How I Recovered From Fibromyalgia

2002-09-30 11.11.11-5If you’ve been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, you’ve learned that while the diagnosis is not life-threatening, it is certainly life-STEALING.

Many people don’t really understand fibromyalgia, it’s a bit of a mystery, but the pain and fatigue you feel are VERY real. I know this to be true, as years ago I was diagnosed with it. Here are my “secrets” to getting my life back. 🙂

I’m not here to tell you about the symptoms or the treatment; you can do a Google search yourself and find out all you need to know about that. No, my purpose here is to tell you how I feel like a Rock Star most of the time. 🙂

Keep in mind that good health, and feeling good, is a process. Optimal health is kind of a like a pie: it has several components which make up the whole. When one of these components is missing, you simply won’t feel your best. And the longer it’s missing, the worse you’ll feel.

2013-06-10 12.05.29Speaking of pie…I ate this in Gulf Shores a couple of years ago, and it IS just as good as it looks. Sorry, my bad. Squirrel!

So anyway, to achieve optimal health, you have to think of it as keeping the Pie That Is Your Life as whole as possible. That helps you feel good as much of the time as possible.

Is it foolproof? Certainly not. Those of us with fibromyalgia know with certainty when it’s going to rain, even when the forecast doesn’t mention it. (My thighs ache. True story!) Dramatic weather changes, such as the change of seasons or those cool-warm-cold-warm-hot periods we have make us miserable.

Once in a while, although they are rare, I still have one of those days when every muscle in my body simply hurts to move. If my schedule allows it, the best thing I can do for myself is to snuggle up under a blanket for a couple of hours and get really warm. That makes a world of difference. The best part is, because I’m healthy, it typically doesn’t last very long, and I go back to feeling like my Rock Star self. 🙂

But first, a Disclaimer: The tips I’m sharing with you are overall generally recognized good health tips; they have worked for me, and done consistently, they may work for you. But I can’t guarantee it. 🙂 Also, please check with your doctor before making any sudden or drastic life changes or starting an exercise program. Now that that’s out of the way….the good stuff.

1. Eat an Energy Diet.

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If you eat crap, you will feel like crap. Your body needs quality fuel, filled with nutrients to nourish it.

I’m referring to a balanced whole-foods diet with nutritious foods such as lots of vegetables, a variety of lean proteins, such as beef, pork, chicken, turkey and seafood (or wild game if you prefer it), nuts and seeds (if you aren’t allergic), some fruits and, if you like carbs, choosing the ones which are processed the least. Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible.  Develop a habit of using good-quality olive oils. Substitute almond or coconut flour for refined white flour in recipes. Reduce or preferably eliminate over-processed foods, preservatives, and sugar as much as possible. Reduce or stop your soda consumption (I consume fewer than 3 sodas per year. True story.) Artificial sweeteners and sugar will make your fibromyalgia pain worse.

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I love food. And yes, I love to take pictures of it things I ate. Especially if it was pretty. 😉

If you need to lose weight, watch your fruit and carb consumption, as it will wreak havoc on your blood sugar, and once it wears off you’ll be more tired than ever.  Since I began a mostly Paleo diet (one primarily without grains), my blood sugar hovers right around 86-88.  I eat beef, eggs and bacon every week, and my cholesterol hovers between 202-208, with no medication. This last time it was 212, but I figure that was the Nachos Bel Grande I ate for lunch the day before. 😀

And, drink lots of water. If you don’t like it, figure out a way to like it without adding sugar. Your body needs it. Without it, you’ll feel tired.

I’m not saying give up the things you like permanently; that’s what makes life worth living. Enjoy it with gusto, then resume an energy diet the rest of the time. Consistently, most of the time.

Don’t diet, make a lifestyle change. I still enjoy the things I have always loved, I just enjoy them less frequently. And you know what? I enjoy them more. That makes them more special.

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Like Lobster Mac and Cheese, for instance. This is a wonderful treat I enjoy about once per year. MMMMMMM.

If you’re having a crummy day and really need French fries, eat the fries at one meal, and follow that meal with a healthy one. Often, the quickest way to making myself feel better on a really crummy day is to have a really healthy meal. Start your day with protein, to give your body some long-term energy to get through the day. Day by day, it will make a difference!

So, this post got so long I had to break it into two parts. So stay tuned for Part Two!

My Bratty Inner Self

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If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, get fitter, or eat healthier, you know it’s a slippery slope. My efforts are dominated (or derailed) by a brat I call Tiffani.

Mind you, the brat I call Tiffani doesn’t really exist, nor does she resemble anyone I know named Tiffani. And, I don’t call her Tiffani all the time, mostly just for purposes of this discussion.

Because Tiffani is really my Inner Self.

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You know the one I’m talking about. The one whom, 30 minutes after you announce to someone you’re starting a new diet, demands you feed her chocolate and she doesn’t shut up until you finally give in.

Or you start a new fitness program, and you may do great the first few days, but suddenly she starts whining that she’s tired, she doesn’t feel like it, and really, what good is it doing anyway, so you might as well just forget it?

She’s also the one when, my trainer asks me to do something I’ve never done before, screams, “What are you thinking? This isn’t safe! You can’t do this! You’ll fall!”

I’m clumsy, remember? So falling is a very real possibility for a hot mess like me. 😀

I call her Tiffani is because the only time I hear from her is when she is unhappy, uncomfortable, hungry, or tired. Hence, I think of her as a bratty, self-absorbed teenager who is under the impression that the world revolves around her and her needs.

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Nice work if you can get it, eh? 😉

Most of the time she’s quiet and doesn’t make a fuss, unless she feels deprived for some reason. Say, maybe I’m on the run and I get too hungry; suddenly, she demands the only thing that she’s willing to eat is a Nachos Bel Grande from Taco Bell. At that point, there’s no way I can talk her down to a salad with some tuna or salmon.

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This is actually an Ahi Tuna Salad I had while I was in Florida. YUM. (And yes, the tuna was rare.) DELISH!

Taco Bell. That’ll shut her up. (Can you tell I’m channeling Ron White here?) 😉

The reason this whole topic came up is I was thinking that I’d been a little too relaxed about my diet, and I really needed to focus on eating cleaner for a while. I’d like to drop my last 20ish pounds, and my current eating habits won’t support that.

After all, 70% of physical fitness and healthy bodies happens in the kitchen. (Or something like that.)

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When I want to make a change, especially if it involves food, I have to make deals with Tiffani. For instance, I was thinking that perhaps I should start keeping a food  journal and simply documenting everything I put in my mouth.

Just documenting, that’s all. Not counting calories. Not making a big change. Just simply tracking what I ate.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it?

With Tiffani, nothing is ever simple.

She started to panic, so I promised her that if she really wanted something, a cupcake, pizza, whatever, she could have it. All I was going to do was write things down so there wasn’t anything to worry about.

I promised her that I would think about it for a few days before I started it. We’ll do this gradually, and she’ll have time to get used to the idea, because that’s how I roll.

I haven’t heard a peep out of her since. 😀

Next time you start something new, try bargaining with your Inner Self and see if that improves your chances for success.

Happy Bargaining!

Get Your Grill Ready for Summer!

This weekend makes the ‘official’ arrival of summer. The folks at Cargill Beef have supplied some timely and terrific tips to get our grills ready to go for the weekend. Mine is fired up and I’m grilling a versatile new recipe with beef from Sam’s Club. 

We’ve also got a GIVEAWAY! Courtesy of Cargill Beef and Sam’s Club! Shout out in the comments below what you’re grilling this weekend or your favorite food cooked on the grill.  You’ll automatically be eligible to win one of FIVE $25 Sam’s Club gift cards! Winners will be announced Saturday morning. NOTE: It may take a while for your comment to show up, but don’t worry. 🙂

During the summer, my husband and I grill almost every night. We love it, and a side benefit of it is we aren’t heating up the house by using the oven. (Saving money is a beautiful thing.)

With Memorial Day weekend coming, it’s time to get our grill ready for the summer and get grilling!

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1. Check the Hose: Considering your grill may have been sitting for many months without being used, take a few minutes to give it a once-over before you press ignite. Specifically, if you have a gas grill, check the hose from your propane to your burners and make sure it’s intact and clean. If there’s any buildup on the hose, be sure to clean it off before starting your grill. If the hose has any holes or any signs of being torn, it’s worth the few bucks to just replace it.

We bought our grill new just last year, so a quick look shows that all my hoses are in good shape.

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2. Give It a Quick Cleaning: If you have a gas grill, take the grates out and give everything a good scrub down. You can use a wire brush and a damp cloth to get the job done. Soap isn’t recommended. It can linger and it’s tough to wash off. Also, don’t forget to run your grilling tools through the dishwasher before that first cookout.

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I store most of my grilling supplies in a galvanized bucket with a lid near my grill. It keeps them handy, dry and clean. I like having everything contained nearby but not cluttered.

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It’s a great time to take inventory of your grilling supplies as you load them in the dishwasher. Somehow, I was just down to an oversize spatula and tongs; the rest of my grilling supplies have disappeared. I’m guessing they migrated to our RV. 😉

Jot down on your list anything you might need to pick up the next time you’re at the store. One of my pet peeves is to go to use something and not having it!

3. Clean Out Your Grease Trap: Before grilling season starts, be sure to pull out the grease trap below your grill and dump out any grease and grime from last year. For easy cleanup next year, line your grease trap with some sturdy aluminum foil.

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This is what my grease trap looked like. Ewwww, gross! This was actually dangerous! It’s hard to tell by this picture, but the large dark lump actually stood up pretty high; it could have easily caught fire when I was burning off food residue and the grill temp was really HOT.

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So, I wiped it out and ran it through the dishwasher.

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Much better!

4. Test Run Before Cooking: Before you get to cooking, turn on your grill, light it up and let it burn for a few minutes. Watch it to make sure all the burners are firing and there are no leaks.

Now you’ve done this, all systems are set to go and your grill is ready for summer!

Steak is a favorite treat of ours, so I’m grilling some terrific T-bones. If you’re needing some Beef-spiration, there are tons of recipes here. That’s where this recipe came from. 🙂

Did you know that all meat sold at Sam’s Club is fresh, never frozen? Me neither! Together, these big beautiful T-bones weighed almost 4 pounds.

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Beef Steak with Colorful Peppers

Ingredients

2 beef T-bone steaks from Sam’s Club
2 small bell peppers, quartered

Parsley Pesto:
½ cup packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
4 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

1. Place pesto ingredients in food processor or blender container. Cover; process until parsley is finely chopped, stopping and scraping side of bowl as needed. 2. Spread pesto generously on both sides of beef steaks and bell peppers. Place steaks and peppers on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 11 to 16 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 15 to 19 minutes) for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness and until peppers are tender, turning occasionally. 3. Remove bones; carve steaks into slices. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Serve beef with peppers.

This is my kind of recipe: easy, normal everyday ingredients and simply scrumptious!  I am a really good cook, but I am not a great cook. If I look at over-complicated recipes, I begin to hear bumblebees in my head.

One note about the parsley: there was no Italian parsley to be found this week, a hazard of living in a rural area. Don’t worry, you can use regular parsley and it’s still delicious!

I grilled one steak very rare and left it whole for my husband. He’s working late so it will be a special treat for his dinner.

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The other I sliced as the recipe called for; it was terrific and husband-approved (he sneaked home for a taste after I texted him a picture.) If cooked rare, you can re-heat with eggs for breakfast (YUM!) or put it on a salad.

Now, go forth and grill! And have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend, folks.

Cheers!

UPDATE: Giveaway winners are: Hayley, Weesie, Lynn, Jenny and Peggy. Thanks for playing everybody, I appreciate it!

5 Tips For Cleaner Dishes

We have a holiday weekend coming up, graduations, reunions, parties, barbecues…in other words, it’s summer! Which means company, food, fun and…dishes! This post and the next are full of great tips to get you ready for the season.

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When I was a kid, our dishwasher was my mom. And, once in a while, me. But usually my mom. 😉

So I didn’t really have a dishwasher until…gosh…um…I don’t know. So it took me a long time to learn how to get cleaner dishes in my dishwasher. Based on my non-technical survey of the behavior of random guests at my house, they didn’t know either.

So I’m here to share my knowledge gleaned from experience, from reading, and from the dishwasher repairman.

1. Don’t rinse the dishes!

Yes, really. Do NOT rinse them.

(I figured you really didn’t need a picture to go with this one.)

Dishwasher soap is pH-balanced to work with dirty dishes. If you are rinsing your dishes, you are actually lessening the effectiveness of your detergent. Which means it won’t get them as clean.

Scrape the larger food particles off, and put them in there dirty. Yes, dirty.

I promise I do it all the time.

2. Load it full, and stack the dishes.

2015-05-18 19.58.37Yes, really. It’s hard to see in this picture, but there’s a clear glass bowl underneath the other bowls. And yes, that’s a dog food bowl on the top.

Confession: These are my dirty dishes right before I started the dishwasher. Hence, no closeup.

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Here’s my top rack. Cups, glasses, plastics, lids, and yes, more dog food bowls.

Another confession: I don’t run my dishwasher every day. I run it about every 2-3 day, either when it’s full or when it gets smelly, whichever comes first.

Once in a while I have a little residue, say, two spoons stick together or a couple of bowls moved during the washing process. But if I do, it’s only a little.

See how much work I’m saving you? 😀

3. Place like silverware together. 

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This is a tidbit I picked up from a colleague a few years ago that’s nothing short of brilliant. Why didn’t I think of this? Kudos to you if you’re already doing it!

Place all your forks together. (No worries, these are clean.)

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And, all your spoons.   I usually put the knives in the middle.

It saves a ton of time when you’re putting them away!

4. Run hot water.

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Turn on your faucet, let it run until the water is hot; THEN turn on your dishwasher.

This is probably one of the biggest factors in getting your dishes clean. Think about it…is the first cycle your dishes go through mostly cold water? HelLO! 😀 Try this and see if you don’t notice a difference immediately.

5. Don’t overuse a rinse aid.

Rinse aids are like cocktails and fine chocolates. A little goes a long way and is delightful, but too much is too much. And too much can seriously damage your dishwasher.

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This is what I use. I like that it’s all in one little cube, with no plastic coating. Pre-measured, so I don’t use too much. And with no plastic, it’s not only better for us but better for the environment.

If you are currently using a liquid rinse aid, do NOT use cubes with additional rinse aid in it. Using too much detergent and rinse aid helps keep our dishwasher repairmen in business.

I can neither confirm nor deny how I know this. 😉

Try some of these tips the next time you run your dishwasher, and let me know how it goes.

Happy Washing!

He Doesn’t Buy Me Flowers

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Just over 15 years ago, I promised to love and honor this guy for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.

There were certain things I knew about him before we got married.

He is a creature of habit, doesn’t like surprises, and doesn’t consider himself to be a creative thinker or gift giver. “Spontaneous” is not a word that I would normally associate with him.

This is a guy who bought his mom a football for Christmas when he was a kid. 😀

He’s a man’s man.

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Romantic dinners, girlie gifts or the occasional surprise aren’t part of the package, and Valentine’s Day is just another day.

It really doesn’t bother me in the least.

That’s the way my dad was, and I don’t know anyone who would say my dad wasn’t a good man.

Instead of flowers, I have financial security; I have dogs instead of diamonds, and much of our everyday life would probably seem pretty boring to some people.

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I wouldn’t change a thing.

And I love that every once in a while, he’ll say or do something that surprises me and makes my heart melt. It sustains me for weeks. Or months.

Last fall we were downstairs in the Black Dog Saloon listening to music, much as we often do on a typical weekend. He has become a big Chris Young fan over the last couple of years.

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“Hey, I want you to listen to this song. It makes me think of us.” he said.

A song began to play that I hadn’t heard before. I started to talk.

“No, I mean I want you to REALLY listen…to the words.” His eyes were piercing, earnest and insistent. Within seconds, I was speechless anyway.

I’ve been a rolling stone all my life
Flying all alone, flying blind
I’ve seen it all, I’ve been around
I’ve been lost and I’ve been found

But who I am with you is who I really wanna be
You’re so good for me
And when I’m holdin’ you, it feels like I’ve got the world in my hands
Yeah, a better man is who I am with you

I’ve got a ways to go on this ride
But I got a hand to hold that fits just right
You make me laugh, you make me high,
You make me wanna hold on tight

‘Cause who I am with you is who I really wanna be
You’re so good for me
And when I’m holdin’ you, it feels like I’ve got the world in my hands
Yeah, a better man is who I am with you
Who I am with you

Because of you I’m a lucky man
You’re the best part of who I am

Who I am with you is who I really wanna be
You’re so good for me
And when I’m holdin’ you, it feels like I’ve got the world in my hands
Yeah, a better man is who I am with you

Yes, who I am with you

 Yes, it brought tears to my eyes, and my heart melted. It has sustained me for months. And every once in a while, he’ll play it to surprise me and even sing along, if I’m lucky and there’s no one else around. 🙂

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How To Be Your Best Self

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I realized last week that my friend Vicky has shown me how to be my best self.

She and Bob left Monday after spending a fun-filled long weekend here at our house and camping at Kansas Speedway. We met Bob and Vicky in Florida, where we had the good fortune of being camped across the road from them for the last 2 or 3 years.

This year, we all just clicked. I mean, really, how often is it that a couple actually meets another couple and everybody likes each other?

“I wish we lived closer and could do more things together,” Bob said when they left.

“I wish we lived closer,” my husband said when they left.

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Friendship is an amazingly wonderful thing. I am proud to say I have a number of wonderful girlfriends who keep me grounded, listen to me patiently, drink with me if I need them to, tell me when I’m being an idiot, if I have spinach in my teeth, or toilet paper on my shoe (usually neither of which my husband notices.)

I adore them all, and I learn something from every.single.one.

But everyone needs a friend like Vicky. And if you don’t currently have a friend like Vicky, I suggest you immediately seek one out.

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We are all creatures of habit. Habit is comforting and familiar, and feels good in our stressed ever-busy lives.

Life feels good when we’re in a rut.

The problem is, a rut isn’t always good for us. Too much of a good thing is not always a good thing.

Vicky pushes me out of my comfort zone, in a good way.

You see, I like to color inside the lines. I am not a rule breaker. Oh sure, I might be funny and outgoing and creative, but I like to do this all within the confines of what’s comfortable. It’s human nature.

A couple of years ago, during a leadership retreat, my classmates and I participated in an exercise in which we all had to share one positive thing about each other.

My friend Cass, who is wonderfully ballsy, outspoken and authentic, (which I struggle with) sat down, put her hands on my knees and leaned forward.

“You know doll, the thing about you is that you need to get out of your own way,” she said sincerely, her eyes crinkling with her smile. 

Truer, more profound words were never spoken. WOW. I was stunned. How did she know? And I knew she was right.

Life teaches conformity. Life teaches you to blend in if you want to be comfortable. Because life can be very uncomfortable for you if you’re too unique.

I determined right then and there to let my redneck flag fly, so to speak. To be authentic. To be me. To be my best self.

And then along came Vicky.

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Vicky is bold, beautiful, has great style, and is comfortable in her own skin. She pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to be a better version of myself. And she makes me laugh. A lot.

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She’s been through hard times, good times, challenging times, wonderful times, and they’ve enriched the fabric that’s her life. She’s encouraged me to walk away from the mental checklist and open my eyes to new activities and new things. Thanks to her, I’ve developed a passion for swimsuit cover ups, breaking the (self-imposed) rules, and embracing life – and a wider variety of cocktails – with gusto.

I have a tendency to get too wrapped up in the hamster wheel that is life, forgetting that the little things really ARE the big things.

Just this weekend, she came up with several great ideas for my living room. Sunday evening we rearranged my furniture. She saw things I simply hadn’t thought about, no longer noticed.

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Because when you live in your home, after a while you don’t see things anymore. Day in and day out, you walk by the same things and after a while you no longer see them.

That’s why people call me to help them with their houses! Because I don’t live there, and I can see things they don’t.

My dear friend Christine tells me that every year I get her deeper out of her comfort zone wearing different, new colors. That’s what is so wonderful about the tapestry that we call friendship. We all give to each other.

Friendship surely has to be one of life’s best treasures. Do you have a friend who helps you be your best self?

Cheers, friends!

How To Organize Your Pantry

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I admit it: I’m nesting.

I really enjoy the time of year when the pace slows up a little and I have extra time to get some things organized. Recently, I re-worked my pantry, one shelf at a time.

Yesterday, I started on my refrigerator, one shelf at a time. (How did I manage to have something in there that expired in 2011? Seriously?)

I remember several years ago I cleaned out my mother’s refrigerator. There were some oranges in there that we figured had been in there about 6 years! They weren’t rotted, scaringly amazingly enough. They just looked slightly withered and…tired. 😀

Between now and the first of the year, we’re all going to be doing more cooking, more shopping, more baking, and all those fun things that go along with the holidays.

Organizing your pantry, knowing what you have and where it’s located, and using up foods that are near there expiration date saves  you both time and money. (Those are two things I hate to waste!) And, you’ll have more room for everything you’ll be stocking up on and won’t be wasting your money on things you don’t need.

Let’s make it as quick and painless as possible, and something you can do in 15 minutes, more or less.

One.shelf.at.a.time.

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I don’t recommend dragging everything out at once. OMG. That would send me straight to OVERWHELM, and quickly.

That’s why the “one shelf at a time” philosophy works so great! You can do it while you have something in the oven or on the stove (unless you have to be watching it, in which case I don’t recommend doing it that way.)

Are you stuck on eternal hold on the phone? Have 20  minutes before your casserole is done? PERFECT!

Pull everything off the shelf, and wipe it down.

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As you pull things out, check their expiration date. If something is expired, toss it. If it’s near their expiration date, keep it handy but don’t put it back on the shelf yet.

Those things we’re going to place in a special spot or near the front so you can be sure to use them up before they expire.

If you’re afraid you’ll forget to use it, write the expiration date with a Sharpie pen across the front. (I’ll leave it to your own judgment whether you want to use it past the expiration date. Personally, I think it all depends upon the item and its purpose.)

Then, place everything back in, grouping like items together. 

For instance, place all your soup together, canned tomatoes, paste, sauce or puree together; canned meats; canned beans; pastas, etc.

Won’t it be nice to know immediately whether or not you have Chicken Noodle Soup? Or Chili Beans?

Because I get a lift every time I open the door and my pantry looks nice, I try to position everything so it looks nice and I can easily see what the item is.

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I picked up some new canisters at Westlake’s last week. (Regular blog readers know of my fascination with Mason jars.)

I decant my coffee, and other items and place them in these jars. It looks so much nicer getting it out of these containers!

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These are my baking items, stored on the shelf above my stove (on top of my microwave, actually.) Don’t they look nice?

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Shelf by shelf…

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I repeat the process.

Smaller items that are easy to lose, like granola bars, etc. look great kept together in baskets.

If you have kids, you might want to place their snacks in small baskets that are easy for them to see and reach.

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Whenever you have a few minutes, work on a shelf, or part of a shelf at a time.

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If you have some things that aren’t expired but you’re wondering what on earth you are doing with them, simply re-home them.

Do you have a friend who’s a gourmet and will use them? Is it something the Food Bank could use? (Use your best judgment, but I kind of think capers or sun dried tomatoes probably aren’t a good choice for the Food Bank.) 😉

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Are there some things you need to restock? Start making your shopping list, and remember to leave space for them as you work. 

Let’s face it, there are certain things that you know you’ll probably be using over the next few weeks; start picking them up each time when you go to the store.

I placed items that need to be used sooner rather than later towards the front: front and center!  That way I’ll remember. Maybe you’ll want to designate a special spot, or shelf if you have room, for things that need to be used right away.

You can also label your shelves, if you move some things and want to avoid having members of your household “dig” for them. Ahem. 😉

This is a relatively simple task, but with a big payoff: not only will it make you feel good, but it will save you money and time as well as lower your stress level.

I’m all for that! 🙂

Have a wonderful day, friends.

A Visit From Titan

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Remember this pitiful, malnourished little guy who, with near-frostbitten feet, somehow managed to survive Winter Storm Titan and it’s -13 degree temperatures?

The day after this picture was taken, he met me for the first time at the vet’s office. He weighed 27.5 pounds and we weren’t sure for the first week or so if he would even survive his ordeal.

Well, he and his parents came to visit us recently. We hadn’t seen Titan since Peggy took him home in late April.

If this is the first time you’re reading about Titan or you want to refresh your memory, you can learn all the deets on his rescue here and on his adoption here.  

Well….

He looks magnificent.

The picture below is the first day I brought him home, the first time he’d been inside a home, and he’s greeting Ekko for the first time. (In case you’re wondering, you’re looking at Ekko’s behind on a short hair day.)

Meeting Ekko

He was about 5 months old then, and so near starvation that we were all concerned that if he survived, his growth may be stunted.

This is Titan and Ekko now. 🙂

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He weighs a strapping 67 pounds, and he’s not only bigger, he’s also filled out. He is still a couple of pounds underweight for his age, and he’s also probably still growing.

The transformation is amazing!

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Here they are side by side. Titan looks very handsome in his Chicago Police Department-issue collar!

And who did he want to play with the whole time he was here? The guy with the bad ‘wheel’, of course!

Poor Orbit. We went through a lot of sedatives while Titan was here.

Too bad Peggy’s sister and her family weren’t ready for a dog yet. Titan and Orbit could have been cousins!

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Isn’t he handsome?

It was kind of challenging to get pictures of him while he was here. I had to use my phone, and it has a slower shutter speed. Dogs move faster than you think, even when they aren’t moving fast.

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Cameras seem broken if the batteries are completely dead. I’m just saying. I’m not saying that was what was wrong with my camera, mind you. I’m just saying that right after John and Peggy went home, my camera started working again.

Go figure.

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“Mother, what are you doing?” Ekko asks. 

Back in Chicago, John and Peggy also took him to a canine dental specialist. Somehow, this little guy managed to survive a very high fever, such as distemper. It killed the enamel production on his teeth, leaving them only partially protected.

With state-of-the-art dental procedures that simply aren’t available here, they were able to grind down his critical teeth and apply a bonding agent. At his young age, he had to have three removed. This bonding agent will have to be re-applied periodically, and will hopefully be able to save his most critical teeth.

His teeth look terrific!

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We even celebrated his birthday while he was here. Although after all that dental work, he didn’t get any cake. (We ate his piece.) 😉

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It was fun watching him as he remembered each of us. He recognized my voice, and as he checked out our house to make sure everything was still in the same place. When Jimmy came home, he got excited: he remembered him too!

Sophia pulled in, and he got very excited. He remembered her too! And her car!

And he remembered Joe! It was fun watching him get excited about remembering something.

We took him back to see Dr. Webb and Dr. Lindquist.  I just happened to sit on the same bench I where I sat holding him for the very first time. Peggy sat directly across from me, holding Titan’s leash.

Titan walked over to me and leaned up close, looking around the room. As I sat there talking to him, I felt a connection with him, and knew he was remembering what was for him a life-changing moment.

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And his near-death experience has changed him. To this day, he despises windy days, and only spends as much time outside as he has to. It doesn’t matter if it’s a warm or cold wind. I would imagine the little guy experienced enough cold, biting wind on his lonely journey to last a lifetime.

Titan is special.

And it’s not just us who think so.

I knew it, looking at his pictures Leslie sent me.

It’s obvious, even to people who’ve never seen him before. We walked him into Tractor Supply, and a stranger remarked on what a beautiful dog he was, and wanted to pet him.

Peggy and John tell us it happens all. the. time. No matter where they are.

As sad as we were when he left with Peggy the first time, we had no pangs when he left this time. He is right where he is supposed to be, and with the people he was meant to be with.

I’ve wondered several times about the person who dumped him. No doubt, if he (or she) could see him now, they would wish they had kept him. Titan has matured into a dog that everyone would like to have.

Of course, his dad would first like to punch whomever dumped him…and then thank him for one of the best things (besides Peggy, of course!) that’s happened to him.

As usual, the weekend went way too fast, and before we knew it, it was time for them to go. We gathered everyone in front of the fireplace for a picture.

Naturally, when we want to take a picture of our family, we can’t get the girls to sit still or be in it. But get one of someone else…and it’s a whole different story.

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It’s a canine cluster.

Here’s the Bauer family. And two Stanton butts. Go figure. 😀

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Gotta love those happy endings. And the Bauers too, of course. 🙂

The Story of Orbit

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This handsome little face belongs to Orbit, our current foster dog. He’s lived with us for about a month now.

Orbit and his brother Orrey were about 3 months old when they were dumped in a rural cemetery. They lived underneath a big dumpster; starved for human attention, they would run out to greet people when they threw away their flowers.

Over the next 3 weeks, nice people gave them some food until a Good Samaritan contacted the rescue. The little guys went to separate homes so they could learn to be without each other, which would give them a much better chance at being adopted.

Orbit just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, a terrible accident happened, and he got ran over. With multiple pelvic fractures, he needed orthopedic surgery and time for the other fractures to heal. This picture was taken right after he came home from surgery.

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And crate rest. Lots of crate rest.

This is where I came into the picture. I guess you could say we are the Canine Critical Care Unit. 😀

Basically, the surgeon removed the ball joint attaching his leg to his pelvis. It had a large crack in it, and pieces were chipped off. The muscles act as a sling to protect and keep his leg and pelvis in place, and miraculously, over time, scar tissue forms. That scar tissue basically reforms a new ball joint.

That’s the simple explanation. The real one has lots of big words that I don’t know how to pronounce, much less spell. But then, that’s why I have ‘people.’ THEY know all about these things!

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Orbit’s a happy little guy. He really hated the plastic e-collar, and even though this looks like a clown collar, he was much happier with this collar. He was actually quite funny with it.

We had a few power struggles in the beginning. Orbit thought we should do things his way.

I disagreed, and after a 24-hour battle of the wills and my repeated assurance that “I am the boss of Orbit!”, we came to an agreement based on mutual respect and understanding.

I agreed that when we were all home and he was out of his crate and could be supervised I would allow him to be without his collar. In return, he agreed that when he had to wear it and go into his crate he would do it without objecting or complaining.

And he kept his word. He only made noise if he had to potty.

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 “I’m too sexy for my shirt, so sexy it hurts…”

 He’s a funny little guy. And he has the softest fur I’ve ever.seen.ever! It’s like he’s wearing a cashmere coat. He is so soft with big velvety ears, you just want to keep touching him. And since he believes the best place to sit is in your lap, you have plenty of opportunity.

He loves to snuggle.

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And he loves to play. But he’s not supposed to play.  Not yet. His body is still healing.

Of course, Ekko loves to play with him. And he really wanted to play with Titan when he and his parents were here. But it’s still too soon, so whenever he gets too rowdy he has to take a sedative.

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Poor guy. Do you suppose he wonders just why, every time he starts having fun, he gets really sleepy and has to go take a nap? 😀

If only he knew.

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He gets along with the other girls pretty well, most of the time, although Charra is pretty much above the play.

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He and Charra were sharing this bed as I got ready for work the other morning. I heard snarling, and walked in to see what was up.

They both look up at me, questioningly. “Yes? Did you need something?”

I’d leave the room, and within 30 seconds I’d hear snarling again. Each time I walked in, they would give me the same look.

Clearly, this was an issue that was none of my business.

Orbit 3He still sits a little funny, but that will get better as his  hip heals.

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Much of their playing involves them lying down. They’ve figured out nobody gets in trouble this way.

And, as always, we’ve pondered keeping him. We’ve done this several times, and each time we feel we’ve made the right decision to let them go.

If we keep him, we’ll name him Harley (he looks like a Harley), and try to figure out a babysitter while we’re gone to Florida.(Three is really too many when you’re in close quarters such as a camper. And only two people to walk them.) 😀

Something has held us back though to making it official.

And then yesterday, something happened which has made us think.

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“My name is Orbit, and I’m a crotch sniffer.”

Orbit LOVES kids. He saw the neighbors come home, and with great joy, bounded over to meet them and say hello. And tried to go back and see them several times last night.

Clearly, he misses playing with the kids at his first foster home.

And now we wonder: will we be robbing him of the joy of playing with kids if we keep him?

Sure, he would be happy with us. But are we really the best family for him?

And that, my friends, we don’t have an answer to yet. We’ll just let it ride for now, and eventually a decision will be made. (Even the lack of a decision is a decision in itself.)

He’ll either get adopted, or he won’t. And life will go on, until the next one.

So for now, we’ll squeeze him and his soft fur and his ears and laugh at his antics, and see where life takes us on its ‘Orbit.’ 😉

5 Fast, Easy Halloween Decorations

2014-10-15 09.42.24If you’ve been on the run so much that your brain is drawing a blank and you have no inspiration whatsoever…then this post is for you. Enjoy. 🙂

I believe there are some things in life that require a certain skill set which, for whatever reason, I simply don’t possess. I don’t know if it requires natural talent or if it’s learned behavior or simply patience.

Take weed-eating, for instance. I’ve tried to on more than one occasion; it’s simply beyond the scope of my capability. Is it because it requires too many body and brain parts to operate together in order to do it successfully? Playing the piano is another: I took lessons and advanced to the point where I began to play with both hands, and my brain simply shut down. You want me to do WHAT now? It was as if  my head was full of bumblebees. 😀

Also in this same category is large, elaborate autumn displays. I tried to create one last year; I bought a hay bale, a scarecrow, some mums, pumpkins, and other ‘accessories’ and created a small vignette on my front deck. I was never really happy with it.

The scarecrow kept blowing around backwards – I never really liked him anyway! – the hay bale got wet and heavy, and ended up remaining on my front porch for months afterwards. It lived there through the snow, sleet and freezing rain of winter, and carrying on through spring rains, until it finally started sprouting weeds. My husband hauled it off in the backhoe when we were installing our new stone flower bed. :-/

Over time, I’ve learned to accept my limitations, play to my strengths, do what I can reasonably do (and love!), and move on and enjoy my life.

Less is really more!

Simplicity is always elegant, and always in style.

Better to have a few, well-placed items that add to the beauty and harmony of your home, rather than to have it overdone and risk people thinking it’s a haunted house. (Although that does have some appeal for me, but see the above paragraphs should you need clarification on this issue.) 😀

Those of you who have the ability/time/desire/motivation to do the large, elaborate and/or clever displays may not find these ideas interesting, and that’s okay. We have different goals. But for those of you who are already overloaded, may this be the ‘push’ you needed to do a little something. Or to tweak what you have.

Remember, it’s all a matter of perspective.

1. Fill an unusual bowl with small pumpkins or gourds for a cute centerpiece.

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Choose a decorative serving bowl or platter, and place an odd number (I have 5) of pumpkins/gourds/whatever in it. The bowl should look full yet not overcrowded. You can go with a theme of two colors, or a variety of autumn tones. Whatever your fancy, it brightens your table, reflects the season, and is easy to see over if you’re eating dinner at the table.

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Is this bowl cute? I bought it at Tractor Supply. Yes, really! Doesn’t everyone get their home furnishings from farm supply stores and the local Fair? 😉

I’d been on the hunt for something since after Christmas last year, when the platter I previously had there mysteriously disappeared after I stowed it away while a Christmas centerpiece was in its place.

What I suspect happened is that since I stowed it in a handy, but unsafe, place, it was accidentally broken. Learn from me, grasshopper.

2. Switch out your candles for fall colors.

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This is a simple fix. These candles are obviously ones I used last year, and looking at them standing alone on the holder doesn’t really look like much.But when you take into consideration that I’ve placed a couple of pumpkins alongside them as well as an autumn arrangement I’ve had out on display for several weeks now…

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It brings the whole picture together in perfect harmony. Do Be Do Be Do.

3. Add some color to your porch lights.

If you have large porch lights, you may have to settle for switching out the bulbs to some Halloween-y colors. I chose to take it a little further, however, and picked up these plastic pumpkin treat buckets to place over them.

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Aren’t they adorable? They look like such happy little guys! I had to slit the back of the pumpkin about two inches in order for it to slide over the bottom of the light. But the handle helps secure it at the top and it fits perfectly.

An Important Note: This works for me because my bulb is recessed way back up into the fixture itself and does not come into contact with or close to the plastic. Make sure yours doesn’t either, and be sure to monitor it closely in order to avoid risk of fire. 

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I took this picture in the early morning hours today. Although the camera doesn’t allow you to see the pumpkin faces, rest assured they are there and they look adorable! They give my porch an eery orange glow.

4. Switch out your outdoor summer pillows for a fall or Halloween version.

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Currently, my front deck looks exactly as it did this summer, except for some ‘tweaking’. In the last month, I moved my houseplants indoors, created a fall arrangement in what used to be my onion planter, swapped mums for petunias when they looked scraggly, and swapped out the pillows. And added a real pumpkin.

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Voila! I have a fall-ish front porch that’s ready for Halloween.

Over the next couple of weeks, my water feature will disappear, and so will some other items on there. If I remove them a little at a time, the porch still looks good, rather than to have everything disappear at once.

Except for where my girls have been on the hunt for the critter who has taken residence under our front deck. My beautiful new petunia flowerbed now looks like this:

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Ya win some, ya lose some. Good thing it’s the end of the season!

Sorry. Squirrel.

5. Add an unexpected element.

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Regular readers of my blog know I enjoy adding in unexpected things. And, if you read my blog regularly, you’ll also know I love dogs. Especially black ones!

Your unexpected element could be painted pumpkins, pumpkins wearing faces, a cluster of unusual pumpkins, or some unusual displays. Something unexpected that adds a touch of humor or catches a person’s eye is a great choice.

I just happened to find this adorable black dog at Home Depot, and thought it had my name all over it. HA He lights up at night, and is a fun change from a simple jack o’lantern. 🙂

Everything you have here, my friends, is the sum total of all my decorating this year. I may yet haul out another thing or two, I haven’t really decided. I have significantly more than this, I just choose not to use it. I haven’t had the time this year.

Just because you have it doesn’t mean you have to use it.

Think of your Halloween supplies as your inventory, from which to pick and choose. This allows your display to be fresh and different each year.

What I’ve done is tasteful, elegant, cheerful, and understated. It’s not a pain to clean around. And it makes our house feel festive without feeling cluttered. We think it looks great.

And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 😀