Bits and Bobs, and 317

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I celebrated my fifth and final Christmas 2015 a week ago Saturday with my BFF “G”. We met for lunch and a gift exchange in Rochester. I also brought a stuffed-full bag of paper grocery bags for her husband “M”. He uses them in his small business in lieu of buying logo bags.

After lunch, “G” and I went to the book store, where “G” bought a boatload of books. I bought nothing. I’m so proud of myself. We lingered at the in-store coffee shop for a while, sipping and chatting, until it was time to part ways.

Before I left, though, “G” asked me to turn around. I did, and she gave me a few light swats on my full and generous bottom. She explained that when she’d asked her husband if he wanted her to give me anything from him, he said, “A spanking”. Aww, and I only got him paper bags.

After work on Tuesday, I worked on the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. Of ,course, I stayed up way too late  drinking (water and cocoa), which meant that I had to get up twice during the night.

The first time I got up, Bella Cat followed me into the bathroom and sat in the sink. Very odd. The second time, she followed me in, and sat in the shower. She never goes into the shower, as she’s learned it’s wet in there.

Ahhh, the light bulb came on. I went to her water dish and found it dry as the Sahara. Clever cat. Forgetful Mama.

On Wednesday, I cooked. Mushroom Burgers (from Top 200 Low Carb Recipes) and Citrus Herb Chicken. I also made Turkey Soup without a recipe and it turned out not-so-great. I ended up throwing that away.

Yesterday (Saturday), I went to my BFF “V”‘s house to play cards with my City Sisters. No.8 Sis was absent, as she’s visiting a friend in India right now.

I made Caprese skewers for the gathering. I saw the recipe on Pinterest, but I added pepperoni. It was so good, I made some more for lunch today.

CAPRESE SKEWERS

CAPRESE SKEWERS

In addition to the bag of bags given to “M”, I topped off a bag of clothes to donate. That puts me at a total of 317 bags, boxes or small pieces of furniture gotten rid of since January, 2014.

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

The Ghost of Christmas Future, and New Year’s Resolutions

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This Christmas is over, and after all the gift-giving, card-sending, partying and over-eating, all I want to do is…start on next year’s preparations.

Am I sick, or what?

It might be because I never finished decorating for this Christmas. Or it might be because I haven’t had time to do anything very creative for a while, so I want to make some more Christmas cards and some earrings to give as gifts. Goddess knows, I have enough earrings for my own wearing for this lifetime!

But, it’s New Year’s eve today, so I must review my 2015 resolutions to see how I did.

2015 RESOLUTIONS:

1. CUT CREDIT CARD DEBT BY HALF.

Oh my, oh my. This was a complete and utter FAIL. I started 2015 with $8000 in credit card debt, and ended 2015 with $12,600 in credit card debt. I had approximately $6000 in medical bills this year, while I had $1500 budgeted. I also had to buy new tires for Gypsy Blue, to the tune of $1000.

This week I withdrew $4500 from my retirement savings (gulp) to pay off the “small” cards, and I refinanced the $8100 balance on an expiring 0% interest card to a new 0% interest card.

2. CONTINUE DECLUTTERING AND BLOGGING.

This went pretty well, if slower than I would’ve liked, so I’ll call it a WIN. Yay!

I started 2015 at 231 bags, boxes and small pieces of furniture cleared out of the house, and ended the year at 309.

3. CONTINUE TO COOK, AND EAT WELL.

This was a 50-50 success-fail. I had a weight loss of 25 pounds, then fell of the lo-carb wagon in slo-mo, gained 15 pounds back, got back on the wagon, lost 8 pounds, fell off the wagon from Thanksgiving through Christmas, got back on the wagon, lost 2 pounds…

Up and down, back and forth, to and fro…you get the idea.

I just decided, a tie is a WIN.

4. TAKE A PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE.

FAIL. I bought a new camera last year and can’t even figure out how to turn it on.

5. TAKE TECH WRITING COURSE.

FAIL. This was an “I should do this to try to make extra money” resolution. My heart wasn’t really in it.

6. LEARN TAI CHI.

FAIL. This was an “I should do this to make Dr. Paul, my naturopath, proud of me” resolution. My heart wasn’t really in this one, either.

I didn’t make a resolution to get back into my Herbalism course, but I started it up anyway. I had left it a little while (cough*years*cough) ago, when I was just 60% through part one of three. I finished parts one and two this year! Yay! BONUS WIN.

TOTAL: 3 WINS, 4 FAILS.

Embarrassing to admit, but probably my most successful year ever.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! MAY 2016 BE THE BEST EVER!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! MAY 2016 BE THE BEST EVER!

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS, 2016:

  1. CANCEL ALL CREDIT CARDS EXCEPT NEW 0% AND MY BANK VISA.
  2. BUILD UP $1200 EMERGENCY FUND. (Not much, but $1200 more than I have right now).
  3. PAY CASH FOR EVERYTHING. (No new charges).

Of course, I want to eat well more consistently, and I want to continue decluttering, and I want to learn to use that damn camera, but I don’t want to focus my resolutions on those things.

Hey, to make sure I’m extra successful, maybe I should resolve to NOT take a tech writing class or learn Tai Chi!

Stay tuned…

p.s. I made $59 extra in December. I sold $24 worth of household goods to a thrift store and won $35 at the casino.

 

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 MOVIES WATCHED:

“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).

OTHER STATS:

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!

 

 

The Ghost of Christmas Past, or 309

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Okay, let’s face it. It’s 2 days until Christmas and I’m not going to decorate the mantel.

I got the tree put up. I got my shopping and wrapping done (thanks Mrs. Mary Kay, AKA No.2 Sis). I got my Christmas letter written and my cards sent out.

I’ve had the first of four Christmas celebrations. And I’m done. Well, except for the three parties this coming weekend. Then I’m done.

I was looking through some old photos of Christmases past.

MY FIRST CHRISTMAS (IN BLANKET). LOOK AT THE ROLLER SKATES THAT YOU CLAMP TO YOUR SHOES.

Christmas past - 1

PHOTOGRAPHIC PROOF THAT MY MOTHER SOMETIMES COOKED (I’VE HEARD RUMORS, BUT HAVE NEVER SEEN IT).

MY FIRST DOLL.

Christmas past - 2

THANK THE GODS, THE NUN DOLL WAS NOT FOR ME.

Christmas past - 3

WHY DO I HAVE A FEATHER IN MY HAIR? NO. IDEA.

Besides doing all my Christmas chores this week, I worked on cleaning out the Studio. I donated 2 more boxes to Goodwill. That makes 309 bags, boxes and small pieces of furniture removed from the house since January, 2014. I thought I’d be done by now. Hah!

Stay tuned…

A Little Solstice Decor, and 307

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I haven’t put up a Christmas tree in a few years. In fact, I just got rid of my five-foot tall artificial tree while cleaning out the garage.

I decided to buy a new,  smaller tree this year. Small enough so Bella the cat wouldn’t recognize it as a tree that needed climbing. Large enough so that she wouldn’t mistake it for a cat toy.

LITTLE SOLSTICE TREE

LITTLE SOLSTICE TREE

No.2 Sis made these ceramic Santas for me.

CERAMIC SANTAS

CERAMIC SANTAS

And this is one of my favorite ornaments.

SISTERS ALWAYS STICK TOGETHER

SISTERS ALWAYS STICK TOGETHER

I added a bunch of the ornaments I no longer use to the “Sell” box and took 2 boxes to a thrift store that pays cash for home decor. They bought one of the boxes (none of the ornaments)  so the rest went into the Goodwill donation box.

That brings my total number of boxes, bags and small pieces of furniture cleared out of the house up to 307.

I still plan on decorating the mantel (yes, I know it’s getting very close to the Solstice/Christmas) and when I do, I’ll post some more pictures.

Stay tuned…

 

WAC 2015, November

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My BFF “C” planned our Women’s Adventure Club outing for November. Seven club members met in Hudson, Wisconsin, for their Christmas Home Tour.

We toured two McMansions, all decked up in their holiday finery. All the stair railings were decorated with swags of greenery and twinkle lights, every room had a fully-loaded Christmas tree, and there was even a real stuffed deer in one family room.

An upstairs hallway had a faux clothesline running its length, upon which hung a full collection of ugly Christmas sweaters. One had even won a blue ribbon in an ugly sweater competition.

There were ornaments of every shape and size, from home-made toilet paper roll snowflakes, to glass pine cones the size of a baby’s head.

We also toured the Octagon house. It’s a historic home in downtown Hudson built over a hundred years ago. It was built in an octagon shape in the belief that all the cross-breezes were conducive to healthy living.

The final home on the tour was a “green” home built by its owner, Gary, and shared with a large fish named Larry. It had a southwestern look from the outside, a bit out of place in frigid Minnesota, but the inside was very sleek and modern. The coolest part about this home was its passive solar design, which allows it to be furnace-free. In Minnesota, where temperatures can be below zero degrees for weeks at a time!

I would love to show you some photos from the tour, but I have to get them from my phone to the computer first. I know to do that I have to upgrade my phone plan to include internet, and I just don’t want to pay for internet. Instead, I just keep shaking my phone hoping the pictures will fall out. I’ll let you know if that ever works.

This was the last WAC for 2015, due to the holidays. Next adventure will be for WAC 2016.

Stay tuned…

P.s. I made $32 dollars extra in November. I won $15 at work for answering a quality quiz correctly. Then I sold $17 worth of mailing supplies to No.2 Sis for her Mary Kay business.

 

Keep America Beautiful

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April is Keep America Beautiful month. I got an early start on it on Sunday. I ran around with a cute hat on all day while lunching and shopping with No.2 sis and No.8 Sis.

When I got home, I took the hat off and had dinner. Then I took the garbage to the curb. And I took the recycling to the curb. And I looked in the mirror when I got back in the house and saw this.

Laurel keeping America beautiful.

So THAT’S why the neighbors were giving me the side-eyed looks.

When I was in my twenties I dated a cute guy who’s name shall remain unspoken. Let’s just call him E.D. As Christmas approached, he started asking me my ring size, and whether I preferred rubies or sapphires.

I bought him several nice gifts and had them beautifully wrapped and waiting under the tree when he came over on Christmas Eve. E.D. came over with….nothing. Absolutely nothing. No card, no gift, just totally empty-handed.

I pushed him back out the door and told him not to come back until he’d bought me a gift.

He came back an hour later and tried to hand me a shopping bag from a local department store. Hell, no! Wrap it, buddy! He had to use my wrapping paper, of course.

E.D. unwrapped the lovely gifts I’d bought him, and was appropriately appreciative.

I unwrapped the presents I’d strong-armed him into buying me. The first package was a “gift-box” of fuzzy knee-high socks, the sort of socks I hadn’t worn since high school.

The second present was a plaque that said, “Keep America beautiful. Clean your room”.

So romantic. Surprisingly, we eventually found it best to go our separate ways.

Years later, I entered a Valentine’s Day radio contest for the Biggest Wanker Boyfriend. I told them the story of E.D. and I won a beautiful bouquet of flowers for having the biggest wanker for a boyfriend. It was the nicest thing E.D. ever gave me.

Stay tuned…

p.s. The Saturday Stampin’ Up party was a smashing success!

p.p.s. I shared this at Cozy Little House, and at Chic on a Shoestring.

 

Gag Gifts & Eucalyptus Shower Bombs

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My best friend since high school, “G” (G is for Goddess), came up from Lanesboro in southern Minnesota to visit me this weekend. We celebrated my birthday and Christmas. She brought me some lovely, serious gifts, but the gag gifts just made my day! They’re from Slant Avenue Mercantile.

GAG GIFTS

I got her a refrigerator magnet that says “Life is too short to be taken seriously”. I made her an emergency birthday card kit, consisting of 8 hand-made cards, 8 envelopes, and 8 “Forever” stamps. I also gave her a couple of pairs of hand-made earrings.

The final gift I gave “G” was eucalyptus shower bombs (great for clearing sinuses) and I put them in a pretty jar. I was a little worried they would be overpowering, because they sure stunk up the kitchen. I tried them in the shower though, and they were much more subtle as they dissolved.

I found the instructions for the shower bombs on Pinterest, but I think I’d do them a little differently next time.

SHOWER BOMBS:

Take one cup of water and add 15-20 drops of eucalyptus oil or another essential oil. Pour 2 boxes of baking soda (16 ounces each) into a big bowl.

SLOWLY add the scented water to the baking soda, while stirring constantly. Stop when you can squeeze a handful of the mixture and it holds together. You may not need to use all the water.

Pack the pasty mixture tightly into ice cube trays. Silicon trays will work the best. This step is messy. You may want to cover your work surface with waxed paper or parchment paper before packing the trays.

SHOWER BOMBS

Pack ice cube trays.

Let the bombs dry for a few hours and then gently turn them out onto your work surface. The bombs will still be slightly damp. Let them dry overnight.

shower bombs

Turn out to dry.

After they’re fully dry, put bombs in a decorative jar or another moisture tight container. They will start to dissolve as soon as they contact any moisture.

shower bombs

Decorative jar.

This recipe made over 50 bombs. If that’s too many for you, cut the amounts of ingredients in half.

To use, put a couple on the floor of the shower, and let the water do the rest! Enjoy!

Stay tuned…

226, Part 2

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Thursday was the big holiday potluck at “The Company” so, of course, I spent all of Wednesday evening slaving over a hot stove. Actually, even though my cooking has been improving, I wimped out. I brought napkins to the potluck. I really need to have have more confidence in myself! Next year I’m going to bring a souffle, or an etouffe, or paper cups.

I ate WAY too much sugar at the potluck, and I’m having difficulty stopping. I have at least two more parties to attend before Christmas is over. They’re both at No.2 Sis’s house, which is where I weigh myself. Maybe if I weigh myself before starting on the food, it will help me stay in control.

Why don’t I have a scale at my house, you may wonder? Because I get crazy weird obsessive and weigh myself every few minutes if I have an easily accessible scale. Paints an optimistic picture of my self-control, doesn’t it? I’m doomed.

Today, Friday, I had a manicure and pedicure appointment. I bought the mani/pedi from Groupon, because it was half price. But it was in Wisconsin! In a different state! I thought I could drive it a little (lot) for such a good deal. Penny wise, pound foolish. Including travel time, it took two and a half hours.  But my digits are ravishing in Raspberry Ripple. Note to self: Don’t buy out of state services (fool).

I should be either decluttering or starting my weekend maintenance cleaning, but I’m a little wiped out. I haven’t done this in a long time, but I’m going to draw Tarot cards to see where to focus.

WOO-WOO ALERT (Tarot reading ahead):

Should I do maintenance on the Queen bed and bath? Prince of pentacles. Slow and steady work pays off.

Should I do maintenance on the living room (which I ignored last weekend)? Sun. Brilliant success!

Should I do maintenance on the kitchen? Prince of wands. Oooh, passion and creativity. Maybe I WILL try an etouffe!

Should I start decluttering the dining room? Chariot. Bold advances will be made!

Should I continue decluttering the Studio? Priest. Inspiration.

So the answer is…..get off your full and generous bottom, and do SOMETHING! They all turn out well, but the Sun was the highest card pulled, so it’s time to do the weekend maintenance on the living room.

WEEKEND MAINTENANCE:

I got the living room cleaned, but I didn’t time it. I also sprinkled a few Xmas decorations around. I haven’t done that in years! It was a brilliant success!

Blue and silver mantel.

Blue and silver mantel.

crocheted ornaments

Crocheted by Step-Mom

ceramic Santa Claus

Santas made by No.2 Sis

Christmas ornaments

Bowl of bling

Stay tuned…

p.s. I linked this to Cozy Little House.

 

 

 

How to Write Out Christmas Cards

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Writing out Christmas cards can be a daunting task. Here’s how I make it easy and fun.

1. Write a Christmas letter. That way you can just write “Dear So-and-So” (not literally) at the beginning and “Merry Christmas” at the end. You don’t have to hand write the highlights of the year in every card. Print the letter up on pretty holiday paper.

2. Gather your cards and supplies on the bed. Supplies include your fluffiest robe and favorite slippers. Cat is optional.

Christmas card writing supplies.

Christmas card writing supplies.

3. Brew a pot of tea. Schnapps adds a little zing.

A spot of tea.

A spot of tea.

4. Put on your favorite Christmas movie. It’s a Wonderful Life , A Christmas Carol, the Patrick Stewart version, or Elf. If none of these are your favorite, then I don’t think we can be friends. Okay, I’ll include A Christmas Story, but that’s it.

5. Write out the cards. Remember, minimal greetings, let the letter do the talking.

6. Address, add the return address label (which may help to hold the fatter cards shut if you stick the label across the back of the envelope), and add your Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stamp.

Rudolph stamps.

Rudolph stamps.

You’re done when the cards are all made out, OR the movie is over, OR the Schnapps is gone. Really, there are limits.

I don’t think we’re surprised who really ended up with the fluffy robe, are we?

Cat on robe.

Bella gets the fluffy robe.

Stay tuned…

p.s. I linked this to Classy Clutter.

And to Cozy Little House.

And to Savvy Southern Style.

And to Fluster Buster.

And Oh My- Creative.

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!