A cold front has hit Florida and with that cold front came snow. Yes! Snow! Last night, we hit temps that went as low as 39F degrees. The days don’t get much warmer. The high during the day barely touch the 50’s. I know these temps sound much better than the sub zeros most everyone else in the country is feeling right now. Nonetheless, baby it’s cold outside. And I’m unprepared!
If anyone knows me, they know that I can’t tolerate cold weather. And this weather freeze hasn’t disappointed. As soon as the temps plunged, I instantly got sick. That is why you haven’t heard from me. I’ve been feeling ill and clinging to my bed, snuggling under the covers in order to keep warm. Yes, we have heat in our condo BUT it’s really just a heat pump. I set the temp to 71F but as soon as the heat comes pouring in, it quickly evaporates. The heat doesn’t linger.
Tuscan Bean Soup with spinach
Tortelinni with spinach & egg
Hubby and I had to make the rounds. Which meant we had to prepare great big bowls of soup (I’ve been having cravings for spinach!) Go out and buy light jackets (wind breakers). We also bought large quantities of Vitamin C, orange juice and decongestants. It didn’t take long to tremble with the chills, get sore throats and feel the unusual, lackluster winter blahs that we have come to dislike very much! Humbug!
Fear not. This cold spell should only last another week or so. Then temps will climb back up to the 70’s during the day. 60’s at night. Perfect bicycling weather. Not too sure about the outdoor swimming at this time.
I don’t have any happy memories of Christmas. Well, actually, I do have one and that was when I was 10 years old and my parents bought me a shiny, brand new, baby blue bike by Schwinn. That bike became my new best friend and she and I went everywhere together. Till I grew too tall. It wasn’t until I became an adult did I ever get another bike.
Christmases are very hard on me.
As a child, my brother, sister and I would spend Christmas at our grandmother’s house. I was one of 17 cousins. My grandmother, grandfather, aunts and uncles didn’t like my father very much. He was an immigrant and they all found it appalling that their sister/daughter/my mom could have married so beneath them. It didn’t matter that my dad went on to become a muti-millionaire. These people did NOT like him and they took out their hatred of him on my brother, sister and I.
Every Christmas, my cousins, aunts and uncles would exchange presents and every time my brother, sister and I did NOT get any presents from any of them. Try to imagine what this felt like as a child? It got to the point that I hated Christmas. I hated getting dressed up, going to a relatives home and feeling so disrespected. I know that our pain gave them pleasure because they all always had smirks on their face. Once my brother, sister and I grew up, we never went back to our grandmother’s house. Eventually our grandfather died and we all lost contact with all our cousins, aunts and uncles. Good riddance.
Christmas to me is a time of pain, getting gifts you don’t like or want, giving gifts to people who couldn’t care less, spending money you know darn well you shouldn’t, enduring hours of uncomfortable family time with relatives you hardly know, see or respect. Once I married (for the first time) Christmas became an annual tug of war between my in-laws and my parents only to get worse once I had children.
When I was 3 months pregnant, I found out my mother had terminal cancer and was going to die within the next 11 months. My mother managed to make it through Christmas, but do you have any idea what a horrific Christmas that was? Nothing made my mother happy that day. We all knew she was going to die. She was bed ridden. She tossed aside any gift we bought her. “What for?” she asked? “I’m going to be dead soon. You’ll never see me again. This is our last Christmas together.”
My mother died over forty years ago and I still can’t tolerate the Christmas season without her.
Eventually, my first husband and I separated and divorced. As expected, he flourished financially. I became impoverished. Each Christmas my ex would dote on our daughters and buy them every single thing you can think off. For me? I was lucky to buy them some small tokens, bake some cookies and string some popcorn together. I tried to keep a stiff upper lip but the holiday competition to do one-up over the other parent was strong. It was a losing battle. When I remarried, things got a little bit better for us financially. Until one year my new husband was in a car accident and hurt his back and was out of work. It was taking months for his attorney to get any financial assistance to us and Christmas was fast approaching.
Finally, on Christmas Eve day my husband got his first disability check BUT all the banks were closed. We had no other cash to buy Christmas presents for my two daughters. The attorney’s secretary felt very sorry for us and agreed to personally cash my husband’s check for him. Hubby and I found an open 24 hour toy store that evening and bought non-brand named toys BUT at least we had something to put under our tree for the girls.
Personally, I don’t know if my kids ever knew how much Christmas negatively affected me. That is until December 2001. That’s when my computer business failed due to the collapse of the dot-com industry. Nobody was buying a computer that season and I was stuck with a huge inventory that I had borrowed money to buy. No sales meant no money for me and eventually complete ruin. I remember closing my business doors on December 24th. I had NO money. I had no money to buy gifts. I had no money to buy food. I had no money to buy a tree. But I had a hand saw and I cut down a tree in my back yard, hung 25 red cookie cutters on it as a decoration and DH cooked up a pasta meal. No words were spoken that day.
Eventually my kids got married, had their own children and had to contend with their own in-law tug-of-war each Christmas season. It got to be that my daughters could only see me on the holiday every other year. We had all decided that only the grandchildren would get Christmas presents and we set a budget of $25 per child. The last time my kids and grandkids came to my home for Christmas was 2013. My daughters told me that I didn’t put up enough Christmas decorations for them (never mind that I was getting too old to do this work alone!) and they didn’t want their own children to see my sparseness of the holiday. Fast forward to today, and my husband and I will be traveling to NYC ( 4 days on the road back & forth) to just spend a two-hour lunch date with my daughters, their husbands and my two granddaughters on the only day they could see hubby and I, December 30th. No need to bring gifts. Amazon took care of that for us this year, just the way Amazon has done it for the past four years.
In 2015, at the age of 64, I finally said to myself that Christmas was just a horrible time of the year for me AND I was going to do whatever it took to make the holiday season at least bearable for ME. I was tired of being depressed on Christmas. I was tired of all my negativity. Everyone knew how much I hated and despised Christmas. But I felt that if I thought long and hard on the subject and asked myself what would make ME happy on Christmas Day, to just do it! Whatever it took.
Here’s what I came up with:
#1. I don’t want to be with anybody on Christmas, except my husband! He and I see this holiday the same and we both understand each other. Neither one of us liked our parental units, nor other family members, so we decided once and for all to kick New York and go/be where we wanted to be: warm, sunny, Florida! ALONE! The first year we did this was strange. Santa on a surfboard? Palm trees? Hot weather? Eventually it was nice to see how other people around our country celebrated the holiday.
#2. Absolutely no decorations. No lights. No trees. No presents. No forced buying. No commercialization of the holiday. Instead, we finally went to a Christmas Eve mass at our local church, just like we had always talked about doing but no one ever wanted to go! This time, we went. There we met other people who have also turned away from the competitiveness of the season and returned to the original meaning of Christmas: that it is a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the son of God. Jesus gets the presents. NOT US!
#3. We now spend the season praying, going to church and helping OTHERS! There are a lot of lonely, single people out there who have no families, no friends, no one to spend the Christmas season with. Well, now they do….hubby and myself. Hubs and I know how awful Christmas can be for a lot of people. We can feel their pain. Sometimes just a kind word can be the greatest present we can give to somebody.
#4. In addition to getting back to our religious roots, hubby and I donate our money and our time. The new place we are living in this year has a few single people living alone (mostly women). My sister and I are going to spend a whole day baking cookies and then giving them out as presents to our neighbors. Each year, we are going to figure out how we can help others and then just do it!
#5. Hubs and I are going to buy, prepare and cook an entire holiday feast for my brother and his son (recently divorced from his wife) and two grandkids (who will not have their mother with them for the first time this Christmas), as well as my sister and her husband. We did this last year and it went over so well, we’re back by popular demand. Usually they all used to go out to a restaurant. Now, they get a real, honest-to-goodness home cooked holiday meal!
#6. Leading by example, everyone has requested tickets to go to The Christmas Eve mass ($15 donation per ticket) with hubs and myself. The true meaning of Christmas is patiently explained in this production. It’s a wonderful experience.
A funny thing happened to me this week. I had been tossing and turning about it for a few nights. But I went to my local Wal Mart yesterday morning and I broke down and bought a very inexpensive Christmas tree ($39). Since I have no decorations myself, I also bought (very inexpensive) blue holiday bulbs for the pre-lit tree and I proceeded to decorate the tree. Don’t ask me how I lugged the stuff up into my unit, but I did nonetheless. It took me a few frustrating hours but I completed the job. I took a photo of my completed tree and sent it to my husband, daughter and sister. They all wrote back the same message to me: “I thought you hated Christmas?”
Perhaps it is time for me to cast off all those years of hatred, abandonment and loneliness? I can’t help the fact that my mother’s family were stupid. People get divorced. Money problems plague everyone. We may have suffered financially in 2001 BUT we didn’t suffer in 2008 when everyone else did. Didn’t God somehow make sure we celebrated a Christmas every year, no matter how? What made the attorney’s secretary cash my husband’s disability check that year? Wasn’t I fortunate to have a Christmas-like tree growing in my backyard? My mother had 11 months to prepare for her death. She could have chosen to spend it lovingly. Instead, she spent it in bitterness and took all of us down with her.
My children are adults now. Hubs and I need to make our own way. This is OUR time. While we still have it. I need to shrug off the negativity and concentrate on the well being of others and not myself.
I’ve joined in with some other great bloggers sharing how we spend our month in just one sentence per day. November was a good month for me. First, I celebrated another birthday. Hubby landed another project management position and it’s been grand saving money again. After one year of complaining, I finally convinced the condo board to pass a new Rule & Regulation banning smoking in common areas. Lastly, I made more changes to my lifestyle as life is always a constant moving target. There’s always room to improve oneself. Since we live in a resort-spa-styled environment I have successfully swam a minimum of 30 minutes per day as well as walk (with my doggie) between 1.5 and 2 miles per day. Yay!
1. Technology Day. Hubby and I went to the Apple Store. He finally updated his 5 yr old iPad to a 2017 model. We spent the whole day updating and upgrading all our Apple equipment. (PS: sold old iPad & old laptop for $100 bucks!)
2. Meet BFF for lunch to discuss upcoming, new advertising campaign for her business.
13. Mani & Pedi in the morning. Yoga class in the afternoon.
14. Meet my sister downtown and purchase six tickets to the 1st Baptist Christmas Singing Tree Concert so that my brother, sister, BIL, SIL, hubby and me can all go together. Got first row seating. Score!
15. Photography Class
16. Attended Board of Directors Budget Meeting (had screaming match with other residents regarding the official lay of the new non-smoking ban in common areas) Afterwards, attended my Photography Club meeting.
17. Day off after all the previous excitement. Stayed home, hid under the covers and then decided to reach out to the county for help in keeping the new non-smoking rule on the books! Wrote an article that was published in two local newspapers regarding our new non-smoking progressive innovation. Made some network connections with two county officials who vowed to help me.
18. Sarasota Farmer’s Market. Perfect thing to do on a Saturday morning.
19. Attend a sidewalk Art show. Took a nice meandering walk along the marina. Stopped into a French Cafe to have an iced coffee and a croissant.
20. Yoga class.
21. Food shopping at Aldi. Took me hours. I looked at everything!
22. Day off. Stayed home. Did absolutely nothing.
23. Thanksgiving Day. Had a spectacular (yes, really!) buffet-styled dinner at the club with hubby, my sister and my BIL. This was our 4th year in a row! No dishes to clean!
24. Black Friday. First time I ever shopped on this day, and it was at Goodwill because everything in the store was 25% off. I dropped off some items I no longer needed and bought a few things I did need.
25. Black Friday Ticket sales at Van Wezel Performing Arts Center were 50% off. I think we all know by now how much I love to attend concerts, operas, plays, musicals, ballet, shows…..etc. I snagged two tix to see the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra in March on my hubby’s birthday! It’ll be a great night out with dinner too! The tickets would have originally cost me $60 (last balcony, folks……) but I scored them at only $23!
26. Hubby leaves cross-country for temporary Project Management Position
27. Yoga class
28. FACETIME day with my two granddaughters. I must have spent at least an hour on the iPhone with each of them! Priceless. We had lots to say, lots to show me and lots to do.
29. A night out on the town with my BFF and my sister. We had purchased a series of tickets (five shows in all) at The Westcoast Black Theatre Troup and we planned it that we would see at least one show per month, with a divine dinner beforehand. This was our 2nd show and it was aptly named A Motown Christmas. If this show didn’t get you in the holiday mood, nothing would! We had dinner at a new hot spot restaurant in Sarasota’s infamous St. Armand’s Circle, named Shore. I don’t even have any photos to show you of the amazing food we ordered because we devoured everything in sight as soon as our waiter set it down on our outdoor, al-fresco dining table! LOL!
The food was terrific. The show was amazing. Best.time.ever (the strawberry daiquiris didn’t hurt either!)
30. I have no idea what I did this day. I probably stayed home, caught up on my bookkeeping work, did a little swimming, walking and perhaps a lot of napping.
We have so many Christmas activities that we, as a family, all do together during the holiday season, I don’t know how to limit them to just five. But here goes:
The most important Christmas activity to us, is spending time all together. Now that Nick and I are officially snowbirds, Christmas time is a challenge. For now, we drive back up north to be with our two daughters and our two granddaughters for a week or two of holiday fun. Hopefully, sometime in the near future, the trip will reverse and everyone will fly down south to be together. When that time arrives (when the grandchildren get a little bit older) we are planning on a whole day together at Disney World. Disney is luscious at Christmastime!
We always go to Christmas Eve mass. The last two years however, we have started a new tradition. Our church does a live Christmas singing tree performance. Look closely at this photo. Deep inside you will see real, live people snuggled up inside, singing all the Christmas songs we’ve come to cherish. Priceless!
Spend an afternoon baking Christmas cookies. I used to do this with my two daughters when they were little. Now, they spend a day baking with their own children. So, my sister and I have picked up on the tradition and this year we will spend a whole Saturday baking cookies and then giving them away to our friends and neighbors as presents.
Watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life‘. This movie always has an impact on my life. I never get bored watching it. It’s a reminder that we really don’t know what positive effects we may have on other people. Wishing ‘we had never been born’ shows us what goodness our lives can pass onto others.
We really don’t buy each other gifts on Christmas. Only the grandchildren receive presents from us at Christmas time. We limit the cost of each present to $25, so technically we never spend more than $50 on gifts for the kids. I decided a long, long time ago that NONE of us were going to go into debt or hock at Christmas time. I don’t believe that Christmas is a time to buy US gifts. It’s a time to give to others! So, each year we try to do something nice for someone else who is less fortunate than we are.
My sister and my BFF (of fifty years!) and I went out on the town to help celebrate my birthday. We had the second set of tickets (in a series of five shows) to see another great musical at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. This month it was A Motown Christmas and it was spectacular! We thought it the perfect platform to get ourselves into the holiday mood. The show did not disappoint!
In addition to singing all the Motown classic Christmas hits, the group also sang some other popular Motown blockbusters. Chart toppers from The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips……….the cast sure knew how to belt out a tune!
Before the show, we had dinner at the most scrumptious restaurant ever. My sister had dined there before with a Restaurant Club she was a member of. The restaurant is called Shore and was named by Open Table to be in the top 100 Hot Spots in America for 2017. (hey! if we’re going to spend money it might as well be at the best place possible, right?)(Click here for more info and to look at their menu) The restaurant is located on the 2nd floor overlooking Main Street around Sarasota’s infamous St. Armand’s Circle. We dined al-fresco and had the most interesting, delicious coastal-eatery food ever! I don’t even have any photos of the food to show you because we devoured everything upon sight! The best dish was their Spiced Whole Roasted Cauliflower, nestled in goat cheese, shishito puree, zante currants and a hazelnut pesto! Vegetables never tasted this good! Throw in a few glasses of wine, margaritas and my new fave drink, a strawberry daiquiri, and we ladies were in heaven.
Happy Birthday to me. The 60’s never felt this good!
My husband, aged 60, often announces to me that he is retiring. He calculates when he will collect Social Security. He calculates how much money we have in savings. And then he officially retires. For like a day. Three weeks ago he actually retired for about an hour. Till he got a phone call from a new company looking for a project manager to help them in their dire need. Within hours, Nick was packing and hopping a plane to Dallas, Texas. And that was the end of his retirement.
I don’t think Nick refuses to retire. I just think he loves his work. It’s project oriented, which means he goes in, does the work and then gets out. He’ll be off for like weeks or even months at a time. But he is always on that phone coordinating the next deal which means to me he is always working. Period.
I’ve decided to accept the fact that Nick is not going to retire. He will probably work for the rest of his life or until he becomes incapacitated. He doesn’t like staying home. Nothing amuses him. Even traveling (RVing) bores him because HE is the one who has to do most of the work (travel is work, people!) The things that he wants to do (like sailing) is so cost prohibitive for us at this stage in our lives that he has decided to work instead.
We owned a sailboat back in the early 2000’s and it was just a very expensive, wallet-draining activity. Buying the sailboat for cash was the easy part. It was the $5,000+ annual maintenance, mooring, storing costs that were prohibitive. No amount of money that we have on hand can justify owning another sailboat at this point in our lives. For Nick to work solely now just to afford him a sailboat is preposterous. He even refuses to join a sailing club and lease a boat because again, it’s just another useless drain on our financial resources.
If Nick were to lower his sailing requirements, however, such as getting a 15 ft single sail boat, complete on a trailer instead of the 30 ft sailboat he lusts for, then sailing for him might be possible again. This, however, is his internal conflict and only he can deal with it. In the interim, I think I have come up with a silent solution that may please Nick in the long run. I’ve decided that since Nick is back working again, on and off, I am going to save most (if not ALL) of his income! There will be no income inflation here, in fact, I am going to scale our lives back so that I can start saving as much money as possible.
I’ve already cancelled many of the (paying) things I had planned for us to do. I was also going to upgrade ($849) my camera this Christmas but I have cancelled that order too! No massages, manicures, pedicures, frequent hair cuttings or whatever extra “luxuries” I’ve arranged for myself. I don’t need them! I’ve cut back on lunch dates with ‘the girls’. I’ve cut back on my club membership fees (I’m only keeping my photography club membership) I’ve been tracking our spending much more carefully now and wherever I can cut back, I do.
If Nick can find a used, older 15 ft sailboat with a single sail AND a trailer, the upkeep costs would be minimal. We found a sailing club for only about $700 a year which would include annual storage fees. Since the sailboat rests on a trailer, Nick could launch it himself and avoid all those monstrous, cost-prohibitive fees that come with larger boats. All of this might be for naught because Nick refuses to own a sailboat under 25 ft and that’s a problem. A very big problem. Because of his refusal, he owns nothing. And that, to me, is a bigger problem.
Until then, Nick continues to work whenever the opportunity arises. He says you ‘have to work while the money is available‘ and if that makes him happy, then so be it. In the meantime, he and I will continue to live our frugal lifestyle and pocket whatever extra cash we can. January starts the new annual sailing season and we will definitely have the extra money to pay the dues.
Maybe, just maybe I might have an extra surprise for Nick at that time.
I don’t know any of you out there, reading this, have ever been flat broke in your lives. It’s an experience that can either break you or make you. It’s that point in your life when you needed to borrow money, and your friend said they would loan you fifty bucks but you didn’t have the courage to tell them you didn’t even have the $1.50 to pay a bridge toll so that you could come over and pick up that fifty dollars they were going to loan you. It’s being that broke.
To be exact, I only had $1.34 to my name. If YOU were in the same position, what would you do? Think about it. I used my $1.34 to buy a few staples for my husband’s staple gun. Then I went around my neighborhood hanging up handwritten signs (written on my daughter’s school loose leaf paper) Starting 8AM the next day I was having a yard sale. When I was done hanging up my signs, I went home and started lugging my belongings out my front door and lining them up in my driveway. By 6AM the next morning I had my first early bird shopper and twenty dollars in my hand. At the end of the day I had made $600 and I made a vow to myself that I was NEVER going to be broke like that ever again in my lifetime. I was fortunate that I had things to sell. Other people aren’t as lucky.
Meet Lisa Nichols (click here). She too found herself one day cashless (on government assistance) when she was unable to feed her son nor buy him diapers. It was at this low point in Ms. Nichols life that she made the vow she was NEVER going to be broke ever again. Lisa turned her commitment into a career and since then has written six top-selling books and has become a world-renowned, inspirational speaker. I just happened to come across one of her YouTube videos, which was an interview where she explained her whole life story. I found Ms. Nichols to be a beacon of inspirational light to myself and for any other woman who has ever doubted herself for one second. We all have the power within us to take charge of our lives and make ourselves a better, more successful person.
At the close of each day, Ms. Nichol’s asks herself the following three questions:
1. I’m proud of myself because…………………………….(name at least 7 things. I name one)
2. I forgive myself for……………………………………(we all make mistakes. Name them till you can’t remember them anymore. That’s when you will know you have forgiven yourself.)
3. I commit to myself to…………………………….(make a commitment to yourself)
If you can only answer one of these questions at the end of the day (literally….at the end of your day) make it #1. What did you do today that made you proud? You will be surprised that when you start to realize the many good things you do do during the day, you will start to become aware of the secret power within you to make yourself a better person!
Here’s that Lisa Nichols interview that changed my life. I hope it will change yours:
One of the many (many) things I love about living in Sarasota is the wonderful European charm downtown has to offer. You literally can get the feeling of being anywhere else on the planet thanks to the influx of people flocking to the area. Nick and I enjoy stopping at our favorite Paris-like cafe’ on Main Street called C’est La Vie. Almost everyone serving you has a distinct French accent and the breads and pastries (as well as the standard ‘Croque Monsieur‘) has that Parisienne quality to it.
You can get an unlimited cup of authentic French-press coffee ($2.25) or cappuccino (iced or hot) for under four bucks. Of course, add in a croissant for $2.50 and you can have that perfect afternoon on the streets of Paris (just the way you remember it when you were there). Without the jet lag or the price tag!
Using my iPhone, I captured these moments at our C’est La Vie afternoon stopover before heading down to view the Arts Festival along the marina. Click on any photo to start the slide show:
Here is a video, direct from the chef and owner of C’est La Vie:
Yes. You read that right. Today, Black Friday, the greatest shopping day of the year, had the local Goodwill stores here offering an additional 25% off their already heavily marked down products. Needless to say, I was at the store at almost opening (I arrived a bit late because I wanted to sleep a bit late). The store was moderately crowded. Shoppers, comprised of families, singles, young and old had their carts out and were actually doing their holiday shopping at Goodwill! As always, I found a few bargains.
One of my favorite brand named clothes is Chico’s. The Goodwill I was in this morning had a whole designer section dedicated to Chico’s and I had an ample supply of many Chico items to select from. Tops that would normally sell for $59 (click here)and up (much up!) were on sale at Goodwill for $8.99 less the 25% discount netting me the final price of only $6.74. What a steal! I only bought two tops which should hold me over for a while.
And, as always, I took a ‘stroll’ through their furniture department and found a great 2 drawer filing cabinet that I desperately needed for my office. I’ve been throwing my papers on the floor, piled up in a stack, just waiting for me to find the right-priced cabinet. They usually retail for $70 (click here) but I found this tan model for only $6.99 less the 25% discount netting me the final price of $5.24. I get so many great deals at Goodwill that I furnished my entire office with fab finds from the store. Take a look:
There’s my ‘new’ filing cabinet, all cleaned up and shiny. I paid $14 for the zebra print above my desk (I love it!), $3 for the lamp, $12 for the chair, $4 for the brand new pillow (good for my back) and only one buck ($1.00) for the trash can. The writing desk I bought at a consignment store, is two levels, has a center draw and is made from 100% solid wood. No pressed board or plastic crap. A similar desk would probably retail for $335 (click here for approximate comparison). I only paid $150 for it.
I saved so much money putting my remote office together I was able to splurge and buy a state-of-the art, top of the line, Apple iMac Computer (perfect and high powered enough for my photography hobby) for $1605 (on an 18 month, interest free installment payment plan….of course!)
Since my Florida office also doubles as a guest bedroom, I purchased this fab chest of draws (for guests to store their clothes) also at a consignment shop. Again, since it’s a trendy piece, buying retail would be a few hundred dollars. I scored it for only $115. I love it because it retains the tropical decor I encompassed my home office in. All the little knick-knacks, including the hanging African print, I bought at Goodwill for just a few bucks. The Frida Kahlo book I purchased used from Amazon affiliates after Nick and I went on a tour of Frida’s art works at the Salvadore Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL.
For a quick look at my NY office, which I don’t share with anyone, is more the grand central hub, but also decorated with discounted finds: