Computers and Life

As you may recall, our computer has been acting up for some time. I have come to realize that a new computer will be moving up on the priority list fairly soon. It’s hard to make that decision when you’re faced with completing a new kitchen floor that is halfway finished, preparing for a Thanksgiving road trip for a 90th year birthday celebration for Thommmee’s mom, and then of course Christmas is right around the corner. We’ve been limping along between two ailing laptops for a while now. Both of them have their own quirks and problems. I have spent hours on the phone with our internet service provider trying to resolve some of the issues but….the bottom line is, we need a new computer.

I recently commented that the public library have computers available at no charge but somehow….. the inconvenience of trotting down there is, well frankly… inconvenient!  I do rely on my fancy little smartphone for most things but for blogging it just doesn’t cut it. It makes a person wonder how we got along without such necessities for so long, dosen’t it? Games,  email,  searching,  blogging….. If you are a blogger it’s rather important,  I think.

Life offers highs and lows and in actuality this is not the end of the world. I have certainly been blessed with more ups than downs so my complaint is really just a moment of voiced inconvenience. Sometimes it is the frustrations of ordinary life that get the best of us!

Silly,  huh?

Farewell to Summer

Our summer here is officially over.  Fall begins tomorrow. The high temperatures will linger into October but the nights will begin to cool. In November  we will experience our “fall” in Southern California.  From now until then we will have dry dusty days without rain, Santa Ana winds, and abundant sunshine. The palm trees will remain green, native plants will flourish, hillsides will continue to brown,  leaves will drop and blow in the wind, but a few splashes of fall colors maybe found.

Summer was wonderful.  Although we spent more time at home than usual, we enjoyed many opportunities to get outdoors and appreciate summer. Rather than bore you with details,  I decided to showcase a few highlights and allow the pictures to tell most of the story.

A visit to Berkeley and the University of California

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Exploring Berkeley and visiting with family.

Visiting a winery near Gilroy, California

Salinas, California-Home of John Steinbeck.

Beautiful Monterey Bay

Camping in Big Sur and exploring the California coastline.

Laughing in amazement at sun bathing sea lions.

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A Phoenix sunrise. One of two trips we made to Arizona.

Who knew Arizona could be so green?

We loved our visit to Oro Valley north of Tuscon, Arizona…

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…and even enjoyed the rain!

Our small garden yielded us tomatoes, onions, peppers, squash, and strawberries.

I worked on a few sewing and craft projects.

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We spent a great deal of time with family, friends, and just hanging out.

(and of course eating and shopping!)

So while we say farewell to the Summer of 2016…

I am looking forward to what comes next!

How was your summer?

(or winter-depending on where you live)

Mail and the written word

I was recently searching  the stores for a simple address book.  I was surprised to find the selection so limited if available at all!!  While browsing  a major chain bookstore,  a young employee observed my struggle and offered to help. When I told her what I was searching for she patiently explained to me that the store didn’t really have much of a selection of these (apparently obsolete) items. She kept her phone numbers in her phone. “Oh,” I commented, then asked “what if your phone was lost or crashed?”  She smugly explained that she had a computer backup, app, or  cloud for such emergences. When I asked her if she also kept addresses in these places she gave me a blank look. There was no understanding in her world that an address was something to hold on to when, after all, she could simply text the person for an address. Once you had  been to their home you would simply remember where they live!  Duh!  Maybe she would call her mother for the address as my kids do…which was the point of purchasing these address books in the first place! I was tired of my kids calling for addresses every Christmas, baby shower, or even an occasional thank you note. They knew that mom had a address book with all of these address carefully recorded (or at least an envelope with a return address in hopes of being added).

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What this young woman, and probably many others fail to realize, is the joy that comes from getting a hand written note or card in the mail. I know many people don’t bother to check their mail regularly anymore. Why bother? Bills are paid online, pay checks, tax returns, and other such sources of incoming or outgoing monies are handled electronically these days. Our lives are so busy that many have forgotten the joy of receiving a piece of personal mail-much less taking the time to sit down a write a note or letter to anyone.

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I remember the joy my kids experienced growing up when a birthday or Valentine or any special occasion card came in the mail addressed to them. My mother was particularity diligent in sending cards and the kids anticipated receiving mail as a result.  I have tried to do this for our grandkids but cannot seem to keep up as well as she did. We also mail them post cards occasionally when we are traveling as I recall how much pleasure my kids experienced with this simple sign of acknowledgement.

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But…what about adults? Don’t we like to receive personal mail as well? If you are thumbing through your recent batch of mail-bills, advertisements, and whatever, don’t you usually stop when you find a hand addressed letter or card from someone you know? Aren’t you likely to take a moment to open it, spend a few minutes reading it? Might we feel a moment of happiness that someone we know took time from their busy schedules to write to us? I know I felt that way recently when I received a thoughtful note from fellow blogger, Marlene at insearchofitall.

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Of course I love my emails, Instagram, internet searches, (not a fan of Facebook these days), my smartphone, texting, and good old fashioned chatting  but can’t deny the pleasure I feel when receiving or writing a note to someone I care about. If you haven’t tried it lately I encourage you to do so. Just imagine the joy the recipient of your efforts will feel next time they head to their mailbox!

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Books and Reading

 

Oh where oh where have I been??

READING!!

After a rather long break from reading I am finally back at it. If you have followed my blog for any time, you might recall that I was in a somewhat state of despair because, after a lifetime love affair of reading, I was suddenly unable to focus on a book. I lamented how frustrated I felt and many of you offered encouragement and support that it was a phase and would pass.  You were so right!

Not much of anything is accomplished these days with my nose stuck in a book!! I felt it only fair to share a few of the titles that have kept me so busy and away from my blog. Not being a book reviewer, it is with reluctance I offer my opinions… but here goes!

I first started out listening to a few books through Amazon Audible. My first try was a huge success with A Man Called Ove by Swedish author, Fredrick Backman. This is the story of a cantankerous old man and his life after the death of his wife. He has his own peculiar biases and opinions which are challenged in a humorous and engaging way. This was an absolutely wonderful book and the narrator was a perfect match.

On a roll now, I moved on to a tender story of two sister separated during the Berlin Blitz of World War II. Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner was touching, thoughtful, and held my interest throughout. Great book!. I am currently listening to another of her books  A Fall of Marigolds. This is an interesting story of a nurse working on Ellis Island in 1911. The history of the time period is quite fascinating but now I am now only listening to audio books while I am at the gym (and sadly this is not often enough to keep me motivated in the story).

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Encouraged, I began to haunt the public library for new titles and authors. What a surprise to find new titles can be found through their online search catalogue. Links provide reviews from the editor and actual readers which certainly helps in the selection process. Books can even be reserved online! A text message is sent when the book is available so I simply walk into the library to find my requests waiting for me. Books can be renewed online after I receive a text alert that the due date is approaching! How convenient is that???

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton is a marvelous read! It is the story encompassing three generations from Australia to England. This mystery and the lives of the women it chronicles will keep you turning pages well into the night!

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Next, Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas caught my eye. I found this book on a Pintrest list of all places. Set in Colorado during the Great Depression, it is an lovely fictional history told by an 86 year old mountain woman. The story expands as she mentors a young woman new to the area. Watching the friendship develop is a reminder how special woman friends are in our lives. Do you also treasure your woman friends?

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Our women’s Bible study is reading Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur. This book gives new insight to some of the Bible’s most interesting women such as Eve, Sarah, and Rahab. If you have any interest in learning more about some fascinating women during Biblical times, this is a great book.

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Next was I Belong to No One by fellow blogger Gwen Wilson (garrulousgwendoline). She has written an intimate portrait of her younger life growing up in rural Australia during the 1970’s.  What courage she has shown by sharing her story with others. It was hard to wrap my head around the girl in the book with the Gwen I have come to know through our mutual blogs. I was deeply reminded that although we are influenced by our personal journeys, history, social prejudices, and mores,  it is what we do with those experiences that shape our future.  This book truly  shows that we have a choice to overcome obstacles at any point in our lives! Thank you for sharing your story, Gwen!

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Currently I am reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova. This book gives an insight into the life of an Alzheimer’s victim and her family. You may be more familiar with the movie staring  Julianne Moore who, in 2015,  received an Academy Award as well as a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Alice. Since I had not seen this movie and was only aware of the subject matter, I was surprised to find how much I like this book. Had it not been loaned to me I may not have ever picked it up.

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 So…

…this is what has been keeping me busy.

Do you have any recommendations for me?

The Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus is such an interesting little plant. They have flat odd oval shaped leaves.  The stems grow in all directions with no apparent rhyme or reason. In the late fall they develop lovely buds which usually open during the winter holidays when they then  become an amazingly beautiful plant. There are no pricklies as you would find in a more traditional cactus.

The Christmas cactus is officially called Schlumbergera which grows wild in the jungles near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  As a houseplant, you will often find them growing on a California patio or living room just about anyplace  where they can  thrive with proper care. The key to getting a Christmas cactus to flower during the holiday season  is the correct light exposure and temperatures with limited watering. As with most succulents and cactus, too much watering can make them soggy or even kill them.  In the fall months, the Christmas cactus should receive indirect bright light during the day with total darkness at night.  They often start blooming in late November and may continue on into January. The fiery blooms may be red, white or various shades of pink. The blooms last longer at about 45 to 70 degrees.

My mother in law lives near the Mississippi River and has the most beautiful Christmas cactus you have ever seen. It is always lush and full of green foliage when we visit each year but I have never been around when it blooms.

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I had her send me a picture.

The recent warmer fall  weather in the Midwest may have caused the late blooms this year. She has given me pieces to take home to grow my own cactus but I have had no success in getting one to start. My sister also has a Christmas cactus. Hers bloom magnificently during the holiday season.

This year, however, she has no blooms at all.

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She says it is in mourning because of the loss of our sister. Can plants be intuitive this way?  I have no idea but two years ago it looked like this…

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…and last year like this.

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This year it is simply drooping.

We were all drooping a little this Christmas.

When visiting recently, I asked if I could have a piece of the cactus to take home and try once again to grow one from a cutting. She said she could do even better!  She has a friend whose father starts Christmas cactus all the time and was certain he’d be delighted to give me one. Sure enough, a week later I had my own Christmas cactus.

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Now I would hardly call it a start. I would more call it a young plant and I am thrilled. The trick will be to see if I can keep it alive.  One of my goals this year is to increase the number of houseplants I have. Last year I started with a few small ones…

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and so far so good.

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I love African Violets and I think this one may actually bloom.

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The antique cup with the succulent was a gift.

In the past I have had some moderate success growing houseplants. We have some nosey cats now and I need to be sure the plants are either out of reach or non toxic. The Christmas cactus in non toxic.

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(Delilah, my faithful feline companion)

Houseplants is a newer hobby I am pursuing in my retirement. Not only are indoor plants pleasing to the eye, but during photosynthesis they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They increase humidity in the air around them, help purify the air, and some think even offer other health benefits-even boost healing!

I am going to try to propagate another plant from a cutting but for the moment, I will just enjoy and embrace my beautiful Christmas cactus.

Check back in 6 months and I’ll let you know how I’m doing!

Moving Forward

Last week I was merely looking forward and now I am actually moving forward!  As with most of us, we start out the year with the best of intentions and I am no different. How long we can keep it up?  Well, that depends on the person. Based on my past experience, I know that my excitement (and energy) may fade in time so I am trying to strike while the iron is hot as they say.

While my Christmas decorations still linger all over the house…

and our sad little tree, although stripped of its ornaments, still lies in wait for hibernation.

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We  bought this pitiful little tree about 4 years ago as a door buster/pre Christmas sale. I had wanted a new tree for such a long time but hesitated to spend the money. This was such a deal I jumped on it  and gave our nice full-slightly worn tree to one of our daughters. When I put this one up I wanted to call her and ask for my old tree back (which is still looking beautiful at her house by the way) but  that didn’t seem fair so we decided to just make the best of it. We have learned to love this little Charlie Brown tree and it is actually much more practical in our small home. This is true most especially  on Christmas Eve when we cram between 25-30 family members in this little place!

Anyway, I digress. As I mentioned in my last post I was excited to start organizing and purging and decided to ignore the holiday stuff for now (besides, we do enjoy our little tree as do the cats).

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Next I decided to tackle my sewing/spare bedroom.  I tossed out 2 bags of trash and 3 large bags to be donated or set aside for our next (probably unsuccessful) yard sale. After all, Why not clutter up the storage shed and a chance to maybe change my mind about a few things?

I began pulling things out of drawers and closets and created a great deal of chaos. I had scraps, lengths of fabric and craft supplies everywhere.

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When I returned to sewing a few years ago I read some advice that you should not throw away even the smallest scrap of fabric. There would always be some use for it down the road. Well, I took this to heart and complete disorganization erupted. I had stuffed and stashed in every spare inch . This was not going to be part of my organizational plan so I decided to only save the small pieces that I could fit into one container.

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Now don’t feel too sorry for me. This does not count the larger pieces of fabric, nor heaven forbid,  my FABRIC STASH. I painfully let go of some little pieces and some crazy things I would never use.

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I am sure I could find a use for the tiger scrap on top but not in my foreseeable future so I ruthlessly tossed it  out ( I kept the basket).

Then I got down to the nitty-gritty. This vacuum sealed bag of various fabric is going to the donation bin…. or the shed for the potential yard sale.

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It is difficult to get a true picture of how much fabric is in here. Most of it was given to me anyway so I  am fairly certain I would never have a use for most of it.

Things were starting to come together…

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I arranged some almost finished spools of thread in a decorative way so not to clog up my thread organizer.

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The closet was a bit more challenging but I kept at it…

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…and managed some organization.

Finally I surveyed the room and I have to say was somewhat pleased with the result.

It’s not perfect but everything has a place and all of my fabric is in a storage bin or neatly organized. I think my  guests next week will be comfortable.

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Lastly, I took a moment to not only appreciate two days of hard work, but to admire the view outside my sewing room window.

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Now it’s time to put away the Christmas decorations.

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Then I can begin my new sewing project.

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Yes…

I really did go out and buy more fabric!

Looking Forward

What a great time to look forward!  Nothing like the thought of a new year to inspire us to set goals, make plans, decide to eat healthier, and to get moving. For me, not only am I faced with a new year but I am beginning my third year of retirement!

I eagerly jumped out of bed this morning, (well, maybe I lazily I climbed out of bed) full of optimism to begin the new year. Grand ideas have been swimming through my mind these past weeks about what I might do and what changes I might make. The Christmas cookies were finally gone, any leftover treats either consumed, given away, or tossed. The last of the gifts have been given, and the left over wrapping paper stowed away in anticipation for next year. The day was sunny and the spirits high.

After my healthy breakfast (and coffee without cream), I decided to tackle cleaning out my closet and drawers. Why this seemed more important than putting away the holiday décor I can’t say but I was in the mood to organize so I went with it!  I purged and tossed, I set aside things to be donated and organized everything in sight.

My make-up drawer is ready for the new year.

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 I could not bear to take a before picture.

A few loads of laundry later it was lunchtime. I had whipped up some fat busting cabbage soup

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and consumed multiple glasses of lemon water.

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Fortunately I planned ahead and went grocery shopping yesterday to make sure there were plenty of healthy options on hand. Reminds me of a favorite quote:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

OK, so the rest of the day? I talked to some of the kids by phone, chatted with my sister, texted some family and friends, and watched some You Tube videos for inspiration for new sewing projects. I did not watch the Rose parade going on about 30 miles away. No football for me. Overall if was a very nice way to start the new year. The gym will probably have to wait until next week.

Happy New Year

and welcome to 2016!