A Retired Professor

Before We Were Yours

Two weeks of physical therapy and more to come.  The doctor gave me a shot in my knee yesterday and said it would hurt “a bit”!  Yes it did but it got worse as the day wore on so I propped my leg up on the couch, poured a glass of wine for medicinal purposes and finished this wonderful, moving, sad at times book, Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.

It’s hard to believe that children could be taken from unsuspecting parents and the parents were told the children would be safe until the parents could get on their feet financially.  However, the children lived in The Memphis Tennessee Children’s Home Society under deplorable conditions.  Their names were changed so parents couldn’t track them down and they were adopted out for large sums of money.  All of this really happened from the 1920’s through 1950.  It’s a powerful story about family and the ties that bind them.  As the character May says, “A woman’s past need not predict her future.  She can dance to new music if she chooses.  Her own music.”  The sisters in this story did just that.  Their tale is one that will stay with me for a long time.

Super Bowl Sausage Dip

Super bowl Sunday 2018 is here!  Time for lots of food that’s so bad for you, entertaining commercials on TV, and oh, yes…football!  I’m cheering for the Philadelphia Eagles for two reasons.  One, they’re from PA like me; and two, New England has won too many times!  I’m going to my eldest son’s home for the big game and taking the best and easiest dip in the world.

My friend, Charleen, is the originator of this recipe.  We have made it every year now for at least ten years at her Florida lake house when she invites five lucky friends each October for a girls’ weekend.  We are fondly known as “The Ladies of the Lake” and Charleen makes a double recipe of this dip Friday evening when we arrive.  No diets for the weekend so we totally indulge in this creamy goodness.  After we stuff ourselves we refrigerate the leftovers and reheat them on Saturday evening after a day of shopping.  It still tastes good.

Whip up this delicacy this afternoon.  Don’t think about the calories or your clogged arteries. You and your besties will love it.

Sausage Dip

Simple Ingredients

1# sausage such as Jimmy Dean regular

1 can Ro-Tel original diced tomatoes & green chilies

1 (8 oz.) package of cream cheese (Philadelphia brand, in honor of the Eagles)

In a skillet over medium high heat, brown and crumble the sausage.  Lower the heat to medium, stir in the Ro-Tel, juice and all.  Stir in cream cheese.  Heat until cream cheese has melted.  Pour into a small crockpot to keep warm.  Serve with Scoops.

The Finished Dip…bring on the Scoops!

My Day As A Spice Girl

My day as a Spice Girl all started because I can’t go to my Orangetheory exercise class right now since I have injured my knee.  I was restless and felt like a couch potato.  Heck, I can’t even go for a 30 minute stroll (definitely not a power walk) right now without pain!  So, I was scrolling through Face Book and saw a post in my feed called  How Jane Does It and clicked.  Well, I was entertained for more time than I care to discuss here but got motivated to do SOMETHING besides sit!  I will warn you that Jen is in her early 40’s, married with two teenage boys and she has more energy than the Energizer Bunny.  Also, she’s a talker!  Her style of organization hit a note with me.  You would think that by now I would have this whole thing down but retirement has allowed me to ignore certain things and I seem to lose interest in a project or get tired or side-tracked.  Her 15 minutes a day zone routines make a lot of sense.

I clicked on her organizing spices video.  Before you stop reading this, smirk, and raise your eyebrows, give it a chance!  Honestly, it was cathartic!  I followed her system by lining up all my spices in alphabetical order on the counter and found that I had multiples because I didn’t plow through all of my little bottles in the past assuming I didn’t have what I needed and bought another.  Like Jen, I bought 9 small (9 inch) lazy Susans at Bed Bath & Beyond using my stack of coupons.  Here are my before and after photos.

Spice 1 BEFORE
Spice 1 AFTER

Watch her video for details on how to organize this part of your kitchen. Honestly, I’m hooked and since I still can’t exercise, I  have moved on to watch more of her videos and am giving the 15 minutes a day plan a go.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

 

Spice 2 AFTER
Spice 2 BEFORE

Why these two pictures of Spice 2 are backwards is beyond me and I couldn’t get them to swap or align.  I love technology!!!

One more thing, I was so disgusted with my Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday that I went on to clean and organize all of my kitchen cabinets after the spice success.  I also logged 7,503 steps yesterday!  Not bad for a Spice Girl with a bum knee who never left the house.  I guess housework has its advantages.

Old-Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings

Southern Living Magazine scored another comfort food recipe in the January 2018 issue.  Yesterday I made OLD-FASHIONED CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS (click on the words for the recipe) and it was very good on a chilly evening.  I served it with fried okra, mixed greens salad and a glass of Chardonnay.  I added half an onion, coarsely chopped, to the carrots and celery.  I would probably add a bit of poultry seasoning next time for a little more spice.

The Story of Arthur Truluv

Sunday afternoon.  Things are warming up in SW Florida!  68 degrees inside and out with the sun shining.  Still feels cold to us Floridians.  Perfect time to finish a book with a nice glass of Chardonnay.  Chicken simmering in a pot for chicken and dumplings later today.  If that recipe turns out good I will post tomorrow.  This may be the last day for cold weather comfort food!  Yeah.

I just finished The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg.  It’s a quick read and in some ways a slow start but so worth the read!  Arthur has been visiting his wife’s grave at lunch time daily and happened to see a young girl, Maddy, in the cemetery.  Maddy is a senior in high school and has had a difficult relationship with her father since her mother died when she was a baby.  She never seemed to fit in. The story of Maddy includes isolation and bullying in high school but she befriends Arthur.  Arthur shares cookies, made by his neighbor, Lucille, with Maddy and that brings Lucille into the story.  All three characters have pasts that seem to pull them together.  Eventually the three characters form a “family” and the past and present of their lives intertwine.  At one point Arthur tells Maddy, “But the longer I live, the more I come to see that love is not so easy for everyone.  It can get awfully complicated.  It can make us do good things but it can also make us do bad things.”   Later in the novel, Maddy writes, “…real families come from choices we make about who we want to be bound to, and the ties to such families live in our hearts.”

Loved this book.  So bittersweet.  Worth a read.

Beef Stew, Winter Coats and Southern Living

Yes, my friends, this is what I wore to go to a meeting yesterday morning and I live in SW Florida!  I felt like I was back in PA.  When it gets cold in FL it feels much colder than it does in the north.  I heard a story on the TV news about cold weather myths in the south.  No, our blood does not thin but we may lose a layer of fat that keeps us warm.  That I find hard to believe because I think I have kept my layer and maybe added to it!  The story also stated that our capillaries help to register how cold we are and that changes the longer we live in the south.  Now that’s more believable!  In addition, we do not lose more body heat through our head but I don’t believe that either since a hat always kept me warmer.  I guess when faced with medical facts I still tend to hold onto my beliefs and that phenomena is researched in learning theory. Here’s the link to the video for you to make your own decision:  Cold Weather Myths

I digress since this post is really about making beef stew!

Since it was so cold yesterday and I had just read a recipe in the January 2018 issue of Southern Living for beef stew, I decided to make it.  It was wonderful!  It simmered all afternoon and I do believe that buying the chuck roast and cutting it up was far better than purchasing stew meat.  Click on Southern Living Beef Stew here to get the recipe.  I’ve included a few pictures below to entice you to try it. Heck, most of the country is frigid right now so it will warm you up with nice comfort food if you can get to the grocery store for the ingredients.

All the best, dear friends and I hope we all warm up soon!

 

Here’s the roast cut up, dregged in the flour mixture and browned.  I really think using the roast was a super idea!

 

 

 

 

 

The recipe called for 12 ounces of beer but there was only 11.2 ounces in one bottle.  Rather than skimp on the liquid, I opened a second bottle and felt compelled to drink the beer not used in the recipe.  Heck, it was afternoon so why not!  It seemed a shame to waste it.

 

 

The finished product!  I served it with warm biscuits and green salad.  Yum!

 

 

Finding Joy and Happiness in 2018

The ending of a year and the beginning of a new year gives people the desire to look back and look ahead.  What goals did I accomplish?  What brought me joy?  What have I learned about myself, others and the world around me?  What do I want to accomplish in 2018?  What will bring me joy?  What do I hope to learn?  These are all of the questions I have been pondering recently.

I purchased a book, 52 Lists for Happiness:  Weekly Journaling Inspiration for Positivity, Balance, and JoyErin, from Living in Yellow Blog and Facebook page, shared the book with her readers.  I liked what I saw and let my fingers do the walking with Amazon Prime.  I think it’s just what I need to focus and answer the questions above.  Yesterday, I opened the journal to List 1:  List what makes you happy right now.  Simple exercise and very telling.  I was able to list 21 things in record time but noticed that BLOGGING was not on the list!  Hmmmm, maybe that’s why I have so much trouble writing posts more regularly.

I had blogging goals for 2017.  I would write and post one blog per week.  That didn’t seem like much.  Never happened.  I had lists of topics and pictures to go with some of them but writer’s block, procrastination and probably laziness prevailed!  Why?  In some respects, I was focusing on the wrong topics and trying to be like those professional bloggers out there who probably had a staff, a photographer and an IT person.  I have none of those and really don’t want them!

I’m at a cross-road right now.  Can this blog bring me joy?  I don’t know.  Finding joy is my number one goal for 2018 by only doing things that bring me happiness.  I must make a decision by the end of January to continue or give up the ship.  In some ways it’s hard to take the site down but on days when I don’t understand the website design lingo or worse yet, my site crashes, I say turn the darn thing off.

My book of lists ends Lists 1 with a TAKE ACTION statement to take one item on my list and see how I can turn it into a daily practice of happiness.  The blog is not on my happiness list and I doubt it can become a daily practice of happiness.  However, maybe it could become a source of joy with some tweaking…baby steps.  Stay tuned.

For now, I will continue to ponder the fate of A Retired Professor.  Maybe let it go or refocus the type of blog it can be.  What do you think?  What topics would you like to read about?  More book reviews?  More recipes?  More pondering as I work through my happiness lists? I’d love to hear from you.

Yellowstone, Badlands and Irma

I’m warning you now…this is a LONG post!  How can I describe two life-changing events with just a few words and pictures?  I may look carefree in the picture below but inside I was worried!

Where do I start relating the events of the past 10 days?  I suppose I should start back about 5 months ago when I was thinking about the places I wanted to visit on my bucket list.  Yellowstone National Park was at the top of the list since I had wanted to see Old Faithful since 4th grade when I saw pictures of it in a textbook.  For years it was never a priority but retirement and mature aging made me rethink how to spend my time.

I didn’t want to go alone and single supplemental costs were prohibitive so I started searching for safe ways for singles to travel.  I came upon Women Traveling Together (WTT), a 20 year old company with excellent reviews.  It caters to women who want to travel solo but not alone and not as a “fifth wheel” with other tour groups.  WTT limits most groups to 14 travelers and gives people the option of a roommate assigned by WTT.  I called the home office and talked to a representative there.  I did more research on the group, looked at the itinerary for the Yellowstone tour and sent in my deposit.  All was well in March when I did that.  Hurricane Irma wasn’t even something that entered my mind as a possibility!  All I can say is I’m glad I purchased trip insurance because Irma certainly delayed my trip home!  One of my friends told me I win the prize for the best evacuation plan! Little did I know when I left on September 3 that one week later my home was in danger and I was worried about my family and friends.  More about the Hurricane later but first let’s talk about the beauty of Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota!  Happy thoughts first.

Sunday. I eagerly boarded the plane to Bozeman, Montana on September 3.  Irma was churning out in the Atlantic thousands of miles away from Florida and no one was in a panic about her arrival.  Hurricanes are notorious for meandering around and changing course several times before deciding on a destination.  My bags were packed and I was off on my adventure.

Pictures can never do that part of the country justice!  The experience of looking out over a valley or mountain range or desert or the wonders of what Mother Nature can do rivals any visual.  God certainly gave us a beautiful world to see and nurture.  Thank goodness people had the foresight to establish national parks before their pristine beauty could be altered.  One of my favorite quotes was posted in the Yellowstone Visitor’s Center about the purpose of the park:

…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”  Organic Act, 1916

I traveled with a wonderful group of 14 travelers and one tour leader.  We came to Bozeman from all over the country.  We were different ages.  We had different life stories.  We all loved to travel. We bonded as only girlfriends could over meals, searches for happy hours, stories, excitement, awe, compassion and yes, my friends, shopping!  We traveled in a van and answered questions from curious travelers along the way.  Ladies I will always cherish our time together….Jan, Kit, Jean, Barbara, Sandy, Toni, Julie, Kate, Cathy, Sandie, Tricia, Sue, Lori and Chris,  you are the best travel buddies.

Aside from intriguing destinations, there were other surprises in store!  Take huckleberries for instance; they were found everywhere and used for interesting products including vodka!  I plan to order a bottle from the Jackson Hole Liquor Store.  It’s yummy!  I had it served with lime squeeze, soda water and splash of sprite.   I may try it with lemonade too.  That concoction comes highly recommended too!

                                         

Other huckleberry treats included Twizzlers and lip balm!  I indulged in those also.

Monday. After Bozeman and meeting everyone over dinner, we traveled to Yellowstone on Monday morning, Sept 4, Labor Day.  One of the highlights of the travel that day included the scenery and the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.

         

We were up close and personal with these animals.

Tuesday. We traveled the lower loop of Yellowstone.  We hopped on and off the van multiple times to see the wildlife that abound.  I got to see Old Faithful that day and it did not disappoint!

   

We had lunch in the magnificent Old Faithful Inn with its towering stone and wood structures completed in 1904.

We rode and hiked and repeated those actions all day long.  We were a bunch of tired puppies at the end of the day. We saw geysers gushing water into cool streams.

   

We viewed blue hot spring pools and bubbling “paint pots” along wooden walkways with a warning to stay on the paths since folk legend has it that a misstep can wind up making you into a crispy fried human!

We stopped to view waterfalls gushing over rocks into canyons and beautiful green mountains.

  

We never saw any bears in the wild since they have all moved up into the mountains

but these pictures from the late 1950’s or early 1960’s show how it used to be!

 

Wednesday. We traveled the upper loop of Yellowstone.  We were very excited to see buffalo or bison along the way.  Pictures below include Upper/Lower Falls, Artist Point, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Mammoth Springs, and the travertine rocks.

                        

 

 

Artist Point with our Tour Leader, Jan        First group to hike down Mommouth:  Julie, Jean & Me

Dinner was at a very interesting ranch that evening, Bar N Ranch, near Cody.

Thursday. We left early for Cody, WY.  The scenery changed again as we traveled past more rugged views.  As we made the turn, there in front of us was a large herd of buffalo!  We scrambled from the van to watch, snap pictures and keep our distance!  These animals are big and you don’t want to meet one nose to nose!

Lunch was at Irma’s, named after Buffalo Bill’s daughter.

 

We visited the Buffalo Bill Historical Museum in the afternoon.

Friday. This was a very long day of driving across Wyoming on our way to Rapid City, SD via the Bighorn Scenic Highway.  I loved the scenery that became more awesome with every hairpin turn!  Thank goodness Jan was a good driver.

 

We stopped at the Sheridan Inn for lunch.  The inn was made famous because Wild Bill would hold auditions for his Wild West Show on the porch and front lawn.

Saturday. We drove about 3 hours to the Badlands National Park.  The terrain changed again and was beautiful in its starkness.  From a distance, we finally saw a big horn sheep on this day.

 

We paid a visit to the Wall Drugstore in Wall, SD made famous for advertising free ice water to travelers in the 1920’s.

After dinner we went to Mount Rushmore to see the evening lighting of the monument and it was truly a moving experience.

It was time to say good-bye to my fellow travelers since the tour officially ended that evening and most folks were traveling home Sunday EXCEPT for me, unexpectedly I  might add, and a few others who had planned to stay on and see a few more sights.

Hurricane Irma.  This is where my adventure and Hurricane Irma merge.  I had been following the weather channel broadcasts all week as the storm grew and was heading for Florida.  First it moved east and then it kept moving west as it made its northerly turn.  From all reports, folks were panicking back home…getting hurricane supplies and boarding up houses.  Friends were being evacuated.  I was tearing through data on my phone watching live updates between taking pictures and enjoying my tour.  Jan, my WTT tour leader, was wonderful.  She asked every day what I had heard and if anything could be done to help me.  Travel partners did the same.  The Colonel boarded up my house and rode out the storm there since his neighborhood was evacuated.  Lots of noise, the storm passing just west of my home even though the Colonel says we were in the center of the eye.  Power gone.

The red line is the path of Hurricane Irma and the dark circle is where I live.  The eye was very close.

I was delayed leaving Rapid City, SD until Wednesday.  Luckily Sandie and Tricia had planned to stay on and tour so they took me along.  We visited  Mount Rushmore during the day followed by Crazy Horse and the sights in Deadwood.

 

While traveling with these ladies we lunched on 2 scoops of ice-cream for lunch each day!  What a treat.  I rationalized that the 10,000+ steps per day offset the calories.

We spent a day in Rapid City shopping and finding the presidential statues on street corners.

 

 

If you don’t live in Florida you have no idea what it’s like to be without power.  I felt a tiny bit guilty on tour because I had low humidity, cool mornings and air conditioning during the day.  It was quite different for my friends and family back in Florida.  High humidity, temps in the 90’s during the day and high 70’s at night.  No relief and frayed nerves.  My neighbor and good friend, Mary, commented on  relationships during the storm by saying  “only the strong survive…we were borderline.”  Moms were posting on Facebook that there wasn’t enough wine to get them through hot sweaty days with whiny children continually asking when the power would come back on!

My house survived very well.  Pool cage damage. Vegetation in my neighborhood destroyed.  A lot of debris to clean up.  People are pulling together to help each other out.  The human spirit prevails!  We are living through flooded neighborhoods, spotty power, gas shortages, curfews, very little produce and fresh items in grocery stores.  Young families are facing an additional week with no school!

When I landed in Sarasota on Wednesday, I received a text that the power was back on in my house!  What luck!  God answered my prayers…my family was safe, our homes survived, my adventure seemed to be timed well, I made 14 new friends, and I arrived home safely!  I will always remember Irma with a mixture of happiness and anxiousness.  Life is certainly an adventure.

As I look back on this trip I am still moved by the beauty we find in nature.  I am also moved by the respect travelers showed for the natural resources we saw.  No littering.  No nastiness.  Just respect.  I like that.  I think all citizens should see our beautiful country to appreciate all that we have in this beautiful country.  It makes one find inner peace, hope and for me, a belief in our future.  Not all is doom and gloom.I leave this post with a salute to the linemen who came from all over the country to help Floridians get power back!  You guys are remarkable!

Thanks Women Traveling Together.  I look forward to other trips with you, seeing sights with like-minded travelers.  However, next time I could do without a hurricane!

Custom Phone Case

Happy almost Labor Day weekend!  Several of you have commented on my phone case.  That’s a picture of my “babies”  taken during a family vacation this summer.  Purchased from a great company with quick service and nice quality case.  I smile every time that I use my phone and see those cuties!  Click the link below for ordering information.  25% off through September 4.

www.mycustomcase.com

Sunshine, Roof Rat and Dressing Room Diaries

The sun is finally shining and the world in SW Florida is drying out.  The flooding we have seen is nothing compared to the devastation in Houston and their surrounding areas.  During times like this, the good people of our land come out to help.  It confirms my belief that caring people abound and enormously outweigh those who choose take advantage of folks at this time.  God bless the American spirit and our willingness to care of those in need. There are many organizations out there helping the flood victims.  One to consider contacting is the American Red Cross.

My spirits were lifted this morning with the sun streaming in through the windows while reading articles in the paper about the humanitarian efforts locally and nationally.  Then my eyes wandered over to the view out my sliding doors and I saw something floating in my pool.  My greatest fear is snakes and I have chased a few away and managed to dip a few little black snakes from my pool but this was not a snake and without my glasses on it looked like a dark gray blob.  On closer inspection, I realized it was a dead mouse, or so I thought.  After posting a picture of the little critter on Facebook, a friend wrote that it was actually a roof RAT!  Now, rats sound much more ominous than mice.  These rats live on roofs and can produce 20 babies at a pop!  Lordy!  The pool guy is due to clean my pool today so I left the dead little rat to float to the skimmer for my pool knight in shining armor to remove.  It may be days before I get in the pool once he adjusts the chemicals!

To keep my mind off the rat situation, I decided it was a good time to run a few errands and pay a visit to the Loft store.  I had seen several other bloggers post this cute little dress and I was hesitant to order it online since it is a final sale, no returns.  I decided to see if my local store had it in stock.  They did, but unfortunately, a lady snapped up my size while I was there but she graciously let me try “her” dress on for size and it was love at first sight!  She had put the dress on hold while she left to get a manicure and returned while I was there.  If I hadn’t known that she was recovering from surgery and looked a bit pale and tired, I would have snatched it out of her hands once I tried it on.  Civility prevailed and my dress is on its way via USPS.  I think it’s perfect for my upcoming trip to Key West.  I ordered it in a small.  Here’s the link.  It’s 50% off the sale price right now.

Link to Floral Dress

 

I am going to Yellowstone, Cody and Rapid City next week.  Yellowstone has been a bucket list destination for me since I saw a picture of Old Faithful in my 4th grade textbook!  I had been following the weather and thought some long sleeve tops would be perfect.  They will be perfect for Yellowstone but it will be much warmer in Cody and Rapid City so I must rethink this whole packing thing!  I’m on a tour and we are encouraged to pack light and packing light is not my strength.  So while in the dressing room trying on the dress I was coveting that the other lady was purchasing, I decided to try on some new tops that will work for the trip and for Florida weather.  My dressing room philosophy is if you are getting undressed make it worth your while and try on many things that catch your eye.  Here’s everything I tried on but not everything made the cut!

Link to Plaid Cascade Sleeve Top

Link to Striped Square Neck Blouse

 

Link to Chambray Cold Shoulder Blouse

          

Link to Blue Print Blouse

So as not to give you indigestion and nausea, I’m posting the dead rat last!  Poor thing.

Wishing you sunshine, good thoughts for our fellow man and

dressing room diaries of your own.

 

 

 

 

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