Mid-life Without the Crisis

It really isn't the destination, but the journey. May be cliche, but it's true.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pin Test

I enjoy trying new things. It's one of the reasons I love Pinterest so much - I can find new and interesting things and give them a try. If you're not a member, you should totally join because it's a super fun site. Warning: You may get a little addicted at first and spend hours on there.

I even started a board of pins I've tried and then rated how well they turned out, which you can check out here.

Which is one reason why I soooo love the Pintester. The Pintester, Sonja Foust, tries her hand at popular pins and the results are sometimes successful and sometimes a failure, but always funny. She's having a challenge this week for her readers to try out a pin and blog or send comments about the results. I signed up to participate in the movement without really thinking it through. (See more about the movement here.)

One thing I quickly learned in perusing my Things to Try, Food & Drink and Doctor Who Merchandise & Crafts boards - I pin way more things than I have the ability or wherewithal to actually do. Sure, I'd love to make that cute little crochet bracelet, but I'm still trying to figure out how to make a simple Granny Square. Canadian nanaimo bars? Sure, but do I really need that much sweet stuff around? And what self-respecting Whovian wouldn't want their very own hand crafted Weeping Angel? But I don't have time for that right now. So I decided to go with a pin that I actually have the skills and "ingredients" for - dipped color blocked spoons, pictured above.

Start with your standard wooden utensils

It's really not a difficult process. You just tape off the handles and dip them in paint. You can use more than one color, like in the original tutorial found here, or you can just use one color, like I did. Not surprisingly, I used TARDIS blue. Dip the handles into the paint, remove excess with a brush, and find a place to let them dry.

I used a small Mason jar

This has been a learning experience for me in a number of ways. Let me spell it out for you:
  • When you dip wooden spoons into paint and then upend them in a jar, the extra paint has a tendency to run downward, threatening to go past the paint tape, requiring that you constantly dab away any stray paint to prevent ruining the whole point of the paint tape in the first place.
  • When you display your wooden spoons in a ceramic jar with the handles in the jar, no one can see the painted handles, and if you turn them the other way around, no one knows what they're looking at.
  • When you realize that you pinned the spoons in the first place from a board called Arts & Crafts for the Elderly, you feel really silly. Especially considering the name of my blog. (I laughed my butt off when I noticed this.)
So while this pin certainly was no failure, it fails to impress. I'd give it a 5 out of 10.

You can see all my "hard" work, right?

Ah, much better

Friday, May 24, 2013

What NOT to Do After 40

I've seen several articles in various locations recently about things you shouldn't do after the age of 40: Don't wear your hair long, don't wear mini-skirts, don't wear baby-doll tees, etc. But you know what I say? Don't tell me what to do!

That's one of the benefits of being over 40. By now, we generally know whether we can pull off a mini-skirt (no), a baby-doll tee (maybe) or long hair (yes). That's the whole point of getting older, isn't it? Learning what works and what doesn't and being daring enough to do the things we want.

Besides, I'd rather focus on things to do after 40. Enjoy family more. Embrace who I am. Try new recipes. Read books I enjoy and give a try to those outside my usual fare.

Speaking of books and being over forty, here's one that sounds like it might be fun: 40 Things to Do When You Turn 40

So enjoy who you are and work to make improvements based on your values, not on those of other people.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Southwest Pasta

Sorry the picture is blurry.  I'm a better cook than photographer!
I thought I'd share a recipe with you.  This is something I created myself and you can adjust amounts to your desired tastes.  You could even adjust ingredients.

  • 1/4 pound ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped green peppers
  • 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 can black beans, drained
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
Brown the ground meat with the onions and green peppers in a small amount of olive oil.  Drain excess fat if necessary.  Add in remaining ingredients except pasta and heat through, adjusting seasoning to fit your tastes.  Add in a spoonful or two of the pasta cooking water if needed to make it saucier.  Mix in the drained pasta and serve.  This makes a couple of large servings.  Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, January 6, 2013


I hate to do this because I know how annoying those captcha things are, but I'm going to have to add word verification back to my comments because I'm getting spammed on one particular post.  I don't really have time to delete 10 comments every day asking you to buy various drugs, but I hope you have the few extra moments it takes to make a comment when you are so inclined.

Sorry, folks.  It's always the jerks who make the world difficult for the rest of us.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

Wow!  It's been ages since I've written.  Sorry about that.  But one of my resolutions for 2013 is to blog more often.

Are you making resolutions this year?  I recently heard a news pundit say that no one really does that - that the only people who talk about resolutions are journalists with nothing better to write about.  I think that may just apply to that pundit, because I certainly do make resolutions.  Granted, I didn't make resolutions when I was a kid, but now I'm more introspective and see things that need to be changed about myself and my routine.

Some people think that setting goals can help provide a sense of calm, as well as a direction.  Sometimes when we hang up that new calendar, we wonder what we'll do with all those days ahead.  Goals give us a sense of purpose as we head into the new year.

45% of Americans usually make new year's resolutions
17% make resolutions infrequently
38% absolutely never make resolutions

The figures above are from the Journal of Clinical Psychology.  The same journal also reported, however, that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to reach their goals than those who don't make it a resolution.

So while I have lots of things I'd like to accomplish this year, there are some certain things that I'm setting down as resolutions that I will make every effort to do.

  • Blog at least once every week, preferably twice
  • Work on my novel every week
  • Lose 10 more pounds
What are your resolutions?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy Constitution Day

I had the honor this afternoon of speaking at a Constitution Day celebration at our local community college, where I am adjunct faculty.  The theme today was "American as Apple Pie."  I even got a pie for speaking!  It was fun and I wanted to share with you what I said today.  So here is the text of my speech:

“American as apple pie.”  That’s an expression that we all know recognizes something that is truly, quintessentially American.  And though the expression itself appears to have made its debut in the 1960s, we know when we hear it that it refers to things that are as old as, as loved as, or completely intertwined with America.  Apple pie is certainly as American as…well, as apple pie. 
Yet, if we look at the history of apple pie, we find that it was not invented in America.  No, pies have been around for centuries.  One of the earliest recipes comes from 1381 and calls for “good apples, good spices” and other ingredients baked in a “cofyn” of pastry.   But these early European pies often had only one crust, were thin, and were lacking any sweeteners other than whatever the apple’s own nature had to offer.  Really more of what we would call a tart.

But once the apple pie came to our shores, it took on new shapes and tastes.  Colonists often ate pies for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  When apples were out of season, dried apples were used.  Over time, and with the influence of the cooking of numerous immigrants, the American apple pie evolved into the much more recognizable double-crusted, sweetened, thick pie that we know and love to this day.  Colonists often said of this new and improved version, “We cannot claim to have invented the apple pie, just to have perfected it.”

The same can be said of our U.S. Constitution.   We certainly didn’t invent the constitution, the U.S. just perfected it!
The Constitutional Convention was called for in February of 1787.  On May 25th, the work began.  By the time the process was finished, 12 states had been represented, and 55 men had done the actual work, debate and writing.  These men were farmers, bankers, lawyers, judges and merchants.  Some were native-born while others were immigrants.  Their average age was 42, though Benjamin Franklin was 81.  On September 17, 1787, 39 men signed the U.S. Constitution, which turns 225 years old today.

What began as an attempt to fix the problems of the Articles of Confederation, our young nation’s first form of government, turned into the discussions and debates that created what is now the oldest codified constitution derived from a single written source.  The 7 articles, even counting the 27 amendments later added, comprise the world’s shortest constitution.  Our Founding Fathers accomplished in 4 short months and in 1 short document what few others ever have – the creation of a lasting democratic republic.  

When that document was completed, Benjamin Franklin, the elder statesmen of the group, addressed the president and the assembled delegates before the vote and signing.  He commented on man’s tendency to consider himself always in the right and yet marveled at how the delegates put aside those views and reached compromise after compromise to satisfy the needs of the many. 
He noted that he expected American enemies to be astonished that any document could be created by the young nation, as he himself was astonished at how nearly perfect the Constitution was.  

He then addressed the president of the convention, George Washington, and said, “Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best."

I think it’s safe to say that we all agree with Mr. Franklin.

We can look, then, at this perfected document as the directions for government.  It is the recipe, so to speak, for our system.  And like any recipe for apple pie, we find there is a list of ingredients, the step-by-step directions, and the expected outcome.

The ingredients for apple pie generally consist of uncooked apples, a fat source, sweeteners and spices.  Many people will use a firm, tart apple, butter, white sugar and cinnamon, and some will use lemon juice to prevent browning during prep.  But the exact variety of each ingredient varies from baker to baker.  Since there are so few ingredients, each needs to be of good quality.

The ingredients of our constitution are similarly sparse.  We have a preamble, articles and amendments.  Those are common to constitutions the world over.  What makes ours so good?  Let’s look at the quality there.

The preamble states the goals of the constitution, and they are indeed lofty.  

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Then come the articles.  The first 3 set up our 3 branches of government:  legislative, executive and judicial.  The other 4 articles outline the relationship between the state and federal governments, provide a means of amending the constitution, assert that the constitution is the supreme law of the land, and provide a legal way for the ratification of the constitution to supersede the Articles of Confederation.

The first 10 Amendments were agreed upon as a way of getting everyone on board the ratification.  They are known collectively as the Bill of Rights and they do not give us rights – they recognize those rights which are inalienable.  The other 17 were added over the course of years through a process that is designed to be sufficiently difficult to weed out frivolous ideas.

So what do we have then as our quality ingredients?

·        Lofty goals in the preamble
·        Limited government in the articles
·        Rare changes in the amendments

Sounds good to me!

The directions for making an apple pie seem simple on the surface – mix all ingredients.  But it’s the preparation that is key.  The apples have to be peeled and cut just so.  Some people like thick slices of apple, others like thin, while still others like diced pieces.  The ratio of spices and sugar to apples gives different levels of flavor, and thickening of the natural juices can be accomplished with a little flour.  It’s all in the preparation, and preparation can be complicated.  

Our constitutional recipe calls for us to elect 535 members of Congress and 1 president, who join 9 appointed members of the Supreme Court to form the top tiers of our 3 branches.  But electing those 536 people and choosing those 9 is no simple task.  There are qualifications that have to be met, delegates, conventions, primaries, caucuses, general elections, electors, nominations, confirmations and so on.  The preparation in getting someone elected or confirmed is a lengthy and often painful process!  But it’s a necessary process.  

Choosing who will sit at the top of those 3 branches is as integral to the system as the branches themselves.  The Founding Fathers knew that while rule by the masses could get messy, tyranny was no more preferable.  The one must temper the other through a balanced system that allows input and consent of the governed, in a system headed up by a chosen few.  

This system of federalism (which divided power between states and the federal government), and the system of checks and balances (in which the 3 branches and the people can check the power of one another), are seen by some as being fractures of governmental power.  It is this fractured nature, they say, that leads to the arguments and impasse we often complain about in Washington, D.C.  But it is precisely this division of powers that the Framers desired.  They understood, as we should, that the division and arguments are symptoms of a healthy system – one in which dissent is heard and steamrolling is rare.  Too much ease might mean too much power being exerted by one branch or one part of a branch.  

This complicated, messy, fractured process builds exactly the government we need.  It is precisely the complicated directions of this recipe that ensure that the end result is what is desired:  a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
When making an apple pie, I always make my dough first.  I let it chill in the refrigerator while I work on the apples.  When my filling is ready, I cut the dough in half and put ½ back in the fridge to stay cool while I roll out the bottom crust.  Then I fill the pie and finally, take out that last dough, roll it out and create the top.  It is this double crust that often sets our American apple pie apart from others.

The preamble of the Constitution has that same double-duty.  It is one ingredient and does lay out the goals that were to be met by the constitution itself, forming the foundation of the ideas to come.  But it is also the top, the expected outcome, what we see when we look at the whole.  

The preamble was actually penned last by our Founding Fathers.  I find it interesting that the last thing they wrote began so profoundly.   We the people.  Because it is we the people that we want to see as the end result of our constitutional recipe.  We the people should be reflected in the faces in Congress.  We the people are behind the power of the White House.  We the people should be seen in the decisions of the high court.

So if you take quality ingredients, follow the directions, you’ll always get the expected outcome, right?  Of course not.  It is possible to follow a recipe and still not get what you expect.  Humidity, oven temperature and a host of other factors can have an unexpected influence on the final product.  Following the directions precisely is not a guarantee of a perfect result.  They say cooking is an art and baking is a science. 
So is government.  We can follow the directions and still have an unexpected outcome because of variables we can’t control.  But in government, as in baking, you won’t ever get what you want out of it if you don’t put it the required effort.

It’s been said by many people over the years in many ways – you get the government you deserve.  And that can be a negative comment or a positive one.  I believe if we follow the recipe, we the people will have the outcome we want and deserve.  A government that is responsive to the will of we the people.  A government shaped carefully by we the people.  A government that looks out for we the people.

But we must also remember the negative side of the comment.  If we the people are not involved, we really will get what we deserve.  If we don’t know what the constitution says, how will we know if it’s being violated?  If we don’t know what our rights are, how will we know when they’re being trampled on?  If we don’t care about who sits in those offices at the tops of those 3 branches, why should they care about us?

Just like with any recipe, if you don’t follow the directions, you’re not going to get what you expect.  If you don’t get involved in the process, your end result will not be a satisfying concoction.  If you let those who don’t know what they’re doing be in charge of the recipe, you won’t like what you get.

I challenge you today to read the recipe and follow the directions so you can get the dessert you want.  Read the constitution, get involved in the process by educating yourself on the issues, register and then vote.  And even if your pie doesn’t come out exactly as you hoped, you can have pride in knowing that you had a hand in making it.  

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in quoting judicial philosopher Learned Hand said, “"Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it.' But our understanding today must go beyond the recognition that ‘liberty lies in (our) hearts’ to the further recognition that only citizens with knowledge about the content and meaning of our constitutional guarantees of liberty are likely to cherish those concepts."

What Justice O’Connor said is true for all of us.  How can we cherish something we don’t understand?  It is for this reason that we celebrate Constitution Day – so that we can encourage others to learn about the foundational document of our government.  That we can recognize the difficulty in the process while reveling in the ability to take part.  

I think it’s wonderfully appropriate that the 225th anniversary of the signing of our Constitution would come in an election year.  What better way to celebrate the freedoms we hold so dear and those constitutional guarantees of liberty we cherish than to be involved in the step-by-step directions of making government?  

In looking back at our constitution, how it was made, how it has stood the test of time, the process we are invited to be a part of through voting, one can say that voting truly is “as American as apple pie.”

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Living Cheaply

Recently I've been asked a couple of times how I manage financially.  Now these people weren't being rude, just curious.  Let me explain.  I have not worked full time in over 4 years thanks to a layoff right before the financial crisis hit.  Yay for timing!

So now that my income is about 1/3 of what it once was, Hubby and I still have managed to pay off our debts and start saving.  The questions make sense now, huh?

So I thought it might be nice to share some of my tips and ideas that have helped us get by because there might be some others out there looking for ways to live on less.

I think it might be important to accept right off that if you need to live on less, you have to give up all notions of keeping up with the Joneses, or of being hip, cool or stylish.  Probably not gonna happen.  But if you manage your money well when the chips are down, when things improve, you'll be well-trained for living larger.

I think the main thing to do is to spend less.  Here are some ways we do this:
  • Eat at home - Eating out is expensive.  Buying ingredients at the store and making things at home is much cheaper.  It can also be a great way to bond in the kitchen and watch your weight.
  • Limit restaurant expense - We do eat out occasionally but we do it rarely (maybe once a month), we don't order the most expensive items, and we often get take-out to avoid all the expensive pitfalls of restaurant eating like appetizers and drinks.
  • Vacations?  What are those? - The only thing we can even count as a vacation in years was one overnight stay in Memphis.  Sorry, but that money needs to be saved just in case.  I can lay in the sun and read a book on my deck.
  • Libraries, my dears. - Speaking of books, I don't buy them.  Ever.  Not even digital versions for my Kindle for PC program.  You can get books free at libraries, many can be found online for free, and if you'll take good care of them, you may find friends who will loan you theirs.
  • Cheaper movies. - We only go to the theater for big sci-fi or special effects or blockbuster movies (think Batman or Star Trek). We wait for things to come out on video and pick them up at the video store.  We also make sure to take it back the next day to get a store credit that makes the next one we rent cheaper.
  • Brands, Schmands. - As much as possible, we buy off-brand items.  Sure, I have to have my name brand toothpaste, but why would I spend more on paper towels just to wipe up spills and throw them in the trash?
  • Coupons! - For those name brands, I try to find coupons.  I print coupons from websites like coupons.com, check all those ones that come in the mail, and look for other options.  I'm by no means an extreme couponer.  First of all, I won't spend money in order to get coupons.  I'm not going to buy a magazine just to get a coupon.  That's stupid.  And secondly, I'm not going to spend that much time on it.  I don't want couponing to become my new full-time job.
  • Cut back on extras. - I dropped my newspaper and magazine subscriptions.  Think about things that you don't really need and get rid of them.  They may be things that you enjoy, but if sacrifices need to be made, do it.
  • Limit utility expenses. - Those suckers add up fast.  So do things like wash only full loads of laundry or dishes, hang up clothes outside to dry and let dishes air dry, set your central heat and air at a temp that is comfortable but doesn't allow it to run all the time, take shorter showers, cut back on watering the lawn and washing your car, and so on.
  • No gyms for me. - I do exercise regularly, but not at a gym.  We go to the park or walk at the free walking track at the nearby indoor track.  I also work out at home with exercise videos or instructions found online for free.
There's a start for you! Check back later and I'll bring you more savings tips and ideas.