5 Things That Make Me Happy (and 2 That Do Not)

Katy, who writes one of my favorite blogs, the Non-Consumer Advocate, posted recently about 5 things that make her happy. But that’s not enough for her, no way. She felt the need to temper it with 2 things that tick her off.

And I love it.

I love it so much that I may have to make it a regular feature here at 1SentenceDiary. These are just the first 5 things that come to mind, today.

5 Things That Make Me Happy Today:

  1. Monkey (as my daughter is known around here) made her own Halloween costume, and it is adorable! She designed it herself, and we all had a great time helping her to create it (though she did most of that as well).
  2. The weather is supposed to be decent around here for Halloween. The holiday is so much more fun when the weather cooperates.
  3. I had breakfast this morning with an old, no, I mean a long-time friend. Her life is extremely challenging at the moment, so I was extra-glad to get to spend some time with her. But the truth is, I’m always glad to see her, under any circumstances.
  4. Tiger (as my boyfriend is known around here). No more needs to be said. Tiger makes me happy.
  5. Craft projects with the kids. Today’s project, at my daughter’s insistence, was candles. Watching the kids working together, dipping wicks into melted wax. Priceless.

[If you want to see more photos of the costume or the candle-making, head on over to my Facebook page.]

And now, for balance, 2 things that annoy me:

  1. Cleaning up after craft projects with the kids. Although they help, it’s still a lot of work.
  2. Wondering what in the world we are going to do with all those candles…

So now it’s your turn. What are your 5 / 2 things?

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What’s your favorite?

Friends say to me: I want to start reading your blog. Where should I start? And believe me, I’m flattered. I mean, there’s NO PRESSURE to read it, comment, talk about it, tweet it, or whatever. 😀 [Not that I would mind, of course.] The blog is just for fun and I hope that others enjoy it. So I tell them to just pick up wherever they want, to choose a category from the right side of the page, or to start at random.

But that doesn’t seem to satisfy them.

What do these folks want?

The answer seems to be that they want a list of my own favorite posts. Why, you ask? Well, Virginia (as in, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus“), I’m guessing that they want to skim through a few posts rather than reading all 53. (Yes, that’s right, there are FIFTY THREE posts on this blog. Well, I suppose that after this one is published, and you are reading it, there will be 54!)

It was very difficult to narrow it down. Because, you know, ALL my posts are fantastic! [And by the way, I’m very modest, too!] But somehow I did. So if you are interested, read on for the list of my own favorite posts.

Which post is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.

Posted in Happiness Project | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Seven Fads That Have To Go

Lately I have found myself annoyed as all get out by some of these ridiculous trends. Come on, you know you are sick and tired of these, too. What would you add to my list?

  1. Fancy clothes for pets. I mean really, I can live with the fancy pet toys and the expensive pet food. But recently I saw fur-trimmed pet clothing. FUR! As clothing for, you know, animals! Anyone else see the irony?
  2. People wandering around in public without enough clothes. Pu-leeeez, lady, put some pants on! Those shorts are so short I can see, well, a lot more than I want to see. And sir, I have no desire to see every single fat cell in your belly. Would it kill you to wear a shirt long enough to cover it up?
  3. Closely related to the lack of clothes phenomenon, though not as egregious, are the jeans worn so low that they are dangerously close to falling off. Seriously, how hard is it to pull up your pants? I find this “fashion trend” completely incomprehensible. And yet, it takes place in my own home. Remember, I am the parent of a teenage boy.
  4. Make a video for [fill in the blank] and win” contests. OK, at first it was clever. Get the consumers to make the ads, to feel like they are somehow part of the brand. I hate ads anyway, but the multitude of “enter to become a spokesperson for…” type of campaigns has really gotten under my skin.
  5. Loud cell phone conversations in public places. I once heard a woman on a cell phone on the train discussing her agony over whether or not to have an abortion. Seriously, I would not kid about something like that. I felt terrible for her, as she was obviously in the grip of much emotional pain. Still, I didn’t need or want to hear her conversation.
  6. Over-sharing of photos. You know what I mean. I love looking at photos of my friends’ kids, vacations, and events on Facebook or via email. Being able to share photos electronically, easily, and quickly is fantastic. 5 photos, I love it. 10 photos, wonderful (I’m a sucker for a cute kid in a photo). 200 photos? Please, please, just say no!
  7. Antibacterial everything. Obviously, I’m in favor of hand-washing before eating, and after using the bathroom. Hospitals are a place where I think extra precautions are reasonable. But I feel no need to Purell every time I leave the house. When I was kid, we actually got dirty. And somehow or other, we did survive.

What fads and trends are getting under your skin? Please share them below in the comments.

Posted in Observations, Random | Tagged , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Tasty Tuesday: Homage to The Non-Consumer’s Burritos

It’s time again for Tasty Tuesday. On Tuesdays I typically share a recipe, a cooking tip, or some combination of both. :-) You can always find all the Tasty Tuesday posts by clicking on the words “Tasty Tuesday” in the menu bar above or in the list of categories on the right.

Long ago, my friend Katy wrote about the wonders of homemade tortillas. They sounded so good, I thought I’d try it. But I could not find the tortilla mix she recommended anywhere in my area. I looked and looked and looked, went to several Hispanic markets, and asked everyone I could think of. No luck. I even looked it up on the Quaker website. The shipping cost seemed outrageous. Finally, I gave up the chase.

And then, I went to Seattle. A quick trip to Fred Meyer (the store that Katy mentioned), and the coveted tortilla mix was in my hot little hands. Finally, tonight, in my mother’s kitchen, I made burritos for my mom, my brother, and his family. With homemade (from the mix) tortillas.

Are you wondering how they came out?

They were fantastic! Terrific. Wonderful. Delicious. So different from store-bought tortillas, and so much better. Everyone loved them. There was discussion of how else to use them: with butter and cinnamon for breakfast, wrapped around eggs and cheese like a rollup sandwich, with a bit of melted cheese like a ‘white pizza.’ But the burritos were so darn good, I’m thinking that we may never try any other method.

I’m really hoping I have room in my suitcase for a couple of bags of this stuff!

I do think we’ll have to institute Katy’s family rule: you have to eat a full burrito before you can eat a plain tortilla. A rule that applies to the adults as well.

Thanks for the recommendation, Katy. We loved it.

Posted in Tasty Tuesday | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Sorry, I got really sappy today

Please forgive me. Today I’m going to wax on with much sentimentality. If you are in a curmudgeonly mood, please come back again tomorrow. I’ll try to be more snarky then.
 
I have a partner.
 
This is big. Really, it is. What I’m saying is, I have someone to share my life with. Someone to face life’s ups and downs with. Someone to celebrate with. Someone to talk things over with. Someone to laugh, cry, and argue with. Someone to love, and someone who loves me.
 
Someone to help fold the laundry.
 
OK, well, I know that last part’s not terribly romantic. But it’s true. And although I love it, I can’t get used to it.
 
I’ve been separated/divorced for almost nine years. For all that time, I have been solely responsible for doing the dishes and the laundry, returning books to the library, getting the oil in the car changed, and, you know, about a million other things. For nine years, I have done all the grocery shopping, all the cooking, and have managed to answer the daily question: what’s for dinner, mom?
 
My kids do help, of course, more and more as they’ve gotten older. But in the end, the buck stops with me. Or, I guess I should say, the buck used to stop with me. Because now I have a partner.
 
One day, shortly after my boyfriend (known around here as Tiger) moved in with us, I was rushing off to work. As I was looking for my keys, he said, “I was thinking of making chicken with peanut sauce for dinner. I’ll stop by the grocery store to get the ingredients this afternoon.”
 
Whoa.
 
Someone else was planning dinner? Someone other than me had thought about dinner? I was stunned. I found that I suddenly had tears in my eyes.
 
And last week, as I prepared to leave town for a few days, I was a whirlwind of straightening up, running the dishwasher, watering the plants, making sure there were no wet clothes in the washing machine, and so on. I hate coming home to a wreck, so I always, well OK usually, well to be honest  I try to clean up before I leave.
 
Tiger stopped me. He said, “it’s OK, you don’t have to do it all. I’m here, and I’ll help.” He’s so right. I just keep forgetting. I mean, I remember that he’s there, and I love that. But I forget that I don’t have to do it all.
 
Don’t get me wrong. Tiger’s dishwashing abilities are not his most important trait. He’s smart, kind, caring, silly, loving, sweet, and he makes me laugh. He has interesting thoughts and ideas and he keeps me on my toes. He adores his kids, and speaks kindly when referring to his ex-wife (a definite sign of maturity, in my book). He’s willing to change his opinion after consideration of new facts or ideas, a trait I find all too rare. I could easily go on all day extolling his charms. 😀
 
I love that man. I hope I am as good for him as he is for me.
 
And his cooking skills? Those are just a bonus. One I might get used to, but will never take for granted.
Posted in Family, Happiness Project, Observations | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

What could you do to make $5?

Have you seen fiverr yet?  It is … bizarre, and actually, somewhat like a bazaar, too. Like a strange combination of Craig’s List and the want ads.

People post things they will do for $5. Well, the buyer pays $5, but the seller only gets $4 since fiverr takes a cut. People offer to do… lets just say, all kinds of things.

Most of the things people will do for $5 seem to involve cartooning, photography, social media, and the like. But oh no, that’s not all. It doesn’t stop there! Here are some of my favorites:

  • I will find information in your area about haunted houses for you to visit on Halloween. Um, bud, there’s one across the street from me and two more in the neighborhood. I don’t think I need any help finding them, but, uh, thanks anyway.
  • I will sing Happy Birthday in the voice of Marilyn Monroe over the phone. Just what I want. A breathless, sexy rendition of Happy Birthday sung by someone I don’t know. Um, no thanks.
  • I will sing Happy Birthday in the voice of the Swedish Chef over the phone. Unfortunately, my kids have never heard the Swedish Chef. They’d probably be scared by the whole thing. And my boyfriend? I’m sure he’d rather hear Marilyn Monroe.
  • I will prank call or sing Happy Birthday to anyone you want over the phone. Are you sensing a theme here? Dude, you’re not even offering the voice of the Swedish Chef or Marilyn Monroe!
  • I will breakup with your boyfriend or girlfriend for $5. This might be even worse than breaking up by text message!
  • I will give you advice about going to jail for $5. There is a market for this? Oy vey. I really hope I don’t ever need this.
  • I will voodoo one person of your choice for $5. This one might be worth $5 to me. Let me get back to you on that one.

So I started thinking, what can I do that I could charge five bucks for? I could offer a recipe or baking instructions, but I already do that for free. (As you know from reading my Tasty Tuesday category.) I could offer to sing Happy Birthday, but since my qualities as a singer are, shall we say, non-existent, I think I’d have to disclose the likelihood of being far off key. Not very marketable, I’m afraid. 😀

What could you do for $5?

Posted in Observations, Random | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Baby Nostalgia

My daughter, known around here as “Monkey,”
at the age of 18 months. A long time ago. She
had attempted to dress herself, with limited success.

I’ve given away all the baby bottles, the port-a-crib, and the sippy cups. The maternity clothes are long gone, given to friends and acquaintances and anyone who would take them.

I no longer have to get up several times per night to prepare formula or to change a diaper. I can’t remember the last time I had to drag myself awake so I could comfort a crying child.

My clothes are no longer covered in spit-up or finger paint, and my kitchen is finally free of the small play-doh dots that used to be found in every corner. There are no tricycles in my driveway, no matchbox cars in my living room, and no legos stuck in the vacuum cleaner.

We no longer have to be quiet in order to let my daughter’s baby-dolls “seep” (she couldn’t pronounce “sleep”) and no one has a melt down if we leave the house without their special pillow. We can take long car trips without bringing every toy we own, and all we need for entertainment on airplane rides is a reasonable selection of books.

Now that everyone in my household is old enough to stay home alone, I am able to go to the supermarket without kids in tow. I can even go out for a walk or to an evening appointment without struggling to find a babysitter. If I’m a few minutes late from work, there will be no day-care-worker to stare me down and charge me extra.

I love my kids, of course, and I adore talking to them about all kinds of topics. Their perspectives are fascinating to me, and they have very interesting opinions. Between us, Tiger (as my boyfriend is known around here) and I have 7 kids. No, that’s not a typo, it’s the number seven. The kids range in age from 10 to 26. And I adore them all.

So why, why do I still sometimes find myself longing for that new baby smell? Or dreaming of a small moist bundle of baby? Or wistfully recalling the wonder of a sweet baby’s smile? When I see young mothers with their toddlers who talk non-stop and touch every item in sight, why do I find tears in my eyes?

Posted in Kids, Observations | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Tasty Tuesday: Apple Challah

It’s time again for Tasty Tuesday. On Tuesdays I typically share a recipe, a cooking tip, or some combination of both. :-) You can always find all the Tasty Tuesday posts by clicking on the words “Tasty Tuesday” in the menu bar above or in the list of categories on the right.

As I’ve mentioned before, September is Apple Month around here. So far, I’ve made two types of apple cake: New Apple Cake and Grandma’s Apple Cake. Today I have a recipe for Apple Challah. Challah, if you aren’t familiar with it, is a slightly sweet egg bread. Well, maybe it would have made sense to share the regular Challah recipe first, before getting to this twist on it. Um, oooops! I promise, I’ll get to that sometime soon.:-)

OK, I know that some of you are afraid of using yeast. But really, this is not a difficult recipe. I use my Kitchen-Aid mixer, and I usually don’t even do any kneading. Of course, if you don’t have a dough hook, you can definitely make this with regular kneading. And the end result? Definitely worth it!

Apple Challah

Printable version of Apple Challah recipe

Dough:

1 cup warm water (110-115°F)
½ cup sugar
½ cup oil or melted butter
2 eggs
2 tsps. vanilla
2½ tsps. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsps. yeast
5 cups flour, or a little more

Apple Filling:

3 cups coarsely chopped apples
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Egg wash:

1 beaten egg
1 tsp. sugar

Instructions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, sugar, oil or melted butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon. If you use melted butter, be certain that it’s not too hot, around 110-115°F. Stir in a cup or two of the flour, then add the yeast. Mix together for 3 minutes.

Add in the rest of the flour (to equal about 5 cups). Mix the dough together, adding additional flour if necessary. Then, if you are using the dough hook, let it run for about 5 minutes. If you prefer to knead by hand, I would say it takes about 10 minutes. Either way, you want to knead it until you have a smooth dough.

Shape the dough into a ball, cover it with a damp tea towel, and let it rise in a warm place until it is nearly doubled in size. This will take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1¼ hours, depending on how warm your house is. (The warmer your house, the faster your dough will rise.)

While the dough is rising, prepare the apple filling. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and stir it together to coat the apples with the sugar and the cinnamon.

I am often asked: how big should my apple chunks be? Well, I think this is an instance when a picture is worth a thousand words. I use chunks about this size — but I think you could use smaller chunks if you wanted.

When the dough has nearly doubled, roll it out on a lightly-floured surface into a large round shape. Spread the apple mixture over the middle of the circle.

Fold the edges of the dough over the apples until it’s a big lump with the apples inside. Let this lump rest for 5 minutes.

Grease a 10-inch springform pan. Put the pan on a cookie sheet, which will catch any leaks.

Now get ready for the messy part. Using a sharp knife, cut off pieces of the dough and place them in the springform pan. The apple pieces should be randomly dispersed throughout the dough. It’s best not to have too many pieces of apple touching the bottom of the pan, but it’s OK if some of them do. If some pieces of apple escape during this process, don’t worry. Just sprinkle them over the dough.

This is the finished product, before the final rising.

Combine the egg and the sugar, and then dab the mixture over the top of the dough with a pastry brush. Since this one will rise to the height of the pan, I don’t use a tea towel. Instead, loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and place it in a warm location to rise. You want it to rise to about the top of the pan. This will take about 30-45 minutes, but again it will depend on how warm your house is.

This is just before I put it in the oven.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the plastic wrap and place the pan & cookie sheet in the middle of the oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until done. It seems that the edges start to brown before the middle is finished, so I make a hole in a piece of tin foil and place it over the pan after about 35 minutes.

When it’s cooked through, remove it from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Open the springform and turn it out onto a cooling rack.

Enjoy!

This post is linked to: Tasty Tuesdays at Beautiful Mess and at Beauty and Bedlam, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

Posted in Baking, Recipes, Tasty Tuesday | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Another reminder: Life is short

I want to write a positive post. I want to discuss how to focus on the important things, the things that truly matter to us. I want to quote James Taylor: “the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.”

But I’m not feeling positive. I’m just feeling sad.

Today I attended the funeral of a friend. He was someone I worked with, someone I also ran into occasionally in the synagogue or at a scouting event, someone I liked. He was a sweet, smart guy who, I am so sad to say, had melanoma. And now he’s gone, leaving behind a wife, son, mother, sisters, friends, co-workers, and lots of boy scouts who adored him.

It’s the 5th funeral I’ve been to in the last 2 years.

I know it’s a cliche, but still, I try to remember: life is short. Sometimes, far too short. None of us knows how long any of us actually have on this earth. So let’s make the most of it.

Please excuse me, I’ve got to go. I’m planning to call some loved ones, to tell them again how much they mean to me. I’ll kiss my kids, and play a rousing game of — of whatever game they choose, with a lot of laughter. And then I’m going to get some sleep, hopefully with my boyfriend’s arms wrapped around me.

Because life is short. And I want to enjoy the passage of time.

Posted in Observations, Random | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Moodiness

Ooooof! I have been in a crummy mood lately. A really crummy mood.

To all my friends and family who have born the brunt of my moodiness, I sincerely apologize. Good thing I’m usually so lovable. <wink, wink> I try, I really try not to take out my frustrations on those who are closest to me, but I know that I am not always successful. Ahem.  Sorry.

I know that in the big picture of life, I have no reason to complain. We are all healthy. Our mortgage is paid, there’s food in the fridge, and (though I am somewhat afraid to say this for fear of jinxing it) our jobs are fairly secure. Our lives are so much easier, our troubles so much less severe, than what many other people go through, and I do not take these things for granted.

Why am I in such a funk? And, more importantly, what should I do about it?

To answer the first question, I think the main reason is that my neck hurts. It somehow got tweaked last week, and it’s still not back to normal. That constant discomfort (though mostly low-level) is sapping a lot of my energy. Plus, I’m not sleeping terribly well because it’s difficult to find a comfortable position.

Between the pain and the sleep deprivation, my emotional reserves are much shallower than usual. Which, to be honest, makes me cranky!

Compared to so many people, whose problems are much bigger than mine, I know I’m just whining about nothing. Thankfully, I am not dealing with clinical depression, a serious medical issue. In general I really do know that life is good. But still, I’ve been in this funk for a few days and I can’t seem to completely shake it.

So what should I do?

Normally, my best advice in times of a funk is to get some exercise. I really don’t enjoy exercise. I’ve never been one of those people who get a runner’s high — something I hear about but cannot fathom. Still, I know that after I exercise I both feel better and sleep better.

But with my neck hurting, I think serious exercise is out of the question for the moment.

Instead, here’s my plan:

  • Make every effort to eat well. When I’m in a bad mood I tend to reach for the potato chips. I love salt. But the thing is, the bloated and uncomfortable feeling I get afterwards does not actually help my mood. So I’m making an effort to eat well.
  • Hang out with my kids. I don’t know why, but hanging with the kiddos always makes me feel better. We’ll be playing cards, telling stories, and just hanging out.
  • Continue my stretching regimen, and keep the appointments I’ve made with my fantastic chiropractor as well as with my friend Tamar, a muscular therapist extraordinaire.  Obviously, I need to solve this neck pain problem, though I know it will take time.
  • Extra cuddles and snuggles with the boyfriend, known around here as Tiger. And conversation, too, of course! 😀 I know that Tiger can’t solve all my problems for me (though I suspect he would if it was humanly possible), I love his company and companionship, even when I’m in a dark mood.
  • Don’t veg-out in front of the television too much. When I’m in a lousy mood I feel like escaping in front of the TV, but the truth is that it doesn’t make me happy. After a long TV session I just feel … tired. So I’m going to try to keep the TV off.
  • Instead, do something creative. I always enjoy creative projects, even if the final product is not particularly spectacular. Maybe I’ll haul out my sewing machine or work on an online photo album. Although I’m not fantastically talented in the creative arts, I enjoy them. And regular readers know that I love to bake, which I will definitely be doing this weekend.
  • Go easy on myself. If I get behind on some household chores, if we eat more prepared or takeout food than usual, or even if I don’t keep to the plan I’ve listed above, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. No reason to make myself feel worse than I already do.

Please tell me that I’m not the only one who occasionally gets into a funk. What do you do to pull yourself out of a bad mood when it hits?

Posted in Happiness Project, Random | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments