Archive | March, 2016

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A Simple Festive Table

This past weekend I held what ended up being a somewhat impromptu casual Easter brunch.  When hosting a holiday, a birthday party or other gathering, I always like to make my dining table look a little special.  However, you do not need to do much or invest a lot of money to give your table that special touch.

I usually have some type of small everyday centerpiece on my dining room table that reflects the current season.  So for the week before Easter, my dining room table had a burlap table runner with small stamped bunnies with white pom pom tails that I had picked up in the dollar section at Target.  The table had also displayed a floral topiary I had also found at Target as well as a bunny decoration that had been a hand-me-down from my mom.  I have found that Target is a great resource for cute and inexpensive seasonal decorations.  Make sure to check out the dollar section when you first enter the store.  They often have a lot of seasonal decorations including fun lanterns, pillows, cake stands and other items most of which are usually three dollars.  The home goods area also has great items but they are more expensive and if you really just want a holiday touch, I have found those three dollar items fit the bill.

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When I was at Target I also picked up a new tablecloth in a pretty aqua color.  I never like to spend a lot on table linens because by their very nature they are going to get dirty.  I do not want to worry that some one is going to make a mess on an expensive tablecloth or place mat.  It kind of takes the fun out of hosting a dinner party and entertaining guests.  My favorite places to find table linens are Target and Cost Plus World Market.  I also regularly check out Crate and Barrel, especially toward the end of the seasons when they discount some of the more seasonal linens.  Also, here’s a secret, I absolutely hate to iron so I try to find tablecloths that are not 100% cotton and if I do a quick spin in the dryer, most of the wrinkles will just fall out (looking at the pictures above, I obviously did not get a chance to throw my tablecloth in the dryer, oops).

For my aqua tablecloth, I picked up some pink paper napkins with white polka dots on one side and stripes on the other side.  We then  added our everyday white plates and silverware to the table.  White plates are a great item to have if you do not have them.  I love dishes, but I always use my white plates as a base.  I have other smaller plates that have patterns or designs that I use on other occasions as dessert or salad plates.  However, the white plates allow me to mix and match any other dishware into my table design.  I also have pink glasses that we use every day (I bought them several years ago because they made me happy) but they fit with our theme for the day, so we used them as water or juice glasses.

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I was very pleased with the way the table turned out.  I think any table can be made to feel festive with just a few touches, and it will make your party feel special. –June

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Finding your Inner Warrior

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend and, for those of you who had off last week, a relaxing spring break. My husband and I got away for several days and although it’s nice to come back to the comforts of home, getting back into the swing of a schedule again is always a bit challenging. Resuming my regular yoga practice always grounds me, so I thought we would start this week with a little  Monday yoga.

I love teaching the warrior series and often incorporate this beautiful trio of postures into my yoga sequences. I particularly enjoy Warrior II (also known as Virabhadrasana II). For me it’s a posture of attitude, strength, and courage. I feel like I can conquer the world when standing strong in Warrior. Sometimes this posture flows gracefully into another pose, and sometimes it’s held strong and steady for several minutes. The entire body is involved when practicing Warrior II. It builds inner strength and improves balance, concentration, and core awareness. I always find myself drawn to this pose when I’m feeling a little scattered, knowing that my mind body and spirit will find tranquility and comfort.

To practice Warrior II, stand straight with legs wide apart, and arms at your sides.

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Nicole is demonstrating Warrior II

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Turn the right foot toward the top of your mat and make sure the heal of your right foot is aligned to the center of the left foot. Lift arms to shoulder height and turn your palms up. Bend right knee, keeping the knee over the ankle. To make sure your knee is aligned properly, you want to see the second and third toes of your right foot.

Look over the fingers of your right hand, ready to meet whatever comes your way.

Warrior II is a wonderful posture for strengthening the legs, opening the hips, and expanding the chest.

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Nicole showing off….

I hope you have a wonderful week.

~May

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A Visit with Trump

TGIF! We hope you all enjoyed being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and are ready for the weekend. Spring break begins here next week, and we hope that all of you getting away have fun and safe travels.  May is lucky and is going on a little trip.  June, unfortunately is not going on spring break, so we should all feel sorry for her.  A few weeks ago, May and June took a little field trip, and visited Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago.  At the time, we had no idea Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy would continue, and in no way was our visit a political statement.  We simply wanted to enjoy a drink with a nice view and with a five star Forbes rating, we knew we came to the right place.  The Trump hotel soars 92 stories above the Chicago loop, and is the tallest reinforced concrete building in the world.

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The bar at the Trump Hotel is called Rebar, and is cozy with comfortable chairs and low tables.

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Because we were there early, we scored a table by the windows and enjoyed a view of the Chicago river and the Wrigley Building.  The bar is on the second floor, so we also had fun people watching as the pedestrians walked on the path below.

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We each enjoyed a glass of Prosecco and shared a lovely goat cheese and black olive flat bread.

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Like Donald Trump, the prices at Rebar are rich. The hotel is known for its high level of luxury services, and this was definitely one of the pricier hotel bars we have visited, but the sophisticated atmosphere and excellent service made this a fun treat.

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Enjoy your weekend.  –May and June

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I Voted

I voted yesterday.  I am not going to get political here on May Meets June about candidates and my personal beliefs.  I think if you decide to vote, then who you vote for is extraordinarily personal.  And if you want to debate candidates and viewpoints there are many, many forums to do that.  However, I was excited to vote.  Living in Illinois voting in presidential elections is often meaningless (although I do still vote).  Illinois is late in the primary cycle so by the time our turn comes around, the candidates have already been selected.  In the general election in November, the presidential candidates rarely campaign here because statistics and polls already have told them who is going to win and who is going to lose our electoral votes.  So in many ways, my vote is meaningless.

This year because of the circus that is the presidential election, votes seem to count, so off I went to our polling place.  Our polling place is in a nursing home about two blocks from our home and we vote in their chapel that they also use as a multi-purpose space.  I love going to vote.  Often we see our neighbors at the polling place and we visit before or after we vote. We often know one or more of the election judges that checks us in and hands us our ballot.  I love that there is often a line to vote and we have to wait.  I will never complain to wait in line to vote because that means people care enough to show up and do something that is benefitting the public good.

There is sanctity and a solemnity when you step up to that little plastic table with the divider that gives you privacy to cast your ballot in secret.  I stand there with my black pen in hand ready to fill in the arrow for the candidate that, while not perfect (and maybe not who I would ideally like to be a candidate), I believe will do the best that he or she can to lead our community, and be our voice.  I feel important completing this exercise.  My voice may be small but by casting my ballot, it does get heard.

After making my choices I run my ballot through the machine that registers whether it has been properly completed.  I always feel so patriotic and American leaving my polling place.  I have done my job as an American citizen by speaking up in how our country is governed.  And I always make sure I get my “I Voted” sticker as a memento.  But what is amazing about this country is that you also can choose not to vote, and that is OK too.  There have been times I have not voted either because it was not a priority, or I did not feel informed to make a good decision and no one came and punished me.

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My husband loves to watch the political shows on Sunday morning (or really any time if I let him) and I have to tune them out often, because the discourse and the anger get a bit grating at times.  And this election cycle seems worse than past cycles.  History has shown that democracy is sometimes messy.  However, one positive I am going to take away from it is that people care and I am going to proudly display my “I Voted” sticker. –June

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Spring Mantels

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a great weekend, and maybe did a little spring cleaning? This is the time of year when spring fever begins to set in for me. We’ve experienced a few warm and sunny days, the snow has melted, and the spring perennials are beginning to peek out of the cool damp earth. Those winter layers that made me feel oh so warm and cozy during the cold dark months, are now beginning to stifle me, and I’m ready to shed the heaviness of winter from my body and home, and lighten up for spring.

I realize it’s only March, and there will be more cold blustery days in the coming weeks, but I can deal with it knowing that the warm, sunny, and longer days of summer are right around the corner. This past weekend I put away some of my heavier throws and pillows, replacing them with lighter, brighter fabrics. I don’t do a whole lot in my home when the seasons change, just focus on a few touches here and there to help celebrate whatever season we are enjoying at the moment. The fireplace mantel is a beautiful focal point in the home, and a great place to decorate for the changing seasons.  Today I thought it would be fun to show you a few spring mantels that I love. The nice thing is, you don’t have to go out and spend a fortune on accessories (unless of course you want to 🙂 ). I usually discover pieces that are already in my home, and find a fun way of repurposing them. If you do want to purchase something new and fresh, now’s the time to shop! One of my favorite accessory stores, Homegoods, is loaded with spring and summer accessories, and the prices are always great. This year, I’m feeling a little more minimalistic when it comes to my home, and am keeping things clean and simple. This includes my fireplace mantel, so I went with more of that theme with the mantels I’m showing you today.  Here are a few of my favorites:

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Jenna Burger

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The Inspired Room

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Pinterest

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Pinterest

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May’s Home

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May’s Home

How will you freshen up your home for spring?

Enjoy your week. ~May

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Happy Hour- Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

We’re on the eve of one of the most celebrated “holidays” of the year, here in Chicago. St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and with the city of Chicago being home to a large Irish community, preparations are being made for this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, as well as the dying of the Chicago River to a vivid green, to honor the day.

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May and June are honoring the day with Irish coffee, and a few Irish inspired appetizers.

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Irish Coffee

The Irish Coffee recipe was inspired from The Pioneer Woman’s recipe

1 cup of heavy cream

Splash (or a bit more) of Bailey’s Irish Cream

Strong brewed coffee

1 shot of Irish Whiskey per coffee cup

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Start by whipping the heavy cream and the Bailey’s Irish Cream with a mixer until you have whipped cream.  Pour the shot of Irish Whiskey and the brown sugar in the bottom of a coffee cup.  Pour brewed coffee until cup is almost full, and top with Bailey’s whipped cream.

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May and June are not beer drinkers, but for those of you who are, there is a large selection of Irish beers to enjoy with your appetizers.

For our appetizer we made little toasted Reuben bites which could be paired with a delicious Irish beer.

Ingredients:

Corned Beef (from the deli is fine)

Swiss Cheese

Sauerkraut

Thousand Island Dressing

Triscuit Rye Crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Top each Triscuit cracker with a small piece of corned beef.  Place a teaspoon of thousand island dressing on top followed by some sauerkraut.  Top with swiss cheese.  Place in oven and toast until cheese is melted.

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Irish coffee, toasted reubens and Irish soda bread

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There is no happy hour without Gatsby.

Have a good weekend.  And may all the Irish eyes be smiling on you and your family. –May and June

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Irish Soda Bread

In honor of the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day and my Irish heritage (while a lot of my ethnic heritage is German, I do have a bit of Irish since my mom’s maiden name was Kelly), I recently made some Irish Soda Bread.  I have made this recipe for a number of years and found it to be one of my favorites after making a few tweaks.  Unlike a lot of Irish Soda Bread recipes, it is not dry and crumbly and does not contain caraway seeds.  Instead it is a sweet bread that makes a delicious toast for breakfast.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup unsalted butter melted

1 1/2 cups of buttermilk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 cup and a handful of raisins

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(If you can find jumbo raisins or baking raisins they work best as they don’t get too dehydrated upon baking)

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 to 10 inch cast iron skillet or a large baking sheet.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl; make a well in the center.  In a smaller bowl, combine melted butter, buttermilk and egg.  Add the liquids to the dry ingredients, pouring it into the well and stirring to form a soft dough.  Add raisins and mix lightly.IMG_3616
  3. IMG_3614Transfer batter to skillet, shaping into a ball.  Or, with lightly floured hands, shape it into a ball on a baking sheet.  Slash an “X” across the top (it wards off the devil).  Bake until set, 50 to 60 minutes.

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Toast and enjoy with some Irish butter.

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Happy (almost) St. Patrick’s Day.! –June

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(He does not look too pleased to be “Leprechauned”)

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Are you an optimist, or a pessimist? Do you like to see the glass half empty, or half full? Are you able to enjoy a little happiness everyday, or is the bulk of your day filled with negativity?

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Recently, I was on the train headed to the city and realized I forgot my headphones. I often love to drown out the noise of the many conversations on the train (mostly people talking on their cells) by listening to a podcast, music, or a meditation. I was stuck though, and without anything to read, I was forced to listen to the chatter from those around me (yes, some would call this eaves dropping), while watching the passing winter landscape outside my window. It’s funny how much you learn when you simply tune in and listen. I discovered that there are a lot of people out there who are not very happy. Now, I know we all have our bad days, but I’m not talking about that today. I’m talking about people – we all know them, and some of us may be them! – who spend a good portion of their day droning on about all the bad things happening in their lives or the lives of others, leaving the many happy moments that occur everyday for all of us, in the dust. The gentleman sitting behind me was a perfect example of this. He had three different phone conversations on that ride and basically spent all three of those conversations not only being negative, but some moments were down right nasty. I won’t go into details, it was a private conversation after all. (Ha! I think the whole car heard him!) All I can say is I was so happy when the train pulled into the station and I could get away from all his negative energy. It got me thinking though…..am I a positive thinker, or a negative thinker?

I feel that for the most part, I’m an optimist, and I think anyone who knows me would support that statement. I always try to find the good in any situation, no matter how bleak it may seem at the time, because I believe that for every bad moment there is a good one. You’ve heard that saying you are what you eat? Well, I also believe that you are what you think. I find chronically negative people to be toxic, and I, for the most part, keep them at arm’s length. Life has enough challenges without the extra weight of someone’s stinking thinking keeping me down. And all of that negativity just invites more negativity. When all is said and done, like attracts like….

How many of you wake up in the morning and think ugh, it’s Monday, it’s cloudy, the kids are sick, traffic is going to be miserable, I hate exercising, I don’t want to be stuck in meetings all day, etc.? We’ve all been there. So, today we are going to start a little experiment. When you wake up in the morning, I want you to pay attention to and focus on all the happy moments in your day. They don’t have to be huge, just the little things that perhaps make you smile or even something you can do to brighten someone else’s day. I’m not saying your day has to be all sunshine and roses, but I do think attitude has a lot to do with how we view a situation. Off and on over the years, I have kept a gratitude journal, because I’ve found that I’m more aware of those happy moments when they are written down. There were days when I wasn’t feeling particularly happy or grateful, but I managed to write down a few things that brightened my spirits or made me smile throughout the day. Some of these moments may seem mundane and even trivial, but happy is happy, right? If you’re someone who tends to be a little more negative, you will have to train yourself and really focus, otherwise those sweet moments will be right in front of you, and you will never see them.

Here’s a list of some of the happy, make me smile moments that have been part of my day:

  • My daughter Nicole singing in the morning as she is getting ready for school. (Show me a teenager who does that at 6:45 on a Monday morning!)
  • A walk with my pup after a snowfall.
  • My girls washing the dinner dishes!!
  • A piece of dark chocolate
  • My daughter, Alyssa. I have nothing specific because she makes me laugh every day.
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  • Playing in the waves with my son Danny, on a recent visit with him. So much laughing!!!
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  • Finding twenty dollars in my pocket.
  • After a rather sleepless night, watching a beautiful sunrise.
  • Ordering a pizza!
  • Enjoying a walk with my dad on one of the last warm days of autumn.
  • Lunch with a friend.
  • Opening the door for someone.
  • Sawyer greeting me at the door, every single time I walk in.
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  • My husband filling my car with gas.
  • Catching up with my son David every week, on his way home from work.

I truly feel that happiness is about the small things that happen everyday. Negativity not only affects how you see the world, but when you’re putting out negative thoughts, you are attracting it right back into your environment. Have you ever noticed that negative people usually hang out with negative people? The girls and I watched a sweet movie called About Time. It was a small English film that came out a few years ago about a young man who has the ability to to go back in time and change what has happened in his own life. He realizes that so much of life is about what you put out into the world everyday, and how you treat the people you encounter. Yes, it’s a bit of a chick flick and we needed some tissues at the end, but it was definitely worth watching.

So here’s to a week of positive thinking, being kind to people, smiling often, and seeing the beauty in everyday.

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~May

“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

 Abraham Lincoln

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Exploring Whole Foods Market

Today, May and June thought it would be fun to take a little field trip to our local Whole Foods Market.

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 We don’t know what it is about this store, but we love to roam the aisles, exploring all the different departments. It really is a shopping experience, rather than just a grocery shopping chore.  In addition to the fresh foods and produce (you have the option of organic or conventional), Whole Foods also has a lovely floral department, as well as a health and beauty section where you can purchase and often sample clean, chemical free products.

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Fresh produce

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Seasonal flowers

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Natural soaps that smell amazing! (We smelled all of them!)

 We may only go to pick up one or two items, yet find it hard to leave in less than thirty minutes. It is quite the shopping event! Admittedly, both May and June shop at Whole Foods for those few items that usually aren’t available at our regular grocery store. Whole Foods higher prices can create a hefty grocery bill and let’s be honest, we’d rather put the extra cash toward a great pair of sandals for the coming summer!

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With that said, it was nearing lunch time while we were at the market and since we were both starving, we decided to check out the in-store dining. There were lots of options including a salad bar, pizza station, sushi, sandwiches, and wraps. Whole Foods also has a bar, for those of you who want to stop in for an “adult beverage.” We both settled on their magnificent salad bar which had so many delicious choices, our recyclable containers almost runneth over!

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Yummy salad bar

The in-store dining was a great idea for the store, especially at this particular Whole Foods because of the surrounding businesses, there always seems to be a very large lunch crowd.

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Adult beverage center

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Salad Bar

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Cheese assortment

Whole Foods also supports many charitable organizations around the globe, to help fight hunger, and the store gives you up to a ten cent rebate per bag, for bringing your own reusable bags. Alas, after lunch it was time for us to go. We purchased our few items, and headed out the door. Until we meet again….

Have a great weekend. ~May and June

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Fears and Phobias

Does anyone else have any crazy fears or phobias?  I had an experience yesterday morning that made me start thinking about my weird fears and phobias.  Why do we have these fears or phobias since we know they are completely irrational?  It is not the same as when our safety is threatened such as a scary guy following us in a dark alley.  These are fears that are for the most part, unfounded in any type of danger.  So I am going to share with you some of my crazy fears today.

When I was in fifth grade, I went to a slumber party and we watched the movie Poltergeist.  For the uninitiated, Poltergeist is a movie about a family’s house that is haunted by nasty ghosts because it is built on an ancient burial ground.  The closet in the daughter’s room is somehow a portal  for the ghosts.  I don’t really remember all of the details but what I can tell you, is that 30 some years after the one and only time I saw the movie, I cannot sleep if the closet door is open. The door has to be all the way shut, not one crack can be open.  I have trained my husband to shut the closet door before going to bed and I always check before I get in bed that it is shut.  I am not sure how a shut closet door prevents any poltergeists from getting me, but at least I can sleep at night.

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I also have a touch of claustrophobia (I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have to sleep in a closet to stay away from the poltergeists).  Although I don’t like small spaces, I really have claustrophobia in a large crowd of people.  I think because I am small I feel like I am being suffocated when I am in a large crowd.  All I can really see is a lot of chests, bellies and armpits.  I went to Taste of Chicago on July 3rd years ago when they still had the fireworks on that date.  That meant that there were around a million people on the lake front.  I had a full blown panic attack and thought I was going to be crushed by the crowd.  I couldn’t breathe and thought I was going to faint.  Since then, I tend to sometimes avoid events where I know there will be a lot of people and if I do go, try to stay on the outer edges.  When I used to have to take the L train to work, I would often let a very crowded train pass me by and wait for the next one to avoid having to be squished in the car and risk a panic attack.  I can guarantee no one will see me in a mosh pit at a concert any time soon.

Finally, my fear that led to writing this is my fear of mice.  I never knew I was afraid of mice until I had my own condo.  It was an open floor plan so the kitchen and living room were basically one room.  I would sit on my couch watching TV and see something scurry across the floor in the kitchen out of the corner of my eye.  At first I thought I was just seeing things, but then I realized it was mice.  My husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) came over and helped me set traps, but the mice would eat the peanut butter off the traps and not get caught.  Then he got the brilliant idea that he would build a little stair step with books so that it would fall into a bucket full of food.  Needless to say that was a complete and utter failure (although very funny when I think about it, but it is something that happens when someone has an engineering degree from MIT).  Then we used glue paper which was horrible!  The mouse would get stuck to the paper but still be alive in the morning.  Every night I would go to bed, close my bedroom door and stuff a towel under the crack so the mice couldn’t  get  me in my sleep.  I had nightmares that I would wake up and there would be a mouse in my bed.

Finally, we moved but our house was built in the late 1940s.  So guess what?  Old house equals lots of nooks and crannies where the mice can get in.  So in the cold weather, the mice like to party in my kitchen.   They have tried to eat through the plastic cereal container that holds our dog food (I don’t know where the dog is in all of this, maybe he is afraid of mice too).  I have found dog treats out of the bag and halfway across the counter and other evidence of nocturnal happenings.  So it is war right now.  I am turning a bit into Nathan Lane in the movie MouseHunt.  We now have a fancy mouse trap that I call the mouse hotel whose motto is they check in but they do not check out.  The problem is if I actually see a mouse, I scream and want to jump on one of the chairs like those cartoon characters.  It is a totally crazy fear and my body just goes into immediate flight mode.

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My husband is out of town this week and he is usually the one who deals with the “mouse hotel.”  Yesterday morning there was a “guest” and I thought about calling my brother who lives very close to see if he could vacate the premises.  However, I decided to be brave and not play damsel in distress.  I thought maybe I could empty the trap without looking, but the problem is I wasn’t sure the mouse had made it into the garbage can without actually peeking.  When I did peek I screamed a little even though clearly, he was dead.  I had the heebie jeebies just from looking at him and covered him up with a paper towel in the garbage can, so that I could no longer see the corpse.  However, I was sure every time I opened up the lid to the garbage can the mouse would be in there twitching his nose and whiskers at me.   If anymore guests check in to the mouse hotel this week, I do not think I am going to try to overcome my fear.  Instead, I am calling my brother and he or my 14-year-old nephew can come rescue me.

So, those are some of my craziest fears.  I guess I am safe if I ever am in a large crowd of mice and poltergeists because my reflexes have been honed to run fast and far.  –June

 

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