Category Archives: Tips

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It’s The Getting There

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Does this picture look familiar? It’s pretty much looks like the seats Kris and I had on our trip to Cancun. I wish now that we had of taken pictures because it’s still almost unbelivable. Add to the close confines, … Continue reading

Improvisation? by Valerie J. Patterson

I had planned on writing about our recent trip to the Outer Banks, but I found myself out of time and, well, out of energy.  Plus something very odd happened today.

I was seated at my desk getting ready for the close of day when all of a sudden, I felt this odd sensation in my nose.  Next thing I knew, there was a puddle of blood on my hands and on my desk.  I yanked a handful of tissues from the box and promptly soaked them with blood.  I barely had time to reach for another handful of tissues before it was spilling onto my sweater.

I swiveled and reached for the trashcan, pulling it nearer as I continued to soak wads of tissue one after the other.  My boss came to see why I was making odd noises and sprung into action.  She and another co-worker were flying around the office.  One retrieved a bottle of soda from the refrigerator while the other was soaking some paper towels in cold water.  Before I knew it, the bottle of frigid soda was being held to the back of my neck while the cold paper towels were being held to my nose and another hand was tightly pinching the bridge of my nose.

For a solid 10 minutes, blood flowed from my nose like someone had opened a spigot.  Half an hour later, it finally had clotted and only a trickle remained.  It’s been a long, long time since I last had a nose bleed, but I have never had one of this magnitude.  I am most amazed at knowing the lovely ladies I work with are geniuses at improvising in an emergency situation.  In the absence of ice, grab the coldest thing from the fridge and apply it to the back of the neck as that constricts the vessels and slows the bleeding.  Applying cold compresses to the nose and pinching the bridge aid in slowing the bleeding while the body works on clotting it.

As I said, I have never seen so much blood from a nose bleed before, but I am both grateful and thankful for the fast-acting, intelligent women I work with!

Until next time, I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday if you celebrate.  If you don’t celebrate, I hope you have a very blessed Thursday!!

Vinnie Pie? Yes, Please! by Valerie J. Patterson

We walked into the joint and my eyes darted left, my gaze fastening on the man behind the counter, Plexiglas separating him from the patrons.  High above his head, a pizza dough spins several times before coming down and landing deftly on his fingers.  High into the air it rose again, spinning before landing once more on his hands.  Flour seasoned his dark hair gray.  His eyeglasses are speckled with flour as well.  The dough is spread out onto a large silver pan and is soon covered with rich tomato sauce perfectly seasoned with a blend of Italian spices.  Coarsely chopped cheese covers the sauce before the talented hands toss massive chunks of spicy Italian sausage, thick, mouthwatering slices of pepperoni, and various other toppings onto the pie.  A blast of heated air escapes the massive oven as the door is opened and the pie is swept inside.

My dad corrals my sisters and me to a table, but our gazes remain with Vincent, our favorite pizza maker.  We wait.  Not always silently, either.  But, we wait.  Finally, the waitress delivers a massive pizza pie—so large it makes other places’ larges look like mediums—and sometimes smalls.  Dad hefts a slice onto my plate and I attack it with a knife and fork because it’s way too big and too hot for my little hands.  Juices from the pepperoni rolls down my chin, but I don’t care.  The taste explosion taking place inside my mouth has my undivided attention.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.

And that’s how it was when I was a kid.  My dad would take us to Vincent’s Pizza Park and we would have—by far—the most fabulous pizza to be eaten on the face of the earth.  My dad used to quip that his daughters teethed on Vincent’s pizza crust.  Then he used to brag that his three daughters could put away more of a Vinnie pie than any three boys could.

Vincent’s was my father’s absolute favorite pizza parlor.  The place itself was nothing spectacular.  The walls were lined with Frank Sinatra memorabilia—including his prison record.  The tables were non-descript Formica with run-of-the-mill dining chairs.  The place was always packed, but the main attraction—outside of the fabulous pizza—was the parlor’s owner and resident pie maker, Vincent.  He always amazed me with his ability to toss dough, shape it on the catch, and toss it again.  He was an artist of the pizza-making type.

My family gathered at Vincent’s on the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death.  My sisters and I were there to remember the man who’d help to shape us into the women we’d become.  We were there to celebrate the man who’d first introduced us to a Vinnie pie.  And we were there to eat pizza in his honor.

Whenever possible, I try to go back to Vincent’s for a large half pepperoni/half sausage pizza and a soda.  The drive is a little longer as I now live 160 miles round trip away from Vincent’s, but it’s always worth the trip and the traffic!

Vincent’s is touted from Pittsburgh to Timbuktu as being the premier place for pizza.  People travel far greater distances than I to get a taste of home.  If you’re ever in Pittsburgh and have a hankering for pizza, travel to Vincent’s.  You won’t be disappointed.

These two photographs were taken at my last visit in December.  You might want to get a paper towel out to catch the drool before you look at them!  The pizza was as good as I remembered, and so worth the wait and the travel.

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Until next time, may there be pizza-flavored memories in your life!

Feeling Flushed

100_6184It’s been a chaotic month in the Domino household thanks to a new bathroom being fitted. It had been almost 20 years since the bathroom was last modernised. The shower unit needed replacing, walls half paint/half panel needed a complete make-over and the corner bath unit a complete waste of space. Dave had never used it. I had twice, both times putting my back out as I got out of it. It had to go. As for the carpet… well, we won’t talk about the carpet.

Eight m100_6196onths in planning. We knew what kind of shower cubicle we wanted but it took me a long time to convince Dave what we really needed was cupboards, lots of them. The old bathroom didn’t even have a medicine cabinet, everything kept either on the floor or in wicker baskets on the windowsill. I hated it. So began a constant round of searching the internet for images, countless showrooms visited, catalogues and magazines scanned, endless discussions until he was finally persuaded. Yay! I’d also managed to talk him into having it all installed professionally rather than he do it. It would be too expensive, he kept saying. He’d done the last bathroom, but he still works fulltime despite being past retirement age – we would still be living in a muddle 12 months down the line.

The hardest decision of all was what sort of tiles. There were so many to choose from, so many patterns, colour combinations – our heads were spinning. As we wanted the room tiled floor to ceiling and as this was hopefully the last time we would be doing up this room, we took our time: weeks and weeks of looking, more showroom trawling, changing minds, umming and arrring; we needed to be sure we picked the right ones.

Decisions made, bathroom on order, fitter contacted. That’s when another problem arose – the fitter advised us not to tile the floor as all pipework for the house (water, gas, central heating) runs under the bathroom and if ever there were any problem,  it would mean ripping up the tiles. Far better to have  linoleum. Oh dear, more shopping, more decisions, more choices. Eeek – we just couldn’t decide.

100_6197But finally we did, and the great day arrived when the complete bathroom was delivered. The delivery chaps wouldn’t take any of it upstairs, saying they couldn’t under Health & Safety rules, so it was stacked up in my hallway and dining room for well over a week. Oh joy! We found one item was missing so 100_6198rang the shop who arranged immediate delivery of awol part. When I mentioned about it all left in the hall, the helpful lady on the phone explained the fitter would take each item upstairs as and when he needed it because of space constrictions when working in bathrooms, which are normally small and space tight. It made sense.

100_6207 The day came when it was all to start so I beat a hasty retreat and made myself scarce whilst it was going on. I mean, what is a lady to do when the bathroom is out of action for a week and there is only one loo in the house? (Note black bucket for use of!)

Now finished, what an excellent job the fitter has done. Perfect!  He’s done all the finishing off, bits my husband wouldn’t have thought of. The best bit for me is the shower. Instead of tiles on th100_6219e wall in the cubicle, we came across shower boards – similar to Formica worktops. These single laminate sheets fit the whole wall: no grout to get grubby, easy to keep clean – no scouring or scrubbing. It looks fabulous. And as a surprise, Dave even arranged to have a lovely chrome towel warmer installed after telling me it would be too expensive to run.

We’re 100_6233well pleased. It took a little over 7 days to install, and yes, it was expensive but worth every single penny. We still have to put the finishing touches to it, buy the homely bits, but as we have 5 boxes of tiles left over which we can return to the store and get a refund, that pays for the fripperies needed.

Next we attack our bedroom, but first I’m nipping upstairs to look at the bathroom again. I can’t believe it’s really mine.

Trips and Getting Ready

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThey say part of traveling is the anticipation and for me it’s true. Back in the days when I was working and needing to clear my desk plus leave the house, pets, yard etc. ready for a two weeks absence I would fret and stress until the car pulled out of the drive. Then like a blanket being lifted it would all fall away and I would be in vacation mode. And now, with not working, and only the cat the stress of getting ready isn’t nearly as much and yet I still organize the heck out of getting ready to leave.

Of course one reason I can travel with good feelings is my family. They step in and take care of it all for me. This will be the first time Rue (cat) will be left without her buddy Abby but the kids took Abby home with them a lot so Rue didn’t have her 100% of the time. She no doubt will get a little lonely but family and friends will stop in to take care of the water, feed and litter box and even stay to visit with her so she won’t be ‘all’ by herself.

Over the years Jack and I have been fortunate to be able to travel, road trips, month long snowbird excursions and international trips so getting ready has gotten easier as we do it more. Even with experience I find that without lists I forget things. So one year I put the first list on the computer and when the next vacation came along I took that list, made a copy and enhanced it for the current trip. Over the years I have a number of lists so I can pick one that is close to the one I’m planning.

I also am fortunate to have a spare room so I can start the packing process early. No excuses for forgetting things and yet I do. A toothbrush, and toothpaste seem to be the two most frequently forgotten items.

Guess you can tell I’m soooo ready for a vacation. This one promises to be fun. I’ll fill you all in on the trip when I get back.

Train Travel as an Indoor Sport

by Theresa Scott

Earlier this week I had the chance to travel by train. We passed some of the loveliest bays where the tide was out and the mudflats stretched on for at least a mile. We passed acres and acres of tall green trees—some close to the tracks, some in the distance. I found viewing islands and water and forested land relaxed me and slowed my pace for the day. In a nice way.

And what a chance to see birds! Long-legged herons dotted the beaches, their gray feathers blending in with the gray and taupe sand. Bald eagles were a rarer sight. I saw one on this trip, and he was soaring lazily along an air current. Crows and hawks hang out on the beaches too, looking for snacks and chatting with kin.

There were not many people on the long stretches between cities. For mile after mile, we passed beaches and saw only one or two people at a time. Of the folks we did pass, it seems that trains going by are an invitation to give a friendly wave.

It struck me that the train is actually a small community of core workers who are responsible for serving a larger, mobile community of passengers who whirl through the train orbit and then spin off to other universes (train stations) to do whatever it is they must do, and who may never return. If you work on a train, it must be like having a ton of unfinished stories told to you every day as the train roars past the trees and water and towns.

As a passenger, I found it to be a relaxing experience. If you find yourself looking for an out-of-the-ordinary experience this summer, or if you are pondering a day-trip or a short trip somewhere, you may enjoy taking a train to your destination. If the scenery doesn’t entice you, perhaps chatting with the other passengers will entertain you. Or, you can always look at the birds.

Money, Money, Money

Are you redesigning your finances? Here are a few links that may be of interest to you. If you are happy with the financial decisions you’ve made, these links may still teach you a few tricks.

If you want to find out how some other folks on-line think about the cycle of work, consumerism, debt, more work, more consumerism…(you get the picture…) then you might want to check out the links below.

Dave Ramsey – Advice on establishing a strategic plan of Baby Steps to get your finances in order

Mr Money Mustache – A frugal and wise blog about how to increase your savings and retire early

Madfientist – Also on the more frugal side of things to better move toward financial independence

Enjoy!

Natural is Best

It’s lovely when someone pays you an unexpected compliment, as happened to me this week. It came from my phlebotomist when I went for my monthly blood test. I’d was made up ready to drive straight after to Reading to help celebrate my mother’s 87th birthday by taking her out to lunch along with my two sisters. The phlebotomist commented how nice my hair looked, asking if I’d had it lightened recently as it really suited me. I was thrilled someone had noticed, more so that the treatment I was giving it was working. She asked me what I used and was surprised when I told her it was nothing more than pure lemon juice.

I’m a natural blonde but over the years have turned to a mousy brown, latterly with grey highlights. Up until two years ago I regularly dyed it at home with a branded lightener, but when my hair suddenly became very brittle and matted, as if stuck with glue, my hairdresser explained the colourant was causing serious, permanent damage, and recommended I stopping using it immediately. Which I did. It took over a year and frequent cuts to grow out the damage, with fingers crossed all the while new hair growth would be normal. Thankfully, it was but the colour was dull, making me look and feel much older than my huh-humm years. I was at a loss to know what to use until we eventually get some decent sun here, which always lightens my hair naturally.

I remembered that years ago, long before we had all these fancy shampoos, conditioners and treatments, we used natural remedies for our hair:  lemons to lighten, egg yolk for protein and strength, vinegar to help shine and treat dandruff, and beer to condition. I simply rub the strained juice of half a fresh lemon juice into my hair and leave it for about 15 minutes before washing as normal. Not only is my hair slowly lightening, it’s in great condition and feels lovely to touch.

Back to mother. When we went to collect her, she was bemoaning that she really did not want to go out for lunch, saying she felt a mess because she couldn’t wash her hair that morning as she was out of shampoo. I reminded her she could always use washing up liquid, as we used to years ago whenever we ran out, or even a drop of shower gel as a last resort. Her hair looked perfectly fine as it was, we told her. She said she’d been tempted to use the old-fashioned, dry shampoo remedy: talcum powder, except she was out of that too.

Nowadays, we don’t know half of what chemicals we are putting onto and into our bodies, and I am sure a lot of the allergies, skin complaints and breathing problems we have are caused by these. Years ago, many such allergies were unheard of, yet now we are bombarded with witches brews, the air about us constantly pumped with chemical cocktails; goodness knows what they are doing to us.

It is refreshing to know that the old remedies still work. For the first time in years I’m happy with my hair, and hopefully before long, the mousiness will have reverted to at least match the ever growing population of grey, turning me into a proper silver surfer.

Sprinting will get you there.

sprintThe term sprinting usually is associated with running but I was introduced to it last year at a writers retreat and since then I have applied it to a way of getting tasks done. The more I use this methodology the more I am amazed at how much I can get done in a short, 30 minute sprint. You can set the time at anything but I’ve found 30 minutes works best for me.

When I’m writing I set a timer. There are a number of them on-line. I use Time And Date. The object is to stay on the task at hand. If I’m editing a document I don’t switch over to check email or jot down and idea for a future plot or check out facebook. I stay on the task of editing the document I’m on. Same applies for any computer task like updating your addresses, or recipe files.

I also use it for things like cleaning. For this I use the timer on the stove, set it to 30 minutes and again stay with the task or tasks I’ve chosen. I’ve found I can vacuum all the floors in 30 minutes. Clean the kitchen with time left over.

Again, think sprint. Whatever time works for you, set the timer and when it goes off take a break. Walk around, stretch, check that email you’re itching to look at. Whatever constitutes a break for you.

I’ve found that no matter how onerous the task, knowing I only have to do it for 30 minutes makes it easier to do. Of course some things I really enjoy and the 30 minutes is here and gone before I know it. So I take a short break and set another 30 minutes.

2013 is promising to be a busy year here and I am planning to sprint through it. So if you aren’t a miler you might want to see if it works for you

Decisions, decisions …

I absolutely hate making decisions. So much so, that it’s actually something of a joke in the family. But I can agonize for days when I have to make a choice, and the process eventually gains its own momentum and before long occupies a huge part of my reasoning brain! Shopping with me can be a nightmare, although I have one friend who is almost as bad as I am and we can spend hours in the same shop deliberating over which colour dress to buy or whether this top goes better with that skirt, and so on.

Now hubby is the opposite when it comes to making decisions. Mostly, he’ll weigh up the options, then he makes his decision. Snap. Once made, he’s happy with it and tells me he doesn’t give it any further thought. Infuriating. He often quips that it’s a wonder how I ever made the decision to marry him. Then I tell him, truthfully, that it was a no-brainer, and gain a few brownie points in the process 🙂

Weirdly, I’m usually better at the bigger stuff. It’s the smaller stuff that can throw me into turmoil. Over the years, I’ve tried pretty much every decision-making tip in existence. Writing out the pros and cons, sleeping on it, tossing a coin. I’ve even tried using a pendulum, a crystal hung from a thread. The theory goes that if you hold the pendulum and it swings clockwise the answer is yes, if it swings anticlockwise the answer is no. It’s supposed to be a way of accessing what our subconscious already knows and works by sending a signal to our muscles to move the pendulum.

Of course, what drives my inability to make decisions is the fear of making the wrong one and having to live with it. But it’s really not that bad, as even a wrong decision propels us forward and toward a new way of looking at and thinking about things. As Life Coach, Martha Beck says, “when you trade indecision for choices, you’ll be rewarded with either success or education”.

I’m a little better at the whole process since I’ve gotten older, and now I tend to make the majority of decisions using my gut feelings and rely on that sense of lightness that moves over me when a decision is made. I try not to waste precious time worrying over my choices anymore. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe warned “indecision brings its own delays, and days are lost lamenting over lost days”. That’s scary.

How about you? What are your favourite decision-making tips?