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Monday, August 31, 2015

What would change if you won the lottery?

Like millions of others, I play the lottery every week. I have a set of numbers memorized which makes it sort of necessary to play. Suppose I don’t play one week and my numbers come up … I would pull out my last hair.

Like so many others I often fantasize what I would do if I hit the jackpot: move to a nicer neighborhood, drive an exotic car, go shopping for clothes, shoes, and jewelry, donate to the local animal shelter and help a few of my friends.

Beyond that, I don’t actually have a clue what I would do with millions of dollars. Do you? Having no money brings problems, but having tons of money would no doubt bring problems too.

To find out a little more about a lucky winner I recently read “Lottery” by Anita Burgh.

Peggy, the main character wins the jackpot and as a result, her life, that of her husband and three children dramatically changes.

While the book was a nice enough read, the alcohol consumption of the main character bothered me to no end. I lost count of the amount of gin this woman guzzled. Gin and tonic in the morning, for lunch, at dinner, and while watching TV. Forget glasses, this woman went through bottles and bottles of the stuff, interspersed with red and white wine and brandy.

She drank when she was happy, she drank when she was sad, she drank alone and she drank in company. I got the feeling that whenever the writer didn’t know what to do with her character, she had her reach for the bottle.

Admittedly, her life was not without problems. Her husband hooked up with her best friend, her children treated her as their own personal piggy bank and friends and neighbors suddenly gave her the cold shoulder. Still, is that any reason to start downing gin and tonics?

Every person with a bit of common sense knows that alcohol doesn’t solve any problems, if anything, it creates more of them.

Fortunately, this is not the first book I’ve read from Anita Burgh. If it was, I might not go for a second.

Has the book altered my enthusiasm for winning the lottery … not at all. 

There’s no chance of a cheating husband as I’m divorced and will never marry again (not if you held a knife to my throat).

There would be no children fighting over financial favoritism as I only have one child and he would share in my good fortune.

Friends would most definitely not turn their backs on me, as I would pay them a visit and present them with a nice check.

And if neighbors were to give me the cold shoulder … who cares, I would soon have new neighbors. 

Neither would I become a drunken lush as I don’t drink at all.

So, next Friday I’m going to play my numbers as usual, keep my fingers crossed, expect the worst but hope for the best.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Eat, Pray, Shove

After seeing the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” (a few times), I got curious about the book.

Some told me it was good, but not as good as the movie, some said the book was a disappointment, while others still loved the movie but downright hated the book.

With so many different opinions, I wanted to compare for myself.

The first thing I noticed was that Liz’s four months in Italy seemed weak. Having a thorough knowledge of Italy, in particular of Rome and Naples, I found the writer’s description of the cities amateurish. Almost as if she had researched the cities online, rather than actually spending time there.

Her description of the ashram and her spiritual journey in India I found fascinating, although it bothered me that she continuously grieved over her failed marriage. 

As a happily divorced woman myself, I can understand that she mourned lost love when she first separated from her husband, but she divorced the guy for heaven sake. If she loved him that much, she should have stayed with him. 

Still, I continued reading. That is until I got to the deep meditation part. I found it a little hard to swallow that Liz’s one and a half hour of pray singing every morning at the crack of dawn helped her nephew, who was thousands of miles away, sleep better. But okay, I could get past that.

What I couldn’t get past, and what I thought was complete baloney was her statement that she had seen God, been with God, even been inside God. That did it for me. I had enough of this and abandoned the book.

Now it so happened that a few days later I met Amid, a young Indian man from Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta. 

Ever curious about other countries, their customs and their people, we got to talking and I asked Amid if India  was as poor and desolate as some stories led on.

“Not at all,” he chuckled. “India is a thriving country with beautiful architecture, many businesses and young entrepreneurs, luxury homes and exotic cars such as Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bugatti and of course Porsche.”

One topic led to another and I asked if he had ever been to an ashram. Amid shook his head, an ashram was not his cup of tea. He knew about them of course, but he wasn’t keen on them.

“They’re for people who want to get closer to God, right?” I asked him.

“Ashrams are for rich people who want to get closer to God,” he corrected me.

“And the poor people?” I asked.

Amid shrugged. “They have to find God elsewhere on their own.”

He was familiar with Elizabeth Gilbert’s story, “Eat, Pray, Love” and had nothing good to say about it. He loved the movie and he loved Julia Roberts’ performance, but the book he classified as absolute rubbish. 

According to Amed, Gilbert romanticized the ashram experience and exaggerated shamelessly. He classified her as an attention seeker who had but one goal … to have her story published and would have gone to any lengths to do so.

I tend to agree with him. Some parts of the book were good, but Gilbert went a little too far, thus turning an educational story into a bunch of nonsense.

What bothered me about this author is that nobody can reach her. Plenty of bestselling authors have a “contact me” button on their website and a page on Facebook. They encourage their readers to get in touch with them and are happy to hear from them. 

Not Gilbert. She can’t be reached through her website and neither can anyone send her a message via Facebook. 

What is Gilbert so afraid of? 

After reading a few reviews on Amazon, I found a lengthy one of Lynne701 that hit the nail on the head. Rather than copying the whole review, I’ll limit myself to merely mentioning Lynne’s second last paragraph which states:

My biggest problem with this tome is that this 30-something woman basically is looking for applause for running off for a year, ostensibly supported by a $200K book advance, to "find God." I'm sure millions of women would love to leave their everyday lives and travel the world to do nothing but self-analyze. If she had done volunteer work, I may have felt differently. If she went through some real hardship, I could sympathize. But she was in an incompatible marriage, then dumped by the guy she left her husband for. She should perhaps speak to those battling life-threatening diseases, or raising children alone, or taking care of an elderly parent, or worried about where their next meal is coming from.

Lynne's review was appropriately titled "Eat, Pray, Shove".

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

10 Tips on how to save money

In today’s world it’s all about going green, eating organic and saving money. Just this morning I came across an article that promised all kinds of money saving tips, along with tips for a healthier lifestyle. Not all the tips were helpful though.

Tip 1: Put plants in your bedroom

This might not be such a good idea. While some plants might be air purifying and give off oxygen, others give off carbon dioxide at night. The last time I was in hospital the nurses removed all plants from the rooms and put them in the corridor.

Tip 2: Install a low flow shower head

Sorry but not on your life. I lived in a condo a while back where the bathroom had a low flow shower head and I put up with it for exactly three days. After that I called the management office and the superintendent and demanded a regular shower head. Have you ever tried to get shampoo and conditioner out of your hair with a low flow shower head … it takes forever.

Tip 3: Clean with vinegar

While vinegar might work for same purposes, in general it doesn’t do the trick. For instance, I tried to clean the inside glass of the oven door. I tried vinegar, I tried baking soda, I tried the two combined with quite a bit of elbow grease and nothing worked. Only when I switched to Cif, steel wool and elbow grease did the glass get clean.

Tip 4: Unplug the TV when not in use

A fine idea but impossible to execute in my place. My TV sits in a wall unit. In order for me to unplug the appliance I would have to move the nine foot cabinet or squeeze through the gap between the cabinet and the wall (which is about 4 inches). I’m slender, but I’m not that thin.

Tip 5: Invite friends in winter

Instead of turning on the heat, the article suggests that I throw a party and cuddle up with my friends to keep warm. My friends are spread over the four corners of the earth so that’s not going to work. And even if they could come over at a moment’s notice, and I would want to snuffle up with them, I’ll bet they would say … “Hey, don’t get fresh”, or “Sorry, I’m married”.

The writer also recommend snuggling up with a cat, a dog, or another animal. Well yeah, that can work, but eventually the animal will move.

Tip 6: Use a microwave vs. a conventional oven

Sorry but in my case that is not going to happen. You can’t roast a chicken in a microwave; you can’t make a pizza in the microwave; and you certainly can’t make roast potatoes in the microwave. Not to mention the amount of radiation the food gets exposed to. In another article, another writer cautioned consumers about over using a microwave.

Tip 7: Sleep on organic sheets

You know, I’d love to sleep on organic sheets, unfortunately I can’t afford them. A quick price check revealed the following … set of white sheets in Walmart $14, set of organic white sheets in Pottery Barn $50.

Tip 8: Wool not polyester

The writer recommends switching from polyester sweaters and blankets to woolen ones. Again, I’d love to, but my bank account is going to protest. Real wool sweaters and blankets cost about four times more than polyester ones. Plus, cleaning them is a nightmare. I remember washing a cashmere sweater ones and after drying it was the size of a handkerchief.

Tip 9: Go for a mattress that is not treated with chemicals

I did some comparing here too and I was rather shocked. A regular mattress at JC penny $399, at Sears $359, at Mattress Firm $599. A mattress not treated with chemicals at Austin Natural Mattress between $1,299 and $3,500 (on sale mind you).

Tip 10: Shop at a farmers market

Not too long ago I was at a farmers market and walked away empty handed. The fruits and vegetables were beautiful and much bigger than in the supermarket, unfortunately they were also much more expensive.

Bell peppers in supermarket - $0.60

Bell pepper at farmers market - $1.50

Strawberries in supermarket - $2.99

Strawberries at farmers market - $5.99

Zucchini in supermarket - $1.20

Zucchini at farmers market - $3.00

You get the idea.

I’m sure that many of us would like to go organic, but it’s just too darn expensive.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday is Cat Dat - Sink Appeal

Most cats are afraid of water, 
yet the kitchen or bathroom sink holds a magical appeal.

Charlotte ... 
Tap water is so much better from the tap than from a bowl.

Gabriel ... 
the dishes will have to wait.

Mickey ...
Unidentified stationary objects

Mickey ... 
Don't even think of opening that tap

Chanel ...
I don't care for sinks, I prefer the top of the fridge

Holly ...
I don't care for sinks either, I prefer the inside of the fridge. 
But where did all the food go?

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Eye Emporium vs. LensCrafters

On May 22nd I went for an eye exam. I remember it so precisely because it was my birthday.

As it turned out, my current glasses weren’t strong enough and the optometrist upgraded my prescription.

On two previous occasions, I had been a customer of LensCrafters, but a neighbor advised me to try Eye Emporium, they were much cheaper he said.

Three weeks after handing in my prescription, someone from Eye Emporium called me that my glasses were ready for pickup.

That very same day I made my way to the store. But it was not the happy occasion I expected. When I put my new glasses on, I couldn’t see with them. I couldn’t see far, I couldn’t see near, I couldn’t see anything.

I went back to the doctor, with my new glasses, and as it turned out, Eye Emporium got my prescription wrong. I was given a new prescription and went back to the store.

This time I had to wait over three weeks because my glasses to be recut and when I was notified that they were ready, I felt somewhat hesitant. Was everything going to be alright this time?
“Don’t worry if the glasses don’t feel right,” I was told at Eye Emporium. “It takes about a week to get used to progressive lenses.”

Once home I put them on, and … OMG what the heck was this? Whether I looked left or right, up or down, everything was fuzzy.

To cut a long story short, I went to see the optometrist yet again and took my new glasses with me. Rather than examining my eyes, he examined my glasses and told me that, in the left lens, the focal point was 4mm off. 
“Does that matter?” I asked him. 
According to the doctor it mattered very much.

Eye Emporium didn’t agree. I was told that the focal point being 4mm off didn’t matter at all. Personally I was more inclined to believe a doctor than a sales clerk, but as things were they were totally uncooperative.

Back to the optometrist again, who this time send me off with a personal note that a 4mm difference in focal point most definitely mattered and Eye Emporium had to see to my needs.

I was seriously considering chucking Eye Emporium and going to Lenscrafters for new glasses, but Eye Emporium wouldn’t give me my money back and I wasn’t prepared to fork out extra money to have the lenses recut from scratch. So off again I went.

At this point, I think they were as fed up with me as I was with them. But we had to give it one more shot.

They made me wait this time. I was obviously their least favorite customer and everybody else was going to be served first before they got to me.

Last Monday they finally called me. My glasses were ready for pickup, again. And this time they did their job right. As soon as I put the progressive lenses on, I knew everything was fine. I didn’t have to get used to them, I could see fine, right away.

Will I go back to Eye Emporium if I need new glasses in the future? Not a chance. 
I would go back to LensCrafters. Yes, they are more expensive, but their service is impeccable.

Would I recommend Eye Emporium to anyone? Absolutely not.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Stuffed Zucchini

I don’t know about you, but every now and then I get fed up with cooking the same thing over and over again. I want something new, something I’ve never eaten before.

As such I subscribed to “Daily Recipes” and every day I get something new emailed to me. Most of the time I delete these messages, because a) the recipe doesn’t appeal to me, b) there are far too many ingredients, c) it’s a meat I don’t eat.

Mention deer, duck, goose, rabbit, crab, lobster, etc. to me and I’ve lost interest within seconds.

Last Thursday, that changed. I noticed a recipe for “Stuffed Zucchini”. Hello, that sounded interesting. Since I had zucchini in the fridge I decided to give it a go.

I had all the ingredients except for spaghetti sauce. So Dieter was sent to the grocery store while I busied myself with the preparation of the zucchini and the potatoes.

An hour or so later the zucchini was ready and … well, for starters the dish didn’t look like it did in the picture.

What it was supposed to look like

What it really looekd like

Dieter came to take a look and asked if he should call 911. Just in case …

Hoping for the best I dished up and … yack, this was awful. The zucchini and the sauce tasted fine, but the mince tasted like slimy cardboard.

Right away I knew what the problem was … a cup of bread crumbs was way too much. A tablespoon would have been sufficient.

In case you want to try the ingredients were:
3 zucchini
1 pound pork sausage
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (32 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

The preparation read as follows:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. Trim stems from zucchini and slice lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and put in bowl. Mix seeds with sausage, garlic, bread crumbs, and parmesan cheese. Stuff squash with sausage mixture and place in 9x13 inch baking pan. Pour sauce over squash and cover pan with foil.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until sausage is cooked. Remove foil and cover with mozzarella cheese. Cook until cheese is melted.

Just remember, if you’re considering preparing this dish, replace a cup of bread crumbs with a tablespoon of crumbs. To give the mince added texture, add an egg.