Saturday, November 30, 2013

Recycle: Bedding & Towels

Did you know your local animal shelters & pet rescues welcome your old sheets, towels and blankets (along with donations of food, treats, litter, toys, laundry detergent and bleach)? 
So, when you treat yourself to new, please launder your old and drop them off for the animals who need them for bedding while awaiting forever homes.   
{Perhaps you will fall in love with a dog, cat, puppy or kitty and bring one home to your loving family!}

Reuse: Coffee Grounds

Gather your used coffee grounds and spread them around your landscaping! 
If you don't have enough of your own grounds or you aren't a coffee drinker (WHAT?!?!), your local Starbucks ~and sometimes other small coffeehouses~ will have a bag or two near the front free for your taking!
Happy Gardening!
P.S.  You can toss your eggshells out there, too.  Your plants will love you!!

Reduce: Shopping Bags

For many years, Chris and I have transported shopping bags (reusable, plastic & paper) in the trunks of our cars for our grocery shopping at Aldi, where, if you don't bring your own bags, you will get charged for bags or you need to scrounge up a box or two.  It's also strongly encouraged to bring in your own bags at Trader Joe's.  Eventually, I started taking my reusable bags into the chain stores, as well (Walmart, Meijer, PayLow and SaveaLot).
Our two new favorite grocery stores in Colorado are big proponents of reusable bags.  They offer bag credits, either as a discount off your bill or as a donation to one of three local organizations. 
Let's try to minimize our dependence on plastic shopping bags and help reduce what we send to landfills.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Making the Most of the Holidays (by spending the least!)

Chris and I have been doing our best to live "the simple life" for many years now.  We love to shop Goodwill and thrift stores.  We both have tons of used clothes!!  We head straight for the clearance sections at Target!  While we see many things we like and know would look great at our place or on ourselves, we can easily walk away from making the frivolous purchase (for the most part).  We aren't driven by material things.  We love to use coupons.  We are avid users of our local libraries for books, music & DVDs.  We reduce, reuse & recycle.
We also like to enjoy activities, especially those that celebrate holidays, on the cheap.  We want to make memories, but they don't have to cost a paycheck! 
So here are some free or cheap ways to share holiday  spirit:
~Bake cookies
I am sure many of you have some family recipes to pass along.  My Grandma Long made Christmas cut-outs.  Some of my aunts continued to make them and now my cousin, Tam, bakes them with her two daughters.  It is an annual tradition for the three of them!  I am sure her girls will look back fondly on these times and, hopefully, share the recipe with their own children!!
~Watch DVDs
Put on your PJs and snuggle under blankets while sipping hot chocolate and spend a couple hours (or more if you do a whole marathon - go for it!!) watching your fave Christmas movies.  I recommend Elf, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, ScroogeWhite Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Trim the tree, hang your stockings and go about making the whole house festive.  You could share the stories behind some of the ornaments.  I have some very special ceramic ornaments that my mother painted and she was so very talented!  They hang on our tree every year and I can't help but smile when I see them (I have shared half of them with my brother and I hope that he is using them).  And don't forget to play music and dance!  Our Christmas mornings when I was younger ALWAYS included the Elvis Christmas album because my dad was a big Elvis fan.  I can't listen to (any) Elvis without thinking of my dad and those early Christmases!!
~Read Christmas Books
Just like with watching movies, cuddle up in your PJs with a cup of hot cocoa and read together. 
Gather the kids and spend an afternoon volunteering at your local food pantry, animal rescue, homeless shelter or soup kitchen.  This is such an intrinsically rewarding experience and it teaches us all the valuable lesson of being charitable and appreciating what we have in our lives.
~Ice Skating, Sledding, Walking the Neighborhood or the Woods
Be active!  If we have to live where there is snow, then we should take advantage of the outdoor activities a little snow provides.  I love walking around the neighborhood to see everyone's decorations.  Grab that hot chocolate or coffee in a to-go cup, bundle up and head out into the winter wonderland!  And while you are out there, build a snowman or make a snow angel!  (I'm not just talking to the kids here!  Just a couple years ago, I dropped myself right into the snow and made a snow angel for the first time in decades!  It was hilarious!)  A walk in the woods after a light dusting of snow would be so peaceful and you would see so many things differently than in any other season.
~Attend Community Events
Last weekend, we attended a holiday street lighting in a neighboring city and tonite we will be attending our city's Christmas tree lighting.  We are treating ourselves to a hot cup of coffee and a donut!  We also plan to attend a couple festival of lights parades!!   
~Make Ornaments
For a handful of years, my family (on my dad's side) would make ornaments for our gifts.  Some were very elaborate and others less involved, but they all were special because we knew the gifter had taken time out of her schedule to handicraft.  One of my aunts made painstakingly small cross stitch ornaments one year.  I made ice cream cones with glass ball ornaments glued to real sugar cones!  There were also years that I made wreaths instead.  I remember my mom making wreaths out of a metal hangar, clear plastic baggies and a big red bow!!!  They would probably be considered retro these days and she could make a fortune!  As a family, you could sit at the table and construct something together or each make your own creation.  I even made Chris a "special" ornament one year: it's a sled made from popsicle sticks with a small piece of holly, that I made from felt and a red bead.  I see it hung on our tree right this moment!! 
This list, of course, isn't all-inclusive and I sincerely welcome suggestions in the comments!  Part of the fun is in the hunt! 
In the infamous words of Buddy, the Elf
"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."
Don't be shy, sing along, loud & proud! 
Let's set the spirit meter ablaze!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Eve

It's the day before our first Thanksgiving in Colorado.  And what a gorgeous day we have had here today!  Warm-ish temps (no coat required) and plenty of sunshine!!  And Chris was able to leave work early, which meant we could head out for a bit before it was dark (damn daylight savings time!).
I made my World Famous Cranberry Cherry Walnut dish this morning.  Tell me, who doesn't love the smell of fresh orange zest?!?
We have all the necessary ingredients for our respective dishes and I am going to cook a whole chicken in the crockpot for the first time. 
It's going to be a bit strange to not be heading to my aunt's (and we will certainly miss all of her super delicious foods), but we have lived away from family when we were in Florida, so being alone for the holidays isn't all that new to us.  Last nite my cousin, Matt, invited us to join them at his girlfriend's father's home, but we already had our plan to make food here and graze throughout the day!  (Plus, we get all the leftovers to enjoy all weekend long!!!)
It doesn't really "feel" like a holiday, tho.
It's all about the changes we knew to expect by taking the road less travelled and moving in the direction of our dream.
I am thankful for my husband and our health.  I am thankful for our financial ability to make this big life change.  I am thankful that my family members are healthy and that many of them will be gathering together tomorrow to break bread.  I am thankful that my grandparents are still with us and that they remember the important dates in our life.  I am thankful that Chris was able to land a university job very shortly after our arrival to Colorado.  I am thankful that we both have vehicles in good working conditions.  I am thankful that I have some amazing girlfriends who inspire me, encourage me and look out for me.  I am thankful that I can take this break from working.  I am thankful that we have a nice place to live and can surround ourselves with things that make anywhere we live our home.  I am thankful for our fur babies, as they make us a family.  I am thankful for the travel opportunities Chris and I have enjoyed thru the years and look forward to many more. 
I hope we can all see the things in our lives, big & small, for which we can be thankful.  I intend to continue to practice an attitude of gratitude throughout the year.  Please join me!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I have worn heels the past two days.  Yesterday, a pair of heeled short boots with my embroidered jeans.  Today, my black & white heeled shoes with black jeans.
Our arrival to Colorado has brought many changes and one of those is, of course, that I am not working in an office and, therefore, don't have the need to wear my "work" clothes.  (Some, I didn't even unpack b/c I figured why bother.  Truth be told, they are mostly dresses that I would wear in the summer, but still...)  It's weird to see the shirts, pants, skirts, jackets that I would rotate thru just hanging there...waiting, waiting, waiting.  Funny thing is, I would look into my closet (pre-move) and dislike anything and everything ~ I had grown weary of the same old things! 
Wearing my heels connects me to the years I spent working in a (semi) professional setting.  And while I am not dressing for work these days, and I don't have anywhere of import to go, it feels DAMN good to wear my heels again!!  I was almost never in flat shoes, other than the gym!  I'm, like, short, here in CO!   
Kinda silly, right?
I have the days I want to dress "down" and be comfy with my imitation Chuck Taylors or the days I feel a bit more bohemian and like to wear sandals and flow-y shirts and the days I am a bit more "edgy" with my black boots, tights and short skirts!!!  I am unsure if I am attempting to find my style post-move, but I think we all satisfy our different personalities thru our outfits.
Today, I am an eclectic mix ~ which is pretty spot-on with my mental state, as of late ~ to my heels and jeans, I add a white tank, gray zippered jacket and multi-layered black/gray/clear/silver beaded necklace! 
And where might I be wearing this fabu ensemble, you ask? 
A jaunt to the library, I answer! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Eleven Twenty-Five Ninety-Two

The day we were married.
21 years of committed friendship, love & laughter.
Our first anniversary in our new home state, Colorado.  We are celebrating in 3 parts:
Last nite, we visited Boulder to watch the lighting of Pearl Street.  There were carolers.  We were all awaiting Santa (& his Mrs.) to flip the switch.  It was worth the chilly wait, the magic happened when the trees all around us and the front of the county building came to life!  It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...
We decided to find a place for our dinner & early celebratory beverages.  We passed thru the door and entered another world...well, country!  The Bohemian Biergarten ~ Perfect choice!  This German brewpub on 13th, just north of Pearl Street, which opened this year, is filled with communal wooden tables & benches and live music, with servers dressed in true German-style.  I decided on a draught hefeweizen (of course) and Chris, a cider.  We ordered a big pretzel for an appetizer and enjoyed it with a couple mustards, the House & the Heaven!  Chris ordered the Reuben sandwich with fries and I, the pork loin with potato pancakes ~~ both excellent choices!
What a thoroughly enjoyable evening!  I am glad we went the way of trying some place new!!  We will return!  It reminded both of us of Cabaret!!
Today, we will have a quiet evening at home.  I am making a cranberry pork roast in the slow cooker.  We'll enjoy dark chocolate & caramel almonds, coconut chocolate cookies and some decaf for dessert (while watching Two Broke Girls). 
Part 3 of our celebration will be this Friday, here in downtown Longmont, watching the lighting of the Christmas tree...while staying warm sipping Ziggi's coffee and eating our first Winchell's donut! 
Our usual anniversary outing is to Chicago, which is clearly impossible, but we are making the most of it by stretching it out and trying new things!! 
Trying new things...the theme of our 2013!
Happy Anniversary, Wolfie!  Where has the time gone?  We have had an interesting go of things, thus far, and I look forward to having as much or more for the next several decades! 
Be ready!
And don't forget to grab the snack bag!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Five Days at Memorial

In October 2011 Chris and I took a vacation to New Orleans.  We fell instantly in love with the Crescent City!!  You can read about our travels here, here, here, here, here, here and here.  I have actually been looking into going back next year.  I really wanted to go for Mardi Gras, which is also close to Chris's birthday, but the prices are just too steep for hotels.  I'll figure something out!! 
Last month, I read about a book that chronicled the happenings at a NOLA hospital during Hurricane Katrina and knew I had to read it.  I guess many others read the same review because I had to get on the waiting list before I could get my hands on the book at our library!
We hadn't visited pre-Katrina, and we spent our time, mostly, in the French Quarter, which was unaffected by the hurricane and the resulting failed levees.  But I remember the event and have seen photos & footage over the years (hard to believe it happened EIGHT years ago!).  But N'awlins gets in your blood...well, for us, at least...when you spend several days with her!
Honestly, if it wasn't for the oppressive humidity, we would have considered a move there.  We tried Tallahassee, so we know it's just not our type of lifestyle.
Side note, Chris could have taken a job in NOLA pre-Katrina!  (This was the same time he was applying in Florida.)  It was with a TV station and, even at that time, he was informed that during hurricanes, etc., he would have to remain there, while I evacuated.  Um....that sort of sealed the deal for us! When Katrina and the aftermath came, we were both like, "We could have been caught up in that!"  And I was like, "I would have had to take the cats and!!" 
OK, OK...back to the book.
My number was finally up last week and I almost haven't been able to put the book down!  It is so well-written, culling information from many sources (the book stemmed from a magazine article).  It begins as Hurricane Katrina is barreling down on the city and follows the tragic and trying circumstances of the next several days within the confines of Memorial Hospital, its doctors, nurses, patients and the family members and pets of those inside.  It encompasses the personal, the medical, the ethical of a microcosm under duress, be it perceived or real.
I had an Ethics class during my graduate studies and my professor had a background in nursing and law.  I have emailed her to recommend the book for her AND for her students!  She said she heard about it on NPR, but hadn't yet read it for herself. 
I have 100 pages to go and, while I am looking forward to the conclusion (as with any book, be it fiction or non-fiction), I am going to be sort of sad to let it go (to the next voracious reader in the queue).  It is an intimate look into New Orleans, one that I wouldn't want to have lived through, but that from which I am compelled to learn.
I hope you will "enjoy" it as much as me and that if you haven't yet visited the Big Easy, you will soon find yourself among her music, her food, her history and her people one day.  It is well worth it!

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Teaching Moment?

I didn't grow up wealthy and I am not wealthy now. 
Yet, my childhood Christmases seemed abundant & magical!  I don't remember if I made wish lists, but if I did, I am sure I didn't get everything on them.  However, my parents did a good job of buying things for under the tree and our stockings.
We were an artificial tree family.  My mom would get the tree and the boxes of Christmas decorations from the basement.  I looked forward to decorating the tree.  Some ornaments had been store bought, while many others were ceramics that my mother made over the years.  These ornaments meant the world to me and I managed to keep them into adulthood!  {I have since shared some with my brother, since I believe that he should have that part, one of the few happy parts, of our childhood as a reminder, too.  I hope that he uses them and stores them securely, to be handed down to any of his sons in the future.}  Our stockings were the same, year after year, and as with all of the other decorations, were hung in the same place.   
One tradition I will never forget:  we were always allowed to select one gift to open Christmas Eve.  I can't recall how I would choose which of the wrapped goodies I couldn't wait to see, tho.  Maybe I would pick something from my grandparents because I would have had no earthly idea what they sent, especially during the years when I had snuck a peek in my mom's closet and pretty much knew what my parents (or Santa) would give me. 
I had a keyboard and quickly learned to play Silent Night, so that was a part of our Christmas Eves for several years, as well. 
It was just the 4 of us, sitting at home, in our pajamas, around our Christmas tree, listening to Christmas music ~~  simple pleasures.
We would usually get new pajamas, some toys and a few other clothing items that we needed.  One year Santa brought me the Charlie's Angels dolls (or Chris would say action figures) ~ there they were, unwrapped under the tree, just waiting for me Christmas morn...that was a BIG deal!
Our elementary school would have a Secret Santa store, where we kids could buy things for our parents, siblings, grandparents, friends.  The items were small and inexpensive; I may have only had $5 to spend, but it was always so much fun.  Browsing and deciding ... from among what I would now see as items, most likely, bought from a bulk place like Oriental Trading!  :)
Our local mall, for many years, had some of the best holiday displays.  There were these reindeer that were set up down all of the side hallways and around Santa in the center.  (Chris would love to have his hands on them now...)
Also, if you were from Crown Point, you went to Gard's...a Christmas mecca.  Cars, with head lights turned off, waited patiently in line, slowly making their way in front of the house, before rolling down the windows to hear the music while watching the mechanized routine of angels around a Christmas tree, the shadows of the three wise men on camels, the painted choir, Joseph alongside Mary on a donkey, the angel on high.  Always the same, but never to be missed!  (I can only imagine what the utility bill was!!  As the years past, the number of days it was up became fewer, of course.)
We would spend one nite with my dad's immediate family.  We gathered at my grandparent's where we enjoyed food, company and, for the adults at least, many alcoholic beverages!!  The Long family tradition was that the adults drew names, but everyone could buy for the kids.  The funny thing, tho, is that as an older kid we couldn't wait until we got to be a part of the gift exchange...which, tho we weren't thinking of it at the time, would mean far less gifts!  HA!!  My cousin, Tam, & I are only 4 months apart, so we were treated much like twins.  We would either be given the exact same gift or the same thing just a different color (one year it was huge pom pons: one of us got blue & white, the other purple & white and we couldn't have been happier!!).   
Looking back, I see the joy in our gatherings: our family of 4 at home and the much larger (and louder) party at the Long's.  I only barely remember the actual gifts.
As adults, Chris and I decided that we were no longer going to buy gifts, for one another or family members.  We bought for Angel Tree kids or Toys for Tots, occasionally dropped off an unwrapped toy when Starbucks collected.  We would make donations to organizations like Food for the Poor in honor of our parents and send them a note to say that a pear tree or 20 chicks had been purchased for a family in a third-world country.  We knew that our nieces & nephews would be getting gifts from their parents and both set of grandparents, plus other aunts & uncles ~~ they would be fine without something from was just one more thing! 
My own immediate family members have had (and still have) their unfair share of financial struggles and maybe that is why I am so drawn to charitable causes.  Also why I feel that it is more important to move away from the materialism of the holiday season and bring the focus back to making memories.  It's not about STUFF!
One of my cousins, often from his own hand, didn't have much.  He, his wife and their daughter would volunteer their time at Christmas to help out with a toy drive.  I would wonder how my younger cousin would feel, but I really think she just enjoyed what she was doing for those whom she saw as less fortunate than herself.  What a generous spirit!!  A spirit I believe she still possesses to this day, in her early 20's.  Maybe, like me as a kid, she didn't really think she was missing out on anything ~~ that is my hope.  She had lots of extended family (grandparents, aunts & uncles) who gave her gifts and we would have our big family gatherings (this time at an aunt & uncle's rather than our grandparent's who passed well before she was born).  I truly believe that the time spent in charitable works at such a young age was a teaching moment. 
A friend from high school has experienced a great financial change and has had to turn to food pantries (she tried and was denied public assistance) to feed her & her 2 children.  I have privately written to her to offer my support, encouragement and any advice/recommendations I can think of.  And I wonder if her kids can see this, possibly, meager Christmas with new eyes.  Maybe she can help her children see that the holiday season is about spending time with their family, that there are others with less (even if this can sometimes be hard to believe), that joy doesn't come from a store.  I hope that my friend can use this holiday season as a teaching moment. 
Wishing you JOY, PEACE and "Enough" for the holidays!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Our First Fort Collins Foray

Last Saturday, because it was going to be a balmy & sunny day, we decided to take advantage of the weather and head north for our first visit to Fort Collins.  It's about 25 minutes from Longmont.
Our drive up was along Hwy 287, which is the more scenic route, taking us through downtown Longmont and Loveland up to the heart of Fort Collins.
Fort Collins is the home of Colorado State University.  From our brief drive past, it looks to be a very impressive campus, one to which I would like to return and wander (like we did at Tulane in NOLA).  It looks like it would be its most beautiful during the blooming of late spring or, the opposite, under the blazing colors of fall.  (A future employer of either, better yet both, of us, perhaps??)
Boulder & Fort Collins share similarities: college towns, walkable downtown shopping/eating areas, residential areas near both.  But there was a different feel to Fort Collins.  I can't really describe it.  (However, a high school friend, while chatting about this subject on Facebook, mentioned it to be different than "the People's Republic of Boulder"!  He lived in Longmont, worked in Fort Collins and his wife worked in Boulder, so he was well-versed on the areas.)
We parked at the county courthouse and walked about 2 blocks to the bustling downtown, which is comprised of many old buildings that have been repurposed for other commercial uses.  I love the history!!!  Almost immediately, Chris says how he LOVES it here and could live here. is a bit more north than we like, not to mention he would have to be working at CSU as there is NO way he would commute to CU-Boulder or Johnson & Wales in Denver!!!! 
I could see it, too, tho.  I mean, it is another 25 minutes or so north of Denver, THE City, but I think one could find pretty much all one needs within Fort Collins (and, besides, Longmont and even Boulder aren't THAT far to the south)!!  I believe the housing prices are more reasonable than either Boulder or Denver (maybe, Longmont...I would have to research that).  It's got the big college.  There are lots of restaurants, so you wouldn't be repeating any too soon.  (We received a recommendation for The Crown Pub, for bangers & mash!!)  There was a performing arts theatre.  Several bars, too.  And, if I'm not mistaken, I believe New Belgium beer is produced in Fort Collins.  There are museums and other culture, as well.  Plenty for the two of us!! 
Coincidentally, it is one of the two places my friend, Trixie, and her brood would pick upon their (eventual) return to Colorado.  The other, I suspect, is the People's Republic of Boulder!  :)
Oh, and it seems that, contrary to what we both thought, Fort Collins gets less snow than Boulder!  (Longmont a little less than Fort Collins...yet, I just can't see us settling in Longmont.)
It was a pretty windy day that was really putting a bite in the air.  And you know what that means, right?  We needed a hot beverage!  Off to select a coffee shop!   
Chris spotted one, Café Bluebird, so in we went.  Quaint, tiny place.  Wood tables & chairs, a bit mismatched.  Small baked goods display, inside which were goodies made on site, to include both sweet & savory delights.  While we didn't avail ourselves of any of the eye candy (THIS visit), we ordered 2 coffees.  To our surprise, a delightful one at that, they French press to order!  The condiment bar (which also doubles as the place to bring used dishes) was a very large wood armoire.  I am looking forward to our return visit, where we will enjoy our coffee & sweets while sitting at one of the tables in this French-inspired café! 
We are going back between now and Christmas to see the downtown area under holiday lights!  And, I think, to enjoy some bangers & mash!

I'm Not Perfect

It’s okay to not workout every day; hell, take a week off!
You gave the barista thing a try and it wasn’t the right fit ~ so just cross it off your Gonna Give This a Whirl list and move on to the next thing!
We freakin’ picked up and moved to Colorado,
sans jobs,
b/c we wanted to do it, dammit! 
That is ballsy and cool as hell!
If I was a Twit-head, it would look like this:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I'm Dreaming of a Quiet Thanksgiving

Well, not dreaming, exactly!  But we will be having an intimate dinner for 2!  Like a belated anniversary celebration, really!
It's not the first time we will be eating alone for a holiday, nor will it be the last.  I do like planning and cooking the entire meal, tho.  We can eat exactly what we want, made exactly the way we want.  We can try new recipes...who am I kidding...that's never stopped me when we have gone to a family dinner ~~ as a matter of fact, I often throw in some new recipe on them as my guinea pigs!!! 
This year, we don't yet know what main dish we are preparing (a whole chicken, a pork roast, a ham), but we do know the sides that each of us want to try.  I am making green beans with bacon & cranberries, plus my tried & true walnut cranberry marmalade!  Chris is trying his hand at two Barefoot Contessa recipes in my Good Housekeeping magazine:  her stuffing and mashed potatoes.  (Truth be told, Chris makes AMAZING mashed potatoes of his own!!) 
For "breakfast" and dessert, we are making these little pumpkin pies from  a recipe that came across Facebook.  They are made in a muffin that's why I am making them early and we can eat them twice that day! 
We have several bottles of wine on hand, plus coffee & tea. 
We wanted to be volunteers to serve food on Thanksgiving day, but I didn't get with the organization early enough and they were full.  But, I did volunteer us to serve lunch the next day at the organization's hospitality center (where breakfast & lunch are served daily).  I haven't heard anything, tho, which is a bit disappointing.  (I did also volunteer us for Christmas Eve, so let's hope we get contacted for something!!)
As we are not holiday gift givers, we will not be out & about for the Thanksgiving day shopping and Black Friday madness.  For us, this is a 4-day weekend (for Chris this year, since I am on a short sabbatical anyway!) and the time we usually get our Christmas decorating done.  It will be fun to see what we still have (we got rid of many things over the past 2 years, as we were shedding some extra & unneeded weight in preparation for the move west) and where it will go in the new digs. 
I am thankful for my health, having "enough", celebrating my 21st anniversary with my honey, having the ability to make our huge move/leap of faith/change of direction/next adventure and knowing that I have family & friends across the country (and the world as my cousin, KAML, is still in Iraq for about a month) who are alive this day and are gathering with their loved ones to eat, drink & make memories.
Wishing all of you a thanksgiving holiday abundant with blessings and gratefulness. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Compass

Since our move to Colorado, I feel untethered, confused, pulled in several directions at once.
My internal compass is wonky, won’t stop spinning ~ think Capt Jack Sparrow’s compass and that’s me on the inside.
Does my past have anything to do with me feeling so out of sorts?  My crazy parents? 
I have tried to follow a linear path b/c it’s comfortable…less risky…dare I say normal?
Was I so focused on creating a sense of “normalcy” just to be in complete opposition from my early childhood/home life?
Perhaps I need to be more (fill in the blank) and less linear (Is that even possible for me?  Is this in my DNA??)
In Indiana, had a job, gym, friends…a routine.  Is this just a temporary sensation?  Is it b/c I like to be in control and now I am in flux??
Chris loves what he does; it wasn’t even what he went to college for ~ why can’t I figure it out??
My Act II is figuring out what I want to do: esthetician, librarian, fitness trainer {the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker!!} But how?  How do I focus?  How do I choose?? 

Coincidentally, I have been wanting a compass tattoo for some time now.  I have only been waiting b/c I couldn’t decide where to put it!  Again, how do I choose?  J

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tom's Diner

@ Colfax Ave & Pearl St, Denver
Open 24 hrs
Building is older, a bit non-descript, lots of windows
            Retro booths with yellow puffy backs and hard, brown plastic benches, yellow tabletops
            Bar stools encircle the counter  (someday Chris & I need to eat our meal at the counter of a diner)
            Behind which can be seen 2 old-fashioned shake machines, which are now just decoration
            Old brown paneling mixed with areas that are covered with rock, to include the front waiting area with a couple chairs, a couch and a vintage corner table with magazines ~~ really makes me think of the Brady’s sunken living room
            Definitely parts that have been remodeled, but keeping true to that diner feel ~~ think of the famous painting of Elvis, Marilyn and James Dean at a late nite diner
Our server was super friendly and easily offered up suggestions when Chris asked (coincidentally, he selected the 2 items Chris and I were each privately considering)
They have a decent selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner options.  Weekday specials; even a super cheap breakfast from 5A-7A that we would make if it wasn’t a 30-minute drive away!!
Bathroom was very clean and had been updated!!
We look forward to a return visit, most likely for the Trombone Shorty concert just down the street at the Ogden Theatre on December 27th!  It’s a 9PM show that is a first come seating arrangement, don’t know if we will go pre or post-concert.  If it’s post, tho, I suspect I am ordering breakfast!  Gotta try several things on the menu to be sure our first time wasn’t a fluke!  Right??!! 
And now I have you thinking of the Suzanne Vega song of the same name!  HA!  Great song!!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Clearing My Mind

I walk this morning with the aim of health, both physical & mental.  A search for clarity; perhaps a quest.  My mind is open; I listen only to the sounds around me, which change from the mundane to nature.  There is a light breeze on this cool late morning.  The sun shines brightly, providing a bit of warmth.  The squeak of prairie dogs can be heard.
Upon leaving the civilized world and its concrete, I step onto the soft & quiet dirt path.
A path that, while leading me to an overlook, becomes less quiet as my feet crunch upon the stones, which are like litter from the giant sandstone quarry below. 
At this vantage point I can see west, with an expanse far to my south & north, the majesty of the mountains: foreground, background, peaks & valleys, native names, my surname, snow-tipped or dark with shadows. 
I hope to see the deer we saw one other time (but it is not to be…most likely due to the loudness of my approach).
I hope not to encounter snakes or coyotes.
I can fully appreciate the beauty around me, my fortunate circumstances that led me here…but I need to grasp my place.  Who am I?  Who do I want to be?  What do I want to do?  How do I fill my time meaningfully?  Over what do I still have control?
Over what do I still have control???  That’s it!  I can control how my time is spent.  I could make myself a schedule, in any configuration.  I can arrange my mornings so that I get my workouts in and then be showered and ready by 8:30; thereby leaving the whole day ahead of me to “work”:  my creative pursuits, my reading & studies, my household “chores”, the shopping.  I will get through my To Do Lists just as I would at a job! 
It’s clearer now.  I must take advantage of this time I am given, or rather, taking!  The things I have been writing in journals, hoping to bring to fruition some day will be given existence.  This time is a gift…I can spend it how I choose…but I must not squander it.
Be like the eagle that soared above my head:  wings spread, confident in flight, with a destination in mind, but the path getting there yet to be determined.

I Have Heard

The dying leaves that still desperately cling to their branches, dry & brittle as if burned by fire, when stirred by the wind release a sound like that of rattling bones
Or like the chattering teeth fashioned into a necklace and worn by the native who, otherwise soundlessly, runs across the great expanse.
…so I’ve heard it told.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Coffee Shops

Coffee shops have taken the place of the malt shops, diners, pool halls.  They are gathering spots, even for the solo sipper, reading stops and blogging offices. 
Some I have had the pleasure to enjoy just have ‘that’ quality which makes me want to return time & again.  Many have similarities that I intentionally observed at our local caffeinated hot spot yesterday morning. 
“the dance”
       switching of seating from...      
comfy chair to table
            one table to another (closer to the window, smaller, further away from kids….)
the personalities
            slightly over middle-age gentleman who watches the young lady as she packs up her belongings to leave…not sure if he was merely curious about her things or her “things”!!  
            the older men sitting at tables, oft times alone, facing the TV which is set to a news program and has no volume, only closed caption
            the students with earbuds in, papers spread around and laptops open
            ladies’ ‘coffee & talk’ (pronounced like a New Yorker!!)
            business meetups
The cacophony of conversations ebb & flow based on the mix of patrons
            ~when it ebbs, I can hear the music
            ~when it flows, it’s like the heartbeat of a community

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


a veil, a curtain, a shroud
i can imagine anything in your beyond:
an ocean dock
the emerald city
bare trees are softened
birds hide in the open
dogs & their humans, out for a morning walk, emerge
from your whisper

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A, (Super) B, C, D3...

That's my take on the ABC's...or rather, the Vitamin ABC's!!!
I take a healthy handful of vitamins and supplements each day.  Wondering what any of you take (& the why)?
I introduced a new supplement this week, Pycnogenol.  I knew of it years ago having read that it would help with acne, I believe (something I have suffered with since about age 14 and now battle along with aging, like wrinkles), but I didn't give it a whirl at the time.  Recently, tho, in a magazine article, it popped up; this time was about how it could help with perimenopausal symptoms.  And I thought to myself, "Huh, I think I remember this helping fight acne.  I'll have to research it!"
A little internet research I did!!  It seems that Dr. Oz did a small segment on his show and the discussion was how pycnogenol helps fight aging in the skin!  Whoa!!  I was now thinking: helps with acne, helps with perimenopause AND helps fight wrinkles ~ sign me up!!!
I added it to my grocery list for that same day!  The recommended dosage was 25mg/3 times a day, with results to be seen after 12 weeks.  However, I don't take my vitamins several times a and done!  I bought a 50mg dose that I am taking once a day and the supply I bought will get me 60 days.  I know, that's not quite 12 weeks (nor the total of 75 mg/day), but I am going to see if I notice a difference after 2 months. 
My daily regimen includes:
Multi vitamin
Calcium with D3
Fish Oil
Super B
Digestive enzyme
Aspirin (every other day to ward off colon cancer)
I think soon I will need to buy one of those really large (rather comical...oft times purchased as "Over the Hill" gag gifts) daily vitamin container!  HeeHee!!
Oh, and not to be forgotten, as it is THE most important pill I pop each and every morning upon waking: levothyroxin for my Hashimoto's Thyroiditis!  (and none of my vitamin supply is taken until, at least, 4 hours after my generic Synthroid)

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Do you have a favorite sound?  Something that brings you peace or makes you smile or stirs a memory?
I have several sounds that I simply love, which instantly bring a smile to my face! 
Soft rustling of dry leaves, as they cling to their branches
Wind chimes
Gentle ocean waves
Mens' dress shoes clicking across tile floors
Hearing the words "Aunt Jennie", especially when spoken by the wee ones
Our cats' mews
A New Orleans 2nd line
Chris saying to me, " 'ello, Puppet!"

Friday, November 8, 2013

Library Finds

I just finished the 3rd installment of the Matthew Corbett series by Robert McCammon, Mister Slaughter.  As good as the first 2!  McCammon's books are not for the faint of heart...for the content and the length!  These are BOOKS! 
While returning Mister to the library, I picked up the 4th book, The Providence Rider.  Can't wait to see what mystery Matthew is to uncover, what dangers he will encounter, what details McCammon peppers throughout the tome.
If you like historical fiction and/or mysteries, you should begin with Speaks the Nightbird.
I also see that another of my favorite authors, Joshilyn Jackson, has come out with her newest book, Someone Else's Love Story.  That is at the top of my list when I return to the library.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Just Breathe

I cannot believe Thanksgiving is 3 weeks from today?!  Whoa! 2013 is one of the fastest years I can recall!  You??
The holidays are fast approaching.  Stores have been putting out Christmas items since well before Halloween!! 
Soon, we are going to be smack dab in the hustle and bustle.  I know many people love this time of year, for a variety of reasons.  Some like to have a (or yet another) reason to shop.  Others like the warm feeling created from the decorations and music.  Still others look forward to baking and family time. 
As my readers, you should well know that my favorite time of year is fall and my favorite holiday, Halloween.  However, I am not immune to the joy that the winter holidays bring.  I observe the solstice and am a big proponent of sending holiday cards.  Yep, I said holiday cards!  I wish "Happy Holidays" to all!!  This time of year encompasses so many traditions, it is rude to think otherwise.  
It is also very easy to fall prey to the stress that this time can bring, too.  Which makes it very important to slow down, look around, take in the sights, the sounds, the people.  As far as I am concerned, THAT is what the holidays should be about...not gifts.
I won't get on my soap box (well, not this early in the season), but rather I want to offer some advice:  Take time for daily indulgences if/when you start to feel overwhelmed.  I once wrote a list of things that I continue to carry in my yearly calendar.  It is so worn, that both pages are torn in half, so that now I have 4 small pages!!! 
I offer a few suggestions, but strongly encourage you to come up with some specific to you (and welcome you to share them in the comments, too):
~Call a friend
~Write a letter of gratitude
~Donate to a charity
~Try a new wine, beer, ice cream...
~Watch your favorite movie (you know, the one where you know every word!)
~Go see Christmas lights
~Attend a holiday concert (universities often have excellent ones)
~Treat yourself to that special coffee drink
~Bake your favorite treats
Just remember to take a break, to breathe, to be present in the moment.
THEN, you can jump back in the craziness! 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Bright blue sky
Scattered wisps of clouds
Almost bare trees
I hear a rustling as the wind picks up
Something catches my eye
 I turn my head to see leaves blowing by
Held aloft by the breeze
Chasing one another
As fall lingers on this early November day

Pumpkin & Chicken Enchiladas

I know you are asking yourself, "Did I read that right?  Enchiladas with PUMPKIN??!!"
And I say, "YES!"
While reading one of my favorite blogs, The Cavender Diary, what do I see but one of my favorite all-time (not just Fall time) things in the title of a post: Pumpkin!  Therefore, I must read.  (Truth be told, I would have read the post anyway cuz I just love these guys!!  You should check them out!)
I give the recipe a quick perusal and it sounds enticing, plus I just so happened to have taken out some frozen chicken breasts the nite before to thaw and didn't, yet, know what I was going to transform them into for dinner!!
I add a few ingredients to my grocery shopping list and head to our local Save-a-Lot store that is primarily stocked with Hispanic food items (lucky us, right!), to include 2 lbs of fresh tortillas for only $1.59.
I followed the super-easy recipe from memory, but made a few tweaks based on my ingredients.  My modifications were:
~I didn't need to buy a roaster chicken;
~I seasoned my chicken breasts with Adobo with Pepper before roasting;
~I thought we still had some Chipotle Pumpkin salsa (from Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill line), so I didn't get any jalapeno...but I was wrong;
~I added cumin and a dash more Adobo to my pumpkin in place of the chili powder;
~I also added a small amount of flaked red pepper to the pumpkin as I didn't have the heat of the salsa or jalapenos wrapped in the tortillas.
We had side salads of green-leaf lettuce, celery, carrots and tomatoes.  What a delicious and nutritious meal!  And quick to make! 
And those of you who know me know my love, love, love of all things pumpkin, so I was thrilled to have a new way to fix it!  I will definitely be adding this to my handy-dandy cookbook!  I hope you will give it a try, too.  And don't forget to "make it your own" based on your & your families tastes! 
Let me know how you like it!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Art of Appreciation

You know the old saying about how you need to walk a mile in someone else's shoes to really know them?  By doing so, you will certainly gain a deep sense of appreciation for what goes into that person's day.  You, hopefully, judge less, forgive more.
As I have previously written, I was a pretty regular Starbucks customer.  I loved the beverages and, just as much, the cozy & welcoming environment, where I could sit for minutes or hours, reading or chatting with a friend.  I love the smell, wafting out to greet me before I even enter.  Although there is a large drink menu from which to choose, I would stick to a few usual suspects, café misto or mocha or a seasonal latte (mmmmm...pumpkin spice!).  We all know that Starbucks isn't an inexpensive caffeine choice!  But, I am a gold card holder, so I can earn a free drink after 12 and I get a freebie for my birthday!  It's something, right?!? 
I wasn't in an exclusive relationship with Starbucks.  I would buy my coffee at many places, often times the Luke gas stations back in Indiana because I could get a huge cup for only $1!   Occasionally, I would go to Dunkin Donuts (but it was hit or miss whether the coffee was good) and
with McDonald's offering any size drink for $1, I would hit their drive thru on my lunch breaks, too. 
Back to Starbucks, tho....the baristas were always friendly and seemed to enjoy themselves and that really adds to my interest in wanting to hang out and relax there.  A place that I looked forward to going to get away from the 4 walls (and some of the people) where I was working. 
Upon coming to Colorado (our Act II, which I will address in a future post), I needed to find a new job.  I had been applying for full-time office jobs, both before and after leaving Indiana, but wasn't getting any bites.  I figured maybe I should just look for something part-time to fill up my time and to bring in a little money (neither of us had jobs when we left the Midwest).  I first applied at a Halloween store and figured I was a shoe-in, but I guess only young "chippies" were being hired!  Within the same time, I applied online for the various Longmont Starbucks locations.  I was called in less than 24 hours...and the rest, as they say, is history in my previous posts.
I spent the first 2 weeks in training with Karey, a woman who was born to work with people in a learning environment!  She has only been working as a barista for a year, but has been training new baristas because it really is her gift.  I am very thankful of my opportunity to meet and work with her!
I was then thrown right into the "real" work of a Starbucks barista!  At the same time, the company is putting into practice a new store support system/role (I won't bore you with the details). 
Well, I can assure you that, unless you have actually been employed at Starbucks, you have absolutely no idea how much work is completed each & every after day after day after day!
The espresso machines are broken down and cleaned; the syrup bottles are rinsed off; the sauce containers are changed; the brewed coffee happens every 8 minutes until noon and then every 30 minutes until closing; the amount of dishes that are washed, rinsed & sanitized would astound you; the pastry case is filled and emptied; whipped creams are made; iced coffee, cold tea concentrates, soy milk pitchers are prepared several times; bathrooms are cleaned; condiment bar is cleaned and restocked; creamers prepared; cups & lids stocked...
And then you still have customer service! 
Learning how to mark cups based on Starbucks standards, which is then enhanced by all of the intricate "personalization" by customers who want drinks tweaked.  Finding all of the relevant buttons on the register for each & every part of a drink order. 
There are hot beverages from the bar, which can also be made iced.  There are blended beverages.  There is brewed coffee.  There is hot tea.  There are the seasonal drinks, which come with their own toppings!!
Getting items from the pastry case, some requiring a warming in the oven and finding all of these items on the register. 
I did store support for much of my first week.  Every 8 minutes I am brewing a new batch of coffee, filling up the ice at the cold bar, adding espresso beans to the hoppers, restocking cup sleeves, wiping down the counter and the condiment bar, restocking 3 items at the condiment bar, replacing the half & half, then doing one of a dozen "cadence tasks" like cleaning the bathrooms, emptying garbage, etc., replenishing cups, lids, milks, syrups, etc. and then, the 8 minutes are up and I start back at brewing coffee!!!!  In the midst of this "routine," however, I am asked to make a soy pitcher, make iced coffee (how do I do that?!?), make mocha (again, um, how do I do that?), get things ready for a coffee traveler (which is the large coffee to go order) and cleaning up a huge coffee spill at the register!!!  Can you say running around like a chicken with your head cut off??!!
I spent little time on the bar.  And let me tell you that following the beverage routine of steaming milk, pulling shots, pumping syrup and replacing "like for like" is far far harder than it sounds...especially when it's a rush!!  I have to think of the type of milk, the number of shots, the number of pumps, which syrups (cuz it isn't caramel syrup in a caramel's vanilla, which is also one less pump than the standard for the cup size!).  Does this drink get whip as a standard...or just foam?  Does it need to be stirred before the foam or whip?  Is there a topping (dolce, salt, pumpkin....)??
My lack of bar experience/training was really taking a toll on me.  I wasn't sleeping!  I would get stressed while on the bar and then I was stressing at home, thinking of how to make drinks, rather than getting my necessary shut eye!  Ugh!
I thought that asking for a schedule that didn't include opening shifts, or anything before 9, would help.  I am not an early morning person, unless I am heading to the airport for a vacation!!!
I was struggling, tho.  I know there are things I was doing well, some okay...but the big thing, making drinks, was escaping me!  How can that be?!?  I am smart and consider myself a quick learner.  And I really like all of my co-workers ~ a rarity for me!  They are all great people and make for a wonderful working atmosphere, something I haven't had the pleasure of since the early years at HIDTA.
Chris was offered the job at Johnson & Wales University and this gave me a sense of relief, that the only money coming in wasn't going to be my little part-time income.  I told myself as I drove to work on Saturday that I needed to just have an attitude of fun!  Come on, Jennifer, this is a part-time job...that you don't even need!  Let Go, Relax, Have Fun!  Everyone said that at about the 3-month mark you have an 'aha' moment when it all just clicks!  I arrived early and grabbed the drink cards, so I could review how to make the most common requests (well, at least, the standard from which the custom drinks are built)!  I ended up on bar about halfway thru my shift...and then a rush hit.  Fortunately, my manager took over!  I was put on the bar a second time, with the same results! 
On my 10-minute break, I sent a text to Chris to say that I knew I was over it.  That I could not continue to be stressed.  I asked if he thought I should tell the manager after my shift.  He agreed that was best. 
I know that my coworkers would give me the ability/information by osmosis, if it were possible.  My manager, Karey and one of my shift supervisors said they thought I was doing so great and know I would "get it".  And while that may be the truth, I can't handle the stress of waiting for MY 'aha' moment!  Even with the allure of a weekly free pound of coffee, free drinks on shift days (tho I never really took advantage of this perk...get it, perk = coffee??!!) and a 30% discount.  My mental health can't be compromised by the promise of unlimited caffeine. 
I don't want to create a negative environment for my coworkers, my manager, the store and the customers.  It's only going to get busier as the holidays approach.  I want the customers to continue to have the level of service they expect and have received at this location.  I want them to leave feeling joy.  The same joy I have always looked forward to from my visits. 

Tonite is my last shift.
I have gained the Art of Appreciation for baristas! 
I understand tipping.  I did tip the barista a couple weeks ago at The Stanley Hotel for our café au laits and those at the Tattered Cover for just brewed coffees.  I had NEVER tipped before! those individuals who have crazy drink requests ~ you really SHOULD pony up an extra buck or two into the tip jar!!
Now, I will again simply be the customer, enjoying the Starbucks cup at a time. 


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