Friday, November 30, 2012

Enjoy the Holidays More: Get Rid of Holiday Crap

Guest Blogger Erika Oliver, MPA, gives a good lesson in how to relax and enjoy the holidays more by getting rid of the "crap" that holds up back.

Whether you embrace the magic of Christmas, are kin to the Grinch, or fall somewhere in between, the holiday season brings many opportunities for both stress and joy. It's easy to get caught up in the stress but often hard to tap into the joy. Holiday "crap" -- obligations, deadlines, expectations -- can make the season more stressful than joyful.

Don't despair. You can cut the crap and enjoy the season by choosing your perspective, deciding what you want to focus on, and taking action to avoid or relieve the holiday pressure.

1.  Cut the crap by sharing three good things. Share three good things about the day or season before you even think about complaining. The most common words during the holiday season are "busy", "stressed", and "tired". Throw the negative words into your mental back seat and replace them with words of gratitude.

2.  Cut the crap by revising, replacing or removing traditions that no longer serve you. A child asks his mother why they cut off the end of the holiday ham and the mother says, "Because that's the way my mother did it." The child asks the grandmother, who says the same thing. When asked, the great-grandmother says, "Because the ham wouldn't fit in the pan!" Maybe it's time to recheck traditions and routines to be sure they still fit, have the same meaning they once did, or produce the intended results. If you are doing something that creates tension, cut the crap by revising, replacing or removing something that no longer serves you.

3.  Cut the crap by creating a holiday exit strategy. Prepare for a positive finish to the holiday season. Decide what experiences are important for you and how you want to feel when the season is over. If you don't want to be tired, broke and stressed, then make a plan to end the season with energy, joy and financial well-being.

4.  Cut the crap by taking your eyes off your plate. Holiday negativity festers in a closed environment. Stress can cause us to isolate ourselves emotionally and physically, so cut the crap by reaching out. The holidays are the perfect time to take your eyes off your own plate and look to fill those of others.

5.  Cut the crap by dousing the flames of negativity. Firefighters teach people to "stop, drop, and roll" if their clothes catch on fire. The same strategy works to cut the tendency to focus on the negative and miss the positive. When you feel tension, stop what you are doing, drop your negative feelings and roll into appreciation of the moment. Go back to step one and share three good things about the day, moment or season with someone to tap into the positivity of the season.

Happy Holidays to one and all.


As a positive communication coach, business consultant, and author of the award-winning Three Good Things: Happiness Every Day, No Matter What! and Three Good Things: A Coloring Book for Everyone! and now Happy Crap: The Power of Positive Assumptions, Erika Oliver, MPA, helps people, teams, and organizations find their "happy." She uses the principles detailed in her books to help people and organizations choose a positive approach.

Before focusing on spreading the happy kind of crap, Oliver consulted with businesses of all shapes and sizes to build teams and share their positive messages with the world. Oliver has taught at a community college in business and communication and addresses audiences that are ready for business -- personal or professional -- as unusual.

To learn more about this recovering pessimist's positive communications approach, please visit Oliver's web site

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thankful? Then Shopping

My son just sent me a note to say that the infamous Black Friday shopping extravaganza is beginning even earlier this year. WalMart stores will be open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day to kick off the chaotic holiday shopping season.

8 p.m.? That's so early that most of the dishes won't even be rinsed and washed from the feast and will there even be time to enjoy some pumpkin pie?

I wonder. 

I doubt that it will be too long before the stores are open 365 days a year, with no holidays off for any of the employees.

I think maybe we all should put our foot down and say that this one day, Thanksgiving Day -- possibly the best holiday of all because it's about gratitude and sharing with loved ones -- is off limits to commercialism.

I can't help but think that spending time with family and friends or seeking out old friends who are home for the holiday should be the main activities Thanksgiving night, not waiting in long lines at the big box stores.

But maybe this is a Boomer thing and I am way out of touch. Won't be the first time!

Have a wonderful holiday. Wishing you good times with your friends and family.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Good-Bye to Leaves, Color

This maple tree sits in our front yard. This October, the tree fairly glowed with its brilliant yellow leaves. To its right were some trees with bright orange leaves which set it off perfectly. 

I took this photo on a Friday and texted it to the family, especially to our son and his wife who now live in Florida and miss the changing of the seasons.

Several days later, I took the photo below of that same tree. Not a trace of yellow in sight.

Even though we love the seasonal changes, wouldn't it be nice to have these colors stay for a while longer, say two or three months? Not asking too much I don't think, and it would make November much easier to enjoy!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Celebrating Halloween

You probably don't have to go very far down your street to find a house that is brimming with skeletons, stuffed scarecrows and bales of hay supporting cute little autumn stick children.

Halloween is big, and getting bigger every year. More and more homes are decorated for the holiday causing some of us to think that the spooky holiday might yet rival The Holiday Season for money spent.

No, says one of the Internet's fact-checking sites. In terms of total sales, Christmas is still biggest. With statistics culled a few years ago, the website reports that Christmas spending hovers around $460 billion with Halloween coming in sixth in the holidays comparison with about $5 billion.

Beating out the October holiday are:

  • Mother's and Valentine's days ($13 billion)
  • Easter ($12 billion)
  • Father's Day ($9 billion)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Putting the Garden, Flower Pots to Bed

Cool mornings the past week can only mean that fall has arrived and soon, way too soon, winter will be here. I have been staring at my leggy, emaciated impatiens for days now waiting for a warm, dry day to pull out the plants and put away the pots.

I know there is a special way to winterize pots that are left outside, but can never remember what it is. I found the answer in a terrific post at The Farmer's Almanac website which discusses winterizing your garden.  You are supposed to dump out the dirt in each pot and then store them upside down over the winter. That keeps them from storing water that can freeze and crack the pot.

This year I bought a fairly large outdoor storage box to keep under our deck. It can hold a lot of the assorted pots we now have sitting all over the deck and front porch, and help to keep the garage a little less cluttered than usual.  It seems like it will be a very long time till I will be refilling the pots and planting flowers again, but the way time is flying by anymore, it won't be long at all.  Seriously, where did August and September go?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Good-Bye Lady Hummingbirds

Won't be seeing this lovely lady for months now.

I think I saw my last female hummingbird for the season last Friday. I have been checking several times a day since, but with no luck.

It's always sad to think that I won't see the flying jewels for several months. The next time they come to my feeder  -- if they choose to do so -- won't be until mid May of next year.

A logn time to wait for a visit. Lots to happen between now and then that will keep me busy but still, I will miss them.

I plan to keep the feeder full until the middle of next month in case some other hummers will stop by on their way south for the winter. It would be nice to see them, even briefly.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Stink bugs back, but did you already know?

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have this obsession with stink bugs. Pretty much I want to obliterate them from the earth. I know I am not alone in my dislike for these bugs.

Each fall I hope that they will have moved on to another part of the country and are not around to bother me.

No such luck. This week (only the first week in September!) I saw one in our bathroom, and there were two on a screen outside a garden where I was having lunch the other day.

They're back and I am not happy about it.

For the past couple of years, I had a plan to get rid of them -- or at least reduce their numbers in our home. We did have less last year than the year before, but that's not good enough, no way.

This year, after they have come in for the winter season (and I have accepted that they will), I plan to put traps in the attic to see if that's where they spend the winter months before emerging into the second floor of the house.

I will keep you posted. But don't hesitate to send along any methods you have used to rid your home of these nasty creatures. We are in this together.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Driving Vacations when We Were Young

I just wrote a column about "staycations" for my Boom This! ezine, a subject that interests me and I think a lot of other people.

When times are tough, and I think today would qualify, there's not a lot of disposable income left over for vacations. You know, the ones where you fly to some out-of-the-way place, stay in swanky hotels, eat out every meal and shop, a lot, just like Brad Pitt and Angelolina Jolie. Nice life if you can get it. But since we are not all celebrities, that means that we have to make other arrangements.

We used to do staycations when we were young, because that was all we could afford. But a couple of memorable times we would all pile into my Dad's Pontiac and drive somewhere like Niagara Falls, or Geneva-on-the-Lake and rent a room or two for a couple of days and see the sights. Living large for sure!

I still have a lot of memories of those trips, especiallly the one to Geneva where I got the worst sunburn of my life. We spent time with my cousins and my aunt and uncle around a very small pool, and then at night we would either walk to the ice cream stand or to the"boardwalk" which probably never deserved that name. A great time.

To read some suggestions on what to do with your blissful time off, visit here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Change is (always) Coming, Ready or Not

The place where I have had my hair cut and styled for 30.5 years (yes, that's right) is being relocated. The salon and its stylists are being absorbed into another one of the salons. I will still be able to see my stylist, Debbie, but just in another lcoation.

I first met Debbie when she was newly out of beauty school and I was a new mom with a six-month-old. We hit it off right away and have become good friends over the years. There probably isn't a topic we haven't covered at some point in our monthly chats.

What people used to say about beauticians and barbers knowing a lot of secrets is true, I am sure. Sitting there having someone else pamper you is conducive to talking, especially if you are busy with a young family or career. It's a few mintues of relaxation.

I will follow Debbie to her new digs, but I will miss the old place too. I know where the coffee is, how to help myself to a dry towel and where to put the dirty ones. I used to kid that I actually worked there because the place had become so comfortable to me.

Life is full of changes, I know, and we have to adapt. And we do and I will. But gee. . .

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Top Ten Gifts for Those in Nursing Homes

Buying gifts can be difficult no matter the age of the person, but buying things for those who are in nursing homes can also prove to be difficult.

Here are some ideas to have on hand when you go for a visit to see a parent or loved one in a nursing facility.

Music either transferred to a small iPod or a radio with earplugs.

Food items that can be shared with permission with roommates or friends such as sugar-free cookies or drinks.

Stamps and cards, including some that are already addressed. Or bring them along whenever you visit to write down a message for someone else that you can mail on your way out.

Favorite magazine and newspaper subscriptions.

Peronal items like small bottles of shampoos, creams, shaving cream etc.

Scrapbook or memory books filled with family events.

A large calendar or clock for the wall.

Fresh flowers or easy-care plants (if they are allowed).

Bright throws or afghans.

And of course, family photos.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Baby, it's hot out there!

These Canadian geese have the right idea. A plunge into water can be a great way to cool down and get refreshed.

I read that the first half of this year was the hottest ever in the history of my town, Pittsburgh. We didn't need professionals to tell us that. The winter was so mild, the spring so lovely and the summer so hot, it's been a constant topic of conversation for months.

The heat we are experiencing is nothing to play with -- or in. The high humidity has made breathing a little more difficult for those who don't have health problems, so it has to really affect those who do have them.

Even though it feels like we should be out and about all the time since It's Summer!, it's not such a bad idea to lay low and stay indoors in cool air if you can when the temps and humidity climb. Or find a gaggle of geese to join as they find a natural way to cool down.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Save Money Traveling: Here's How

San Francisco Victorian Houses

If you think you know all about how to save money when you travel, you might still want to take a peek at a new book by author and traveler Terrance Zepke.

The book, The Encyclopedia of Cheap Travel: Save Up To 90% on Lodging, Flights, Tours, Cruises, and More! covers all aspects of travel, and shows you how you can make your trip a lot more comfortable and affordable.

To learn five tips to help save you money on your next trip,
visit . To learn more about the travel encyclopedia and Terrance, visit here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Changing Seasons

The Empress Gateway Clipper Tour Boat sails by Heinz Field last weekend during the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh, PA.

The stadium is quiet now and will be until football for the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Steelers returns in the fall. By then the Empress will soon be resting as the weather gets colder and the rivers freeze up, which seems impossible on a perfect day like this.

Funny how quickly each season comes and goes, but when you are in the middle of one, it seems to last and last.

The weather here has been perfect the last few days, and it's not even officially summer yet. That won't happen until June 20, this year's date for the Summer Solstice.

Friday, June 1, 2012

1940s Census Online Now

We have been having some interesting sessions here, trying to find our parents and their families on the 1940s US Census forms, which just became available for view on the world wide web. This is just one more valuable tool when searching for your ancestors, along with birth, death and wedding certificates; personal letters; family bibles and so on.

I think as we get older we have more of an interest in our families so that (maybe) we can understand ourselves better.

As one of our priests used to say at church, you don't have to like your family, but you do have to know them.

To find out more about the census, visit

Thursday, May 10, 2012

1930's Autograph Book Tells the Tale

I found this 1930's autograph book in an antique store in Verona, PA. The cover of the book is etched with a lake scene and the words "Conneaut Lake", an amusement park in Northwestern Pennsylvania. The book includes some very precious little poems, written to Elinor, the book's owner.

Here are a couple of the poems which have not stood the test of time!

Dear Elinor:

"When you get married and your husband gets cross, pick up the rolling pin and say I'm boss."
~~ Cecilia, August 22, 1936

"Butter is better, cheese is cheese, but what is a kiss without a squeeze?"
~~ Your Pal, Shirley

"Roses are red, violets are blue, but sugar is not half as sweet as you."
~~ Mother, August 23, 1936

"When you get married and have twins, don't come up my house for safety pins."
~~ Your neighbor, Margaret

"I think you have a pretty face, and with me a space. School starts in September, I hope you can remember."
~~ Dave, May 17, 1938

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lettuce Gone Wild

As you may know, the Northeast section of the country was warned about a huge snow storm this week which was predicted to freeze early-blooming flowers, pull down branches from trees, and do countless other forms of damage.

For a day the weather people had us reconsidering if we should go where we were supposed to go, or stay home to avoid the bad roads, a typical winter mentalilty when you live in this area.

Here in Pittsburgh we ended up with only rain and cold weather, thankfully. We had no significant damage from the late snowstorm.

But to prove I do listen to weather forecasters even when I know better, I pulled my delicate lettuce plants in from the front porch and kept them in the front hall for a couple of days, just till we were out of danger, that never came.

The lettuce seems no worse for the incident, and I think it's about time to cut some leaves off for a fresh spring salad.

Finally, salad!!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring Plantings

Ah, spring. I couldn't resist buying a small pot of a variety of lettuces (is that a word?) the other day. I was browsing the garden section of a big box store and was the only one there which was nice. Beating the soon-to-be rush for plants and flowers, I spent some time just looking over things.

I decided to plant my little lettuce plants in the crock I have sitting on my front porch every year, which usually is bright with impatiens. The crock doesn't have a drainage hole (I know, not good) but flowers seem to do OK in it. Where it sits is usually covered by the porch roof so a lot of rain misses this particular pot. And I am careful not to over water it throughout the summer.

It's hard to find flat sunny spots in our yard where I could put in a garden. The back deck, where I have tried to grow things, gets morning sun but not enough to really grow robust veggies.
But this spot on the front porch does get a lot of afternoon sun so I'm hopeful we will be noshing on lettuce throughout the summer. Wouldn't that be nice?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tales from the Bird Feeder -- March 2012

My bird feeder has been busy lately, with the regular suspects coming to visit and some newbies too. I saw a goldfinch in all its glory this week. I know they stay around for the winter here, but mine didn't so it was good to see his bright yellow feathers. I also spotted what I think is a house finch, which is also new to the feeder.

I took a class this month on hummingbirds and Baltimore Orioles to learn more about attracting them to our yard. We did have luck with two or three steady hummers last year, but Orioles have been elusive (as are bluebirds which I think may totally be out of my range. Too bad.) Jan Bronder, who owns the Songbird Sanctuary in Blawnox, PA said to look for these two species of birds here in the Northeast beginning around tax day, April 15. I don't know if the warmer weather this year means they will come back earlier, but I will be ready with nectar for both just to be sure.

I have noticed the birdsong much more this spring and I hope you have too. Who needs iPods to listen to while walking when you can hear the lovely birds welcoming spring? So beautiful. I am trying to get better at identifying birds from their songs because even though the leaves haven't come out on the trees yet, it is still hard to find a singing bird on the branches.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring has Arrived!

In the previous post here at Boom This!, dated March 6, I wrote about how spring had not quite happened. But today, there's no doubt that a change in the seasons has been made.

It's 70 degrees out and my crocuses are blooming. They wouldn't come out if it wasn't spring, now would they?

Hope you are enjoying this beautiful day wherever you are.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Not (quite) Spring yet

I pass this local farm stand several times a week. We always laugh at how bare the welcome sign gets the closer we are to winter and bad weather. Signs advertisng corn, tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkins and more give way to winter's offerings: eggs and cabbage and maybe straw. Soon, the signs will be advertising more items once again, but it's hard to be patient since snow came our way this week. But in keeping with March's unpredictability, the weather is supposed to be warm (50s and 60s) the rest of the week and snow will soon be a memory.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Walk of 1,000 Miles

I just finished reading a book about one woman's walk around Lake Michigan. Yes, the entire lake, quite an undertaking which turnd into quite the adventure.

Loreen Niewenhuis, the author of A 1000 Mile Walk on the Beach: One Woman's Trek of the Perimeter of Lake Michigan, set out to do something big when she turned 45. So she gave it a little thought as to how she could challenge herself and decided to walk the lake. She planned her hike to leave from Chicago and finishing there, stopping at B and Bs or hotels along the way; taking some time off between segments and enjoying the company of her two sons and friends along certain parts of the walk.

Through her writing, the author provides good information about the lake and its current condition, and her love for this body of water shines through every chapter.

You will have to pick up a copy to find out what exactly Loreen learned from her adventure and how she overcame sore muscles and blisters to find the courage to keep going. Not one to sit around idly, Loreen is planning to do another 1,000 mile walk this year, this time touching upon all five Great Lakes.

For more information, visit her website.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Nursing Home Honored


After my Dad died in 2001, my sister and I took some of his medical equipment to a local nursing home because we knew the items would be put to good use. The Little Sisters of the Poor Home's reputation in the Pittsburgh area is stellar. So it was with no surprise that I read the following news release and decided to post it to my blog:

The Little Sisters of the Poor, who are celebrating their 140th year of serving Pittsburgh, received another reason to celebrate this week: Their Home in Pittsburgh’s Brighton Heights neighborhood was named to the 2012 Honor Roll for Best Nursing Homes by U.S. News and World Report. The Home was one of only 39 Homes in the nation named to the list out of more than 15,500 that U.S. News reviewed. Achieving this honor was a result of the Little Sisters’ Home receiving four straight quarters of perfect five-star ratings from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in all three areas including health inspections, nurse staffing, and quality of care.

Sister Judith Meredith, Administrator of the Little Sisters of the Poor Home in Pittsburgh, was pleased to hear the news. “I am so proud that our Home has received this achievement. Everyone involved in the care of our residents from the staff and volunteers, to the benefactors who help us carry out our ministry should be thanked for helping our Home attain this special recognition.”

The Pittsburgh community invited the Little Sisters of the Poor to establish a home for the elderly poor in 1872. Over the years the Sisters have cared for more than 12,000 aged poor regardless of race or religion. Their Home on Benton Avenue provides personal care, nursing care, and independent living apartments for low income seniors.

For more information, visit the Little Sisters of the Poor website.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Count Birds This Week

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count

Looking for something to do on these snowy winter days? Here's some info from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on a winter event that's fun for all ages:

The 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up beginning February 17 and running through February 20, and you’re invited to join one of the largest, most enjoyable citizen-science projects on the planet. This year should be especially interesting because of the warmer temperatures and lack of snowfall in so many parts of North America. And how far south will the Snowy Owls roam? We're in the middle of a massive irruption that's dazzling bird watchers across the lower 48 states!

To participate, just count birds anywhere you wish for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the GBBC. Then, report the highest number of each species seen together at one time on the GBBC website: Everything you need to know is on the website along with an instructional video and downloadable instructions.

You can upload a photo for consideration in the GBBC photo contest. Explore data on the website using maps and charts that show what everyone is reporting. Anyone who participates also has a chance to win great prizes! Tweet about the birds you’re seeing and include the #gbbc tag to have your message show up in the Twitter widget on the GBBC home page. Become a fan on the GBBC Facebook page. The GBBC is hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society along with Canadian partner, Bird Studies Canada. Join us for the Great Backyard Bird Count and help set a new checklist record!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Orchids for Everyday

You are looking at a Dtps. Leopard Prince Star orchid, which is not blooming in a conservatory, but in my humble kitchen.

I received this lovely flower from my husband as a gift and it is a wonder. I have taken several photos of the flowers and as each bud opens fully, I am recording that too.

I used to be afraid to purchase orchids because I thought they were too fragile for my gardening skills, so the only time we saw them was in nosegays. But things have changed. I saw rows of orchids on sale at our local grocery store last week (see below). The price was reasonable, and they are so gorgeous that it's a great way to brighten up the gloom of winter. There's nothing to be afraid of, just enjoy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Taking Care of the Winter Soul

When I arrived at the local park to walk last week, two of these ladies pictured above were talking to a third. By the time I finished my walk, they had talked to two other different women -- a 40 + minute chat!

Guess the days of talking over the fence to neighbors and friends are over and have been replaced by small get-togethers in other places. To that I say, Hooray!

They picked a beautiful day to be out in their shiny new walking shoes, and even the cool winds that always blow through the park did not deter them from catching up with each other.

In the background you can see an elf light display, part of the huge holdiay light show the park puts on every year. These days the county workers are tearing it down and packing it away till next fall when the process begins again.

If you have the opportunity, I hope you will walk outside today, taking advantage of whatever outdoor light January has to offer. And if you run into an old friend or neighbor, stop for a chat. Both experiences are good for the winter soul.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Volunteering in the New Year

Hello, all. It's January 3, 2012 and the New Year is humming along. We have had snow for the last two days so I guess winter, which was late arriving, is here to stay.

As the New Year arrives, most of us spend some time thinking about resolutions and to-do lists that can make our lives better. One suggestion I have written about recently was to post a resolution at a website dedicated to having people commit to doing more volunteer work on any scale that suits them.

Resolution12 suggests we write our resolution down for all to see and that may help us to get it done.

Like you I have been thinking about doing more volunteer work. Right before Christmas my husband and son and I were happy to be asked to help with the local Toys for Tots program. As you know the annual program is sponsored by the United States Marine Corps and provides toys to children who otherwise might not receive anything under the tree.

We worked several jobs at the chilly warehouse during our volunteer hours that Saturday, not really feeling the cold because of all of the warm hearts we worked alongside. One job in particular required taking a slip of paper with the genders and ages of a family's children marked off and "shop" for toys for those children/ We then placed the toys in a bag to hand to a Marine who handed the bag to a family member.

Mothers, fathers, friends and small children did the shopping and truly, there were no complaints from any one of any age while doing the fast-paced work.

Performing that volunteer work made me feel that there is so much more to be done and that we Baby Boomers often have some extra time to do those jobs.

I hope you will find time this year to volunteer and offer the world your talents and love. It's waiting.