Useful Objects

Lesson from my alarm clock…

I’ve written previously about how much I enjoy listening to podcasts and specifically mentioned Gretchen Rubin’s “Happier” as one of my favorites.  I was thrilled last week when Gretchen and her co host sister, Elizabeth, read an email I sent them on the air. I became so excited that the drivers around me in traffic must have thought I was having some kind of fit.

Another listener had previously complained about how they couldn’t get up in the morning, they just repeatedly hit the snooze button.  This was something I struggled with myself, sometimes hitting the snooze for hours (really!) each morning. Of course, I was always rushed and it was no way to start each day.  I tried different things, but finally went out and bought an old fashioned battery powered alarm clock with big bells on top, one that doesn’t have a snooze button. I know when my alarm goes off now that I must get up- no more nine minute reprieves.

This simple solution has been life changing for me.  In fact, it was such an easy fix that I hesitated to even offer it, but it made such a difference in my morning that I sent it in to the podcast as an email suggestion.  I never dreamed that my favorite podcasters would read it on air.

There is a bigger lesson here for me.  I often hesitate to post something on my blog or make a suggestion in a work or church group.  I think to myself, “no one wants to read about that,” or “this has probably already been tried and rejected as a solution.”  I need to push myself more to venture outside my comfort zone. I shouldn’t worry about possible judgment and be willing to showcase my ideas.  There may be some (or many!) that are duds, but I shouldn’t let that hold me back.  

seasons

A tiny taste of fall…

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Is it just me, or does August seem to be the longest month of the year?  I’m always so ready to say goodbye to the sweltering heat and humidity here in Houston (even though, typically, we will still be in the 90s for most of September) and to start celebrating pumpkin everything.  August is just that pesky 31 days standing in the way. This year, even though we are still suffering through ‘dog’s breath’ weather (a very appropriate term coined by a local meteorologist), I have seen some signs that relief is coming.  It may not be soon, but it’s there on the horizon, waving faintly in the distance.

First of all, we had a bonafide cool front push through town last week – this never happens during the summer!  It was nice to be able to get out and walk on a couple of cooler and drier mornings. I’ve gone back to walking on the treadmill at the gym because the weather has been brutally hot and it was nice to get a break.

Second, on a visit to Cracker Barrel for dinner, I discovered their country store was already decked out for autumn, including this goat milk lotion scented like Caramel Pumpkin Spice.  This stuff smells amazing (just like fall!) and every time I put it on I’m picturing apples and acorns.

Not an affiliate link, but also available at Amazon

My favorite part of fall is Halloween and I’ve learned that one of the Spirit Halloween stores near us will open on August 9!  This is probably too early for some people, but I can’t wait! My son is also a fan and visiting these stores has been part of our yearly ritual since he was a preschooler (he’s now 22).  I’ve been watching with envy as others on Instagram discuss the earlier opening of their local stores and now I see it’s something that’s going to happen here too.

When I start seeing these signs, I know fall is right around the corner…

And the last thing that has captured my interest is the noticeably shorter days.  This is my least favorite part of fall, but I have noticed that I’m able to get to work before the sun fully rises, a true sign that I may need to break out my sweaters (ok, probably not yet) but I’m fully reveling in all these little signs.  It may be the only things that enable me to make it through this next month!!

crafting

July card- “Bee” sweet

I make a card each month for a group of people at my church and select friends and this was my card for July.  I originally designed this as a card to sell and I will still be offering it, but when I saw this Bible verse a few months ago, I thought these would pair perfectly for a summer card..

In a world where so much of our communication is electronic and impersonal, I love being able to brighten someone’s day with special something in their mailbox.

Clip art purchased from digitalartsi on Etsy

Movies

The Lion King

In 1994 I was a newly married, young stepmother when The Lion King animated feature premiered.  I wanted to have the kind of family where the kids got to see the cool Disney movies in the theater, as that was not the experience I had growing up.  I remember piling into the seats, excited that the kids were looking forward to seeing the movie, passing a giant popcorn bucket between us. As the first notes of “The Circle of Life” began and the sun spilled across the savanna in a sequence that almost made me forget that this was an animated movie, I became teary with emotion.  When newborn Simba, cuddled close to his mother, gave the most adorable little sneeze I have ever seen, I knew this was going to be a favorite, not just for the kids, but for me too.  

The movie became an instant classic.  It was, up until that time and perhaps since, the only children’s movie to inspire such deep emotions in me.  I cried (a lot), I laughed, and I cheered with the kids when the lions reclaimed the Pridelands at the end of the film.  

I’m sure we purchased some of the merchandise (a Disney movie always has lots and lots of merchandise, right?) and I know we had a copy on VHS tape.  It was a movie I shared with my own son when he was old enough, though he was a much bigger fan of the Disney version of Tarzan.  I still hear Phil Collins singing “You’ll Be In My Heart” in my sleep sometimes- a result of the hundreds of times I listened to that Tarzan song back then.  But The Lion King remained a special favorite and when we adopted our first set of cats in the early 2000s, we named them Simba and Nala.

Our Nala and Simba

Though I once was a pretty avid movie viewer, in recent years, I just don’t care for the experience anymore.  Tickets are expensive and so are the concessions. I like the option of being able to put the movie on pause when I have to go to the ladies’ room (which I always do) and the type of films being released today just don’t excite me, the way they once did.

One of my biggest complaints is that so many movies are just remakes, prequels, and sequels.  I don’t see many of them, so maybe they are amazing pieces of cinema that I am just missing out on, but I’m OK with that.  However, in spite of my normally negative view of Hollywood retreads, when I heard that a live action type, CGI version of The Lion King was coming out, I knew this was going to be a movie I wanted to see.

Even though I knew the elements of the story as all the major plot points are the same, I loved the new version.  The special effects were incredible. The animals looked very realistic in both their appearance and the way they moved and interacted with one another and the details in the scenery were just as meticulous.  The oasis where Pumbaa and Timon live was especially breathtaking. And since it was a more realistic depiction, some of the more fantastical scenes from the cartoon version were left out, which I thought went well with the overall tone of the movie.  I still laughed and cried and many times found myself playing the same scenes in my mind from the animated version as I watched the action on the screen. I truly enjoyed it.

We went to a 9:55 pm showing to accommodate my son’s work schedule and I was surprised as I watched the other customers leave the theater (which was full) that there were no young children.  It was interesting that most of the other moviegoers were at an age where they probably saw the original in theaters 25 years ago as kids. I found that very fitting for a movie whose theme is the circle of life.  

Food

National Pecan Pie Day

from http://texasbbqtreasurehunt.com

Today is National Pecan Pie Day- now that is something my taste buds are happy to celebrate!  

I love pecan pie and if it comes with chocolate chips (like Cracker Barrel’s version), I’ll eat that too.  I love how the sticky sweetness of the filling is tempered with the blander crunch of the pecans. 

My favorite pecan pie story is actually about one that we didn’t buy.  For several years my husband and I would travel from Houston to Kingsland, Texas to visit his sister.  We always took a scenic route on State Highway 71 that took us through Bastrop (beautiful little city!) and Austin.

There was a business we passed on these trips with a giant squirrel out front.  I mean giant as in 14 feet tall giant. Of course, we couldn’t ignore that, so we made time to stop and check it out.

The store is the Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Company and it carries every imaginable pecan treat, both sweet and savory (and had lots of samples!).

The most unique part of the store, in my opinion, is the vending machine out front.  It’s not an average vending machine as it sells all kinds of pecan goodies to after hour shoppers, including entire pecan pies.  Yes, you can purchase a whole pie from this machine.

Sadly, we didn’t actually buy one.  Pie isn’t the best travel food, in my opinion, and there are all kinds of small town bakeries along this route that offer goodies that are more portable.  However, the concept (and the squirrel!) obviously made an impression on me.

http://www.berdollpecanfarm.com

Pets

All-American Pet Photo Day

Today is All-American Pet Photo Day!  Pet holidays are my second favorite type of holiday (behind tasty food ones, of course) and lucky for me there are bunches of them.

I’m including a couple of pictures of my cats to celebrate.  We adopted these from a rescue organization last winter and have just fallen in love with them.  

Max- and this is a true story!

We have had pets before, another set of cats and a dog, who lived long, very loved lives as part of our family before passing away, but I have never had pets that I doted on quite this much.  I hadn’t really been able to figure out why, but my son offered a great insight. He said that our other pets were like our children and now this set is like our grandchildren.

This is so true!  Our other pets were just worked into the fabric of all the crazy things that went on in our lives as part of raising our family.  And I feel busy now, but it’s a different kind of busy, not the frantic rush to get kids off to school, homework, and lunches made every day. 

I’m much more patient with these cats and go out of my way to indulge and pamper them.  Even though they are our own and not our kids’ pets, they do get treated like grand cats (and as you can see, they look totally spoiled).

I can’t wait to check out #allamericanpetphotoday and see everyone else’s fur babies!

Mia- and another true story!
Food · Holidays

National Graham Cracker Day

Today is National Graham Cracker Day, the date chosen (I am guessing) because of their importance in the creation of s’mores, a traditional summertime treat.  These crackers were first eaten by the followers of a Reverend Graham, an early vegetarian and temperance leader in the 1800s. I always thought he had created the food, but apparently not, according to Wikipedia.  Nevertheless, his name will always be tied to this sweet treat.

Photo by rasik on Pexels.com

I am not a camping fan as I prefer all my sleeping to take place in climate controlled, bug free places, so my experience with true campfire s’mores is very limited.  I did make microwave ones for Fourth of July one year, but I decided they were a little too rich for my tastes. However, graham crackers have such a mild flavor that they make a great base for many pies and cheesecakes, which is how I normally enjoy them.  My mom used to make homemade cookies out of graham crackers, spreading them with canned frosting, which made a yummy, cheap, treat.

I have made my own version of lazy girl s’mores by spreading one graham cracker with marshmallow creme and another with Nutella and pressing them together to make a sandwich.  They were incredibly tasty but I discovered that I can’t be trusted with a jar of Nutella, so they don’t make my menu often.

My favorite way to enjoy graham cracker flavor is eating Golden Grahams cereal.  I think part of my obsession with this cereal is because I could never convince my mom to buy it when I was a kid.  Sadly, this is another food that I can’t be trusted with, so I don’t buy it often either, however, I may need to pick up a box since it is a holiday after all.

clipart from http://digitalartsi.com