About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fun Monday - Christmas Wishes

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, lights up throughout the neighborhood, Christmas decorations pulled out of storage, Christmas specials and commercials on TV. No matter how we may resist, the holiday season is here. That includes the whole idea of gift giving which is the topic for this week's Fun Monday. Our host Julie from Another Chance Ranch finishes her month long hosting duties by asking us to share our approaches and thoughts on holiday gift giving. Since I don't do much gifting these days, I thought I'd get a bit nostalgic.

Like many of you who may read this, I'm a child of the 1950s. It was just after WW II and times were very hard. Still, when the mail carrier delivered that magical Sears or Montgomery Ward Christmas wishbook, we kids poured over the toys on every page and made sure that our parents knew what we wanted from Santa. We also wrote him letters with our lists. I remember asking for a lot, but it was a new doll that I wanted most and would have been heartbroken to not see under the tree on Christmas morning. I always wanted a girl doll with black hair like mine, wearing a pretty dress and shoes and anklets.

Aside from the doll, which I wanted more than anything, I remember getting a cowgirl outfit(like Cousin J's that my grandmother is inspecting in this photo)and cap pistol. Dale Evans and Roy Rogers were very popular then. In the 1950s little girls got home making toys like dishes, tea sets. That was a standard go along with your doll. I also remember getting fresh paper dolls to supplement the Betsy McCall paper dolls in the back of the McCall's Magazine.

When I was too old to get a doll I begged (seriously!) for a red banlon sweater. This, after all, was what all the girls in my class were wearing. And I really wanted to fit in. My neighbor worked at the local department store and I have vague memories of talking so much about this sweater that she promised to buy it for me. I cringe at the thought now because very early on I decided not to take anything from anybody. My scruples didn't hold up to a red banlon sweater apparently!

I found this letter to my sister, written in 1964 when I was a college freshman. By that time my concern had shifted from what gifts I would receive at Christmas to how my family could celebrate the season without worrying so much about gifts. I was the youngest in the family so was responsible for the Christmas cheer and traditions continuing. Sadly, there was not any money left over for Christmas.

This letter pretty much holds true today for many people. The pressure is on to buy even when families cannot afford the extra expenses. Much better to keep things low key. Several years ago my friends and I decided not to exchange gifts. We're all independent people and buy what we need or want throughout the year. None of us need more stuff. So, this year I'll get my sister a few gifts simply because she enjoys seeing wrapped packages under her tree and opening them on Christmas morning.

Finally, just to let you know that I haven't always been a Christmas grouch. These photos are from college Christmases spent with my "adopted" family. And what grand times we had. On Christmas Eve the house was full with grand parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. There were gifts galore, many home made like the year of red-striped flannel nightgowns for all the girls. The kids distributed their handmade treasures--Bobby's cans of Chex party mix, Dan's clothes pin reindeer ornaments.

There was more joy in the gifts you gave than those received.
These gifts warmed your heart because you knew they were chosen especially for you by people who took the time to select something special just for you.

This year my holiday wish for you is that your gift list be short enough that what you give is truly special for each person on the list. And that the gifts you receive were selected with the same amount of love and attention.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fun Monday - Maxine on Age and Beauty

The topic for November 22nd Fun Monday is a simple one according to our host Julie at Another Chance Ranch . It's to share our favorite beauty product. I was going to go all philosophical about aging gracefully, inner beauty, and other profound considerations on just reaching Medicare age last week. However, I think I'll just share a few hints for aging well and then let Maxine finish with her unique, but so true, slant on age and beauty.

First to favorite beauty product. For me that would be Origins, a line of plant-based skin care products made from natural botanicals. Used faithfully every day for cleansing, toning, and moisturizing, your skin will look pretty darn good, even at Medicare age. Aside from good skin care here's some other beauty aids that I believe in:

--good haircut every four to six weeks in a style that makes you happy;
color if you prefer or celebrate those grey hairs if you feel you've earned them;

--fashionable eyeglasses, especially if you wear them all the time. I just got some bold black retro frames with a modified "cat eye" to give my face a bit of lift;

--regular dental care to keep teeth bright and strong;

--regular medical checkups to spot problems before they become major; serious illness does a number on your looks;

--eat good nutritious food and enough junk to keep you from feeling deprived;

--move it! However you prefer--just keep going--and stand up straight to avoid that dowager hump;

--get enough sleep, however much that may be for you personally;

--be passionate about things great and small--your family and friends, learning something new, politics, a book, TV series, travel, cooking--your choice.

To add to my little beauty list, here's Maxine's advice for dealing with unrealistic expectations foisted on all of us by advertisers and our peers. I get Maxine's point about fad diets and unrealistic goals, but maybe hold on to that three way mirror. Just yesterday I was having coffee with friends in Starbucks and we were commenting that, based on her unfortunate back view, our girl friend at the counter must not own a full length mirror. Think of it as tough love.

And finally, I'm sure everyone has experienced this. You look at yourself in the mirror or at a photo and think: "What happened to me?" At one time I had "stuff" to strut, now it has, as Maxine says, gone off without me! Paying a bit of attention to your own needs may prevent more loss in the future.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, friends. I hope it's a thing of beauty for each of you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Decking the Holiday Halls Done Right

Our host for November 15 Fun Monday is Julie at Another Chance Ranch and she wants us to get started thinking about decorating for the Christmas holidays. Do we pull out all the stops? Put up a tree? Have a decorating theme? Actually it has been many years since I decorated for Christmas--fourteen in fact, when I adopted Willie, a mischievous pit bull pup. At the time I had three older dogs who left the tree alone, but I didn't trust a three month old puppy to not bring the tree crashing down on his head and breaking all my precious antique glass ornaments. Sadly, after skipping one year I got out of the habit of decorating.

However, I do have definite opinions about what makes beautiful holiday decorations.

Here's my thoughts on decking the halls for Christmas, re-posted from December 2008:

I watched the Rick Steves' European Christmas special on PBS last night as I do each year because it reminds me of what Christmas done right is all about. Starting in London's Trafalgar Square and traveling on to the Swiss Alps with many stops in between, Steves provides an insiders look at how people of many countries celebrate the winter holidays. Regardless of the country, the essentials of Christmas--family, friends, community, customs, traditional decorating for the home, food, music, and faith--can be found.

Many years ago I really loved the holiday season. Starting in early November, I began cleaning the house from top to bottom; nursing live plants like paper whites, amaryllis, and poinsettias into bloom at just the right time; gathering the live greenery, berries, and ribbon to make wreaths, swags, and arrangements for all through the house. I studded oranges with cloves and rolled them in cinnamon for hanging pomanders and even buffed great quantities of Red Delicious apples to a high sheen and piled them in pine bough lined baskets.

Finally the first week of December it was time to bring home the Christmas tree--which was my favorite thing about the holiday. The tree had to be a fraser fir from the mountains of North Carolina because no other tree branches would hold up under the weight and quantity of glass ornaments that I'd collected at tag sales, auctions, antique stores, and Christmas shops throughout the year.

If you look closely at the tree you can spot some of my most treasured ornaments. There's
the six huge striped and decaled balls that I found at an auction. There's all manner of Shiny Brite ornaments with their bold stripes and glittery sentiments like "Silent Night" or "Joy to the World". Shiny Brites were popular in the 1950s. I also had a great collection of fancy shaped reflectors that went around each colored light. When the tree lights came on it was magic. In addition to the balls, icicles, and pendants, my all time favorite tree decorations would have to be the German and Czech glass ornaments of every imaginable shape--houses, fruit, vegetables, animals, lamps, teapots, birds, clocks, Santas, and even the good luck pickle.

Underneath the tree, all the presents were wrapped in simple paper and tied with real ribbon. That is, except gifts for Zack the crazy border collie, whom you all have met on many occasions, and his brother Frank the chow mix with his white "taillight"! Their presents went in gift bags, which as you can see, was not nearly secure enough to last until Christmas.

So Julie, this is how I'd decorate for Christmas if I did any more. This year I'll help my sister get out all her decorations over the Thanksgiving holiday. She leaves no surface undecorated. And good for her because she gets so much pleasure from it. I'll concentrate on sending and receiving Christmas mail, going to some holiday concerts and plays and movies, and adding a few new holiday CDs--usually Celtic artists--to my collection.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fun Monday - Thanksgiving at the Races

This week our host for Fun Monday, Julie at Another Chance Ranch , has us thinking ahead. And very pleasant thoughts they are. That is, our Thanksgiving meal. What's the menu and is it traditional with turkey and fixins' or unusual? For example, one family I know has a "family choice" menu that might be white chili or crab legs. And, do we have a favorite dish and recipe to share?

First the where. I'm one of those people with no family with whom to celebrate. Luckily though, I have a good friend who always invites me to what we jokingly call "Holidays with the Jobes"! I'm thankful for their friendship and hospitality. This year however, I've decided to go uptown and celebrate Thanksgiving at Churchill Downs, home of Kentucky thoroughbred racing. A few friends who share my lack of family have reserved a table in the posh Skye Terrace of Churchill Downs. We'll work our way through a bountiful Kentucky buffet loaded with traditional, homegrown foods prepared by the Downs chef. There'll be turkey with southern cornbread stuffing, country ham and biscuits, southern vegetables and desserts liberally laced with bourbon, I'm sure. While we do a leisurely graze of the buffet table we'll be able to do a little betting and have a panoramic view of a few horse races from the Skye Terrace. With luck, we may win back the cost of our feast!

Now one downside to being invited out for Thanksgiving dinner is that you'll not have any leftovers. I usually remedy that by baking a couple of turkey legs, cornbread stuffing, fresh green beans and raw cranberry orange relish. Oh yes, must not forget a pumpkin pie--Mrs. Smith's is fine. The week of Thanksgiving you're allowed to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast. So I have these dishes stashed in the fridge for leftovers for the week.

Everyone has a favorite recipe that they pull out for the holidays. Mine is for Cheese Loaf. It's a cross between a souffle and corn pudding and its simple sweet sour taste is perfect with Thanksgiving foods. The recipe is very old and comes from the Morehead Methodist Women's Cookbook. Oh boy, can they cook! Here's the recipe just as written over 40 years ago:

Marylene Fryman

1 lb. cheese (cheddar)
1 can pimientos (not real small)
1 heaping C cracker crumbs
Grind cheese and pimiento.
Cook the following until smooth paste:
3 eggs, beaten
1 C sweet milk
1/2 C mild vinegar (scant)
1 tsp. butter, 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 C sugar

Add cheese and pimientos. Stir well. Add cracker crumbs. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake 350 degrees-30 min or until begins to brown on top.

So, there you have it Julie, very satisfactory Thanksgiving plans at Summit Musings. Can't wait to check out other Fun Monday Thanksgiving tables.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fun Monday - Election Eve Deep Thoughts

Our host for November Fun Mondays is Julie at Another Chance Ranch . And since tomorrow is Election Day she's looking for our thoughts on the state of the country and what issues are we taking with us to the polls on Tuesday? Now if there's anything that deserves a bit of cynical Maxine humor, it's our current political climate. Here's Maxine's opinion--which I share in too many instances--of our elected leaders:

When I began blogging four years ago, I wrote a lot about politics. Some early post titles included: "W's Turd Blossoms", "Campaign Kerfuffle, Dems 1", "Barney's Office", "Straddlesore", and "Willie Voted Today". You can guess my political leanings from these titles, I think. As I got more into blogging though, I decided that I didn't want to use Summit Musings as a political or religious soapbox. I have too many friends who don't share my views. And since I wasn't interested in debating these issues with them, I decided to take my blog in a different direction, one that encouraged good conversation about many interests. A live and let live attitude, I suppose.

Now tomorrow there are several races--mayoral, U.S. House and Senate--that I care a lot about. In these three races here are my deal breakers and deal makers:

mayoral -- I'm voting for the person who's somewhat smart nerdy and who lists entrepreneur, problem solver, jobs creator, and holder of a world view as his work experiences and qualifications. I'm not voting for the person who believes that lengthy service on the metro council is the best preparation for the job. Nor am I voting for the person who lists "family values" as one of his bona fides. That term is probably code for what I am not.

U.S. House--I'm voting for the incumbent because I believe that he deserves another two years to work on solving our problems--turning the economy around, responsible prosecution of the war, and equitable access to health care. Plus, I gotta love a Jewish guy who digs vacationing in Ireland! I won't vote for the candidate who lists membership in a local megachurch as a qualification or that he is a "family man". Good for him, but we all know how too many self-professed "family men" have behaved in the past. I also won't vote for the candidate who bases most of his own opinions on personal experience. Nor will I vote for the candidate who snipes from behind Nancy Pelosi's Ralph Lauren skirt tails (as in "Candidate X votes with Nancy Pelosi 99% of the time"). Come on people! At least tell us what these terrible votes were.

U.S. Senate --I'm voting for the person who has fought to protect consumers, Kentucky workers, and challenged big businesses like oil companies in his current position as state attorney general. I'm not voting for the petulant Crazy Cousin to replace the Crazy Uncle who is currently representing KY in the U.S. Senate.

So, that in a nut shell is what I'll be thinking of tomorrow when Willie the pit bull and I walk to our polling site. I'll tie him up far enough away from the door while I go inside to vote so he won't get into trouble for "electioneering" or trying to trade milk bones for votes. I'm sure he could be more persuasive than a good chunk of special interest money!

Nov. 4 Election Update: Well, it could be worse. My nerdy smart guy got elected mayor and U.S. House incumbent gets to go back to D.C. and offer a voice of compromise when the new posse rides into town in January. On the downside, Crazy Cousin will be replacing current Crazy Uncle in the U.S. Senate. I wonder how long it will take for me not to cringe every time he steps in front of a microphone--or wish he would wear a sign that says "I'm not originally from Kentucky"?