Fancy Coffee Friday: Look For The Helpers

Despite the news in recent weeks about events around the world and what appears to be a downward spiral towards a fascist America if the very vocal politicians have their way, I have made a concerted effort to follow Mr. Roger’s advice to “look for the helpers”. They still exist, quietly doing what they do. So, I am looking for the helpers, and I am trying to help where I can, too.


But, after having a go earlier this week at writing today’s post, I can tell you that this is not what I originally wrote. My first post was angry. Very angry. Angry with our politicians, with a society that refuses to think for themselves, angry at disingenuous people proclaiming their holier-than-thou virtues book-ended by memes spewing hate. I was getting so angry I just wanted to scream, or punch something, perhaps both. And last night as I lay in bed practicing deep-breathing to calm myself, I thought of the quote from Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”


What is the change I wish to see? Look at the news – we humans are doing some really awful things to each other and our planet. It’s a broad, far-reaching, and idealistic change, but we have to start somewhere. Besides, all the anger and stress is making me break out and I don’t know about you, but I’m not fond of adult acne.

Now, I don’t want to just look for the helpers, I want to be a helper. I also figured that I wasn’t the only one who does.

Today, let’s focus on what we can do, no matter how small. The world is hurting right now. The world needs help. How about you and I become helpers?

The help refugees, check out the International Rescue Committee.

To help the homeless, see

To help returning veterans – read ways you can in this CNN article.

To help seniors and the elderly – you can find out more here at

To help children in need – here and here are good resources.

To help the environment – start here at the EPA.

To make your voice heard, register to vote and make sure you exercise that right. And then write, call, fax, or email your legislators when you don’t agree with the course of action they are taking or even if you agree with what they are doing.

Every little bit helps.

  • Pick up the trash you see in the parking lot on your way from the car to the grocery store and dispose of it properly. If an elephant can pick up the trash – so can you.
  • Hold the door for the person or people behind you.
  • Buy the coffee for the person behind you at the drive-thru or the counter.
  • Offer a meal to the homeless person on the street.
  • What you may think is a small gesture may be grand to the person on the receiving end.

And remember, if you’re looking for the helpers and not finding any – it’s your time to step up into that role. Be that change you wish you see.


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Fancy Coffee Friday: Two Drink Minimum

I’ve repeatedly written about how I’m an Introvert and a self-professed hermit. Mr. Muse, also an Introvert, and I  can putter around the house with nary a word spoken in our silent, learned communication style of nods, facial expressions and pointing. Of course, we speak, too, but if we can get by without it we do.

hermitThis hermit habit of mine often leaves people who only see me out-and-about confused when they hear me say, “I’m really a hermit.” They try to argue with me that I’m one of the most outgoing people they know (awesome! my acting skills are on point!), that I’m so friendly and warm (actually… I AM a friendly and warm person when I really like people – otherwise, acting wins again), and that I’m a thoughtful person, remembering birthdays, anniversaries and the like (I’m really good about that – I have a planner).

fakingitI’ve had people genuinely get offended when I say I’m a hermit because they’ve only seen my acting abilities. And while I can appreciate their surprise, there are some situations where my acting abilities are utterly useless and my true nature comes shining through. The other night was one of those times: obligatory dinner with some folks that are difficult to take.

To preface this scenario, let’s dispense with a few facts about yours truly:

1. Writing is my preferred medium. Not speaking.
2. I am the skeptic’s skeptic. Essentially, I default to thinking everyone is trying to bullshit me.
3. Small talk is boring as fuck to me.
4. Gossip makes me want to run screaming from the room. Also, being a gossip puts you into the “horrible person” category.
5. If I don’t like you, or we don’t have an immediate connection, or we’re not talking about something that interests the both of us – I’m not chatty. At all*. That includes Personal Questions.

So it was with agony that I found myself scheduled for dinner out on Wednesday with Mr. Muse and these folks. I wish I could say that my attitude was good, but I knew the evening would be filled with awkward silences. Excruciatingly awkward silences. I also knew from past experience that this event was going to be a “Two Drink Minimum”.

True Story.

True Story.

We met up at the restaurant and having eaten there before, and also having enjoyed their cocktails, I knew the exact drink I wanted – one of their speciality martinis. That would be the conversation lubrication I’d need to get through the evening.

Or, so I thought, until the gossip began and was followed with a barrage of personal questions. Cue the internal struggle of “how little of a response from me is deemed ‘adequate’ and not rude?”

awkwardsilenceI’m sure I failed. Two martinis didn’t even help – of course, the fact that they are not the worlds strongest cocktails from this establishment might have had something to do with my mouth’s motor not really turning over.

It was when Mr. Muse and I both got into the car to leave afterwards and we both let out a deep breath as we both visibly relaxed, turned to each other and said, “Why is it so difficult?” that I knew I hadn’t been the only one struggling. Then we drove home, oohing and ahhing as the lightning struck all around us in a November thunderstorm, letting go of the tension of the previous 90 minutes.

*There are exception to every rule.

I know I can’t be the only person who repeatedly lives through these situations. Where my homies at!? Are there people that you are obligated to spend time with that just make it incredibly difficult to enjoy that time?

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Fancy Coffee Friday: Under Pressure

It’s not morning. It’s going on 7 PM and I currently have seven pints of homemade chicken vegetable soup in the pressure canner. I started with seven quarts of chicken stock. Spending time canning seems to have been the story of my life the last couple months, with that brief interlude of a jaunt off to England. A dear friend of mine made a comment last week when I told them about making and canning applesauce, “You’re always canning something around there. But, I bet it saves money.”  It sure does.

I haven’t tallied up how many kilograms of produce came from the garden yet – it’s all been written on the calendar, various days with various totals of various vegetables or berries. All except for the rhubarb; being a perennial, we really haven’t felt the need to track how much we harvest from it, but I can tell you that it was easily 30 pounds between us, friends and relatives.

So, while I’ve got time as I wait, I think I should share a few more favorite images from England. I love England. I was fascinated with it for many years because of books and movies and Monty Python. My interest grew after I made friends of people who live there; and then when I worked on my ancestry, learning that a big part of my family tree came from England, I was more intrigued. Toss in my love of history and the fact that England has centuries upon centuries of it – I’m all over it.

I want to go back. I want to travel to a lot of places around the globe, but I definitely want to go back to England. It oozes history and everywhere we went had something I wanted to see or a place I wanted to go. Now that I’ve been to Croatia and England, I can tell you both places had more history than I could take in during a short vacation. I like to think that all of Europe will be the same way so picking out where I want to travel to will be the hardest part.

But England? We’ll be back. We’ll be back more than once.

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Fancy Coffee Friday: So, we went to England and all I got was this lousy cold

Solomon's Tower, Buxton, Derbyshire, England.

Solomon’s Tower, Buxton, Derbyshire, England.

We’ve been back here in the US of A for nearly three weeks and most of that I’ve had a cold. Part of that time I’ve had a sinus infection – and thankfully that appears to have taken a hike. And so, I finally have some gumption to kick my butt a bit to write about the trip to England that Mr. Muse and I went on last month.

This trip has been on my travel list for many years. Since 1999 as a matter of fact when my sister’s internet friend, Duncan, flew to the US to visit her and stayed with the family for 10 days. I thought Duncan was a nice person, the visit was great (Mr. Muse and I were in the process of moving back to WI from Duluth, MN at the time) and wouldn’t it be neat to return the visit some day. I’d been saying, “next year we’ll go to England”, for many of the previous years and last year I finally changed my statement to, “We are going to England in 2015. I’m putting my foot down.”

We saved our pennies and watched the plane ticket prices. And cringed. England is damned expensive to fly to! The day I saw prices at $1100/person I said to Mr. Muse, “We need to buy our tickets now – it’s the lowest I’ve seen the price,” I contacted our travel agent (who got us a better deal with a package deal with car rental). When it was all said and done, the ticket prices had jumped up hundreds more but we’d gotten “locked in” at a lower price (not as low as when I first made the call). So, with our first hurdle cleared, we started looking at places to stay.

Manchester was our chosen city to fly into since it was the nearest airport to our friends and ticket prices were less than if we’d flown into Birmingham, Liverpool or London. Since Mr. Muse and I like to walk, we eventually settled on staying in the Peak District in Derbyshire. It’s a ruggedly beautiful area with tons of park land and walking paths galore. And sheep. Lots and lots of sheep.

But I digress… There were few expectations we had prior to leaving on the trip. Those expectations were:

  1. It would rain every day.
  2. My only gluten free menu option when dining out would be jacket potatoes. Those are baked potatoes for the unfamiliar.

I’m happy to say that my expectations were not met. Most of the days it was sunny and the temperatures ranged from the mid-50’s to low-60’s. There was even one day were it got into the low-70’s.

Gluten-free dining was actually incredibly easy to accomplish. Our first meal was at, The Hydro Cafe, in Buxton, a restaurant owned by a man who has Celiac disease. Mr. Muse and I both got to have fish and chips as our first meal in England.

We stayed at a vacation rental rather than a hotel, and we’re really glad we did. Portion sizes at restaurants are just as large in England as they are in the US… well, maybe a fraction smaller in some cases, but Mr. Muse and I both ended up taking home half our meals much of the time. Fun fact, “take away” at many dining establishments is not common. You’re welcome fellow American travelers for Mr. Muse and I leading the charge in our requests for “take away” boxes. Plus, our friends learned that they could get pudding (that would be dessert… not necessarily pudding) to go from a pub near their home.

Another of the easy, breezy, gluten-freezy bonuses of traveling to England: their grocery stores have more and TASTIER gluten free options! Part of our grand scheme for staying at a vacation rental was the ability to cook for ourselves if dining out was going to be difficult. Plus, we could get breakfast items at the grocery store to save on some funds. Our landlords also had supplied the apartment with a loaf of gluten free bread that was the closest in texture to full-of-delicious-gluten bread that I’ve had in three years. They also had local butter in the fridge, lactose-free milk, and previous occupants had left various and sundry items like jams, coffee, and tea.

So, before I get too wordy, I’ll wrap up and say that we had a great trip! We got to see our friend Duncan again after 16 years. We got to meet his wife Clare who was an “internet friend”, children and parents – all of who we’ve been corresponding with over the years.

We got to meet another of my internet friends, Matt, who drew the header images and avatar images for my social media accounts. We’ve been friends for eight years this month (Halloween is our Friendiversary!) and I was incredibly happy to finally meet him in person. I’m also kicking myself mentally that I forgot to take a photo with him while we were together.

Besides visiting friends and touring their areas with them, we ventured out on our own, and I’m tickled with all of the memories that were made during the trip. England is a place that both Mr. Muse and I found to be wonderful and we intend to make our way there again. And more than just once – there is so much more we want to see and more visits in the flesh to be had with friends.

Stay tuned in future posts for more photos!

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Fancy Coffee Friday: Jalapenos, Colds and a Goat in a Coat

Hello Everyone!

I’m back from England, caught a cold on the flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis, harvested 3 kilos of jalapenos the day after I got back and have a goat wearing a coat out in the barn.

I’ll save the majority of the England talk for next time as I’m still going through my photos and weeding out the sucky ones. So, until then – England was great! Thanks for asking.

The Jalapenos? Well, I eat a lot of pickled jalapenos and at nearly $4 a jar, I decided that this year I would grow a lot of jalapenos so I could pickle my own. Success has been achieved. I’ve already canned/put up 12 pints of those delicious little pickled morsels. Next up, jalapeno jelly. I made it last year and it was highly popular among friends (and myself), so this year I’ll be making more. Admittedly, I’ve not gotten up the nerve to use it to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Weird? Yes, that’s that I thought too until I saw a comment saying that if you liked Thai Peanut Sauce, you’d like using the jelly for a PB&J.

Colds suck. This one that I caught is a doozy, hitting me Tuesday morning and causing Mr. Muse to tell me I looked like I was melting. No good. However, it is making for a great weight loss program since I can barely taste anything. That makes me a little sad as I love food, but this week I’ve just been looking at it and thinking, “Meh… it won’t taste like anything anyway.” This also makes me a bit peeved as Monday I picked up some beautiful ribeye steaks but I don’t want to cook them until I can taste them.

My “Goat in a Coat” is Disqua (pronounced Dee-Skwa; she came with the name). She’d been getting a bit thin this summer but I chocked it up to her nursing. That was part of it, she also had a high parasite load and it was all a perfect storm. So, after two vet visits that included deworming (yes, I admit that I didn’t think about dewormer this year – that’s my fault; it’s on the calendar now) and fluids, she’s on barn rest. She also gets physical therapy from Mr. Muse and I and she’s getting a little stronger every day. Why do this all for a goat? I have no children and she’s got a job to do eating brush in the pasture. I need to take care of my employees.

And now, it’s time for me to wrap this up, make some more tea, take a nap and get over this damn cold!

PS – I don’t get out of doing chores just because I’m sick and those jalapenos won’t get themselves in the jars. ;)

PSS – I’ve not had coffee in over a week… can’t taste it anyway.

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Fancy Coffee Friday: I’ve been in the same clothes for the last 30 hours

That’s the thing about international travel – there really isn’t much opportunity for a wardrobe change. Thirty hours in the same clothes? SURE! And, add to that the fact that we’re now six hours ahead of our usual time – we’re doing our best on little sleep.

However, I’ve discovered some things:

My newly purchased pair of Bogs chukka boots? Even after wearing for 30 plus hours – they are incredibly comfortable. I just took them off – my feet feel great. I’m really happy with that purchase.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport actually does have gluten-free options. We picked Ecco and the food was AWESOME! So were the cocktails.

Virgin Atlantic gives you a lot of swag when you fly with them. Too much swag. However, I did watch the movie “Inside Out” before I attempted to sleep. I didn’t really sleep.

Roads in England are similar to roads in Croatia: tend towards being narrow, no shoulder, and rock fences on both sides. Oh, but you drive on the left-hand side of the road.

Also, eating gluten-free seems that it will be easier than I initially thought. I got to have actual battered fried fish ‘n chips for lunch today at The Hydro Cafe. The owner is a Celiac and has a lot of gluten-free options. He also gave us a small local tourist map – one we hadn’t Instagramseen and which would be useful AND told us about some more places with gluten free options. Bonus! I think we’ll get back to Hydro, however, as he spoke much about the carrot cake they offered, saying it was his favorite. He also mentioned curry. I like curry.

And that’s it folks! If you’re on Instagram (or not) – I post photos of my trip (though I’m rarely in them).

Right now, I have a PB Chunk Cookie I hauled all the way over to England with me from Bloom. It’s currently calling my name.

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Fancy Coffee Friday: “That’s Devotion”

We have two cats, Alex and Rupunzel (yes, that’s how we spell her name). Alex is 17 years old, Rue is 16. They both have kidney disease. Alex needs to get more liquid into himself, Rue needs to get more food into herself.

These two cats have been parts of our lives for THEIR whole lives. Both came from my parent’s farm. Alex was given to my mom’s coworker, and through an unfortunate series of events, he ended up back with us within a few months. Rue lived in the barn for the first 18 months of her life, having us scoop her up to have her live with us after the passing of another cat Mr. Muse had.

This last month, after the diagnoses came that kidney disease was in our present, we had to start giving fluids to Alex. Every other day, I put him in my lap and stick him with a needle. A bag of “lactated ringers” slung from a hanger that I’ve hooked onto a floor lamp is at the ready, and I open up the line, scratching his chin as 100 ml of saline builds up under the scruff of his neck.

Every night, I take out two small dishes from the cabinet and split a can of wet, kidney support, wet food into them and put one in front of each mewling cat waiting impatiently behind me.

Now, during a conversation about pets and animals in general at lunch earlier this week, I mentioned the every-other-night ritual for fluids and my boss looked at me, his eyes large, and he asked, “Really?” I nodded, responded, “yes really,” and took another bite of my salad. He gave that nod of approval, you know the one where someone is scrunching their brow in thought, the corners of their mouth drawn down in consideration? That nod. Then he said, “that’s devotion.”

I paused, thought about a lengthy response, but fell back to, “Thank you”, and conversation moved on to other things. But this had me thinking, wouldn’t anyone do that for a beloved family member even if it was a pet? Both cats are happy and otherwise healthy, they are just elderly: 85 (Alex) and 84 (Rue) years equivalent to humans. They still play with their toys, use the litter box without accidents, eat their food, drink their water and look for attention. Their kidneys shutting down are a typical elderly cat situation and if my otherwise healthy cats need a little boost via fluids to give their kidneys a little relief – so be it.

I grew up with animals. I worked at a veterinary clinic. I saw pets and livestock that were in so much pain for maladies which were not treatable with owners who insisted on keeping these poor animals going despite every bit of evidence screaming that putting the animal out of its misery would be the kinder move. I saw a dog literally rotting away from cancer, its owner insisting the dog was happy even though it couldn’t eat (had to be fed with slurry via a syringe), could only walk half a dozen steps and needed twenty different medications to function at a low level. These experiences all helped me decide what I would and wouldn’t do for a pet.

For Alex, who is not on any medications other than his “prescription diet”, sticking him with a needle and giving fluids every other day doesn’t strike me as anything devotional. To me it’s just what needs to be done. Yes, I might be interfering with nature’s course a smidge, but he’s a happy 17/85 year old who doesn’t have any problems other than old age. When, not if, that changes – the true show of devotion will be making the hard decision that is in HIS best interest – not mine.

Do you have an elderly pet? 

Do you find yourself making decisions for them based on their needs or your needs?

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