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Archive for the ‘Holidays for Sanity’ Category

We do not have any pets, at this time, but in October, every year, a black cat hangs around our yard, and likes to groom itself on our car, obviously.

This was my view out the kitchen window this morning.

Black cat grooming on the car

Happy Halloween everyone!

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Here’s the deal.  Things are tough for a lot of people and we happen to fall in that category.

Disabled husband hasn’t had a raise in social security for the twenty-two years he has been considered permanently disabled.  Raises in Medicare or our personal insurance have always eaten them up.

He smoked for one month, as a teen, but his lungs (and apparently several people in his family have problems) are shot.  He has COPD; with emphysema and chronic bronchitis.  His body also produces way too many histamines, so he has reactions to many things everything.

We had put off going to the food bank as long as we could, but with Thanksgiving this month, it was time.

What I didn’t expect was my reaction to going to the food bank.

I read the article in the paper wrong, first.  So, we went during the two hours they were closed.  The doors were open so I thought I could get the paperwork to fill out at home and come back.

So, instead of thirty-five people going through a line of “take one from shelf A, two from shelf B, etc. the woman had me sign a paper that our
income fit the Federal criteria, which it definitely does, and then she handed us a bag for food.  Then, a box and some more bags as we threaded through the food shelf maze.

I was fine until she handed me a frozen turkey, I just broke out in tears.  A grown woman, crying over a frozen turkey.

I don’t know why?  I guess relief that we would be able to have a normal Thanksgiving for our boys, but, then I also cry at all of CNN’s reports of people who make a difference.

Things I have learned about food banks:

1.    The people who work at them really care.  Sometimes, it is hard to believe that anyone  cares, but they do.

2.    They are making the best of the world that they can.  They run around and gather canned goods and  whatever else local businesses will spare.   They are so grateful for the donation of a freezer, they want our 19 year old to be sure and have a Christmas gift.   They care that we have warm coats and chairs to sit on.

3.    But, if I ever get wealthy, I’m making some specific donations that are along the line of if you teach a man to fish, only this is  if you give him food to cook, he can serve more meals at home.

4.    Things you don’t see at the food bank are staples of cooking:

a.    Flour
b.    Sugar
c.    Butter/margarine
d.   Spices
e.    Cheese: although we did get an industrial sized jalapeno cheese that has our nineteen year old eating nothing but tortilla chips and cheese this week. And, I do know that cheese is not generally considered a staple.
f.    Ground Turkey would be a good alternative for meat.
g.    Eggs
h.   Oats

But, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for these wonderful people who go out of their way for others.

P.S. I am still working on my vegan diet. I have some wheat flour left and picked up some black beans for black bean burgers, and I’m searching for new recipes for all the other beans I have collected.

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We do not get one single trick or treater. I guess no one wants to risk our 400 foot long driveway, when the trees even hide the fact that the house is lit up or not. I really miss Halloween decorating though.

And, I would so do this, if anyone could actually see my house.

Is this the spookiest fun house or what?

Photo courtesy of Sean Fallon, I think.  I actually made a copy because I want to do it some day in the future.

After the boys moved in, I always wanted to have a Halloween party for them and their friends.  They are now 19 and 22, and almost 25.  The 22 year old was just home from Afghanistan and sat in a chair, fully costumed, in a dark room, for a half hour as he waited for his two brothers to get home.

I’m a nut for halloween, and never had a bad experience trick or treating, like http://toddpack.com/2011/10/27/the-worst-halloween-ever-or-the-night-a-girl-and-her-mom-stole-my-candy/#comment-6810.

When I was growing up, we lived in a rural area.  We always had pumpkins on our porch and trick or treaters.  Those kids had some walking to do, I’ll tell you.  Mom and Dad were square dancers and dressed up in awesome costumes every year, but not for the trick or treaters.  When I was young, dad drove me into the nearest town.  I loved it.

I was watched, like a hawk anytime I was outside and it was such a neat feeling to be out after dark and around tons of kids and running and laughing with some new friend.  I even remember the year I fell in love with Zorrow, or was that Zorro?  I don’t know how to spell it and I don’t know who he was but his ?ten/twelve year old self was just as appealing to me as Antonio Banderas is now.

Who knows, maybe it was Antonio????

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When I was growing up, there were no malls on every corner, or any corner.  Mom did not have a driver’s license and never did get one and shopping consisted of a payday (every other Friday) foray into the nearest little town, Griffith, Indiana.  Where I would return my arm-load of books to the library and pick out the next two weeks reading, while mom and dad started their grocery shopping.

Occasionally we would pick something up in the Ben Franklin dime store.  Prices were higher for clothing there, but you could get a tube of lipstick or a hanky to give a relative for Christmas.  Our main shopping was from the Sears, Roebuck Catalog.

1958 Sears Catalog

photo via http://www.wishbookweb.com/1958_SearsChristmasBook/index.htm

This was the Christmas catalog of 1958, and I remember that santa ornament hanging on our tree.  We poured over those Christmas catalogs for hours.  When the Sears driver delivered our order, my brother and I would have to leave the room while she opened those pages and checked the goods.  I don’t think they could do that now, in this day of GPS tracking and speedy delivery, but back in the 50s, service ruled.

I belive there was a fall catalog also that signalled the arrival of the school year.  Mom would haul out the catalog and mark the pages I could use to chose my school clothes.  There was a price point obviously.  Mom always ordered two pair of shoes for me, in different sizes, just to make sure.

The Sears truck driver was almost a friend to invite to dinner.  He came in with the order and waited while things were tried on.  So, when it was time to order school clothing,  I looked for my favorite pair of shoes.  Sears carried them for years.  They were flats with elastic cords that went from the front to the back and I thought they made my feet look awesomely small.  Mom would order two pair, in different sizes, and the Sears truck driver would wait, while I tried on my shoes, so he could take back the pair that did not fit.

Now, I drive fifty miles, to Shoe Circus in Indy/Greenwood, to get shoes that feel half way comfortable and pay a $100 for the privilege.  Do high heels make your feet look amazing?  Yes!  Do they feel like the inquisition has arrived?  Yes!

I HATE SHOES!

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The Geeks have it at our house.  Gaming night is every night and I am apt to find small plastic creatures and dice on the table.  What is odd, is that no one has played a game on that table for some time.  I’m thinking they use the table to empty their pockets.  After all, they use their beds for gaming.  

This past December, while Intelligent teacher daughter awaited the full cast of Big Bang Action figures (she is so disappointed that they are not making these yet), Gaffer received most of his gifts via ThinkGeek :: Find Stuff.  After opening a Vader bank, Vader light sabre chopsticks, Star Wars Ultimate Blueprint book, a light up die, a Dexter Action Figure and assorted other items from ThinkGeek, he looked up, beamed a huge smile and said, “It’s, it’s like a Geeky Christmas.  THANK YOU!” 

In fact, I had to place a second order to finish off gifts for three people from ThinkGeek.  My Geek points are adding up and I literally did 95% of my shopping online.  It is difficult to find a Hawaiian shirt in Brown County, Indiana, and eBay was my source for Vintage Hat Pins.  It was soooooo relaxing.

I am not a big shopper.  The most fun I ever had shopping was years ago and the only time I ever shopped on the day after Thanksgiving.  I went to the mall, in Casper, Wyoming with my mother, and two daughters.  We didn’t buy much but we had fun. 

I would like to add that every year Intelligent Daughter has to mail a package to us after Christmas of all the things the boys have left.  It usually ranges from gifts to cell phone charger cords to socks.  This year, NADA, nothing, not one single thing was left behind.

As for me, I just received my Birthday present, early, from mom and husband.  I have a new Kodak PlaySport camera.  I have found out some interesting things.  They only give minimal instructions, but it is amazingly easy to use.  And, the important lesson, in testing, do not film your own face.  If I have to see my face from that angle and light again, I will have to wear a paper bag at all times.   LOVE memory chips.  Erased that one!  Twice!

A ThinkGeeky Christmas was had by all.

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  • Three year old JCountry eating the Christmas tree bulbs.  Not so funny at the time but we now laugh a lot about all the things he ate back then: 1/2 tray of brownies while sitting on top of the refrigerator; dog food out of the bin, at the store and the bag, at home; and, light  bulbs.  For a while, we followed him around with white bread (poison control said that was all we could do).
  • While we are on food, the joy of throwing up on Christmas even because  I ate the whole package of chocolate covered wafer cookies, while everyone else decorated the tree.  Hey, I was a kid and it beats me eating so much liver sausage at grandma’s house that I threw up in the car, on the way home.
  • Last year, at Teacher daughter’s, watching her new shelter dog lick everything in sight.  Mia especially liked the new grandchild, whose mother so patiently bit her tongue at dog spit on her child for days.  We love you Francis!!!  Okay, maybe that was last summer, but it was still fun.
  • Mia also entertained us with her immitation of a short range missle tracking a lazer point on the floor.  When said lazer pointer was turned off, Mia spent the next hour/s trying to find the missing red dot.  ‘Sniff, Sniff, Oh, it’s not between the chair and the cabinet, it must be under the rug.   Dig, dig, dig, nope, not there either.  Where’s the dot?  Where’s the dot?’
  •  There was the Christmas that we had to turn back from visiting my sister’s house as the snow was too bad so we joined my aunt at her house instead.  Her turkey ended up on the floor, but she had a great story about her husband’s temper.  Seems he got really mad about the floor not being clean and waxed , so on the way to work, he went to get his lunch out and yanked the refrigerator door really hard and pulled the whole thing over on himself.  (he wasn’t hurt and that’s not the funny part), he was late and only had time to change his pants and not his underwear.  When he got to work, and went to change into work clothes, he realized the beets had done quite a spill on his boxers and his fellow employees ribbed him for months about it.  But, the floor was clean enough we could eat the turkey.

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I was doing my daily “let’s avoid accomplishing anything” by searching for new blogs to read.  This is purely in the name of research and to get me out of the rut of writing blogs and then deleting them, prior to publishing, as they are not funny.  I seem to be doing a lot of that lately.

Then, there is the Christmas stocking issue and the knitted Christmas gift that I could work on 24/7 from now till Christmas and probably still not have it done.    I am on my second yarn and my twentymillionth rip out on this thing.  So, my days go, dishes, feed animals, knit four rows, search the internet for Vegan no oil food and any other excuse I can use.

When I am searching blogs, I am mostly looking for ones that make me laugh and today, I was in stitches over a new blog I found.  Truckstop Oysters. How Bad Could They Be? | Blurt via Truckstop Oysters. How Bad Could They Be? | Blurt.

All I can tell you, is I think it’s a guy girl (she asserted her he just asserted his alpha female status over Angelina Jolie’s dolls, another funny post, and he lives in North Carolina and he is funny!   And, he can tell you just exactly how bad of an idea it is to have truckstops serve oysters. 

If you have ever traveled, then you probably have a state that is NOT your favorite.  My state is Missouri.  I have broken down every single time I cross Missouri, except the last time.  Perhaps I am making my peace with the state.  But, I am pretty sure it just felt like it owed me as one trip, I broke down three times.  Never buy a used motorhome. 

It isn’t just that though.  Missouri is the state that has nice restaurants who bring you a cup of hot water and a packet of cocoa when you order hot chocolate.   What is more upscale than bringing you hot water and packets of cocoa?  I now travel a long way out of my way to avoid Missouri.

Let me know if you hear where Truckstop Oysters is playing.  Sounds like a great band to me.

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We did not decorate much this year.  After grandson/son #2 (Army Guy) went off to the Army, the boys moved bedrooms and I am left with the extra bedroom on the main floor.  It will eventually be my workroom, but right now is just a mess.  The first thing I did though, was move grandson/sons #3 (JCountry) piano out to the dining room. 

We have an L shaped main floor, with 1/4 of that square (that’s not an L) being that bedroom, now workroom.  The other parts of the L are the kitchen, the dining area, a tv, a couch collection (my mother likes to replace her furniture and we have inherited quite a few extra pieces), and a computer area.  Trust me, this is NOT a big house.

Which I really realized when it was time to put up the tree.  There just isn’t anywhere to put a Christmas tree.  Heck, there’s a comfy rocking love seat in the middle of the floor.  I did consider hanging it (the tree, not the couch) but there was no room for that either. 

I took my trusty Menard’s rebate and got a 24″ tree and a can of spray snow (Any tree I have is having snow on it.) and I went to Hobby Lobby, and for 50% off, I bought a fake garland (which also now has snow on it) and a cloth runner to protect the ancient piano from the fake snow.

In our first house we had a fireplace and I did this every year on the mantle, only with real boughs and fake snow and shiny ornaments and (when we were in the room) lit candles.  Now, I have two plastic battery candles.

It’s in a pinch.  The guys are older now and not so excited about going into the attic for decorations.  I just wanted something up.   I used to decorate every square inch but this house put a stop to that.  I really need to declutter more; which I have been doing for the last seven years actually and still have more to go.

I have another reason for decorating.  On my facebook (http://SAVanVleck.Wordpress.com) a couple of people have mentioned not enjoying Christmas because they have lost a loved one. 

I know the feeling.  When my brother died, I just wasn’t sure I would ever enjoy the holidays again.  Then, Dad died and I was left with this horrible guilt because we thought we were doing him a favor by taking down the tree before we left their house after Christmas.  He got up and was not happy.  He wanted to look at it for more time.  That was his last Christmas.

So, what I tell people and firmly believe now, is do not deprive yourself because you feel lonely, or sad, or guilty or whatever.  My brother and father were both big on Christmas and, by decorating, it is more a reminder of that joy and a tribute to the ones you love who loved the holidays.

Happy Holidays to everyone.

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Hope you all had a tremendous food fest, that is called Thanksgiving, here in the U.S. 

TV is on and I just HAVE to say this.  Just how sick is Bridalplasty.  The whole idea makes me sick.  What a sad state this country is getting itself in.  Enough digression.

My fond memories of Thanksgiving are from my childhood, when we traveled to my grandmother/aunt’s house and I spent the day being hugged and kissed by comfy aunts and spent time with my sister (she lived with my grandmother). 

My grandmother was a quiet woman.  I really wish I could remember her voice, but I don’t.  I do remember her whispery reading (something my dad did also) and her piano playing.  I also remember that, if she knew you had a favorite dish that was just a bit different from norm, say the lemon filling in lemon cream pie but without crust (Now who in the world would want to do without homemade pie crust?).  I’m just saying, that if that was what you liked, Grandma had it there waiting for you.

Grandma’s house was full of people and conversation and laughter; especially when the ladies went out to do the dishes while the men slept on the couch.  They were mostly laughing about the men, I think, but they were sure having a good time.

Then, came the time when dinner was at mom’s house and I was one of them helping  with cleanup (when mom would allow anyone to help) and laughing.  It was always extra good when unexpected relatives arrived to crowd the table.

This year, Thanksgiving was particularly quiet.  It was just five of us and we catered it from Cracker Barrel.  After two weeks on my Vegan heart diet, I decided to join in and eat just regular food.  The best was the pizza and chips we had for lunch.  But, they weren’t quite as good as I remembered.  Everyone enjoys Cracker Barrel’s cooking, but I was actually wishing I was still eating Vegan.

Surprised me!  Something about this diet makes me feel lighter inside and like all my insides are working properly.  I know that isn’t a very scientific way to put it, but I’m glad to be back on my diet. 

STATS:  By Wednesday (that’s actually a week and a half) I have now lost five pounds.  Thursday’s meal put it to four.  Since I cannot see inside my arteries, I cannot tell you but I imagine little blocks of them floating downstream.    I made a great three bean soup and adjusted the War Cake recipe (follows).  It is one of the most moist cakes you can make.  It is from World War I and has no eggs, milk, nor butter in it.

This recipe is from a Dear Heloise column, when someone asked for the “eggless, milkless, butterless cake her mother made around 1918.  It is dark and heavy but ohhhh so good.

Mix 2 cups brown sugar
2 cups hot water
 and 2 teaspoons shortening (I used 2 teaspoons of apple sauce) in medium saucepan.

Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup raisins (I used chopped up dates). 

Add 1 teaspoon each of salt, cinnamon and cloves.  I RARELY add salt and did not for this cake.

Boil the above for five minutes after it first bubbles.  Remove from the stove and let it cool.  Let it cool completely.

After it is cool, add 3 cups of flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat but was then out of whole wheat so had to use 2 cups of white.  I would normally at least do 50/50 on that but am now going heavier on the whole wheat.

And, add 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 2 teaspoons of hot water.

Mix well

Pour into greased bundt pan

Bake 1 hour at 350 to 375

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We are taking the easy way out for Thanksgiving and having it catered by Cracker Barrel.  Since Gaffer (oldest grandson/son) works at Cracker Barrel all day, he is bringing it home at 3:30pm.  We hope!  You never know for sure.  We are picking up my Mom at noon and will play games for the day.  They all love games.  Me, not so much but there are a couple I like.

We did this last year and it worked out great.  The leftovers were not overwhelming and neither was the dishes in the sink.  The food is really good, also.    Will I eat regular dinner?  I am leaning towards that but have a large salad first.  I do not eat large amounts of food at a time, so will just have a taste of this and that, probably.  On the other hand, I have lost two more pounds and hate to undo that. 

Odd isn’t it!  I’m using weight loss to judge this when it is really the blockage that is keeping me going on it. 

My best for a happy Thanksgiving to all.

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