Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thursday Thoughts - from now on it's me and my sweet potato pie

Thanking the universe for the big seven - good physical and mental health, framily (dogs included), a good job at a great company, a roof over my head, food on the table, access to clean water, living outside of a war zone; as well as a never ending list of things like polarized sunglasses, the sea, libraries, the right to vote, Living Proof dry shampoo, people who stand up for what's right no matter what, sunshine, the kindness of strangers, MAC lipstick, candles, fierce women, fresh sheets, kiwi, spray paint, the truth, the existence of the Oscar Weinermobile, poop bags, Bruce Springsteen (the man), making it through another year of this exhausting and disastrous administration, the confidence & comfort to be myself in all situations, when there’s no line in a place I expect a line, Dirty Dancing, the moon, barefoot dreams cardigans (they're on sale at Nordstrom right now if you're in the market), Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the trees in autumn, iced coffee and its mugs, clarity, my ability to see the sunrise over the ocean most months of the year, fierce women, fresh berries, comfortable shoes, stained glass, finding a bathroom when I need one, the ease of communication in the age of the internet to stay in touch with loved ones and form connections with people we don’t know in person, being childless by choice, science, the color purple, David Rose, opposition to hateful regimes in this country and abroad, pie, laughter that comes from deep in my gut, nail polish, you for reading this, and a zillion other things under the sun. Life is short. Don’t take a damn thing for granted. 

Heading to my mom and Rich's for brunch, Mark & Sarah's for dinner, and to the shore tonight after it all. Elastic pants all the way, and all weekend.

Making a turkey yesterday for the sole purpose of having leftovers for sandwiches for the weekend...well also for the purpose of being able to stand in the kitchen and fight MFD for the skin, eating all of it within 10 minutes like wild jackals.

Buying my typical Thanksgiving week buys - Toms for 30% off from their site and dog toys and treats from Chewy from their annual early Black Friday sale. I keep an eye on Target too and scored some Frozen items half off for my niece and goddaughter yesterday. 

Remembering this well - well, I remember sitting in my grandmom's living room and the adults discussing it. I was a lucky girl who got one. 

Making bracelets with my niece...this is about the craftiest I get, and she told me to redo it after my first ugly attempt. LOL forever

Laughing because it's true 
Roaring because it's true

Thinking of everyone who finds the holiday season hard or dislikes it for any reason. Loss doesn't always mean death and grieving something is hard, like grieving someone is hard. I see you out there and I support you. You're not a ruiner or a grinch. 

Reading slowly, but just started Demi Moore's memoir last night. Where are my Will Trent series fans? I just finished Criminal (#5) last night and it was my favorite by far.

Listening to Sweet Potato Pie by Ray Charles as evidenced by the lyrics after Thursday Thoughts
Reminding everyone we don't have to hold space in our lives for one damn person who disagrees with someone's existence. It's not an opinion and it's not politics and writing it off as those things is not okay - it's people and their right to live as they are, to BE who they are; to worship who they worship, love who they love, and the expectation of safety, respect, fairness, justice, and equal protection under the law regardless of skin color or gender or where they were born or how much money they have.


Wishing you and your framilies a wonderful Thanksgiving from Lenape land. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

TWTW - the one with the relaxing

Friday I got a lunch walk in before the rains came. The sky cleared enough for a sunset so after work we went down to the bay to glimpse that, then it was upstairs to make dinner - roasted veggies and beef stroganoff - and MFD arrived with Gus and Mae around 7:30. We went down to the apartment after eating because Bruce was being a nudge who wanted to go to his space. I finished a book and fell out around 11:30.
Saturday We were up early to walk the dogs, and I did the sunrise solo which meant I could walk into the water (in boots, I'm not a sadist). The waning crescent moon was clearly visible in the sky and it was magic.
Ocean City does an Earlier Than the Bird shopping event on the main street every year and people wear pajamas or costumes to shop, winner wins a turkey. People looked freaking amazing. I also got good deals. It was my first time attending and I liked it!

I did the prep work for sweet potato/yam marshmallow casserole (let me know if you want the recipe, I don't have it up yet) and spinach casserole for Friendsgiving and started a new book. We took a family beach walk, I painted my nails (OPI Now Museum, Now You Don't - I asked MFD to bring me a nail polish from home and this is what he brought), then I took Bruce and Ben down to the beach while MFD was fishing. This weekend last year we got Ben and took him to the beach two days later. He's much more comfortable there now, frolicking like a boss, rubbing himself in seagull poop and eating shells. Bruce is as comfortable there as ever, so comfortable that he dines there on sand crabs that are alive and wouldn't stop so we had to go home.

I put the casseroles in the oven, showered, and we went to Frank and Amanda's for Friendsgiving. I love these people, friends of over 27 years, and their partners, and this tradition. There is something about being around people who were there in your formative years that is irreplaceable. Lots of laughs and seriously delicious food, everyone brought their A game this year. We got back to the shore around midnight and I was asleep soon after. Thanks Frank & Amanda for hosting this year!

Sunday I slept in until 8 and that was amazing. We walked the dogs before MFD headed off to mummery and then home to Philly, and I did a blissful nothing all day aside from read, walk dogs, address 140-ish Christmas cards, do some blogging, pay some bills, and run the dishwasher. It was glorious.
Monday I was up walking dogs at 5, then went back to bed for a nice little sleep in. I changed the sheets, cleaned up the leaves and shit outside, picked up holds at the library, and made a quick grocery store run. I got everything I need for the week down there because the store is not a nuthouse. 
It was super warm since the wind was low and I took Bruce and Ben to Surf Road beach to frolic along the jettys for a few blocks. It was so deserted and beautiful, just like I like it. Bonus, found an awesome shell up by the dunes as I was leaving. 
When we got home I packed up, took the trash and recycles out, and was back in Philly by 3:30. A quick unload of the car and popping a load of towels in the wash, then I was off to the post office and Marshalls. I did three more loads of laundry and started Christmassing, including bringing the mugs down and washing them. Since we painted the living room purple, I'm going through our stuff to see what is not red or what can be spray painted LOL. 

Weekly food prep: Hard no. I took a frozen breakfast burrito and am buying lunch today, annual Tuesday before Thanksgiving happy hour after work. I'm making a turkey tomorrow so we'll have leftovers on the weekend. I will make power breakfast muffins and breakfast burritos to freeze tomorrow as well.

This is my one day of work this week. HOLLER.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Start writing a different Thanksgiving tale

By now, we should all know that the nice nice Pilgrim and Indian story we were taught as little kids is definitely not accurate and is far more complex. The Pilgrims did not call themselves such, they were separatists; neither their history nor the Wampanoag oral tradition records an invitation to share a meal in thanks for helping the Pilgrims harvest; they did not intentionally set out to have a Thanksgiving - this was not even a holiday until after the Civil War. In between that meal we're taught about and the formalization of the holiday, there was of the slaughter of the natives; taking their land, way of life, food sources, scalps, culture, freedom, etc; and the government thrust them into poverty and disease, ignoring treaties, etc. The US government and non-native people track record with indigenous people continued being absolute crap after the Civil War through today, still making land grabs and shitting on sacred spaces, the culture, and people that remain.

Thankgiving is no longer about that initial meal or the feel good colonizer/native story we do not deserve - for most of us it's about food and gratitude and love and appreciation. I love Thanksgiving and it is my favorite, but for me to enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving with a clear heart also means acknowledging its origins and the abuses that came after, not glorifying this storied initial meal while ignoring how native people were treated in this country. We can’t change the past or what others have done, but we can move forward in truth.

Write your Thanksgiving story as a tale of love and family, appreciation and friendship, the most succulent turkey imaginable, the legend of the largest pies in the land, elastic waistbands, good cheer, and yes, also write about how it actually was and is for Native Americans in this country beyond that trumped up feast - write the truth for yourselves and your kids in an age appropriate way, and push your story beyond this day and this meal: talk about colonization, demand our schools teach actual history and not a softened version that makes white colonizers and the US Government look nice, learn more about native history and customs, and make charitable donations when you can to organizations that do good work in the native community. In 2019, most of us have personally done nothing against native Americans, but most of us haven’t done anything for them either. But we sure have felt the upswing of being the culture that was not brutalized and pushed to within an inch of existence, so wake up, make up, eat up, and pay up. Slide a little of that holiday shopping money to a good cause that benefits native people and if you know of native owned businesses, patronize them.

Here are some suggestions - if you have others, please post them in the comments below.

Adopt-a-Native Elder Program - Supporting the elders who live in the Navajo reservation with medicine, food, clothing, yarn, and fabric. See on Charity Navigator

The Native American Heritage Association - dedicated to helping Native Americans living on tribal reservations in South Dakota, supporting the Sioux people through medical, food, fuel, and clothing programs. See on Charity Navigator

First Nations Development Institute - Donations strengthen Native American communities & economies. See on Charity Navigator

The Native American Rights Fund - the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of the Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide, concentrated in five areas: the preservation of tribal existence, the protection of tribal natural resources, the promotion of Native American human rights, the accountability of state and federal governments to Native Americans, and the development of Indian law and education the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues. See on Charity Navigator

Happy Monday - I'm still weekending out here on Lenape Land. TWTW tomorrow. TTFN!

Friday, November 22, 2019

How to prepare yourself for a South American adventure

Booking the trip of a lifetime to travel to South America can be an amazing experience, as you get to experience their rich culture, natural beauty and jaw dropping landmarks;but, if you fail to prepare yourself for the adventure you are about to take, then the potential enjoyment you will get may be little to none at all. Getting ready for your trip requires detail and attention, as forgetting just a couple of items in your backpack could mean that you’re left in an uncomfortable or even dangerous situation. So, if you’ve got a South American escapade coming up and you’d like to know more about how you can get sufficiently organised before you jet off, then read on to uncover some of the best hints and tips that will help you to make the most of every moment!

Dressed, But Not To Impress

When you travel to South America, it’s important that you are wearing the appropriate garments throughout your stay, both for your health and well being as well as your safety. Try and squeeze in a shopping trip before you head out, and purchase some light colored clothing that's going to be loose on your body to allow for air to circulate and keep you cool. If you’re going to be visiting any rural locations, try and go for none branded items as this will mean that you do not stick out from the crowd. Of course if you’re heading to the beaches of Brazil to soak up the sun you’re going to need to pack some swimwear, but be mindful about covering up whenever you decide to head back into town. Any outdoor activities like jungle trekking will require some sturdy walking boots, so make sure that you invest in a pair along with some suitable socks to make them more comfortable.

Plan Your Activities Beforehand 
Heading out into the Peruvian wilderness without any kind of goal or purpose is not going to be the best idea, and the chances of you getting lost and disoriented in the heat when wandering around looking for things to do is highly likely. That is why it’s so vital that you take some time to research what’s available in the surrounding area and create a brief plan for each day of your trip. There are so many blogs and dedicated websites online that exist just to explain the wealth of opportunities that you can take advantage of in South America, and gathering some resources such as a Machu Picchu travel guide that can help you roam the ruins and a language phrasebook so you can chat with the locals can make your stay run much more smoothly.

Preparing yourself for a South American adventure needn’t be a mammoth task when you take these top tips into consideration. Try not to under-pack, as it’s better to have too much rather than too little, and plan your activities before you reach your destination to save time and drama when you arrive.

This post was written for the Life According to Steph audience.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Thursday Thoughts - give me a life time of promises and a world of dreams

1. Stunner of a fall foliage scene I saw yesterday when taking headshots out in a little urban park off Chestnut Street. Philly, you're looking amazing.

2. The Christmas Village is set up in LOVE Park though, rushing Thanksgiving right through.

3. When I go to the Philly library to pick up my books on hold, I always check out what my neighbor with the same last name has on hold. We have very similar taste in books which I think is cool and I feel like leaving a note saying hey do you ever check out my books but I read a lot of books on creepy people and I don't want to be the creep in someone else's facebook status so I refrain. This is what they have on hold this week.

4. Never let me hear this shit uttered ever again by anyone who is breathing during this time of daily man fits. Jim Jordan looking more like a charlatan preacher making the rounds in the dust bowl, putting on a show to take money from the poor in exchange for empty promises than a congressional representative during impeachment hearings. Man alive. It’s outrageous. 

5. MFD bought me this needlepoint of my birthday twin for Christmas and gave it to me on November 20. LOL I love it though, and also it's much more exciting than what we're getting for Christmas this year, which is a new bathroom door.

6. I spent last night with my longtime friend (since first grade) and hairstylist for the past 15 years, Kristi. We talked books and addiction and tried to remember people's names based on very little facts and it was nice as always. This is poor lighting but it's the blondest I've ever been save that unfortunate orange blond from my college years.

7. Not sure whether to laugh or cry sometimes.

8. Some clickable links for your consideration: if you are watching the impeachment hearings and you are unfamiliar with Rep. Jackie Speier and her familiarity with cult-like behavior, gaslighting, and service; how racism moves people to vote against their own interests; a message from The Friendly Biologist about disinfectants as we enter sickie season; and the midlife unraveling as written by Brene Brown.

9. Reminder: If you feel something is lacking, remember you won't usually find it in things.

10. Ecards. 

I gave myself 25 minutes to write this and ring that bell, I did it...despite having to restart my computer and collect towels from three floors and put them in the laundry. Huzzah.

May today be ever in your favor. 
What appears after the hyphen in Thursday Thoughts is a song lyric to whatever I'm listening to when I start to write the post. This week is Simply the Best by the incomparable Tina Turner with a nod to Schitts Creek 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Three Things: November 2019

Things I'm looking forward to before the end of the month
1. Days off
2. Friendsgiving
3. Time with the fam

Things I’m happy with
1. My review being over. It was good and it has pretty much always been but reviews are not my comfort zone. 
2. Deciding to decorate the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I am an after Thanksgiving decorator but we leave for the shore Thanksgiving night and I won't be back until Monday night or Tuesday morning. 
3. Extended weekends at the shore this weekend and next. Time is winding down there so I’m making the most of it. 

Things I don’t understand 
1. Republicans in Congress
2. People who go through the trouble to arrange to pick up an item posted on an online yard sale then disappear into thin air. Like, just don’t engage if you never plan on getting the item. 
3. Less energy in my early 40s than in my late 30s

Things I love to eat at Thanksgiving
1. The skin on the turkey
2. Sweet potatoes
3. Pumpkin Pie

Things I need from the store
1. Toilet paper
2. Yams
3. window caulk

Things I don't like to do
1. Throw food out - such a waste when people don't have enough and can't afford to eat
2. Clean out my work bag
3. Wash my hair - happy to have a hair appointment today so someone else can wash it LOL

Things I've said out loud to strangers this week
1. "Are you really going to stand there?"
2. "How can you make 60 people walk the length of two train cars instead of you walking one and opening the doors?"
3. "I like your coat."

Things that smell good in this season
1. Turkey roasting
2. Burning leaves
3. Pre-snow air

Happy happy birthday Steph!

Now you.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

10 ways I prepare for a less stressful December

December is by and large the word I hate to use to describe myself or life in general: busy. I have issues with the concept of busy-ness that people hold up like a badge of honor that I would really prefer be more of a scarlet letter but there is no getting around that some seasons in life are more packed than others.

December is a busy time for me at work, as I'm sure it is for many of you. Add in the holiday things to do and be at plus the fact that Christmas is not my favorite season in general and if I don't prepare well I can end up hating December. And that's no way to end a year. As I've gotten older I've been more aware of how to better prepare myself for these seasons, and these are some of the things I do to make December as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.

1. Order cards in the beginning of November. I mail my cards the day before Thanksgiving, so they need to be ordered by the beginning of November.

2. Use my google tools. Google keep for list making, Google calendar so MFD and I who are rarely in the same place can see what the other person has going on and if we need to be at any of those places, and google photos to share pics with people of holiday stuff.

3. Finish Christmas-related shopping by December 1, including charitable donations and shift personal shopping habits. There is nothing that ruins my mood more than being in packed stores full of stressed out shoppers. Having my charitable donations and budget figured out early also ensures that I get things where they need to be on time. Over the years I've also severely narrowed who I buy for and what I buy them. I do not want to crap up anyone's life with stuff they don't want or need and I'm not into exchanging gifts with everyone under the sun or doing gift swaps or anything like that. I also shift my personal shopping habits for groceries and household essentials: I love holiday hours because I will be there at 10:30 pm picking up toilet paper in order to avoid the crowds. I will also order things like that more for delivery.

4. Relieve myself of the idea of doing it all and being everywhere. It's not ever happening, in the holiday season or otherwise. Before you expect that of yourself or someone else in regards to making everything happen or being at all events, stop. It's not fair to hold yourself to an impossible standard and it's an asshole move to press someone else to be and do in order to meet your expectations that will deplete their personal gas tank. Really. Stop it.

5. Remember that I, too, have been a rude asshole in public. Sometimes you catch people on a bad day. I'm not going to let their bad day ruin mine, and I also should not crucify them because I have been a rude asshole also, whether I knew it at the time or not.

6. Clean out the coat closet. I ensure that we have what we need winter wear-wise, and it's a good opportunity to donate any gently used items to populations that need them more than the one time a month they might be worn by us.

7. Purge and cook through the freezer and pantry. I make space and make sure I'm using everything plus I see what ingredients I need to buy for holiday gatherings.

8. Set up a gift station. I set aside a place in my basement to put Christmas gifts so they're all in one place and I always know what I have. This keeps me organized and prevents over-buying.

9. Put winter stuff in the car. Scraper, extra pair of gloves and knit hopes that one year I will actually have those things in the car BEFORE I need them and am not cleaning off from the first unexpected snow/ice event with a piece of paper MFD left in the backseat and a credit card.

10. Stock my essentials. This includes homemade elderberry extract (I use this recipe sans brandy) that I take daily, local honey, peppermint tea, magnesium and vitamin D supplements, and 49897482497 mistletoe-ish scented candles.

TL; DR: get what I've chosen as must do shit done before December even starts to make space and time for things I will enjoy. What do you do to make December less stressful for yourself?

Monday, November 18, 2019

TWTW - the productive yet relaxing one

Friday I had acupuncture at the end of the day and went home to chill the F out all night. It was great. I had a super simple dinner of argula and spinach salad and cacio e pepe, had some tea, and watched Schitts Creek.

Saturday I meant to sleep in but Gus had a poop problem and the dogs knocked over my bedside water glass, lamp, and phone, so I was up and moving by 7. I put away a load of towels and two loads of clothes, did another load of towels, cleaned out the fridge, emptied the dishwasher, cleared the living room cart of all the shit that has accumulated on it over the past year, and got a visit from my mom who came bearing pastries. Saturday afternoon was Annabelle's first birthday where it was nice to catch up with a lot of people I haven't seen since Catie & Joe's wedding in April, then on to Aldi. I was supposed to go there Friday night and should have because it was insane. I lolled around on the couch and read and watched Schitts Creek, MFD had an aborted mission to a mummery gig due to a car fire on 95. I made a nice rib eye with potatoes and green beans and sat my ass on the couch. I also talked on the phone twice! To Laura both times, but still. LOL

Sunday I slept in until 8:30, packed shore towels up to go back there, changed and washed sheets, went to Produce Junction, put away the shit that gets sent to the basement to get put away but just sits there for a while, organized Christmas gifts, ordered the gifts we do for Santa's Family organized by our friends at McCarthy Real Estate, photographed and listed some things to sell on FB, did the weekly food prep, went through a year of magazines, did a hair and face mask, did some work, and painted my nails (Zoya Aubrey + OPI Meet Me on the Star Ferry). I was feeling well prepared for the week by 3 pm. I closed out the day watching CSI season one episodes - man, that was a good show - and working from 8-10. 

Weekly food prep: Breakfasts are hard boiled eggs with power breakfast muffins. Snacks are oranges and celery and PB. Lunches were going to be chicken salad over spinach but I have too many leftovers so they have to go as lunch first. Sunday dinner was caesar salad with crusty italiaan bread/hard salami/mozzarella/green olives. I also made enchilada pasta to use up some enchilada sauce I had frozen (there's enough in my freezer for it to look like I was opening a restaurant) with zucchini and bell peppers from the air fryer + black olives and a can of tomatoes with diced green chiles.

I'm feeling a little better about my life after getting some shit purged and in order this weekend

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Always Wanted To Write A Novel? How You – Yes You! – Can Come Up With Something Great

Happy Saturday! Good timing to pick up this piece, given that it's NaNoWriMo. To those out there killing it, keep going! This post was written for the Life According to Steph audience

Writing is an art that has been around forever. Taking your own imagination and placing it down on some paper for others to indulge in? Awesome. It’s a strange thing, but it’s wonderful. The idea of being able to paint a picture in someone else’s head using only your vocabulary seems like something that shouldn’t be real. It is, however, and it’s something that will continue to happen for eternity. 

Have you always wanted to do a little writing project? Have you ever seen some of the amazing and awe-inspiring fiction and thought, ‘I’d love to create my own.’ You probably have done because everyone has pictured fantasies and stories in their heads before. 

Wanna know something amazing? You can do it. Yes, you certainly can. Those at the top of the game appear to be superhuman with their ability to conjure up stories and show immense amounts of creativity. The truth is, however, that they’re just humans like you, and all they did was work on what they enjoyed! If you’d ever like to give it a go, then here are a few things you can do: 

Write Down Literally Everything That Comes Into Your Mind 
Your brain is a lot more creative and brilliant than you might think. Because of the society we’re in, we kind of keep things bottled up. It probably stems from school days where you’d be judged for every little thing you said that was different or imaginative. Even if it sounds a little silly, write it down. You could stumble upon something amazing. 

Try To Create A World First
Before coming up with a narrative or a specific storyline, you might want to create an entire fantasy world – or an instance in this world we’re in now. Creating a story out of nothing is pretty difficult. If you have a world already, then it becomes infinitely easier. A lot of the hard work will have been sorted – the foundation would have been laid. All you’d have to do is pick and choose from this new world. 

Get Inspiration From Others
If you’re interested in this kind of thing, then you’ve probably been reading a lot since you were little. You should probably do a little more of it if you’re looking to be creative. Obviously, you should plagiarize, but a lot of inspiration can be taken from other stories. You can take certain styles from certain writers and form your own way of doing things. You can also look online at places like a Name Generator if you want some ideas for characters and place names! There are a host of funny services online that can get you what you want. 

Practice, Practice, Practice
This goes without saying. Nobody gets anywhere without trying and failing first. Nobody ever completed a difficult task on their first go. They sat and practiced for hours while nobody was watching. If you have the patience to do that, then you’ll look good while everyone has their eyes on you. 

Don’t Doubt What You’re Doing 
We sort of mentioned this earlier, but literally ignore all the doubts in your mind about what you might be conjuring up. The worries of it being bad are just in your head. If it’s a completely new idea and people aren’t too sure about it, then that doesn’t matter. Most innovative things are scoffed at, to begin with!

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