Friday, December 31, 2010

Bringing in the New Year!

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

New Year's Eve was always a big event in my younger years.  My dad would pass out the silver dollars, those that were fond of herring would have a fork full, everyone got a little champagne, and we got to stay up past midnight!  We would gather in the living room, standing in front of the black and white, and count down with Dick Clark!  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 - Happy New Year!  Everyone would kiss and hug and toast in the New Year.  It's one of my most precious memories as a child.

As I grew older, I would spend New Year's Eve with friends, but, if I was close to home, I would sneak out of the party at around 10 to midnight, and go to wherever my family was gathered to bring in the New Year.  I'm not even sure my friends would know I was gone because I would be back as they were still celebrating the New Year.

After my dad passed away, and my siblings began expanding the family, my brother took over the celebration.  With pots and pans in hand, while listening to the radio, we would count down, and, at midnight, we would bring in the New Year with my nieces and nephews banging pots and pans, bottle rockets going off, and the Christmas tree sending of the prettiest sparks.  Then the music would be turned up full blast and we would dance!  Shine!  My brother would be swinging a kid throw his legs, my self-conscious sister who never dances would be dancing, and everyone would be singing Shine! at the top of their lungs.  The times were not the most pleasant for each family, but, if you saw us on New Year's Eve, you would have never guessed.  It is one of my family's fondest memories.

Now, everyone is older, and the family does not gather together.  The other day, my niece suggested that maybe Uncle Karl would have a party like the old times.  So, on this New Year's Eve, my husband, having grown up in a home where everyone was asleep at midnight, will be sawing logs, and I will watch the countdown with Maggie at my feet, waiting for the phone calls I know will come.  Then, I will call my mom and whoever hasn't called to wish them a Happy New Year!

The first year this happened, I cried.  I cried because I was taught that how you bring in the New Year is how the year will be.  Bring in the New Year with celebration, love, and laughter (and a clean house), and the year will be filled with great things.

I pray that someday my family will realize how important family still is, and we will gather at midnight, hugging and kissing, and wishing our loved ones a very Happy New Year!  Until then, please be safe and smart. 

You may be okay, but the other guy on the road may be over the limit.  Lastly, remember to call me at midnight because I will be waiting to hear your cheerful voice wishing me a Happy New Year. 

I love you all!  Happy New Year!
Aunt Janet

P.S.  Here are some of my favorite songs for bringing in the New Year!  Please listen to the pieces I've chosen - they are beautiful!
Auld Lang Syne
Same Old Lang Syne  (This is who I had back stage passes for.  I knew that you would know who he was once you heard the song.  Yeah - met his parents and brothers, partied with the band, but never met Dan - even though they said if I swung my arm around, I would have hit him.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why Turkey?

Heap high the board with plenteous cheer and gather to the feast,
And toast the sturdy Pilgrim band whose courage never ceased.
Alice W. Brotherton

Did you ever wonder why we eat Turkey on Thanksgiving.  Was it served on the first Thanksgiving feast?

From my reading, there were two writings on the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth in the autumn of 1621.  The first was written by Edward Winslow writing in Mourt's Relation.

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.

He suggests that wild turkeys were stored, along with corn and fish.  In fact, they stored more wild turkeys in the autumn.  But, he did not say that they were served at the first Thanksgiving feast.  One interesting thing that I noted in my research is that the pilgrims called all wild fowl "turkey".

The second account of the first Thanksgiving was written by William Bradford in Of Plymouth Plantation.

our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others.  And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want,  that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

Beside deer, the Governor sent "four men on fowling".  There is no evidence to show that he meant hunting for turkeys.

Some believe that Benjamin Franklin's desire to have the turkey declared the national symbol of the United States of America may have contributed to serving turkey on Thanksgiving..  In a letter to his daughter, he wrote:

Others to the bald eagle as looking too much like a dindon, or turkey. For my own part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly; …
I am, on this account, not displeased that the figure is not known as a bald eagle, but looks more like a turkey. For in truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was peculiar to ours; the first of the species seen in Europe, being brought to France by the Jesuits from Canada, and served up at the wedding table of Charles the Ninth. He is, besides, (though a little vain and silly, it is true, but not the worse emblem for that,) a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on.

A couple of facts:

  • Turkeys were and still are abundant in the United States.  Just ask my friends who live in the country.
  • The turkey is native to the northern Mexico and the eastern United States.  It was not brought to Europe until the 16th century.
  • For feasts, people like to serve big fowl to feed many guests, thus, a turkey.

In summary, no one exactly knows why we eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

Interesting Information

Fresh, frozen, or wild turkey?  What's the difference?

In my blog Turkeys - Happy Thanksgiving, I talked about the physical differences between wild and domesticated turkeys.  In this blog, I'll talk about the "taste" difference.  Yes, Mandie, they taste differently.
  • Fresh turkey is very chewy, almost tough, but it does have a lot of flavor.
  • Frozen turkey is what we are most used to and what we compare other turkeys to.  It is very tasty and just the right texture.
  • Wild Turkey, from what I read, is very lean, and has little breast fat and big thighs.  Many say that the white and dark meat alike are very tender, but it has a more intense turkey flavor, with a game taste.
So, when deciding what kind of turkey to buy, consider the above in making your choice.  And, if you are skeptical, like Mandie, try one that you have never tasted before, and taste the difference.

Gobble Gobble,
Aunt Janet

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The key to wisdom is this -
constant and frequent questioning.
For by doubting, we are led to question;
and by questioning, we arrive at the truth.
Peter Abelard

As a child, I was encouraged to question.  There were no stupid questions, but, at times, the answers were evaded.  Not necessarily because my parents did not want to answer, but because sometimes there was no explanation, or there were multiple answers to one question.  A discussion would proceed, allowing us to think, debate, concede, and /or acknowledge the truth, if there was one.

By questioning, I gained knowledge, learning not to take anything as the truth until all the facts were gathered. 

In my current occupation, I had little technical education when I first started.  At the time I went to college, computers took up rooms, and we mostly communicated to the computers through punch cards.  I learned to number the punch cards because, as in my own experience, they come shooting out of the card reader, I could put them back together in the order they were suppose to be.  In fact, my degree has nothing to do with computers and my present occupation.

When I began my venture into a computer occupation, personal computers were few, and the internet was almost non-existent.  I learned how to solve problems by asking the right people, reviewing the manuals, reading books, and trying.  Yes, I did take a couple of classes, but it was the questions I asked that solved the problems I faced.

Questioning is a search for the truth.  I find others sometimes questioning the existence of God.  In my mind, they are on a search for the truth, and the Truth will come in its own time.  Each one of us have different experiences that led us to the Truth, for, without the questioning, is it really the Truth felt inside the heart, or just a vague understanding of what is?  Maybe my parents' urging to question is why my deep faith goes back so far, as a child with many questions.

Grandpa's Stories

Now, please remember that my dad was sometimes blunt, and had a great sense of humor.  He would say: "If you assume, you make an ass out of you and me."  Think, question, and never assume, because, what you believe to be the truth, may end up being false and lead you astray.

Money Making

Once again, the holiday is upon us.  If you do on-line shopping, please help a friend (me) and shop from my blog.  I make money when anyone goes to a store from my blog - not much, but pennies add up.  I'm going to try to update the links so that you can take advantage of the many sales going on now.  (Is it me, or does everyone think that they're advertising earlier this year?)

Aunt Janet's Famous Sayings

"Remember when..."  It was a time of complete devastation for my niece and nephew.  One arm around my small niece on one side, and the other around my little nephew on the other, I held them as they sobbed with all their heart.  Then, suddenly, my niece's hair became entangled in my dangling earring, and the sobbing stopped, and the laughing began.  We could not get her hair out of the earring.  When questioned if God is listening, I remind them by starting "Remember when..."  They remember, and, in their heart, they know only God could have turned their sorrow into laughter.

Learning by questioning,
Aunt Janet

Friday, October 22, 2010


falling leaves
hide the path
so quietly
~John Bailey, "Autumn," a haiku year, 2001,
as posted on

Out of all the seasons, autumn comforts my soul.  Nature is nestling down for the long winter.  A bountiful summer, and now it is time to rest.

Pumpkins and hay rack rides.  Walking through a path covered in leaves.  Apple cider and bonfires. Falling in love.  All signs of settling in before the cold.

In the midst of the challenges we face, may we be comforted by the changing of leaves, and know that we too must rest.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Waiting for the Sauce

How much of human life is lost in waiting.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I sit here waiting, I started to contemplate all the time that one wastes in a lifetime waiting.  Waiting to graduate, waiting for the next best job, waiting for Mr. or Miss Right, waiting for the tomato sauce to finish canning...

For those of you who have canned, it could be a whole day process, depending on what you are making.  Today, I made tomato sauce.  My day was spent skinning, de-seeding, chopping, cooking, milling, simmering, and then canning tomatoes.  It is the end of my day, and, after waiting about an hour, the tomato sauce just came out of the canner.  An hour ago, I was tired, and I wanted to be done.  But I waited that last hour.

Is the wait worth it?  I believe so.  I finally figured out how to make a good sauce, and it will be enjoyed in the middle of winter.  But, like so many other things in my life, I hate waiting.  I need to be doing.  I make the time go by faster by keeping myself busy doing something else. 

Is that good?  Sometimes, yes.  You can get much accomplished while waiting.  You can enjoy the now while waiting.  A friend of mine is waiting for that million dollar check to come in the mail.  She first told me about this check about a year ago.  Knowing positive thinking will bring that check, she stays encouraged daily and laughs. Yet, at the same time, she is working hard to meet her needs for today and enjoying life to the fullest right now, but not giving up on that check arriving one day.  So, accomplishing other tasks and claiming a positive outcome are two positive things about waiting.

When is keeping busy not good?  When you need to rest.  God said "Be still and know that I am God."  Be still - don't do anything, just believe that He is.  It could be a time of rest, of relaxation.  A time to rejuvenate yourself, so that when the waiting is over, you are refreshed.

So, the next time I need to wait, maybe I'll try just waiting instead of doing.  Maybe then I won't wonder why I just totally exhausted myself to the point that I have no idea why I'm thinking about waiting and that this post may not make any sense.

Side Note:  When you put your life on hold, waiting for the outcome you want to be fulfilled from the waiting, life doesn't always give you what you want.  Sometimes God is telling you "No, that's not the direction I want you to go."


After years of trying, revising, and cooking tomato sauce, and then not being satisfied with the results, I think I finally figured out the trick of making delicious tomato sauce.  The recipes always say to cook until thick.  Well, my husband and I would strain the tomatoes with a tomato strainer, put it in a big pot, stir, and stir, and stir a million times more, and after around 8 hours of cooking and stirring, the sauce may be at the consistency that we like (or almost there).  Our sauce always turned out tasting acid-y and burnt.

When I started to make tomato sauce this year, I looked at that big pot, and I started to think that maybe the surface wasn't big enough to evaporate the liquid in a shorter period of time.  So, I tried a good pan.  I took out my Pampered Chef 12" Covered Skillet, put the chopped tomatoes in it, and put the temperature up high, stirring ever minute or so.  When the liquid came to a boil, I turned down the burner to a medium heat, and continued letting it boil (still stirring).  The liquid evaporated, and, in about an hour, I had about half the liquid.

I then poured as much of the tomatoes and liquid as I could in my canning food mill.  I let the liquid drain, and returned it to the skillet to let it thicken some more.  As it thickened, and I stirred, I put the tomatoes through the mill.  When the liquid had reduced to a thick sauce, I added the really thick tomato sauce, and then added the rest of the ingredients to the skillet and put on simmer for about an hour so that the flavors would blend into the sauce.  After around 2-1/2 hours (compared to more than 8), my sauce was done and tasted oh so good.

I discovered that the secret of making good sauce was the pan you used!  Even though I am partial to Pampered Chef products, any good skillet will do, you just want to make sure it has a big surface and a thicker bottom.  This may be a small investment, but it's well worth it.  We use our skillet at least 3 times a week for regular meals.  If you are interested in the pots and pans I sell, email me and I will send you a link to my website.


Italian Tomato Sauce
makes about 5-6 quarts, depending on desired thickness

30 lbs or 24 cups tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded, and chopped
3 cups onions, chopped
2 cups green peppers, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced, OR 2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbs. salt
1 Tbs. and 1 tsp. of each - basil, oregano, Italian seasoning
1-2 Tbs. brown sugar (to taste)

Take the tomatoes, and follow the directions above.  While it's thickening, saute onions, green peppers, and garlic until onions are transparent.  After sauce has thickened, add remaining ingredients except sugar, and simmer for about an hour.  Add sugar, and simmer 5-10 minutes more.

Can or freeze according to instructions found in canning books.  If canned, don't forget to add the lemon juice - 2 Tbs. per quart.

Aunt Janet

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Old Friends

“Good friends are like stars.... You don't always see them,
but you know they are always there”
Author Unknown

There is something to be said about old friends. The one that, even if you haven’t seen each other in eons, you can pick up the conversation like you were never separated. Talking for hours, laughing, crying, reminiscing and making new memories. The type of friend that wouldn’t be surprised if you called in the middle of the night crying, even though you haven’t talked to them in ten years. They understand. They have been a part of your life for so many years that they know who you are deep down inside. They know your joys and sorrows, maybe not for the past year, but for a lifetime.

I have a handful of friends that I can call my true friends. There is a bond between us that time will not break. Some are from high school, a couple from college, and one that is my lifetime friend – we met across the fence when we were 3 or 4. They have stood by my side, attended life events – graduations, weddings, christenings, and, yes, deaths and funerals. I would be there in a minute for them, and, I know, they would do the same for me. We are like fine wine that gets better as it ages, even if it is out of sight, only to be savored after years of silence.

You know who you are. I love you. You are unique, each different from the other. From you, I have gained strength, love, and confidence (clothes, concert tickets, and dill)– each bringing a different combination of all. I am blessed to call you my friend.

Aunt Janet’s Famous Sayings

“It is very important to keep in touch with / see / talk to your girlfriends.” I’ve tried to pass this down to my nieces, because I do feel that women bless each other. Face it – you can’t talk to a guy like you can a girlfriend. They are on a different plane than we are. Women understand women. Can you ask a guy if he thinks you’re going through menopause because you can’t remember anything? Will a guy give you his honest opinion about your new haircut? No, but a girlfriend would, and she would help you decide what style would bring out your best features. A friend would even tell you that she didn’t think it would be wise to foster children because she knows me. When I love, I love with my whole heart, and when the love is taken away, my heart breaks and I feel the full strength of the loss and sorrow. I am one of those people who does not try to stop feeling, and, at times, the feeling is too deep.

A couple of times, I had several people question the strength of an old friendship after years of separation. All I can say is that, once a friend and I bond, the bond lasts. So, my best friend in high school is still one of my best friends. My friend across the fence is still my oldest and dearest friend. It’s not that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Women are so busy taking care of others that they forget to take care of themselves, which sometimes means picking up the phone because they know once they are on the phone with their cherished friend, they will never get off, and dinner has to be made, the laundry done, you need to go grocery shopping… They are on our mind, in our heart, and included in our prayers always.

True friends reconnect. I’ve gone as far as calling my college friend’s ex-husband to get her phone number – she had changed it when they divorced. I found his workplace because I knew he was a principal in a certain area.  I poked a friend’s brother on facebook, just so I could get her attention. You know, girls in the house, mom doesn’t get the message, so never returns phone calls. Hehe I’m sending a friend from work a retirement card, even though she retired months ago. Hey - it’s the thought that counts. And I found out two other friends are retiring because I saw them going into a meeting for imminent retirees. (You know who you are because I don’t send my blog link to you since you asked me not to. And I know you still love me. I better be invited to your retirement party weeks in advance!)

To my nieces and younger woman – friends are so important. They keep you grounded. You can laugh and cry with them. They know your weaknesses and secrets. Cherish them.

Now, let’s see how many of my friends leave a comment. I’ll guess none. They are all so busy!

Grandpa's Stories (& Quotes)

The 27th anniversary of my dad’s death just passed, and he has been on my mind. My cousin passed away during the summer, and I see his wife’s grief. When someone died, my dad would say:

“Live for the living, not for the dead.”

My dad lost his first wife when his youngest child, my sister chosen by God, was only about 5. He talked with experience, and I wish I could reach out and help her. Someone once told me that, even though we may be separated from our loved ones for years, when we get to heaven, in heaven time, we are only separated for the blink of an eye. I miss you dad, but I know I’ll see you soon – maybe in 50 years.

Money Making Tip

I’m asking your opinion with this one. My friend is in a belly dancing group. They perform at many events. Do you think that a belly dancing class, along with a jewelry show, would fly?

She suggested it, and I think just maybe, as long as I don’t have to belly dance. Okay, I have high frequency hearing loss, and cannot keep a beat for the life of me. I would stick out like a sore thumb, or look like a jester or rodeo clown. Get the picture? It would be hilarious, but I don’t think so. So, to my friends and family, it’s not that I can’t sing. I can’t hear to be able to sing. There. I told you guys, after you’ve made fun of me for years.

Money Savings

Specials at thrift stores – I went to a thrift store yesterday after being told that they were having a $5 bag sale. I filled the bag with Lee Jeans, a Coldwater Creek top, a Liz Claiborne jacket, and about 8 other items. For $5!

One thing to keep in mind is that these are donated clothes. Look for clothes that are not worn, do not have stains, and fit. About half of the items I bought were brand new, a couple with the tags still on. I checked each item to make sure that there were no obvious stains or flaws, but forgot to check the size on a pair of jeans. Their tag said 10. The inside tag said 14. You will see these jeans posted on ebay soon.

This is a great way to save money, but keep in mind dry cleaning costs. Is the jacket really worth $5 if it costs $10 to have it dry cleaned? The jacket I bought was in such good shape that I feel it was worth the small investment.

Specials aren’t usually advertised in newspapers. So, if you want a bargain at a thrift store, you usually have to watch their windows for “sale” signs. Also, some thrift stores do not carry what I would call high quality items. Shop around until you find one that does. The one I found carries mostly designer clothes at unbelievable low prices.

Lastly, remember to always wash your "new" clothes.  You never know who was in them last.

Cherish your friendships,
Aunt Janet

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Canvas of Life

Dreams are like the paints of a great artist. Your dreams are your paints, the world is your canvas. Believing, is the brush that converts your dreams into a masterpiece of reality.
Author Unknown

I just turned 49, and I was feeling a little down.  My life is not the life I envisioned for myself.  What was and what I imagined it to be are two different pictures.  If I could go back in time, what would I do differently?

I was born with certain characteristics and talents, unique only to me.  These I cannot change - gifted to me from the Highest.  I do consider them gifts, and I am honored that He saw fit to bestow them onto me.

But, there are so many crossroads where I could have chosen a different path, and the road may have been different.  Better, lovelier, more fulfilling - I'm not sure.  Different - maybe.

A friend, sensing my desire to have lived a more fulfilling life, encouraged me to repaint my canvas.  It's never too late.  Just start with a blank canvas, start dreaming, and fill the canvas with beauty.  What I paint on my canvas will be one of a kind, priceless, and to be treasured forever.

How this all started?

A family member passed away.  We called him uncle because of our age difference.  He was actually a cousin.  He was one of the great story tellers in my family.  His eyes would light up when you asked him to share a story.  He was also a jokester.  As a child, I remember pretending that his car was a police car, with flashing lights and sirens (headlights and dome lights going on and off, siren sounds, children laughing, while my aunt was yelling).

That side of my family told the stories, some happy, some sad, and even some horrifying.  But, whatever the story, they shared it, letting the ghosts out, and passing their heritage on.

My dad was like that.  I miss him.  He passed away 26 years ago when my mom was only 49.  (So, that's where the age comes into play.)  There were so many life's trials that I wish my dad was there to guide me, encourage me, or push me in the right direction.  Yes, I may not have listened, but I would have learned.  Instead, I did what I believed was right, and, at times, was wrong.

What would I have changed?

This is something I need to contemplate.  To go back in time and look at the mistakes one makes takes courage.  To learn from those mistakes, and figure out how they could have been avoided, takes knowledge, understanding, and possibly a little experience.  So, without much thought, here is a couple of things that I would have done differently.

In 7th and 8th grade, I should have not tried to be cool and done stupid things that led to habits later.  Habits that I still struggle with today.

Going back 30 something years, I should have closed the door on my boyfriend's face.  Well, after he supposedly broke up with me, he came over after his first date with another girl.  And he kept coming over, and I let him for years.  I should have put up a boundary that I was not to be treated in that manner, with him disregarding my feelings and thinking I'd be there whenever. 

(The above are specifically written for some of my younger readers.)

One major thing I would have definitely changed is that I would have begun a family earlier, because then I would have had a family, whether naturally or by adoption.

The rest is yet to be decided.

Aunt Janet's Famous Quotes

You are old enough when you realize that you don't know everything, and you seek guidance from someone who knows more.

Repainting my canvas,
Aunt Janet

Monday, May 31, 2010

Lost in the Garden

Gardening is a kind of disease. It infects you, you cannot escape it. When you go visiting, your eyes rove about the garden; you interrupt the serious cocktail drinking because of an irresistible impulse to get up and pull a weed.
 ~Lewis Gannit

I have been lost in my garden - my favorite place to be. All the planning, digging, rearranging, planting, and cultivating have taken up most of my off time, and have been placed on my high priority list. See, I must garden to relax, I need to relax for my health, and my health is high on my list of priorities. I go out to the garden soon after I arrive home. I spend hours getting my hands dirty. Maggie usually joins me after her dinner. She likes to sneak up on me, so I scream. Then, she will lay in the grass, or strawberry patch, or grass covered walkways, until her dad comes out and beckons me inside to eat. An hour will pass, and I will unwillingly start towards the house, pulling weeds as I see them.

It's my little piece of heaven. I have harvested strawberries and onions. Maggie helps herself to a strawberry or two, until her dad or I tell her enough - save some for us.

The plants are being planted slowly. I am painstakingly pulling up a bed of mint that has grown to a third of my garden. Candy mint, peppermint, oregano, and lemon balm. Some are planted in pots to sell. Others are dried for teas and potpourris and seasonings.

Tomatoes, plum and round, peppers of various varieties, cucumbers, beans, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, herbs, and celery are planted. Onions, pickles, carrots, and whatever else catches my fancy are yet to be planted. And flowers to fill in the empty spaces between the perennials, and keep the color going throughout the year.

I love my little garden. It is my little piece of heaven.


I've always kept a compost pile since the time I started gardening. In it, I put all my vegetables scrapes, grass clippings, weeds (that haven't gone to seeds), leaves, ... When I was in college, I wrote a paper on composting, and my professor said I should try to sell it. Idea - maybe I'll put it for sale on my blog??

The soil that it produces is great for your plants. When I transplant my plants, I try to mix some into the soil surrounding the plants to give the plant a healthy fresh start.

Start your own compost pile. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, and it doesn't take much work. Just stack up all the grass clippings, vegetable scrapes, leaves, etc. in a neat pile, and you have a compost pile. Or you can get fancier and buy compost bins such as the ones available at Gardens Alive!.

In the garden,
Aunt Janet

Friday, May 07, 2010

Has anyone seen my mom? I’ve been looking for her everywhere, and I can’t find her.

Can you keep a secret? I heard something that I think I wasn’t suppose to hear. I might be getting a sister. She’s supposed to look like a boxer, so I hope she’s not too mean. I miss Puppy and how we used to play. I think it’s a baby, so I’ll get to play mom, and teach her how to sit and stay, and all the things dogs are suppose to do for their mom and dad.

The trouble is I can’t find mom to ask her if this is really true. Have you seen her?  If you do, can you please tell her I'm looking for her.  Thanks!   Mom, where are you??


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Irish Blessing

Irish Blessing

May your joys be as bright as the morning,
And your sorrows merely be shadows that fade,
In the sunlight of love.
May you have enough happiness to keep you sweet.
Enough trials to keep you strong.
Enough sorrows to keep you human.
Enough hope to keep you happy.
Enough failure to keep you humble.
Enough success to keep you eager.
Enough friends to give you comfort.
Enough faith and courage in yourself to banish sadness.
Enough wealth to meet your needs.
And one thing more: enough determination to make each day a more wonderful day than the day before.

Grandpa's Stories

While Grandpa was growing up, his family had two dogs - a boy and a girl - they were in love. The boy, being very athletic, jumped the fence whenever he wanted to gallivant around the neighborhood, checking out what his buddies were up to, snooping the local restaurant's garbage cans, and running in the vacant lots.  He was always the adventurer, but he never failed to return to his true love.

One day, he got a bright idea. He decided to teach his true love to jump over the fence. While the family watched from the window, the boy dog barked and ran, jumping over the fence in one long stride. He barked to encourage his love to follow. She ran but stopped right before running into the fence. The boy jumped back into the yard, gave her a kiss, ran around her a couple time, encouraging her with his barks, and took another leap, again barking from the other side of the fence. She tried again, hit the fence, and fell. The boy dog jumped back in, and tried again. This continued maybe ten more times (the family had lost count), and then, to their surprise, she cleared the fence! The two dogs ran around each other barking with glee, and ran off into the sunset, never to be seen again. At least, they were together!


Of course, it has to be:

Corned Beef and Cabbage

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchstick pieces
10 baby red potatoes, quartered
1 onion, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
4 cups water
1 (4 pound) corned beef brisket with spice packet
6 ounces beer (optional)
1/2 head cabbage, cut into 8 pieces

Place the carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and onion into the bottom of a slow cooker, pour in the water, and place the brisket on top of the vegetables. Pour the beer over the brisket. Sprinkle on the spices from the packet, cover, and set the cooker on low.  Cook the brisket for about 8 hours.

Be Blessed,
Aunt Janet

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Baby Ruth Story

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love,
the things you are,
the things you never want to lose.
From the television show The Wonder Years

I have been trying to remember the stories that were told to me by a man I highly respected and loved.  I learned from his knowledge passed on to me through stories.  Many were pleasant, yet, there were those that were painful, only retold to try to teach lessons.  I need to pass on these stories, not just so they would be heard, but so my niece can pass her class.

See, my niece is taking a Family American Diversity class in college, and she needs to gather our family history.  My sister has taken upon the task of learning our family history, after we realized that we did not have some family facts.  She has gone as far as dragging her husband to the cemetery an hour away, and shoveling through a foot of snow to find my grandparents' graves.  Taking into consideration that we have a Brady Bunch family, she's been searching for the marriage certificate of our dad and her mom, without luck so far.  (Maybe they weren't really married???  And I did become my dad's daughter after my mom married him when I was about 2 years old.)

My job is to pass on the stories.  I remember sitting at the table listening to my dad recall stories of his childhood, and stories of being a young man.  I loved hearing these memories.  It was what shaped him into the man he became, the father that loved his children, whether by blood or marriage, and lived his life from the lessons he had learned as he grew to adulthood.  He was a great story teller.

My other nieces and nephews have asked me to share these stories with them, to write them down so that they will not be forgotten, but passed on for generations to come.  So begins the recollection of the story teller, their grandfather, the man most of them never got to meet, and love, just as his children had loved.

Grandpa's Stories

Grandpa was born in 1924 and grew up during the Great Depression.  His family would take in or help other family members through this difficult time.  There was always the question of why his immediate family did not suffer financially like his aunts and uncles.  There was always the question of what Great Grandpa really did for a living, or how come he always had money.

Well, one story that I recall is what I will call the Baby Ruth story.  One day, grandpa and his cousin, and best friend (who we called Uncle Hermie), decided to go for a bike ride.  When they went to get their bikes, the garage door was locked.  Strange - it was never locked.  Grandpa climbed on Uncle Hermie's shoulders and peered in the garage window.  All he could see were boxes and boxes and more boxes.

The window was unlocked, so, with the help of Uncle Hermie, grandpa opened the window and climbed through.  He took down one of the boxes, and carefully opened it.  Inside were smaller boxes of Baby Ruth candy bars.  They had hit the jackpot! 

He handed the box to Uncle Hermie, climbed out the window, and covered up any evidence that would show they were in the garage.  It might have worked, but being the candy lovers that they were, they proceeded to eat the whole box of Baby Ruth's.  Needless to say, their indulgence was their misfortune - they were discovered because they became sick as dogs from all the chocolate.

Later, he had overheard that the Baby Ruth's came from a hijacked semi-truck.  Our cousin verifies this story.  Her mom, my dad's sister, had seen a truck being unloaded into the garage.

This is the first of many stories to come.  Grandpa always taught us to be honest, and to work hard for the things that we wanted.  I think a little of the morals he passed on to us came from eating too many Baby Ruth's, getting sick, and therefore, knowing that if you indulge in things that aren't yours, you will pay the consequences.


Baby Ruth Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Baby Ruth candy bars (2.1 ounces each), chopped

Preheat oven to 350°.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in candy bars.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Immediately remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 4 dozen.

Fondly remembering,
Aunt Janet

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Slow Down

Slow down you're doing fine
You can't be everything you want to be
Before your time.
Billy Joel

After a motivating Premier Designs Rally, I was telling my husband the events of the weekend.  At lunch one afternoon, the subject turned to Facebook and the games on Facebook.  I admitted that I am addicted to Farmville.  My one friend looked at me in shock, asking how I had time.  She, too, had as many obligations as me.  I told her that I have been escaping the past month or two in games, books, and movies.  To me, I have been spending too much time doing the things I enjoy, escaping from the realities of my life.

Laughing, my husband shook his head, and said "Janet, you are doing what normal people do every day.  You usually are trying to be superwoman, trying to cram too much into one day, and exhausting yourself to the point of getting sick.  How you have been the last couple of months is how you should be all the time."

Hmmm...  Maybe he's right.  As Billy Joel says, "You can't be everything you want to be before your time."  For years, I pushed myself to the point of exhaustion.  Because of my laid back attitude, many have never seen the perfectionism inside of me, but I admit, in things that I do, I am a perfectionist.  I will allow other to make mistakes, but I am very hard on myself.  I also expect more out of myself than I do of others.

A couple of years ago, I literally burnt out.  I was sick, tired all the time, couldn't think straight, ...  After that, I learned to say no to some things that were asked of me, realizing that I was getting older and my body could only do so much in a given day.  Sometimes, I knew and felt guilty for saying no to things I really thought I should do.  Yes, I did anger some people that were used to me being a "yes" person, but my family (shhh) did adjust.  I mean I'm the person who worked full time, had 3 part time businesses, managed my rental property (including all the renovations we did), sold things on ebay, and, until the last year, cleaned, cooked, and kept house like every other woman I know.  (Since my husband hasn't had much work lately, he's been doing most of the cooking and cleaning.)

The only problem was that I still did not say no to myself.  I just kept going like the Energizer Bunny until a couple of months ago when I realized that I could not stop my problems from happening - only God could.  And, when I thought about what I have done the last couple of months, it was a lot more than playing games, reading, and watching movies.  It was cleaning, showing, and renting out a grocery store; taking care of code violations, calling the architect, lawyer, contractors, and going to the violation hearing; preparing for Christmas, making gifts, and celebrating Christmas; dealing with a tenant's suit, the tenant breaking her lease, and her roommate that didn't want to move; the gas company breaking the line at the buildings and refusing to turn the gas back on without me being present when I was more than an hour away; dealing with my many money problems and receiving rents late; trying to start the New Year with a clean house; putting in orders for my 3 businesses; fixing computers on the side for extra $; and I could go on and on.

And I told her that I had been hiding from the world, escaping, and not doing anything.  (I had to type out the list for myself, so I would stop feeling guilty.  Someone should smack me over the head.  Or, better yet, give me a big hug, and tell me that 2010 is going to be a great year!!)

Oh, one side note, my DSL was really flaky the first two weeks of the year, so I couldn't really use the internet.  I couldn't play Farmville, read emails, try to write my blog, or surf for more than a minute or two without it going down, and me giving up.  So, I guess, truthfully, I can't even say that I was escaping in Farmville for the last whole two months.  And we were gone for almost a week, visiting my in-laws and going to Rally.

Now, it's 10:00 p.m., and I told myself that I was going to get ready for bed by 9:30.  Well, I still need to get two folders together for jewelry shows so I can drop them off tomorrow after work, so I better stop and say "No more, Janet.  Time to stop."

Nite, Nite, Everyone!
Aunt Janet

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A Quest to Simplify

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary
so that the necessary may speak.
Hans Hofmann

I am on a quest - a quest to simplify my life, to eliminate the needless stress that I tend to invite by my actions.  Consciously, but slowly, step by step, I plan to find ways and methods to relieve stress, create time, and simplify.  I yearn for serenity.

Over the next couple of months, I hope to share with you what I have tried, and what has worked and hasn't worked for me, in the hopes that maybe you will find your path to serenity.

First, I need to get rid of the unnecessary, the clutter, and the unwanted.  At the same time, I need to acquire new habits to save time and energy.  They say that if you do something for 30 days, it will become a habit.  From there, I am unsure what the next step is.  I want to say to grow, but that's where by chaos came in to play - doing too much at one time.  Just maybe, the next step would be to be still, reflect, and think, while I maintain the new habits I have learned.  From there, I can then go on to what I discover is important to me, and then grow in those areas. 

A little secret - I think I already know what is important to me.  Hint:  The topics in my blog postings.  I'll let you know if I'm right.

Time Savings

The first new habit that I will practice is to get my outfit ready for the next day.  This will include my clothing, my jewelry, and my bags.  I know that many of you have a habit of doing this, but I have never done this, so this is new to me.  Usually, I am running around, trying to figure out what matches what, finding socks to match, grabbing jewelry, stuffing things in my bag, and running out the door.  I don't know how many times I had to run back in because I forgot something, or not being able to find a pair of earrings that go with my necklace.  I sell jewelry, so I have to make sure I look like a jewelry lady, right? 

Well, beginning tonight, that will change.  I will let you know in my next couple of blogs how I'm doing on this new habit.

Money Savings

I came upon this idea on a blog I visited, and, after I explain it to my husband, we're going to do this.  It's called Eat from the Pantry Challenge, and was started by Jessica G. Fisher at Life as Mom and Crystal Paine at Money Saving Mom.

Per Jessica, "Here are some guidelines to help you think about this challenge and how you can grow in kitchen management this month:

  • Reduce grocery spending. We're talking about reducing grocery spending this month, not eliminating it. Set a goal that is lower than your regular food budget and shoot for not exceeding it.
  • Take stock. Take an afternoon and empty your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator. Ditch what's gone bad and make a list of what's left. Knowing what you have will make you less likely to buy more.
  • Use what you have. Check your pantry before you meal plan or head off to the store. Develop meals based on what you have rather than buying new.
It's a personal challenge, and you make up the rules.  My goal is to sit down with my husband and come up with our rules by the end of the week.  I'll let you know what they are by the weekend. 

One of my biggest problems is buying things on sale.  Our pantry is loaded with brownie boxes, and jello, and God knows what else.  I know that we need to go through our freezer, (throw out what is freezer burnt,) and take inventory, but I would love to try to eat from our pantry to save money.  I do still plan on buying from Angel Food Ministries because of the money savings. 

One note - I think I may have offended someone when I suggested Angel Food Ministries to them.  Per their website, "There are no qualifications, minimums, income restrictions, or applications.  Everyone is encouraged to participate. Some churches even encourage participants to apply the money they saved to help someone else in need."  Also, they say "With a heart to help others and a generous spirit, Joe and Linda Wingo founded Angel Food Ministries in 1994 to provide food for friends and neighbors who were struggling financially."  They purchase the food from "the nation's top food suppliers" at discounted prices.

Since the majority of us are going through financial hardships at this time, they encourage everyone to participate.  I believe that they are able to charge so little because church volunteers coordinate and distribute the food.  It gives seniors a chance to volunteer - to feel needed, and it gives us help and hope.  I kind of look at it as sort of a God food co-op.

I better go pick out my outfit.  Talk to you soon!
Aunt Janet

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year's!

We will open the book. Its pages are blank.
We are going to put words on them ourselves.
The book is called Opportunity
and its first chapter is New Year's Day.
Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Alas, 2009 is gone, and a New Year is here! A New Year to hope, to plan, to seek, to love, and to realize dreams. I look forward to this New Year with much anticipation - it will definitely be a good year!

Due to life's trials, 2010 may be a year where we learn to change. Life is not what it was five years ago. We will become less materialistic, and we will simplify, holding on to our values and close ones more than things. This is the year we let go of the anger, let go of the fear, and resolve to find different roads to our happiness. I feel that family and friends will gather and share more of life's burdens, and rejoice in togetherness.

My New Year's resolution - 2010 will be a great year! Period, end of story, I'm claiming it! I will need to let go of the anger, the fear, and humble myself to go down roads I do not know or chose to avoid in the past. Although I have done this in the past, I give all my woes to God, and ask that His plan for my life become clearer, and He lights the path brightly, the one that I am to take. In the past, I thought I was doing what He wanted me to do, but the results weren't always good. So, now I ask, and pray, that these paths are illuminated so I know clearly where to go.

I also claim for year that 2010 will be a great year! Be brave and look up for it may not be what you expected, and it may take you be surprise, but, at the close of the year, if you kept your faith, you will look back and say "Yes, 2010 was a great year!"


I began the New Year reading a daily inspirational book called God's Abundance: 365 Days to a Simpler Life, and a best seller which you will probably recognize, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort of Joy. My goal in reading these books (for the second or third time) is to learn techniques and ways to simplify my life and be content.  Check them out by clicking on the book name above.

Aunt Janet's Famous Sayings

This is a saying that I picked up from my dad.  When I was growing up, my family always brought in the New Year.  We held silver dollars, kissed and hugged, and drank a smidgen of champaign.  Being Polish, some even ate the pickled herring which is supposed to bring in good luck for the coming year. 

"How you start the year is how it will be all year long."  If you start the year with a clean house, your house will be clean.  If you start the year with a positive attitude, you will be positive all year. 

One interesting tradition I just learned - on New Year's, place a penny on a windowsill to increase the chances of prosperity in the year to come.  I'm trying it, and I'll let you know if it helps.
Happy New Year!
Aunt Janet
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