Waste not, Want not

It has occurred to me more than once as I’ve gotten older that I’ve become my mother.  Not that it’s a bad thing—my mother was a remarkable woman.  But she was also a product of the Great Depression, which meant that literally nothing was ever wasted in our house while I was growing up.  A leftover teaspoon of vegetables at dinner got tossed into a large container in the freezer.  When the container was full, she made vegetable soup.  My sister-in-law once commented that my mother’s vegetable soup never tasted the same twice.  Little did she know.

Growing up, we recycled boxes, Christmas wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows. This meant gifts had to be opened carefully so as not to tear the paper.  I can remember reusing the same paper for several years in a row.  Throwing out a cardboard box was an offense punishable by death.  (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit.  You just wished you were dead after the tongue lashing for wasting a perfectly good box).  We had a whole collection of boxes in the attic—nothing that was ever the right size or shape for what you needed, but nevertheless, a shrine to cardboard.

It has taken me years to actually throw out salvageable wrapping paper after opening a present.  I finally rationalized that I can buy several new rolls of paper on sale after Christmas for half-price, which cost next to nothing.  The boxes have taken me a bit longer.  When I couldn’t get into the storage room over the holidays because of all the empty boxes, I made the bold and painful decision to get rid of half of them—but only half.  Baby steps.  I even threw out a few oft recycled gift boxes, which had been repeatedly taped to hold them together.  I’m sure my mother is turning over in her grave, but my storage room looks much better.

I admit I will occasionally recycle plastic silverware after running it through the dishwasher.  Old ratty clothes which are too worn out to take to Goodwill get left in the closet.  I can’t stand the thought of throwing away clothes.  Besides, I might need them for painting projects and such.  Yes, I really need all fifty stained and holey shirts and pants.  And leftovers don’t get tossed out unless they are no longer recognizable or resemble a science project.  The one thing I have put my foot down on, however, is reusing plastic bags.  I simply refuse to wash out baggies and reuse them as my mother did.  In the first place, I can buy a box of 100 new baggies at the dollar store.  In the second place, it is a tedious waste of time to wash and dry baggies.  In the third place, it grosses me out to think of reusing them.  For some reason, my mother-in-law did the same thing, so it must be generational. However, she went so far as to reuse Styrofoam drinking cups.  I don’t care how many times those things went through the dishwasher, there was still an “odor” that lived in the porous material of those cups.  Plus teeth marks.  As gross as reused baggies are, they don’t compare to the grossness of reused Styrofoam cups.

So what got me thinking about this topic?  It seems I spent a good forty-five minutes with my salad shooter today grinding up old bread heels into bread crumbs. Nobody in our house eats the heels, so into the freezer they go.  When I can’t find anything in the freezer because of all the bread heels, I take them out and make bread crumbs out of them.  It saves a lot of money.  Well, actually, I can buy a can of ready-made bread crumbs pretty cheaply, so I probably saved us about $1.59 for all my effort today. I don’t know how long bread crumbs last in the freezer, but I have enough for the next couple of years or so.  These bread crumbs will never be thrown out, no matter how frostbitten they become.  As my mother taught me, waste not, want not.

 

Good-bye to Christmas 2018

Is there anything more depressing than “de-decorating” after Christmas is over?  Well, yes, I suppose there is, but it’s always such a letdown to finally admit the holidays are over.  There is such a sense of anticipation building up to Christmas.  There is the shopping, decorating, Christmas programs, Christmas parties, the once a year Christmas music, special goodies to eat, and everything else that goes into the climax of having everything come together on Christmas morning.  (Or, if you cheat, Christmas Eve.  But you folks who open your presents on Christmas Eve are doing things all wrong.  Just sayin’).

Putting up Christmas decorations takes a lot of time and energy, but in the end, it is worth it.  This year, with Thanksgiving coming early, we had almost a whole extra week to enjoy our decorations.  Over the years, we seem to have accumulated a lot of decorations—six large plastic tubs in the shed, not counting the several boxes in the storage closet—and each decoration must be displayed, as it has special significance.  Even the ones that don’t look quite so good anymore, ie., shabby and pathetic.  Our Christmas ornaments are mostly collections from places we’ve been, with a smattering of ornaments that were gifts, or made by the kids, so each one must hang on the tree, no matter how ugly.

Our New Year’s tradition is de-decorating.  Yeah, I know we are wild and crazy people, but if you read my blog from last week, you already know that.  This year, however, was a little different.  On the Friday before New Year’s, we came home from work to find our Christmas tree had fallen over.  This was in spite of the heavy twine anchoring it to the hook in the wall.  We learned to anchor the tree to the wall after a similar episode a few years ago.  Of course all the pretty ornaments were in the front, so they took the biggest hit, including the delicate hand-painted one we bought just this past summer in Tuscon and the porcelain wooden shoes Doug brought me from the Netherlands in 1993.  Okay, I guess technically, you can’t have porcelain wooden shoes.  To clarify, they were shaped like wooden shoes, but made out of porcelain.  A couple of the ornaments took double hits, having survived being glued back together after the first incident.  Anyway, at that point, it just made sense to take the tree down early and leave everything else up until New Year’s.

But after spending three hours taking down decorations and packing them away, yet again, I got to thinking. This business of putting up and taking down decorations is a lot of work.  And it seems like time goes faster and faster these days, so before we know it, Christmas will be here again.  Plus, you may not realize this, but I’m not as young as I used to be, so decorating and de-decorating is more of an effort than it used to be.  So here’s what I’m thinking for next year.  I’ve been in the homes of elderly people who leave their Christmas decorations up year round and I’m about to the age where I can start getting away with elderly eccentricities.

Thus, next year, after decorating for Christmas, I’m leaving everything up.  I’ll be able to continue enjoying my Christmas decorations all year and I won’t have the depression that accompanies taking everything down.  Nor will there be the work of putting everything up again the following year. There’s only one problem.  We always buy a real Christmas tree.  I wonder what it will look like in a year, provided it doesn’t fall over.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Back in the day—and I’m talking way back, like forty-plus years ago—there was nothing worse than not having New Year’s Eve plans.  Anyone under the age of thirty without a social function to attend on the big night was sure to elicit a smidgen of pity with a heap-load of disdain.  After all, there must be something really wrong with a person who didn’t have somewhere to go on New Year’s Eve, and it was best not to associate with said person, lest you be condemned to the same fate next year.

Aside from the year when I was fifteen and held a New Year’s Eve party at my house to which my date never showed up (so I spent most of the party crying in my bedroom), my younger New Year’s Eves were fun-filled and exciting. One of the organizations I belonged to always held a formal dance on New Year’s Eve, which was eagerly anticipated. Later, in college and vet school, there was always a party to go to.

But something changed as I got older.  Well, actually, a lot of things changed as I got older, but I don’t need to go into detail.  The hubby and I still got invited to New Year’s Eve parties, but the thrill just wasn’t there, anymore.  Usually these parties started around eight o’clock, so after arriving, eating, and making small talk for a while, there was really nothing else to do until midnight.  Unfortunately, however, if you are at a New Year’s Eve party, you can’t just leave by ten o’clock when you grow tired or bored, because the whole point is to celebrate the New Year.  To be truthful, however, I’m not sure what this manufactured celebration is actually celebrating.  So you’re stuck for another two hours, watching the clock hands move slowly towards the magic hour when you can gracefully take your leave.  Plus, if you don’t drink and everyone around you does, the evening becomes even less fun as the hours drag by.  There is nothing less amusing than being sober in a crowd of drunks.

I knew I had hit the official definition of “old” when my idea of a great New Year’s Eve was to stay home and do nothing.  I don’t even feel the need to stay up until midnight.  I mean, seriously, what’s the big deal?  Watching the big ball drop in Times Square on TV—which, in reality, it did an hour earlier in the eastern time zone—just doesn’t do anything for me.  Whoopty-do!   Besides, if I go to bed at nine o’clock, it’s already New Year’s Day somewhere in the world, right?  So I can just celebrate with the folks in that area, yell “Happy New Year,” kiss my husband, and go to sleep.

But to show I’m not a total old fogey, I may stay up all the way until 11:00 o’clock this year, providing, of course, I don’t fall asleep on the couch watching the Hallmark movie.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

‘Tis the Season for Sharing

I don’t check my Facebook every hour.  I don’t even check it every day.  Sometimes I go for a week or more without checking Facebook.  That’s how I happened to miss a post from a friend who left one of those guilt-tripping, “Share if you care” messages.  You know the ones—”If you’re truly my friend you will leave a comment and share this with all your friends (who don’t even know me), and dye your hair purple in honor of my favorite color and post a selfie, and donate all your money to my favorite charity (me).  Only my real friends will bother.  If you don’t reply, I’ll know you don’t care about me.  You never cared about me.  Our friendship meant absolutely nothing to you.  I might as well be dead. In fact, I may just go kill myself now.”

Oh my gosh!  I don’t need that type of pressure in my life!  I can’t go through my days stressed out about the possibility of missing a post that is designed to make me prove my friendship with someone and if I don’t respond, I will be on that person’s black list for all eternity.  What if my lack of a reply causes that person to start drinking?  Or get so depressed they sit around their house all day in their underwear, not bothering to shower or brush their teeth? Or binge watch episodes of Sponge Bob?  Or dig out their old disco albums and try to resurrect their John Travolta years?  I don’t need that on my conscience.  I have enough drama to deal with in my own life.  Come to think of it, the post I missed was from more of an acquaintance than a friend.  I mean, I care and all that, but not enough to lose sleep over.  I guess I’m not a “real friend.”

The ones I really hate are the ones that admonish me, “If you love Jesus, you will send this to everyone you know, including back to me.”  Let me get this straight.  So if I don’t forward the post to everyone I know, does that mean I don’t love Jesus?  I can’t have people thinking I don’t love Jesus!  I’m a pastor’s wife!  I teach Sunday school! Plus the people who challenged me will know if I don’t resend the message because they stipulated I had to send it back to them!  Then they will think I don’t love Jesus.  What a quandary.  I certainly don’t want people thinking I don’t love Jesus, but on the other hand, I don’t necessarily want my faith being tested by whether or not I forward something another person guilts me into posting.  Besides, I doubt whether Jesus cares if I forward it or not.

True friends are those who don’t make your friendship contingent upon you completing a challenge to prove it.  So for those whom I have failed by not carrying out the assigned task of reposting, I apologize for failing to live up to your expectations.  If you agree with me, please share this with all your friends, including me, or I’ll know you never bothered to read this blog.

Speaking of loving Jesus, remember He is the Reason for the Season.  He loved us so much that He left Heaven and came to earth as a helpless baby, grew up, lived a sinless life, and fulfilled His ultimate purpose by dying on the cross for our sins.  To all who receive Him as Lord and Savior, He gives the right to become children of God.  Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  I pray everyone reading this has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  If not, this Christmas season would be a good time to do so.  Give yourself the ultimate gift—the assurance of knowing you will spend eternity in Heaven.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

You Are What You Eat

Why is it when people go on a diet, they feel compelled to share—in detail—with everyone within hearing range, everything that is allowed to pass through their lips?  There are so many diets out there, each with its own unique “rules” and complicated method of accounting for each consumed morsel.   Is there anything more tedious than having to listen to someone recite how she “juices” four carrots, a head of lettuce, three cloves of garlic, a pineapple, and a tomato every morning for breakfast?  Or how delicious it is?

All I can respond with is, “I had two crème-filled doughnuts from Krispy Kreme.  Talk about delicious!  But it’s okay because I ate them with a diet Coke, so the calories don’t count.”

I particularly dislike the diets which assign “points” to food.  The dieters become obsessed with numbers and feel the need to regale everyone around them with the math. “I had an egg for breakfast.  That was two points.  I had a grilled chicken breast for lunch.  That was five points, which means I can have a super-sized combo meal at Burger King with a Whopper, large fries, milkshake, and peanut butter pie for twelve-thousand, six hundred and fifty-nine points.  Of course I can’t have any points for the next two weeks, so I’ll just be having water.”

“I don’t see the point,” I admit. “All you have to do is eat from someone else’s plate.  There are no calories or points unless the food is actually consumed from your own plate.” Duh!  I thought everyone knew that.  Just like there are no calories in broken pieces, because when the cookie, candy bar, bread stick, etc., is broken, all the calories fall out.  There are also no calories in foods you eat which you don’t like.  Think how unfair that would be—to penalize a person with calories when she didn’t enjoy what she ate.

There are always “new and guaranteed to work” diets coming on the scene, which promise weight loss without effort.  “I’m on a new diet I saw on Oprah, which was developed by a naturopathic doctor.  I can’t have chicken, corn, wheat, carrots, peas, milk, or butter.”

“That’s too bad,” I say, “I brought chicken pot pie to share with everyone at lunch.  And a ‘death by chocolate cake.’ ”

“Oh, the cake I can have!”  Go figure.

“You know,” says another dieter, “you really should try the ‘Werewolf Diet.’ You fast during a full moon.”

“I generally fast during all moons,” I reply.  “I don’t eat when I’m sleeping.”

“The cabbage soup diet is the best,” insists still another dieter. “It fills you up so you don’t feel hungry.”  She goes on to describe in great detail how to make yummy cabbage soup, as if that were even possible.

Is  there a delicate way to suggest she may be contributing to Global Warming with that one?

Finally I heard of a diet that even I can sink my teeth into.  There are actually three variations of this diet,  Dr. Siegal’s Cookie Diet, The Hollywood Cookie Diet, and the Smart for Life Cookie Diet. All promise that eating cookies will help you drop pounds. On the surface it sounds too good to be true, which of course it is.  It seems you don’t actually get to sit down with an entire carton of Oreos and munch to your heart’s content.  You just eat high-fiber  (another term for “cardboard-tasting”) cookies for breakfast, lunch and snacks, with a healthy dinner.  If it doesn’t involve Oreos, I’ll pass.

Just let me say this.  Nobody really cares about what you are allowed to eat on your diet or what you actually ate.  If they do, they will ask.  If nobody asks, it’s a safe bet they don’t want to hear. However, if you want my professional advice on weight loss, here it is: Eat less—after the holidays, of course, because as everyone knows, the whole month of December is for pigging out.

So have a Christmas cookie (or a dozen) and forget about it.  Just be sure to break them first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hallmark

My husband does not like Hallmark movies. Of course I don’t know many men who do, as they are the epitome of “chick flicks.” He says they’re all predictable. Well, duh! Of course they are. That’s what’s makes them so attractive to us women. We all know the guy and girl are going to find true love with each other in the end. It’s just a matter of how, and that’s what makes the story interesting—even if it is highly unbelievable and lacks realism. But some of us like fairy-tale happily-ever-after endings. And at least the movies are clean. The main characters don’t even kiss until the end. That’s how you know it’s the end of the movie in case you tuned in early and weren’t sure which Hallmark channel you wanted to watch. If the couple is kissing, the movie is over and the next movie will be on shortly.

I do have to admit, however, that there are less than a handful of plots for all the movies. Most start with a single woman who came from a small hometown. She has been working in a big city for the past dozen years and has been too busy with her highly successful career to go back home for a visit. Most of the time she also has a long-standing, non-committal boyfriend or fiancé. But something happens which requires her to make the trip home. It generally involves an illness or death in the family, a crisis with the family business, a money-grubbing developer trying to take over the family homestead, or, on occasion, a personal crisis with the heroine. She is only going to be gone for a couple of days, but circumstances intervene and she ends up staying several weeks—with one small carry-on suitcase of clothes. Her old boyfriend is still there and still single after all these years because he never got over her. Of course once home, she realizes she really misses the small town and all the people. Sparks fly between her and her ex-boyfriend, and she ends up leaving the big city fiancé and the big-bucks job and staying in Smalltown, USA. All dumped fiancés are quite understanding, by the way.

Another plot involves a guy and girl (who don’t know each other) getting lost or stuck somewhere, like an airport, and ending up together because of a mutual need. They, of course, don’t like each other at first, but are trapped together because they have no other choice. Over the course of two days they realize they are madly in love with each other. This is the typical “road trip” plot. Finally there is the real fairy-tale plot of the secret prince who falls in love with a common woman who is struggling to make ends meet at her two menial labor jobs, from which she was just fired. She, of course, does not know he is a prince because he is keeping a low profile. It is not until after she falls in love with him that he reveals his true identity.

Christmas movies are even more predictable. There is always a town tree lighting ceremony in a picturesque town square full of snow. But for some reason, even though it’s below freezing, none of the characters are cold, as they happily gather with unbuttoned coats, wearing no hats or gloves. Their breath doesn’t fog up when they speak, either. And even though Christmas is only three days away, these main characters (usually women) have all the time in the world to cut down their own trees, decorate the house like something out of a parade of homes tour, bake cookies to take to all the neighbors, save the annual Christmas play at the city hall, and have the perfect presents under the tree—not to mention falling in love and solving whatever crisis the town is experiencing. And for some reason, the male love interest never seems to have to work, so he has endless time to hang with the lady while she does all this. It makes me wonder how they’ll ever top this experience come next Christmas.

I have left out the mandatory calamity, which occurs at about the hour and a half to hour and forty minutes point of the movie. This is the event which threatens to derail the happily-ever-after. Fiancé who doesn’t realize he’s about to be dumped shows up unexpectedly, or one of the main characters reveals a long-held secret which changes everything. Maybe one character overhears or accidently sees something which gets misinterpreted. But one can always count on the fact that after the last commercial break, the problem will be resolved and there will indeed be a happily-ever-after.

You know, I’m pretty good at this. Maybe I should apply for a job as a Hallmark movie screenwriter. It couldn’t pay any less than writing blogs! Wishing you all a Merry Hallmark Christmas!

Meowy Christmas

“Why do you have mousetraps in your Christmas village?”

My friend had stopped by for a few minutes and was checking out my Christmas decorations.  On my sideboard I had put up a miniature Christmas village with fleece snow, ceramic buildings, a skating pond (which is actually a mirror), and small porcelain figurines and accessories.  The village is part of my yearly Christmas tradition.

“Because we have cats,” I responded.

She obviously didn’t get it.  She doesn’t have pets.  “Uh, I thought cats were supposed to take care of mice problems.”  She glanced around uneasily, as if swarms of furry little rodents would pop out of the woodwork at any moment and plunge her into a remake of  the seventies horror film “Willard,” in which a large colony of rats terrorize people.

“We don’t have mice,” I replied, defensively.

“Well then … wait.  The mousetraps are upside down.  You can’t catch mice if the traps are upside down.”

“I’m not trying to catch mice.  We don’t have mice,” I repeated, a little offended that she would think we were rodent infested.  “We have cats.  The cats like to jump up onto the sideboard, walk around the village, chew on the snow, bat the breakable people to the floor, and rearrange the décor to suit themselves, while shedding all over everything.  The mousetraps are a deterrent to keep them off.  If they hit a mousetrap, it will spring and scare them away without hurting them.”

She looked at me like I was crazy.

Granted, my village looks a little odd with what would seem to be giant mousetraps everywhere, in disproportion to the size of everything else.  Maybe I should think of it as the village of Hamelin before the Pied Piper showed up.  But at least it is mostly intact.  People without pets don’t understand the great lengths we pet people must go through to “pet-proof” our homes, especially around the holidays.

On an end table in the living room, there is a squirt bottle filled with water to spray kitties out of the Christmas tree.  As the song goes, there is one partridge in a pear tree, not two cats in a Christmas tree.  The fragile ornaments must always go on the upper branches, as happy tails and irresistible hanging objects are too much temptation for playful four-footed creatures. The Christmas tree holder is also a huge attraction for both the dogs and the cats to help themselves to a handy drink of water rather than walking all the way into the kitchen.

Anything set on the hearth or low coffee table is fair game for being batted across the floor or chewed up.  Decorations on shelves must be placed back towards the wall, as objects in the way of where a cat wants to lounge will most likely be shoved off.

This isn’t only during the holidays.  Our cats frequently rearrange things to suit themselves, such as pushing my husband’s mustache trimmer off the bathroom counter onto the tile floor, where it broke into a thousand pieces.  It had obviously been in someone’s way.  His F-16 model also crashed landed on the floor several years ago.  This is something we still don’t talk about. Our computer wires have been chewed and replaced so many times we’ve lost count.  All the animals can manage to open our sliding doors into the closets.  We never know what we’ll find on the floor which previously lived on the shelves; and whatever the cats knock off, the dogs chew.  At mealtime, one person has to guard the table while another finishes setting out the food.  Yes, it’s embarrassing to admit, but our animals are not well behaved.

Such is the joy of pet ownership.  I truly feel sorry for people who don’t face these daily challenges and hence, lead structured and boring lives, where everything stays in its place and there is no layer of pet hair on every surface.  These people will unlikely have a Meowy Christmas or Happy Howlidays.