“what a wonderful life”

Bruce Barone has written a short story about an experience we had on Saturday at Mittineague Park. I am sharing it here with you and hope you enjoy it. I have also included a poem Bruce Barone has recently written about Bridges Together.

mitt park 2017

On Saturday, Susan and I, and Freddy, ran into these two angels at the park down the street from where we live–Mittineague Park.

emma and felcia

They are cousins and they were at the park with their family celebrating their grandfather’s 70th birthday. There were lots of people, adults and children of every age. One man was overseeing the grill and wonderful aromas were wafting throughout the air. And, women were sitting on the picnic tables preparing foods.

The girl on the left was in one of the past 3rd grade classes where we volunteer every Tuesday—reading, talking, laughing, creating art. When she saw us, she ran over and gave us a big hug! That is how wonderful this volunteer program, Bridges Together, is; it benefits both the children and the volunteers.

Freddyat mitt park 2017

She asked if she could introduce her grandfather to us. “Of course”, we said. He came toward us, with a great big smile. He said, with pride, one granddaughter was his daughter’s daughter and the other was his son’s daughter. The large extended family has immigrated to the United States from Moldova.
mitt park fall
Later in the day, I went back to the park and gave the girls and the grandfather each a 4×6 print of this photo—–and they gave me a big plate of food (chicken, beef and lamb kebabs, salad, home-made bread) to take home!

Here is the poem Bruce Barone wrote recently about our volunteer experience.

What A Wonderful World

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This is an account of children, third grade students, of Coburn Elementary School

Located in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Children who are 8-10 years old

Interacting with senior citizens—building bridges together by talking, reading,

Listening, creating art, laughing, sharing pieces of ourselves.

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Many children of refugees and immigrants. Children of dreamers

Of a better way of life. Children of parents and grandparents

From Nepal, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Russia, Puerto Rico,

Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Latvia, Belarus, Germany,

Poland, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Moldova.

Children who speak two, three, four languages.

Children named Maimuna, Luis, Jayden, Ivy, Haydia, Nabaa,

Evan, Luca, Layla, Bogdan, Isabella, Victoria, Mohamed,

Prashna, Prashik, Prateemna, Prabesh, Jaylin, Tisha, Milana,

Emily, Jordan, Miyana, Joseph, Yuliya, Matilda, Lilly, Emil,

Michael, Kimberly, Yariana, Elijah, Hailey, David, Caleb,

Matthew, Emil, Yariana, Mykle, Jade, Mihaela.

3coburn girls

Children who dream of being firefighters, lawyers, baseball players,

Basketball and soccer players, doctors, nurses, scientists, teachers.

Children who say, “You are the best Bridges friends ever.”

“Thank You for listening and talking with me.”

“Thank you for doing the Macarena with me.”

“Thank You for playing cards with me.”

“Thank You for making me laugh.”

prashik and friend

“Thank You for helping me. You were funny, helpful and supportive.”

“Thank You for your company and helping us with our art projects.”

“I am grateful you spent time with us.”

“Thank You for your time. Remember when we made the banks?

That was so much fun! Hope we can do it again.”

“Thank you for being here when I am down. You get me

Up and going. You make me happy.”

“Thank you for helping us with the fun stuff we made.”

“I love you. You will always be in my heart.”

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Our Bridges friends: Children who believe the world is wonderful

“Because Nature is a painting by life;”

“Because there are lots of beautiful things and happy families;”

“Because there are computers, cats, people, food, pets,

Family, friends, water, emogees, sunflowers, rainbows,

Waterfalls, forests, and cookies;”

“Because we have families, food, and trees;”

“Because we see different people every day and they are beautiful;”

“Because of family, friends, cousins, aunts, uncles,

Grandparents and food and drinks;”

“Because of many beautiful faces;”

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“Because everyone loves each other. We all are family;”

“Because of flowers, grass, trees, animals, people, religions;”

“Because of friends and family and my teachers;”

“Because of every person in the world smiling and laughing;”

“Because the roses are red, the clouds white, the sky blue.

They are there for me and you.

What a wonderful world.”

“Mr. Bruce and Miss Susan………

When will we see you again?

I love you.”


“How did this start?”

Prashna asks me again “how did this start?” And she answers, “Oh, yeah, with the eye glasses.”

My husband, Bruce Barone, and I volunteer at a local elementary school with third graders through  Bridges Together program.

It is a school where more than 40 countries are represented by the students.

CoburnMap

 

Prashna and her family came to the United States from Nepal in 2010. She lives in a rented home with her 12 year old brother, her 15 year old sister, her mother, her uncle and her maternal grandparents.

The children speak English fluently and are good students. Prashna loves to sing and make youtube videos; Prashik plays soccer and says that he “was instilled with the destiny to play professional soccer”; and Pratima loves to dance in the Nepali tradition, wearing colorful saris.

I met Prashna while she was in the 3rd grade, a bright, gregarious, energetic 10 year old. I noticed that she was holding her eye glasses, rather than wearing them. When I inquired, she told me that they were broken and indeed they were. I asked her if she knew the optical shop where she originally obtained them and she did. I spoke to the classroom reading teacher about getting them replaced and I offered to arrange for it. With the help of the classroom volunteer who speaks Nepali, he asked Prashna’s Mom if I could help in getting the prescription refilled and also let her know that I could help with transportation to the optical shop, if it were needed. She agreed.

As the weeks went by, I became more familiar with Prashna and her daily living experience. I could sense that she had a very tight-knit, loving family who were very steeped in the Nepali culture and within the small Nepali community in town. She is proud to be Nepali and likes to talk about and share her traditions with us. I could also sense that despite living in our town and in the US for seven years, she had little awareness or knowledge of the outer community or country.

I thought that she would be open to some greater exposure to experiences within her reach and hoped that her Mom would be supportive.

When the eye glasses were ready for pick up, I asked the para-professional if he would let Mom know and I also offered transportation. She was all set. I asked him to let her know that I had a special interest in Prashna and wanted to provide access to activities in town that would be a benefit to her. It was a bit awkward speaking through the interpreter, but I got the go-ahead that I needed.

prashna glasses

At the same time, I let the school principal know of my insights into Prashna, my intentions to open up the greater world to her, and that I was also interested in making sure she had all the school supplies she needed to be successful at school. A few days passed, and she let me know that Prashna needed a backpack. Great! An opportunity to meet Mom and let her know directly that I wanted to help and be involved in opening some doors to greater opportunities and experiences.

In the meantime, I thought about what would be a good initial experience for Prashna to venture outside of her familiar comfort zone. Another third grade student told me she belonged to Girls Scouts and enjoyed it very much. I did some research and spoke to a local troop leader and learned that they meet weekly at the West Springfield Boys and Girls Club. I explained that I wasn’t sure if Prashna would like it, but wanted her to have the chance to check it out herself and make a decision. She offered to have Prashna come to the remaining few meetings and, if she wanted to, she could officially join in September when the meetings resumed. Great! And the Boys and Girls Club is within walking distance of Prashna’s home.

I spoke to Prashna about the Girl Scouts and explained as best I could what it was about and that I thought she would enjoy making new friends and joining in new activities. She was very interested and  excited. I let her know she would need her Mom’s permission. Another reach out to the para-professional who spoke to Mom about the Girl Scouts. She agreed.

I arranged to meet Mom and Prashna a few minutes before the Girl Scout meeting started to make introductions all around. Prashna saw some familiar faces from school and the leader asked one of the girls to make Prashna feel welcome. It was the first time I met Mom. She is the beautiful, warm, caring person I envisioned. I am sure she was relieved to finally lay eyes on me and make an assessment of me. We chatted for a short time and I gave her the new back pact to give to Prashna later at home. She was very appreciative.

Durga

Prashna has since attended the meetings and decided to join in September. She asks me when meetings will start. “Soon”, I say, “soon.”

In the meantime, we have sponsored Prashna and Prashik, her 12 year old brother, to one week summer camp, Fun Fitness Week, at the Boys and Girls Club. I asked Prashna what her experience was like during the week. She said, “On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 100.”

Pratima mentioned to me that she was interested in doing an internship during the summer, before entering the 9th grade at West Springfield High School. I researched some options and she decided to pursue a Junior Leadership Program at the West Springfield Boys and Girls Club. She had a fabulous learning experience and the Club was delighted to have her.

prashna and pratima

We have taken Prashna, her brother and her older sister to the cinema to see a movie, something they had not done. We spent a sunny afternoon on a riverboat cruise on the Connecticut River. It was delightful and they enjoyed it very much.

They have come to our home for dinner, to play, and to “just hang out”, as they say. At first, they were afraid of our cat and dog and now they feel very comfortable and look forward to playing with Freddy, hearing him bark when they arrive, and petting Nadine. Their friends and cousins have visited at our home, too. prashna at our home

prashna and cousin

prashik and friend

We have shopped at the local mall, which they had never been to before and had ice cream at the local garden stand and shop. And, yes, we have gone to McDonald’s more times than I care to count!

My husband and I have been most welcomed at Prashna’s home. Her Mom serves us tea and fruit when we arrive to pick up the children. We have joined them for dinner, having traditional Nepali food. We have gone to a Nepali wedding which was lovely and fascinating, open and welcoming. We were invited to Prashna’s birthday party, as well as her brother’s party and learned about Nepali traditions and met many of their relatives and friends. We attended a Bhutanese-Nepali cultural festival where Prashna’s older sister danced in the traditional Nepali way. I also went to “a Teej” celebration, an annual Nepali holiday, where all women are honored. Prashna’s older sister, Pratima, danced and her grandmother sang.

prashna b party

bhutan cultural event

 

It’s autumn now and we have sponsored Prashna and her brother in local soccer leagues. I never would have pictured myself a “Soccer Mom”, yet that is what I have become, bringing them to their practices and matches, and cheering them on. For her brother, it is a dream come true as Prashik dreams of becoming a professional soccer player and we are pleased to be part of his happiness. For Prashna, she wasn’t so excited about the thought of playing soccer. I convinced her that she will make new friends, enjoy the fun of the game, and learn about competition and teamwork. She has taken to it like a fish to water. Prashna has expressed to me that she would like to take voice lessons. I have started to research it.

prashik soccer player

The children have had greater experiences and enjoyable adventures as new doors have been opened for them. We have been learning about a culture we did not know and sharing our love and attention with a Nepali family. It truly is a wonder-full world.

“you are important to me” and other messages

I have seen and heard a few things lately that have taken me aback. I have given quite a bit of thought to them and reflected on my own childhood.

Let me share with you and then you can tell me what you think and feel.

There is an advertisement on television for The American Women’s College at Bay Path University . It features about 4-5 women, aging from about 38 to 60 years. The ad is geared toward the ‘non-traditional student’. There are no men nor children in the commercial; there is one scraggly mutt.

They all say something about their dreams, their goals and the last statement is by the youngest woman and she says, “It’s my time, now.”

The unsaid words are that when she was responsible for caring for younger children they were a burden, an interference to her own desires which she has put off until now to pursue.

You get the sense that other women are divorced, widowed or otherwise single and not burdened by a man. The poor dog:  I hope he gets the care he needs when she is sitting in her Philosophy 101 course.

This dualistic thinking is not productive to living a genuine life. It is not “either or” but rather it is “and”.  I support women pursuing their goals, whatever they may be. Let’s be honest. If a woman has children and limited finances and time and cannot fit in college at that time, let’s be clear that it was her choice, hopefully a loving choice. Later on, she decides to pursue her education or her career, out of a loving place of freedom to choice, not because a burden [children, husband] no longer exists.

I never felt that I was a burden to my parents. Both of my parents were fiercely independent and they pursued their own personal goals, but never at the cost of their children. I can’t remember a time I was left with a babysitter other than my older brothers and that wasn’t too often because I don’t think they were too keen to tend to me.

My parents brought me with them~to the movies, out to dinner, to friends’ homes. I felt special to be with them. I didn’t feel I was keeping them from doing something else that they wanted to do. Until she passed, my mother made me feel I was the light of her life.

Have you seen the advertisement? Tell me what you think.

I saw a scene the other day that disturbed me.  As I was entering a church for weekly Lenten Service around noon, the day center was releasing the 2-4 year old children to their parents and some grand parents. The parents and children were scrambling with their arty papers and coats and hats and there were shouts of glee from the children to see their Mom or Dad. One Dad had broken free from the crowded hallway and was pulling his little one along and said to him in a scowling tone, “We don’t have all day.”

Really? I know there are adult time commitments, but do we need to make a child feel he is less important than something else? Is rushing the little tyke from the building to the car in the parking lot really going to save that much time? Why not savor the time with the child and make him feel that there is nothing more important to you at this moment than him?

“Let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it is difficult to smile. Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family.”  Mother Teresa

Once when I was in a retail store, I over heard a parent saying to a child, “You can’t have everything you want.” Really?  My father used to always says to Mare, “Give Susie whatever she wants.”   My parents also taught us that we could have whatever we wanted, as long as we worked for it.  Do you recall the Biblical story in Luke 11-13 where Jesus is teaching about fatherly love and Our Heavenly Father:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Joe wasn’t a religious man, yet he wanted his children to have whatever he had and more. Mare did, too.

Parents, isn’t there a better way to teach your children about wanting and possessing, responsible giving and receiving than to say “You can’t have everything you want”?

You might even use Mick Jagger’s line which is a little softer and more hopeful: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard, you might just get what you need.”

Another time when I was in a store I heard a parent say to a child “Life isn’t fair.”

Really? What a terribly negative, limiting message to give a child. It is wholly untrue, to boot.

Universal laws are always in place, as well as spiritual laws. Gravity is never suspended. If you jump off a building, you will always go splat! Two plus two always equals four.  When you follow spiritual principles, “you become carefree and joyful, and your life becomes an expression of unbounded love”,  Deepak Chopra assures us. What could be fairer? Follow the laws of the universe and you shall prosper abundantly.  Always.

What do you think about the messages you were told as a child? What messages do you tell your children? Yourself? Are they negative, limiting, diminishing? Or are they positive, uplifting, life-giving?

super bowl weekend 2017

It’s Super Bowl weekend.

Bruce Barone has bought a half bushel each of avocados and tomatoes to make guacamole and salsa dips.

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avocados

Never mind that I don’t especially like either. There are 4 varieties of chips, too. He grocery shopped on Friday as he “wanted to avoid the crowds on Saturday.”

salsa

He has made hummus for me. I like it served with roasted red peppers and toasted pita. That’s how it was served at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires when I worked there as Director of Human Resources.

hummus

Stop by Sunday; but you’ll have to leave by 9 p.m because that’s when we go to bed. We’ll find out who won on Monday morning.

Actually, we would rather be in Denver with Bruce’s son, Daryl Barone and his good woman, Julia Mae, watching the game with them and their friends.

daryl-and-julia

But what would we do with our little Freddy and Nadine?

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We used to go to my brothers’ bar, Rallys, in Westfield, MA each Super Bowl Sunday. [They  sold the bar a few years ago.] It was a closed party for their customers who put on quite a spread of food. My mother always made lasagne. The customers always made a big deal of Mare and Joe.  Of course, I continued the tradition when she no longer could. One customer, Kim, made little pineapple cream puffs and would put aside a plateful for us to take home for Joe. It was a good time.

cream-puffs

I am not especially interested in sports and Bruce is not a rabid fan. I am glad for that because I would not like to be married to someone who spent a great deal of time watching sports on television. Surprisingly, to me anyways, Bruce Barone used to play high school football. He was a star athlete and was called “the gazelle” as he ran very fast. Those were his glory days.

brucebarone-football

Sports can do many things, large and small. It can be a unifier, a source of tremendous pride, in a city which has a team. And certainly, it can be a revenue stream for a city, if the powers that be haven’t negotiated away all the monetary benefits.

It’s a shame the cost of tickets. Did you see the woman who asked NFL Commissioner Goodell if he had 2 extra tickets?  http://abc13.com/news/woman-asks-nfl-chief-for-suite-tickets-gets-them/1737209/

“Would you happen to have two extra seats in your suite to watch the game? ” the woman asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during an hour-long fan forum at the House of Blues. “It’d be a little better than my couch, but I just thought I’d throw that out there,” she added.

Goodell responded with a laugh and then, “Are you serious?”  He said to her, “See me afterwards.” He arranged for her 2 tickets in his suite of seats.

Man, that was something! Just like Mare used to say to me, “Susie, you have to speak up and ask for what you want.”

It’s a positive thing for folks to get together and pass the time under convivial circumstances, with friends, family, food, and drink all around. It’s fun, to be sure.

As I said earlier, stop by and have a beer or a glass of wine and some food with Bruce and me. I hope the team you are cheering for wins. If you are betting, the Pats are favored by 3 points. [I put that in because Bruce has no idea what it means.]

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Gyms, fitness studios, yoga studios

Bruce and I, like a lot of people TALK about getting fit and losing weight and about joining a gym.

In the past, we have joined gyms such as Planet Fitness and Expert Fitness but never continued even through the first year. Boy, does that hurt when you see the money still coming out of your checking account during the annual contract period. At the end of which, we are no more fitter and a wee bit heavier.

bathroom-scale

In October 2016, we  started talking again about getting fit. I did some on-line research of yoga studios and found one that met our needs. Mainly, it was convenient to get to; it offered daily day-time classes; and a monthly rate for unlimited classes. We joined Karma Yoga on October 28, 2016. We attended regularly, three times a week. The teacher, Laura, was terrific and we liked the space and the other yogis. It was perfect, except it was HOT.

hotyoga

While Karma Yoga does offer HOT Yoga classes, the class we enrolled in was not advertised as “HOT”. However, the room was HOT from the earlier morning HOT yoga class and our teacher kept the room HOT. The temperature was between 97 and 109 degrees. The moment I walked in the studio, I felt uncomfortable and started sweating.  During the class which is called “Power Yoga”, I became totally wet from sweat. I stuck it out until Christmas. We had taken the week off because we were busy with the holidays. When it was time to return, I just could not bring myself to suffer anymore with the high temperature. We decided not to renew our monthly membership.

Meantime, in mid-November while Bruce was in Denver visiting his son, Daryl and his good woman, Julia, I did some research on gyms. We were still practicing yoga at this time, but we wanted to add fitness to our lifestyle. I found Conca Sports and Fitness on-line and set up an appointment for Bruce and me to check it out once he returned home from Denver.

Conca Sports and Fitness is not your typical gym. It has all the equipment and weights and space as a gym, yet it provides individualized attention and training.  We signed up for a “special introductory one month session”. It was a reasonable price and we went 3 times a week for a couple of hours each day. We had a customized plan that we followed and it was updated each week, based on our progress. We liked the trainer/owner; it was convenient; the space was clean and open; we liked the other people who trained there.

We regularly asked what the new rate would be at the conclusion of our month-long session. We were told, by the owner, that he was working on some new programs and he would be able to share with us at the beginning of the new year. So, we took the week of Christmas off and returned at the New Year and met with the owner. The rate went up 58% and we didn’t have a good sense of what the new program would be like.  But at that rate, we didn’t need to dwell too long on it because we felt it was way too expensive.

So back to the drawing board. I did some on-line research again and we visited a few places.  We really preferred to be at one place that offered both yoga and fitness. No luck, until our sister-in-law, Eleanor, suggested Fitness First Health Club. We checked it out on-line and made an appointment for a tour. It is a large, spacious place with all sorts of trainers, equipment, weights, fitness classes, yoga, a pool, and sauna and steam rooms [for both men and women], to boot.

sauna

It is different from other gyms in that it has ‘reasonable‘ fitness class–meaning classes other than spinning, boot camp, death by workout, H.I.I.T, and other extreme workouts. It also has yoga 6 times a week and at multiple times during the day and evening , not just at 5 a.m. on Saturday. The pool, sauna, and steam are nice additions that not every gym has, including Expert Fitness.

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Fitness First is not a franchise. The owners are right there, to greet you. It has an extensive staff of class teachers and personal trainers with long tenure. It is clean. The clientele is diverse. Best of all, for us, the price was right for membership that includes both fitness and yoga.

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My bet is that Bruce Barone and I are going to stick this out for the full contract year.  What do you say?

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Customer Service at Vera Bradley

Don’t you just love Vera Bradley’s byline:  “It’s good to be a girl.”?  I do. Nadine, our beautiful cat, likes it, too.

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I was never a fan of Vera Bradley. I never liked the cotton printed pocketbooks. They looked too, well, baggy, for one. And, the print never seemed to match what the woman was wearing who was carrying the printed bag. Not that women need to be matchy-matchy in their fashion style, but they shouldn’t be Glamour Don’ts, either.

glamour-donts

This Christmas, my grand-niece Lauren, had a lovely purple paisley print cosmetic bag. I love purple and paisley~put them together and WOW! Here’s what Lauren has~Lilac Tapestry:

lilac-tapestry

So I checked out Vera Bradley  and was surprised to see things other than pocketbooks and backpacks. I ended up buying some boxed notes, a note card for someone special, a pretty hair bow for our grand-daughter, a pair of wicked cool flip-flops, and a pajama tee. They were all on sale, plus an extra 40% off, and free shipping. Here’s the pattern on my flip-flops~Nomadic Floral:

flip-flop-nomadic-floral

The lovely green lined box arrived with all my goodies. The only disappointment was that the tee was too large for me. There is an enclosed form to complete for returns as well as a prepaid mailing label. Very convenient for me.

I looked on-line and they had a smaller size in stock so I called customer service to order it and to see if I could get the same 40% discount as that promotion was no longer going on. “Sure” she said. “Let me see what I can do.” The real price came out a few cents less than I had paid. I was a happy shopper.

As soon as I hung up, the order verification was in my email as well as a customer satisfaction query. Not one of those long ones, that takes a chunk of time out of your afternoon and asks all sorts of personal demographic data. This one asks “How I would rate Gabriela on a scale of Poor to Excellent.” I choose ‘Excellent’. I was then asked why I gave that rating. I stated that “Gabriela was pleasant, helpful, and personable.” And, lastly, I was asked what should Gabriela be rewarded with: A cup of coffee, a lunch, or a product gift~these were shown in graphics. I choose a product gift.

All in all, I love Vera Bradley products [except for the bags and backpacks]. Beautiful designs and colors. The prices are good, especially when on sale, and if you can catch an extra promotion, that’s even better.

When I had an issue with an item needing to be returned, it was easy as pie and reordering via the customer service rep went smoothly and quickly.

thumbs-up

Customer Service at Sharper Image

Customer Service  at Sharper Image

As most of you know, I am seeing an occupational therapist for the treatment of arthritis in my hands. [These are not my hands.]

arthritic-hands

I have arthritis throughout my body, but that is where the pain is. After 2 sessions, I was pain-free in my hands. The therapist gave me a paraffin heat treatment on my hands as well as hot moist treatment on my shoulders. She recommended that I get a paraffin treatment devise for home use and recommended Walmart.

I checked out Walmart and they were out of stock. I used Google Search for paraffin devises and checked out a number of sites and devices.  I especially wanted one that was made for feet so I could also treat the dry skin on my feet. I was considering features, price and shipping costs. I landed at Sharper Image where I have never shopped before. I found a Dr. Scholl’s model for $55.00 or so and had a 10% discount code which  I figured covered shipping. I received the devise, read the instructions, and plugged it in. The paraffin was suppose to melt in 2 hours. Well, 5 hours later, it was not fully melted. I left the devise on overnight and the wax finally was melted.  I gave myself a treatment and it did feel warming and soothing.

paraffin

However, since the heating unit was not working as specified, I decided to return it. I telephoned Sharper Image and told the rep the problem I had with its first use.  She said “What do you want?” I said “I want a refund.” She said “Your account will be credited within 7-10 business days.” It was nice that I did not have to return the defective item. But, there was no explanation and no apology for my inconvenience.

This was my first experience with Sharper Image and it left me with the impression that it sells shoddy goods and they are more than prepared to deal with refunds. I won’t shop Sharper Image again, nor will I buy Dr. Scholl’s products.

thumbs-down-sign

Christmas Eve 2016

santa

It happened again, like it did last year. At the last minute on the 24th of December, I found myself in Rite Aid looking for a Christmas card for Bruce. Me and a bunch of men, who you could tell, didn’t have a clue, trying to find a card that said ‘just the right thing’. The only “To My Husband” card left was in Polish. Oh well, Bruce would get a kick out of it. I remember last year, I ended up with a Charlie Brown card for him.charliebrown

Then, off to the hair color aisle. Thank God there was no shortage of Clairol products. I felt I just had to touch up my hair.  You know the feeling.

Next stop was Masse’s Seafood to pick up 2 pounds of cocktail shrimp and sauce. Back home, I needed to make dessert, finish the laundry, wash the kitchen floor, color my hair, shower, and get ready for our annual Christmas Eve get-together with family and friends.

Bruce had been working steadily making short rib stew [a new addition to our menu] and bourbon and bacon mac and cheese [which replaced lasagne a few years back].

bourbonmaccheese

We also had a salad which didn’t go over that well~not sure why~spinach salad with glazed pecans and pomegranate seeds with a honey vinaigrette. He grilled up a kielbasa and made deviled eggs. A small catastrophe with the paprika, but I won’t go into that.

Bruce bought a loaf of bread rather than making his own, as he had just made a rye loaf for the family gathering on the 23rd at Betsy [his ex-wife] and John’s home. We gather each year with Bruce’s son, Daryl and his good woman, Julia, her parents, Kim and Joe, Bruce’s daughter, Danielle, our son-in-law, Mike, and our two grandchildren, Emily and Matthew. Freddy comes along too and plays, meaning makes a commotion, with their border terrier, Libby.

Bruce made baked tortellini with tomato sauce which I made from a recipe I have used for decades. I made a cheese ball~first one I ever made. It was made with blue cheese, dates, pecans and scallions and covered in crumbled bacon and parsley. It was served with club crackers and curried peach preserves. I found this recipe on PBS food site and it was by Vivian from “A Chef’s Life”. Here’s a picture of it. Definitely, a keeper.

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Back to our Christmas Eve gathering. I had a hard time deciding on a dessert. I went through my recipes and cookbooks and websites and finally landed on peach upside down mini cakes.  It sounded good.  As I was putting the recipe together, I could just tell it wasn’t going to come out right. But what was I to do at this point? So 30 minutes later…The mini cakes are stuck in the tins, of course. I managed to get them out and pieced together the peach and brown sugar mixture that was supposed to be on top, rather than stuck in the tins. The batter was tough, but I served it with vanilla ice cream which kind of redeemed it. I had also made chocolate chipolte cookies and oatmeal cookies.

My friend, Jacki, brought chocolate dipped strawberries~yummy. And Julia brought “Legs” inspired by “A Christmas Story”.  She is very talented and very funny!

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Daryl and Julia like Moscow Mules, so we made a cranberry version. The punch was a big hit.

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Here’s a picture of the table with the appetizers.

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The nativity set was my mother’s. It is very beautiful and I am honored to have it.

We had a house full of people, friends and family, and a good time was had by all.

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I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy new Year.

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