Autumn Comforts

20120717 Patchwork quilt-2Autumn is becoming a little crisper as October progresses.  We’re having beautiful sunshine and temperatures in the 60’s now, with a frost advisory in effect for this weekend.  It’s time to bring out the Autumn Comforts.

I love autumn.  It’s my favorite time of year and I could go on and on about it.  It’s probably the only time of year I get a little domesticated and bring out all those things that make this time of year a little comfier, a little more homey.

A quilt is the first thing that gets brought out of storage when the leaves begin turning colors.  Growing up, there was always a quilt on my bed made by my grandmother or mother.  The oldest ones were all done by hand, from the first seam to the final quilting, and were mostly made from leftover scraps of material of clothing they had worn or made.  It was not uncommon to find a mix of textures within the quilt, like denim, flannel, and cotton.  I remember one in particular that was made all in flannel.  Wrapping myself in that quilt made me feel so warm and safe.  I felt like I was the luckiest girl on earth to have it gracing my bed.

hot-chocolateChilly nights sitting around watching TV call for a cup of hot chocolate.  And if marshmallows are in it, even better!  When I was a kid, we made it from scratch with a mixture of cocoa and sugar, but now I gravitate toward the sugar-free instant variety.  It’s still good.  Hot and chocolatey, it warms the belly and feels like a comfort.

While I’m wrapped up in a quilt, drinking hot chocolate, and watching TV, I’ve usually got my hands busy with something, and a lot of times that is crochet or knitting.  Scarves are my specialty (they’re easy).  My preference is to make something without a pattern, all one kind of stitch so I don’t have to think about it.  I’ve lost count of the scarves I’ve made over the years.  Some I’ve sold, but knitting-blogmost I gave away.  There are many acrylic yarns I like for their softness and ease of washing, but there’s also nothing like having a scarf made of alpaca yarn wrapped around my neck.  And it keeps the chill from sneaking inside my coat on a windy day.

When I’m thinking of Autumn Comfort, nothing speaks to me more about that than food.  Cold air outside and a warm kitchen inside is one of the ultimate comforts.  The blend of spices from pumpkin pie filling every crevice and corner of the house.  The aroma of beef stew with carrots, potatoes, and onions simmering quietly in the slow cooker.  It is so soothing to the senses.  And who wouldn’t feel comforted by the decadent scent of banana bread with walnuts, freshly baked and cooling on the rack.

No home would be complete without a stack of books waiting to be read while image-2-817x10241the wind blows through the drying leaves outside.  Many an hour I’ve spent lost in another time and place through words on a page.  Whether it be romance, mystery, or a little chick lit, it’s all good to me.  I would put on my thickest, softest socks, snuggle under the quilt, and escape within the pages.  Comfort at its most luxurious.

Autumn is the time I treasure for surrounding myself with all things that bring me comfort.  What brings you comfort during autumn?

 

 

Pickle People

A friend dropped by the church today and brought me a jar of my favorite pickles.  There was no reason for the gift.  She had just been in Amish country a couple days ago, knew how much I loved these pickles, and bought a jar for me.  I was ecstatic!  Pickles!  For ME!  Not only are these my favorite pickles EVER, I was grateful she even thought of me.

Pickles have a tendency to remind me of people.  You have your Sweet Pickles that remind me of folks like my friend, who do thoughtful things for no reason.  There’s an art to that.  And it must be a special gift God gives some of us, because not all of us have such thoughtful natures.  People who say kind things, make kind comments on our blogs, make thoughtful gestures and expect nothing in return, those are Sweet Pickles, and not everyone can be one.  Everyone likes a Sweet Pickle.

Then we’ve got Bread & Butter Pickles.  My mom made those every summer.  In fact, I thought growing up that there were only two types of pickles…Bread & Butter Pickles and Hamburger Pickles.  Because those were all I ever saw, and sometimes the Bread & Butter Pickles did double duty as Hamburger Pickles.  These type of folks are down to earth, hard working, dependable, and solid.  They become mature adults who spend their money wisely and make smart choices in life.  They are good to be around and make trustworthy friends.

I’ve known some pretty prickly cucumbers that became pickles.  You know the kind; the ones who are sensitive to every word and gesture you make and want to argue about it.  Those who get hurt feelings if you don’t say hello in just the right tone of voice, or if you don’t say hello at all.  And those people become so prickly that they become real pickles to be around.  I try to avoid those prickly ones.

Now, my favorite, the Garlic Dill Pickles.  Oh my, they do have a robust personality!  They make a statement, are artistic, often eccentric, and love experiencing life.  They might wear basic black clothes all the time, or something more eclectic and flamboyant, full of bright color and energy.  Their clothes make a statement.  Garlic Dills are never boring.  They may be a bit temperamental, moody, or overbearing at times, but they are never boring.  They are strong and fearless, full of surprises and discovery.

I know there are lots more pickles out there, so many different kinds and tastes.  That’s what makes life so much more interesting and exciting.  Because believe me, there’s nothing more boring than a plain old pickle with no taste, no style, no sense of wonder.  If I knew I had to be a plain pickle, I’d rather stay in the patch.

The Search for the Miracle Cream

regenerist_micro_sculpting_cream_260x260I’ve reached that age. You know, that age that comes with maturity, menopause, and AARP membership. And with that age comes changes to my skin. This face which was once tight and smooth and an example of youth, has become dryer, droopier, and an example of mid-life in wrinkles.

My quest to find the perfect facial moisturizer/miracle cream began in my mid-forties. Having had very oily skin most of my life, I was totally unprepared for the changes menopause brought with it. That feeling of tight, dry skin across my cheeks took me totally by surprise. I remember complaining once when I was a teenager to my grandmother about how oily my face was and I found it embarrassing. She told me one day I would be glad I had oily skin, it would make getting older a little easier. She was right, though it wasn’t until many years later I knew what she meant. It’s not always easy to replace the moisture in my skin that once was there.

I’ve analyzed ads in magazines, seen dozens of before and afters,  devoured TV commercials, searched the Internet, and read hundreds of product reviews on what women thought of specific moisturizers. I’ve gone to makeup counters and requested samples and received some by mail order. It became pretty clear that what works for one woman might not work for another. No moisturizer is perfect. Some will make skin burn and/or break out in blemishes, some will feel tacky on the skin, and some will feel like they do nothing. All will claim they are exactly what you need, will give dramatic results, make your skin look younger and smoother, or will firm and lift.  Seriously, it’s going to take a lot of firming and lifting to make me look ten years younger.

And then there’s the dilemma of whether to use an anti-wrinkle cream, a 300brightening cream, with fragrance or without, one with SPF or without, for sensitive or regular skin. There are so many choices with peptides, anti-oxidants, micro sculpting, luminous, regenerating, transforming, night time, day time, cream, lotion, or serum. These don’t even begin to describe the seemingly never ending list of names and descriptions of products.

Even if I did know exactly what I needed, there’s the devastating decision of whether to buy products from a company that does animal testing or not. I’ve tried burying my head in the sand over that one. I thought if I didn’t know, it wouldn’t matter. But it does matter and ultimately I have to make a decision as to whether the product is worth fighting my own moral battle while using it.

I had to make a list of what my deciding factors would be, and those include:

  1. How the cream or lotion makes my skin feel.
  2. How it smells.
  3. Price.
  4. Texture.
  5. Results.

In addition to those, I would like to see a miracle.  I want a cream that I spend no more than $5 on, makes my skin look ten years younger overnight, and will make me look like Sophia Loren when she was 30.  I don’t think I will find any of these results, but I can dream.

I do keep coming back to my old faithful Olay products and am currently using them now.  But the quest continues.  The miracle may happen.  Or not.

The Best of Ink Blot Jots – Week One

Just in case you may have missed one of these posts…

  • Emergency Makeup
    • Keep an emergency kit of makeup to go for one of “those” days when you’re running late.
  • The Power of a Card
    • How this simple act of kindness can make a difference to someone’s day.
  • What’s my Dream?
    • A personal dream of mine that has stood the test of time and getting older.
  • It’s Weenie Weather!
    • You’ve got to love autumn and a good old fashioned weenie roast!
  • Gratitude
    • One way to help you keep on track with an attitude of gratitude.

For more in-depth information on Gratitude and its benefits, check out Suzanne Beveridge’s Blog.

Don’t miss a single post on Ink Blot Jots….enter your e-mail address to the left and SUBSCRIBE!

It’s Weenie Weather!

 Say what you will about summer barbecues, picnics, and cookouts, but there’s no better time to roast weenies than right now in autumn!

The leaves are just beginning to change into their autumn best here in southeastern Ohio.  We’ve been enjoying temperatures in the low to mid 70’s with plenty of sunshine.  Evenings and nights are falling into the 50’s and 40’s.  There’s a crispness in the air that only autumn embraces correctly.  It’s the perfect time for roasting hot dogs over an open fire!

I have always loved a good old fashioned weenie roast!  Memories of childhood and my dad going to the woods to find the perfect roasting sticks.  He would sharpen the ends just enough so the wiener would glide on smoothly.  It had to be a special wood; not any stick would do, and I wish I had paid more attention to what he chose.  But they worked wonderfully!  Nothing fancy.  A couple bales of straw to sit on, or lawn chairs.  My brothers and I would hold our hot dogs over the open fire and watch carefully as they cooked to a darkened brown.  Unless we caught one on fire, then someone was going to be eating a burned hot dog, but no one cared.

Home canned ketchup and mustard were the only add ons to our dog and bun.  Sometimes, we didn’t even have a bun and used a slice of mom’s homemade bread to wrap around it.  No matter what kind of bread, I was sure they were the best hot dogs I had ever eaten.  Mostly, because family was gathered together and sometimes there would be a little laughter, especially if some poor hot dog fell off its stick and became a burnt offering in the ashes.

Drinks were usually Kool-Aid and apple cider.  I didn’t like the cider but I loved the idea of it gracing a weenie roast.  Dessert was S’mores.  Oh my gosh, what gooey wonderfulness of hot roasted marshmallows on melting chocolate between two graham crackers!  I had never tasted anything more decadent!

The smell of wood smoke is filling my neighborhood this evening, stirring up memories of weenies, flannel shirts and corduroys, and the sound of laughter around an open fire.  The smells of autumn; changing leaves and ripening field corn, final cuts of hay in the hay mow.  The sounds of night in the country,  field mice scurrying through corn husks, barn owls hooting, cattle settling in the field for the night, and the occasional bat swooping around the barn.  

It was simpler times when I was too young to worry about paying bills and keeping gas in a car.  There was one black rotary phone in the house, and one black and white TV that got three channels.  Our family had meals together and worked hard in between.  There was no time to get into trouble.  And it was good.

The picture above was taken at our church weenie roast last year.  It’s a celebration of autumn and pastor appreciation week where church family gathers together, laughter happens, and great food is shared.  I think it’s becoming a tradition, and that’s a wonderful thing.

What’s My Dream?

Sometimes, I have to sit down with myself and have a talk. It could be a short discussion about the donut I ate, or it may be a much lengthier discussion about my morals, values, and visions.  I seem to have forgotten them.

  When I was a teenager, I had so many dreams and aspirations.  I was concerned about the environment, pollution, conservation, saving the whales.  In fact, I was going to save the world one day!
Well, stuff happens, and what I ended up doing was getting married at a young age to someone I should not have, and working at a dead end job I didn’t like for most of my life.  A brief word of advice:  don’t let that happen to you.

I stopped dreaming.  I settled for less than.  I even forgot what it was I wanted out of life.  Blame could be put on any number of life circumstances that happened over the years, but the truth is I dropped the ball.  I gave up on my dreams.

How do I regain those dreams and visions I once had?  I won’t.  A lot has happened between the ages of 18 and 56.  The whales will have to have someone else help them.  My priorities have changed, and so have some of my dreams.

One dream has remained, even though I hid it in the closet for a few decades.  Writing.  Everything else has changed; my body is bigger, my mind is forgetful, my knees are bad, and my toe touching days are numbered.  But this I can do…write.

And so I shall.

Gratitude

What are you grateful for?

It was on the Oprah show that I first heard of a Gratitude Journal.  Then everyone was talking about a Gratitude Journal.  Articles in magazines, YouTube videos, Pinterest. Put Gratitude Journal in your search engine and you can read all day on the benefits of keeping one.

I’m going to keep it pretty simple, because that’s what I do best.  A Gratitude Journal is a notebook, piece of paper, tablet, or anywhere else you record a list of all that you are grateful for.  It can be in your phone or computer.  Mine began in a $1 notebook from the Dollar Tree and has now progressed to a leather wrapped looseleaf notebook.

Each day, I jot down at least one thing I’m grateful for that day.  Oprah says she writes five things she’s grateful for.  You might like to list ten, the choice is yours.  What’s important is that you write it down so you can see it, so that it sticks in your mind.

Oprah said,

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

Oprah knew what she was talking about.  Focusing on what I have makes me realize how blessed I am.  I have a home with a roof on it.  There are many people in the world who do not.  I have enough food to eat today; many do not.  Things I’ve always taken for granted, I now see in a new light.  A pillow under my head at night.  A blanket to keep me warm.  Clean clothes to wear and shoes on my feet.  These are all blessings, and I am grateful.

Having gratitude for what I have helps keep me focused, and often a bit humble.  When I think I want something more, I realize I have enough.  When I read back over all the things I’m grateful for in my life, it makes me realize that God does provide what I need, not what I want.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.

I will be honest, there are some days I’m feeling out of sorts and grumpy and I may struggle to find one thing I’m grateful for that day.  But I write it down.  And often, once I start writing, I will think of another thing I’m grateful for, and another.  Soon, I will have the page filled with gratitude’s I didn’t even know I had.  It’s a nice surprise!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.                        ~ Philippians 4:6 NIV

To have an attitude of gratitude has made such a difference in my life.  It makes it easier to distinguish between my wants and needs.  When I’m upset over car trouble or a leaky faucet or the cost of electricity to heat my house, I get out my Gratitude Journal and pretty soon I’m thanking God that I have a car, a faucet, and electricity.

Being grateful has improved my mood, lessened anger, and quieted my nerves.  It can change my day from one that really stinks, into one that’s not so bad after all.

What are you thankful for?

Emergency Makeup

 

MakeupBag

This has been one of those days.  Yes, one of THOSE days.  It’s the kind that my momma never told me about, mainly because she didn’t know about this kind of day.  It’s one of those “No Makeup” days, the kind when I’m running short on time and I figure the most important thing is to get to work, even if I don’t have my makeup on.  And I did.

I’ve had these kind of days before, so I came up with a plan to rescue myself from the horror of being seen with a naked face; the Emergency Makeup Bag.  This bag holds an entire face in it.  Everything I need to cover up and pretty up my face, and yet it’s still pretty basic.  It contains foundation, face primer, eye primer, eyebrow powder, eyebrow brush, eyeshadow, blush, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, and a sample packet of facial moisturizer.  I don’t leave home without it.

In addition to my emergency bag, I have some items in my desk drawer; just in case.  I have a tiny pouch in my bag with a lipstick and tweezers in it.   And this doesn’t include all the makeup I have at home for when I’m not in a hurry and can put it on before leaving the house.  Sometimes, the makeup application takes place in the car while it’s warming up.  I’m flexible like that.

Makeup2

I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup before I was 18.  By that time, I didn’t know what to buy or how to put it on.  I went to a Merle Norman shop and had a gentleman give me a makeover.  The only thing I loved was the lipstick.  I would look at the makeup in drugstores and department stores and just window shop.  It was like pretty candy I was afraid to touch because it wouldn’t be good for me.  Makeup baffled me.

I was probably in my early 20’s when my mother-in-law gave me a Christmas gift of an Estee Lauder makeup set.  It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen!  All those colors of eyeshadow were like an artist’s paint palette.  I just knew they would make me beautiful!   As soon as the stores opened after Christmas, I was at that Estee Lauder counter getting coached on how to put on my foundation and apply eyeshadow.  Of course, the makeup was guaranteed to apply better if I purchased all the skin products, too.  I spent most of a pay check at that makeup counter, but I couldn’t have turned it down even if I had wanted to.  I was hooked.  I’ve never been without makeup since.  It doesn’t all come from Estee Lauder, though.  My mascara comes from the drugstore by using coupons and sales.  Revlon makes a great lipstick.  The special Christmas kit Estee Lauder puts out lasts me all year with blush and eyeshadow and is a very good value.  I will buy my foundation when they offer a free gift with purchase.  I do try to makeup shop responsibly.

Some people carry around emergency telephone lists, emergency first aid kits, or emergency chocolate.  I don’t even own a Bandaid.  But if you ever need a blush or mascara fix, I’ve got you covered.

 

 

The Power of a Card

Greeting-Cards-Paper-DreamsWith all the mail the U.S. Postal Service delivers, all the documents, papers, cards, catalogs, periodicals, and junk, there is one piece of mail I never mind receiving, and that’s a card.

A card of greeting, a Birthday card, Valentine card, or just a generic note card with a few hastily scrawled words on it.  It can be of  any size or shape.  Some are small, some are large, some are very fancy with many bright colors and charming words, and others are relatively plain and simple, a bit on the frugal side of decoration.  But what they all have in common is the ability to bring joy to the receiver.

Several years ago, I was in the hospital for a few weeks.  It got really depressing after only a few days of being sick with no immediate hopes of going home.  But then it started; the arrival of the cards.  Each day, a nurse or aide would bring me a card, or two, that had arrived in the hospital mail with my name on it.  It was the highlight of my day!  Reading the words someone had chosen to send me to show they were thinking of me, and that they cared, really made me feel special for a moment.  I would handle them gently, read them slowly from front to back, and even make note of who the publisher was if I really liked the card.  I especially loved when someone took the time to write a few words themselves before they signed it.  That personal touch always had the power to make me smile.

Our church will often send cards to wish someone a quick get well, or “I’m thinking of you”, or “I said a prayer for you today.”  It doesn’t take long to send a card, but the lasting effects of the card can change someone’s day in the blink of an eye.  For maybe only a few moments, they will forget about their troubles and relish in the warm feeling of being remembered by someone.

Cards are not only beneficial to the sick, homebound, and elderly.  Folks of all ages enjoy being the recipient of them!  Even children love receiving a card in the mail!

There is also a bit of adventure in shopping for just the right card for someone.  Just the right picture on the front, and the right words inside, to make it the perfect card just for that person.  The thrill of the hunt!

Sending a card can be a wonderful way of offering encouragement, congratulations, hellos, goodbyes, and well wishes.  The joy they give offers tremendous benefits not only to the recipient, but also to the sender.  When you think of someone you haven’t seen in a while, send them a card.  Let them know they were thought of, and I can guarantee you much of the happiness will be yours.