Thursday, August 30, 2012

Palmolive: It's Not Just For Dishes

Michael was out of town for a couple of days.  Coincidentally, during the exact days Isaac was supposed to hit Florida, but then took a last minute hook about 4 states to the west.   A series of text messages are below.    I love that he entertains me several states away.   Hear that, single ladies?   Marry a man who can make you laugh.

Setting: Monday morning, hotel restaurant.  Before Michael's business meeting

M:  So I ate bacon and somehow tons of bacon grease splattered all over my pants.  But I remembered the Book of Jules and it says to use dish soap.   I borrowed soapy dish water from kitchen.  Has vastly improved the situation

J: Good thinking!  Use a napkin on your lap next time

A couple hours later

M: I met [the CEO]!

J: Oh boy!  I hope he didn't notice the bacon

Disclaimer: This is not my own personal tip, but one I remembered reading years ago.  It was probably in Good Housekeeping.   The logic being that dish soap cuts through grease on dishes-- and on all other materials.  I'm telling you, it works!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Batten Down the Hatches

The good news is that it looks like we will be spared the supreme wrath [and eye] of Isaac.  

The bad news is the next 48 hours are basically lots of rain and strong winds.   Hermit-like behaviors are certainly in the cards.  In order to prepare, we have done the following:

Moved the patio furniture into the garage

Moved the cars into the driveway 

(and not under the mediocre construction of the pergola, blocked by the tree in the photo)  

The irony is not lost on me that:
a) cars are more valuable than patio furniture and are out in the elements to be hit by debris and
b) my car went from parked under the pergola to PARKED UNDER A TREE.   Yeah Jules because that is safe.

Assembled hurricane food

  • Jumbo bag of trail mix that features protein and dried fruit [raisins] and chocolate for fun
  • Cans of Chef Boyardee pasta
  • Bottles of water
  • Baked a batch of brownies  (Why do I always bake when a storm approaches?)

Plugged in the 'old fashioned' wired phone

I am saying a prayer that our power stays on.... have I forgotten anything?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thinking of You: Part Two

Hospital stays aren't the only situation for which gift giving is appropriate.  One of my favorite gift-giving events is.... a new baby. Why?  Because everyone gets something different!

As I mentioned last week, flowers are never wrong.  But I try to be practical, and I figure new parents will appreciate anything you can send that makes their lives easier.  Flowers make it prettier, but the following items might make them happier

For the parents

Home-cooked dinner

If you live nearby: 
Take them dinner.   Freezer meals are the best because Mom and Dad can eat it now or later.   If the fridge is full now, the dish will take care of them next month.  My favorite options are stuffed shells or lasagna.   Both can be made meatless if needed, and all you need is a disposable tray or tiptop back for storage. Write the contents and baking instructions on the dish and you're set.   Throw in a loaf of bread - or even frozen garlic toast to make it more substantial.    I also include a salad kit and a container of Parmesan cheese and a baked item for dessert.  Cookies, a pie, etc.   Doesn't have to be homemade.  Anything will be appreciated.   If the parents drink - and Mom is not nursing- a bottle of wine might be fun.
If I see them, I sometimes include festive napkins or a checkered table cloth.    REALLY want to go the extra mile?  Throw in disposable plates and forks so they don't even have to do the dishes.

If you live far away:
Send a spaghetti dinner.   Seriously, I do this all the time.   I buy a box of dry pasta in whatever shape I can find, a jar of sauce, a container of Parmesan, and a box of brownie mix.  Throw in the festive napkins if you have them.  Write a note to add a salad and enjoy.   I am telling you-  everyone loves this idea.    I do wrap the sauce in bubble wrap and stick it in a large ziptop just in case it breaks but I always use fill-air and packing materials and have had no issues so far.

Remember: dinner is clutter free!

Babysitting services

Again, if you live nearby, offer to sit with the baby for an hour while Mom showers or runs an errand.   Offer to treat the new parents to a movie night at the theater and watch the baby while they're out.  Make this a rain check.  They might not need you on day 4, but a few weeks later, when the dust has settled, it will be an a-ma-zing gift.

Gifts for baby

Shop the registry if you must.  Or if you know they need certain items.   But add something 'extra' to the gift.

My favorite extra is a CD of children's songs played on the piano.   I came across the CD years ago, but anything soft and relaxing will work for bedtime or nap time.   Classic songs without singing tend to grate on the nerves less than the typical 'kid' stuff.  (At least in my opinion!)

Consider including your favorite childhood book [with gift receipt in case they already have it!]   If you're close to the family, and/or are a bit of a ham, consider recording your voice reading the book.

Choose clothing or diapers in larger sizes.   The kid will be maxed out in tiny stuff to start.   No one buys baby stuff for the second 6 months of life.   See what you can find for 'later' which will come sooner than they think.  If baby is born in January, buy a clearance rack Christmas outfit for 12-18 months.   It will be adorable.

Gifts mostly for Mom

Anything that makes her feel pampered!

  • Babysitting services so she has time to do whatever she needs or wants to do during the day.  
  • Stop by for a visit so she has a grown up to talk to (especially nice if she's alone all day with the baby)
  • A day out [whenever she is ready] where you treat her to lunch and a pedicure
  • Comfy robe/socks/etc.
  • Audio book/download she can listen to at all hours.  Headphones = hands free and can take care of the baby
  • Fancy cosmetics or beauty items (lotion, shower gel, etc) she won't splurge on herself at this point!

What do you give to new babies and their parents?

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Despite our best intentions, life is not a bowl of cherries.  I like to think of myself as a 'glass is half full' kind of person, but there are little things and big things that come up and try to knock us off our game.   My boss shared the following inspiration with my team at work this week.  Talk about keeping everything in perspective!

Is life beating you up right now?  Does life seem unfair?  Are your tired of trying?  Are you ready to quit?

Before you do please continue reading below.  Imagine if the below events represented your life’s calendar of events.  At what point would you have given up?  Would you have persevered?  How would you respond to the following series of events if they all happened to you?   At what year in the list would you have quit?  

Year 1 Your younger brother died.
Year 5 Your family is forced out of your home and you are saved from drowning.
Year 6 Your Mother dies.
Year 7 You are kicked in the head by a horse.
Year 16 Your older sister dies.
Year 19 You fail in business.
Year 20 You are defeated in race for State Legislature.
Year 21 You fail again in business.
Year 22 You are now elected to  State Legislature.
Year 23 Your fiance dies.
Year 24 You suffer a nervous breakdown.
Year 25 Your marriage proposal is rejected.
Year 26 You are defeated for your state’s speaker of the House.
Year 28 You are defeated for Elector.
Year 31 You are defeated in your race for United States Congress.
Year 34 You are elected to the United States Congress.
Year 35 You are defeated again in race for the US Congress.
Year 37 You have a son die.
Year 41 You are defeated in your race for United States Senate.
Year 43 You are now defeated in your race for Vice President of the US.
Year 45 You are defeated again in your race for United States Senate.
Year  47 You are now elected President of the United States.
Year 51  You survived a bullet through your hat.

So how do your current problems stack up to this list?

Perseverance builds character and character hope.


Do any history buffs know which great leader in American History this list refers to?

Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thinking of You: Part One

Friends and family often come to me for advice on life's inevitable events.  Family triumphs, sadness, celebrations, etc.   In general, gifts should be practical and functional and clutter-free.

I don't claim to have all the answers but I can share what has worked for me in the past.  And by 'worked' I mean I have gotten positive feedback from these gifts.

Hospital Stay or Recovery

These folks will be trying to rest quietly either at the hospital or back at home

Flowers are a safe choice almost every time and also clutter free.   But flowers do not meet my practical and functional requirement.  And chances are, the patient will have received plenty of flowers from other well-wishers.  In my experience, thinking outside the box means a lot.    Your relationship with the person determines what type of gift you might give them.   You might know your sister's literary tastes more than your neighbor, but would still like to let your neighbor know you care.  I live far away from those I love, so I have to mail items, but if you are close by and can deliver it in person?  Even better!   And of course the gift of your time and friendship stopping by to visit is the most important.   Instead of flowers, consider:

  • Hand cream -if you live nearby, even offer to give her a manicure!
  • Audio book
  • Recording of a show - (My late aunt loved the Capital Steps so when she was ill I sent her a recording of their latest skits, available on amazon.   Sometimes being able to laugh a little bit makes a world of difference.)
  • Funny movies 
  • iPod loaded with music or podcasts
  • If you're on a tight budget, even a portable radio will be appreciated
  • Crossword puzzle book -and pencil!
  • Fluffy socks
  • Comfy PJ pants or robe [depending on the surgery] 
  • Food treat - homemade cookies, their favorite candy, etc. [depending on the surgery]

What are your favorite gift items for recovering patients?

Sunday, August 12, 2012


During the 2-week circus that was the Olympics (and I mean that in the most complimentary way!) I made a conscious effort to avoid news sites, such as Google News, CNN, and the official Olympic site as well.   The reason being, with London 5 hours ahead of me, events took place hours before NBC's [mediocre] coverage began.   Knowing events were finishing up in the afternoon locally - evening in London- I stayed off those websites.   I wanted to watch the drama unfold on TV later.

What did I forget to avoid?  FACEBOOK!  Now, you would think that 'friends' would have the sense to avoid posting news stories to their status updates.   "Congratulations to the USA Women on winning gold" showed up on my newsfeed hours before.   I got so angry!   So I decided to avoid facebook like the plague until the games closed on Sunday.

It was actually pretty awesome.  Lately the updates I have been seeing on facebook are largely people complaining or trying to show off.   I enjoy the site for sharing photos and keeping up to date with friends who live far away but I enjoyed being 'removed' for awhile.    I figure if anyone really needs to get in touch with me, they have my email address and phone number and can get in touch 'the old fashioned way'

All in all I was glad I did it- if only for about 10 days.   Life continued to progress, and I was not spoiled once for the rest of the games!   I might have just been inspired as to what to give up for Lent in 2013. . . . .

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Loyalty Cards

Besides clutter in dressers and closets, I am strangely annoyed by all the membership and customer cards that seem to pile up in various places.    Every store wants you to be a loyal customer.  In turn, they want to put you on an email list and give you a plastic card for your wallet and two more mini plastic cards.  Presumably so each person in your household can add the card to his or her key ring, and the lucky one gets to put an extra in his/her wallet too!   

In theory this is a good idea, but if you visit more than about 3 places with such a card, your keyring soon holds many more cards than keys, the cards get beat up because they slam against your keys while you drive, you can't find what you need, etc.   Drives me bananas.   (I realize that many places allow you to look up your account with a phone number or zip code, but I have moved many times and quite frankly cannot keep track of that.  The only numbers I know for sure - that do not change- are my Social Security and birthday)

So?  How do I deal with my loyalty cards? 

Unsurprisingly, with a binder (of course!) as well as a separate key ring that lives in my car.


I use a standard 3-ring binder and these magnificent sheet protectors sized for business cards.  I can easily slip all the wallet-sized club cards in the sleeves in whatever order I'd like.   In this case, I don't alphabetize but rather, categorize.   It lives in my desk, but keeping this in the car would also make sense to me.
  • TRAVEL-  All frequent flyer cards and our Parking Spot card, which we use when we fly, are kept together.  That's the page you see above.  
  • PHOTO IDs- Anything with a photo is kept together: my employee ID (yes I have one even though I am a remote employee!), membership cards, club membership cards for the amenities in our neighborhood, etc.
  • MALL STORE LOYALTY CARDS- Cards for retail establishments at the mall are kept together, so if I am making a trip over there, I can determine what card I might need in an instant.  Sephora loyalty card, this means you!  There are also a couple of eateries that are only at the mall, so I stick their Buy 9 sandwiches and get the 10th Free cards in this spot.  Personally, I don't go to the mall on a whim, so I don't need these extra cards in my wallet all the time.
  • STORE CREDIT CARDS- This includes mall credit cards - I do have a couple- as well as any gift cards we might have to spend!  

Key ring

The key ring is a cheap-o one that was part of a multiple package.   No fancy equipment here. Why do I use the key ring?  Some stops are less predictable than those listed above.  Namely, CVS or food destinations.  These cards are kept on the key ring and live in a cup holder in my car.  This way I can swing by and always have what I need.
  • CVS
  • Hallmark (I am a dork and would swing by any Hallmark for any reason, so it's in the car) 
  • Panera
  • Menchie's Yogurt
  • Library Card
*Note: Publix [grocery] does not have a shopper card but if they did, it would be in the car!

How do you organize your loyalty cards? 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cool It: The Saga of our Air Conditioning

Disclaimer: This started out as a quick blog post about a blip in our mundane lives over the weekend.  It has turned into a saga, and all is documented below for our entertainment in the future.   But it is not entertaining right now.

Friday evening 

11:30 pm
Just about to fall asleep, Michael comments that it feels warm in our room.   I dismiss the comment, and fall asleep.  


8:00 am
Michael can say "I told you so" but we are too warm to argue.   Upstairs temperature check: 81 degrees.  It is August in Florida, y'all.   Daytime highs are usually about 90 degrees.   Without a heat index.    So we keep all the blackout curtains closed and turn the 3 bedroom ceiling fans on high.   It is all we can do, because it will keep getting hotter.   Contemplate going to Costco to buy wine and food for dinner later.

Later that morning
Call our trusty a/c folks and they can send out a technician to look at our upstairs a/c unit today.  Costco run is put on hold.  (Our house has 2 thermostats and 2 a/c units.   This can be helpful if one of them stops working; at least half the house is livable.)

2:30 pm
Carlos arrives and lets us know that our fan motor is broken, but it is an easy fix.  Excellent.  The thing is, Carlos has installed the last of the fan motors in his truck at his previous house.   Boo.    So he charges us for the service call and will be back later in the week to install the damn motor.   The curtains are still drawn, and the fans are still whirring.

3:40 pm
It starts to feel warm downstairs.   The thermostat reads 80 degrees.  Carlos has been gone less than an hour.  What the heck.   Our upstairs is still hot, and now the downstairs is about to match.    Michael checks the breakers.   All is well on that front.

Once again, he calls our trusty a/c folks to report an issue with the downstairs unit.  The rep on the phone has him check the breaker (done!) and then check the float switch.   Turns out there is water in the pipe which triggers the unit to shut off.  As per the phone assistant, water can be drained from the pipe so the switch is back on track.  Michael gets the turkey baster [which has been used one time for turkeys and now one time for a/c repair] and gets some water out.   Checks the wall unit.  The a/c kicks back on and we are set.   The unit needs maintenance, but at least we have a stop gap.  Walk out the door for Costco before 4 pm

6:00 pm
Home from Costco.   Thermostat reads 80 degrees again.   Michael gets the turkey baster again so he can remove excess water.   Evidently the first round was [very] temporary.   For those keeping track baster count = turkey: 1 a/c fixes: 2.  It works again so we seem to be set.

Settle in to the beautifully air conditioned downstairs.   Watch some Olympics and Alien, recorded off HBO.   Can't believe we haven't seen this movie!

11:15 pm
Go upstairs for bed.   Upstairs Temperature Check: 85 degrees.   We kick off all covers and lay on top of the fitted sheet.  We are sweating without moving a muscle.  We try to think of cold things like penguins and ice cream and snow storms.   That must not be an effective way of cooling down; we are still sweating.

It is too sticky to sleep, so we get the air mattress and extra sheets and head downstairs.   We inflate the air mattress in the middle of the living room, where it is - thankfully- still cool.


8:00 am
We wake up downstairs on the air mattress, which is still fully inflated!  Small victory there.   The temperature is still comfortable downstairs, despite Michael not fiddling around with the float switch overnight.  Upstairs temperature check: 86 degrees

Needless to say, we stay downstairs the entire morning and early afternoon, except to shower.   And even then the water stays on cold.   Do I have to tell you it does not feel the least bit cold?

2:15 pm
Torrential downpour outside.   This is good news!   Rain = clouds.   Clouds = NO SUN BEATING ON THE HOUSE.    Hallelujah.   Torrential downpours also come with a breeze.
Upstairs temperature check: 88 degrees (EIGHTY-EIGHT?!)

2:30 pm
We decide that breeze outside and no sun is a good time to open the windows.   Moving the air around will help, and the outside temperature is less than 88.  The breeze feels a-ma-zing.  We set towels on the window sills just in case the water comes in a little bit.

3:10 pm
The wind has shifted.   We run upstairs and close the eastern-facing windows to a crack so the carpets don't get soaked.
Upstairs check: 87 degrees

4:00 pm
Michael decides to check things out.  The eastern-facing bedrooms are coolish and the rain and breeze has died down.  So Michael decides to open the windows back up and have those fans blowing air down so 'cool' air gets to the hallway and hopefully down to our bedroom.
Upstairs temperature: 86 degrees

It is still roasting hot upstairs and looking like it won't get much better.  At this rate, I cannot work upstairs Monday morning.   Michael and I haul my computer and phone down to the dining room so I can work in a climate controlled area until the a/c guy comes Monday- hopefully in the earlier portion of the morning.
Upstairs temperature: 85 degrees

10:30 pm
Go to bed in the living room on the air mattress.  Again.  Luckily the float switch remains happy, so the downstairs is comfortable.   As comfortable as it can get, sleeping on a bouncy air mattress next to the couch and TV.


6:00 am
Wake up to go running.   Decide that running 4.5 miles is much more comfortable than one more second on the airbed.  Have I discovered a new trick for always wanting to jump out of bed and workout first thing?!

7:00 am
Back from running, head upstairs.
Upstairs temperature: 81 degrees
Shout downstairs to Michael "It's 81!  It is down to 81!"

7:30 am
Begin working in my dining room office

9:00 am
Michael calls the a/c folks to check on the status of our situation.   Turns out not only was Carlos out of fans in his truck, the company is out of stock too!   They are 'working with their vendor' to determine when they can obtain more.  They will call us back
Upstairs temperature: 84 degrees

Late that morning:
Float switch trips off again.   Michael drains the pipe with the trusty turkey baster.  Back on track.

11:00 am
Michael calls the a/c folks to check on the status of our situation- again.   Nothing new to report.  They will be in touch
Upstairs temperature: 85 degrees

12:50 pm
Michael calls again and uses the phrase "That is not helpful to me" on the phone.   It has been established that we can now order our part and they will "see" when a technician can come install it.

Approximately every 45 minutes during the afternoon
Downstairs a/c shuts off due to extra water in the pipe affecting the float switch.  You'll recall this started happening on Saturday.   It is getting more and more frequent.  Sigh.

5:00 pm
Michael calls the a/c folks once more to confirm that a tech will not be on the way today.  He asks for a time frame and is told they 'hope' the part arrives Tuesday.  Depending on the time it arrives, a tech can install it Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday.
Upstairs temperature: 88 degrees

5:01 pm
Michael decides to go to Target to buy fans.  His theory being he can push cool air from downstairs up into the stairwell and then out into our bedroom.  Had we known the saga would continue this long, we obviously would have bought fans much sooner.   Now we know, and having fans in Florida just seems smart.

6:00 pm
Downpour of rain.  Clouds and breeze = no sun beating on the house.   YES!   Michael gets home and sets up fans.   I remind myself not to trip over any cords in the dining room or up the stairs.
Upstairs temperature: 87 degrees


7:00 pm
Michael goes up to check on the fan project
Upstairs temperature: 86 degrees

8:00 pm
Michael goes up to check on the fan project
Upstairs temperature: 85 degrees

8:30 pm
Downstairs float switch trips off again.  Michael is done with turkey baster.  Gets shop vac.  Decibel level in the house reaches that of a runway, what with the shop vac and the 2 fans blowing at high speed.   I continue to be a teensy bit warm.

9:00 pm
Michael goes up to check on the fan project. 
Upstairs temperature: 84 degrees

9:30 pm
Downstairs float switch trips off again.  Cue shop vac.

10:00 pm
I am tired and want to go to bed.   It's cool enough to try the real bed and not the air mattress.   I fall asleep in less than 5 minutes.
Upstairs temperature: 83 degrees


6:00 am
Wake up to go running.   Remind myself to be careful on the stairs because there are cords and fans blowing, etc.  Do not check thermostat

7:00 am
Get back.  Michael reports that the a/c downstairs shut off overnight (it was 79)  and he has used the shop vac on the pipe.  Downstairs still feels warm.  Upstairs temperature: 82 degrees

7:30 am
Time to start work.   I wear a bathing suit top while working in my makeshift dining room office.  Michael suggests that, based on my sartorial choices, I resemble someone living in a double wide trailer.   I shoot him a dirty look.

10:30 am
Put on a tank top- I have a video conference call with colleagues and do not think they want to see me in a bikini top.

Michael calls the a/c folks to check on our progress.   The part has been ordered and is scheduled to arrive 'either tonight or tomorow morning' and they will call us when the part comes in so it can be installed.


6:00 am
Wake up to go running.   Remind myself to be careful on the stairs because there are cords and fans blowing, etc.  Do not check thermostat upstairs but realize downstairs is still cool.  YES!  Made it through the night.

7:30 am
Time to start work.   With the downstairs a/c in full operation mode, I wear normal clothes again.

9:30 am
Still no word from a/c so Michael calls them.   A lovely representative informs us that yes the part has arrived and will be installed the next day.   Company policy is that parts are installed the day after they arrive.   Then, the rep notices that we have been out for quite some time.  Her next words are music to our ears: "I am going to send a runner out with your part so he can meet up with a technician in the field.   Then the technician will be out today.   It might be after 5, but he will be there"
Did you hear the Hallelujah Chorus?  Because I did.

12:20 pm
Michael receives a call from the a/c office letting us know a tech will be out between 12:30 and 1:00 pm.  I do a happy dance in the dining room.   I am still working downstairs, after all.

12:40 pm
Doorbell rings.  It is Carlos again!   YAY!  Carlos installs our new part for the upstairs a/c and performs maintenance on the pesky float switch downstairs.

1:45 pm
Through some kind of magical Carlos math, he charges us less for both jobs that we were quoted to buy the original part and install it.   Not questioning it.   The a/c is working both upstairs and downstairs.   Hallelujah, indeed.

2:00 pm
Michael removes the fans from the stairwell and hallway

5:31 pm
I move my office from the dining room back upstairs where it belongs.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Back to School

August means one thing: Back to school sales!   Truth be told, it starts in July with newspaper inserts, which is a little bit crazy.   I don't have kids, and this time of year is no different in my own personal day-today.   But boy do I remember this time of year when I was a student- I was pumped!

I am not a shopper in general and never have been.  But drop me off in a Staples - specifically in the office supply section- and I will have a field day.  It started in middle school.   I looked forward to going in to the store and picking out [among other things] binders (one per course, different colors), a pack of rainbow sharpies, and my day planner.   You see, this was before everyone had digital gadgets in every pocket.   We had to write down all of our homework assignments on paper!  With a pen!   I feel old.

Once I found my planner, (which had many many requirements, mind you....  it took forever to find exactly what I wanted) I sat home and waited for our schedules to be mailed out.

When I initially found out which classes I was taking, I assigned each course a color.    That color corresponded to the binder in which I housed all papers and notes for that particular class.   The color also corresponded to the sharpie color I used when marking any and all assignments and tests for that course.   Finally, all highlights made within the planner (and within the text book) would be made in the same color.   Biology = green binder, green highlighter, green sharpie.

As soon as the schedule arrived, I spread out at the kitchen table with binders, sharpies, highlighters, and my DayPlanner and filled in every possible bit of information I could.   The schedule on the first page of the planner was color coded.  I could see at a glance where the 5 green Biology boxes were located and immediately knew when to head to the lab.   Science classes had final exams the first day of exam weeks.   Marked that on the calendar.   It was liberating!    I think my mother knew even when I was 12 years old, that I was a special organization case.

For the record, my color coding organizational ways continued in college, where I kept these same color schemes.   College may have been even more exciting because each class provided a semester long syllabus with each and every possible even included.  I honestly believe that my crazy methods helped me be a successful student for years.   When I publish The Book of Jules, there will be a chapter about schoolwork and organization.    They might not be the 'right' way to do things but they sure worked for me!

Despite not having anything to do with the typical back to school calendar, my heart still goes pitter-pat when I see the back to school ads.   My current batch of sharpies are still work just fine, and I have a few spare binders in the closet, but I really want to go to Staples.   Surely I should stop in and see what they have on sale this month.... maybe some post-its?  Can you ever have enough?