December 21, 2014

Hola darlings! As abnormally cold as November was, December is turning out to be abnormally warm! No White Christmas this year at Maison Newton, but I'll take 40 degrees F and rain any day over 3o below zero and a foot of snow! I noticed yesterday I turned on the tree lights and and the rest of the Christmas decorations by 4 p.m., Holy Hathor! I am in full holiday mode, but not cooking like I was in 2013. Maybe it was just a strange phase of the Moon??? I decided I hate my front porch. Something has to be done with it. Don't know what, there's no budget, as I'm planning on taking a (3 years) early retirement as early as I can realize my strategic plans in 2015. I'll figure something out (so she bravely writes...) Happy Holidays and a wonderful and blessing-filled New Year to everyone!

Jan

Sunday, February 1, 2015

FREE AT LAST!

Hola darlings!  How are you on this wonderful weekend day?  I'm GREAT!  You see, my last day at work was Friday, January 30th.  I am now officially RETIRED, woo woo!

I cannot tell you how HAPPY I am, but I sure don't look it in this picture that my work buddy Barb snapped of me Friday morning -- the other ones she took must have turned out even worse (ouch!):

Hello!  That's me. Maybe I need to
save for a face lift after all...
Hmmm, I look tired, eyes are puffy, that sweater is NOT flattering (honestly, I'm not as heavy as I look in this pic, but I really need to work on that next 10 pounds, yikes), and I definitely need to invest in a good support bra, OY!  But despite the pic, I was VERY HAPPY -- I just don't take good pics (well, that's what I keep telling myself - nah, you don't REALLY look that bad).

So, that's a glimpse of my former office -- as clean as it's ever been.  It was even cleaner by the end of the day, because I moved piles of work that must be tackled on Monday into the office of my successor, who had the day off (he's not moving into the office I'm vacating, which doesn't make sense because it holds all the files of my now former boss and he's going to be constantly walking back and forth between offices to access them.  Perhaps eventually common sense will prevail and he will - NAH.  He's a nob.)

Now officially retired, and I am GLAD because we are being zonked with blizzard-like conditions here. It's a true nor'easter blowing in over Lake Michigan from Canada. It started snowing last evening and it is going to snow all day today and into tomorrow.  In this area we may get between 6 to 9 inches, but with lake effect snow in play, it's anybody's guess, really.  We could get over a foot.  Here's what my backyard looked like about 10 this morning:


It's snowing hard -- you can actually see it falling in contrast against the red fencing, and you can see the snow blowing off the roof of my neighbor's garages!  Don't want to get a face-full of this stuff!  It's fine tiny flakes, gritty almost, and the wind is gusting upwards of 30 mph.  The temperatures are plunging downward and areas to the southeast of Milwaukee County are under full blizzard warnings until noon tomorrow! I have some tall drifts here and there and bare spots here and there and it's getting worse even as I sit and type this -- wow, just saw a white-out in my backyard!

About 9:15 this morning I opened up my front door to get a look at the street view and got the crap scared out of me - here was this big young guy standing on my front stoop about to pound on the storm door. Fortunately, he looked as taken aback as I did.  He called me ma'am.  Now I know I must look like a blowsy old broad.  Sigh.

Turns out he and a buddy run a business in the area and they were going around the neighborhood offering to snow blow out driveways and sidewalks.  They did my front porch, front walk and sidewalk for $15 (I passed on the driveway, not needing it to be fully cleared), and it looked good.  Forty-five minutes later those guys are way down the block now, getting plenty of work (good for them - very enterprising and SMART to be going around on such a day), and my sidewalk is already drifting over and looks like it was hardly touched!

This was cleared 45 minutes ago, believe it or not!  My front sidewalk, walk from the public sidewalk up to my porch.
I hope those guys come back tomorrow when the storm is finally over :)  Look at that mess -- there's deep snow in the streets, plows have been through but you wouldn't know it by looking at it.  Oh my, not even going to attempt to shovel my way out of here until this is ALL OVER!

As I'm sitting here typing, the winds are whipping up even more.  SO glad I won't be attempting the half mile walk to the bus stop tomorrow morning to get to work!  I won't ever have to do that walk again, against my will!  AAAAHHHHHHHHH, THIS IS FABULOUS!

The alarm part of my clock radio was turned OFF when I got home from my celebration with friends on Friday night.  Yesterday I got up around my same time (5:40 a.m.) without alarm -- I just woke up like I'm on a computer program or something, as I had to go for a blood draw and I like to get that done as early as possible in the day because it takes forever to go back and forth by bus. I left the house yesterday at 7:08 a.m. and was back home about 9:54 a.m., supplies in hand.  When I caught the 76th Street bus going south heading home, I jumped off at my Pick 'n Save and did my grocery shopping, along with about 500 other people!  Stocked up on supplies to sit out the storm -- wine being my number one priority, as I have plenty of food stashed already, and a new box of hazelnuts for my squirrels already in stock (I buy in bulk, 25 pounds at a time). That was it for me for the day.  Other than tossing lots of nuts out to the squirrels yesterday -- they were visiting more than usual, probably sensing as they do that a storm was coming and they would have to "bulk up" for the next few days until they can easily get out of their nests to navigate once again -- I did not do much of anything.  It was heavenly! Today I slept in -- I did not get up until 7:04 a.m.!

View to the southeast from my patio door.
So today's agenda is my usual reading of the Sunday newspaper (already had my one cup of coffee for the day and my morning cookies), taking down the tree and packing away the remaining decorations until next Christmas, and then catching up on visiting my favorite blogs to see what peeps have been up to.


Later on I'm going to make some kind of chicken breast dish.  I picked up a sweet onion and a green pepper yesterday at the Pick 'n Save and defrosted a chicken breast from my stash (you would be amazed at how much food my tall but skinny counter-depth euro-style fridge/freezer at the bottom holds - WAY more than the larger "standard" size with freezer on top I used to have at the former Maison Newton).  I have no idea what it's going to turn out to be yet, I'm just going to experiment and hope I don't poison myself.

Goodbye, 2014 Christmas:


I always take the tree down on Super Bowl Sunday.  It's sad this year because WE WERE SO FRICKING CLOSE, DAMN IT ALL!  At least Aaron Rodgers won his second Most Valuable Player award -- well deserved!  Playing on one leg and taking the team on his BACK (and one leg) ALL THE WAY TO THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP - writers in Hollywood can't even come up with real life stuff like this (which doesn't say much for their imaginations, does it???)  GREEN BAY PACKERS ARE THE GREATEST TEAM THAT EVER WAS OR EVER WILL BE.  I mean - first we had that traitor Farve whom I will hate until the day I die for what he did, going to play for the Vikings - but he was great until it went to his head - he won two MVP awards, and now Rodgers!  THE LEGEND OF GREEN BY LIVES ON.... (imagine echo sound in that voice of the dude who does the NFL Films voice-overs...)  Let us all fervently pray that Rodgers wins a THIRD MVP award.  Ha, Farve, take that, you filthy traitor.

Before I wrap this post up, squirrels were here at the crack of dawn, and they were waiting impatiently for me on the steps leading to the patio as I was "late" this morning.  There they were, pacing back and forth, leaving paw prints in the snow.  When I opened up the blinds they looked up (four of them) and motioned in squirrel sign language WELL, ABOUT TIME!

I immediately tossed out some hazelnuts but the squirrels couldn't find them in the snow.  So I pulled out the broom and while the squirrels watched from their perches on top of the fence and garage roof I swept off the steps and carefully tossed more nuts down.  They were gone in a flash.

It didn't take long for the blowing snow to begin covering up the nuts that I kept supplementing for the intrepid squirrels who managed to make the trip to my backyard:


The squirrels disappeared about 8:30 a.m.  Given the present conditions, I don't expect to see them until later tomorrow morning, after the worst of this is over.  Which means I'll have to get out and shovel the steps off and make a couple of paths for the squirrels to come from the fence lines and the arborvitae to the patio steps.  LOL!  I'm such a "mommy!"

Downsizing - The Wave is Just Starting

This article was in a recent edition of the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel.  After reading it, I realize I'm going to have to come up with a solution to those two sets of dishes now taking up space in my kitchen cabinets!

Baby Boomers Trending Toward Simpler Way of Life
By Nancy A Herrick, Special to the Journal Sentinel
January 23, 2015

Judy Hearst calls it her "30-year cleanse."
That's what she and her husband, Jack, went through several years ago when they moved to Fox Point from the home in Glendale where they had lived for three decades and raised their children.
"You're going through everything you've accumulated, trying to decide what's important to take and what you're never going to use again," she says.
"In many ways, it represents a time capsule of your life. The sorting and the clearing out can be hard, physical work. And emotional. But for me the challenge was entirely worth it."
Hearst is a member of the baby boom generation, the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 who are reaching a turning point. Millions of them are making housing choices that better fit their life going forward, and as a result are going through a downsizing, right-sizing or simplifying process.
"The boomer population has always set the trends, and now they've set a course for a more streamlined life," says Sheryl Connelly, trend analyst and futurist for Ford. "This generation is now trending toward a simpler way of life."
The National Association of Realtors 2014 Generational Trends Report found that many baby boomers aren't content to stay put. Some 30% of homebuyers are boomers, about the same percentage as GenY (31%) and GenX (30%) whose families, and incomes, are growing. Another report, The Conference Board's 2012 Consumer Confidence Survey, found that 29% of Americans ages 50 to 65 say they plan to move in the next five years.
Hearst, vice president and regional manager for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, has not only experienced it firsthand. She calls it one of today's major trends in real estate.
"I'm seeing many people moving from larger houses to smaller homes that require less maintenance, freeing up their time for other things," she says. "Or they're moving from two-story homes to ranch homes in anticipation of what may be down the road.
"I also am seeing many people moving to more urban areas or inner suburban communities from outlying suburbs because they want a walkable community or to live closer to where the action is."

FINDING THE 'RIGHT' SIZE

So just as many baby boomers helped their parents downsize and move to smaller homes or senior living choices, they're anticipating the process as well, though sometimes earlier and for different reasons. The National Association of Realtors report found that the biggest reason respondents ages 59 and older gave for selling their home and moving was to move closer to friends and family (52%). Another 34% decided to move because their home was too large.
"I like the term 'right-sizing' instead of 'downsizing' because there are so many options out there," says Nancy Miller, an interior designer in Milwaukee at formfunc.net/ who has been through the process herself and also helps clients take that step.
"It's about whether your current environment meets your needs and how your next environment can even better meet your needs.
"Some are choosing condos, townhouses, apartments, smaller houses or senior living," she says. "At what point is it downsizing vs. just moving where you want to be and want to live?"

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Two Fabulous D-I-Y Alternatives for the I DON'T THINK THEY'RE AWFUL "BOOB" LIGHTS

Hola darlings!

Never heard or read the term "boob light" until I started visiting D-I-Y and decorating blogs. Which is probably a good thing, because calling this budget-wise and (let's be frank, ladies) practical type of light such a sexist oinky name is downright insulting.  I would have been appalled having such lights installed at Maison Newton if they were called such insulting names back then, but they weren't called "boob lights" then, and there were no such things as blogs (or even the internet) back then, either.  Not sure I'm going to replace my own BOOB LIGHTS in this house, either.  I am fond of my boobs.  I am, actually, outright PROUD of  my big boobs, and they even have nipples. GASP!  What is so fricking wrong about boobs, anyway?  I'm not interested in looking like an anorexic wannabe America's Next Top  Model, either in body, or in my home.

I have such lights here - at least three of them that I can readily see: (1) in the driveway hallway entrance into the kitchen/basement stairs; (2) above the sink; and (3) on the ceiling in the bath/bedroom hallway.  I've seen these identical lights advertised at certain big-box stores on sale THREE FOR $25.  What's not to love about a budget-friendly alternative when one needs new light fixtures to update a space money is tight or you just want to throw up a light fixture while getting ready to sell your house, heh? They aren't obnoxious and just what is this fixation with a woman's boobs, anyway?  Rather sicky, if you get my drift.

I don't have a thing against boob lights. Would I prefer to replace them with more "glamorous" and expensive light fixtures?  Sure. But budget is always a consideration.  I have to tell you, replacing my boob lights is not on the radar of my decorating want-to-do-over.  I don't even notice them.

But -- that's not to say some people don't have a definite hang-up about "boob" lights.  So, as I am a blatant liberal and do not wish to discriminate against anyone, even someone who has issues with budget-friendly light fixtures that they think are shaped like a woman's boobs, check this out, all booblightphobiacs:

 I happened to come across TWO absolutely incredible transforming treatments that just turned my head around in circles, and that normally doesn't happen. I'm not Linda Blair from the Exorcist.  How many of you even know what the hell that is, LOL!

Anyway, here they are.  The first one is from one of my regular-visit-blogs, Simple Details:


It is absolutely beautiful, and much easier to create than I ever would have dreamed possible.  It uses a simple flush mount white glass shade and a Martha Stewart sunburst mirror that retails for around $30 or so,combined together.  Thank you so much for making this incredible do-over, Pam.  Check out the easy to follow tutorial.  I am definitely considering this as a project for my wonderful Handyman, Kevin, as a Spring 2015 project to replace the ceiling fixture (notice I did not use the term "boob light")  in the bedroom-bathroom hallway.  There is not enough room in the areas above my kitchen sink or in the back-hall for this treatment to fit.  So --

Check out this equally glamorous and cost-efficient redo, put together by Emily at mysocalleddiyblog of the Mia Faceted-Crystal Flush-Mount Ceiling Fixture at Pottery Barn -- really pretty:


Thing is, if I upgrade my ceiling light fixtures to look like either of those above, I'm not going to be very happy with the rest of the house... And do I really want a mini-crystal chandy hanging above my kitchen sink?  Not so much -- just imagine all the gunk that it will accumulate when I'm pan-broiling on top of the stove (despite my super-duper exhaust fans).  I have been entertaining having the ceiling mount fixture replaced with a pendant light, maybe two (three?)  Ideally, want to ditch the soffits in the kitchen altogether, but with what seems like a lot of money to me ($20,000), but is a TEENY-TINY budget for a kitchen remodel, don't know if that is possible.

One thing I I fairly sure about, the light fixture in the driveway-side entry into the kitchen/basement stairs isn't going to be switched out!

Tick, Tick, Tick to RETIREMENT!

Hola darlings!

This is it - FIVE MORE WORKING DAYS TO R DAY!

It's coming true - early retirement, and I still can't believe it, but I don't want to pinch myself because if this is just a dream, I sure don't want to wake up.

I gave my "official" notice to Human Resources on January 5th and then spoke with the head of the Practice Group I am in, in early afternoon, giving him the news and the whys/wherefores.  From there, news spread like wildfire.  Until I gave "official notice" I had kept it very close to my vest, telling only one friend at the office whom I knew would keep her lips zipped.  She did.  And of course, my best buddy Ann, whom I've known since 1991.  So it was a BIG surprise, this news of my impending retirement, and something of a bomb to everyone at the firm.

Suffice to say that my bomb turned into a NEUTRON BOMB.  Wow - I never imagined so much drama, but there's been drama a-plenty, mostly surrounding who would be my successor.  It's been - interesting, since we learned, although it's never been officially announced, that evidently the firm's new "policy" is NO NEW HIRES.  Nope - those left behind will have to suck it up and take over the gargantuan work-load (and incumbent stress) I shouldered.  Well, good luck with that.



My last work day is January 30th.  I cannot tell you how many people have come up to me -- people I didn't even know knew who the heck I was -- wishing me well and congratulating me on my "early escape."  There have been lots of lunches with co-workers, a supper with special friends last Tuesday night (it was SO much fun!), and my last week will be very busy with social events and work.

Monday afternoon there will be a "goodbye"get-together with my co-workers over cake in one of our conference rooms. Thursday lunch with two of the attorneys I've worked with for years at the firm.  Friday night, FREEDOM DAY, dinner and drinks with two special friends at Kegel's, one of my favorite places to eat, drink and make merry.  I will turn in my card-keys and commuter-pass and cell phone I never learned how to use, and collect a check for my accumulated PTO and start paying a ridiculously expensive amount every month to COBRA my health and dental insurance.  I won't qualify for Medicare for 18 months.  But my investment advisor and I have both crunched the numbers (me, several times), and I have enough for a comfortable (not lavish) retirement.  Investment advisor advised me to travel, play chess, and laugh a lot.  I like his advice :)

We had a meeting a week ago Saturday and went over the numbers once again and I received lots of good news.  Mind you, I'm not sure I believe his projections 100%, but he does this day in and day out for his living, working with people of moderate means like moi, and he's an upright guy, so I take what he says more seriously than anything I might hear from the kinds of "advisors" and brokers I interact with on a daily basis.  JH is, first and foremost, NOT a salesman. He truly cares about his clients.

I've saved a lot over the years, diligently working at it.  It was a concept I absorbed and adopted as a credo way back in the early 1970's, when I started working full-time.  Dad had always told us that if we wanted something, we would have to do it for ourselves, that nobody was going to magically appear and hand anything to us on a platter.  We would have to work HARD for what we wanted.  My parents did not preach, they worked their butts off (Mom worked full-time outside the home as well as Dad to support our family of eight) and showed us how to go by example.  Mom took me to the local bank when I was 15 to open my very first savings and checking account. I received a "free" Miriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary for opening a savings account of $150. (I still have that precious dictionary more than 45 years later). After that, I was solely in charge of the funds I earned at a part-time job after school and on weekends during school year, and worked full-time in an office (at $1.65 an hour) during the summer from the time I was 14. (Mom and Dad got tired of running my checks through their checking account!)  Of course, before that, there was baby-sitting and chore money saved up, a quarter at a time, turned over to the parents or put into a piggy bank. Every penny counted then - and now!  I still pick up found coins off the street - what can I say?  You know the old saying, A PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED.

Please do not under-estimate teaching your children and young loved ones the ins-and-outs of saving money from an early age on.  Hopefully it will stand them in good stead in future years.

Earlier this year, as things shook out, I ended up downsizing to a smaller and less expensive house (I called it my Retirement Home), when early retirement wasn't even on my event horizon!  Downsizing had always been my plan, it just happened earlier than I thought it would.  As it turned out, it was a fortuitous event. The disciplined saving habits of this child of Depression-Era parents has and will continue to pay off. Thank you, Mom and Dad!  I am very fortunate, and very grateful to be in this position.

Best of all, the anxiety/stress induced angina I've been suffering through for months is rapidly fading into nothingness.  I fully expect to be angina-free as of 5:00 p.m. on January 30, 2015.  WHOOP WHOOP!

What's the saying - one picture is worth a thousand words?  What is a music video worth, then?  I love DONE (Band Perry, above), because in a work context it expresses fully what I've experienced my past twelve plus years of working at the firm.  Time to say GOOD BYE-EYE, OOO OOOH MY-EYE, OOMPH.

I also came across this wonderful music video from the early days.  Does anyone remember the band YES?  I did not remember their name, but I remembered a phrase from the song that cropped up into my memory the past few days. I went hunting for it on You Tube last night.  Found it!  Outside of the wonderful movie "Joe Versus the Volcano" which contains galvanic scenes of worker bees drudging toward the monolithic concrete monster building in which they slave away day in and day out, the words of this song, but most of all, the imagery, fully speaks to what I am experiencing in these, my final days of WORKING ON SOMEONE ELSE'S TIME CLOCK.   I hope you enjoy it's message and meaning as much as I do:


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Joyeux Noelle!

I'm saying Merry Christmas today as I won't be working online tomorrow, I'll be too busy feasting and visiting with the family and I expect most of you will be, too.

I took what I think is a somewhat better pic of this year's Christmas tree:


I really do need to take those drapes down and press them!

Shades of Christmas past, here's a photo of Mr. Don at Mom's house during Christmas, 2008.  Mom's little poodle, Penny, glued herself to Don's side during the entire visit:


And here is this year's version of the Christmas tree at Kegel's, a venerable family-owned German restaurant/bar on Milwaukee's south side (they have the best filet mignon in town):


A long-time friend, Ann, and I, go to Kegel's every season to admire the Christmas tree.  The owner does a brand new themed tree every single year and they are always spectacular!  This year's tree is absolutely gorgeous in person -- it just glows!  It is silver and gold, as you can see -- I should have taken some close-ups, the floral sprays are so beautiful.  We go to Kegel's and exchange our gifts (sometimes saving opening them for later), and have a good meal.

Then we go see the neighborhood decked out along "Candy Cane Lane."  The neighbors in the area decorate their houses and Santa, along with local and sometimes national celebrities, station themselves at the main intersection in the subdivision and collect donations to fight childhood cancer.  Since 1984 the neighbors have collected $1.6 million dollars, and it all goes to the MACC (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer) Fund.  This year's displays were wonderful, and I think more houses participated this year, too (the relatively warmer weather this year and lack of snow certainly helped).

I didn't take any pictures -- Ann drives and I am not good enough to take photos from the moving car (even though we are going slow).  Below is a photo of one of the houses from this year's Wisconsin Hunger Task Force website (you can donate a canned good or cash at a special collection area):


Christmas is a time for family, sharing, community, and traditions.  We need Christmas!  I wish, like the reformed Mr. Scrooge, that people would keep it in their hearts 365 days a year.  Peace, love and harmony to you all.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Trees with a Twist

Hola!

Love this idea!  I found this one at Urban Outfitters' blog:


U.O. put pinned or taped their lights and decorations directly to the wall.  For renters, though, this might not work so well.  What I'm thinking is that it would be easy enough to draw a tree on a large sheet of paper or tape several sheets of paper together and then decorate the seams, or cut a tree shape from corrugated cardboard and maybe cover in cloth -- something that could be taped to the wall and taken down with no damage to or holes (no matter how tiny) put in the wall.  Up it goes, and decorate away.

I found this Christmas made out of pillows at World Inside Pictures blog (22 Unusual Clever DIY Christmas Tree Ideas).  Unfortunately, it linked to a website written in French, but not to the specific post at the website, and I was not able to find it -- so, cite with caution, because I found the same image at several different websites, none of which appear to be the original source and all in different foreign languages:


As a book fanatic, LOVE this bookshelf tree from Swiss Miss -- so clever:


I found another clever use of books or thick catalogs (are there still such things -- I grew up ooohing and aaahing every year over fat catalogs from Sears, Spiegel and J.C. Penney!) at Lush Home, along with several interesting ideas for creating Christmas "trees:"


I found this tree at Organized Clutter blog via Pinterest.  With all the unsolicited junk mail I receive, I'd have enough to make a very BIG tree in practically no time at all, and wouldn't have to commit the ultimate sacrilege of tearing a book apart:

Bed Curtains Are Up!

I was able to get the bed curtains ironed and installed on December 6, as I knew Gayle's granddaughters would love them!

Are those curtains on your bed, Josie asked.  Yes, they're tie-on curtains that I used to drape the bed.  I got the idea from a picture I found online, I said.  Both girls then demanded to see the picture.  I produced it for them.

Mimi O'Connell design, picture from Cote de Texas blog (previously posted).
This looks different, Josie said, and Sophia nodded.  Yes, they are different.  But in this small room, I didn't want to put up curtains that would take up too much space.  [I didn't mention there was no way I could ever afford to hang what appear to be custom-made silk shatung or similar tie-on draperies spilling lavishly to the floor and held in place by gigantic gold tassels.]  Both girls nodded sagely.




I'm thinking about doubling up the curtains on those two corners, as I have a second pair.  Right now my thinking is that having four corner curtains would be too much for the space, even though these curtains are sheer voile.  They are very nice curtains, by the way, am so glad I found them at Amazon.com.  They are machine wash/dry and iron like a dream.  I had a harder time balancing on the mattress to get the curtains up than getting the ties more or less the same distance from the bedframe "rod" to which they're tied.  Once I got the hang of it the curtains went up quickly.  They are 95" long and 59" wide -- and they don't make it all the way down to the floor.  To add a little Christmas bling, I hung a satin and glitter champagne ornament to each tie to hold the curtains in place.

It's almost finished!  The last chore remaining to get my mistress bedroom in shape is to finish the mini gallery wall.  Well, also to start saving for some new area rugs.  I had thought faux sheepskin, but haven't seen anything that's rung my chimes.  I like the real thing -- the thought of my feet sinking into such a rug every morning or evening as I get in and out of bed is very tempting; but then I saw some beautiful grey and white oriental-styles that made me salivate.  We'll see.