and a master gardener. She’s also got great design sense and has a beautiful home. Otherwise, I think her husband takes care of the building of things. And, she’s about 90 miles west of the Twin Cities, so a bit far for hands-on help.

No. 8 Sis is the final city sister. She’s 49, for a couple  more weeks. She’s been engaged for about 13 years with no wedding being planned. She helped “The Mister” raise his 2 kids, who are both in college now. No.8 Sis is the Queen of Everything. She’s great for financial advice, design advice, cooking advice and travel advice. She has power tools to lend,  and she’s a Handy Ma’am of superb skill. And, if she can’t do it herself, she gets absolute perfection from her contractors of choice. I try never to ask her for unskilled labor, as that would be a waste of her many talents.

No. 9 Bro is the youngest at 47. He’s married with 2 little kids. He’s not handy. He’s rented all his life, so he hasn’t had to be. He lives here in the Twin Cities, but even if he was handy, he spends all his time with his young family, as he should. I do love hearing those kids call him “Papa”. It’s so cute!

So, now you understand why you hear so much about my sisters, especially my city sisters, on this blog. I’m close to them, geographically and emotionally, and they’re my support system extraordinaire. Power to the sisterhood!

Stay tuned…