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February 2013

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Valentines!


I have mixed emotions about Valentine's Day.  On the one hand. . . it can be a special day filled with love, hearts, and chocolate.  On the other hand. . . it can be an ordinary day filled with expectation, dread, and misery.

I loved the whole Valentine's Day schtick when I was a kid.  Homemade Valentine mailboxes, glued with love and hearts and a whole lot of glitter.  Conversation hearts.  Homemade cupcakes.  Room Mothers.  And Valentine cards for EVERYONE in class.

As I got older, though, Valentine's Day just made me feel bad.  About myself.  When you're an adolescent, there are not Valentine cards for EVERYONE.  And, sometimes, there aren't ANY Valentines.  The focus on Valentine's Day as a "couples-in-love" day just makes a lot of people miserable!

And that really sucks.

So, as a 16-year-old . . . with no Valentine on the horizon. . . I made a Declaration:  We don't need no stinkin' Valentines!  We can celebrate all by ourselves!

So, I tend to celebrate Valentine's Day in small ways.  I like to think about the people I love and show them I'm thinking of them.  I give myself special treats.  Mostly, I keep it low key!

This week, Carole has us thinking about Fun Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day.  I'm adding my own twist . . . Ten Fun LOW KEY Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day.


  1. Wear red.
  2. Deliver silly Valentines to ALL your co-workers (anonymously; in their mailboxes).
  3. Leave a big bowl of Hershey Kisses (or Dove hearts) on your desk for everyone to share.
  4. Use a red pen all day.
  5. Watch "Breakfast at Tiffany's."
  6. Tell your closest friends and family how much they mean to you.
  7. Light a candle.
  8. Eat some chocolate.
  9. Sip some wine.
  10. But, mostly, remember:  Life is good.  And you don't need a Valentine to tell you that.

Love to you all!





A Winter Diversion: The ChapStick Challenge - Week 2

Here we are . . . it's Week 2 of my ChapStick Challenge.  This week, I've been using several products from the Blistex line.


Blistex is another one of those companies that has been around for a long, long time (since 1947, in fact), and almost feels "local" (with headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois), with what seems like a million different products.  I've never really used Blistex lip balms, though.  I remember trying the regular, old Blistex back in my Bonne Belle days . . . and thinking it was all too "medicated" in flavor.  I never tried it again -- preferring (at the time) to the sickeningly-sweet Bonne Belle Strawberry.

But, that day in Walgreen's, it was the Blistex Deep Renewal that first caught my eye.


The packaging screamed out its "anti-aging" message. . . so I took a look.  And. . . how could I resist a product featuring "Coenzyme Q-10"???  Really.  The "gold standard for moisture and overall revitalization."  (Who knew?)  It also promoted something called "hyaluronic filling spheres" (which, apparently, "help give lips a fuller appearance"). 

But, wait!  There's more. . .

Blistex Deep Renewal also includes "vitamin-collagen anti-oxidant complex."  Yep.  And "light refractors" and sun protection (SPF 15).  All of this to promote "lip luster," "youthfulness," and "lasting lip health."

Oh, yeah, Baby!  One little $2.99 tube of glorified chapstick will give you ALL THAT.  I had to try it.

And y'know what?  I actually like it.  It goes on smooth.  It lasts a long time.  It feels light.  It rolls up kind of like a lipstick.  I can't really tell if it's enhancing my "lip luster" or giving my lips a "fuller appearance" -- but it's getting the job done when it comes to keeping my lips moisturized.  The only down side . . . there is a "flavor."  I'm not sure what the flavor IS exactly, but it's there -- and I'm not sure that I like it enough to make this my go-to lip balm, but it is definitely in the running.

Then. . . I tried this one from Blistex. . .


Yes.  A "cold and allergy" formula.  A lip balm that is specifically designed to be used when you're sick (or suffering from allergies) . . . or suffering from extremely dry lips.  This one is actually "infused with Vitamins C & E, Green Tea, Elderberry, Chamomile and Honey."    It's supposed to "restore health to irritated lips."

I thought it might do the trick after I damaged my lips so badly with the Classic ChapStick products from last week.

I will say that it glides on smoothly, and feels nice and light on the lips.  It may actually have helped my ChapStick-damaged lips heal!  It smells pretty medicated, but less menthol-y than regular Blistex.  I think it's . . . okay.  Again, I'm just not sold on the flavor.

(I do have to share the disclaimer on the packaging.  It actually says this," Does not treat congestion or other systemic symptoms accompanying allergies, colds, and flue, but rather lip discomfort or dryness issues that can accompnay these conditions.")

I also tried regular, old Blistex. . .


The smell and flavor is still . . . medicated.  Just like it says right there on the tube!  It's okay.  I prefer it to ChapStick (by far!) . . . but I just can't quite get past the camphor smell.

And, finally, I tried this . . .


I generally don't like the squeeze tube-style lip balms, but y'know what?  I really, really like this stuff -- especially for overnight.  According to the packaging, Moisture Melt is "super hydrating lip balm with moisturinzing Softbeads you can see" -- and it's true!  There are little, bright blue beads of (apparently) "conditioning shea butter plus soothing aloe" right in the tube.  And right on your lips when you first put it on.  Which looks kind of silly, actually.  (Fortunately, they melt in right away.)

This stuff is really quite nice -- it feels good when you first put it on (it's thicker and more like a gel.  It sinks in and stays on all through the night.  My lips feel great in the morning -- not dry at all.  There is a scent -- kind of light and not obnoxious at all . . . and, best of all, no flavor!  (Also . . . $1.59!)

Blistex Moisture Melt may just replace my old Carmex for the overnight lip treatment!

How about YOU?  Are you a Blixtex fan?  How about flavors?  Do you like flavors . . . or not so much?  What are you looking for when you try a new "lip health" product?  And what makes you switch over to something new?  Remember . . . leave a comment on this post, and you'll be entered in my ChapStick Challenge contest!

Next week. . . we'll look at the new, "cool kids" -- Burt's Bees and EOS.



About Those Buttonholes

As I mentioned last week, I finished my "Tinder" cardigan.  And I really, really love it!  When Tom comes home, I'll get some photos and do a proper post.  But, for now, I'll tell you the story about how a couple of 2-inch button bands and 7 22 simple buttonholes kicked my butt.


Once upon a time, there was a cardigan that was nearly finished.  The pieces were knit to specifications.  The seaming was complete.  The fit was perfect.  The collar picked up and knit. 

All that remained . . . were the buttonbands!  Simple, straightforward, 2-inch buttonbands. 

When the first of the buttonband was complete, The Knitter could see that she probably hadn't picked up quite enough stitches, because it pulled in just slightly more than expected.

I can Live With It, The Knitter said.  It'll block out. 

But after a day of thinking, The Knitter knew she was Kidding Herself.  The buttonband Wasn't Right.  She would Regret it Forever.  So she ripped the buttonband out and Knit It Again. 



Now The Knitter was ready to move on to the second buttonband -- and the buttonholes.  Because The Knitter is also a Sew-er, buttonholes do not cause fear and dread.  For The Knitter, buttonholes are just Another Step in the Process.

So, The Knitter carefully marked the placement of the buttonholes.  She studied the directions for Elizabeth Zimmermann's one-row buttonholes, which were exquisitely and clearly described in the pattern (Jared Flood does not scrimp when it comes to direction!). 

The Knitter made the first buttonhole. 

Kind of wonky, she said.  Maybe it will Look Better when the next row is complete.  (As is often the case with buttonholes.) 

So she went on.  The second buttonhole looked the same.  Kind of wonky.  Must be The Way They Are, she said. 

The third buttonhole, once more, looked the same.  Kind of wonky.  Defintely The Way They Are, she said. 

The fourth buttonhole?  PERFECT.  (Oh.  So the first three WERE wonky, then.)

Rip back.

Give it a rest.

Start again two days later.

The Knitter made the first buttonhole.  Kind of wonky, she said.  Didn't it look better than this the other day? 

Still, she pressed on.  The second buttonhole looked the same.  Kind of wonky.  (Does she never learn????) 

The third buttonhole?  PERFECT. 

Rip back.  Again.

The next day, seven PERFECT buttonholes in a row!


But it became immediately clear that The Knitter had miscalculated the number of rows to knit in the buttonband before beginning the buttonholes.  The buttonband was clearly going to be too wide if the buttonholes were to be in the center.

What an IDIOT!  The Knitter said to herself.  And outloud, too. (Many times.  With maybe some other more colorful words thown in for balance.)

Rip back.  Again.

Many days rest.

Seven more PERFECT buttonholes.  (Bringing the total to 22. . . if you're counting.)

And a perfectly finished buttonband.



The End.

Those Were the Days!


Ah.   Childhood.   The days that lasted forever.  Simple pleasures.  No worries.   Just . . . growing and playing!


Today, Carole asks us What We Miss From Our Childhood.  Here's what I miss:

1.    Recess.  Three times a day!

2.    Weekly library time.  And checking out books will the little cards tucked in front.

3.     Saturday morning cartoons.  Bonus points for those times my Mom let us eat our cereal in front of the TV!

4.    Building tents with blankets. We used to make awesome blanket tents over the clothesline in the backyard.  I loved having a secret hideaway. . . for Just Us Kids.

5.    Trick-or-treating.  I loved having my own stash of candy.  I used to try to stretch it til Thanksgiving, at least.


6.    Ballet class.  Loved my toe shoes best of all!

7.    Staying up late on Friday nights with my Mom.  We watched old movies while my Dad had model railroading nights (and my sister always conked out by 9:00).

8.     Jacks, hopscotch, and Double-Dutch.  My all-time favorite outdoor pastimes.

9.    Running for "Mr. Frosty."  I got rather frantic at the thought of a Bomb-Pop from the ice cream truck!

10.    Faith in the Cubs.  Yeah.  Right.

Kym at age 11 1970

How about YOU?  What do you miss from your childhood?


Join the fun!  Sign up for Ten on Tuesday here.


A Winter Diversion: The ChapStick Challenge - Week 1


For a long time this year, I didn't think it would happen. 

But it did.



Cold.  Snow.  (Lots of snow!)  Ice.  Cabin fever.

And my lips are chapped.

I've never been a lipstick kind of gal, but I've always been a ChapStick kind of gal!  Ever since I was a kid, I've always carried some kind of "lip product" with me to keep chapped lips at bay.  (Oh, and I don't mean the ChapStick brand -- I just tend to call all lip products "ChapStick" just like I call all tissues "Kleenex.") 

When I was a pre-teen . . .  I used to prefer Vaseline for my lips.  But then, when I was in middle school, a Most Glorious Product was invented:  Bonne Belle Lip Smackers.  I LOVED my Lip Smackers!  Remember those unique, oversized tubes?  I was particularly sold on Strawberry.  Of course, I also loved Max Factor Lip Potion* -- a little oil slick for your lips in a sweet little roll-on bottle.  (Oh, those were the days!)

Anyway.  As I grew older - and less fond of Strawberry flavored anything - I started using Carmex for my lips, and I was was sold.  I've been using Carmex for decades now.  And, in the last five years or so, I've added Burt's Bees to my lip balm lineup.

During a recent visit to my local Walgreens, though, I discovered nearly an aisle of "lip health" products.  (Yeah.  That's what they were called.)  Wow.  We've come so far in lip balm!  Anyway, I decided it might be fun to try some of the newer lip products! 

So I bought a basket-full.  I figure it's time for a little Winter Diversion here in blogland.  Join me each Monday this month for  . . . The ChapStick Challenge.


Over the next month, I'm going to try out each of these products to see for myself how they stack up against my "gold standard":  Carmex.

There's a role for you, too!  Whenever you weigh in or comment on my ChapStick Challenge posts, your name will go into the "hat."  At the end of the month, I'll draw a random name -- and the winner will win . . . (what else) . . . an assortment of lip products! 

Let's start with . . . the Basics.


Familiar products that have been around for a long, long time!

As I mentioned earlier, I've been a decades-long user of Carmex.


This product has been around since 1937.  It claims to be the "#1 Pharmacist Recommended Lip Balm."  I can attest to the fact that is is the #1 Mom-Recommended Lip Balm in my family.  My own Mom has been a Carmex gal for as long as I can remember.  In fact, she got me hooked on Carmex back when the little jars were still made of glass!!! 


I'm convinced that nothing keeps my lips from drying out overnight like Carmex!  I know it comes in other forms  - a squeeze tube and a "stick" more like ChapStick - but I don't like them.  I like the little jars.  Apparently, Carmex now also comes in flavors, but I just can't go there.  Carmex. . . needs to smell/taste like Carmex.  Slightly analgesic and somewhat "medicated."

A tiny little dab lasts for hours.  It keeps my lips from drying out -- and it really takes care of cold sores, and peeling, split lips quickly.  It's an easy container to stash in a purse or a pocket, and it's quite inexpensive.  A little jar of Carmex lasts me for months.  On the downside, there is no sunscreen in Carmex.

(It'll be tough to knock Carmex out of my #1 lip spot!)

 Next up . . . Classic ChapStick.


I don't know about you, but I can't think about ChapStick without thinking about this . . .


I haven't used ChapStick for years and years (decades, probably), but when I opened the top and smelled the tube. . . I was flooded with nostalgia.  Nothing has changed about ChapStick! 


I was never a ChapStick fan.  It was always waxy and cake-y.  Still is!  When I use ChapStick, it just sits there and feels like a coating of wax on my lips.  Not soothing at all.  In fact, when I tried the ChapStick classic over this past week, my lips got MORE chapped.  (Maybe that's because I didn't like using it, so my lips dried out more. . . but I think the ChapStick didn't help much even when I used it.)

As I said, I had a rush of nostalgia when I opened the stick and smelled the lip balm!  The Cherry ChapStick, particularly (although overpoweringly fake and pretty awful),  took me right back to the halls of Carey Junior High School!   I couldn't use the Cherry ChapStick, though.  I tried. . . but had to wipe it off immediately.  I just couldn't with that waxy, fake, red stuff.

So.  Classic ChapStick?  Not for me!  In fact, I think I prefer dry, chapped lips to wax-coated ChapStick lips.  (And that's saying something.)

Up next week:  Products from the Blistex line!

How about YOU?  What's your favorite "lip health" product?  Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered into my ChapStick Challenge Extravaganza!


* Picture This . . . because you won't find the real picture here on the blog:  I have a photo of me, circa 1973, so I must be in 7th or 8th grade.   I have long, stick-straight hair, parted in the middle (workin' my best Marcia Brady).  I'm wearing HUGE silver hoop earrings (rockin' the Joni Mitchell look).  I have braces on my incredibly crooked teeth.  I have hideous (hideous) blue-green eye shadow (must have studied "Try Cybill Shepherd's Eye Make-up Secrets" from the latest issue of Seventeen magazine).  And - saving the best for last here - my lips are COATED in a slick, shiny sheen that can only be Max Factor Lip Potion.  Trust me: This photo is priceless. . . but will NEVER appear on the Internet.  Never.


Silent Poetry Reading . . . 2013


Over the Hill She Came

Over the hill
   she came,
      her long legs
         very scarcely

touching the ground,
   the cups of her ears
         with obvious pleasure,

to the wind
   as it stroked
      the dark arms
         of the pines;

once or twice
   she lingered
      and browsed
         some moist patch

of half-wrapped leaves,
   then came along
      to where I was --
         or nearly --

and then, among the thousand bodies
   of the trees,
      their splashes of light and their shadows,
         she was gone;

and I, who was heavy that day
   with thoughts as small as my whole life
      would ever be,
         and especially

compared to the thousand shining trees,
   gave thanks to whatever sent her
      in my direction
         that I might see, and strive to be,

as clearly she was,
   beyond sorrow,
      careless, soft-lipped angel
         walking on air.

--- Mary Oliver
      New and Selected Poems, Volume Two

Communications 101

Take a trip with me in the Way-Back Machine . . .

When communications were basic -- simple, thoughtful, and more leisurely.  (Yeah.  And we also had to walk to school.  Every day.  Uphill.  Through snow deeper than your rooftops.  In sub-zero temperatures.  Both ways.)

Anyway.  Back then. . . we wrote letters.  And sent them through the mail.  And waited for a response.  And wrote back.

Before the advent of email (really, think about it, mid-90s!) and IM (early 00s) and Facebook (mid 00s) and Ravelry (2007) and smart phones (late 00s) . . . we communicated through the mail.  It wasn't even called "snail mail" back then.  Just . . . mail.

I loved waiting for the mail to come every day.  Maybe I'd get a letter . . .

When I was in college, I wrote letters home.  And home wrote me letters back.  We rarely called on the phone -- because long distance was expensive back then!  Tom and I went to different colleges in different states . . . and kept up our relationship with letters.  For a whole year!


(Letters that both of us have saved, by the way.)

I still like to get a surprise card or note in my mailbox.  It just doesn't happen very often anymore, and I really don't pay much atttention to whether the mail has come today . . . or not.

Until February!  Now that February is the Month of Letters, I look forward to the postal truck every day -- picking up my mail.  And, from time to time, delivering some mail for me.


Read about the Month of Letters challenge here -- and think about joining in.  February is a great month for a challenge -- and this one is fun and easy and surprisingly enjoyable!

I'm ready . . .


for a more basic and simple form of communicating!  I call it . . . Communications 101.