Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Puzzles - Winter Themes and Current Challenge

Seems my puzzle completions have gotten ahead of my blogging!

I finished this winter puzzle called After The Snow Has Fallen by artist Joseph Holodook purchased through Bits and Pieces. The theme of snow matches what I see outside my window right now.  SNOW! It was fun and not very hard.  Maybe a week to complete.  I do enjoy these simpler art pieces where the colors and the lines are pretty well delineated without out much guessing involved as to where they should go.

The second puzzle I finished is another wintery scene called Home Again, artist H. Hargrove and purchased through Bits and Pieces as well. This one was little harder due to the blending of colors but even so ... not hard.

Left side of the puzzle.

Right side of the puzzle.

This puzzle, however, had a tricky element to it.  Pictured below on the left is a bush that appears to have need of more bush pieces to complete the image.  There were no more bush pieces!  I got out my magnifier to see if the pieces I put into place really look like they belonged.  They did, line, color and shape.  But obviously not right because I had no free bush pieces left to place.  (Images below) Then I started mixing up the arrangement of the pieces based on shape alone ... and the picture on the right shows the finished bush.  What I have noticed with the Bits and Pieces puzzles is that the way they cut the pieces sometimes results in incorrect placement - even if the shape and picture seem to match.  Not sure if that is common across other puzzle brands or not, but it has soured me a bit on Bits and Pieces puzzles.  

I have a few more to complete but will be interested in seeing if this if this is true with other brands.

Currently I am working on a Disney puzzle called Tangled which is the Disney version of the story of Rapunzel.  I plan to glue the pieces together, frame and give to my grand daughter for her play room.

This 500 piece puzzle is only 14” x 18” and the pieces are measurably smaller that the other 500 piece puzzles I did which ran 18” x 24”.  The pieces show small bits of blended colors and is making this much more of a challenge.  But the picture is beautiful.  

Tangled is part of a 4 puzzle set - all 500 pieces and all 14” x 18” and all painted by Thomas Kinkade Studios. The other 3 puzzle themes are Lady and the Tramp, Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia, and Winnie the Poo.  I suspect they all will be somewhat challenging because they are all done by the same artist in the same size pieces.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Aja and The New Windows

Time for another Aja update.  

I don’t think I have ever done this with any of my previous cats ... regular updates to share adjustment progress.  Nope!  But all those cats came to us as kittens - moldable as clay!  No big deal.  Aja came fully formed with a life and experiences before us ... and as such, she has been evolving on her own schedule with every month that passes! And, of course, she had an owner who loved her before and wanted to know how she was doing!  She is doing great! 


And then I threw a sledge hammer into that delicately built relationship we have worked on.

 I decided to do something very big, very messy, very noisy and somewhat cold!  

The big event that happened this month were window replacements - all 10 windows in the condo were ripped out in what appeared to be a very noisy demolition.  See, I got this great idea in October (when the weather was moderate) that a major home improvement project during a pandemic made perfect sense.  But what I didn’t count on was a January instillation.  

All ten windows were removed at once - letting in all the wonderfully cold January air (not!).  And, of course, there was noise!!! Lots and lots of it.  And there were 4 strange men walking in her condo, walking in her sacred bedroom where even the dog isn’t allowed.  And they were making very big holes in her bedroom walls.  And they were here from 8:30 am until 3:00!!  And it was cold.  

As this was all going on, all I could think was ... we are going to lose all the ‘brownie points’ we had accumulated with our little Diva, and we would be starting ALL OVER AGAIN!  Sigh!

You can’t see her but she is hiding behind the laundry basket.

After all, we had achieved a lot ... “lap time” on both our laps!  Yes, she had even taken to visiting my husband - the blind guy who stepped on her the very first night!  Whatever was I thinking when I scheduled this back in October.  Well ... what I was thinking was that the windows would be installed as promised in early December when it would be warmer.  And I sincerely didn’t understand that ripping out old windows was such a destructive process. 

As the work was going on, I started to worry that Aja, who was hunkered down in my husband’s closet might decide to come out and sit on the window sill - where there WASN’T A WINDOW THERE ANYMORE.  I was fixated on that thought. My God.  She could fall.  I tried to encourage her to come out so I could put her in our bathroom - where it was warmer, and had litter, had food and her comfy cube bed. Nope!  She wasn’t moving.  In fact, she looked at me as if she didn’t know who I was!! My husband assured me that Aja was definitely not leaving her hiding place to sit on any window sill - not with all these men and the noise!  

The condo temperature surprisingly didn’t drop below 50 degrees.  We sat around in our coats freezing but the temperature really was reasonable.

New and Improved.

When all was said and done ... the job was completed, the 4 men left, the heat was back on and the quiet returned ... out she came!! Like nothing had happened!  All was right in her "Diva World!"  Amazing.  How she recovers from stuff is one of the measures I have used to see how she is really adjusting and how confident she is.  How well she “recovers” from a trauma.  In the first few months any interruption in the routine took a day or more before we saw her again.  Now ... within the first hour ... she struts out like she is reclaiming her kingdom!

All in all - I think she has decided this is definitely her home

and we are definitely her servants!  

And she is definitely right on both counts!!

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Diet Game Decision

After days of reading, researching and experimenting a bit

 ... I have come to a sort of decision.

At my age and with my long experience with eating - (ha!) - I know that my ability to adhere to a strict eating regimen will fail eventually even if I am successful for months and months.  It comes down to a simple fact.  I need listen to my body better to feel better - and a structured regimen change with lots of rules and no-nos just never works for long.  

Thankfully the current messages coming from my body fall in line most closely with the Mediterranean diet way of eating, but with a few modifications that I know are realistic for me.  So, let the transition begin.

What does transition look like for me:

  1. There will be no "kitchen purging" - an activity I typically did in the past when I attempted to eat differently.  Items we would normally eat will stay and get used up. But the ’seed’ change will happen in the grocery store - by purchasing the right options recommended.  That means simply, that I will be weaning myself off what I do now.
  2. Finding new recipes to make that are appealing yet simple are a serious transition goal right now - a cook I am not!  For example:  Crushed avocado mixed and chopped hard boiled egg with lemon juice, a little hot sauce, and salt and pepper on whole wheat toast filled the bill perfectly for the traditional egg salad (with mayo) I was craving this morning.  Tasty, simple and somewhat nutritionally improved! 
  3. I love vegetables and can make of meal out them with no effort.  This is the biggest plus of moving in this direction.  I even discovered a website (thank you, Michelle, of Boulderneigh Blog) called A to Z Alphabet of Vegetables - A Veggie Adventure at  It is a grand site for vegetable identification and ideas for cooking them (like 1300+ ideas!). I was stunned that there were soooooo many vegetables. Next summer visiting farm stands will be more exciting.
  4. Backing away from most animal proteins will be easy for me.   I’ll experiment with plant based proteins. Fish and chicken will be my occasional options.  I still will have a tablespoon of evaporated milk in my coffee in the morning.  But my body won’t miss beef or pork at all. (Although full fat bacon will beckon me I am sure  😀) 
  5. My favorite bread is Sour Dough - and that showed up on Mediterranean diet lists as a good choice along with high fiber choices in moderation. Healthy breads are ok for me, but  making bread the “devil" will never fly for me.  
  6. I already use Olive Oil - with almost everything.  I love it especially with bread!  Yum.
  7. I can move away from my high sugar desserts if I substitute another sweet item when my tongue says “Don’t you want to top off that meal with a sweet thing?” - which happens all the time!  I just discovered dried figs as a substitution - knocks out that “gimmy a sweet” reaction.  Fruit sometimes does the trick but not always.  Sometimes a teaspoon of honey tricks my mouth and brain.  I need to retrain this auto reaction to top off meals with a sweet (even breakfast, haha.)
  8. I love red wine and red wine is on "the ok list” in moderation, but most wines upset my GI system.  Vodka with diet tonic (quinine) and diet coconut water (potassium) is my cocktail of choice (in moderation as well - being the daughter of an alcoholic who is extremely careful to avoid that illness,) but vodka is not on “the ok list.”  I did find one wine that was GI acceptable from Black Box called Red Blend - yes, a box wine!  Significant changes in this area probably will not happen. 
  9. And, finally, there will be no calorie or carb or fat or points counting at all.  For some reason, that counting and tracking triggers the strong desire in me to eat up to and sometimes just over my permitted levels regardless if I am hungry or not.  It focuses me too much on food, and not enough on eating just enough to avoid hunger.
I really want to “eat to live” rather than “live to eat.”  In fact in my researching I found a book called Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, MD.  Reading about things I want to do is always inspires me to stay focused.  I haven’t begun to read this book, but one statement in the 2011 summary of the book on Amazon really rang true for me.  It referred to a new added chapter in the updated printing: 
It explains how and why eating the wrong foods causes toxic hunger and the desire to over consume calories; whereas a diet of high micronutrient quality causes true hunger which decreases the sensations leading to food cravings and overeating behaviors.

Toxic hunger!!  Now doesn’t that paint a descriptive picture.  I know that sugar causes a toxic hunger in me.  After the blood sugar ‘high' is over, the blood sugar ‘low' takes over ... and I am at the refrigerator once again looking for a snack.  Carb rich foods do the same thing.  Once I have read this book I will update it here on the blog.

Anyway, I think I have a plan that just might be sustainable.

  And that is the real crux of the issue, isn’t it.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Diet Game

After months of self isolation (and no real end in sight), no access to my senior gym and no logic to my food intake - I am feeling pretty sluggish!  

My go-to methods to combat that feeling are not cutting it now.  I am a big fan of Weight Watchers as a healthy and successful method for losing weight BUT I am not a big fan of the tracking you needed to do for the long term.  I am not a fan of the low fat diets, low carb diets, low calorie diets or the restrictive “buy your food from us” diets either. They all require some form of tracking and tracking is what I can’t do for the rest of my life.

Then, on the TV last night there was a story about the best and healthiest diets from U.S. News World Report ... you know, one of the many topics typically covered in January.  They mentioned the top 3 diets for health and weight loss.

#1 Mediterranean Diet


#3 Weight Watchers

I did a little research on the internet ... and depending on the site, #2 and #3 could be exchanged for the Flexitarian Diet.  BUT, the Mediterranean diet is always part of the top 3 on all the sites I visit.

Feeling like I need to take some action to combat this sluggish feeling, I am going to give the Mediterranean diet an official “try" while I am stuck at home with time on my hands.  I have often said I could be a vegetarian if I was feeding only myself.  And the Mediterranean diet is heavy on fruits and vegetables, and low on red meats, sugar and saturated fat.  Since I am still feeding one other person - who is a meat and potato man - it will mean more food prep for me (who hates cooking, ha!)  But it seems that my body chemistry is changing anyway, and I frequently crave a lettuce salad and chicken or salmon over eating a burger or a steak.  I often prepare two different meals now because I don’t feel like eating what he is eating.  

The other biggie in my mind ... besides the lack of tracking is ...  because this is an eating pattern - not a structured diet - you’re on your own to figure out how many calories you should eat to lose or maintain your weight, what you’ll do to stay active and how you’ll shape your Mediterranean menus.  Good.

I really need to do more reading on how to stock my kitchen and what to make.  

Anyone else on a Mediterranean-style diet and have feedback about it?  Any resources you know of to round out my knowledge of this subject?  As luck would have it I have America’s Test Kitchen, The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook already.  I’ve been attracted to this eating plan before apparently - must have bought the book!  Ha!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

A Sad Day We Will Get Passed!

Dear Blog Friends,

I know that all of you share my shock at the events of this day at the Capital of the United States.  I was watching the senate proceedings on TV when I saw the live events unfold on TV before my amazed eyes.  The Trump demonstrators pushed passed the Capital guards, breaking windows, entering the Capital.  It was unbelievable to behold.  I kept hearing someone saying “oh no, oh no, oh no” not realizing it was my voice I was hearing ... until my blind husband who could not see the TV - said “tell me, tell me, ...what!”  And I had to tell him the terrible truth that my eyes were seeing.

This evening I am hearing the reactions from our elected representatives and other countries - “an attack on Democracy,” “praying for the country,” “an insurrection,” “President Trump holds responsibility for this event.”  And of course, there was a death.  Reactions of disbelief.

Later pictures arising on the news from within the Capital ... of the demonstrators in the senate and house chambers, in the offices, pawing through papers, posing with feet propped on desks, offices vandalized, guns raised, Trump flags waving ... So many disturbing images.  These images will be hard to forget!   

To those outside the US - the unrest at present is only at the Capital.  Videos might lead one to think this violence was more wide spread.   It was only at the Capital, but this was a strike at the heart of our country.  A desecration.  A kind of terrorist attack. Abhorrent because it was orchestrated over the last 4 years by a sitting President through his words and attitudes.  A final crescendo to overturn the will of the people.  Historic. The worst possible type of historic event.  

After the rioters where cleared from the Capital, the Senate and House returned to complete their work - the confirmation of the vote count for the next President of the United States. 

Remember - what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.                                                                                     I believe we will be stronger as a result of this event.

The voice of the people has not been overturned!

 The man who was chosen by the people ...  Joseph Bidden ... will be our President!

And prayers ... yes ... we could certainly use them.  

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Another Puzzle - Early Stages

Felt a little lost not having a puzzle in the works this morning. 

So I started another one.  

The next puzzle up is a little more seasonal!  

This one is called - After The Snow Has Fallen from Bits and Pieces (link), artist Joseph Holodook.  It looks like fun.

  This puzzle is only 500 pieces - like the first one I did - which was also from Bits and Pieces.  

The initial dump of pieces is like looking at a pile of building blocks for me.  The first thing I noticed was the size of the pieces are larger!  My first impression after a month of smaller pieces is - this is a puzzle for kids!  Ha! (the box says 14+ years of age.)

The photo above shows 6 pieces from two puzzles to the demonstrate the difference.
  The Macabre Mansion puzzle are the brown smaller pieces.  
The 6 blue pieces above are from the snow scene.
  Big difference.  
The snow scene has a far less detailed picture as well.  Guessing this 500 piece puzzle will be easier.

First step - sorting the pieces is done.  Next step is constructing the edge pieces.  

One of my regular visitors and readers, Michelle of Boulderneigh Blog (link), suggested trading puzzles with others who enjoy this pastime.  That idea has a lot merit - especially if you are not a “repeater” like me - someone who doesn’t typically get enjoyment out of doing the same puzzle again at some point. If there is any interest is something like that let me know.  It would be fun to organize a group interested in  sharing puzzles.  It would involved sending puzzles to others ... so trips to the post office, but a nice idea to work out.

In my shopping around on the net, I found most puzzles fall into the $10 to $25 dollar range in cost.  A reasonable expense for a month’s worth of enjoyment.  The Macabre Mansion puzzle was expensive as puzzles go - about $35 to $40.  I enjoyed doing the Mansion puzzle - even though it was pretty hard and it took about a month to do, but I don’t think I would do it again.  I purchased the Mansion puzzle off the artist's website (  Probably more expensive because of that and I might try to avoid stuff over $25 since it seems I will be doing more of this until we are virus free.   I hear that Costco sells jigsaw puzzles which might also be a good source to find puzzles at a discount.  And Amazon as many options.  And there are thrift stores an dollar stores and even some box stores like Walmart and Target that are options - if it is ever safe again to visit those places.  Oh well, I have about 8 puzzles in my collection now and that should keep me going for awhile.

I love having a puzzle in the works.  In looking through various websites for puzzles I discovered that doing jigsaw puzzles right now is HUGELY POPULAR!  Sometimes a puzzle sells out before I even discover it.  It is just one of those things that makes passing the time at home (while socially distancing) bearable.  I can attest to the fact that it does eat up time, does fill a ’need’ that I can’t find the right word for, and it is relaxing (at least during times when I am not fretting that a pieces are 'certainly missing'.)  

I’ll spare you the progress stages going forward.  It was just fun to share those observations with you.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Edger Alan Poe - Macabre Mansion


This is the second puzzle I have attempted since returning to jigsaw puzzles as a past time and this one was a doozy.  Hard, hard, hard. 

It is called Macabre Mansion and each cut away room of the mansion represents one of the stories of Edger Alan Poe.  He wrote pretty dark stuff and that is why the house looks haunted.

Box Cover

I learned pretty early on that if I wanted to feel like I was making progress on this puzzle I needed to take pictures at various stages and compare.  It was too easy to imagine that a puzzle about dark stories might be “dark” itself - putting in pieces and never getting ahead.  And sometime it felt just like that.

November 29, 2020
I couldn’t help the feeling that I might have bit off more than I could chew with this puzzle.
After all, the first puzzle was only 500 pieces and it moved along consistently.  This puzzle I took many breaks from.  I would get 4 or 5 puzzle pieces in and then it would just dry up.  Nothing.  I would take a break and come back 5 or 6 hours later - and put another 2 or 3 pieces in - and again, it would dry up.
And so it went for days.

December 8, 2020
It was between December 8 and the 25th that I inspired myself to keep moving forward by playing a little mind game.  With each piece that I put in I reminded myself I didn’t need to sort through THAT piece again if it made it onto the puzzle board.

December 25, 2020
At Christmas I could really tell a difference.  Christmas, being what it was this year (quiet with no demands) I pushed forward wanting to finished before 2021.

December 30, 2020
I could see progress if I looked at the board, but finding the correct pieces didn’t get all that much easier.  I decided that the pictures were small and the pieces were small and the visual clues of the surrounding pictures didn’t seem to help all that much finding the missing piece.

January 1, 2021
Ok, so I didn’t complete it by the end of 2020!  But it is complete.
I can’t tell you how many times I decided that a piece was missing.  That I looked through all the remaining pieces and could not find the one I was looking for.  I would have bet money
pieces were missing.  Nothing was missing.  Glad I didn’t express that thought out loud.

In the last week of completion I found myself running my hands over the finished areas
enjoying the feeling of being so close to done.

A few close ups to show the complexity of the images.  


It stayed like that overnight and I enjoyed looking at it again over coffee this morning.
Now it is broken apart and into its box.  I did hold out the edge pieces and put them in a separate baggie just in case I repeat this puzzle again.

It is hard to know if I will repeat making any of the puzzles I have.  I don’t re-read books, or duplicated knitted items.  I am not much of a repeater.  But you never know.