Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflections, Coupons, and Lists Oh My.

I know, I know it's the end of the year, but it is also the beginning of a new year.  What better time to reflect on  the past as well as to make plans for the future.  This year has been a tough year for me, but in reflection I don't think I would have changed anything except maybe to watch my diet better.  I tried like "hell" to keep my sweetheart home with me for as long as I could, but now that he is in the memory care facility he is content, he is safe, he is well and I am the same. That decision to move him has allowed me to re-connect with my friends, who have been life-lines, be with my family more ie: trips to Colorado and California, and has brought me a peace of mind that I was far from at the beginning of the year.  Granted, money is tighter (but who hasn't been squeezed by this economy?) so I tend to not shop as much as I used to and try to be more frugal.  I may even get into coupons. I have cut out so many coupons in the past, cut out I would do, use them I would not. Not sure why, either I would leave them at home, or I would forget to use them eventho they would be in my purse, or before using them they would expire, or something....but this year I resolve to follow through with plans.  I don't know about you but I am a great starter, but a poor finisher.  But this year I want to put myself at the head of the pack and be known as the person who always follows through and completes the job at hand, always finish all that I start.  So to begin this quest, the first at the top of the list is to make a list.  I have never been much of a list-maker.  Many of my friends live by lists, maybe that is why they are much more organized than me.  The only time I make a list is when I am off to the grocery store, but lists are going to become part of my life.  You derive a great satisfaction by crossing something off your list even if it's just the list of grocery items, and I want that satisfaction.  Are you a list maker?  Does it help?

My first list for the new year.....

"We shall neither fail nor falter; we shall not weaken or tire.  Give us the tools and we shall finish the job."  ~  Winston Churchill  (1874-1965)

I wish all of you a Happy, Healthy, Joyfilled, Blessed New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Coffee, Tea and IKEA

Oh my oh my what a dismal day it was here in Chicagoland.  Rain, fog, yuk!!  It may have been dismal on the outside but it was warm, lit up like a Christmas tree (oh it was a Christmas tree) yummy, and filled with friends on the inside.  Today I hosted a Christmas coffee/tea for all my girlfriends that I spend each Wednesday morning with at Bible Study.  We are on break right now and won't resume until mid-January so thought a gathering after all the busyness of Christmas had settled down a bit would be lovely.  And it was.  Coffee, teas (a delightful array, I say that because I don't drink tea and I bought an assortment, so I'm calling it a delightful array), coffee cakes, bagels, Christmas cookies, and fresh fruits, all  banquet worthy were enjoyed by all.  Lots of chatter about each of our Christmas' and how we spent the day and more talk of plans for the New Year.  It's just fun to spend time with friends and after-all the house is still decorated and so in need of holiday cheer.

 Marti made this beauty in a wreath shaped bundt pan, but before I remembered to take pictures, half of it had been eaten.

Krystyna (below on left) brought the scrumptious plate full of homemade Christmas Cookies.  She left a few on a plate for me, as of 8:00 PM the same night I had finished them off with no crumbs in site....delicious!!

My friend, Catherine, obviously doesn't like to have her picture taken, so all you see are the of these days I am going to catch her off-guard....she is really attractive.

My friend Marti, and her daughter Sarah...

Marti and Sarah were the last to leave and before leaving they said that they were off to IKEA and I said "gee, I should go along, I have never been...."what???? you've never been to IKEA, well, grab your coat and let's go."  So quickly I shoved things in the refrig, wrapped up the coffee cakes and bagels, and out the door we went.  And really, I had never been to IKEA eventho everyone I know has been there multiple times.  Maybe it's a good thing I have never been before because I found SEVERAL items that I now feel the need to have.

In my quest to organize and de-clutter I think this would make a wonderful addition to the study upstairs.

These are 3 pieces...two bookcases on each side of the nice piece in the middle.  LOVE!!!  I have seen many pieces similar to this in the Pottery Barn catalogs....but way too expensive for me.  This is much more reasonable.

And now I am convinced that these colors would be wonderful in the "new" study....white, black, orange, and that yummy green.  I can see it now.  Oh I have so many ideas, and plans for the New Year.  Better get started quickly before I waver in my enthusiasm.  Had a great time on my first trip to IKEA, came home with a few treasures and plans, plans, plans.  If you have an IKEA within driving range, I would definitely not wait as long as I did to make your first trip.

"If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves."  ~  Thomas Edison

Until next time.....

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Night at the Zoo

A zoo visit at night??  What???  The Brookfield Zoo celebrates Christmas by placing lights on just about anything and everything, well, not the animals, but everything surrounding the animals is lit up like a Christmas tree (a very lame joke).  My grandson Brandon and his wife Hilary (my granddaughter-in- law) and I made a date earlier in the week to take in the lights at the zoo on Wednesday evening.  The weather forecast has been pretty much the same day after day here, no snow but chilly so Wednesday night it was.  I drove to their apartment and then from there we walked to a lovely restuarant close to their place.  They live in a really cool neighborhood, everything within walking distance - parks - shopping - restaurants - Trader Joe's (yeah!!) the train.  Strolling back we stopped in a couple of shops, eyed the sales and then off to the zoo we drove.

The amaryllis in their apartment had just bloomed a couple of days before....isn't it gorgeous!!

Charlie was really happy to see me when I arrived, but not so happy when he knew we were all leaving, so he gathered his toys in anticipation for our return. 

It was really dark strolling thru the zoo, they had all of the main lights turned off to illuminate the Christmas lights but it sure made picture taking quite a challenge.  It was so dark you had to watch your every step, so dark that you could easily run smack into someone and not see them until it was too late, so dark that seeing animals was almost impossible.   A wipe-out between me and a baby stroller was definitely a possibility if I didn't watch my every step.

The zoo had several added attractions for Christmas celebration, one was a ice sculpturer.  Have you ever seen this before??  He just goes at it with a chain saw and the results are stunning.

The children's petting zoo houses llamas and when we walked in, the not-so-groomed female on the right was very agitated.  She paced, snorted, jumped, bucked, and paced some more.  I think I figured out her agitation, the dandy looking one on the left was all duded up for Christmas, obviously going out on the town and she wasn't invited.  Probably would have agitated me too.

The last place we stopped was the aquatic center, dolphins were swimming on their backs (is that how they sleep I wonder, must look that up), penguins were all snuggled in their holes, but a few were still moving.  This hermit crab was walking across the glass like he was looking for a way out.  A way out of the tank or a way out of that shell he carries around all the time??, not sure. 

And lastly this colorful totally accessorized "thing".....I am not sure what this is, I failed to read the wonderful printed signs that give us all valuable information about what we are seeing right before our eyes, but I was sooooo interested in taking it's picture that I failed to find out the what??  It has been far too many years to recall any biology info I may have learned at one time.   This "what" brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from the movie "Steel Magnolias" with Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley McClaine, Dolly Parton & Darryl Hannah (if you haven't seen it, rent it, it is the PERFECT chick flick movie)  when Clarisse (played by Olympia Dukakis) says...."the only difference between us and the animals is our ability to accessorize"  but this "what" really knows how to accessorize. 

I am wishing that your New Year will be totally accessorized with blessings and joy.

"Never mistake knowledge for wisdom.  One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life."    ~   Sandra Carey

Linking up with Deb.....

Until next time......

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

If It's Served Pretty

Looking forward to the New Year....hoping it will be way, way better than 2011.  But I wonder, are we ever satisfied with the year that just passed?  We never seem to accomplish all of our goals, read enough books, lose enough weight, make enough money (that won't happen in my lifetime), declutter, volunteer more, eat healthier.  Well, maybe these are my goals, not yours, but I bet some of these are on your list for the "new year".  And really at the top, top, top of my list is to eat healthier.  Since my sweetheart moved, I have been extremely negligent in eating right.  I tend to snack, grab a bite here or there, but not eating properly or the right stuff.  It's not complicated, its just old fashioned common sense.  We all overeat and not eat right, we know we're doing it.  We feel most alert and alive when we eat the right foods and we eat frugally.  Give it a try, I know I am.  Maybe if the "right" foods are served on pretty dishes, eating right becomes a pleasure. 

Linking with Alicia for Wordless Wednesday.....

Until next time......

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Memories - He's Happy, I'm Happy

Christmas came to the Memory Care Facility where my sweetheart lives last Friday evening.  All the residents were brought into the dining area dressed and ready for the event with the caring staff standing by while friends and family arrived.  It was a most wonderful evening filled with singing, laughter, gift giving, some wonderful munchies, and joy.  Some tend to think a place like a Memory Care Facility to be a sad place, but in all honesty this is a happy place.  It is open, decorated beautifully, light-filled, smiling faces, and an extremely loving staff which in turn helps the residents maintain good attitudes.   They have a total of 40 private rooms, 20 on each side with each side having it's own dining area, common areas, and sun rooms.  The facility is all on one floor with a lovely enclosed court yard with plantings, places to sit, a fountain, and plenty of birds to enjoy while the weather is warm.  The best of a worst situation. 

We had a singer that brought his portable music machine and sang great Christmas songs encouraging all of us to join him in singing.  Did you know that singing is one of the last memories that many have?  Music and singing are always encouraged.

Santa along with his helper was there to help in the singing and handing out gifts to all the residents.

Santa's gift was obviously a good one....look at that smile!!

He was all smiles that evening.  Makes my heart sing!!

 Brie, one of our grand-girls came along to help in the celebration.

See all the happy faces.

And then the food....chocolate covered strawberries which are always a fav, the infamous hollowed-out bread loaded with spinach dip, eclairs with chocolate whipped cream and cherries, along with other tasties that were long gone before I had a chance to snap a shot.  My only complaint, and I really shouldn't title this as a complaint, is that this food is sooooo messy to eat and the messy then becomes even messier when some of these folks attempt to eat it.  I just grab lots of napkins and hope for the best.  It's party food and a party we did have.

The facility was decorated for Christmas, every door is adorned with a wreath and there are Christmas decorations everywhere you look.   

Each day of our lives may not be a good one, but there is something good in every day.  The difference is usually our attitude....look for the positive and you will find the positive shine through.  I find this positive attitude everytime I visit my sweetheart.  Thank you and God Bless each and everyone of you that cares for our loved ones.  He is happy, I am happy.

"The essential conditions of everything we do must be choice, love, passion."  ~  Nadia Boulanger

Until next time......

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Most Wonderful Day of the Year

Here it is the day after Christmas and I am so full of happy memories.  This was a tough year for me with being the first Christmas that my sweetheart and I have not been together in over 47 years, but with the help of friends and family the happy far outweighed the sad.  However, I think I definitely need to invest in some water-proof mascara because tears did fall on more than one occassion.  I do not want to dwell on the unhappy, only the happy and there were many, many happy moments with more to come.

Christmas traditions were changed this year, some out of need, some out of want, but like life itself, things change.  Christmas Eve was always spent at my daughter's home with a beautiful dinner followed by the unwrapping of family presents (Santa still came over-night, eventho the "kids" are 18 - 21 - 25).  This year I had the Christmas Eve Dinner with Lisa and Sam and Bailey & Brie.  Brandon and Hilary drove to Michigan to be with her parents for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.  Since I don't do much cooking any more, I had to put on the cooking hat (not really, just a metaphor) and prepare a meal worthy of Christmas Eve.  And I must say, it was rather delicious.  Pork Tenderloin in the crock pot that came out fall-apart delicious, wild-rice, Trader Joe's really, thin french green beans, and winter salad with dried cranberries, pears, apples, cashews, and a home-made poppy seed dressing.  It was a palatal paradise if I do say so.  For dessert, Peppermint Ice Cream with hot chocolate sauce and Peppermint sugar cookies....swoon per spoonful.

The Christmas table...donned in red's, greens, checks, polka dots, and floating cranberries....a few of my favorite things. 

After eating and playing a new game...."Apples to Apples" but a newer version than the original, they left, with plans to re-group at Lisa's on Christmas Day. 

Christmas Day brought with it sunshine and warmer temps than we have had here in years.  No snow, which seems so different than our usual weather for Christmas, but there is always a good news and bad news to this....bad news - no white Christmas, good news - no white Christmas which means no worries with driving in the slippery stuff.  So off to Lisa's I drove with a car full of presents but no 8 tiny reindeer, just a 185 horsepower engine in my CRV that I have so mistreated this past year....but NO more. 

As I arrived, the house was bustling with laughter and merriment....Brandon, Hilary and their dog Charlie were already there and everyone was waiting patiently for me to arrive to get started on the official "gift unwrapping".  Another tradition that has been changed.  Since Hilary & Brandon are with her folks on Christmas Eve and Christmas morn, they requested us all to wait until they arrived to open our gifts.  What's another few hours of waiting??  And then the gifting began......

Now, does this look like a 25 year old???  For the first couple of years, Brandon and Hilary received practical gifts; housewares, cooking gear, tools.....but this year, Brandon has reverted back to being a kid, just like his Dad.  They love their toys.  The excitement is all about StarWar's LEGO's...look at that joy!

And our son-in-law Sam, the #1 biggest kid....he will always, always be a kid at heart, that's what makes life in their household so much fun.  Notice how quickly he drops the box after he pulls the gift out of it....

 Thank goodness Brie got an I Phone because that was at the top of her list.....

A neat shower wrap that we all decided would be fun to have, but Hilary is the only one that received one and modeling it quite nicely too.

Bailey has now moved into her own apartment, so she receives practical gifts like the teapot....don't think she drinks tea, just likes to look at it sitting on the stove. 

 This is how different my two grandgirls got Nike's the other got sparkly UGGS....

Lisa and Sam Mr & Mrs. Claus looking on as the kids un-wrap and un-wrap and un-wrap....

Look at that pile of un-wrappings...Charlie wants to know if there is any for him????

Then it was my turn for gift-giving......

 Some of you may say that money doesn't buy happiness, and I totally agree, but it sure brought a lot of smiles to the faces of my grand-kids and kids.  It is sooo difficult to buy for them when they get this age, so I figured money was a good choice.  I went to the bank and got a collection of different bills, mixed them all up and wrapped each of them in the paper-mache boxes with red ribbons.  And none of these pictures were posed, real reactions!!  This is what makes photography so much fun, I can come back to these pictures again and again and look at those smiles and remember the joy. 

Family Pictures.....

Me and all my Grands.....!!!!

Ornaments on the tree....check the Iowa State Snowman....too cute!!

A sweet collection of snowmen....

Lisa's home is filled with delightful holiday decorations....she likes red as much as I Mother, like Daughter.

After all the gift giving and unwrapping and unwrapping and unwrapping (and picture taking), hunger had definitely set in. Dinner was served (another jubilation of flavors) which consisted of Giada's stuffed shells, salad, and hot bread smothered with a delightful concoction of herbs. Oh YUM!!!  We all definitely became "clean-plate club" members.  Table cleared, games galore, lost them all.

My Christmas day was filled with love and blessings, laughter and joy eventho it was spent without my sweetheart.  Sometimes God takes away, but He always gives so much more.

I hope your cup overflows with answered prayers, wishes granted, a circle of wonderful friends, good health, and priceless joy......

Until next time.......