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Containing my coffee February 27, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Consumerism, Finances, My No Spendy Year.
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Do you know what this might be?


Well, yes it’s a rather used cutting board from Ikea but I mean that black smiley thing. Do you know what that is?

Does this help?Travel Mug

It’s the thread to the lid of my favorite travel mug. The one I take on the train every day. The one that doesn’t leak unless the lid is on wrong and keeps my coffee nice and hot. The one my sister gave me even though she doesn’t drink coffee because she knows how much I like it. That travel mug. With the thread gone, the lid doesn’t seal. I suppose I could still use it but I’d end up with coffee down my shirt every single day. Once is enough to learn that lesson.

My normal morning routine is to make a half pot of coffee, enough for two travel mugs, and then load up this one and my second favorite, the one my daughter brought home for me when she worked a summer in Colorado. I like that one quite a bit but the lid isn’t leak-proof and it doesn’t hold the heat quite as well. I drink the coffee from the number two mug on the way to the train station, then drink from the number one mug on the train. (I first typed “drink number one on the train” and had to go back and edit that line so it didn’t make me giggle.) The coffee in the number one mug is still so hot I can only sip it for the first few minutes.

Now I have a decision to make. Do I buy a new travel mug that doesn’t leak and keeps my coffee steaming hot for a long time, or do I just use what I have? I do have other travel mugs but they aren’t leak-proof.  Also, I think they all have handles and I prefer a travel mug without.

CuppowI also have a few of these great lids that turn a canning jar into a travel mug. I think of them as sippy cups for adults. I used one earlier this week on the day I discovered my favorite mug was broken, but even with the improvised cozy made from my glove the coffee still cooled off too fast. Personally I prefer the Cuppow lids for cold drinks rather than hot but it’s possible I just need better insulation. Maybe I’ll knit up a thick, felted jar cozy this weekend and see if that helps.

At the beginning of the year I said I wasn’t going to buy things that weren’t a real need. Is a leak-proof travel mug a need? As much as I’d like to say yes (so I can buy a new one) I have to say no. I can get along just fine using the mugs I have on hand. If I decide I just can’t live without it, I’ll use my ‘allowance’ and get one in a month or so.



The fog is lifting February 21, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Depression, life, thoughts, Uncategorized.
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I’ve been a bit distracted the past week or so and my writing has suffered. . As my last post indicates, I spent much of the week in a fit of depression. I’m not often hit by those crawl-under-the-covers-and-call-in-sick-to-life spells. There have only been a small handful of times when I just couldn’t face the world. Those episodes usually hit the day after a particularly emotionally grueling issue with my ex or kids. On the other hand, I have for years struggled with a constant, vague unease and even called myself a “high functioning depressive.” I recently found out this actually has a name — Dysthymia.

According to Web MD, the symptoms of dysthymia are the same as those of major depression but not as intense:

  • sadness or depressed mood most of the day or almost every day
  • loss of enjoyment in things that were once pleasurable
  • major change in weight (gain or loss of more than 5% of weight within a month) or appetite
  • insomnia or excessive sleep almost every day
  • physically restless or rundown that is noticeable by others
  • fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or excessive guilt almost every day
  • problems with concentration or making decisions almost every day
  • recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide plan, or suicide attempt

One of the main symptoms is this is a chronic condition, lasting for years. I once read a line from Dustin Hoffman where he said “”It’s not that I’m really depressed, I’m just a little bit sad all the time.” (I’m sure he said that much more eloquently–I’m going on memory here and I can’t remember where I read it. I can’t go back and verify and I’m not finding the quote easily online. I did however find this statement that I totally identify with:  “It’s tactile, a green knot in my stomach”. That doesn’t really fit in what I’m writing here but I  couldn’t leave it out entirely. It captures perfectly how I felt for years, so here you go. Now, back to the subject at hand…) I’ve lived with that vague sense of sadness far too long, telling myself that what I felt was normal, or that it would get better soon. Meanwhile the reality was that I trudged through life as though I was wading through hip deep mud.

Last year I decided I’d had enough and talked to my doctor. We worked out a plan to address the depression and it has been working well. At least it was working well until a couple of weeks ago when it was as though someone flipped a switch that knocked all the wind out of my sails. There it was, staring me in the face again. I called my doctor, we adjusted the plan, and here I am, making my way out of the fog.

In the midst of the fog, life has continued marching on. Valentine’s Day, possibly my least favorite holiday, came and went. In my opinion, the best thing about Valentine’s Day is the half-priced chocolate on February 15. Half Price Chocolate Day is a holiday I look forward to eagerly. I confess–some of that chocolate made its way home with me.

I’ll post an update soon on my grocery adventures and the relative success of my no spending money year. Soon, but not tonight as it’s past my bedtime and that darned alarm goes off way too early. Sweet Dreams my friends.

Depression is a hard taskmaster February 14, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Depression, thoughts, Uncategorized.

Depression feels like skimming the surface of my life, knowing there is depth but unable to engage. Able to begin things but unable to complete them because I lose interest or am dissatisfied with the result. It brings my biggest faults to the forefront and hides my best traits. It keeps me off-balance all the time, as if I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Bad news seems imminent. Those who say “happiness is a choice” cut me to the core. Do you think I choose to feel this way? Yet I wonder… what have I done to bring it on? Is it something I’m eating? Not enough sleep? Do I need supplements? Is this a spiritual problem? Intellectually I know it is not true, but Depression tells me I am a failure. I’m sure I’m about to be fired for not meeting the mark. I want to hide and sleep is ever appealing because I can literally pull the covers over my head. Sometimes even in sleep there is no rest. My dreams are full of anxiety, of being chased and trying to hide. My day is spent putting up a good front, hoping no one suspects and I go home exhausted from the effort*.

Depression is a hard taskmaster.

*This one is partly depression, partly introversion. I’m not shy and like being with people (most of the time) but, as an introvert, it’s also draining.

I need to remember this February 12, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Uncategorized.
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Twenty years from now

you will be more disappointed

by the things that you didn’t do

than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails.





Mark Twain

I have a perfectly good explanation for this February 11, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Creating, Knitting, Monthly Challenge.
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This wasn’t supposed to happen until March.

Wingspan 4On my list of projects to complete in February is “Purple scarf for the silent auction at church in March.” Technically, what I meant by “complete the scarf” was “start and complete the scarf,” I just didn’t add that little detail to the list. The yarn above, although it includes purple, is not the designated purple yarn. That would be this purple yarn, with the flashy silver flecks.

Purple yarn

I took a little trip last week and needed something to knit. I’d started a scarf using the purple yarn a few times and it just wasn’t working. I thought I’d use the yarn in the top picture instead and donate that scarf to the silent auction so I tucked it into my bag, along with needles. Turns out the needles were too small for the scarf I planned to make — it was barely three inches wide. I ripped it out and wondered what could I knit, without a pattern, out of fingering yarn and size 4 needles? A Wingspan, of course!

I couldn’t just sit there drinking coffee all day.

Sunday in the Kitchen February 10, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in cooking, Gluten Free, Groceries, Monthly Challenge.
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I did my monthly grocery shopping yesterday. I’ve decided that’s how I need to think about it — that I grocery shop once a month only. I might make a quick dash into the store to replenish milk or produce, but anything else will wait for my big shopping trip. I was pretty good about sticking to my list. There were a couple things I remembered while I was in the store and one or two impulse buys (a big jar of pickled cauliflower for only a dollar, for one). Mostly I bought a LOT of produce and I’ll be making that the star of my meals for the next couple weeks.

Today I’ve been doing some of the prep work so I actually use the produce. I hate to admit that too often I buy the stuff, then I’m too tired or rushed or let’s face it, just too lazy to prep it and cook it. So today I roasted some beets (will be cut up for salads or as a side dish), sauteed mushrooms (add to salad, and use as a base for soup), enjoyed some fresh guacamole* and will be putting together some jars of salad. My plan is to eat one of these salad jars daily for either lunch or dinner. I’ll also be making a batch of this celery salad with Feta cheese.

Around Thanksgiving I bought a crate of butternut squash and split it with my daughter. I have only a few squashes left and I’ve been experimenting with this recipe for Butternut Fries. I think the picture in the link might be real potato french fries because they look nothing like how mine have turned out. I did a couple batches this past week with the squash cut think like the link shows. As they are baked and not deep-fried, they don’t really crisp up. The thin fries were very floppy. Tasty dipped into a little ranch dressing laced with Frank’s Buffalo Sauce but floppy. I tried again today cutting them about a half-inch thick and was pleased with the results. Still not crispy, but they browned nicely and had enough substance that they weren’t floppy. I don’t see these as an alternative to french fries made from potatoes, but for a healthy snack, they fit the bill. (I didn’t use the non-stick spray on the squash but instead used about a teaspoon or so olive oil.)

Butternut Fries


* Guacamole – Smash an avocado in a bowl, add some chopped tomatoes, diced onion (I prefer red), fresh cilantro and some type of spicy ingredient (I used a spoonful of adobo sauce from a can of chipotle in adobo). Squeeze on juice from half a lime, salt and pepper to taste and enjoy with tortilla chips.


A little college visit February 9, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in College, Kids, parenting, snow.
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I’m back home from a college visit trip downstate with my youngest son. One would think that after four children I’d have this college search thing down pat but nope, this is a first for me. My oldest two started with Community College, and for one, that was enough to meet his needs. My middle son wasn’t interested in college right after high school — maybe sometime in the future, but not now. We’re in the middle of short visits, auditions (he wants to major in voice), comparing options, considering offers, thinking about finances… it’s all very exhausting.

I live a little over an hour north of my son and planned to drive down after work to spend the night at his place on Thursday. What happened was we had the worst storm of the winter start Thursday morning. By one o’clock we had at least two inches of snow so I asked my boss if it was alright if I left early as long as I made up the time over the weekend. Thankfully she agreed. As I posted Thursday evening, that was without a doubt, one of the most stressful drives in my life. The snow was wet and heavy and slushy. Plows were running, but the snow was coming down fast so unless you were right behind a plow (and I was not), you were driving in slush. At times the snowflakes coming at me were the size of fists. The drive took a bit more than twice as long as normal, but I made it… exhausted but also rather proud of myself. It wasn’t too long ago that I was afraid to drive in even the lightest snow and a storm like this one would have had me in tears.

By morning the snow had stopped and streets were very clear. Bright and early we headed out on our three hour trip downstate. Marc and his friend explored the campus, felt great about their auditions, and dreamed about being college students. We were given tickets to hear the University Symphony (Awesome!) and didn’t get back on the road until late. I stayed another night in Chicago as it was just too late to keep driving.

The drive home today was beautiful. The trees were still covered in thick snow and were absolutely breathtaking. Every once in a while I would see a clump of snow fall from a branch so I know this beauty won’t last long, especially if we get the freezing rain predicted for tonight

Antioch Snow

The cat was not pleased about my absence.Kitty Face

I’m happy to be home and sleeping in my own bed tonight.


Dashing through the snow February 7, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Uncategorized.
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Today we had our worst storm of the winter and I had do drive to Chicago. This trip normally takes about an hour twenty, maybe thirty minutes tops. Today it took almost three hours because of this…


Luckily people were driving sanely and I saw only one accident – a car in a ditch near my home. The snow was pretty wet and slushy. A few times a passing truck hit a slush puddle that splashed up totally covering my windshield.  Good thing I’ve got good wiper blades.

The drive wasn’t really scary – I have a good car and took my time – but it was, without a doubt,one of the most stressful drives ever. I hope the snow slacks off so our drive downstate tomorrow OS an easy one.

Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman February 6, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Books, Kids, Neil Gaiman, reading.
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Chu's Day

Neil Gaiman says adults can’t read Chu’s Day… unless they are reading it to a child. I don’t have a small child handy so I cheated and read it to my cat. I’m not sure she appreciated the humor but I loved it. This is a simple story about a small panda with big sneezes. When Chu sneezes, bad things happen.

I borrowed the book from the library but I’ve also added it to my Amazon wish list. This would make a great gift for a young child’s birthday… as long as you’re prepared to read it over and over.

What’s one of your favorite read aloud books?

Victories! February 5, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Goals, lists, randomness.
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I almost titled this post “Small Victories” but any step forward is progress. Those baby steps deserve as much recognition as the humongous giant steps. I am happy to report the following victories:

  • I took breakfast and lunch to work and drank the free coffee (instead of visiting the Starbucks conveniently located just one floor below me) all of January. The only money I spent on food at work was 84 cents to buy some cheese to put on my chili one day. 
  • I cut back to Basic Cable, saving at least $40 a month.
  • I’m learning to cook in smaller quantities. It it quite the challenge to transition from cooking for six to ten people at every meal to just one, even if that transition takes a few years.
  • My middle son started a new job (technically that’s not my victory, but it’s a huge one for him and I am sharing in the celebrating.)
  • I have exercised in the morning, before getting on with my day, for two days in a row. I, uh, kinda slacked off this past weekend but I’m back on track and rarin’ to go.
  • I unsubscribed from some of that annoying junk e-mail, clearing some of the clutter from my in-box.

What victories are you celebrating? Big or small, each victory deserves recognition and celebration.