Category Archives: Happiness

All in for Fall

Fall has arrived here in Colorado. It seemed to happen almost overnight. Or maybe I’m just not as observant as I could be. The temps are now pretty steady in the 50’s at this point so the days of wearing sandals on the regular are gone, at least until March or April anyway.  The leaves are changing and as I’m driving around I’m treated to the sights of beautiful maples with rich hues of burgundy, gold, and orange.

Here’s what I am loving about this particular fall season:

  • Waking up to those dark mornings. I know, it sounds a little weird, but there’s a coziness I feel when I’m padding down the stairs in pursuit of a cup of hot coffee, of course, in the wee hours after a good night’s slumber and the house is shrouded in the quiet darkness. It’s peaceful and comforting. Though some mornings as a result I have to put up a pretty good internal argument against crawling back under those covers.
  • Cooking hearty meals and delectable, soul warming desserts. Recently, I made a recipe I’ve had forever and came up with a way to make it even more scrumptious. I will share that recipe at the end of this post. I also made my blogger friend CJ’s apple cake on Sunday and it was seriously the bomb! I highly recommend it! I got a lot of compliments from my co-workers when I brought it to work yesterday. It’s the perfect go-to for fall potlucks.
  • Bringing out the fall wardrobe. I was smart over the summer and picked up a few pieces while thrift store shopping to add to what I already had. My girly-girl side came out as I tried on different combinations of things to wear to work and when simply being out and about this fall.
  • Speaking of fall wardrobes, another thing I’m getting pretty psyched about is Halloween costumes. As I mentioned in my fall themed blog post last year, being empty-nesters has allowed us to re-claim this holiday for ourselves. I am currently pondering what costumes we will be donning this Halloween. Contenders are me as a good witch and Hubs as Johnny Cash (my version of super heroes for these times we are in) or “Blue Waves” (which we fervently hope come via our ballot boxes next month). Here’s us in our costumes last year…20171028_201957 (1)
  • Voting season: oh, so many reasons to be happy about this. Like perhaps there will be a surge in the number of Americans casting their ballots. Perhaps sane, rational, not geriatric and not all male candidates will be elected this time. Also that it-namely, the constant political ads and political junk mail-will be over on 11/7.

Now for that promised recipe:

French Dip Sandwiches

Disclaimer: I wrote down this recipe eons ago on a recipe card, and if I could credit the cook who I got it from I would, but I have no earthly idea who that would be.

Ingredients:

3 lbs. beef chuck roast

2 Cups water

1/2 cup Soy Sauce (I always use the low sodium kind)

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 bay leaf

3 whole peppercorns

French bread

Put the beef in the crockpot. Mix up all the other ingredients (minus the french bread of course) in a bowl. Pour it over the beef. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 8 hours + if you like. Shred or slice (depending on the level of tenderness) the beef and put between two slices of crusty french bread.

My attempt at morphing the leftovers (which I froze last week and am thawing as I write this) into something even better is this: Slice yellow onions and saute them in butter. Drain the liquid from the beef and cook it in a saucepan, possibly adding additional water and beef bouillon. Heat up the slices of beef in the microwave. Put the broth in soup bowls and add the onions, then the beef. Top with shredded mozzarella. Cut up chunks of the french bread and toss it into the soup bowls. Voila! French onion soup, my way.

What are you jazzed about this fall season? 

 

 

 

 

My just in case post

This could just as well be called the “Where I’m at” post.

This is the post I’m writing just in case I don’t manage to get my act together and create a new post to publish on Wednesday centered on one specific topic.

Because I have company coming soon.

The company that is coming is my dear sister in law, my husband’s one and only sister.

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Miss Mary and I on her last visit to Colorado

Because I’m also working this week (one only gets so much paid vacation as a part timer) and I’m determined to make my sister in law’s Colorado vacay as awesome as can be, I’ve been in a bit of a mad rush these last couple of days planning meals and activities for us to enjoy together this week.

Bottom line-publishing a blog post is not quite as high on my list of priorities at this particular moment in time. 

Please know that I am not complaining. This planning and hosting people we love coming from hither and yon in our empty nest is totally my jam.

I’ve got a ton of draft posts started, which have largely been inspired by interacting in my new bloggers group on Facebook (shout out to Gin and Lemonade blogger’s group!). One is a movie review. Another is about food. Another is a funny anecdote about my mom. It’s a toss up as to what I will actually publish next.

But truthfully, you probably won’t see any of these posts this week. Because I will be too busy enjoying catching up with Miss Mary, showing her the sites (likely many of which neither Hubs or I have not yet seen), and of course, working.

The story of the traveling hutch

 

 

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I love this hutch. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s sort of a family heirloom. Let me tell you the story.

This hutch was housed in the one bedroom “shotgun” cabin my parents purchased on a lake 20 minutes from their house about 25 years ago. The seller of the cabin had no use for this hutch, as he was an elderly gentleman with no family around. He simply left it there, where it sat in a corner in the kitchen/dining space.

My mom has never been a fan of antiques. She much preferred to decorate her home and that little cabin in a more modern fashion, which at the time was a lot of country blues and pink hues on the furniture as well as the walls. She has always been stellar at organizing small spaces (the home 5 of us and a dog lived in for eons was 3 small bedrooms and one bathroom with no shower, just a tub. Yes, I didn’t get regular showers until I moved into my dorm in college). So this hutch served a purpose for her as it was a place to store dishes. She and I, along with all other female family members, also relied on this hutch when visiting the cabin, as a make up and hair styling station. There was an outhouse in the back.

My dad and I, however, had an appreciation for this old hutch. We saw it as a pretty well preserved piece of history, and a beautiful one at that. I remember telling my parents as a young mom and wife that this was likely the only piece of furniture that I would like to be bequeathed to me someday.

Someday happened about 15 years later. My dad, then about 76, asked me during a phone call (back when he could still hear well enough to have at least a short conversation on the phone), if I’d still like to have the hutch. I told him emphatically yes and he said he’d like to deliver it to me the next time they came to Wisconsin for a visit.

So my dear old dad drove himself and my mom over 5 hours one way and delivered the hutch. Hubs and I picked out just the right spot for it between our dining and living area. Hubs served as Dad’s apprentice to move the hutch from the back of dad’s pickup truck, and together they carefully lugged it up the stairs to put it in its’ designated spot. I was in awe that my dad was still the strong man he always was at 76 and appreciated the teamwork it took he and Hubs to get it into the house.

Miraculously, the hutch survived two more moves, one from our family’s home in a more rural area, to our new “empty nester” home in the city of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and the other from La Crosse all the way here to Colorado. I fully expected that the hutch would suffer some type of damage during both of these moves. Perhaps the mirror would crack, or the old glass pane would shatter into a million pieces. But alas, it survived.  I like to think it survived because of the appreciation we had for it. More than likely though it was just dumb luck.

I’m really pleased with where we chose to place it in our townhome. Especially because it was pure happenstance that when you walk towards it, in the mirror you can see the peace sign that we hung on the opposite wall next to our front door. What sweet serendipity.

There are few tangible “things” I treasure in this life. And this old hutch, with the memories that go along with it, is right at the very top of the list.

 

Happiness is having something to look forward to

Thinking forward to an upcoming visit with our friends, couple #1, and their two young daughters recently prompted me to peruse the library at work. This library is chock full of donated books for the seniors we serve to take home and enjoy. There is no requirement that the books taken be returned, which I love. Included in this library is a shelf full of children’s books.

That is where I found this little gem, written by Minnesota native and creator of the iconic Peanuts cartoons Charles Schultz, in the year of my birth, 1967.

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The colors and graphics in this little book are quite gorgeous to my eye. But what most tripped my trigger was the words written in the pages. The sentiments. One especially.

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The message that “happiness is having something to look forward to” resonates with me. I believe that all of us, even on our worst days, if we pause to think about it, can imagine something on the horizon to personally look forward to. It doesn’t have to be anything major. In fact, the simpler the better. Because really, isn’t it the simple joys in life that make it enjoyable? Worth continuing?

Maybe it’s the fancy mocha-choca-latte you’re going to buy on your way to work today. Maybe it’s payday. Perhaps it’s the juicy burgers you’re going to grill tonight for supper. Or the book you can’t wait to read. Or the summer vacation you’ve got planned with your family or friends.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, let me share what I am currently looking forward to: visiting the Denver Zoo this weekend with our friends and their sweet, funny, smart little girls (one soon to be 6 and the other soon to be 3). Witnessing their reactions to the animals they see and interact with. Hearing their giggles. Capturing some sweet photos along the way.

How about you all? What are you looking forward to? Surely there’s something.

Thoughts on Self-Care

It feels to me as if the term “self-care” is being tossed around a lot these days. It’s “trending”, which I take to mean the concept will, before long, peter out. It will lose it’s meaning, it’s importance. People will tire of it, finding ways on social media to mock it and render it irrelevant. They’ll find another term to latch onto.

Ironically, I just googled “self-care” and on Merriam Webster, front and center, there is an icon of lightening next to the word “trending”. My point is thus proven. 

Before this concept is indeed no longer trending, I’d like to add my two cents about self- care. I can only speak from my own perspective of course, recognizing that many people in the world are struggling mightily to survive another day, physically and/or mentally, so finding the time and energy to even ponder what self-care means let alone practicing it eludes them. Which really is a damn shame.

Bottom line: I am grateful that I have enough quiet time to myself, along with the mental energy to both identify what self-care looks like to me and the physical and intellectual ability to regularly engage in the activities that promote it. Especially during those times, like right now, when those people near and dear to me are experiencing life challenges that are weighing on my mind and heart, causing me to feel utterly helpless. 

I think that in order to practice self-care in any sort of meaningful way, it’s necessary to define for yourself what it specifically looks like to you. However, taking the time to recognize why practicing self-care is beneficial for you should be your first task. My personal theory is that if I choose to not practice self-care, my ability to be emotionally present for my loved ones will be dwarfed. I will feel put-upon, frustrated, tired, and stressed out. By not practicing self-care, I will lessen my ability to find the silver linings in things as well as hindering my ability to be the best version of myself. By regularly practicing self-care, my chances of being effective at providing emotional support to those I love greatly increase.

Now, while I am admittedly an over-thinker, I cling firmly to the K.I.S.S. mantra (the Keep it Simple, Sister version) when it comes to what self-care looks like for me. I don’t believe any self-improvement endeavor is worth much if there are too many steps.

Let me share some of the self-care tactics that work for me. I urge you to consider what yours are and then share them with me and our blogging friends here in the comments, if you feel comfortable doing so. 

  • I keep a regular sleep schedule and make it a priority to get enough sleep (8.5 hours per night has proven to be ideal for me).
  • I listen to my Soul Song and other playlists daily as they bring me joy. I find that listening to my music each morning puts me in a positive mindset for the day ahead.
  • Regular grooming of fingernails/hands and toenails/feet. As in, at home manicures and pedicures. Taking care of my physical appearance in this way boosts my confidence as I am out and about in my day to day life. And it’s a very relaxing activity for me, especially when I’ve got my favorite tunes playing in the background.
  • I regularly make to do lists, which gives me a sense of order and purpose. This tactic calms my anxious brain and is a valuable tool that boosts my focus on my priorities for the day, or week. I also get a little kick every time I check something off on my to-do lists.
  • I  lay out my yoga mat and stretch my body and do a few strengthening and toning exercises every single morning.  I follow that up with some prayer time. Expressing gratitude and connecting with the Spirit helps me clear my head and gives me good mental energy for the day ahead of me.
  • I ignore people that only have negative things to say as much as I possibly can. You know who they are in your own life. We all do.
  • I strive to remain mindful as I go through my days. For instance, really listening  to people instead of thinking up responses to what I think they are going to say. Also, limiting the amount of times I check my cell phone throughout the day allows me opportunities to see and experience what is going on in my environment. I think it’s healthy to keep FOMO (fear of missing out) at bay.
  • I mentally pull out a phrase or mantra that speaks to me if I’m feeling stressed, such as “This too shall pass”, or “Let it Be” of course in song version because that is how my brain works. 

 

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About my jar

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As I talked about here, in 2017 I kept a Happiness Jar. It helped me stay positive each day as it forced me to notice all the little and sometimes big things that brought me happiness.  I’m glad I did it. Reading all of my scribbled notes from my Happiness Jar on 12/31 brought back to mind moments that I had forgotten about. Doing this gave me a healthy dose of the warm fuzzies and made me realize what a great year overall it had been for me.

In this post, I grandly proclaimed that 2018 was going to be the year of the “Goodness Jar”.  I thought it would be fun to keep this jar thing going, just in a new way.  My plan was, at the end of each day, I would jot down something I did or said that exemplified “goodness” to me. I started this practice in earnest on 1/1. After a few days, I came to the conclusion that the “Goodness Jar” was not meant to be. It felt like everything I came up with was, for lack of a better descriptor, lame. I found myself obsessing about what “goodness” looks like in my day to day life. The word “goodness” quickly became meaningless. I mean, who am I to determine what “goodness” is? It was all just too much for my 50 year old brain. While I certainly had good intentions, I simply didn’t take enough time to think it through before leaping into it.

So I’m scrapping this idea. Perhaps my jar would be better put to use by using my creative culinary skills to make homemade “hootch” to store in this jar. Perhaps I could bedazzle my jar, stick a candle in it and set it out somewhere as home decor. Perhaps I could fill it with skittles and send it to one of my most favorite bloggers. I think it would help her to get through whatever time is left on the Trump presidency.

As worthy as those ideas may be, I have instead decided to re-christen my former Happiness/Goodness Jar the “Kindness Jar”.  The thing is, the Happiness/Goodness Jar was really all about me. What made me happy. I think it’s time to focus more on others. Like doing something to bring a smile to someone’s face. Or clearly conveying to someone that I see them and hear them and believe they have value in this world.   As long as I resist the urge to overthink it, this might work.

To make this more doable interesting, I’m going to include not just what acts of kindness I believe I bestowed upon others, but the kindnesses that were gifted to me by others. I like the idea of documenting kindnesses both given and received. And while I’m at it, I think I’ll jot down acts of kindness that I simply witness in my every day life, whether it be between co-workers and clients, strangers on the bus, or folks out shopping at the grocery store. The setting matters not, while the actions will.  With this three pronged approach, I figure that I have no option other than to be hyper focused on kindness each and every day.

I recently saw this clip below, and it really resonates with me. I believe my blogging community is chock full of kind-hearted people who just might agree with me.

 

Cheers to kindness, people!

 

 

Christmases Past, Present, and Future

Merry Christmas, one and all! ‘Tis the season to reflect on Christmases past, enjoy Christmas present, and dream a bit about Christmas future.

Christmases past:

Every single Christmas during my childhood, I watched as my mom sprayed the (always real) Christmas tree with noxious white spray from a can. Lord only knows how many of her children’s brain cells were unknowingly killed over the years. But the tree always looked spectacular.

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Opening presents on Christmas Eve: Everyone at the same time. It was sheer, giddy, joyful, chaos.

Flash forward to my first Christmas with my in-laws, about 16 years later: Opening presents on Christmas morning. One person, one gift, at a time. This process took what felt like hours upon hours (that first year anyway). Especially with several in-laws who chose to open their gifts carefully to preserve the beautiful gift wrapping for future Christmases.

The funny thing about this, however, is that in the following years, on those Christmases when it was just the four of us at home (Hubs, me, and our two spawn), we chose to continue the Christmas morning gift opening, with one of playing “Santa”, tearing into each gift, one family member at a time.

Then there was that one Christmas spent at my in laws (about 2007?), who were living  in Iowa at the time, where we all gathered around the Christmas tree and listened to the tapes of Hubs and his younger sister that had been produced when they were kids for their grandparents who lived in Florida. Hubs and his sister told stories about what they were into at the time, like 4-H club and horses.  Listening to these tapes gave me precious insight into their childhoods and made me feel like a member of the Davis tribe. And we howled with laughter the whole time.

Christmas Present: Now we are two empty nesters winging it in a new state. Things are simpler, quieter, now. But we will make the very best of it nonetheless. We will be watching Christmas movies, making and eating high carb foods (we are currently in the throes of decimating a roasting pan of homemade Chex Mix) and (yahoo!) going out to the movies and out for dinner. And of course, missing our kiddos. And our almost 4 year old grandson. Like crazy.

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This year’s Christmas tree

 

Christmas Future: We will be warm and cozy together in our cabin in the woods. There will be lots of Christmas lights inside and out. Christmas music will play softly in the background. Every family member, young and old,  will be there that can be there, God willing. Our two dogs, one a little pipsqueak mutt and the other a black lab, will greet guests upon their arrival. There will be good cheer and laughter, catching up, playing games. Ice cream drinks and hot toddies and lots of fun appetizers will be served. As a group, we will watch Christmas Vacation. And later, travel into town in a caravan of cars to see all the holiday lights. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I’d say I can’t wait, but that would take away from enjoying Christmas present.

I hope that each and every one of you have the merriest of Christmases!