Friday, March 24, 2006


Do you spoil yourself? By that, I mean do you do things and buy little things that make you feel good? Or are you one who is completely self-sacrificing and never spends a dime on yourself or allows yourself a moment to be completely at rest?

I do some of both.

The Man Who Lives With Me does not drink coffee. Hates it, in fact. I, on the other hand, love quality coffees and teas…even consider myself something of a coffee snob. I will plunk down a hefty $9.00 for a pound of perfectly roasted Kenya AA and savor each cup as though it were ambrosia.

I don’t wear cheap shoes, either. Given that we are only issued one pair of feet and medical technology hasn’t perfected the foot transplant yet, I take very good care of the two I have. While I adore looking at those gorgeous, frivolous dainty shoes with impossibly high heels, I’d never buy a pair or wear them even if they were offered. The pain just isn’t worth it. So, I shell out the money for decent looking, though plain, supremely comfortable shoes.

One thing hubby and I agree on are bedsheets. I’m the Princess and the Pea, personified when it comes to threadcount. Nothing less than 400TPI touches this skin.

I think a lot of my self-indulgence comes from growing up with a dad who was a product of the Great Depression. He bought the cheapest of everything. When the “generic” craze hit the nation, he was the happiest man on the face of the earth. Suddenly, our home was filled with “basic” this, and “yellow label” that. It didn’t matter if the can of green beans was mostly stems…it was cheap!

Lest you think me a spendthrift, let me assure you, I’m not. I have a very small amount of discretionary income and most weeks, I have money left over. My greatest indulgence is time. Now that my children are grown and, for the most part out of the house and on their own, the demands of motherhood are no longer as great as they once were.

Each week I have time that is mine and mine alone to do with as I please. I cherish that time and it takes something major for me to give it up. That’s when I recharge my creative batteries. It might be something as simple as a long soak in the tub with some music playing or it could be a drive to the botanical garden to wander through the plants to see what’s blooming.

Even something as simple as taking fifteen minutes to sit and enjoy that cup of coffee while looking out the window is an indulgence of sorts.

So, how do you indulge yourself? Do you pamper yourself to the extreme? Or do you sneak in little bits and pieces? Does a secret treat make it all the sweeter?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ode to Joe's...Trader Joe's that is...

I am SO excited!!! Last night at Stitching for Sanity, it was revealed by Jane and confirmed by Steve, that Atlanta is finally going to be getting a Trader Joe’s store.

For those of you who don’t know about this little bit of gastronomic heaven, I shall enlighten you.

Trader Joes began life as a chain of convenience stores in the Los Angeles area in 1958. They were known as Pronto Markets. In 1967, the founder, Joe Coulombe, got the idea to expand the number and types of items offered. It was decided that the new stores would be called “Trader Joes”. The stores were decorated in a nautical theme with cedar plank walls and the ‘crew members’ all wore Hawaiian print shirts.

Gimmicks are fine, but what really sold the public was the incredible number of exceptionally fine foods sold at the lowest possible prices.

Today, Trader Joes has something for everyone. If you’re a confirmed vegan who only eats organic foods, you’ll find your crunchy granola and soy milk. If wine is your thing, you can bet that you’ll find a bottle of something wonderful at a great price, to go with that special dinner you’re planning.

When I lived in the San Diego area, I did almost all my shopping at Trader Joes. There was always produce available from local farmers at the peak of freshness. Seafood was either fresh off the boat or flash frozen and wonderfully tasty. And how many grocery stores carry giant sized Ghirardelli chocolate slabs?

Another thing I like about Trader Joes is their ethics. I’m no “tree-hugger” but I do believe that we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the Earth. Trader Joes has shown that you can be a successful commercial venture without compromising your values. They refuse to purchase seafood from Canada from fishermen who also hunt baby seals. My hat is off to them for that. They’ve also committed to carrying only eggs from cage-free chickens in their stores.

Something else that impresses me about TJ’s is the fact that they not only buy direct from manufacturers whenever possible to keep prices low, but they pledge to pay their vendors in cash and on time for the products that they buy.

In all the years that I’ve shopped at Trader Joes, I’ve never once had a bad experience in any of their stores. The crews are helpful, knowledgeable and show a level of courtesy that in other stores, disappeared two decades ago.

So, if you live near a Trader Joes, but haven’t shopped there yet, go on, give them a try. It’ll be the most fun food shopping experience you’ve ever had.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Confessions from the Organizationally Challenged

Hello, my name is Cinthia, and I’m a Messy. But inside of me is a Neatnik dying to get out (she’s squeezed in there along side the Skinny Girl).

Life is not easy for a packrat with messy tendencies and given that my chosen hobbies encourage pack-ratting, this makes life even more difficult.

Add to that that I live in a house (with three other people who are also packrats) with virtually NO closet space and it’s a recipe for domestic disaster.

At work, I have no problems being a Neatnik. In fact, I’m organized to the point of borderline OCD. Everything must be in its proper place and done a certain way or I completely wig out. As much as I crave vacation time, I cringe at the thought of someone else taking over because I know I’ll have to come back and spend weeks reorganizing and “fixing” their foul-ups.

At home, however, I’m a totally different person. I wade through a sea of clutter on a daily basis and hardly give it a thought, simply because there’s nowhere else to put it.

Where does one store an inflatable mattress when one doesn’t have a utility closet? Where does one put small kitchen appliances when all available cupboard space is taken up with dishes, pots and pans? What about all those little things that come into the house that are necessary but don’t always have a place (as in a place for everything and everything in its place) These are questions that kept me awake at night for years until I simply gave up.

Put them in the garage, you say? I’d love to….but Undeserving Relative has taken over the garage with large power tools, mysterious boxes of UR’s own “stuff”, as well as the accumulated “stuff” belonging to The Daughter With a Serious Case of Failure To Launch.

To be fair, I can’t lay all the blame at the feet of UR and DD. If I was truly determined to fix the problem, I would find a way, but whenever I try going through the house with the intent to “organize”, I find myself overwhelmed by the task. How do other people do it? I visit people like my sister who is the dictionary definition of “neatness”, and wonder how she does it. Even her washing machine is clean. Not a speck of dust or hardened gunk to be seen.

I’ve read all those “helpful household hints” books by people claiming to be reformed messies, but who I strongly suspect are just control freaks on a mission to alphabetize the world. Their methods just don’t work In Real Life. How many people can go around with a stack of 3X5 cards in their pockets? Seriously…how many of us are conscious enough at 6:30 in the morning to shine the kitchen sink for crying out loud???

I start out with the best of intentions but eventually there comes a point where I wind up sitting in the corner, clutching my blankie.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Spring is here...why doesn't my heart go dancing?

“I’m as restless as a willow in a windstorm…I’m as jumpy as a puppet on a string…”

Old Rodgers & Hammerstein certainly had a way with words, didn’t they? The next line is “why should I have spring fever when it isn’t even spring?”

Well, today is the first day of spring…the Vernal Equinox. Today there will be as much light as darkness on our planet. Long ago, this solar event marked the time when farmers began planting their crops and it was looked upon as a time of renewal.

Animals awaken from hibernation or give birth to their young and we humans experience a spurt of energy from the increased daylight and warmth.

In the past, most housewives would observe a ritual known as “spring cleaning”. They’d haul the carpets out of the house, hang them on the clothes line and beat the accumulated dirt and dust from them with a batlet, a device that looked similar to a heavy-duty fly swatter.

Floors would be swept, then scrubbed. Linens would be taken out, inspected for damage or wear, then repaired or discarded.

I caught a little bit of the spring cleaning bug myself yesterday. No, don’t call the EMT’s-- it wasn’t a big deal. It’s just that whenever I walk downstairs, the first thing I see is our living room. It also happens to be the first room any visitor to our front door sees and they can see it quite handily though the window next to the door. The thought of someone catching me at home and seeing the FEMA site that was my living room, was enough to give me a bad case of hives.

That room has been a wreck since mid-January, when the undeserving relative came back to roost in our house and deposited about thirty square feet of boxes, containers and a TV set smack in the middle of the room. It took eight weeks to remove and only then when one of the furbabies mistook a moving box for a litterbox.

This event coincided with the purchase of a new vacuum, the old one having died a painful death by asphyxiation. Frequent ingestion of hairballs made up of the combined fibers from cats, dogs, bunnies and the odd sheep matted with pinestraw will do that.

Happily, the room is now clean, and with the exception of the top of the piano and the Big Chair, tidy. We even decorated a bit. My treasured Talavera plate from Mexico is holding court above the fireplace and at her feet are several of the tiny, fantastically painted animals wrought from the hands of the Huichol people that dh collects. Standing guard off to one side is a Talavera pitcher and on the other is a balsawood frog using a leaf as an umbrella.

Now, with that giant slain, Dona Quixote’s next windmill to tilt at will be the downstairs bathroom. But that’s a story for another day.