Cats and Snow

Our cats, they do not like the snow–

You put them out, and they say “NO!”

You bring them back–

They give you flack,

They grump and sulk–

And at bedtime, hoist their bulk

Upon our feet, our ankles and our legs–

Until at last one of us begs:

“Oh, kitties, please! It’s not our fault that we have snow,

Or that the wind around the trees does blow!”

But, being cats, they don’t believe us,

And then they fussily up and leave us.

We try and sleep the night away

And wonder why we had all these cats anyway.

The answer? It comes to us fast and faster–

We’re the slaves, and they’re the masters!

 

 

 

 

“Snowmageddon” is Here!

What all the news and weather folk have been yammering about; “Snowmageddon,” is here. Call it a blizzard or just another nor’easter, it’s here, complete with all the *sturm and drang you could possibly wish for. But it’s January, and that’s pretty much what happens in January, or February, or even sometimes in March or April. The media always hypes it up; so don’t panic. It’s winter, so it’s gonna snow. A lot. And be very cold. That’s pretty much what happens in this neck of the woods–Old Man Winter knows that his time is limited, so he throws a few of these New England blizzards at us now and then to keep us on our toes.

We who live here understand that these storms can and do happen. Sometimes we lose power, sometimes we can’t get out, sometimes we have to do without some of our comforts; that’s winter for you.

Just be prepared as best you can. Pay attention to the sensible things when a snowstorm is imminent, i.e.; have plenty of batteries, flashlights, water, suitable clothing and footwear, candles and food. There are a gozillion web sites you can check to make sure you have everything you need, so check them out.

But here’s the thing about snowstorms–it gives us a little island of solitude in a busy world. With all the distractions and goings-on of everyday life, we often forget about simple pleasures. No TV? No problem. Read a book by candlelight or by the light of your handy-dandy headlamp (this is standard gear for us snow birds). No computer? Get out the Scrabble board. No social networking? Write a letter, or, if your phone is still working, call someone. As for meals, it’s always good to have a little propane grill. You bundle up, take the grill outside (this bit is critical–DO NOT use the propane grill in the house or in a closed-in porch–EVER!), and grill up some hot dogs or burgers or chicken or vegetables or, one of my favorites, a **hobo pack.

For me, the gift a blizzard gives us is the knowledge that we are not in control; we never were. But even as it’s humbling to be in the grip of something so powerful, it’s a reminder that we are only visitors on this earth and we’d better make the most of our time.  No matter what pressing issues are on our plates or where we should be, nothing is as important as living our lives well.

Of course I won’t like it if we lose power and we can’t make coffee. Of course our one indoor/outdoor cat, Plumpy-Nut, will walk from door to door, hoping that one of them will open up to sunshine and flowers. Of course it’s inconvenient (and a little scary) to be without power. But these are transitory things, and as long as we’re prepared, we’re good to go.

Right now, our knights of the snow; all the snowplow drivers, police force, EMTs, firemen, and all those folks who make our towns safe for us–all are doing their best to keep things running smoothly until “Snowmageddon” tires himself out and goes on vacation to Bermuda. These are regular people with families who, unlike the rest of us, have to be at work in all this snow and wind. Bless them all!

Until all this has past, I wish you all safe harbor. For myself, I’m going to go get another cup of coffee before our power poops out.

*German, literally, storm and stress, from Sturm und Drang (1776), drama by Friedrich von Klinger †1831 German novelist and dramatist

**A hobo pack consists of a goodish size square of aluminum foil, filled with some vegetables and chicken or fish (or whatever you like). Toss in some soy sauce or Thai peanut sauce, or barbeque sauce or whatever, and seal up the aluminum foil in a neat pouch. Toss it on the grill for 20-30 minutes, depending on how fast your protein will cook. Unwrap and enjoy!

 

 

Just Do SOMETHING!

This time of year is famous for causing people here in the Northeast to have a good case of the blues, the blahs and the boo-hoos. Everything seems too hard to do, the motivation is just not there, you can’t seem to focus on anything, and your energy level is stuck on Empty. All TV programs seem boring, even that bestseller you just picked up doesn’t keep your interest, no food tastes good, you’re too tired to shower or get dressed–shall I go on? Been there, felt that.

The solution is this: baby steps. Even just making the bed, emptying the dishwasher, washing a load of towels, combing the snarls out of Fluffy’s coat, making a cup of tea, changing a light bulb–all or any of these things will make you feel better. Why? Because it’s an accomplishment in a less-than-stellar day. It’s a tiny little victory you can feel good about even when you felt like doing NOTHING–but you did do something. 

You wouldn’t think that something as miniscule as washing towels could pick you up out of the slump; but it does. You can go to bed that night, saying to yourself, ‘at least I washed the towels.’ It’s strangely comforting to count the little bits of accomplishment in a day where you felt like doing nothing more than just breathing. It sets you up for more successes the next day.

Success is truly where you find it. In my unasked-for opinion, these are things I call successes:

  • cleaning the bathroom
  • dusting the knick-knacks
  • straightening the books in the bookshelves
  • writing a note to someone
  • making a salad
  • sweeping up all the cat hair on the kitchen floor
  • cleaning the crumbs out of the toaster

All little things, I’ll admit. But, like the mighty oak that began life as a humble acorn, little things can become big things. And all these little successes add up until you get it: “I’m ok–it’s just a day,” and you can keep going.

So, go do little things. Even if all you feel like doing is lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, do something. While you’re lying there, you can pat the cat who decided to climb in bed with you. You can pick up the phone and call dear old Aunt Phoebe. You can meditate, you can dream, you can wiggle your toes. You can recite the old James Whitcomb Riley poem you memorized in the second grade, “Old October’s Purt’ Nigh Gone:”

“Old October’s purt’ nigh gone,
And the frosts is comin’ on
Little heavier every day–
Like our hearts is thataway!
Leaves is changin’ overhead
Back from green to gray and red,
Brown and yeller, with their stems
Loosenin’ on the oaks and e’ms;
And the balance of the trees
Gittin’ balder every breeze–
Like the heads we’re scratchin’ on!
Old October’s purt’ nigh gone.”

Get it? Good–do it!

What Ever Happened to Manners, or Are There Any Ladies Left?

Is it only me, or have manners gone the way of the dinosaurs?

I learned manners and basic social behavior from my mother, my grandmother, my aunts and my special mentor, Miss Gladys Churchill, whom we affectionately called “Churchy.” She was an old lady when I met her, and she made a big impression in my life.

From her and all the strong and wonderful women in my life who influenced my growing up, these are the things that were “manners standards” for what a young girl should aspire to—that is, to be a lady:

Things a Lady Never Does:

  • “root” in her purse like a pig snuffling out truffles
  • swear or pick her nose in public
  • leave the house without underwear
  • speak in a loud or “common” voice
  • sit with legs open or one leg slung carelessly over the other, joggling the foot
  • wear excessive makeup
  • slouch
  • tell family secrets outside the home
  • get drunk in public (I’m guessing that being drunk at home was ok)
  • gossip
  • chew food with the mouth open
  • scratch oneself like a monkey in public
  • yawn without covering the mouth
  • wink at men
  • burp or fart in public
  • get caught in a lie
  • bray like a donkey when laughing
  • make a fool of oneself
  • chew gum in public like a cow chewing cud

Things a Lady Does:

  • sit with legs demurely crossed at the ankle and with the back straight
  • speak politely and clearly
  • acknowledge people with a polite ‘hello, how are you?’
  • ask after a person’s family
  • be polite at all costs
  • cover the mouth when yawning
  • overlook another person’s mistakes or *faux pas
  • resist any urge to swear, scratch, burp, fart, or have that one more glass of wine
  • ignore a flirtation (especially with a married man)
  • smile without showing too many teeth
  • tug at her underwear
  • never get caught in a ‘**compromising position’

If this sounds too Downton Abbey-ish, well–that’s how things were when I was growing up. Although some of these things seem impossibly fuddy-duddy-ish now, they existed so that everyone would feel comfortable and know what to expect of themselves and everyone else. These social graces and pleasantries kept everyone in a familiar atmosphere and on a level playing field.

These days, you never know what you’re going to hear and see on the street, in someone’s house, on TV or at work. It’s almost like living in a permanent Jerry Springer show–people spit, swear, urinate and fornicate in public, shoot people, crash their vehicles into homes and offices, go on rampages just for the hell of it, steal, lie, cheat, and so on. And when they’re caught and called out, are they sorry? No! They blame it all on someone else, or they have some sort of excuse for what they did–a nutritional disorder, or they are off their meds, or their daddy beat them when they were little–it’s never their fault.

I lived through the 60s and 70s when most of our social order went to hell. Oh, I didn’t burn my bra or attend any sit-ins or love-ins, nor did I attend Woodstock. (I was invited to go to it, but outside of the fabulous musical talent, I had no interest in sleeping on the ground, using a Port-O-San, or going without clean clothes, thank you very much.) Just about everything I had learned as a child turned upside down in those days, but I never forgot my lessons from the great women in my life.

At that time, ladies were ladies, a good reputation was vital, and everyone moreorless understood basic manners and pleasantries. I’m not saying that those days should or would come back, but at that time it was familiar and comfortable.

Oh, Churchy–what in the world would you think of things today?

*embarrassing social mistake, such as spilling a glass of wine or peeing on the floor
**be alone in a room with the door closed with a man, single or married, etc.

Joy is Where You Find It

Here in the Northeast, January isn’t the best month of the year. It’s usually freezing cold with lots of gray and gloomy days, with frigid nights full of icy stars. When we get that famous “January thaw,” all it really does is to tease us for a few days with unexpected high temps (40 degrees is a real WOO-HOO day!). The thaw always comes with dirty slush that sogs up your socks, and overnight turns fiendishly into icy rubble to trip you up the next day. No flowers bloom, no trees dare to put out their leaves, and all the dogs and cats have wet and dirty feet when they come back into the house. The house smells of wet wool, wet people and wet pets.

In January, the Crankee Yankee (my husband) bundles up in sweat pants, a sweat shirt and a fleece vest just to wear inside the house. (Myself, I’m usually in light pajama pants and a t-shirt; my motor just runs hot, I guess). At bedtime, least two of our three cats bunk up with us, and they usually plant themselves around our heads and/or in between us. (In the cold months, we are just two big old heating pads for them.)

All that said about cold and gray January, I still love it. Even at this time of year when we find ourselves yearning for the sight and smell of green growing things; grass and flowers and budding trees, when we long for the sun in our faces–still, I do love the stark and lovely grays and whites and browns of the month.

I learned a long time ago that what we speak and think becomes reality; if we gripe about the weather in January, it will seem even more cold and raw and unpretty. But, if we are glad for each day, even in the cold and damp, it puts a new light on everything.  Then January becomes a time of hope and beauty; we notice that the days are slowly but surely getting longer. Even the chill and feeble sun holds a promise of coming spring; you can almost smell the first daffodils blooming.

The pond I love walking around is still and frozen, and only a few seagulls, a duck or two, and even a couple of geese who missed their flight south are hardy enough to brave the small patch of open water. The stately great blue herons still stand in icy water to fish where they can, and the little birds that scavenge in the reeds are already checking out future nesting areas. I imagine that the turtles and frogs, now sleeping deep in the mud, dream of sunshine and warm breezes. They, too, in their way, find joy in January.

In this brave new year, let’s not make the mistake of wishing we were already in May or June–let’s take a new look at where we are right at this moment. Sure, our feet are perpetually cold, we are sick of all the heavy clothes we wear, tired of runny noses and barking coughs, weary of the early darkness, but still–still there is joy.

Although I’ve felt for years that New Year’s Day is just a bunch of bushwa; the start of a new year with all its hastily-made and high-minded resolutions–it’s just a day. When you think about it, every day we wake up on Planet Earth is a new day, a new start. That being said, how about we think of poor old January in a new way? We can think of it as the month in which we count our blessings from the past years to now, to look at our families, friends and circumstances in a new way, to be glad for where we are and who we are.

To find joy right where we are, to see it for all it is, to be glad of drawing breath another day–this is the best kind of joy. To share another day with those we love, to look upon our circumstances with new eyes and a new attitude–that’s joy right smack dab in front of us.

So–anyone else for joy in January? I’m in–how about you?

 

 

 

When Paying More Doesn’t Make Sense – Makeup

Years ago, my mother and I launched our own campaign to find the perfect foundation makeup, concealer, lipstick, eye shadow, blush and eye liner. Our findings were pretty amazing–we found that we didn’t have to pay more to enjoy good products. Now, without naming names, we found out a good deal about choosing the right kinds of makeup.

We also found that most women think that you cannot return makeup once you’ve bought it and tried it. Many women won’t buy makeup because they think that they will be out the money if they don’t like it–not true! Of course I haven’t checked all stores’ policies on this, but as a general rule, this is correct. You may get some flack from the sales person, but if you politely ask to see the manager, they will let you return the goods you didn’t like. Looking at it from the store’s point of view, it doesn’t pay to alienate customers.

Cheapo Choices: check out drug stores and Dollar stores for lower-priced (and just as good in many cases) goods. You don’t always have to pay for the high-end stuff. In fact, the drug stores and Dollar stores especially often stock name brands.

If you don’t already know this, find out whether your skin tone is warm or cool. If you used the Color Me Beautiful (see http://www.colormebeautiful.com) method of determining this as many of I did years ago, you’ll know how to check. Knowing this will greatly help you choose the right shades of makeup.

Generally speaking, here’s the lowdown on makeup:

  • A little foundation makeup can work magic; it blends the different areas of your facial skin (blotchy spots, etc.) and gives the impression of a smooth ‘canvas’.
  • Concealer does just what it sounds like: it conceals those areas to which you don’t attention drawn.
  • Blush is absolute magic. Just a swoosh of it from temple to the apples of your cheeks gives your face a youthful glow and brightens your eyes. If you are older, choose a matte (rather than shiny) blush. It will give you a softer, more natural look.
  • Eye liner–not everyone likes it, but for me, it’s a subtle way to emphasize the eyes. You can wear it with or without eye shadow. The rule of thumb with eye liner is less is more. Also, be judicious when it comes to black eyeliner. If you’re young, you can pull it off and look fabulous. Older eyes generally look older with black eyeliner; it can be too harsh. Try using a subtle blue or green, or brown.
  • Mascara–again, not for everyone. My eyelashes are short and sparse, so I appreciate that mascara can make the most of every little lash I still have. A few words about mascara–black really makes the lashes stand out. Don’t think that, because you are blonde or have lighter skin, you need only wear brown mascara. You can also get your mascara in regular or waterproof. For me, waterproof is the only way to go–if I should leak tears of joy or sadness, at least I won’t have raccoon eyes.
  • Eye shadow–this is another makeup choice not everyone likes. If you’re young, you can go wild with all the great colors of eye shadow out there. Sparkly, shiny, bright–go for it! However, if you are older, eyelids tend to crease and the last thing you’ll want is to have eye shadow caked up in the creases. It can look too harsh. The older we get, the softer our makeup should be.
  • **Lipstick! This is another magic product that looks great on everyone. As with your skin, know your lip skin as well. If your lips tend to be dry, then choose a richer, moister lipstick. Whether or not you use lip liner is up to you. If you do, choose one close to the color of your lipstick. If you are older, often lipstick may “bleed” into the tiny lines around your mouth. In this case, a lipliner can give lips a more finished look.

The following list outlines what to I personally look for in a product. First and foremost, know your skin and know your skin sensitivities.

*Foundation Makeup: If your skin tends to be dry as mine is, look for a liquid makeup with an oil base. You’ll want something that’s creamy and has a moisturizer. If your skin tends to be oily, you’ll want makeup with a powder base; no oil. Take care to match your skin tone, too–compare the color of the makeup to the color of your skin on the inside of your arm near the wrist. In general, go for a shade lighter than your skin.

NOTE: Many women like to finish their foundation makeup with powder. I can no longer speak to this as I don’t use it any longer.

Concealer: When choosing a concealer, select a shade lighter than your foundation. Dab a tiny bit of it under eyes, on any skin discolorations, blotches, etc. Make sure you blend it well.

Blush: Select a blush that suits your skin tone. As a very general rule, keep it light. Younger skin can handle brighter colors as well as sparkly and shiny finishes. Older skin looks much better with softer, matte tones. Go easy on blush, too–you want to look healthy and vibrant, not like Nutzo the clown.

Eye Liner: You can choose from a pencil type eye liner (which I personally love because I can smudge it to be both eye shadow and eye liner), or a ‘magic marker’ pen-type which gives a more accurate line. If you choose the old-school type liquid liner, be careful–if applied badly, it will do more than age your eyes–it will make you look like an unearthed Egyptian mummy.

Mascara: Mascara does wonders for your eyes; it makes the lashes stand out. If you should smear some on your eye lids, just wet the end of a Q-tip and rub it off.

Eye Shadow: Eye shadow can go heavy or light, depending on your look. Generally speaking, keep it light for daytime and apply a bit more at night. As with anything else, less is usually more.

Lipstick: Again, knowing your skin tone is key. Also, if your lips tend to be dry, you may want to consider a tinted lip balm instead of lipstick. These days there are so many choices out thereagain, try them out and see what works best for you. Lipstick gives you a more put-together look, and used correctly, is very flattering.

If you are just starting out wearing makeup, or you want to make a change from what you’ve used in the past, you can always go to the mall and get advice from any of the excellent makeup consultants. However, that being said, if you’re going to take up their time, it’s only polite to buy something. It’s a good idea to update your look at least every 5-10 years–it may only be a matter of softening your look with more subtle makeup.

PLEASE do not make the all-too-common mistake of keeping up the look you had in high school. Nothing–and I mean NOTHING–dates you faster than that.

So, that’s my personal take on makeup. Take the time to shop around; you may be quite surprised to find that you can have a great look without spending a fortune.

*I have only ever used liquid makeup, so I can’t speak for the other types.

**You may want to smooth a bit of foundation on your lips to make the lipstick set better and keep your lipstick on longer.

Wabi Sabi Bracelets for Sale in My Etsy Store!

I’m taking this wabi sabi obsession of mine to a new level. As some of you may know, I have an Etsy store (please see http://www.janesjools4u.etsy.com) where I sell my handmade necklaces, earrings and bracelets.

Today I have added my newest bracelet line, Wabi Sabi bracelets. Currently, there are six of them on the store, and I will be making more of them this month.

Thank you in advance for checking them out, and as always thank you for your interest in this crazy blog of mine.