Cafe Today | Pop Tarts, A Chance Meeting and The American Family

A well deserved day off after many  weeks.  Finally!   Just a carefree day.  Or, so I thought.

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I am up and ready to run errands before 7am. I always start my day early whether I wish to do so or not. You see, I have a cat!  My adopted furry house-buddy is Milly. Those of you who keep a Cat – after all, no owns a Cat – knows you never ever need an alarm clock.   Milly keeps to her own schedule.  Which of late includes sharing that crazy schedule with me.  She quickly and adeptly took to my personal House Rule #1. If I am up. Everyone else is up.   Before 5:00 am just isn’t good for anyone.  Good thing she’s cute!  Well, that was great for me when life moved at the speed of light.       Now,  Not so much!

Milly My House Buddy ©Cafe Today 2011

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 On this well deserved “Me, Me, Me,  all about me day” I stopped at the local market for the usual Milly Treats and a beverage of choice.  No, silly!  It’s 8 am   Gotta have  my Coffee.  Upon entering the door I spy the gourmet foods section. Trying not to drool, I peruse quickly  and move on. Standing in front of me is a lady staring intently at a box of  Pop Tarts.  She glanced my way  and said out loud with a longing and a bit of wonder in her voice, “You know….when I was a kid… Brown Sugar Cinnamon was good enough for me.  How does one even begin to choose these days?”    “Well, what looks good to you?”   I say “At the moment , everything! ”       We both chuckled.  Two adults talking Pop Tarts!

Chocolate Fudge Pop Tarts courtesy Kellogg’s Corporation

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“Thoughts”  came to mind at that moment.  Thoughts over at    http://thoughtsappear.wordpress.com/  and her Pop Tart  obsession.  Whenever I spy those tasty little treats, she comes to mind.  Sorry!  I digress!

  Anyway….. One thing led to another.  The conversation evolved into quality of snack foods…. kids not being active…… what can we do to encourage adults and kids to consider healthy choices and more.  Well, after all we are busy people and have the need to talk so fast that  ‘short-hand speak’ falls easily into our chat.    We were talking as if we were long time neighbors and just happened upon each other at the grocer.  We were strangers. Yet,  after  only a short time, we were. no longer.  The conversation bounced around to every aspect of life.  Almost.  I discovered she had 3 children, from elementary to high school.  She worries about them and what each passing year brings to their lives.  We all have or have had those fears for our children.

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 Her mother is a recent addition to her household.  Her mother having  recently retired, was diagnosed with the early stages of dementia and can no longer be left on her own.  This has been quite an adjustment as one would imagine.  Everyone is on board, yet it means many changes.  Huge changes.  The family is making sacrifices and it seems the daughter now becomes the “Mother” to her mom.  Not so uncommon these days.   The mother/grandma is very fortunate to be surrounded by a loving family.  I shared some of my experiences with my own mother and family as they were strikingly similar.  For my mother, as the dementia progressed rapidly,  she had to live in a facility that could care for her.  A few months later she passed away.

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Multi Generations Family – The New Normal
via Nebraska Dept of Human Services

We talked a bit longer.  Then she said that “thing” that had quite an impact on me.  I have heard this many times from so many  I knew.    The “thing”…..This lady has brothers and sisters who live close by.  Yet, she is the only one making sacrifices and caring for their mother.  Why?  Her siblings seem to think it is a waste of time to even visit their mother.    “She doesn’t remember if we have been there or not,  so why come around.” The siblings excuse.   “That was not true.  She remembers many things.” The daughter defends her mother, hoping for understanding.  Not  one of them can bring themselves to give their loving sister any type of emotional support, let alone financial support.  She is ignored.  Lonely. Hurt. So very sad.  She is loosing her mother a little each day, her family makes sacrifices each day and her siblings are deserting her.   A family in crisis. 

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This poor lady, struggling to do her best as a daughter and mother to her family, is attempting to give her mother a life with love and dignity.  As her mother had surely done for her and her siblings since the day they were born.   This attempt at “being all” to everyone is great feat.   One can only attempt this  through prayer and surrounded by loving individuals.  The ‘Pop Tart’ Lady feels alone and fearful of what each day could bring.  I understand completely.  The tears are now threatening to roll down her cheek.  She wasn’t crying.  Just brown eyes flooding with tears of frustration.  “We must share the same brothers and sisters”  I added quickly.   Mine were selfish, heartless and uncaring as well!”  OK!  That at least brought a big smile.  Whew!  A crisis averted in the Pop Tart aisle!  

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My heart went out to this lovely woman and I was a bit puzzled as to how to help her.  I could only offer words of encouragement and support.  This is the latest version of the new American family.  The norm for a family unit constantly evolves these days.   Yours, Mine and Ours!  The 2 dad family.  The 2 mom family!  Blended families in any shape or form.  These changes are even reflected in nightly television, movies and in print.  At the turn of the 20th century, it was the standard for a family to include Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, whoever.  It was just one big family under the same roof.  It did not matter the generations.  They were all family.  It was what one did.

We seem to be reverting to a similar version of that family here in the 21st century.  Actually, many versions of a family.  Far too many to list.  Still, I am irked at her siblings.  Nothing, Nada, Zip and big fat zero from them.  Shame on them!  You know that old saying, what goes around………?    

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Lilo & Stitch

Lilo & Stitch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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FAMILY.  In the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch, Stitch fell, literally, into a new family and both human and alien  learned to adjust.  During that adjustment period Stitch reeked havoc on the house , the neighborhood, the family’s relationships and oh so much more.  As part of the dialogue…. there was a line  where the little girl, Lilo speaks to Stitch…

”  ‘Ohana means family – no one gets left behind, and no one is ever forgotten. ”  ~Written by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, Lilo & Stitch.    Very powerful words!

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How does it happen, that writers for an animated children’s movie involving an alien, understand human behavior better than the rest of us?  Anyone can become part of a family.  Example:  My Milly…the “no alarm required”  cat.  Some have ‘aliens’, some have pet snakes.  Eeesh!   Yes, anyone can be part of a family.  I do not have any answers.  Many thoughts, but no answers.  Having asked one of my co-workers these questions, she believes a good slap to the head for the siblings is the best way to deal with them.  Ah, yes!  Ye olde…must get their attention first ploy.   Well, I for one, am all for this.  However, this action may not be completely practical in all instances.  The BIG question is   “Will our families be loving and supportive when we need them?”    It’s a roll of the dice!  Answers are not easy here.  The thoughts – difficult.    I have hope for our future.  Life today is like a  rocky road ice cream cone….. tasty – messy – without the crunchy cone for support.  

  To all of you  ‘Ohana !         May no one be forgotten or left behind.     ~  Barb@Cafe Today

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What would you do if you were in her shoes?     How would you handle this situation?

Could you make those sacrifices?  What could be done to encourage the family to participate? 

Cafe Conversations| Conserve Water Make Your Own Rain Barrel

It’s September.  Why Make a Rain Barrel Now!  Water is Still A Precious Commodity.

Do It Yourself Rain Barrel

For those of us in the mid-west, we still have months of outdoor work and play.   Plus, we will have some of those much awaited cooler days ahead.  Perfect time to do a few outdoor projects —-in preparations for Spring Time!   If you live in a milder climate—year round economic care of your plants.  Here’s why this is a great project for all of us. My Thanks to Better Homes and Gardens!   I now have step by step instructions to share with you.

“Using a rain barrel can save you a significant amount of money in a season. For each inch of rain that falls on 500 square feet of roof, you can collect 300 gallons of water. In most areas of North America, that means you can collect more than a thousand gallons of water a year to use in your containers, houseplantsgarden, or even your lawn. We’ll show you how to make your own inexpensive rain barrel in just a couple of hours.”

I priced a few Rain Barrels at the local home stores and the least expensive was $80.00.  This DIY project is far too good to pass up!     MY HINT:  Just place a few plants or Containers filled with lush foliage to camouflage the barrel.  Or,better yet—go ahead and spray paint it to match your house.  Genius! 

Assemble The Materials

 

Step 1: Gather Your Materials      

“It’s probably easier than you think to make a rain barrel. Here’s what we used:”

— 1 large plastic garbage can (the larger it is, the more water you can collect)

— 1 tube of watertight sealant or roll of Teflon tape for plumbing
— 2 rubber washers
— 2 metal washers
— 1 hose clamp
— 1 spigot
— A drill
— Landscaping fabric

Step 2: Drill a Hole

“Start by using your drill to create a hole near the bottom of your barrel. This is where you’ll insert your spigot. Use a drill bit that’s a little smaller than or the same size as the spigot.”

Here’s a hint: Don’t create a hole that’s too low — you’ll want to leave space underneath to fill your watering cans.

Step 3: Insert the Spigot      

Dry Fit the Spigot

                   

“Place a metal washer onto the threaded end of spigot, then put a snugly fitting rubber washer over the threads to help hold the washer in place and prevent leakage.”

Step 4: Seal it up

“Next, apply a bead of waterproof sealant over your rubber washer and insert the spigot into the hole. Wait for the sealant to dry, then run a rubber washer, followed by a metal washer onto the threads of the spigot inside the barrel. Secure the spigot in place inside your barrel with the hose clamp. This is important because it will keep your spigot from coming loose from your barrel.”

Here’s a hint: You can also run watertight Teflon tape to seal the spigot hole

Seal the Spigot

 

Step 5: Make Entry and Exit Holes

“Carefully cut a hole in the lid of your rain barrel. This hole should sit under your home’s downspout so the water runs right into the barrel. Cut the hole so it’s large enough to accommodate the water flow from the downspout.

You’ll also want to drill a hole or two near the very top of your rain barrel. This hole will allow water to overflow.”

Here’s a hint: You can run a short length of hose or PVC pipe, from the overflow hole to another rain barrel to connect them. That way if your rain barrel fills, the excess water will run into the next one and you don’t lose overflow water.

Make Entry & Exit Holes

 

Step 6: Seal the Top

“Cut a piece of landscaping fabric to sit over the top of your rain barrel, then put the lid over the top of it to secure it. This will create a barrier that prevents mosquitoes and other pests from getting in your rain barrel water.”

Sealing The Top

 

Step 7: Place Your Rain Barrel

“Now that the hard work is done, all you have to do is get your rain barrel in place. Position it directly underneath your downspout in a spot that’s most convenient for you to use it. Then just wait for it to rain so you can enjoy the water — and money — savings.”

Here’s a hint: Set your rain barrel up on a platform to help give more pressure if you connect it to a hose. It also makes it easier to fill up watering cans.

Directions Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens.  Photos Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens.

Thanks for the amazing directions.

Cafe Conversations|Garden Tip ~~ Divide Your Perennials Now

Dividing and Transplanting Perennials in Fall

           

September is a great month for doing a little renovating in your perennial garden by dividing and/or transplanting.

Dividing Perennials - courtesy P. Allen Smith

The heat of summer has hopefully passed, the chances of rain have returned and there is still plenty of time for plants to recover from being moved before the ground freezes.             The rule of thumb for deciding which perennials to transplant or divide is based on bloom time.  Late summer and fall bloomers are suited for moving in the spring while spring and early summer flowering perennials can be transplanted in fall.            There are several signs that can tell you it’s time to divide a perennial when all the growth appears on the outer edges, it doesn’t bloom as well as it used to or the blooms are smaller than usual.  All these indicators are symptoms of overcrowded roots.         Transplanting can be motivated by the desire to change the look of your garden or if you’ve discovered that the perennial needs a different growing environment.

Star Gazer Lilies

     

          Whether transplanting or dividing you should give the plants about 6 weeks before the first hard freeze occurs in your garden so they can be settled in to their new home and ready for winter.

         Start by digging around the entire clump with a garden fork or sharp shooter (narrow shovel) and lifting the plant, soil and all, from the hole. Then gently break as much of the soil away as you can. If you are dividing the plant, once it is out of the ground, separate the crowns by cutting them with a sharp knife or shovel blade.  You don’t have to be gentle, but try to preserve as many of the roots as possible.

         Keep newly dug and/or divided plants covered and protected from wind and sun while you get their new homes ready.  If you can’t transplant them the same day, place them in the shade, spray the root ball with water and cover them with wet newspapers.  They’ll be okay for a few days, but I recommend getting them in the ground ASAP.

        Prepare the new planting spot or revive the old one by turning the soil at least 8-inches deep.  Remove rocks, roots and debris.  Add plenty of compost and some aged manure.

       Dig a hole that is 1.5 times as deep and wide as the plant’s roots. Build a firm mound of soil in the middle of the hole. Spread the roots over the mound so that the crown sits at or just below the soil line. Gently back fill the hole and pull the soil up around the crown just as you would a container grown plant.

        Water the plant and keep it consistently moist until a hard freeze.  Don’t bother with fertilizer as it will only encourage top growth, which takes energy away from the roots.

       Once the ground freezes, apply a 3-inch layer of mulch and you are done.  Next spring your perennials will emerge with a new lease on life.

        Plants to Divide in Fall

  • Astilbe
  • Asiatic Lily
  • Oriental Lily
  • Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Siberian Iris
  • Japanese Iris
  • Veronica
  • Peony

        ~  Thanks to P. Allen Smith ~

What’s For Dinner….More Than You Think

 

Home Baked Pasta

“What’s for dinner, mom?     Hon, what’s for dinner?”   

  

 Questions spoken aloud in many languages daily.  Albeit across the room or shouted loudly from outdoors. Words that seem quite simple, Yes?  Really they are not.  The act of cooking and enjoying a meal is vital to our well-being and our relationships.  Believe me they are.  The family meal.  It really is so much about the sharing of ourselves while preparing and serving  a meal.  While chopping vegetables, cleaning the shrimp and setting the table, whatever you do…..  there is magic in those moments.  The act of stirring a pot of sauce or soup…. conjures up images of years past.  Images of long ago that wind slowly through our conscious.  All the family is there.  Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Sue…. they are all there…..  Perhaps a  beloved family pet snuggled in the corner…no doubt anxiously awaiting a spill or two.  Smells waft along the stove, hover over the table top and much to our delight…engage our appetites.   A smile registers on your face.   Ah, another  “remember when moment” sneaks in as well.  The “remember when” could be from long ago or last week.  Words unwillingly  spill out as our mind races over these past events….. perhaps a tear as well…….yet we really do not know how or why this is happening.  We just see how each small act  and movement has such a power that it is remembered, passed down through  many generations.  Yet, this moment, those decades of small moments, all sweep past in the blink of the eye

 Powerful moments are they not?   These moments pass through our emotional self consistently. Being part of a “Family” is amazingly  heady stuff.  This simple act each day is so much more than just a meal.  Perhaps the way you move, hold a pan as you attempt a flip of its contents or the recipes you have lovingly shared over many years.   These moments were meant to be savored, they are memories in the making……..shared and kept immortal by all of us.  Therefore and most of all, enjoy every second you spend in that kitchen ……making those future memories.

There is no need to place guilt on yourself  if you do not prepare multi dish meals every day.  If your main family meal is one day a week, so be it.  It is all about being together, making memories and sharing great food.  Once your family, yourself included, realize that meals prepared at home are usually of superior quality and healthier than fast food and processed food, since you control what goes in each dish. (I prefer my burger and fries prepared at home.)  Perhaps you could learn a couple good dishes and then expand on those. Soup for instance.  Learn the basic soup recipe and then mix up the ingredients.  It is truly amazing how creativity will take over.  Everyone will think you a genius.

Most of my memories are from my married life.  I had no such memories from my childhood.  My mother did not prepare meals for I no recall of her cooking.  I did however, become fascinated watching my friends parents, mom or dad, prepare a meal.  It was emotional for me.  It was not that I cried, it was the overwhelming experience of watching and learning.  I learned that it was about food and sharing family dynamics.  I remember my neighbor speaking of her mother and grandmother making the “best” food and showing me plates and serving dishes that were passed on,  retaining her memory within them.  As I grew up, (notice I did not say mature) I knew I had to learn to cook from memories of my friends, then with a simple trial and error method with recipes.  I would read cookbooks as a novel at times.  The Websters always at my side.  No clue what those cooking terms or spices were.  Didn’t always know what I was reading, but I muddled through.   I knew I wanted to learn everything from scratch, literally.  Oh, if only I had Food Network, cooking blogs and all those food shows on TV.   Oh my!  So not fair!  This generation has it made. 

Today, my 3 children are grown and are really, really good cooks.  They take great pleasure in preparing, serving and sharing a meal.  They will always have memories to savor and share.   

  

 

Barb@Cafe Today | MONDAY…….Dreaded, Feared and Loathed

 Just because it’s Monday, doesn’t mean it should be a day of dread for you. I am with you on the horror of going back to work.  Hopefully my meager attempts to brighten your Monday will lift your spirits, add a spring to your step and put a smile on that face.   I believe it is rude to work more than 4 days a week.  Don’t you agree!  We should have Saturday  for decompressing.   Sunday is for rest, church and being with family.  Monday is the feel good day!  Here are a few suggestions for a Feel Good Monday.   

   1.   Call in work.  Do this straight away.  Do not think about it…. Just do it!
 

Your Loved One

 2.    The day is all yours.  Go back to bed.  Sleeping is up to you.  Spending time with your loved one.  Yeah!  I know I would.

  3.    Brew a fresh pot of coffee.  A nice omelette, waffles, muffins?    If cooking is not realistic, then toast or whatever you might have.          Just go with it.

 4.     Presentation is everything.  Serve breakfast on your best china. Use sterling if you have it.   If it looks good, it usually tastes good.

  5.    Linger over breakfast… make playful, positive, polite conversation.  More Flirting? Optional.

 6.   Your loved one may or may not go to work.  You support him either way.      

7.   You now have the day to yourself.   Seeeee…… Mondays aren’t so bad.

A couple of cute bookends

8.    Time to make your place look quite smart.  Tidy up one room and move on, making your way through the rest.  C’mon move quickly.

9.   Time to tame those unruly books?  Get a couple of cute bookends.  Amazing how 2 little things can make your day brighter.  

10.    Shower, dress and get out.  Do the errands you have been postponing.  Duh!  It’s Monday, do not waste it!    11.    Treat yourself to a nice lunch.  Not too much.  Something a tad bit decadent.  :)

12.     Now for the real fun!   The must haves of the season.  Select a sweater, a Jacket and Sharp Boots.   Mmmmm!  Nothing like spotting a great pair of Manolos or Louboutins to stop a girl cold.  Hope you have your fashion journal handy.  Buy what you need to add to your wardrobe.

Manolo Blahnik

13.    Remember the Book Shop or your local Library.  Reading expands your mind and vocabulary.  Not only will you look sharp, your mind will stay sharp.  Not to mention, always having intelligent conversation material. Pick up something for your loved one as well.

14.    What’s for dinner?  A quick stop at the grocer or grab a few deli items and voila!  A lovely Monday style dinner for 2.  Do not forget the candles and flowers for the table.  Use your best china and silver for an elegant table setting.

15.    Spend a lovely intimate evening at home.  Relax!  You have earned it.  So much accomplished in one day.  You have only to wait until next Monday to do it all again.  The week will rush by in a blink.

I do hope my suggestions and tips help in surviving Mondays will help you.  Until the powers that be change those wretched work week laws,  we will continue to strategize our game plan for Mondays.

If you have tried it, let me know how it works for you.       

UPDATE!    I no longer have Mondays off. It is by design.    I now have Wednesdays off.  Work 2 days. Off a day.  Work 2 days.  Off 2 days.  It’s a plan that works for me.  A few more years and I will be working 2-3 days tops.  Now that’s a plan!

Movie Monday! May God Help Us all…….

“I read the news today oh boy!”   The Beatles had it spot on.  Jackass is the #1 movie and that says sooooo  much about our country.   What!  Are we nuts?   I cannot for the life of me, understand how this could possibly happen.  And do not say escapism…..!   The appeal of this movie is beyond me.  OK!   Going to the movies is terribly expensive.  Tickets, Popcorn, Soda and candy if you have kids, oh my.   I love movies and I am a bit picky about which movies I see.   I had noticed for the past 2 weeks, Johnny Knoxville was pimping, I mean promoting  himself and his movie on every, I mean every TV show possible.  Not just late night TV. 

Jackass in 3-D

  Get this.  Johnny was even on Martha Stewart.  What?  Yeah, like he watches her on craft day!   “Oh, Martha , I loved your Squash Soup and the Pea Pesto was divine.”   Sure!    Martha Stewart and Johnny were carving pumpkins like  normal people.  Woooh!  Full body shiver on that!  Not only is this movie taking your hard-earned money, it is taking even more  than usual.  TA.. DAAAA!  It’s in glorious 3-D.  Ka-Ching!  Paying even more bucks  for stupidity and frightful behavior.  Would love to know how many at the theatre, were between the ages 12 and 18.   Our future leaders.  Should I be worried? 

Allow me to speak on 3-D  movies.  I have watched many 3-D movies with and many without my children.  I must say, overall I did not feel that the differences in the movie experience itself , was worth the up charge.  For a total of 2 to 3 minutes of special effects in an entire 2 hour movie.  Remember Jaws 3-D?   I’m just not sold on it yet.  I watched Avatar both ways.  Not a huge difference, it was still great!     Still, there is nothing like the experience of watching a movie on a gigantic screen with THX sound.  That is my favorite part of going to the movies.  As a young child, I had always walked to the theatre and would sit through 2 showings.   Not possible today.  Going over every scene in my mind, the wardrobe of both men and women, how cute the guys were and if the story was plausible.  Even then I thought I knew how to make the picture much better!  Just the physicality of being immersed in a great story is the draw of the Big Screen presentation.  I loved it!   One of my dream jobs would have been becoming a Movie Critic.  

Inception

My favorite movie not in 3-D is   INCEPTION.  WOW!  This movie did not need anything else to set your mind reeling.  It was a tangled story and believe me it was thoroughly enjoyable.  Action, adventure, ensemble cast.   This was my favorite movie of the year.  Inception will be out on DVD on December 7th. 

The Town     If you can catch this flick before it goes away, please do.  Everyone who saw this movie really liked it.  Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner,  Jon Hamm.   

Up Coming Movies: 

SKYLINE      Be careful who you invite to visit  earth.  They just might come.   Whether you like it or not.  And you know how  Family Get- Togethers can be!     

DUE DATE        is in the vein of  The Hangover, but not as vulgar.  It is a road movie concerning a soon-to-be father (played by Robert Downey Jr.) and his cross-country trip to make it back in time for his baby’s birth — with the only roadblock being the dubious passenger (Galifianakis) who’s along for the ride.    Should be very, very funny!  Robert Downey Jr.  Nuff said.

The HANGOVER

I cannot end without giving special mention to the movie    The HANGOVER.   No way was I going to see this movie.  You know, another Men behaving badly movie with the usual scantily clad women and more crude language then necessary.  Well, I got over that!  I watched it at home and instantly became unglued.  Not easily done for me.  OMG!  The crude language is a bit much as well, but I got over that as well.   The over the top script was so bad, I felt guilty for laughing.  Thank goodness for rewind on the DVD player.  I never missed a scene.   This is sooo not the type of movie I ever watch, there is just something……   I put the movie in when more bad news seems to find me.  My friend and I exchange movie lines from The Hangover just to get us through the week.   I must pray for forgiveness

now!

And Then…..The Holiday Movies are coming, The Holiday Movies are coming!