The blessings of being without a car

Friday, August 29, 2014

Yes . . . you read that right. I'll explain.

My son, the one who is campaign manager for our Michigan senator here, went back to college last week. He is going to take classes, and run back and forth to our district for campaign work. How he is going to do this, I don't know. There is a group of committed volunteers in the area, and he can do a lot via phone and internet. But still . . .

So rather than him having to buy a car just yet and pay insurance and so forth, I lent him my car, at least through the November election.

And I love it. It gives me an excuse to Stay Home. My favorite place to be.

I'm already experiencing a greater feeling of relaxation and peace, and a settling down into quiet, but creative days.

In some ways, I actually feel like I've gone back in time, and think of my mother and my grandmother, neither of whom had cars, and did just fine. I have a greater freedom and space to work on projects, write, and get some housework done.

no excuses now!
I have a desk and craft area upstairs, but the table in front of the couch in our family room is usually "Command Central" for me.

I have time to knit!

The laptop is open to The UK 1940s Radio Station. I love this station. It plays music that was popular during the 20s, 30s, and 40s in Great Britain, and includes broadcasts heard during the war. If you love history and the 40s like I do, you really should check it out. It's free (donations accepted).


So, I am happy. Listening to the 40s station today, and knitting, I almost felt like I was back in time. Before women were expected to Do It All.

Of course, I have access to a car in the evenings if I want it (rarely), and on weekends, when I can run any necessary errands. There are a few small inconveniences (I couldn't schedule my overdue dental appointment until December), but if I really need the car for some unexpected reason, I can take my husband to work and use his car.

I'm thinking that come November, my son will be used to having a car, and will feel reluctant to give it up. And, so far, I think I might be reluctant to take it back.

How about you? Could you manage/would you want to manage without a car?

Still in the dog days here . . .

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

As a child, I thought the "dog days" of summer referred to the fact that because it was so hot and humid, dogs just wanted to lay in the shade and keep cool. Whenever I hear the term "dog days," I still get a mental picture of a big Golden Retriever laying under the shade of a picnic table, panting.

The Official Blog Cat is standing in for the Golden Retriever
The dog days of summer are the hottest and muggiest part of summer, but "dog" refers to the star 
Sirius, the dog star, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). 

During the hottest time of the year in ancient times, Sirius rose at the same time as the sun, so ancient peoples assumed it was the cause of the oppressive heat. The ancient Romans would sacrifice a red dog in the spring to try and appease Sirius.

And even though the dog days of summer are officially well and truly over, it sure doesn't feel like it here in Michigan. Lots of heat and humidity. Even though students are mostly back to school, and some leaves are already turning, I do not have my customary "fresh start" feeling that comes with the beginning of a new school year.

I love that feeling . . . low humidity, warm, clear days, cool nights perfect for sleeping with the windows open; new school supplies (I never can resist buying fresh new pencils and a pretty notebook or two this time of year); pumpkin spice lattes and homemade gingerbread; and best of all, a renewed energy and zest for creating, learning, and growing.

But alas, I still feel lethargic, kind of oppressed by the humidity. Like those poor hot dogs, laying panting under the shade of a picnic table, I am at a low energy level. In ancient times, the dog days were considered to be an evil time, when dogs went mad and all other creatures became lethargic, disease ran rampant, and even the oceans boiled. I am one of those "all other creatures." Can only hope for a change in the weather soon.

I think it must be dog days all the time for cats.

Roses and chocolate tea

Monday, August 25, 2014

This post is sponsored, in part, by my lovely daughter, who made the delicious cake, let me use one of her teacups, and overall, contributed to the "eye" candy you will be seeing (you will get the joke momentarily).

What could be better than roses and chocolate? Look at this delicious, from-scratch chocolate cake my daughter made . . . 

Served up on a plate of roses . . .  

with tea in rose-covered teacups . . . 

poured from a rose-covered teapot . . . 

And here's the "eye" candy I promised . . . 

A beautiful set of eye shadows packaged as a bar of chocolate . . . 

My daughter gave this to a friend for her birthday. Aren't the colors gorgeous, and the names fun? Do you ever wonder about the people who get the job of picking names for lipsticks and nail polishes, etc? Is it a full-time job? Do they get to visit chocolate shops for inspiration? Do they have to buy boxes of cherry cordials just to make sure they really are that color brown? 

Perhaps there is in the budget monies earmarked for visits to upscale coffee shops, just to get the right name down -- after all, salted caramel, creme brulee, and hazelnut coffees all have their own signature look, and you gotta get it right . . .

And speaking of makeup, I finally picked up my free birthday gift from Sephora before the offer expired. Here's what I got . . . 

A mini lipstick and mascara. And, because I had accumulated some bonus points, I got my choice of several items to take home for free. I choose the Dolce & Gabbana The One perfume mini, one of my daughter's favorites.

Now if I were smart, this would go right upstairs into a Christmas stocking stash. A perfect stocking stuffer, right? But no, I get too excited about things, and have to give stuff to the recipient right away. 

Like I just bought a huge bag of Sour Patch Kids on sale to stick into my youngest's stocking. Mr. Beautiful is convinced that it will never make it to Christmas. I'm likely to break it out next time my son is home. I'm sure he is right.

And, before I go, The Official Blog Cat wants in on the fun. Whenever I sit down to read, she jumps up and lays right on top of my book. I think this is a universal cat habit.

Linking with these parties . . . 

Aging Well book review

Thursday, August 21, 2014

When my daughter was getting her masters in Counseling Psychology, she had to read a book entitled Aging Well by George E. Vaillant, M.D. (2002). Naturally, it caught my attention! Even though I don't think of myself as old or even older, yet, I wanted to see if the author had some ideas for navigating this process.

The book's subtitle is "Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development." For more than five decades, Harvard researchers have studied hundreds of people from a variety of backgrounds, to determine why some people "age well," while others don't. The book follows the stories of a number of individuals, and makes some conclusions about the things that help keep us healthy and happy.

I love bullet-point information, so I am going to try and give you the top "tips" and information I gleaned from this book.

*  Creativity and a desire to pursue life-long learning is key to aging well. People who continue to maintain an interest in life, and in learning new things, do well. The creative process keeps us young. So, I would say, learn Italian, learn to crochet, read books that challenge and stretch, stay interested in the world . . .

*  People who master the art of "generativity," unselfishly giving to the generation below them, are more likely to be fulfilled adults in their 70s. These people are willing to teach and mentor, not just their own children and grandchildren, but others as well, all the time holding on to them loosely, and letting them grow in their own right.

*  Alcoholism, and drug and chemical dependency are negative factors in aging well, and not just because of the obvious health effects. Social relationships are more likely to be damaged, and supportive relationships, critical to a healthy life, may not be in place. 

*  A happy marriage is a key indicator in aging well. Even if you are now widowed, a happy marriage in the past helps in the aging process. Single people with good, solid friendships, or even one close, supportive friend, do better than those who are divorced, alone, or in dysfunctional relationships. And, by the way, the author states that "generativity," commitment, tolerance, and a sense of humor were the four common factors  he saw in happy marriages.

*  Being a "Keeper of Memory" is also a good indicator of aging well. I can picture a grandmother sharing photographs and stories with her grandchildren, an antique refinisher restoring and preserving a precious heirloom, an elderly person writing down family history that might be forgotten . . . I think the point here is that people who understand and value tradition and history are more likely to have made peace with it. They understand the value of continuity and of the passing of values.

*  The ability to forgive and to be grateful. There is great healing power in this. In some of the stories in the book, we see people who don't quite achieve this until older age; it seems to be a long process sometimes, but worth pursuing. 

*  "It is not the bad things that happen to us that doom us; it is the good people who happen to us at any age that facilitate enjoyable old age." This makes me think of children who have had horrific childhoods and go on to eventually have successful and happy lives. Somewhere, oftentimes, there was one mentor, one friend, who showed a different way. In fact, although education, IQ, and happy childhoods generally predict better outcomes, handicaps in these areas were often overcome, and fortunately, did not "doom" study participants to an unhappy old age.

It was quite interesting to me that very little is said in the book about diet or exercise or overall health as being key to aging well. Of course, one must be healthy to make it to old age. But, overall subjective good health was more important than objective poor health (in other words, "it is all right to be ill as long as you do not feel sick"). Another way of saying this is that attitude goes a long ways toward how we feel. Several study participants, despite having health challenges, sometimes serious, were still able to enjoy a fulfilling old age.

Although there was some discussion about the importance of spirituality in the lives of some of the participants, it seemed to be incorporated into the general idea of attaining wisdom and integrity, another key to aging well. Even though this was obviously a secular study, it did seem to me that its conclusions are consistent with the benefits of a life of faith.

My daughter told me that two ideas stuck with her after she read this book. This first was that life is a process, and we continue to grow, or should continue to grow, up to the end of our life. There is no magic age when we should have "arrived" or "have it all together" (whew! what a relief for me!). The people who aged well were continually learning and growing and changing.

The second was the idea of continuing to learn to "take people in," as the author describes it. If friends or family move or die, continue to reach out to people. The author says that he believes the most critical element in aging well is "the gift of allowing the healing hope, strength, and experience of others inside."

Now that is an idea worth pondering. Although Dr. Vaillant talks much about "generativity," the giving of ourselves to those younger than us, and how satisfied and fulfilled the study participants were who helped others, it seems also critically important that we know how to receive love, too.

This was an interesting book, full of stories of people interviewed over decades, from college up until old age. The book's tone was, in general, very positive and inspiring, as it gave many examples of people living fulfilled and happy lives well into their eighties. I'd like to learn a few things from them.

What do you all think? What are some of your ideas for aging well? 

A colorful little tea

Monday, August 18, 2014

Our local antique mall was having a big tent sale this weekend, so of course I had to go. Mr. Beautiful was playing golf, so I had a full afternoon to putter about, enjoying all kinds of vintage goodies. I found so many beautiful things, and, exercising great restraint as my cart began to fill up, put many of them back. Others, I just looked at, sighed wistfully, and left alone. 

I guess it's not like I'm hurtin' for more teacups or linens, am I?

In fact, I really didn't need some of the beautiful linen napkins I got. But they were such a steal, and all nicely clean and ironed. Maybe I'll save them for a blog giveaway.

For now, I'll just show this colorful little card table cloth. I know, right after I've been waxing poetic-like over transitioning to a white/cream palette. This doesn't really fit in with that subdued color scheme, but it is so sweet . . .

And look at the darling edging somebody did . . .

I found this little plate . . .

The back says GDA France. This mark is from the Haviland china company. I was curious about the hand-painted name (shown below), so I did a little research.

 Back in the day (17 and 1800s), Haviland manufactured plain china and purchasers then sent it to local (surrounding Paris area) guilds and had artists decorate it. Haviland later employed their own artists right in their factory in Limoges, France, so that the china could be painted there, much more convenient for American buyers, who, of course, would not send it all the way back to France to have it painted.

So, I think the GDA France mark was made on a plain plate, and then an artist decorated and signed it. The particular mark "GDA" was not used until 1948, so this is not that old. Interesting; I've never seen a name on china like this. 

It looks so nice on top of this green plate, Johnson Brothers The Florentine. I got six of these in a bidding war (my first and only) on eBay. Glad I persevered, but a little nerve-wracking.

And on top of the plate, we have to add a piece of this yummy strawberry-rhubarb pie.

I didn't make this; it is from the Grand Traverse Pie Company, a Michigan company that makes delicious pies. A little pie like this is perfect for us. Four smallish pieces; so with two of our children for dinner, none of us can overindulge. Check out the cute retro design on the box.

Only a few crumbs left!
And do you notice the "Pure Michigan" logo? Our license plates, years ago, read "Water-Winter Wonderland." Then for a long time it was simply "Great Lake State." Now, the advertising people have come up with "Pure Michigan." I kind of like that. This slogan has been appearing on all sorts of Michigan-made products.

So, back to the tea party here. This cute little jar came from the tent sale, too. I decided to put my stash of organic Darjeeling in it.

The teacup you've seen before. It's the Bridal Rose pattern. I had to find one that didn't compete too much with the tablecloth.

Altogether, a colorful little tea. Thanks for joining me.

Ode to friendship

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: "What? You too? I thought that no one but myself . . . "
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Some of my introvert friends and I like to joke about our propensity for solitude. "Introverts unite . . . individually!" And "small talk with strangers is my kryptonite." And "we secretly love it when you cancel plans." In a noisy world, we like our quiet.

But truly, even though I need and enjoy my alone time, there is nothing like spending time with a good friend. 

I have a dear friend who lives about five hours away. We see each other every few months, when she comes to stay here for a few days, or I go to visit her. If we lived close, and met for coffee, we would probably spend the time talking non-stop. But when we are together for a few days, we are often found sitting together, reading or working on our laptops. One of us might cook while the other naps.

Sometimes her husband comes in the room, looks at us, and shakes his head. "Aren't you two going to do anything?" he asks. He simply can't see what's fun about enjoying quiet time together. Yes, we go antiquing or out to eat, but we can enjoy the quietness of books and random talk as we visit.

Our book club has been meeting twice a month for more than three years. I love this group of women. We are a group of eleven, ranging in age from mid-forties to early sixties. A few have children still at home; others are grandmothers. We are all, except for a few who are still teaching their children, "retired" homeschool moms, who share a love of books and of the Lord. We read a wide range of books, from classics to best-sellers, mysteries, and long, heavy tomes. We do discuss books, but we also spend lots of time catching up and supporting each other and just plain laughing together.

From a recent book club meeting. Isn't this retro coffee warmer great? 
Everyone brings something for a delicious salad bar lunch, including home-grown cucumbers.
I met a woman recently who said she was in a book club that had been meeting for 25 years. If our club met that long, I would be about 80. I sure hope we are still meeting together as elderly ladies!

There is something really special about friendship that has lasted years, decades even. A shared history, and memories of going camping together, praying each other through difficult situations, working together at our children's debate tournaments, rejoicing together at showers and weddings, making salsa together, shopping and cooking and having endless cups of tea . . .  We have prayed, laughed, and cried together.

Sometimes a friend is made unexpectedly. When my daughter-in-law's mother and I were planning the wedding for my son and her daughter, we were able to visit each other several times, even though I am in Michigan and she is in North Carolina. We decided to call ourselves SSILs (special sisters-in-law), as there is really no name for the relationship between mothers of the bride and groom. Oh, yes, I guess there is . . .  friends. We have since gone on vacation together twice. 

I'm on the left; my dear SSIL is on the right.
And don't let me forget my new blogging friends. Bloggers are some of the most generous and kind people I know, sharing information and inspiration, devoting hours of time to give us all an idea or a smile or a thought-provoking post, all for free!

I don't have tons of friends; I just don't have enough energy to keep up with that many people. But I do truly value the ones that I have. They are a special gift from God, and knowing them makes my life so much richer.

Hug a friend today!

Coffee and a moon pie

Sunday, August 10, 2014

On the way up north last weekend, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel restaurant for lunch. I love to go there, not only for the comfort food, but for the store. We always check out all the old-time candy, and usually pick up something.

This time, we picked up a package of moon pies.

These have been around since 1917. I had fun reading the history of the moon pie on the company's website. The story is that a bakery salesman visited some coal miners who were looking for something "solid and filling" because they often didn't get time to break for lunch. When asked how big it should be, a miner held up his hands to frame the moon, and said, "about that big."

Well, it's a good thing they're only as big as they are. Two graham crackers, covered in marshmallow, covered in chocolate. But soft, not crunchy. Yummy. Two hundred and twenty calories. Not too bad for a dessert. And look at the recipe options . . . 

Unfortunately, I noticed these are made with high fructose corn syrup. My youngest son, who is an economics major, explained to me why corn syrup is so ubiquitous in our food supply.

 *** Warning: Quick Econ Lesson ***

Our government has put high tariffs on sugar coming into the U.S. And although we do get sugar from beets grown here in the U.S., we don't grow sugar cane (except in Hawaii). However, we do grow lots and lots of corn, and the government subsidizes farmers for growing corn.

So corn products, including corn syrup, are much cheaper for manufacturers to use. This is why all our pop (soda) is sweetened with corn syrup. Soda made outside the U.S. is made using real sugar. Every once in a while, I buy my son a single glass bottle of  Coke imported from Mexico, made with 100% sugar. He says it tastes lots better.

*** the end ***

Speaking of soda, a moon pie ("the biggest snack on the rack") and a 10-ounce RC Cola could each be bought for a nickel during the Depression.

I had coffee with my moon pie. This coffee cup is part of my wedding china, Cumberland by Noritake. For years, I wished we had gotten something with some color, some pink flowers with green or blue or lavender. But Mr. Beautiful convinced me these would always go with everything. I actually think this might be one reason why I started collecting vintage china. The white on white was so . . . boring.

I have to say I do appreciate them more as the years have gone by. They are classic. 

I got these vintage napkins up north. It's hard to tell, but they are a lovely pale green.

I don't ever remember having a moon pie when I was growing up. I wonder if it was more of a southern thing. I have fond memories of Neccos and Chuckles. Oh, and Smarties, although you can still easily get those. Do you have a favorite old-fashioned candy or packaged treat?

Politics doesn't have to be dirty

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Well, never say never. I sure didn't think I'd ever write a post about politics. I have my own strong feelings, of course, but politics really doesn't seem to fit with the theme of "beautiful matters," does it? I like to keep things beautiful and lovely here, with a dose of inspiration and a dab of sparkle.

But I have to tell you, I just witnessed a beautiful thing. A group of campaign workers with integrity, smarts, and kindness, and, more importantly, a candidate who refuses to play politics, and even prays for those who persecute and slander him.

My son is the campaign manager for our district's state senator, Patrick Colbeck. We had a party here last night for his volunteers and campaign workers. We watched the results of our Michigan primary as they came in.

These people have been working incredibly hard, and our senator handily defeated his primary challenger, despite the opponent spreading lies misinformation (I will try to be gracious like the senator) about Senator Colbeck. We had about 50 people here, many of whom had been working the polls all day, despite the rain. My son, here with the Hillsdale College hat on, is running on about one hour of sleep.

At the end of the evening, the senator thanked us all, and prayed. He prayed for his opponent, and all those who had lost. He prayed for healing between those who ran against each other. He prayed that we might run a campaign based on integrity and truth. He reminded all of us that this upcoming campaign, where we face a well-funded opponent in November, needs to continue to be one of integrity. He said he is saddened by the number of people who are disenfranchised from the whole political scene because of their distrust of "politics as usual."

He challenged us to be different. To prove that a campaign can be run, and an office held, that isn't "politics as usual." That there are politicians who can stand up for what's right, not buckle under pressure, and not make "deals,"  the kinds of things that so many Americans feel disillusioned and disheartened by. That we keep our promises, remain faithful to the public trust, and do what's right and honorable.

If we win, we win; if not, we can hold our heads high. It's in God's hands. I, for one, was mightily encouraged by the evening.

Early on, when my son first got this job, I rubbed my hands together, and gleefully joked, "okay, when do we start the smear campaign?" So thankful to be working for a candidate who doesn't think like that.

If you live in our district (Plymouth, Canton, Northville, Livonia, and Wayne) and want more information, please visit

A prolonged vacay

Monday, August 4, 2014

I've been on an impromptu getaway to northern Michigan. The weather is gorgeous; perfect for the beach. It's a little cool at night; perfect for the hot tub and for sleeping with the windows open. 

I was going to go home on Sunday. Then it changed to Monday. Now I am going home early Tuesday morning, with no little fear and trembling, because we will be having about 60 guests at our home Tuesday night. Yikes.

I am not in charge of this shindig, however. My son is having a primary election party for the volunteers on the campaign he's managing, and has assured me all the food is taken care of. He's ordering pizza and has bought lots of snacks and drinks from Costco. I left the house in good order; I will only need to run the vacuum and tidy up a bit.

I have to admit I feel a bit reckless. I usually feel like I need to make homemade food and make more of a fuss. Ah well. It's hard to feel anxious when you're sitting here . . . 

Here I am, sitting on a beach chair with my toes up in the air, watching the gulls and the sailboats. These toes barely got wet, though. Even in August, Lake Michigan is freezing. Michiganders are a hardy lot, however; lots of people were swimming.

When my children were growing up, my husband was the one who played with them in the water every summer when we went to Ontario, and camped on the shores of Lake Huron. They couldn't believe it when we were in Pensacola and I was swimming in the ocean and having so much fun. They had always thought I didn't like to swim. Not true. I just don't like to swim in cold water! 

And don't even start on Lake Superior! Brrr! I remember camping as a child up there, and having to run in the lake for a quick "bath" as there were no shower facilities. It was like ice!

It has been a delightful weekend, and we have enjoyed relaxing and watching movies and eating ice cream. I hate to tell you all this, but I have spied some leaves turning color already. Then again, fall is my absolute favorite time of year. Bring it on (but maybe not too soon!).
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