Monday, November 28, 2016

Dog Tails

This is my Teddy at 6 weeks.  I can't believe she is over eight and a half years old now!  I am in denial that she is getting older but of course, she is now my age in dog years.... so she is no longer a puppy.  But don't tell her that!

We've been giving our dog steady exercise day in and day out because without it, she is horrible to have around the house.  She comes from a line of competition Golden Retrievers and is spring-loaded.  For Teddy, the ultimate day is serious hard fetching and wave-crashing in the lake or river, followed by a serious round of "Chuck-it" in the ball field, and then cooling down with a long walk.  We call that "The Teddy Trifecta."  Most days she gets one or two of these (either a single or double header, as we call it).

It's become apparent to me that she is aging and that we probably over-indulged her in exercise.  Sort of like what I used to do to myself when I ran.  Now I have a lame left leg, and so does she.  After being a little gimpy after heavy exercise, we decided to have her hips x-rayed.  Since her parents both had excellent hip scores, we never felt she needed to be checked as a puppy.  However, if we were of a mind to breed her, we certainly would have done that.  I was prepared, however, to find some sort of arthritis or injury to explain why she is still on some days.

As it turns out, my dog has a torn ACL.  The ligament is beyond repair and we have no clue of any specific incident that caused it.  We think it was just the result of wear and tear.  At this point, it is too late to fix it -- and I am not of a mind to do so, because right now, she is walking just fine.  The pictures are going out to an orthopedist, just to make sure we didn't miss anything.  Even if a specialist wants to do surgery, we're not even considering it.

Our plan is to rest her for ten weeks, and give her a doggy NSAID as needed.  We won't start that any time soon since she is on antibiotics for an ear infection and allergy pills for her skin.  I figured once we had her in for X-rays, we'd get treatment for every single thing that's wrong with her.  I ordered a bone and tissue supplement for my knee that the two of us are now taking.  I had started her on that last week and I think it's already helped.

Even healthy dogs have issues.  Sometimes just the act of staying healthy can lead to conditions -- from over exercising, or getting hurt during play.  I will probably take it a little bit easier on the next dog, but I'm glad we don't deny our girl the fun of play.  I guess if you play, eventually you have to pay!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Tabletop - Yellow, Green & White

 This is our table setting for tonight.  We're having Jim (from the Art of Gardening) and his wife (blogless & my BFF) over.  I have made the spinach salad appetizer and TBG is making Alton Brown's meatless stronganoff, featuring portobello mushrooms.  Earlier today, I baked an apple pie for dessert.  Our table is yellow and green, using thrift store, dollar store, Pier 1, supermarket (Wegmans), heirloom and modern bone china, plus every day stainless steel flatware elements.

We'll be enjoying our salad in my old (as in my parents got it as a wedding gift) Raymond Lowey bowls.  I am so totally in love with this pattern that I will forever scour garage sales, thrift stores and other second-hand avenues (except E-Bay as it's way to expensive), in hopes of finding more.

Another obsession I have tried unsuccessfully to cure myself of, is white-ware.  This old milk-glass vase is the simple centerpiece of the table.  I know the whole world loves red roses, but I'll take yellow every time!  The tablescape at our friend's house on Thanksgiving  revolved around yellow roses and she gave me two to take home.  They were the inspiration for the yellow theme.  At the far end of the table, is a huge white glass pitcher.

As focused as I am on making a great meal, the food is only one third of it.  What you serve it on and how you present it is another important part of it.  Even if it isn't truly opulent, one of the luxuries I think, is how you can do something simple but still feel a bit indulgent.  But most importantly, it's who you enjoy it with!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

My Fabulous Life - Tabletop Update

We are eating off the white bone china set I ordered a couple of months back and I wanted to give an update.  I love it!  I wish I had done this sooner.  The  plates and mugs are wonderful.  They are slim so a lot fits in a small space -- great when you have only one cabinet to store it all.  Their size also means filling the dishwasher is simple too.  No clunky mugs on the top level, slim plates below -- and when one piece hits another, they don't chip.  Once in the past, I had a set of Pfatlzgraf  that started chipping almost immediately.

I have to admit that we've had no fancy dinner opportunities to mix high and low -- but I hope to rectify that soon! We are being hosted for the holiday elsewhere today.  But we have had plenty of casual dinner guests and it's nice to have dishes you can dress up or down.  As for the white color, they have not shown any stains from coffee or food.  I am not getting scratch marks on them from stacking them and pulling them on and off the shelf every day.

Call me old fashioned and out of touch, but if anyone is registering for wedding gifts or setting up house and are registered for gifts, register for plain white bone china.  It will last a long time, it's practical and easy to care for -- as long as you don't get a metal trim that won't last in the dishwasher.

It sounds fancy-schmancy to eat of china every day, but nothing could be more sensible!

My simple set

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Dream or Reality - A New Bed

I see pretty rooms in magazines and catalogues and would love to have a picture perfect home.  The reality of it, is that I never feel like it's worth it to lay out a lot of money for the sake of decorating.  My dream is to have a well furnished home, but the truth is that I am cheap.

It's become apparent to me that I need a real bed and a new mattress.  The futon I'm sleeping on is not optimal, and I've been using it for four years.  I need something longer and with better support, which will be more comfortable for guests when needed.

Unfortunately, furniture shopping just isn't fun for me.  I choke on the price of things and the price of the items I dream about are realistically out of my price range.  Besides, to fully "decorate" the room, I'd need to paint it, pick out new floor covering, and just do a whole lot of stuff I have neither the time, energy or money to spend on right now.  I also don't have conventional taste so a lot of what's out there makes me gag.

I know I made fun of Wayfair and their commercial a week or so ago.  But that is where I went to order a bed frame and mattress.  The free shipping didn't hurt.  What I found was cheaper than I could have found in a brick and mortar store and I didn't have to feel uncomfortable walking into a store full of stuff priced too high for me to stomach.  I just didn't take the plunge and order everything I needed for a perfect room all at once.  The stuff will be delivered to TBG's warehouse and I'll put it in place when I have time over the next few months.

Now from the sounds of it, we are broke.  The truth is we're not!  There would be a lot more cash to drop on home furnishings if weren't saving so rigorously for retirement and committed to having an emergency fund.  My dream home will never be a reality -- but at least I won't have nightmares about overspending!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Office Gifts

I stumbled upon the perfect holiday gift for my office-mates.  The department I am working in now is comprised of around 16 people.  Men, women, young, middle aged -- and me (old).  Perusing the Dollar Tree today, looking for liquid soap, I saw a bin of these Shugar Soapworks bars in Oatmeal & Cranberry.  Alas, I didn't find a liquid soap I liked.

This is a brand of soap that I love.  These all-natural large bars are worth more than the dollar a piece they're selling for at DT.  Our office is full of pastries and snacks provided by vendors, clients and the company itself.  I figure these soaps will be gender-agnostic, low-calorie and holiday-appropriate.

Upon finding the small bin, I cleared out the entire supply and figure I am set for office gifts.  If anyone out there is looking for an economical holiday item -- perfect for stocking stuffers, gift baskets, etc.  Check your local Dollar Tree to see if they have any of these in stock.  There may be other scents as well that would work for the holiday, such as vanilla, cinnamon or even almond.  Just don't try the store I went to for the oatmeal and cranberry -- they're all out!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Birds & Bucks

I have this bad habit.  If I see something I love that I know I will never have a chance to get my hands on again, I buy it.  Even if it's something I have no use for.  I also have another bad habit (OK, I have lots of them).  I buy stuff I would love for other people to have even if I know it is not something they'd buy for themselves.  This picture is a case in point.

A friend is getting hitched this month.  She is living with her fiance in a small apartment above a store he owns.  Most of her stuff is in storage and they do hope to buy a house -- but she has no clue how long it would take to get him to act on that.  He's been single a long time and is happy living the way he has been.  They are both in their forties and this is a first marriage for them both.

A few months ago, my friend mentioned bridal registries to me.  Being a foreigner, she had never heard of such at thing and was struggling with the idea because she didn't want people to buy her stuff.  Since most people tend to give money these days, she had gravitated towards a site that was based entirely on the premise of collecting money from your guests.  I don't know how others think and maybe it is because I am old school, but my cultural make-up is such that asking for money is considered tacky and it's something I'd never do.  Our friend's fiance is of an overly generous and socialist sort of nature -- he's the least mercenary person I have ever met, so my guess is he'd also feel uncomfortable about soliciting for cash.

My suggestion was that she use another popular bridal site that is focused on the entire process, not just the collection of money.   Using a phrase like "We are not registered for gifts; we have everything we need for our home," seemed to me to be the best way to hint that money could be an appropriate gift.  Besides, the day, the experience and the institution should not be based on the gift component of the event.

The picture I'm showing today is part of a wedding present we are giving this couple. I found it at an estate sale and it is an original.  Painted at some time in the mid-seventies, it was part of a collection of art and fabrics collected by a man who had a passion for India and traveled there extensively.  I took it to a dealer who re-papered the back and looked it over.  He said it was a fine piece and you could see the artist had sketched a few ideas on the back of the canvas.  It is not an assembly line piece you can buy in a home store that was made in mass in China.

We are giving this along with a set of high thread count cotton sheets and a set of pillow cases.  My thought is the painting is something that I hope is of lasting value (which cash is not) but won't take up a lot of space, and the bedding is something useful that I hope will give them something of comfort.  I love art and high thread content sheets.  Is it selfish of me to pick a gift for someone based on the things I like?  Probably, but old habits die hard!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Don't Let Fear Sabotage Your Future

Fear can be a potent motivator.  Sometimes that's good, and other times it works against us.

I am fearful of growing old in poverty, so I save and invest.  While the fear motivates me, I do not let it sidetrack me.  Studies of the fight-or-flight instinct genetically encoded into our brains has shown to have a negative impact on investing.  Rather than riding out ups and downs of the stock market, those who panic pull out when prices drop. If they want back in, they wait until the market looks better -- and end up buying at higher prices.  If those funds had been left in place, they would have realized gains during the rebound that followed.  Continuing to invest during market dips means we are buying low and will realize gains later.   Balancing our investments help us spread the risk so that not everything tanks at the same time.

I'm not a financial advisor, and what I've just written is common knowledge.  But why am I posting this  now?  Simple, I have two opinions to express today.  And they are just that; opinion.

I urge citizens of the United States to vote on Tuesday.  Having the right to participate in elections is a precious privilege.  One that we should be proud to have an use.  Regardless of who you want to vote for, get out and vote.  And please, don't try to discourage others from voting just because you don't like who they may cast their ballot for.

Next, don't panic.  Regardless of who wins the election, don't buy into doomsday fears.  Don't feel you need to pull all of your investments out of the stock market and pay off your house.  The world is not going to end.  Even if the market dips, it will rebound.

Eight years ago, we saw and read about folks preaching gloom and doom, pushing gold as an investment, encouraging us to stock up on seeds, quit our jobs, stockpile food and weapons, be ready for the apocalypse.    None of that happened.  I'm not one to gamble, but my bet is that a similar narrative will arise after this election.

But my truth is this:  I kept investing after the last election.  I didn't pay off my house and high-tail it out of town.  OK, I did sell my house and buy another -- and took on another mortgage.  The result?  I have tons more money invested today than I did eight years ago.  And by that, I mean a substantially greater amount (probably double, or more).  I didn't lose money; my money grew because I did not panic, pull it out of the market, and I continued to add more.  I also didn't walk away from civilization.   Together, in our small life, our income has risen about 50%.  We have more equity in our home than ever before -- and we still have a mortgage.

This same scenario was the case after every election, some of which brought candidates I voted for into office, others bought in candidates I despised.  Regardless of political cycles, we never threw in the towel, we never believed the world would end, never thought we were screwed.

I do think that if we did buy into the fear, we would have been screwed.  Planning your actions based on fear never allows you to make the best or most rational decision.  So my soapbox message today is to cherish your right to vote and exercise it -- but don't let the results make you do anything drastic or crazy.  The US is a wonderful place to live and we are good people. Just because we don't like our current leader doesn't negate our worth.  It shouldn't give us reason to hate or destroy.  You can grow in good times and bad and however anyone takes the results, I hope they manage to resist fear and act in a positive fashion.

Now, get ready to vote!