Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Less is More Christmas/December Bucket List

I adore Christmas. Some people do, some people don't, some people are .......eh...... about the season. I adore Christmas (and Advent). There, I said it (again).

Part of the love is because of the birth of Christ and the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Obviously, If you read the blog, you know that about me. But part of it is the food, the cookies, the gift process, the crafts, seeing the lights, the movies, and about ten other things, including the shopping on occasion. And the cookies. 

There is absolutely  nothing wrong with enjoying any of the above, enjoying such things does not ruin the season, nor does it  make me (or you) consumerist, not considerate of Christmas or anything else. It's perfect fine to enjoy everyone of those things. Along with a little Christmas sangria here and there-or at least eggnog. And more cookies.

In moderation. At least for me.

For me,  Christmas is best relaxed rather than frenzied and I don't go whole hog on  much of anything. Other than the cookies. And eggnog. I'm not into the "a Christmas party every weekend" thing.  Even being in charge of two social groups, my calendar is completely free from the 19 th of December  until January first. I have two day time parties with moderate option gift giving, and no evening occasions. I don't participate in a huge family Christmas gathering these days. We are eight at the table in Denver and four at the table in Dallas, depending where I am. I enjoy the gift giving process, including the making stuff in part. But most of my gifts are moderate, there is no pressure and if something doesn't get made or bought, it is not the end of the world. And I'm happy with wrapping said presents in newspaper, fabric, or just leaving them open under the tree-if I cannot con someone else into the wrapping process. 

 I've never been into the stuff some others have. My work environment was in an office of four with a management office of four, so I've really never been to a work Christmas party from hell. At one time we had a family grouping of 14 in Dallas, but Christmas was a group effort; again, with moderate gifts. And I seemingly have less "Christmas junk" than I thought, as I am now searching for at least one more piece for my Christmas village this year, and  almost nothing left to pass onto the kids except their ornaments.

I suspect there will be more than one post on the holidays or holiday events here in December. Some about baking, some about crafting, some about decorating.  And in fairness, probably one about the reason for the season. Who knows?  

But just so you know that I am not totally Christmas obsessed (or maybe I am), below is my short list of Christmas to dos  and Christmas things to enjoy, as they appear on my notebook today:

  • Go to two small group parties for my retired gals group and my knitting group-both during the day.(already scheduled)
  • Take a two hour evening bus trip to see the downtown lights, (already scheduled)
  •  Enjoy a slow walk around my small local botanic gardens to see their lights, and then drive the greater neighborhood looking for lights.
  • Plan to watch A Christmas Story, Die Hard, Holiday Inn, and White Christmas and National Lampoon's Christmas and Ben Hur  at home, and to see Knives Out and Star Wars in the theater. Yep, I am that person.
  • Make three different Christmas play lists and listen to them-a bunch. At home, alone, while singing to the dogs.
  • Make about fourteen dozen cookies-and eat more than my share- and then do some other baking for gifts (regular readers know this is not work for me, especially as I now sit at my high top table doing all the work instead of standing). I love making cookies, and candy, and fudge and...
  • Go to all the church events (Sunday services and advent happy hours, Christmas eve services and a caroling and chocolate night)
  • Decorate an already put together gingerbread house........... if I get around to it.
  • Craft the blanket above in red, blue and off white/beige for my brother and sister in law  (mainly done) and use the leftover napkin  fabrics to make a pile of coaster sets for my knitting group pals (about fourteen). Do that tiny tree quilt.  Other crafting will be nice, and fun, but not a Christmas thing as such.
  • Find a couple Christmas novels that are crafting related that I have yet to read (are there even any?)
  • Arrange for the two experience gifts I am giving (glass blowing ornaments and high tea at the Brown Palace-both of which will happen AFTER Christmas). One is a must (the tea) the other is a maybe (the glass blowing)
  • Order the rest of my gifts in one large order (all of which are needed and requested items) and then let the wrapping genies in my family do their work (I can ruin a wrapped package without trying).
  • Commit to staying off the streets and in the house every single weekend except for Sunday mornings and the day I return from seeing my daughter's graduation.....Oh, and
  • Drive down to Dallas, go to my daughters graduation and take her to dinner and drive back.
Note that none of this involves evening parties, mall shopping or much shopping in general, and that most of the things mentioned are meant to be done at home-either at the table, or sitting with my feet up and a drink or cup of hot chocolate. Because that is my kind of Christmas.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Other Annoyances

Today I am recovering from Thanksgiving dinner times two, and tonight I have a small happy hour while checking out the tree lighting downtown. I've decided to tentatively remain at home and do any Black Friday shopping online. Other than that I tend to plan to enjoy the long weekend at home, except for church on Sunday.

This morning I got up, went to check into my normally friendly frugal and retirement type groups-and waded directly into the Happy Holiday/Merry Christmas Wars. Heaven help me. So, while I'm addressing that, you all get to hear a few other (mainly minor) issues that are on my mind this morning.
  • First of all, if feel you need to write a post about Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Season's Greetings or anything else in the near future, take a breath. Because the phrase "Happy Holidays" is actually more religious and Christmas related than any of the others. You heart me correctly. "Happy Holidays" originated as a way to include the entire season of Christian holidays -Advent (because it ain't Christmas until Dec 5), Christmas (which ends in January) and Epiphany (which happens Jan 6). Because, people, this is not Christmas, it's Advent. Ya know? If you're a practicing Christian, you know all this. And if you're a secular "Santa and the Reindeer" Christian, it really shouldn't matter a whit. Never mind the fact that two other religions celebrate a holiday in December.  So please, say whatever phrase you wish, and stop being upset at what others say. Or why they say it.
  • This morning I went to look at a simple recipe online. And before I could get there, I got to read the blogger's life story, why this recipe was sponsored by (enter food company here), how their husband/wife never ate (fill in the blank) until they tried this recipe, and about ten other unrelated food things. I love, adore, even rely on food bloggers all the time. But. Please people,  please just show me-or at least link to- the recipe on the top of the page. THEN share your sponsorship or life story. Please.
  • Folks, just because you can do it, does not mean that I (or someone else can do it). Feel free to fill in whatever you want for the it here. We are all made different, even without disabilities and the "I did this, what's your excuse" thing that rages across the Internet is stupid and judgmental.
  • Can someone please tell me why the city requires that I have to have my driveway and sidewalks clear in 24 hours, but the plows can take a full 36 and sometimes longer? It's pretty irritating when someone has come and completely cleared my drive and walk and then I wake up/look out the window to three feet of snow blocking the drive because I am that house where the excess snow gets offloaded.
  • I like turkey well enough. On Thanksgiving. This year I kind of liked it two days rather than one. But I am not a turkey person beyond that. So while everyone else moves on to two or three days of leftovers, I'm heading to the leftover beef stew or breakfast for dinner, thank you very much!
  • If you need to talk about how frugal or so on you are with your money, in public in the real world, it could be you are preparing to be cheap. Example being the nice couple who took their family out to dinner, told the waitress how frugal they were, and left a one dollar tip. Seriously, you give those of us who a good managers of money (and kind people) a bad name.
  • Finally, just because you have a friend who sews, or knits, or makes things out of wood, or even cooks and bakes (for fun or as a hobby), this does not mean that yes, they will make you a skirt (sweater, wedding cake) in two days. For five or ten bucks.
And there you have it. Feel free to express opinions, share with me why I'm wrong and if you have ever experienced any of the same. Back to our regular scheduled programming in a day or two.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thankful-Many Times Over

I hope wherever you are, you have a lovely Thanksgiving tomorrow, and if you are with others, they are with people you care about and enjoy.

 I have had many small family Thanksgivings (just the four of us), there have been years when my husband was at the private club business that we ate at the club and enjoyed the buffet. I have been part of family member Thanksgiving dinners. I have also eaten out at restaurants with single/widowed friends, and had Thanksgiving alone at home with movie marathons. Every one has been enjoyable.

This year, I am participating in two Thanksgiving meals, so I will need to make up for that on the weekend, I suppose. Tonight before my church service, there is a meal in the parish hall, the turkey is provided and we are all supposed to bring something. Right now I have nothing but I did leave 3/4 of a four less chocolate cake at a friend's house after dinner and tell her to freeze it and bring tonight so if I don't get to the store, I will have contributed.

Tomorrow I am headed for my brother and sister in law's home (the gourmet cooks) where I will partake of turkey and two kinds of potatoes and two kinds of vegetables and two kinds of stuffing and Lord knows what else. I am bringing the (bakery made) pecan pie and dragging along my kitting since it needs to go everywhere with me these days to be finished. We will watch football and talk about football, probably talk about politics (all of the same mind mainly) the problems of the world in general, music, theater, kids and a dozen other topics at a minimum. I'm gonna need Friday as a recovery day (and as a start the decorating day as well).

Were I to list everything I am thankful for it would take a long time and I would probably leave thing out. A quick list includes:
  • family near and far
  • friends, especially those I have made in the last year or so as part of my move
  • my church, which supports me and allows me an outlet to reach out to others
  • my health-even with my chronic and pain issues I am grateful that I am doing mainly well and that others help me there.
  • my home-which I spend so much time in and enjoy so much
  • My beautiful puppies
  • people in my neighborhood who are helpful with things like shoveling the drive
  • that I have this blog and all of my lovely readers, as well as other blogs that I enjoy reading and connecting with
And so many more things that cannot be mentioned a quick list.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Making it Monday-Projects Coming and Going

Do note that I have added quite a few blogs to the sidebar everyone, I encourage you to check them ALL out. Also, please bear with me as I slowly adjust the blog design and background a bit for the new season.

I'm really trying hard to hold hard to my own personal "day after Thanksgiving decorating rule" but I'm not sure I'm gonna make it. Today I went searching for my Christmas quilts to cover the tables and tomorrow we, like much of the country plan to be snowed it more or less, so I plan to have my son start dragging up everything that is not tree related. I mean really, what's a few days here or there? Besides (or so I tell myself) I need to do that organizing of decorations thing I talked about before, no?

I spent one day this weekend with my cloth napkin project. This is really lazy sewing for me. Cut the pieces, sew the pieces, turn them inside out,  and then press and top stitch (still to be done). But l needed a lazy project because I was re watching (after many years) the first season of Babylon 5.  Lazy or not, they make easy gifts that can actually be used, and I will keep at least two of these sets for myself (probably the flamingos and the trucks, but not sure yet)

 Each set of four napkins cost between $5 and $6.25 to make because of fabric sales. Not necessarily cheaper than paper or thrift store napkins (although no more expensive) but definitely cheaper than store bought napkins. They fit my gift criteria of being inexpensive, useable and sustainable.  On another lazy day, I may use some other fabric on hand and make non-holiday napkins that match the decor of family and friends. I had at least a yard and a half of each fabric, so I have enough to also make coasters and who knows what else! All I need is another lazy day and another TV show (that is not hearings or politics).

Today I'm going to pull out my extra large knitting needles and continue to work on the throw for my brother and sister-in-law. I have nowhere to go or be, plus beef stew (see below) and football so it's a perfect knitting day. If it's not done on Christmas day, it will be finished enough to show them what it is. Their living room is kind of Americana colors (blue, red and beige). I'm in no way attempting to make all my gifts, but I do want to make the "small gifts" for my various group parties and a few things along the way.  B and SIL are one of those people who truly need nothing so my gifts to them are always food or handmade (usable handmade) or experience gifts. I expect the throw to cost $40 at the most for both of them. Hopefully I'll have a good in progress picture by the end of the week.

I've dilly dallied on the Liquor gifts and food gifts, so I am starting now. For those who were interested in what I'm looking at for this year, cranberry orange liqueur, chocolate liqueur,  compound butters, and flavored fudge recipes (I'm starting with the dark chocolate bourbon)!  Of course there's no guarantee I will get this many things done, or that I will make these recipes. What will be will be and all that......

I also want to experiment with a couple more complicated Christmas mini quilts just for fun-whether for me or someone else I'm not sure. I plan to start with the one below and change the colors out and then add beads and buttons and such for decoration. When that's done I'll be braver and start on a true landscape quilt. Now  that I've become more adventurous in my quilting and art, I'm thankful I kept all the fabric pieces and beads and buttons I have saved or collected. Not gifts but maybe I can get one finished. 

This is about as simple a quilt thing as you can do, but I'm going to use it as a base for buttons and do beading around the eddges and decorate the tree. I may even stick with the color schedume and make the tree turqois or blue,

Now, lest you think too much of my lazy creative skills, I'm also doing a "faking it while I'm making it" job of beef stew in the slow cooker today. I ran into the store this morning to get a couple things and had to escape as quickly as possible. Boy, am I glad my only Thanksgiving contribution will be pecan pie (purchased from the local bakery).  So my beef stew, based on things on hand includes Italian style cut beans instead of regular, Italian style tomatoes, mushrooms, and a frozen bag of what they call stew vegetables (potatoes, carrots, celery and onion) thrown into the mix in the last hour or so. Added to meat,  broth, wine and various seasonings, of course. We will see, people, we will see.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Less is More, and More is Less........Sort Of!

My son, who sleeps directly across from me, set his alarm for five am this morning and promptly made noise making coffee and jumping into the shower. Holey Moley!! I may have changed from being a night owl, but there's a difference between five and eight, let me tell you! This will probably continue once a week at least since the restaurant where he is the kitchen manager has just started catering-and they are getting many, many lunch orders. I did manage to go back to sleep for a little while, thank heavens. I am learning that the first few hours and the last hour or so seem to be when I sleep the best.

The upside I suppose is that I got the dishwasher loaded and even managed to go on line and make all of my annual appointments (some with new doctors since my old doctor was also my Gyn and endocrine doc). It's noon and my main goal is to see how many of these napkins and so on I can get done before I feed my favorite canines at four (as well as doing a seating exercise routine somewhere, sometime, since there is ice on the steps).

I'm looking forward to the new year and have been making some priority decisions on money and energy (more on vacations/family/home comforts, moderate amounts on some hobbies, and less on almost everything else). While there's more to write about and to think about I suppose my other big decisions directions are decluttering and downsizing (mind, space and schedule), as well as diving deeper (spending more time and learning more about a few hobbies for example, than trying to do ten)

I am very much not a minimalist and enjoy my stuff. When it's usable. And in fact, I prefer the stuff that I use in general to be pretty and good looking. Give me the bright blue lined cast iron dutch oven, if you know what I mean. Especially if I'm going to see it or use it at least once a week. On the other hand, I don't need ten duplicates of every thing I use (other than scissors, pens and chapsticks. There should be one in every room and in the car as well of each).

As we approach the holidays I'm really trying to find ways to put this into effect. The sewing thing for example. I love making quilts. But family (hell, even I) can only use so many quilts-at least full sized ones. On the other hand, place mats, table runners, candle mats, cloth napkins, coasters, doll quilts for the nieces, barbecue aprons, and even paper towel replacements are things that people I know can actually USE. And depending on the fabrics I choose, use the year around, not justt at Christmas. And as well as being useful, all of the above are sustainable as well. Maybe I should add a couple shopping bags?

For the most part, I'm going with useful and or fun for Christmas this year, with the exception of some true needs for the adult offspring. This may not be the most frugal choice as such. One brother and sister in law (for example) need literally nothing. The other brother and sister in law live far away in a new home and I have no idea what they might want and need. So they are either getting a couples pedicure, a couples massage or a cooking class depending (yes, do absolutely know that they would love any of the three). This may be a slightly more expensive choice, but one that I know is useful-and I'll add cloth napkins and coasters and homemade goodies so they have something to "open" on the big day. Yes, on this side of the family, adults do give gifts to adults. We love it.

The other way I'm going to be downsizing and purging this month is that for the first time in about three years (due to Christmas travel), I am pulling up EVERY Christmas thing I own the day after Thanksgiving. Once I've put out everything that is meaningful, that I'm emotionally attached to and that I feel I'll want to display in the future, IMO going to photograph it-and then box up two separate bins for each kid (and sell and donate anything else).

My final goal for the end of November and December (and one that will take a year) is to go through all the family recipes and pictures and start, start mind you, on a cookbook for each child. done in photo album style with comments and memories added. This is a do it on the days I feel like it for the next year thing,  and then add on each year after that. The only thing is I cannot figure out how to store this stuff as I work on it here and there as the mood hits, so that it's easily accessible, but out of my way. and until I figure out that basic logistical issue, everything will set there, untouched.

Which is fine, because January is supposedly for photographs. Including the five hundred photos my parents took of all the flora and fauna in South Carolina near their home and all the national parks and roadtrips of their retirement.  Then again, maybe I'll wait on that one.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Monday Musings-The Volunteer Week is Over

For the questions about my colorful socks, here is the link!

Our week of hosting families in the church is over. We'll do it in January again, but for now, it's back to normal on this wend,. We had our full complement this week pretty much (the max number of beds is 16). Our families including a mom and dad and four teenagers (bless their hearts), a couple with three kids from one to four, and two single moms each with one boy.  For almost all our families this was their first week (second at most) in the program, so they were still getting used to the spend a week, move, spend a week and move schedule that they are in now. I do feel for the youngest ones, who just get attached to and comfortable with us and then need to move on to another church!

Because I was busy in the church (injured leg and all) most of Saturday I didn't make it to a church service on Sunday-I'll make that up midweek. I did hit a couple stores (which I NEVER do on the weekend). Mainly because with first one and then the other injured ankle I feel like I need at at least one pair of larger shoes right now -other than my supportive sandals. So I broke down and got a pair of Sketcher's mules in a large size, since it looked like the ankle will be swollen for awhile. Especially that protruding bone on the outside

I also got a couple Christmas decorations which I don't need and probabl will not keep. Buyer's remorse and all that, although they were sixty percent off....
. I also grabbed some Christmas fabric at sixty percent off. With a yard and a half of each fabric I should be able to make sets of four large napkins and have leftovers for patchwork coaster sets. And I got a red Christmas tablecloth. All unplanned spending but all needs that will be put to use. The stuff I make from the fabric will be donated to the bazaar, kept (we need napkins around here, they tend to disappear like socks) and given as gifts for people in my groups and family members. 

Do note that along with the trucks and Thomas Kinkaid fabric there is, of course flamingo Christmas fabric........just because
 To top it all off, I stopped at the butcher and got a ready made throw in the oven meatloaf (a pound and a half or so was fifteen dollars). I'm slowly trying things they make before trying out the special bundles. This was obviously a pricey meat loaf (and not in the need category) but was still a fairly cheap two meal dinner with sides around the house. Their sale items this week include these farmhouse chicken breasts. I figure if I use them for a meal or two (with leftovers) a week I'm not breaking the budget and giving my non cooking self a break.

Adding moderate insult to injury budget wise, today my gals group had lunch at the Melting Pot fondue restaurant. Where the  minimum entree (cheese fondue and chocolate fondue) is twenty three dollars, without a salad or drink added. Far above our normal nine and ten dollar choices for sure.  While it was an experience and fun for a one time thing, we won't be hitting this one again, I expect. The service and the food for thirty bucks was just not that great. But for a one time adventure it was okay. Next week we'll be back to the Olive Garden's nine dollar unlimited soup, salad and bread sticks! I also managed to somehow spill more than my share of chocolate fondue on the shirt in the picture, darn it. If there is a way to spill food...........
When you take a mirror selfie to show your outfit for the day, miss part of your body and then realize that yes, cleaning the mirror needs to move to the top of your list....
This afternoon I am going to chill in my chair and perhaps see if I can get my sewing or knitting mood on. Dinner is self serve leftovers. Today and tomorrow I am scheduling the over due birthday appointments as well as an ortho thing, and tomorrow I'm going to go sit on the recumbent cross trainer for the first time post swollen ankle. I'll let you know if I survive........

Friday, November 15, 2019

Frugal Friday-Nothing Doing....

And doing nothing, more or less.

Today was one of those "busy weeks" round here, but it ended up being relaxing as hell. I had to be at church every night to open the door, supervise the cooks and make conversation and explain everything to our guests( we were around robin this week of families finding housing and new families joining us..). Since almost all of this was done with me in a chair and one foot up, I was mainly just chillin'. We have a couple with four teenagers (bless their hearts) a couple with three little ones and two single moms and kids so we are all over the map this visit.

I've probably actually sat MUCH more than I should have. Both yesterday and today I told myself I would go sit on the recumbent or else go to silver sneakers and do it all seated-both times were a fail. This afternoon I'm going to try some seated moves and tomorrow I will head out to do SOMETHING even if it's seated (the ankle has felt much better today and yesterday but I also haven't walked on the darned thing).

I did spend one day on the chair making goals and plans and dates for the new year and another finalizing Christmas-in both cases while watching sports or Netflix. Oh, and I reviewed my Medicare advantage plan and decided I'm sticking with it again for the next year (look for a post on that next week!) 

The basics of what I pay out of pocket and my bennies

Since it's basically the middle of the month, let's see where I am on my frugal (or not so frugal) spending.

1.  I did my mid month shopping with a couple exceptions-and did it all on line. I took advantge of Walmart door to door delivery for basic stuff like dairy products and snacks and breakfast things (it may be my new normal) and went over budget a bit by placing an order to Schwan's (crab cakes, chicken cordon bleu, shepherd's pie and chicken pot pie and some sides). Those two ended up being $170 on the food and supplies budget line. I will probably go over this month, but since I am trying to cook and freeze, I'll buy what I need for those big meals mainly as I need them (not my normal style). Also, I want to try some of those butcher meals and those specials vary from week to week.

2.  I managed to spend less than twenty dollars on entertainment this week since at happy hour I only had a diet coke knowing that I was going to eat at church with the families.

3.  I did spend $70 at Amazon. I bought some wild socks to wear with my shoes and sandals (because, cold feet, you know). I bought two bowl holder type hot pads, mainly for things like oatmeal that I heat in the micro and my large tea cup. I got a new monthly journal and I gifted my son a pair of new wrangler jeans, because restaurant work is difficult on clothing especially when you are the kitchen manager. 

A mix of wool, cotton and acrylic, I may need more of these!

4. Thanks mainly to returns, I have 30 dollars in Paypal credit, a twenty dollar Kohl's card,  a twenty five dollar Target card and about twenty dollars sitting in Amazon M Turk from a couple surveys. Most of these will be used for my wardrobe, except the Kohl's gift card which will probably buy a couple Christmas pillows for the family room.

5. I had an "oh crap" moment, when I realized that the church bazaar begins next weekend and I have contributed nothing, nada, to date. Since I try to contribute by making things I went searching in the ole craft room and came up with various single and double skeins of yarn and will try to get a scarf or cowl and a neck warmer finished. I'll also contribute some Christmas napkins or coasters with are fast to make (my mid month spending does still include getting some fabric-and a pedicure on my poor ankle). I'll also probabl bake something at some point.  

I think I'll start on the red, gray and black and we'll see if I ave time after that.

This afternoon I am going to sit down and make some phone calls, scheduling an ortho appointment as well as some others that are overdue. And if the Schwan's guy or gal comes in a timely manner, I will even head out and grab some fabric. So I can sit. And sew.