Mooving is for the birds!!!

Mooving is for the birds!

Mooving is for the birds!

 

By my calculation, my family has moved four times in the last nine years, and we are getting ready to do it again.

Let me just say the entire process is extremely stressful. ‘Back in the day’ as a single person, I moved plenty, but then it was just a matter of tossing a few sad pieces of furniture into a friend’s pickup truck, and finding a new apartment. Moving with a family has multiple moving parts. Add in selling and/or buying a house and you have a whole new stress level.

Cat on ceiling!

Cat on ceiling!

 

It’s hard to say whether myself, or my husband is more high-strung throughout this process. We seem to take turns. However, we’ve been blessed with a Real Estate agent who manages to talk us down off the ceiling periodically.

I wonder is it the great unknown that causes all the anxiety? The what ifs which normally thrill me as a writer, are enough to make me become unglued as the head of this moving project.

As for my writing, it has taken the proverbial backseat yet again, while I sort out all the details of this move.

I feel badly for my children who would rather be enjoying a fun-filled summer and are instead stuck with me negotiating with contractors and cleaning out closets.

I am aiming for a bird-like a philosophy. Birds build new nests regularly. I found this article about Robins,  www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/robin/BuildNest.html stating that they may build between 20 and 30 nests over the course of a lifetime. Birds go through a whole process in selecting a suitable site for their nests, collecting materials and putting the structure together with their beaks as their only tools.

Dove in England

Dove in England

Perhaps I needed reflection on this today, humbled by my feathery, woodland friends. Or maybe, moving is truly for the birds!

Thanks for reading and I know I am behind on Artistic in the District. There is more good to come as soon as I smooth out my ruffled feathers!

 

Overwhelmed in the T.P. Aisle?

Do you think about BRANDING much? Branding is the new buzz word. Every product on the market has a brand or brands. 

I find the number of choices overwhelming at times. Here I am in the toilet paper aisle, just trying to get through all the options. Drowning in a world of excess, where does one begin?

 

www.eileenslovak.com

The T.P. Aisle at Giant Supermarket

 

I refer to my trusty coupons for guidance:

www.eileenslovak.com

Coupons!

  • If I buy two packages of one brand, I can save $1.00.
  • If I buy one mega roll I can save $1.25.
  • If I buy one package of toilet paper and one package of paper towels of the same brand, I can save $1.00.

Suddenly my head is spinning! Then, I look at the prices of these brands: $8.99, $9.99. Are they serious? They do know what we use this stuff for? Right?

I think about how my kids go through it like it grows on trees. Oh, yeah, right.

My husband loves to tell the story of his days growing up in Ireland and the one room schoolhouse with the outhouse where all he had to use were old squares of newspaper. Ouch!

I try to think about which brand my family prefers. My husband suggests, “you know, get the ‘cushy’ kind, I hate that thin, skimpy stuff.”

Several different brands that claim softness and extra cushioning. These cushy on the ‘tushy’ types all look the same to me. I try squeezing a few to see if one feels better than another. It reminds me of a commercial from my youth. Advertising at it’s best, this is forever etched on my brain. Still, what makes one brand better than another?

www.eileenslovak.com

“I claim the 5th. Hey, it worked for Lois Learner”
-Licorice

 

In the end, I rely on some insider knowledge from my manufacturing days. You may or may not realize store brands are typically made by one of the major producers of any given product line.

Great Value is a Wal*Mart Brand

Great Value is a Wal*Mart Brand

Think about it. Supermarkets are in the business of selling food not manufacturing it.

What happens is, a private label, designed by a graphic artist, is placed on the bottle of finished product, the same product with the well-known name that might even be merchandised on the shelf right next to the store brand, but at a higher price.

The added cost of the specialty brand pays for advertising and marketing. The branded company is betting on your loyalty to their name brand to keep their share of the market place.

I pick up the trusty store brand toilet paper and place in my cart, tossing the coupons aside for a savings of $2.00 or $3.00 a package at times. Every week I save 25-30% at the supermarket by shopping the sales, selecting store brands, and using coupons where it makes sense. Every penny saved puts me closer to developing my brand, www.eileenslovak.com.

Thanks for reading!

For more fascinating facts about toilet paper see:

http://encyclopedia.toiletpaperworld.com/surveys-stories/toilet-paper-statistics

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/may-2009/home-garden/toilet-paper/overview/toilet-paper-ov.htm

A. Sex, Money and Sleep

Q. Name three things couples fight about.

Do I have your attention?

What is all the fighting about? Most would agree the problem is a matter of not enough.

 

#1 Sex

It is interesting that man and woman ever managed to procreate. For women, intimacy in the relationship is a physical manifestation of our emotional state. For men it is a physical act bringing about an emotional state. Do you see the difference? So how do you bridge this gap? The easiest way for men to get what they want is to give us what we want, emotionally. First, men would have to know what that is and women refuse to tell them because we think they really ought to know already, right?

Confused? I am not surprised.

Here are a few hints for men: It may involve listening. It may involve role reversal. On the other hand, it may involve role-play.

Now women cannot expect men to take on all the responsibility for this task on their own. For women, connecting with men may involve less talking. It may involve role reversal. On the other hand, it may involve role-play.

Then there is the problem of the other two things that we argue about getting in the way of #1.

 

#2 Money

A former employer of mine once said, “Money is only a worry for the middle class, because the poor don’t have any and the rich have more than they need.” He, of course, was wealthy. I was middle class. He was also a jerk, right?

Although, he may have been correct. For the middle class ‘striving to do better’ has become our mantra, even if we never feel as though we are making any headway. In the US, we worry about our lackluster economy. We wring our hands while watching our elected officials throw our money away with both fists. Food and gas prices soar, while salaries shrink. We feel, in a word, hopeless. It is difficult enough to support oneself in this environment but then add-on a spouse or a family and the stress multiplies.

We have only two options: spend less $ or make more $. Well, there are only so many hours in the day. With all of this weighing on the mind, how does a person ever get any…?

 

#3 Sleep?

Adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. According to the experts at Webmd, getting less than this can cause a “sleep debt” which leads to impaired functioning, memory loss and/or lowered immunity.

What if you are working two jobs to secure more (#2) money? When do you sleep? What if your spouse is the cause of your sleep problems because he or she tosses and turns or snores all night long? When you are so exhausted, so worn out, how do you ever find the time or the desire for…?

#1 Sex!

Here we are right back where we started! Get some sleep folks! Guaranteed you will feel a whole bunch better.

 

Some good sources for Sex, Money, Sleep:

http://psychcentral.com/lib/sexuality-and-marital-intimacy/00012148

http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/24/news/economy/middle-class-economy/

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/video/sleep-personality

http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-requirements

 

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Idol Fascination

Well, I am officially a captive home viewer of this season’s American Idol. In case you missed it, here is my take away from last night’s show.

First, let ask you something. Does anyone else out there think that if all of your favorite contestants are still on the show, that you could very well be a guest judge? I mean, why not? You and I may not be famous and/or talented but we know what we like, right?

I was impressed when MK Nobilette sang “To Make You Feel My Love,” the Harry Connick Jr. love song from Hope Floats. The fact that I woke up this morning singing it is a sure sign MK is among my top three, that or I was dreaming about Harry’s blue eyes again last night ;).

Anyway, thanks MK! On a side note, she could easily get away with sitting on a stool, aka Jewel, and stop awkwardly trying to move around the stage. I find it distracting and unnecessary.

Caleb Johnson still has the biggest, booming male voice I have heard in a long time. If he does not win Idol, there will surely be a top rock band or two ready to take him on. Caleb gave a stellar performance of Adele’s “Skyfall.” Even if you are not a James Bond fan, you have to love that tune. They really could have stuck with all Bond movie themes instead of “Cinema Themes,” it would have made for a better show.

Among the ladies, last nights big voice award was a tougher call. Jena Irene and Malaya Watson belted it out as divas do, although, the softer performances of Jessica Meuse and MK, as mentioned, were no less captivating.

If the group is not already recording a top performers CD, I am sure it is in the works.

True confessions time: I watch the show, but I do not vote, because I can never decide.  I am no closer to making a decision now about my favorite than I was a few weeks ago, but I am looking forward to tonight’s show. Good luck all, from this spellbound home audience member!

Locks of Love
Salerno, Italy
www.eileenslovak.com

Some Valentine’s Day Advice for Men

This one’s for the guys…and here’s why…

In a few short days, it will be Valentine’s Day. It’s that special day when women’s hearts swoon in anticipation of the thoughtful, romantic, elaborate plans thoughtfully made by their beloved.

Now let’s be honest…despite the fact that the ‘big day’ is less than a week away, most of you men have no idea what to get for your wives or girlfriends.

What? Some of you are offended? I realize there may be that random male freak of nature out there who has a beautiful night of passion planned. You sir, have my sincere apologies. Feel free to move on to other blogs. To the other 99.9%…as it’s generally understood, admit you’re clueless and read on.

These are confusing times. We women send mixed signals. I truly sympathize with the complicated, modern male predicament.

Case in point…of course she wants chocolate! If she could, she would trade you in for your weight in chocolate. However, don’t you dare give her chocolate! Unless your wife/girlfriend has a freakishly high metabolism, this is the kiss of death! If you give her chocolate, you’re not getting any! And I don’t mean chocolate. Of course that won’t be shared either.

Before you judge us, there’s a reason why women love chocolate. It actually creates the same chemical reaction in the body as love. It’s not half bad as a substitute.

You may even escape unscathed, let’s just say, if you were to order chocolate from one of the best chocolatiers in the world…like Maison Du Chocolat in Paris  http://www.lamaisonduchocolat.com.  A tiny, gorgeously wrapped box of minuscule, delectable, French chocolate heaven might impress your heart’s desire. Maybe you’ll be forgiven for the excess calories. Alas, it is getting late, even for express shipments from Paris.

Besides, do you really want to give her the substitute for love? Or do you want to give her love?

Why is Valentine’s Day so freaking important to women? What you have to understand is that this really has less to do with you, than you would think.

It’s a contest among women, the ‘who had the most romantic Valentine’s Day?’ contest. I blame Hollywood, but truly, it begins at work with the office flowers, the love bears, the fruit bouquets and goes downhill from there. Most of us women, don’t even want to participate in the Valentine’s Day office wars, but we have no real choice. If we slink to the back of the pack, they call us out.

“Hey, Sally. What did Jake get you for Valentine’s Day?”

Poor ‘big boned’ Sally, has two options here, to lie…or to tell the truth. Wouldn’t it be great, if just this once dear, sweet Sally had something amazing to tell? Something to make the anorexic Jennifer’s, and the bubbly Brittney’s and the saccharine Susie’s sing in unison, “AWWWWW!!!! That’s so sweet!”

Listen guy, you don’t have to be a super stud to pull this off.

OK, here’s the plan…you take that same box of Parisian or Belgian chocolates and lay them on a pillow…not just any pillow, but a pillow in a smarmy hotel…not just any hotel…but one with a Spa. If you’re broke, use points or make your own bedroom look like a spa. You pre-book Spa treatments for both of you, side by side. Her masseuse is a hot dude named Enrique and (I’m sparing you from a huge V-day fight right here) yours is a zaftig, German woman named Helga.

If you have children, YOU find and vet a suitable babysitter, plan a sleepover for the kids or even better, find a relative or trusted friend to watch the kiddos, because she won’t be able to relax if she’s worried about them.

OK. Honestly, I’m really only equipped to offer advice to the married men. We wives of multiple years, have dangerously low expectations.

Maybe your woman has a favorite singer, a favorite sports team, a favorite museum or a favorite Broadway show, whatever it is! Make it happen! Remember when you were dating? Remember how hard you tried? You know this woman better than anyone else and if you don’t, well, shame on you! Show her that knowledge. What blows her skirt up?

Maybe she really does love to play pool or air hockey and isn’t just faking it. You stage a tournament at ‘your place’. You let her win, but not obviously, so she can bellow, “I am the air hockey queen!” After which, you arrange to have her favorite song play. Better yet, you arrange to have your ‘couple’s song’ play. Even better, you find a decent singer to announce a dedication to her and have him sing the song. Best, you secretly take singing lessons and sing the song yourself. OK, that’s a bit Hollywood.  Then, you sweep her out to the dance floor and whisper something romantic in her ear. WIN, WIN!

You have a ‘light’ dinner DELIVERED and have champagne or her favorite wine, beer or soft drink on ice.

If you’re doing this at home, candles really are romantic. Do it! Just don’t burn the house down.

And…if you didn’t send them to the office, skip the bouquet of flowers, because one red rose or her favorite flower (bonus points!) given at the appropriate time is still really hot.

Most importantly, give her a totally, unique gift. This is where, if you can’t afford diamonds (because diamonds truly are forever!), you can still make a big score. A friend of mine told me her husband had a bracelet handmade for her out of recycled typewriter keys. It spelled out the acronym of their favorite romantic saying, ILUTD, “I love you to death”. Even I was like, “What??? Who does that?”

I know. It’s some tough competition. But, I have faith in you. Man-up and do this thing right.

The bottom line is…surprise her, rock her world! Do all of the planning and the thinking, just for just one night. Because she’s F***ing tired of taking care of everybody and every detail. I promise, you’ll get what we all know you really want and she’ll love you for it!

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
www.eileenslovak.com

Photo Blogs Speak a Thousand Words

I was reading a post by Om Malik about the preference for long verses short posts.  It started me thinking about what catches my eye when scrolling my blog reader.  Sometimes it’s completely random and based on mood. Sometimes I’m captured by a good title.  But, usually, it’s a great photo that draws me in.  Which makes me wonder, why am I so lazy about adding photo’s to my own posts?

It’s not for a lack of photos, I have thousands; including some terrific shots of Europe. But then, there’s so much that’s photo worthy in Europe, it’s almost impossible to take a bad picture.  I’m dropping a few of my favorites in here…see what you think.

Boats in Ischia, Italy www.eileenslovak.com

Boats in Ischia, Italy
http://www.eileenslovak.com

So…what makes a photo interesting or intriguing?  Is it the mood or feeling it inspires?

Does it invoke curiosity or introspection?

Band playing for runners in Paris www.eileenslovak.com

Band playing for runners in Paris
http://www.eileenslovak.com

Is it unique, artful, skillful or comical?

Self Portrait, Paris, France www.eileenslovak.com

Self Portrait, Paris, France
http://www.eileenslovak.com

The rhyme or reason of my photo ‘likes’ is tricky to define:

I do favor flower photos, not in a Georgia O’Keeffe sort of way, just vibrant close-ups, with the amazing detail nature provides.

I admire animals, but I’m getting bored with cats and dogs anything else is infinitely more interesting, even farm animals.  That might seem common to some.  But for me, they provide a sense of peace in a pastoral setting.

Foal, Matera, Italy www.eileenslovak.com

Foal, Matera, Italy
http://www.eileenslovak.com

Anything shot in black and white gets me every time.

I’m also wild about awesome landscapes, trees, the moon, water and certain insects.  Like I said, it’s hard to narrow it down.  The fascination of a photo may lie in the viewers desire to imagine what the photographer was thinking when he/she took a particular shot and whether or not that translates through the photograph.

Oh and of course…there’s the incredible edibles!

Shop Window in Modena www.eileenslovak.com

Shop Window in Modena
http://www.eileenslovak.com

With so many excellent photo blogs out there, I began to wonder why I’m stingy with the like button?  Can’t I like as many blogs or photos as I would like to?

My new favorites are the nicely paired poem and photo combo, as in these two blogs:  The Source of Inspiration and The Wanderer, check them out if you get a chance.

 

 

You might just want to stop and sit awhile with some photo blogs:

Café in Cetona, Italy www.eileenslovak.com

Café in Cetona, Italy
http://www.eileenslovak.com

Or put on a sweater…

In the very least if an image makes the viewer smile;  that should be enough, now shouldn’t it?

Locks of Love Salerno, Italy www.eileenslovak.com

Locks of Love
Salerno, Italy
http://www.eileenslovak.com

Farm Stand Fresh
www.eileenslovak.com

Farm Stand Fresh is Best

If you look carefully, you’ll see signs of summertime, as local farm stands and farmers markets begin a new season. This year, I’ve decided to buy local more often and enjoy fresh, seasonal favorites. The first stop, a quaint little place I’ve driven by countless times on my way to the soccer fields: Spider Hall Farm. I even love the name!

Here are some of the bountiful, delicious treats discovered and sampled: organic meats, all natural ice cream, fresh salad greens, produce, baked goods, butter, yogurt, jams, breads, rolls, cheeses, salad dressings and craft items.

Among the large assortment of natural ice cream by Prigel Family Creamery in Glen Arm, MD, available, I can personally vouch for the cookies & cream and the caramel pretzel.

This weekend, our family will enjoy free range eggs with natural Pork Sausage from Fairfield Farm, Park Hall, MD; just one of the many organic meats from the Spider Hall freezer.

And for a special decadent treat, handmade chocolates by Schafer’s Candy, Meyersdale, PA.

Oh, yes, they are every bit as good as they look. Off you go then, find yourself a local farm and take a stand, or at least sit awhile.

Fresh summer all!

Cavewoman with a Spear

If early woman had picked up a spear, where would the women’s movement be today? 

Cave woman’s main objectives were berry picking, keeping a nice cave and raising offspring while cave man ran around with his pals, spear in hand chasing mammoth and other beasts.

When cave man returned from the hunt, he surely threw down a slab of meat, said “Ugg”, built a fire and then retired to the cave to make cave drawings.

Meanwhile cave woman tired from gathering things all day, prepped and cooked the meat over an open fire pit, nursed the babies and protected the cave toddlers from the fire and then spent the evening tanning mammoth hide and creating fashionable clothing for the entire family.

Even then, cave man had the better end of the deal, the thrill of the chase, camaraderie, action, and adventure and yes, risk of potential and untimely death – affirmative.

So what if cave woman had picked up that spear?

Well, some would argue: who would have watched the cave babies?

Well, there must have been cave grandma’s and grandpa’s, teenagers, elder aunts and uncles, unable to keep up with the hunt, who could have helped raise the kids.

Bringing the women on the hunt would have meant more hunters, maybe even a slightly different skill set or perspective, potential for bigger and better prey.

Yet, if cave woman died, who would have the babies?  Well, when cave man died, procreation continued.

In addition, one could argue that not every cave woman possessed the desire or endurance to join the hunting party, so there would still be new cave babies born.

During the hunt, would the cave men spend all of their time protecting the cave women and therefore be less productive or at greater risk of death?  Maybe, that was their natural instinct.

Finally, would cave woman be able to protect cave man when necessary?

Consider the following scenario:  while cave man was out on the hunt, cave woman was alone with the cave babies and sometimes a hungry cave bear entered the compound…

Cave Bear in Tuscany

Cave Bear

I would be willing to bet that whenever that happened, cave man returned weary from the hunt, to find bear meat roasting over an open fire pit.