Sunday, December 30, 2012

Are you resolved?

I recently read an article titled 13 New Year's Resolutions Everyone Should Make. Now I don't put a whole lot of stock into resolutions and things like that. I think it's a good opportunity for people to set themselves a goal and try to achieve it or stick with something. I don't see resolutions as a bad thing. These are the ones that were listed in the article:

  • Learn something new
  • Walk in the park
  • Volunteer
  • Get your social media house in order
  • Rediscover the library
  • Step away from your desk
  • Pay down your credit card debt
  • Use your smart phone to quit smoking
  • Mind your health
  • Kick the car habit
  • Parents: Make every day count
  • Get more sleep
  • Consume more culture

Some of these are great. I especially love the idea of learning something new. I once made a New Year's resolution to learn how to cross-country ski. That was right after we moved to Montana. I gave it a few tries, but I found it was very painful on my feet. I've had surgeries on both feet, so certain activities or even shoes can really make them flare up. As much as I wanted to get into XC skiing, it just didn't work for me. I took up snowshoeing instead, which is just as fun because you can get out there in the middle of nowhere. Plus, it's a lot easier to lug my camera along without the fear of crashing into a tree or getting stuck in a groove.

There are some other great ones on this list, such as volunteering, paying off debt, and making every day count with your kids. Those are pretty much no-brainers. I'm not a smoker, so that doesn't apply to me. And it's hard to kick the car habit living in Montana where everything is so spread apart. I don't drive every day, however, so I guess I'm already doing that. I love the one about rediscovering the library. I think everyone should do that. However, the library in my town is about as large as my book collection, so it's not really worthwhile for me. The one up in Kalispell is larger, but then again, now we're adding a 21 mile one-way trek up into town. See my dilemma? I don't seem to lack in the sleep department either — thank goodness.

I've been thinking about what type of resolutions I'd like to make for 2013, if any. I'm not coming up with too many ideas. There are some unfinished projects I have lying around, so perhaps I can set a goal to finish them. I have some school stuff that I've really wanted to get done, including a few year books. I also have a very large latch-hook rug kit that I began many years ago. I've always wanted to make it a wall hanging for my staircase. Maybe I can dig that out of the closet and work on it. Then there is the usual stuff of wanting to eat better, exercise more, get healthier, blah, blah, blah. Again, that's a no-brainer and hardly worth me even mentioning. In fact, most of this list is the standard when it comes to resolutions.

How about you — have you set any resolutions for the New Year?

Friday, December 28, 2012

My daughter rocks!

Check out these before and after pictures of me and Nicole. This was taken at our church's Angel Breakfast many years ago. The picture below was a snapshot I got from the church. Sadly, it just got tossed around everywhere and ended up with these horrible markings caused from water or something. I thought the picture was ruined for good, which made me sad because it was the only copy I had. Not only that, but this is actually a photo of the original photo taken with my iPhone. What was the chance of saving it?

In comes my amazing daughter Nichelle and — WOW! I swear, that girl can fix anything. She's my go-to person when it comes to fixing things. She's put bracelets back together for me, fixed my earrings, and has removed countless splotches from my pictures. She even fixed Neil's Woody doll when his pull-string broke. Neil loves Woody just as much as Andy did in Toy Story and he was heartbroken when the string broke. We thought we'd have to get him a new one, but in came Nichelle to save the day. She's amazing!

Thank you so much, Nichelle!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Up In Smoke?

Did you ever eat these or pretend like you were smoking them? If so, are you a smoker now? Apparently, they've done studies and have come to the conclusion that people who ate candy cigarettes as children are more likely to be smokers. Okay, I'll agree with the studies because I'm sure they've done many of them. In fact, I've read two of them here and here. However, what about me? They forgot to poll me. I ate these things when I was a kid and I never became a smoker. That, alone, is pretty amazing when I think about it.

You see, I grew up in a household of smokers. My mom smoked. My brother smoked. My sister smoked. My dad, who died before I was two, was a chain smoker. Both my grandparents smoked. In fact, my grandfather had emphysema and had one lung removed. He continued to smoke with one lung up until the day he died. I know that for a fact because I was with him that day. I also spent a lot of time at the hospitals my mom worked in as a nurse and just about everyone smoked. Regardless, I was the one in my family that ate candy cigarettes and yet, I was the only non-smoker. Explain that.

There's a story going around today about an old-fashioned soda shop in Minnesota that is facing a $500 fine for selling candy cigarettes. You can read about it here. According to the article, the fine is just a warning for now, providing they stop selling them immediately. The owners were reported saying they had no idea they weren't allowed to sell them. You can read more about that here. I had to giggle at the one comment that said, "I just ate a bag of gummy bears. Now I can't stop thinking about where to find a REAL bear to eat!" Yeah, that kind of sums it up, doesn't it? I don't know the stats, but if I were to guess, I'd think the majority of people who buy candy cigarettes today are people in their 40s. I'm sure they taste just as horrible now as they did when I was a kid. I doubt my boys would even be able to choke one of the nasty things down.

Many places have banned candy cigarettes -- from big name retailers to entire countries. The UK has banned them. I don't know, but the two times I was in England, I was shocked at how many people smoked. How's that ban working for you, England? Now don't get me wrong. I see both sides of this and I do get what the fuss is. No one wants to encourage kids to smoke. If candy cigarettes do that, perhaps they shouldn't make them anymore. What's one more thing to have banned! Remember those silver balls we used to put on sugar cookies at Christmas? You can't buy those in California anymore. They're banned. Silver balls are evil.

So, the answer for candy companies has been to change the name to "candy sticks" and not include the little red coloring on the tip that represented the ember. Let's get real -- how will that help? Kids today won't know what they are. They taste awful anyway. The only people wanting to buy them would probably be someone like me for nostalgia. It's not because I want to pretend to smoke. I can go to any Walmart -- who does NOT sell candy cigarettes, by the way -- and buy a carton of real cancer sticks. It's not because they're so incredibly delicious. I could list hundreds of other candies that are way better.

Remember, I was born in the mid-60s -- candy was my life. If I were to buy candy cigarettes today, it would be for nostalgia. It would be to savor a memory of childhood. Things were different when I was a kid. Kids today have a lot bigger things to worry about. So, is the answer to ban candy cigarettes? In 1971, there was a ban on advertising cigarettes on television and radio. I'm sure there are studies proving that this was effective. If so, that's great. I'd love to see everyone stop smoking. It's a nasty habit that will take you to your grave. If the only way to buy candy cigarettes is through the Internet, or some black-market-candy place, then so be it. However, the fact of the matter is -- if kids are around anyone who smokes, they'll find a way to mimic or pretend to do it. It wasn't too long ago when Neil saw a cigarette butt on the ground and asked me what it was. I guess I've done a good job sheltering him from the evils of smoking. Having said that -- he HAS pretended to smoke with a lollipop. That's what kids do. What now? Ban lollipops? Drinking straws?

People need to stop blaming things for the actions they choose to take part in. Don't smoke. It's that simple. If you do smoke, try to quit. That's not as simple, but it IS possible. I ate candy cigarettes and bubble gum cigars. I never became a smoker. I ate Atomic Fire Balls too, but I've never blown anything up. I've eaten lots of gummy bears, but have no desire to go out and shoot a bear for my supper. Remember Cow Tales candy? That's funny. I've eaten those too, but never wanted to eat a real cow tail. Hmmm ... is that a bad thing?

ETA -- And just what type of message are we telling our kids by making marijuana legal in Colorado and Washington? I know other states will soon follow. So, candy cigarettes are bad, but it's okay to smoke pot? If people want to smoke pot, then fine, but I would like to see some studies done on the effects of second-hand pot smoke. I'm still waiting for one of my doctor's report to come back saying I have cancer from all the second-hand smoke I've breathed in. It's just funny to me that they'd make a fuss over candy cigarettes and yet, dance in the streets when pot became legal. What kind of message is that?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Clutter

It's that time of year again -- the time I dread. I'm talking about the day after Christmas where nothing seems to have found a place yet. Fortunately, this year isn't too bad. I guess my whining paid off because everyone was pretty good about picking up their gifts and putting them away. There are a few things left out still -- like a pile of clothes Neil received -- but most everything is picked up. Now we just need to make a trip to the dump to get rid of all the trash because it's really piling up. I'm not in any hurry to do that though because that means driving the van with the trash cans down the icy road. Going down isn't a problem, unless you're sliding out of control. Getting back up the road is the tricky part. I'm really not complaining though. We were blessed this Christmas. A little clutter never hurt anyone. Everything is a matter of perspective, right?

Someone asked on Facebook today when everyone takes down their Christmas decorations. It seems some people do it immediately after Christmas, but others wait until New Year's Day or the Epiphany. Back when we had a fresh tree, we had to take ours down fairly soon after Christmas. Fresh trees dry out so fast and the fire danger was just too big of a worry. Now that we have an artificial one, we tend to leave it up longer. We'll probably take everything down around New Year's Day. Even though it's been up since Thanksgiving weekend, it still feels like we just set everything up. This is the one time of the year I get to enjoy my nativity collection. I have over 67 sets, so I'm in no hurry to pack them all away just yet.

I saw another question Facebook this morning that I thought was interesting. I think it was posted by the Retroland site. Have you visited that place? It's a lot of fun. Anyway, they asked if there was ever something you wanted to get for Christmas but never received. I thought about that for a moment and then remembered I had always wanted a Magic 8 Ball. Remember those things? I'm not sure why I wanted one so much, but it's something I never got. I always played when them in the stores. This year Nathan gave Neil a Magic 8 Ball. The boys are familiar with them because they're featured in one of the Toy Story movies. The boys and I were playing with one at the Navy base in CA last month. I had just meet Anthony Kiedis the day before, so I asked it if I'd meet him again. It said yes. Oh yeah, baby ... I love you, Magic 8 Ball!

I can think of a few other things I wanted as a kid, but never received for Christmas. The Barbie Dreamhouse was one. I asked for that thing every year, but never got it. Again, my girls later got one, so I was happy. Another thing I always wanted was a Toss Across game. Did you ever play that? I played it at my friends' houses, but it was one thing I never received. I wonder if it would be as fun as I remember?

One of my favorite scenes from a Christmas movie is from The Santa Clause 2 when Scott Calvin goes to the school faculty party with Principal Newman. He does the Secret Santa thing and gives everyone all these old toys that they wanted as kids but never got. I've looked for that scene online, but can't find it. Maybe you know what I'm talking about. It's a fun scene, especially for someone like me who loves old, retro toys.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sugar Cookie Recipe

Some of my friends were discussing Christmas cookies on Facebook, so I decided I'd post my favorite recipe here. I'm pretty sure I've posted it before. We made sugar cookies this year, but we went with a boxed mix this time for convenience. We did make the glaze though, which is what makes these cookies really good. We use this recipe year round to make cookies for all sorts of holidays -- Christmas cut-outs, Thanksgiving turkeys, Halloween pumpkins or bats, Valentine's hearts, St. Patrick's Day shamrocks -- we've even used it to make fun animal cookies like owls and cats. The recipe comes from a cookbook from the school my girls used to go to. It's definitely a keeper as far as cookie recipes go!


1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1-1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar. Blend in egg and vanilla and combine until fluffy. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, soda, and cream of tartar. Add to butter mixture. Cover and chill one hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough until approximately 1/4 inch thick on light floured board. Cut out desired shapes. Place on baking sheet and bake for about 6 minutes, or until edges are just beginning to brown. Remove and cool on rack. Makes about 4 dozen 2-inch cookies.


1-1/2 to 2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons hot water
colored sugars or food coloring (optional)

Combine all ingredients together until lumps disappear. You make tint glaze with a few drops of food coloring. Dip tops of cookies into glaze and wipe off the excess. I use a small spatula and spread it on the cookies by hand. This glaze dries fairly hard so the cookies are easy to wrap or stack. 

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. The night is just wrapping up for us and I think we're all pretty much stuffed from eating non-stop for the past few days. All the brittle, fudge, cookies, taffy, pie -- and that doesn't even include the regular meals and the big dinner feasts. I feel like I'm going to pop. Starting tomorrow I'm getting super serious about exercising and eating better. No waiting for New Year's for me.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve!

This silly picture was included in our Christmas cards this year. If I didn't send you a card, please accept my apology. I didn't send out nearly as many as I would have liked. I got such a late start making and sending them out this year. I really hope to be more on top of things for the holidays in 2013.

I made this picture on a site called Chibi Machine. Check it out. They have all sorts of characters to choose from. If you're looking for something fun to do today, it's not too late because they have some Christmas characters as well. I went with the rock stars for my family. Denny and Kitty crack me up. Chibi is a Japanese slang word, meaning short person or small child. I guess that explains why our heads are so big.

I hope you all have a wondeful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Feeling Squirrely?

I am! I really need to get busy wrapping Christmas presents today. I swear, I've put it off longer than I ever have. I remember my mom waiting until Christmas Eve to wrap gifts. She would be up forever it seemed, going into the wee morning hours. I never wanted to end up like that, so ... today is the day for me to get busy wrapping! In the meantime, I thought I'd post a few of my favorite squirrel pictures for you.

All of these were taken in Montana, with the exception of the one with his tongue out. That's a California squirrel. I saw him at Lake Casitas near my hometown of Ojai. The last picture is the most unique because it shows two squirrels together. Of all my squirrel observing, I've come to the conclusion that it's downright RARE for squirrels to share in a feeder like that. These particular two were siblings and for just that one day, I caught them sharing the seeds. In the 6 years I've lived here, that was the only time I saw them sharing.

I love this last picture because it almost looks like one squirrel sitting by a mirror. Some people despise squirrels because they view them as pests or because they cause damage. I love them because they're so much fun to watch and photograph. Click on the pictures if you want to see them bigger.

How about you -- love them or hate them?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Clutter

I've been going through some pictures tonight and came across this one. It was taken in the early 1990s before we went to digital cameras. For some reason, this picture makes me laugh. Everything is so cluttered, but I suppose that's typical of most people's homes on Christmas morning. Nicole is sitting by me wearing her Baby Bop slippers. I think she was sick that year and wasn't feeling too good. I have to laugh at the stocking on the fish tank. Yes, our fish got presents too, even if they had to use an old Baby's First Christmas stocking. And you can see Belle poking around back when she was just a little tot.

It's such a funny picture to me, and this is probably one of the ONLY pictures you'll ever see me without make-up. I tend to shy away from cameras when I don't have it on, unless there are sunglasses involved. I remember that silly sleepshirt too -- it had a big Garfield on it. The socks matched and looked like they were Garfield's legs and feet. Thank goodness you can't see them. What really cracks me up is the huge pillow in front of the TV. I'm not sure why that's there. It was either to keep the girls from crashing into the TV, or maybe to keep them out of the cabinet underneath. Then the blanket is over the bricks on the fireplace, and I'm pretty sure that's because the girls used to play on it.

It's fun to find these silly pictures and study every little thing in them. I don't know if Nichelle would remember her Little Mermaid lunchbox or not, but we still have the Berenstain Bears book. If fact, we have a huge collection of those. Who knows -- maybe the book in this picture got us started with that collection. We've replaced fresh Christmas trees with an artificial one, but we still have a lot of the stuff that's visible in this picture. It's amazing to think how long we've had some of it.

I was looking at a picture of me and my grandmother recently. It was taken on Christmas morning. In the one below, I can see my mom's nativity set. I always thought that was just the coolest thing ever. It's fun to look at these old pictures and study everything in them -- even in the middle of all the Christmas Clutter.

Hmmm ... I just looked at the picture above and realize I have no make-up on in this one. I guess that's a good thing, huh? I couldn't be more than 3 or 4 years old. That has to be some kind of record -- me posting TWO make-up-less pictures of myself in one day. I miss my grandma. She'd probably be horrified to know I was posting a picture of her with messy hair, without make-up, and in her nightclothes for the entire world to see. She was such a sweet, gentle woman -- and the true definition of a lady.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Blast from the past ...

About a week before we went to California, Rick and I took the boys on a field trip to the Miracle of America Museum. It's a local place that we've driven by countless of times, but had never visited. We'd always viewed it as one of those cheesy, little tourist traps that people go to while they're on their way someplace else. Needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised. There was so much to look at that we literally lost track of time. We saw everything from airplanes, to mummy cases, to war memorbilia, to a baby calf with two heads!

As you can see, I've posted pictures of a rusty, old dollhouse. It was behind a rail guard, so I couldn't get very good pictures of it. Plus, it was just kind of scattered along with a bunch of other toys. I would have loved to look at it more closely, but it was so old. It literally looked like the only thing holding it together was the rust and dust. It sure brought back some memories, though. For awhile, I thought I had this same dollhouse when I was a kid. That's why I took the pictures of it. After looking around online, I realize I didn't have this particular house. Instead, I absolutely remember having this dollhouse. I remember the blue roof and all the details so vividly because I played with it so much. This particular one is being bid on eBay, and right now it's still at a decent price. I really wish I could get it, but of course, I have no need for it. If I ever came across it at a thrift store or yard sale, I'd probably by it just for nostalgia reasons.

However, if you go to eBay and do a search on "vintage metal dollhouses", you might be surprised how much they go for. I'm looking now and seeing prices anywhere from $15 to over $300 for these things, depending on their condition. I honestly don't know why this interests me so much. I guess I'm just very sentimental about toys I had as a kid. That's probably because most were lost, broken, or given away. I have very few things from my childhood. However, every now and then I see something that triggers a memory, whether it be an old book, toy, clothing item, or even a rusty dollhouse like this one.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Christmas Orange

The picture above is from my all-time favorite Christmas book, The Sweet Smell of Christmas. It's been one of my favorites since I was little. The pages are filled with scratch & sniff stickers, including one of a juicy orange. Did you ever get an orange in your stocking on Christmas morning? Trying to remember back when I was a kid, which was like a million years ago, I don't think I got them. I might have and just don't remember.

There are many stories why people receive oranges in stockings. Probably the oldest dates back to St. Nicholas. It is believed he tossed bags of gold into the socks of three young girls who had no dowry and were unable to marry. The story says that the bags turned into gold balls, and therefore, oranges in stockings represent that gift. Other people claim that since fresh fruit is harder to come by in the winter months, receiving an orange in your stocking was considered a very special treat.

Maybe that's why I don't remember getting oranges on Christmas Day. I grew up in Southern California and my house was literally in the midst of acres and acres of citrus orchards. Oranges were a staple. If we didn't have any in the house, it was just a hop away to a grove that did. This was back in the 1970s mind you, and our neighbors didn't mind the local kids picking an orange or two as they walked home from school. My best friend's dad had a huge orange business. My childhood playground consisted of orange orchards as well as other citrus fruits. There used to be this enormous avocado tree that we'd play in. It was huge like a circus tent. Oranges to me were like apples were to people in Washington -- common and plentiful.

Besides oranges, I also ate a lot of tangerines and tangelos as a kid. I loved both. Apparently, tangelos are a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. Both were easier to peel than the typical orange, so maybe that's why I liked them so much. I don't know if they sold Cuties when I was younger, which are found all over the stores this time of year. Those are really good. I just finished off a bag of them recently. Last night we were shopping and I decided to buy some more. Safeway didn't have any though, so I came home with a bag of Satsuma mandarins. I like these a lot more than the Cuties.

Anyway, we have a whole slew of Satsumas in the house right now, so I don't think getting one in my stocking would be all that exciting. Now ... a chocolate orange might be another story!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pastel de fruitas ...

Yep, it's time of year again. Time for me to talk about the love/hate relationship with the fruitcake. Actually, I've posted about this interesting dessert back in 2008. You can read it here by clicking on Yo fruitcake! I think there's a picture of my cat Belle, who is sadly no longer with us. For some reason, she liked fruitcake. She was odd. She also liked Cheerios and rice cakes, but that's another story. So, here's question for you ...

Do you like fruitcake, or do you hate it?

Rick and I have been together since the beginning of time, maybe even longer. We're at that stage in our relationship that we often think of the same things at the same time. For example, he will ask me where I want to go out to eat for dinner. Before I even get to say what place that comes into my mind, he blurts out the same place. It's kind of freakish. Anyway, we had one of these moments last night when we were watching Unwrapped. Do you like that show? Last night it was about holiday favorites -- things like candy canes, ribbon candy, petit fours, Yule logs, and of course, the dreaded fruitcake.

They did a segment where they showed a town that has an annual Fruitcake Toss. Lots of places do this, so I guess it's not all that uncommon. However, while watching the show last night, Rick blurted out exactly what I was thinking. He said something to the effect of wondering how many hungry people would love to have a piece of fruitcake. I mean, think about it. There are a lot of hungry people in this country. There are people who go to bed each night with empty tummies. Anyway, as we watched these people chuck fruitcake around like it was garbage, the thought came to both of us. I don't know. It just seemed kind of ... sad.

I like fruitcake. There's a store here that sells it by the slice, and depending on big the piece is, it can be pretty expensive. I think it's good. I don't know about other fruitcakes. I would assume some of them are awful, just like anything else. I don't buy it often -- maybe once or twice a year at Christmas, if that -- and I'm the only one in the house who likes it. Rick won't even take a bite to see if he likes it or not. It's really gotten a bad rap. I guess it's just one of those things that people either love like crazy, or hate with a passion.

Monday, December 17, 2012

RHCP -- Seattle 2012

Hi everyone. I'm sorry for not posting for awhile. I really wanted to get back into keeping up with my blog as well as responding to everyone else's blog. After Friday, I just haven't been able to shake the slump I'm in. Nothing seems all that funny right now, nor does much seem all that important. However, a few friends have asked to see some of my pictures from the Red Hot Chili Pepper concert I went to last month in Seattle, Washington, so I figured I could at least post some those today. Keep in mind, they're not that good.

I was in the highest level of the Key Arena. I had my little Canon with me, which has a decent zoom, so at least I was able to get some that sort of resemble the guys. Most of these are of Anthony and Flea though. Unfortunately, from where I was sitting there was a light bar was directly in front of Chad, the drummer. A lot of times it was in front of Anthony too, but he moved around more. Josh was just so far away most of the time. I have some of him, but they're not that clear. I guess, if anything, this is proof I was at least there.

Edited to add:  There are some new pictures of Anthony Kiedis floating around online today. I'm not sure if you've seen them or not, but in the few where he's looking at the photographer, he looks totally ticked off. For some silly reason, that made me feel better today because he was not like that with me AT ALL. Even though he said no to a picture, he was polite and friendly. I would have just hated it if I got the look he gave that photographer in those recent pictures. Eeeks.