Is Re-gifting Gauche?



I’m sure all of us have received the ‘wrong’ gift at some point in our lives. Sometimes it’s the wrong size, the wrong color, or the wrong style. Sometimes it’s something we already have. Most of the time it’s something we just don’t want cluttering our closets.

If you can’t return the item, the best thing you can do is donate it or re-gift it to someone who would appreciate it more.

Although there’s nothing wrong with re-gifting, I think there are guidelines to observe.


• Always know who originally gave you the gift. There’s nothing more embarrassing than giving the same gift to the original giver.

• Never give the gift in lieu of the gift you originally planned for someone. In other words, wait until after the holidays (or birthday) to give this gift. If you’re pressed for time, you can give it as the primary gift, but deep down you’ll always know you ‘cheated’.

• Consider being honest. Many times during the course of conversations, a friend will mention they wanted such and such. If you luck into this conversation, this is the perfect time to tell him that you have that item in storage and would love to give it to him.

• If it’s truly a hideous gift, recycle it or toss it. I hate throwing anything away, but I’ve actually received items that were so bad I couldn’t even give them to a charity. Sometimes it’s best just to end the misery and recycle it if it’s at all possible.


What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received? Do you re-gift? Has anyone ever given you a secondhand gift?

This Week’s Menu, December 4, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of December 4, 2016

Breakfast: Orange Danish
Lunch: Cheese and crackers
Dinner: Taco salad: Greg is really loving these. He asks for it all the time.

Breakfast: Bacon and eggs
Lunch: Soup and salad
Dinner: Salmon and orzo with spinach

Breakfast: Bagels with salmon-cream cheese spread
Lunch: Pita sandwich
Dinner: Burgers

Breakfast: Cheese quesadillas
Lunch: Red beans and rice
Dinner: Red snapper

Breakfast: Cheese omelette
Lunch: Soup
Dinner: Stuffed pork chops

Breakfast: Kolaches
Lunch: Cheese and crackers
Dinner: Shrimp stir fry

Breakfast: Breakfast burritos
Lunch: Salad
Dinner: Fajitas


Ahh…I finally feel human again! Still coughing, but not so bad now. I want to focus on seafood this week, but I want to end with a pork roast that’s been sitting in my freezer too long. I can get a couple of nice chops out of it and then use the leftovers for fajitas and crispy salad toppings and omelette filling.

I don’t do stuffed chops too often, but it’s ridiculously easy to make. A quarter cup of seasoned bread crumbs, onions, and celery sautéed in butter.  Stuff the chops and bake. Baste the tops with butter, and finish up with a quick char from the broiler. Do not overcook. You’ll dry it out otherwise.

We picked up some very delicious brie over the weekend. I thought I didn’t like brie, but this one was good. Cheese and crackers are better than a full lunch.

I’m sorry to report that I probably won’t decorate this year. What with getting sick so late in the year and then the floor in shambles, there’s no point in adding more burdens. We do expect company this month, but they’ll have to settle for our witty repartee over decorations.

Have you decorated for the holidays yet? Do you go all out inside and out? How’s the shopping going?


Gift Guide for the Reader


gift-guidesHaving been an author myself, I know how hard it is to get exposure. Readers too have it hard because there’s such a thing as too much choice. Where to start?

Today, let’s start here. If you love books and want to encourage the joy of reading, do an author a favor and share this link on your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Buy a book this Christmas, even if it’s for yourself.

Next to leaving a review, the nicest thing you can do for an author is spread the word.

It’s Christmas! Let’s share. While it’s too late to add any more books to this post, if you have a book you’d like to tell people about, feel free to include a link to your book in the comments below.


garden-of-lost-souls      shelbys-ghost      blind-temptation

moon-over-donamorgh     cheyney-behave    seeker-4

fifth-season      whispers-at-wongan-creek      deep-as-a-tomb

coils        secrets-of-desire      seer-of-souls

assassins-heart       zoraida-grey-and-the-family-stones       going-going-gone

small-town-christmas-tales     a-merry-little-christmas     take-two

For other gift ideas, here are some other guides to try:

Gift Guide for the Animal Lover
Gift Guide for Gardeners
Gift Guide Just for You
Gift Guide for the Creative Soul
Gift Guide for Silver Seniors


How Much Christmas Do You Buy?


The congestion has moved to my chest. I feel good for a little while, but get winded after any exertion. I have to pace myself.

I’m chomping at the bit because my wood floors are half sanded here and there. I can’t decorate until the floors are sanded/refinished. And I can’t finish the floors until I feel better. So I wait…with my undecorated house and half sanded floors.

I could put the floors off until January and cover the floors with rugs for now, but it feels like a failure on my part. I so wanted a perfect house for the holidays.

At least my shopping is done. The other day while I was coughing up a lung, I read an article that said you should buy four gifts for each person. One practical, one wearable, one wished for, and one book.

I come from a large family. During lean times, my parents bought us a board game or a community toy. In various years, I remember a metal top that you cranked to spin, ball and jacks, and a Spirograph.

It was no big deal to share a community gift. We were used to it. Later, when times were better each of us would get one gift each.

The idea of giving four gifts per person boggles my mind. Maybe that’s a sign of better financial circumstances, but when you read that the majority of Americans are not saving enough for retirement, I question the validity of the four gift guideline.

Even when I became an adult, I would never give more than one gift each. Today, I make an exception for my mother because, well, she’s my mother.

When Greg and I used to exchange gifts we had a spending cap. It didn’t matter how many gifts you gave as long as it was under the dollar amount we set aside. Trust me, it was a very low ceiling. 😀

I’m curious though. How do you feel about this etiquette rule of four gifts each? Do you have a preset limit on how much you’ll spend on each person? How much more shopping do you have left?

PS  Can you believe tomorrow is December already?!

Don’t forget that I plan to host an author day tomorrow. It’s the Gift Guide for Readers. If you have a book you’d like to promote you have a few hours left to get in. (There is no cost to authors. It’s my Christmas shout out for you.)

If you’d like to see some of the other gift guides, check these out.

Gift Guide for the Animal Lover
Gift Guide for Gardeners
Gift Guide Just for You
Gift Guide for the Creative Soul
Gift Guide for Silver Seniors




Start a Gift Closet Now


I have a closet in my studio where I keep a stash of gifts.  Some years I’m better at keeping it stocked than others, but my guidelines are always the same.

• I try to stock gender-neutral gifts.
• No trash. Always the good stuff.
• And most importantly, buy them at their lowest price.

Sometimes I find a few nice things after Christmas, but let’s face it, by then most of the merchandise is pretty picked over. In the last few years I found some great bargains through Amazon’s Lightning Deals. These only last a few hours, so if I spot a good price, I jump on it.

I also like to shop BEFORE Thanksgiving, and the middle of summer. Retailers often drop prices around then, perhaps to make room for new stock.

I shop for friends throughout the year. If I see something I know they want or love, and find it at a good price, I’ll buy it and give it to them. You don’t need a birthday or holiday to give gifts.

Between you and me I prefer to give gifts for no particular reason. This way, they don’t feel obligated to reciprocate.

A gift closet is a lifesaver when you simply couldn’t get away to shop, or you have unexpected guests drop in. And don’t just think Christmas. The gift closet is for any time of the year: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and just because I love you days.

Some of the things I stock:

• Christmas music (CDs)
• Wine accessories
• Board games
• Crystal
• Sofa Throws
• Dog toys (Yes, I always remember my dog friends!)
• Cookie tins (which I fill up with freshly baked cookies)
• Leather bound journal
• Tool kits
• Car kits
• Books (either my own or from a relatively famous author)
• Stuffed toys

I try not to buy anything with electronics in case it needs returning. Anything perishable, including makeup and perfumes aren’t good choices either.

Having a gift closet has saved my bacon on more than one occasion.

Do you have any suggestions on what to keep in a gift closet?


This Week’s Menu, November 27, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of November 27, 2016

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Last of the turkey leftovers
Dinner: Beef and barley stew

Breakfast: Ham and eggs for Greg, Toast for me
Lunch: Soup
Dinner: Steak and baked potato

Breakfast: Biscuits and gravy
Lunch: BLTs
Dinner: Beef and barley stew, leftovers

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Soup
Dinner: Taco salad

Breakfast: Cheese omelette
Lunch: Ravioli
Dinner: Baked chicken

Breakfast: Breakfast burritos
Lunch: Salad with leftover chicken strips
Dinner: Salmon with wild rice

Breakfast: Homemade egg McMuffin
Lunch: Grilled vegetable pita sandwiches
Dinner: Pizza night…if Greg makes the pizza. 🙂

Another week when I didn’t fulfill my menu as planned. This time I got sick!

It was totally out of the blue. Sunday I was fine. Monday I could barely hold my head up. I feel better now, but still sniffling and sneezing.

I was sorry to miss Thanksgiving with my friends. Greg fried a turkey. It wasn’t the elegant spread I usually put out but it was a wonderful meal. Greg did everything. I attempted mashed potatoes, but really all I did was mash the potatoes and put in the right amount of milk and sour cream.

Tip: For really great tasting smashed taters, drop in a few spoonfuls of sour cream.

This week, the menu will be simple. I’m still a bit too weak for anything labor intensive.  I’m keeping it simple too in case Greg wants to take over the cooking duties.

During my sick week, I watched a documentary on Jamestown, where the settlers starved to death and resorted to cannibalism. The majority died of disease long before they starved. Makes you glad we have meds and doctors. I would’ve been a goner had I contracted the flu back then–and probably taken most of the population with me.

Sobering thought for the week. No matter how bad you think you have it, it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be.


Even My Hair Hurts


Well…I thought I was going to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends, but germs decided to have their way with me. I’m cold. I’m hot. Everything hurts, including my hair. I had my flu shot but maybe this is one of those strains they didn’t consider.

Greg has taken good care of me, so all is well. He’s cooking tomorrow. All hail a man who can cook.

I hope your Thanksgiving is more pleasant. With any luck I’ll be back in fighting spirit next week. For now I’m content to drink my hot cocoa and stay under the covers.

Stay well, and have a second helping on me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


State of the Homestead, November 2016



You wouldn’t think I’d have much to report being November, but we’ve had a very mild fall. Winter for us is usually January and February. December is cold, but it’s the kind of cold that makes Northerners laugh at us.

cucumberGarden: After numerous deer attacks on my garden, I’ve had to fence off individual raised beds. It’s a pain in the keester for me, but at least my spinach and chard are safe from the savage maws of killer deer.

I planted a lot of brassicas and lettuces. Surprisingly, after some heavy rains earlier in the month, I had a new crop of eggplant and cucumbers appear. It’s very late in the season for them, but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

I’m still having problems with my squash. Even though I moved them to a new bed, the worms weren’t far behind. At this rate I won’t be growing squash next year. We’ll see. I might try growing one or two in pots near the house. In the meantime I’ll pray for a couple of really cold nights to kill off any bad bugs still in the ground.chard

Chickens: I’ve been letting them free range now that most of the garden is fenced off. They’re funny though. If they hear us coming, they’ll come running from the forest to see if we have anything for them. Work for your food, you loafers! Why the heck do you think I let you loose?

I plan to cull a couple of ‘known’ roosters this Friday, but I’ll have to wait until the rest get older. I’d hate to cull a hen by mistake.

I had to put one in the freezer already. It stupidly went into the dog run while Iko was there. The chicken never had a chance. Luckily, Iko snapped its neck quickly so all I had to do was clean and freeze. Luckily too, he was a rooster.

On the negative side, none of the older hens are laying. I’ve kept aside several dozen eggs for our needs. Now to see if it was enough to keep us in eggs until the spring.

panGoats: We tried finding a paramour for our two Nubian does. They’re either too expensive or not good enough for my girls. It’s a year off yet, but if the Nubians sell as well as the Boers, we might sell the Boers and stick to Nubians. They’re smaller and much easier to handle.

I try to be kind to the owner when I reject a prospective goat. I’m not being snooty. It’s just that a good bloodline is just as important for the buck as it is for the doe. I was lucky with the Boers. I didn’t know much about goats at the time. I had to rely on my instincts and hope for the best.

Home: If you caught my blog post for Sunday, you saw that we’re in the middle of sanding our wood floors. What a mess! We were sanding with small hand sanders but I think we’re wearing ourselves out, so we’ve decided to rent one of those big professional sanders. It’s a lot of work, but I think once that’s behind us, I can call the house done.

I do have one bedroom I’d like re-carpeted, but that can wait until I’ve paid off my kitchen cabinets.

Thanksgiving: We’re celebrating at a friend’s home so no cooking for me. I did buy a turkey while it was on sale since Greg likes having turkey at other times of the year.

This is the first time he didn’t argue with me on the size of the bird. To Greg, bigger is always better, but we’re only two people (and two dogs). We can’t eat that much turkey without getting bored.

If the turkeys stay on sale this week, I might buy one more because it’s actually cheaper than chicken. I cook a lot of chicken for the dogs. I’m sure they won’t mind the change. Plus I get to save the turkey legs for Greg.

Christmas: Have you been reading my Gift Guides? I think I’ve bought nearly all my gifts for this year. There are still a couple of little things I’m looking for, but for the most part, I’m done! Now I can relax.

Authors, don’t forget that I’m running a Readers’ Gift Guide in December. If you want to be included, email me through my contact page.


greg-and-nanaDogs: Nana has Greg wrapped around her little paw. I swear, no matter how naughty she is, he always forgives her. How do I get that cute?

Iko has really softened since Tank passed away. He was nervous at first. He had always looked up to Tank and he seemed lost once his big brother was gone. But in the past two years, he’s matured. He’s perfectly content to let Nana be alpha, but he’s also more insistent on getting his share of the loving. When he wants a kiss, by God, no one is going to get in his way.

I’m getting a little nervous though. Greg has been scouting Rottweiler rescue sites, looking for a puppy. I think I’m doomed. We’d both rather have an adult dog, but I think Nana will accept a puppy more easily than an adult.iko

Greg: I think it’s time for that hardheaded man of mine to see an orthopedic specialist. His knees are still hurting. I think he’s torn cartilage. If that’s true, he’ll need surgery, but first I have to get him to a doctor.

Have you ever tried to get a husband to willingly go to a doctor? It’s like pulling teeth…without anesthetic.

So what’s new in your part of the world? Injuries, new pets, or shopping stress? Do you get grief for buying too small a bird?



This Week’s Menu, November 20, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of November 20, 2016

Breakfast: Orange Danish
Lunch: Nachos
Dinner: Red snapper with baked potato

Breakfast: Bagels
Lunch: French onion soup
Dinner: Burgers

Breakfast: Ham and eggs
Lunch: Macaroni and cheese
Dinner: Steak salad

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftover onion soup
Dinner: Lynn’s pot roast  (Here’s the link to the recipe.)

Thursday: Thanksgiving
Breakfast: Corned beef hash with eggs
Dinner: Thanksgiving Dinner at a friend’s house

Breakfast: Biscuits and gravy
Lunch: Tuna fish sandwiches
Dinner: Leftover pot roast

Breakfast: Breakfast burritos
Lunch: Corndogs
Dinner: Shrimp stirfry

It’s Thanksgiving this week. Thank goodness, we won’t be having turkey dinner at my place this year. My house is a disaster area! I kid you not. We started sanding the wood floors and despite our best efforts, dust is everywhere.

It’s not unexpected, but I had hoped it wouldn’t be quite this bad. We’ve been hand sanding, but it’s clear now we need the big guns. Tuesday we’ll go out and rent the professional floor sander. Hopefully it will get the job done quicker.

I rather like the bare wood. I’m hoping I can convince Greg to keep it natural, but I know he wants it to match the floor on the other side of the house. (Yes, they meet at two doorways.) Our other option is to sand all the floors in the entire house. That’s what I would do. Better to get it done now than have to hire someone in five years.

Maybe once he sees how much faster the big machine is, he’ll see the logic behind my madness.

My master goal is to finish all our big jobs within the next 12 months. There aren’t many left. With the house, the only thing left on the list is the floor. With the outside, we need fence. Lots of it. And we’re building it by hand. Did I mention that?

In the country, you typically have two types of fence, barbed wire, and welded wire. We have the remains of a barbed wire fence, but that’s not enough to keep goats and Iko in, so it’s welded wire in our future.

I had hoped we could’ve gotten everything done before Greg retired, but there were always more jobs than we anticipated. We got a lot done, but I can’t rest until everything is checked off the list.

Getting there!

Do you have a master plan of the things you have to get done throughout the year? Have you ever refinished wood floors? I’d be grateful for any advice.

If you’re in the US, where are you celebrating Thanksgiving?

Free Promo for Authors


Calling all authors!



If you have a book you’d like to promote, I’m doing a one-day blitz on my blog on December 1, 2016.

I’m posting gift guides once a week during November and December and I’d like to do a gift guide specifically for readers.

If you have a book you’d like to see on my blog, email me through my contact page. (Click the tab on the header.)

Put ‘Christmas’ in the subject line so I know it’s not spam. All genres and nonfiction are welcome. One book per author, so pick a good one.

Send me the Amazon link, genre, and whether this is for an ebook or paper book.

Feel free to share this post with other authors. The more the merrier!

Here are the gift guides I’ve done so far.

Gift Guide for the Animal Lover
Gift Guide for Gardeners
Gift Guide Just for You
Gift Guide for the Creative Soul
Gift Guide for Silver Seniors


Gifts for Silver Seniors



Everything I’m going to suggest is stuff I would use as a bona fide member of the senior staff of the human race. I used to resist being called a senior, but hey, I get discounts, and young people usually break land speed records to open doors for me when I’m having a bad knee day.

I’m still a very young senior, so I’m also including items I would gift to my older friends and family.

Two things I want you to remember if you have an older person on your gift list. They relish human kindness more than any expensive token. Spending time with them, driving them to the grocery store or doctor, or washing their dog would be a great gift.

The other thing is this. Most older people are on a fixed income, but on the plus side, we also have most everything we need to live, so our spending needs revolve around groceries or maintaining the car. If you don’t know what to get your favorite senior, a gift card to their grocery store or car care shop is a good alternative.

I think the hard thing for older people is for others to see them as old or infirm. If you get them a “practical” gift, don’t forget to include a fun gift too, so they know you don’t see them as a burden.

PS  Don’t forget to email me if you have a book you’d like me to showcase on December 1.

Here are my ideas for seniors.

Garden bench/kneeler  I’m actually buying this for my mother. She’s in her 80s but she still loves to putter in the garden. This will make it easier for her to get around.
• Rub Away Bar  This removes odor from your hands after you’ve finished chopping garlic or preparing fish.
• Magnifying Glass  I have one in nearly every room in my house and in my car. It’s a must-have.
• Extra long shoe horn  It might seem silly to you, but it’s handier than you think for those who can’t bend like they used to.

Funny t-shirt
Teak shower bench  We have one of these. Very stable and handy. Good indoors or out.
Digital Frame I know at least one grandma who absolutely loves this thing.
Knee Pillow  I found this by accident, but I can see how it would help a lot.

Orthopedic Seat Cushion  If you know anyone who suffers from sciatica or other back pain, this will help.
Wine  This one is a Sangria. I don’t know much about wine, but this is Greg’s current favorite. Seniors know how to drink!
Fruit and Nut Basket
Roomba  I’ve talked about the Roomba before. Here is my review. It’s an awfully nice gift for those with mobility issues.
TENS Unit  For pain management. After my knee surgery this was the best thing my orthopedic surgeon prescribed for me. It gives electrical stimulation to sore muscles, improving circulation and healing. I still use mine.

 Gift Cards
Cheesecake Factory
Whole Foods

Jo Anne Fabrics
Southwest Airlines

Amazon Gift Cards
• Amazon Prime  Shop Amazon – Give the Gift of Amazon Prime
Regal Movie Theaters
AMC Movie Theaters





What was the best gift you ever gave to an older friend or relative?

Storage Container and Toaster Oven Fails


First my apologies for not blogging the last couple of Fridays. There has been so much going on at the farm, and then Greg got sick. Any time someone gets sick, all your plans and projects get put on hold. I imagine I won’t return to blogging on Fridays until December, but I might wait until the holidays are done only because I’m too busy being retired.

Now that I have a pretty kitchen, I’ve been doing more sorting, recycling, and donating. I was afraid I was going to have to say goodbye to all my Pyrex storage containers. The plastic lids were cracking or had become ill fitting.

I use glass almost exclusively for storage, so losing all my Pyrex containers was going to pinch in the wallet. I’d never seen replacement lids but I Googled it and sure enough Amazon had them. It’s way cheaper than buying all new storage containers.

To be safe, I did my research to make sure the model numbers synced with the lids. All but one did. It was my oblong baking dish with lid. I’ve had this container for who know how long. Someone else had had the same question as me and she ordered the replacement lid, but alas it didn’t seal well.

There are newer models of this dish, but between you and me I don’t like them. The glass seems thinner and I don’t like the “Easy Carry” style of the new container. I think I’ll wait a while longer for something more retro. 🙂


It cost nearly $30 to re-lid all my containers, but with any luck these will last me another twenty years.

Here’s the link to the various lids if you’re interested.

I did learn something though. It’s possible we might’ve hastened the original lids’ demise. Apparently, you shouldn’t wash them in the lower part of the dishwasher. From now on, only hand washing for us.

The Case of the Killer Toaster Oven
When I bought this house, one of the first things I bought was a toaster oven. It’s a Kitchenaid. It looked very nice and professional. The controls were a bit complicated, but I got used to them. It never made proper toast though. Over the years I found myself cussing at that machine every time I had to make toast.

It wasn’t a very good machine. It knew it and I knew it. For eight years we had an uneasy détente.

Last week though it made its move and decided to murder us over breakfast.

My toast had barely started when flames shot out from the top heating element. I ran over and shut off the power then smacked the flames with my tongs. That was it. Greg could take a look at it, but even if he fixed it, I could never trust that machine again. It had to go.

So here I was researching toaster ovens. I wanted something that would make good toast, but also cook meals. With only two people there isn’t much call to start up the big oven for such small dishes.

The Breville toaster oven was the hands down favorite among reviewers but it came with a steep price. Did I really want to spend upwards of $200 for toast?

That answer would be a no.

Surprisingly the next favorite on many reviewers’ lists was the Hamilton Beach Easy Reach. I liked the controls on it, and several reviewers claimed it made good toast. The prices ranged from $34 to about $80. It was terribly lightweight, but no different than other models in its price range. Amazon had it cheaper than my local stores so I ordered one.

I mentioned ibreville-closedt to Greg then showed him the contenders. That’s when he said: That Breville looks better.

And with those four words I knew I had lost the battle. I liked it too, but the price! It turns out last year’s model was slightly cheaper and still got fabulous reviews.

The only thing that annoyed me was that the other toaster oven was already on its way. I canceled it and grudgingly bought the Breville.

In the end, I was glad. The Hamilton Beach is fine for college dorms or tiny budgets, but the Breville was hands down a superior machine.

It makes fantastic toast and fits a family sized casserole dish with no problem. I love the controls. It came with a thick manual, but the controls were so intuitive I never bothered cracking the book.

After the Kitchenaid, this one was a breeze to program.

I’m very pleased with it. Hopefully, it won’t try to murder us over breakfast for many more years to come.

toast breville-open


What toaster oven is in your house? Do you like it?

Having lived through a house fire, I don’t take electrical problems lightly. If you ever notice anything shorting on you, get rid of it. It’s not worth anyone’s life.



This Week’s Menu, November 13, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of November 13, 2016

Breakfast: Pancakes
Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwich
Dinner: Rib eye steak and roasted cauliflower

Breakfast: Leftover steak and cheese omelette
Lunch: White bean soup
Dinner:  Pan fried trout

Breakfast: Leftover pancakes
Lunch: Lunch out. Our favorite gyro place is opening a new restaurant closer to us!
Dinner: Roast rabbit

Breakfast: Cheese quesadillas
Lunch: Rabbit leftovers
Dinner: Meatloaf

Breakfast: Bacon and eggs
Lunch: Grilled vegetables on pita
Dinner: Meatloaf leftovers

Breakfast: Biscuits and gravy
Lunch: Salmon sandwiches  I use canned salmon and fix it just like tuna fish.
Dinner: Taco salad

Breakfast: Breakfast out since we’ll be hitting garage sales this week
Lunch: Pastrami sandwiches
Dinner:  Spaghetti


Poor Greg was sick all last week with what I can only assume was stomach flu. He was weak as a kitten with chills and fever. He had no appetite so I threw last week’s menu out the window since all he could keep down was a little toast and eventually, some chicken soup.

He’s finally back to normal now, but like any illness, it’s best not to over exert yourself even if you feel better. I’ve had my over ambition bite me in the butt numerous times after I thought I had recovered.

We went on a spending spree over the weekend. I bought a white leather settee. What was I thinking? White? But it looked chic and modern. It’s going in the little area facing the kitchen. We used to keep a small dining room table and chairs there, but we already have a proper dining room, so I thought a little sitting area might be nicer.

Greg needs a place to sit while he watches me cook!

I like to mix traditional pieces with contemporary. I’ve never been overly enthusiastic about modern furniture, but lately it’s appealed to me more. I like the more defined lines.

Still not sure about the white, but Greg liked it. Sadly, they didn’t carry this style in other colors. I thought a gray or taupe might be more elegant. It was exceptionally comfortable though and that was the deciding factor.

I probably won’t see it until after Thanksgiving, but I’ll post pictures when it gets here and you can tell me if it’s too white.

Do you have any white furniture in your house? Would you ever buy white furniture?


Gift Guide for the Creative Soul



I know I have a lot of readers who are writers, quilters, crafters, and artists, so maybe pass this list on to your significant others so they know what to get you. 😉

As a frugalista, I look for deep savings, but as an artist, I never skimp on quality. I’d rather pay more for good quality supplies, tools, or software, than look for rock bottom prices.

They say a craftsman is only as good as his tools. I believe this wholeheartedly.

Here are my picks for the creative person on your list.

PS  Don’t forget to email me if you have a book you’d like me to showcase on December 1.

For Writers

Work light  This one has great reviews.
Adjustable sit/stand desk  I used to stand a lot because of back issues. I used books to prop up my computer. Wish I’d had this instead, so I could sit or stand as needed.
Scrivener  This is a download for Mac or PC. I haven’t used it to format a book, but I’m told Scrivener makes it much easier.
RCA Viking Pro  I had to look at this twice. I couldn’t believe how cheap it was compared to the others and it has great reviews too. I might give this some serious thought.

Apple Macbook Pro  I haven’t forgotten you Mac fanatics. 🙂
Leather Bound Journal  This one has a Celtic griffin
•  Spirit of Flight Notebook  I like this one too.
Stained Glass Journal  One more because they’re just so beautiful.

Calligraphy Set  This is one of those fanciful gifts that’s sure to please the artist’s soul.
Sealing Wax Brass Kit  I thought this was kind of unique for those who like that Old World look.
Writing Set  Beautiful instruments for those who like to write by hand or do calligraphy.
Lap Desk  These are handy when you’re sitting on the sofa or outdoors. This one has a lot more doodads than the one I have.

Writing Books I Recommend
Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan
Hooked by Les Edgerton
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman
GMC by Debra Dixon
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman



For Craftspeople

Quilting Fabric Jaja Batiks Pack  My mother is a quilter, but I had no idea they had these little squares already cut for you. Here I thought she cut everything by hand. 🙂
Quilting Fabric Berry Delights
Self-Healing Cutting Mat 
Cross Stitch Kitty

Needlepoint Thread This brings back memories. My mom taught me to needlepoint as soon as I was old enough to stab myself with a needle. Every Sunday we’d go to this store and pick up a new design printed on white linen. I got pretty good at it, but I didn’t really have the passion for it that she did.
12 Paper Edger Scissors
Gel Pens
Jewelry Making Tool Kit
50 pc Assorted Wood Beads



For Painters
My super power is oil painting. Greg has been bugging me to do a painting of Tank and I guess it’s time. If you’re serious about painting, I suggest Winsor & Newton or Winton. Grumbacher is also a dependable brand. If you know someone who’s always want to try his hand at painting, starter kits are great.

Winton Starter Kit
Filbert (flat) paint brush set   I prefer hog bristle brushes for my flats. I think they retain their shape better.
Round paint brush set  I like sable brushes for my rounds.
Aluminum Easel  This one is especially nice because it tilts flat for doing watercolors as well.
Canvas Panels  If you want the artist in your life to love you, get her a stack of canvas panels.

Watercolor Paint  I’m not an expert on watercolors, but I liked Holbein when I tried it.
Watercolor Palette
Oil Painting Palette  Yes, you can use something like this, but I prefer a thick sheet of glass. I guess this makes a better looking gift than a sheet of glass. 🙂
Pastel Set  I love working with pastels. This is a nice starter set.

Apple Barrel Acrylic Paint I like the Apple Barrel brand. It’s got great coverage.
Sketchbook  2-pack!
Charcoal Sticks  I probably learned more about drawing from using charcoal sticks than anything else.
Corel Painter  Let’s not forget the digital artist. Corel is a must-have program for digital artists.
Photo Scanner  Another must-have for the digital artist.



I hope I gave you some good ideas for your creatives’ gift list. What else would you recommend for an artsy friend or family member?

The Lowdown on Custom Kitchen Cabinets

pullout-drawer-filledWhen we bought this house eight years ago, the most impressive part was definitely the kitchen. It was huge with cabinets from top to bottom. Like any house though, it was designed with the original homeowner in mind.

I’m convinced they must’ve been giants. The microwave was set up high which to a short person could be dangerous if you’re pulling out hot liquids.

When we finally committed to having the cabinets refaced (as opposed to replaced) I asked for some modifications. The first on the list was moving a nice wide drawer that was in the wrong place. Originally, it was below the inset wine rack, which I hated. It was impossible to clean even with my little hands.

Also, when we realized we’d have a big hole after replacing the old Sub Zero fridge, we knew we’d need to hide that space, but it was beyond the contractual obligation of the carpenter so Greg built me a pull-out drawer in that long narrow space. He did this twice, but I’ll explain why in a later post.

I keep my most used items in the pull-out: spices, vinegars, some pastas, and sprouting seeds. Of all the changes in the kitchen this is definitely my favorite.

I had thought about cabinet refacing for a long time but no one would give me a ballpark figure. They were very willing to send out a salesman though and do an estimate. To me that meant big $$$, so I resisted.

One day, we decided to hear them out. Home Depot had the best reviews of everyone I researched. The salesman came out, did his rough measurement, showed us samples and then flattened us with the estimate.  Too high, I told him. He adjusted some stuff and gave me another figure. Still too high, but Greg cautioned me that what they were going to do was beyond his grasp because of the materials involved. The cabinets have a hardened finish that we could never duplicate.

According to the salesman, they would send out a team that would remove the cabinet doors and drawers, sand the face frames down to bare wood, repair any defects, then resurface the frames, and install completely new drawers and doors.

After his explanation I could see why it was as expensive as it was. I certainly wouldn’t do it for less. Moreover, the husband and wife team that did the work went above and beyond.

They fixed things that were not in the contract, like giving me an additional cabinet where the microwave stood, and fixed the water-damaged interior of a cabinet under the sink. They worked very long hours for five and a half straight days. Some of the doors were damaged in shipping so they had to come back (last week) to finish the job.

I’m difficult to please, and I won’t deny it, but Home Depot impressed me from start to finish. I will tell you the price, only because when I did my research, I couldn’t find a base line anywhere. Had I known beforehand I might not have gone through with it. After seeing the results, I’m glad I did. It looks like a brand new kitchen. What am I saying? It is a brand new kitchen, good enough for a magazine spread.

We got free financing for 2 years if we paid it in full. The final price was $30,000 (rounded up). Mine is considered a very large kitchen, with nearly 70 square feet of cabinets. The carpenter told me that smaller kitchens run between 10-15k.

Before, every cabinet was stuffed to the seams. Now I actually have EMPTY cabinet space because Greg added the tall pull-out drawer, and removed the wine rack and the microwave. This gave me room for two more full cabinets.

It’s rare when I ask for anything major like this, but I think it’ll be a good investment in the long run. I’m especially happy with the pull-out drawer. I’ll do a post on how Greg did ours in case you ever want to try this at your home. It’s such a great way to use an otherwise useless space.

Now on to refinishing the floor. That’ll have to wait for a few days. I have a sick husband at home. He’s running a fever so it’s soup and tea for a while.

Click on the thumbnail for a better look.


This Week’s Menu, November 6, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of November 6, 2016

Breakfast: Steak and egg muffin
Lunch: Macaroni and cheese
Dinner: Shrimp scampi

Breakfast: Bacon and eggs
Lunch: Tuna fish sandwich
Dinner:  Onion soup

Breakfast: Toasted bagels
Lunch: Onion soup
Dinner: Salmon with orzo

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: BLT
Dinner: Bowtie pasta with beef sauce

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Pasta salad
Dinner: Fried fish

Breakfast: Breakfast kolaches
Lunch: Leftover pasta salad
Dinner: Taco night

Breakfast: Breakfast out since we’ll be hitting garage sales this week
Lunch: Sushi
Dinner:  Burgers

It’s been a week and a half! Last week I gave myself some pretty bad burns. I’ve been diligent with the ointment and I’m happy to say that most of the burns are healing well. I’ve had a couple of nights of insomnia too and I’m trying to force myself back into a regular sleep cycle. It makes for rough days, but I hope I’m back to normal by Monday.

Then Greg’s knees started to give out, pain I know only too well. Part of his knee problem is due to the ‘Tuesday from Hell’. The sink in the garage sprung a leak, but it was more complex than simply replacing a plastic fitting. There was soldering and repiping involved which led to a bigger problem.

Greg fixed the leak, but when I turned the main valve going into the house back on, the valve broke in my hand. That too was worse than it appeared on the surface. If we weren’t unlucky enough, no one seemed to have all the parts he needed. We were everywhere trying to find this piece or that. Poor guy was on his hands and knees until 10pm that night trying to get the job done so we’d have water the next day.

It’s all done though, including my kitchen cabinets! The carpenter came back with the back-ordered cabinets and put them up. Monday I’ll show you pictures, including the custom cabinet Greg built for me that is truly my favorite part of the kitchen.

The best part about a rough week is when it’s behind you!

We’re finally getting cooler weather this week–well it’s in the 70s–which is cool for Texas. That’s a good reason to make soup. My first soup for the season will be French onion soup with some warm, crusty bread.

What’s the first tummy-warming meal you like to make when the weather turns cool?

A Gift Guide Just For You



Who says you can’t give yourself a present once in a while? It doesn’t have to be for Christmas, but I’ve found the best deals can usually be found around this time of year.

While I’m the worst for buying myself anything, I’ve gotten better at pampering myself–especially if I can get it on sale.

I’ve found it’s easier just to let Greg choose for himself and the same goes for me. He wouldn’t have a clue which oil paint I need, or what kind of pressure cooker I wanted.

Gifts for yourself can be anything from a tool to a new sweater. They’re the things you want, but feel too guilty to buy for yourself. Give yourself permission to splurge once in a while. It’s a lesson I learned too late in life, but I’m making up for it now.

Here are some kick-starter ideas.

Blood pressure machine  Weird? Not really. It could save your life.
Elite Pressure Cooker  Faithful readers already know I love this machine. Good price for it now too!
Keurig Coffeemaker  I’m not a coffee drinker, but I’ve bought this twice for the people I love. I am now their favorite person. 🙂
Apple iPad Air 2  I probably shouldn’t be listing this since Greg has been hinting that his needs to be replaced soon. But if you’re an Apple fan, these are great. I steal Greg’s every chance I get.
Downton Abbey, how do I love thee? Best damn series ever.

Gaiam Ball Chair  It doesn’t look like much, but I swear by this if you have nerve or back pain. It’s the only chair I use.
Simon  I’m not much of a toy person, but I love this game. Good for strengthening your memory too.
Wireless Security Camera  Easy to set up and gives a lot of peace of mind. We use it to watch the dogs while we’re gone, but it’s also a baby monitor. Includes night vision, motion alert, and two-way audio.
Weather Station  This is one of those things that gardeners and outdoorsy people can’t live without. I can get more precise information on how to protect my garden and animals than what I get from the weather service.

Jawa Candy & Card Holder  I have to admit, I was thinking of Sandra Ulbrich Almazan when I saw this. I thought it was adorable.
Roomba 880  I still love my Roomba. I have not gone back to my old vacuum since. It was the perfect gift to myself.
Rtic Tumbler  I recommended this to a friend recently. It keeps liquids cold or hot for a very long time and best of all, no condensation.
Z Zoned Memory Foam Pillow  One of the best things I ever bought for myself. I sleep so much better now.
White Noise Machine  I am very tempted to get this. It’s had rave reviews. Even with the better bed (and pillow) falling asleep is still hard for me.

Fitbit  These Fitbits seem to be all the rage. I was shocked at the great reviews and the sheer number of reviews. Maybe I should give this a second look.
Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver  If you don’t know what this is, you’re not embracing your inner geek. I happened to be married to a diehard fan. This is one of the things I bought him. Silly, but hey, you only live once.
Godiva Chocolates  If you’re going to have chocolate, go for the good stuff.
Business Card Holder  Très chic, y’all.
• Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial  If you haven’t tried the free trial, do it over the holidays. We actually use it a lot more than I thought we would.



So eat the last doughnut, get a massage, and buy yourself something nice. From experience, this is the best time to buy most items. Sometimes there are windows when something drops down even further, but you can at least feel assured that retailers will do most anything to get your business.

Attention Authors: On Thursday, December 1st I want to showcase authors (especially indie authors). If you have a book on Amazon, send me the link and genre, and I will include you in a post dedicated to books as gifts. One book per author please. All genres welcome, but no overtly sexy stuff.

If you know me, use my private email address, if you don’t, email me through my contact page. Be sure to put ‘Christmas’ in the subject line and tell me if you’d like to showcase a paperback or the ebook. Feel free to share this post with your author friends too.



See my other Gift Guides.


Accidents, Laziness, Healthy Eating, and Garage Sales

painting1Saturday night as I was frying something, grease splattered and hit me in the face. I have several burns on my face and arm now. It still smarts!

I did what I could, cooling the burns right away then dabbing the welts with burn ointment. The older I get the more I realize every scar is a testament to me surviving another accident. Ha! I’m a mess.

I’ve been thinking of my health (and Greg’s health) a lot lately. My chronic nerve pain is back due to my own laziness. I simply don’t stretch enough or as deeply as when I attended yoga faithfully. Why is it something has to smack me before I’m willing to fix the problem?

I spent years trying to find a treatment for this chronic pain. I finally found the answer in yoga and as soon as I stopped going, I went back to my old ways. There’s always a good reason. Too busy. Too tired. Too absorbed in something else. It takes serious pain to knock the sense back in.

Last week, Greg and I watched Hungry For Change. It’s free to watch if you have Amazon Prime. The beginning was a little tedious because they kept repeating sound bites but it got better as it went along. What I took away from it was that the way to healthier eating is to eat whole foods.

Processed foods are the killers and we’re surrounded by them in things we simply take for granted. Although we eat more whole foods now that I cook from scratch, we could do better. That’s one reason I decided to include more fish in my weekly menus.

We had talked about getting a juicer but I’m at a loss on which is the right one to buy. The good ones are kind of expensive, and I’m still not sure if I’ll be good about juicing.

Yes, I’ll admit, juicing is way healthier and a more concentrated form of nutrients, but will I like it? Other than V-8 juice and fruit juice, I’ve never really juiced. It sounds like it will be a lot of trial and error until I find the right combination of veggies and fruits that I’ll like. (I’m sure Greg will be easier to please than me.)

Can anyone shed their experience? Have you ever juiced? Can you recommend a dependable juicer? I kind of like the Breville JE98XL juicer. It seems to have some excellent reviews anyway.

I’ve heard  a lot about the Magic Bullet NutriBullet. It’s cheaper, but it has a much smaller motor so I worry about how long it would last.

From the research I’ve done, you want something with a powerful motor that will masticate the fruits and vegetables slower so it can juice more thoroughly.

I keep hoping I’d find one at a garage sale, but nothing yet. Despite being an avid garage saler, it seems remarkable I’ve yet to find one.

Speaking of garage sales, I hit upon a good one for artwork. They’re reproductions, but I found three oil paintings with great ornate frames. I’m still looking for more landscapes, but those are usually priced dear. Good paintings are few and far between.


I’ve had the good fortune to decorate nearly my whole house with garage sale finds. I’m willing to bet I haven’t even spent $150 on all the art in my house. Off the top of my head that’s for a dozen paintings that are hanging right now, four I’ve grown tired of, and another dozen pieces of sculpture and ceramics.

I’m patient when it comes to decorating. I only buy stuff I truly love–and then only if it’s cheap. I’ve only ever spent serious money on two dog figurines, but they were exceptional.

Thoughts on juicers or healthier eating? Do you ever go to garage sales? What kind of stuff do you look for?

This Week’s Menu, October 30, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of October 30, 2016

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Sausage on a roll
Dinner: Lobster Tails

Breakfast: Homemade egg McMuffin
Lunch: Grilled veggies on pita
Dinner:  Pork fajitas

Breakfast: Bacon and eggs
Lunch: Pork stir fry
Dinner: Fish with sauteed spinach

Breakfast: Cheese quesadilla
Lunch: Ravioli
Dinner: Baked chicken

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Mushroom soup
Dinner: Angel hair pasta with grilled shrimp

Breakfast: Breakfast kolaches
Lunch: Tuna salad sandwiches
Dinner: Baked salmon

Breakfast: Breakfast out since we’ll be hitting garage sales this week
Lunch: Orzo Salad
Dinner:  Rib eye steak

We’re having a special treat this week. A grocery store near us had a grand opening. One of the things on sale were lobster tails. We haven’t had lobster in years, so I’m looking forward to it tonight.

I’ve decided to increase our fish consumption to twice a week. Fish is a little inconvenient to get where we live. We can get salmon and trout, but few other fishes.

Not long ago there was a study that says you can’t even trust grocery stores to sell you a specific type of fish. Once they’re filleted you can’t always tell what kind of fish it was without a DNA test. That’s why I prefer to buy the whole fish.

There’s a Korean grocery store about an hour away with a vast fish variety that are sold whole. I was thinking we might make a pilgrimage every couple of months and stock up on fish.

I like pan-fried and baked fish, but I’m not keen on breaded, deep fried fish. How do you like to eat your fish? Do you eat fish often?

Gift Guide for the Animal Lover


gift-guidesThis week let’s talk about the pet lovers in your life. This gift guide is near and dear to me because I love animal-related gifts.

I try not to buy too many chochkies for my friends because like any decor, it’s very personal. My tastes might not coincide with how they decorate their home, so I go easy on decorative items, but I found lots of other ideas.

Christmas ornament
Dog shaped cookie cutter
Socks! I love getting designer socks. The quirkier, the better.
Cat Socks
Cat Butt Magnets. Yes, cat butts.
Coloring Book.
• Don’t forget to include the gel crayons.
• Leash rack with dog butts.
• Leash rack with dog silhouette.
Lassie movie collection. Love the one with Roddy McDowell and Elizabeth Taylor!
Dog Pillow Sham
Cat Pillow Sham
UV Flashlight. Great for finding pet stains, scorpions, and dribbles left behind by little boys.
Pit Bull Cup.  Other breeds available. I love Dean Russo’s art.
Cat Cup. Design also by Dean Russo
Door Mat: Dog
Door Mat: Cat
Sleeping Pants
Sleeping Shirt. Yup. That’s my shirt.
Dog Tarot Cards. I can’t make this up!
Pet Tote Bags. Over 200 Different Breeds.
Kitchen Towel. These are a hoot!
Kitten Door Stop. I think it would make a good paperweight too.
Cats Welcome
Chicken Soup for the Dog and Cat Lover’s Soul
It’s Raining Cats and Dogs: Paper-Pieced Quilts
The Crazy Cat Lover’s Handbook
Mark Twain for Cat Lovers (I never knew Twain was such a cat lover.)
How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You
The Silence of the Library (I love this cover too)

I’d like a couple of these things myself.




A dear friend gave me this frame when my Tanky passed away two years ago. Although it’s not a Christmas gift per se, if you know someone who’s lost someone precious to them around the holidays, you can’t go wrong giving them this.

Not a day goes by that this frame doesn’t make me smile. It’s one of my most favorite gifts.tank-frame


If you’re an animal lover, what kind of gifts would you like?