Discovering Podcasts…

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During the week I commute by car about 35-60 minutes one way to work each day and finding something to occupy my mind has been a challenge.  I like music, but even with satellite radio, I found myself frequently switching channels trying to find a song I wanted to listen to.  I’ve started using my Amazon app for music, but that sometimes isn’t enough to distract me. I used to listen to news channels, but now that’s become so ugly and depressing.  Audiobooks were a possibility, but I don’t always want to make a commitment beyond my immediate trip to work. Podcasts have become the perfect choice.

My coworker was an avid listener of podcasts long before I gave them a try. I had played with the app on my phone, but really wasn’t sure what a podcast was.  Her enthusiasm finally won me over and once I started listening, I wanted to find more.

I was listening to Half Size Me, a weight loss podcast, which I found positive and uplifting, and Heather, the show’s host, mentioned a podcast called My Favorite Murder.  So I tried that one, and uh, no, it’s very popular, but was too disturbing for my tastes.  I couldn’t even finish the episode.

Several of the people I knew in online weight loss communities talked about Gretchen Rubin and her book The Four Tendencies. She has a podcast called Happier, so I tried that next.

It’s funny to talk about it now, because I’ve become such a big fan, but when I listened to my first episode, I didn’t like it and thought her followers sounded almost like members of a cult.  I’m glad I gave her another chance.

Gretchen does the podcast with her sister, Elizabeth Craft, who is a TV producer in Los Angeles and one of the best parts about the podcast is their relationship.  I can tell they genuinely care about each other and want to build each other, as well as their listeners, up. There is no drama.

In the past several months I have built up a small library of favorites that I listen to every week no matter what the topic is. Satellite Sisters is great because it’s so optimistic and I can relate to them in their midlife adventures and The Popcast with Knox and Jamie is another top choice. It’s kind of silly, but really upbeat.

I have others that I enjoy, but pick and choose only the specific episodes I want to invest in.  I also like mixing it up by looking for new listens to add to my library. I try to stay away from the darker topics, just my preference, but I did like the suspense of Dirty John and the well acted drama of Homecoming.

My long commute is now much more enjoyable and I am able to experience all the things I liked about talk radio, without the downsides.  


Avoiding the summertime blues…

clip art purchased from http://www.digialartsi.com

I make a card each month that I share with some members of my church and any other friends I think might need a little pick-me-up.  I know sending cards has gone out of fashion, but that’s precisely why I do it. I like giving people something to look forward to in their mailbox.

This purchased clip art made me think of summer the moment I saw it on Etsy and I was excited to put it together now that I’ve finally figured out how to manipulate the images in Microsoft Word.

My favorite part of this card is the joyous little sun. I know summer usually is a happy, relaxed time for most people, but I used to get really depressed.  Houston is just so hot for so long. We are already at least 90 degrees every afternoon and will not see cooler temperatures until the end of September (if we’re lucky).  There is also the constant specter of a hurricane when living this close to the coast.

clip art purchased from http://www.digitalartsi.com

However, a couple of years ago I discovered that by reframing my thoughts around summer and looking for the positives, I could make a difference in my mood.  It worked so well last year I once again came up with a bunch (well, actually a few) of the things that I really like about summer and will be replaying this list in my head for the next several months.

  • Cherries, though oddly enough I only started eating cherries a couple of years ago.  I generally don’t like messy food, such as ribs or wings, and I always avoided cherries because of the pits.  However, once I actually ate some, I decided the flavor was worth the mess and now eagerly look forward to their arrival in stores.
  • Watermelon- all I can say is yum!
  • Longer days- I have noticed that sunlight is a real mood booster for me.  Days are so long now it is still light outside when I go to bed.
  • Less traffic- no school means less congestion on my commute back and forth to work.
  • Fall stuff starts showing up in stores.  I know it sounds weird, but fall is my favorite season and I am a very anticipatory person.  I can deal with the heat and humidity a lot better when I can start shopping for pumpkins.

I hope my card recipients like this little visual burst of summer and that everyone is able to celebrate a happy and safe season!

clip art purchased from http://www.digitalartsi.com
Holidays · Pets

National Hug Your Cat Day

Today is National Hug Your Cat Day!

I tried to find out the origins of this day, but couldn’t find much information, just typical calls to love on your kitty.  But let’s be honest, I don’t think most cats want to be hugged, especially in response to an arbitrary holiday.

A quick scan through Pinterest images for Hug Your Cat Day confirms I’m right, most the pictures show very enthusiastic owners and tolerant (if not downright hostile) kitties.

One of my cats, Mia, is very particular about whether she will even allow us to pet her, so I think she is a definite “no” for hugging.  The other one, Max, can be very cuddly and snuggly, but only when he’s ready.

My entire family is introverted and I think that’s why cats work better for us.  We understand the need for affection on our terms and the desire for solitude.

Max making his feelings known.

Would you let someone else do your grocery shopping?

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I have a confession to make.  Last Saturday I used a pickup service for my groceries.

Why would this be something worthy of a confession?  Well, when this option first started popping up as an option in my local stores, I rolled my eyes.  It sounded kind of lazy. Would people really pay a stranger to shop for them? Would they trust them to pick the best fruit?  The freshest bread?

I knew some early adopters who really liked it, and although I heard complaints about short expiration dates, most of the gripes were about price.  One local store was charging a flat fee AND a surcharge on every item, though most stores just charged one or the other.

Pros- of course, it’s convenient.  Not only do I avoid the store (and the lines, crowds, and crying kids), I have the app on my phone, so as I menu plan or see a need for something, I can add it to my cart as I go to be included on the next week’s haul, no worries about a list.

Cons- there are things I miss when I don’t actually see the item in my hand.  For example, I bought some corn starch. I just went with the cheapest option, however, if I would have seen the design of the top of container and how it closed so poorly, I would have gone with another brand.  Corn starch is not something I want spilling all over my pantry.

Pro/con?- I don’t get to see new products or off list items I might be interested in.  It’s great that I will make less impulse buys, but sometimes those are the products I’ve found really useful.  

The store I use doesn’t charge for this service at this time, as long as I make a minimum purchase, so I consider that a real bargain.  I admit that my husband and I still buy our own bread and fruit. I just can’t trust a stranger (at least not yet) to make the best choice on those items.  I also don’t allow substitutes, if the store is out of what I specifically requested, I’ll pick it up myself.

I feel confident that these types of services will just continue to proliferate.  How long until someone comes to my home to fill up my gas tank or wash my car? Actually those sound like good ideas….no eye rolling here.


Happy World Otter Day!

designed with clip art from http://www.digitalartsi.com

Yay, a day to celebrate one of the earth’s most entertaining little creatures, the otter!

This day was started five years ago by the International Otter Survival Fund to raise awareness about otters as endangered species.  

My son loved otters growing up and we have visited the river otters at The Houston Zoo multiple times and the sea otters at The New York Aquarium.  He had several stuffed toy versions, books and room decorations. Our best otter product was his Halloween costume. I used a generic animal costume pattern, because of course, I couldn’t find a specific otter costume.  It took some adapting, but I was thrilled with how it turned out (he even had a plastic fish).

Food reviews

Happy International Hamburger Day!

Photo by Foodie Factor on Pexels.com

This day has been celebrated annually on May 28 since 2011.  I couldn’t find any greeting cards to commemorate the event, but let’s be honest, no one wants a card- they want a burger!

Business Insider ranked the top 10 fast food burgers in the US and in their rankings, In-N-Out topped the list.  I don’t have one near me, but I tried them on a trip to Austin once and didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, it seemed pretty average to me, but to each his own.  However, I heartily agree with some of the other burgers listed in their top ten.

  • Five Guys– awesome burgers, flavorful and juicy (and the fries are so good!) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Fuddruckers– love their burgers, very flavorful, but the buns and the topping bar really elevate these ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Wendys– good burgers, but the franchises near me have HORRIBLE customer service, so I don’t eat there often ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Whataburger- another restaurant that is not found everywhere, but lucky me, I live near several.  This is our family’s go-to fast food burger as it’s inexpensive and the burgers are consistently good.  They are flat, not really juicy, with a basic bun, but have a unique flavor that our family enjoys and Whataburger gets bonus points for having an amazing breakfast menu as well! ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Photo by Kittisak Kunalittipon on Pexels.com
Looks like this would be fun for Halloween!

I couldn’t finish this post without sending a shout out to my husband, who makes incredible hamburgers at home.  My mother never seasoned food when she cooked it, so I had the opinion that home cooked burgers were blah, until I had one he made. Bryan is in no way a gourmet, but I credit him with showing me the value of seasoning food when cooking, it takes his homemade burgers to another level.  They are delicious, juicy, and much cheaper than anything we could get elsewhere. 💛💛💛💛💛


Happy Dinosaur Day!!

Look who else shops at Target…from Summer 2018

I saw a reference several weeks ago that claimed May 15 was National Dinosaur Day.  I got really excited as I love discovering obscure holidays and I’m a huge fan of dinosaurs.  I started planning dinosaur greeting cards and gift wrap ideas, but then came across another source that said it was actually on May 21, and then a third source that said June 1.  I guess it doesn’t matter which day it gets celebrated, there’s enough dinosaur love for all of them.

Someone should’ve let Bath and Body Works know about National Dinosaur Day

Before my husband and I got married, we had gone to see a very forgettable Sylvester Stallone movie and as we exited the theater, we saw a long line of people waiting for another movie, obviously a big one.  We found out it was a late night, first showing of the original Jurassic Park and we scrambled to get in line too.  Neither one of us hesitated, though we both had to get up early to work the next day.  It was so worth all the sleep we lost that night!

My son has always been a dinosaur fan, from Halloween 1999

I tell my 22 year-old-son, before Jurassic Park, we hadn’t really seen life like dinosaurs.  Those old timers who were around and paying attention in 1993 may remember that before the movie opened, the previews really didn’t show many dinosaurs.  It was a great ad effort to actually entice viewers to the theater. I will never forget seeing (and hearing) the T-Rex on the big screen for the first time.  It was incredible!

Land of the Lost TV show in the 1970s, dinosaurs were really not very life-like

My son has grown up watching the Jurassic sequels and the excellent television production of Walking With Dinosaurs.  He has been to the live action experiences of Dinosaurs Alive and Jurassic Quest that turn animatronic beasts into something like playground attractions. The technology available in toys and such for today’s kids has just slightly improved so the stars of Jurassic Park don’t have quite the same impact on younger kids as they did on my husband and I in 1993.  

It doesn’t matter to me, if I catch the original playing on TV, even today, I still remember the thrill I had the very first time I saw it.

Happy Dinosaur Day (whenever it gets celebrated!)

Joshua is still a dinosaur fan! From 2017