Throwback Thursday (a day late): My Christmas present to myself.

This was originally posted on December 21, 2014, when I’d only been blogging for a little over three months.  So much has happened in three years!   But this is a pleasant little memory, so I may do this again this year.   What a crazy year 2017 has been.  I could sure use a little self care right now!

comfort

As ACONS or victims of narcissistic abuse, we can be nervous, hypervigilant, and constantly feel stressed out and overwhelmed. It’s so hard for us to relax and just feel happy and in the moment.

Sometimes it’s the simple things that work best and take us to a place where we feel more at peace and more sane. We need to seek out and savor these small things.

The other day I received a gift card for Cracker Barrel. I have to admit, I love their country stores that are always a treat after pigging out on their heavy country cooking.

This morning I had to go have two of my tires changed and get an oil change. I hate dealing with servicing my car, but it had to be done. I already felt better knowing at least my tires won’t skid off the road, even though my car is 13 years old and the transmission is starting to slip.

Blasting rock music and singing along to it on the way home, I remembered my Cracker Barrel gift card and decided to stop by and buy a few things with it.

I adore candles and always buy those big scented jar candles at the dollar store, K-Mart or Walmart because usually those are all I can afford. Those are fine, but today I decided I could afford to splurge and buy a $20 Yankee Candle. I had a tough time choosing an aroma, because they all smell so great, but I finally settled on a new scent called “Silver Birch,” which smells just like woodsmoke and reminded me of a crackling fire.

I also love bath products, so I bought myself a bottle of JR. Watkins apothecary bath salts in Menthol/Camphor with Eucalyptus oil. The bottle, charmingly printed in a late 19th/early 20th century style, says it’s great for soothing colds and flu, but I’ve tried it before and it’s great for everything. It makes your body feel energized but relaxes your mind at the same time.

So when I got home, I decided to take a long hot bath, and just let the scents and warmth of the water swirl around me and bring me into the moment, only the moment. I lit the candle and placed it on the sink, poured a handful of the scented bath salts into the water and mixed in a little vanilla/lavender scented bath gel (cheap from Dollar General) in there too to make the water softer for a little moisture. Then I slid into the tub and literally sighed as I settled in. I lay there with my eyes closed for about an hour, just letting my mind wander and focus on the moment. I also said a little prayer of thanks for small blessings like this.

I nearly drifted off to sleep, but finally, when the water began to get too cool, I dried myself off, put on some comfortable clothes and decided to write a blog post about the bath from heaven.

We need moments like this to validate ourselves. We need to give ourselves little gifts every day if we can. If we didn’t get the mothering and nurture we needed, or we’re still surrounded by narcissists who don’t give a shit about how we feel, we can still give ourselves comfort and nurture every day in small ways like this

It’s not even necessary to spend the kind of money I did today (and the only reason I had it was because of the gift card I received). You can get the same effect with cheaper products from lower end stores. I always find great stuff at the Dollar General a few blocks away Their candles are limited in variety but smell really good. You can also mix a little baby oil with a cheap scented bath gel. At some smoke shops and other stores, you can buy little bottles of scented oil, or even learn to make your own (I’m sure there’s plenty of how-to instructions online).

There’s nothing like a long, hot, leisurely, great smelling bath to soothe your nerves and make you feel normal again, at least for a little while. And make sure you light a candle while you soak.

I’m still feeling so relaxed I think I’m going to nap for about an hour.

 

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8 ways to survive a 637 mile car trip in just one day — and make it amazing.

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I love highway driving and I love long road trips most of all, even if I’m driving alone.   Most experts recommend that for anything over 400 or 500 miles, you should think about staying somewhere overnight and splitting your trip into two days.  It’s good advice, but because I want to spend more time wherever I’m going and less time actually traveling (and saving money by not spending it for an extra night at a motel along the way), I never follow that advice, as sound as it may be.   For anything under 700 miles, I make the whole drive in a day.

I’ve made at least five car trips from North Carolina to the greater New York and New Jersey area, and I clocked those trips at 637 miles one way.  Amazingly,  the Tampa Bay area where my son lives is exactly the same distance from my home in North Carolina as those trips to the greater New York area were — and take about the same amount of hours to traverse.  I also once drove from New York to Chicago in just one day — that was a slightly longer trip at close to 800 miles — but that was a little too much.   I’d definitely split that into two days if I ever had to to it again.

There are apps and online programs that tell  you how long a car trip should take, but you should always add about two hours to it.  Those calculations they give you don’t take into account the various stops you will need to make along the way — and if you’re driving alone (or even if you aren’t), you WILL have to stop.   You can get exhausted and stiff as a board from sitting in a car all day, not to mention you will definitely need to relieve yourself from time to time and fill your gas tank.

Since I’m experienced at one day long road trips and have done so many of them,  I’m going to offer some tips to make your trip not only tolerable, but utterly enjoyable.  I for one, consider the road trip part of the vacation itself — even the road trip back.    As far as I’m concerned, the vacation isn’t over until I’ve stepped inside my house.   The actual road trip is definitely part of the pleasure of a vacation.  I can’t even imagine taking a plane for trips like these because the driving part has become such an integral part of it for me.    There’s a delicious feeling of freedom and adventure driving along the highway, especially when the scenery is lovely and you make music a part of it.

Here are eight things I do to make my long road trips not only tolerable, but an absolute blast.

1. Before your road trip, make sure your car is road worthy and in good shape for a long trip.  Check your fluids, get your oil changed, and get any repairs made beforehand.  If your tires look worn, it’s a good time to replace them.  There’s nothing worse than breaking down on the side of the road 400 miles from your home in an unfamiliar or remote place, especially if you know no one there.  It’s happened to me and believe me, it’s a nightmare and you’ll waste much of your trip with car repairs and towing, not to mention wasting money.

2. Time your trip well.  Leave early enough — preferably very early morning, or even at dawn, to start your trip.   That way you won’t be rushed, and can actually enjoy the drive instead of stressing out over the possibility of being late or arriving late at night — and absolutely exhausted. In my case, I try to time my trips so no to very little time is spent driving after dark — since I don’t see well at night.

3. If you leave at dawn (as I do), there’s something almost otherworldly yet serene about an empty highway with only you (and maybe a few early morning truckers) on the road.   It’s a very zen-like feeling, and you feel like the whole world consists of just you, your car, and the road.   It’s an incredibly peaceful feeling.  Just be sure to carry a thermos of coffee so you don’t fall asleep!

4. Pace yourself.   Never try to drive straight through to your destination without stopping.   Even if you’ve brought along snacks and don;t plan on stopping to eat anywhere, you will almost certainly need to stop for gas or to use the restroom.   Whenever you stop, get out of the car and walk around, stretching all your limbs and getting the blood running through them.   You will be surprised at how stiff and sore your muscles will feel after hours of nonstop driving (or sitting in the passenger seat).   It can be worse than after a workout at the gym!  Spend about ten or fifteen minutes just walking around or stretching.   When you get back in your car you will feel awake and refreshed — and a lot less sore.

5. Stock up before your trip with high energy, healthy, but light snacks.  Granola bars, trail mix, nuts, high energy but filling fruit such as bananas, orange slices in a plastic container,  juice, water and coffee will keep you going without filling you up so much you feel heavy and sleepy.     Cheese sticks or slices will give you the protein you need, but nuts will too if you prefer those.  I don’t like to eat big meals along the road, because they always make me fall asleep.    Keep a thermos of coffee that will last most of the day.  Water is better than soda — if you don’t like the taste of plain water, stock a small cooler filled with naturally flavored sparkling water.  It tastes like soda but is much better for you.  Make sure it’s sweetened with real sugar or a sugar substitute like aspartame if you can’t eat sugar, but avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup.

6. Enjoy the scenery and local customs.   Even in the most seemingly boring locales, there’s always something of local interest to enjoy.   If you stop for gas, look around at the local fare at the gas stations (you may find things there you never saw before and want to try), and spend time people watching to get a feel of the local culture.  Listen to the local accents too.   If the scenery is breathtaking, just enjoy it — but avoid taking pictures unless you’ve stopped the car to take them (or are with a companion who can take them for you).

7. If at all possible, make your road trips take place on weekends.   There’s a lot less traffic on the highways, and you won’t run into annoying rush hour traffic, which can slow you down and make your trip stressful and less pleasurable.   Also, on the weekends, you won’t have to deal with as many semi-trucks and 18 wheelers, which can sometimes become intimidating when you find yourself boxed in by them on the highway.  That probably won’t happen on a Saturday or Sunday.

And finally, this is probably the most important of all —

8. Make music a big part of your road trip.    A road trip just isn’t quite right without a soundtrack to go with it.   If you enjoy listening to the radio, there’s something compelling about just flipping around the stations and finding music you like.  Personally, I love to listen to stations come in and fade out as you enter new cities and regions.   It gives me a feeling of vast distances and a kind of ineffable mystery.   It’s hard to explain but I love it.    I also enjoy listening to my own music on road trips.   If you have a special “road song” you love and that fills you with energy or happiness while you drive, turn it into your own driving anthem.   Here’s mine — the feeling of freedom this song conveys makes me want to roll down my windows all the way and sing as loud as I can along to it:

 

Further reading:

15 Things I Love and Hate About Long Road Trips

13 reasons why you should pick up a book and read it.

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I used to read about three books a week, sometimes as many as four.   As a child and teen, I was a voracious reader, so into my books that the adults around me used to worry about me.  “Why don’t you watch more TV like other kids?” they’d say.   Yes, they actually wanted me to watch more TV because my obsession with books seemed so obsessive. TV was okay, but it never held a candle to my books.

My addiction to books lasted well into my thirties.  But then along came the Internet, and before long, I no longer read three books a week, or even three books a month.  Hell, these days I barely read three books a year.

I’m trying to get back into reading books again, and am rediscovering an old love of mine.  Here are 13 good reasons why you should do the same.

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My bookshelf at home.
  1.  Books are cheap.    You can go to Goodwill or the Salvation Army and pick up used books for a buck or two each.  Yard sales usually have books that are practically free or less than a dollar, and you never know what you might find.  And of course, there are libraries, which carry current titles and all you pay is the cost of a library card.   Some communities also have used bookstores, and in some of them you can trade titles you’ve read for ones you haven’t read and pay practically nothing.
  2. Nothing smells quite like a book.   I’ve always loved the smell of books, and walking into a library is like walking into olfactory heaven.    You can’t get that smell from your Kindle reader.
  3. Books can take you into other worlds.  A good fiction book is like walking into another person’s life and living it for little while.  If you find a book that grabs your attention and you can relate to the protagonist, in a way you actually become that character for awhile.   Chances are, their life is a lot more interesting than yours.  You can go places you will probably never go in real life and have adventures you will probably never actually experience.
  4. You can educate yourself.  Anything you want to know or are interested in, there is a book about it.  There’s no excuse to not educate yourself, with all the books out there you can read.
  5.  Books are attractive.  They look great on shelves or lying on tables,  and are a great way to decorate a room and make yourself look smart at the same time.
  6. Books allow you to be left alone.   If you’re in a public place, such as a bus, a waiting room, or in a park, if people see you reading a book, they will probably leave you alone and let you read.
  7. Books can start new friendships.   Sometimes, if you’re reading a book in a public place, someone may ask what you’re reading.   That can be a great conversation starter, and you never know — you may make a new friend that way.
  8. You can read a book anywhere.  You don’t need to recharge it or have a special table for it or a place to plug it into the wall.   You can lie in bed and read, lie on the floor and read, lie on the beach and read, or even lean back in the tub and read.  You can’t generally go online comfortably (or safely) in these places.
  9. You don’t have to worry about the power going out, viruses, or crashes.   As long as you have a lamp to read by, you can read a book anytime you want.
  10. You will always have something to talk about.
  11. People who read books are perceived as smart.   Even if all you’re reading is the latest beach romance.  The strangers around you don’t have to know that.
  12. Books can relax you.   Whenever I settle down and start reading, it calms my nerves and I stop worrying about whatever’s bothering me.  You can’t worry about your own troubles when you’re engrossed in a character’s life or a subject that fascinates you.   Try not to read horror novels late at night though, if you want to sleep.  If you want to sleep, read a dull book.
  13. You can never really get bored.  If you enjoy reading, you can entertain, educate, or enlighten yourself anytime or any place.

Remembering my favorite seasons of American Idol.

Since Trump got elected, I feel as if a magnet has been taken over the country’s hard drive.  I barely recognize America as my country anymore, and feel almost like I live in an occupied country.   Politics has taken over my mind.   Things I used to care about — like movies, entertainment television, novels, and other “frivolous” pastimes — hardly seem to matter anymore.

But all this obsessing over current events and the political situation all gets a little too much sometimes, and it helps to remember simpler times — like my interest in the singing competition reality show American Idol that lasted from 2006 through about 2009 or 2010 (after that year the show–and my interest in it–went south).    My interest was renewed somewhat in 2014, because one of the contestants, Caleb Johnson, was from my city and went on to win.

I wasn’t that interested in American Idol during its early years (it began airing in 2002 as a summer replacement show), though perhaps I should have been, since two of its most famous winners, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, went on to become major stars who are still making hit records today.   No contestant since has matched their level of success, though several have done well for themselves and have careers in the music industry.

I assumed American Idol was too cheesy to capture my interest (and I won’t deny it could get pretty cheesy), but because my kids were in their early teens and used to watch it, by default I began to watch it too.   The first year I did was in 2006.   It was season 5, the year Chris Daughtry made the Top 4 (and everyone was sure would win).    I watched reluctantly at first, but soon Daughtry, a hard rocker with a post-grunge style very much in vogue at the time,  became my favorite contestant so naturally I had to tune in every week.   I was devastated when he got a shock boot in 4th place.    I didn’t expect that at all. No one did.

In my opinion,  Daughtry’s cover of Fuel’s “Hemorrhage” was one of the best performances ever on this show.

Chris Daughtry’s shocking elimination in 4th place.

Daughtry’s shocking elimination was mitigated somewhat by the fact he became quite successful, with a string of mainstream pop-rock hits over the next few years.

Daughtry’s hit “Home” was used as the elimination song in season 7 every time someone went home (the song played over a film of the contestants’ “journey” on the show.)

The next year I didn’t really have a favorite contestant and didn’t get into it quite as much. A 16 year old named Jordin Sparks won that year.   I would have preferred third placer Melinda Doolittle, a former gospel singer, but that wasn’t to be.   Doolittle’s style probably was a little too old fashioned but she outsang everyone else that season.

2008 (season 7) had its first bona fide rocker win — David Cook, whose style was similar to Chris Daughtry’s.  No one thought Cook would win, but he knew how to play the game, and seemed to top himself every week.  He never had any bad performances. He could cover just about any genre, and make it his own by rearranging the song or by using someone else’s rearrangement that suited him.   2008 was the first year the contestants were allowed to use musical instruments, and David Cook was the first of a long line of white guitar playing male rockers who would keep winning for the next several years (some say this led to the show’s demise).   I was over the moon when he won, because I’d been rooting for him since the auditions and at that time, no one took him very seriously or thought he had any chance at all.

 

Cook’s own rearrangement of the Mariah Carey song “Always Be My Baby”

A performance of his own song, “Anodyne,” which was not on the show, but he performed at many of his concerts on tour.   I’m including it because I love the song, even though the quality here isn’t that good.

The next year, 2009, was the year Adam Lambert, a gay glam rocker, almost won.   Like David Cook, he never had a bad performance, and was creative and innovative, with impressive, unforgettable performances, usually with elaborate stage sets and lighting.   He had a voice that could hit unbelievably high registers, much like Chris Bellamy from The Muse (who was one of his mentors).  Season 8 was a very talented year (some say the most talented year) — all of the Top 4 were great, so it was hard to pick a favorite.   An inexperienced but talented singer named Danny Gokey had a soulful, raw gospel-tinged voice, and most people thought either he or Lambert would win, but neither did.  Gokey finished third.  On finale night, a quiet, unassuming folk-rocker named Kris Allen, who had been building momentum during the last episodes of the season, took the title.   Adam Lambert fans were devastated and shocked.   I wasn’t all that happy with the outcome, as I would have preferred either Lambert or Gokey, but I could see why Allen would take the title. He was very likable and talented in his low-keyed way.

My favorite Adam Lambert performance — a slowed down arrangement of Tears for Fears’ Mad World.

I think season 8 was the last really good season of American Idol.   I watched halfheartedly for the next couple of years, and finally stopped watching at all — and so had my kids, who were entering their 20s and had other interests.

In 2014 though, my daughter mentioned that a boy she had known through her friend in high school (they did not attend the same high school) had made it through the auditions.  His name was Caleb Johnson.   He was a hard rocker with a style reminiscent of the classic rock of the 1970s.     Of course I tuned in to check him out, and saw that he was very good and had a style I enjoyed.   His range was huge.   I didn’t expect he’d go that far though, but every week he kept making it through the rounds, until he made the  Top 3 and a big “homecoming” (a tradition where the Top 3 contestants emerge from the “Idol bubble” and return to their hometowns to be greeted with parades and fanfare) was held here, which I attended.  That was a lot of fun.    I still didn’t think he’d win, but he did.    Unfortunately his album didn’t do very well, but as far as I know, he still makes a living making music and performing at various charity events.

Caleb Johnson’s cover of Aerosmith’s Dream On.

American Idol’s final season was last year, but I didn’t watch any part of it except the finale, because of the tributes to the original judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson, and many of the former contestants.   I don’t even remember who won.    The show has a good legacy, and was cancelled at the right time, after a 15 year run.  It’s peak years seem like the distant past, even though it really wasn’t all that long ago.

 

Driving before dawn on a Sunday morning.

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There’s something almost otherworldly about driving alone in the wee hours of the morning, just before dawn when the sky is still dark and full of stars. It’s a zen-like experience: the world is silent as it still sleeps, the stores are still dark and locked up for the night, and the highway stretches before you, tapering into a point on the horizon that seems like forever. It’s so quiet you can hear the wheels sing as they progress along on the road. You feel like you’re all alone in the world, but you’re not lonely. There’s just this silence and peaceful solitude, a quiet time to just center yourself and talk to God. It’s a spiritual time; a time to just be.

In about an hour I will be going to sleep. I’m already packed for my 700 mile road trip which will begin at about 4 AM. That’s about three hours before the sky even begins to lighten, since the days are getting noticeably shorter now. By 7 AM, when the sun begins to paint the sky with pink and violet, I’ll already be about 250 miles from here, somewhere near Columbia, South Carolina. Then the world will be waking up and I’ll be thinking about more worldly things, like what I’m going to eat for breakfast–McDonalds or a gas station muffin? I’ll be thinking all about the great time I’m going to have next week and the fun things I will be doing. But I also think this trip is going to prove to be a healing thing for me, a time to reflect, since my son has to work for part of the week and I’ll be spending a lot of time alone by the ocean.

I’ll be taking my laptop with me and posting all about the adventures I have next week, so you’ll still be seeing me around. I’ll probably take a lot of pictures too 🙂

Feeding our soul

Here are some inspiring thoughts from an amazing blogger I just started reading. 🙂

Snoopy’s got the right idea.  Don’t let a Lucy put a damper on the simple things that brighten your day.

Emerging From The Dark Night

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A question for you.  What did you do today to feed your soul?

When we are down and hurting and when we are concentrating on the pain we have gone through sometimes we forget that there is something we could do to help our soul’s feel comforted in that moment when things are hard.  We could do something to love, care for and nurture ourselves.

Today prompted by reading a lovely meditation my favourite book  Tian Dayton’s One Foot in Front of the Other I thought of the things I did today to feed my soul and I thought of a gratitude practice of listing these things that would mean that the benefit of these lovely experiences could grow within my soul :

Waking I felt the sun streaming through the window, so grateful for its warmth and comfort.

I took a long, slow shower and lingered as long as I could under the comforting…

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Gals’ night at home.

My daughter and I had a nice time girl-bonding tonight.   I’m not the type that gets into female bonding in general ( most of my platonic friends have always been male), but every once in a blue moon, I can get down with it.

So we shared a bottle of chardonnay and got just a little goofy.   She decided she wanted to give me a makeover and do my hair.    I rarely have my hair done professionally; usually I do it myself, which means either a blunt, easy cut (if I’m ambitious) or a ho-hum parted down the center boring 1970s look.

I did have my hair done by a real hairdresser back in March (you might remember that post), but it’s expensive, and my hair was getting boring and lifeless again (and worse, frizzes in the high humidity, so I told her to be my guest and have at it.

She used a color called Soft Black Violet in the deepest layer of hair(near the scalp) and and after letting that sit about 20 minutes (rather than 40 like the box said–I didn’t want it  BLACK because I remember about 20 years ago when I dyed my hair jet black and I looked exactly like Morticia from The Addams Family, with my pale, almost redhead type of skin crashing into the blue-black of my hair like a cargo of black and white linoleum floor tiles after a truck explosion.

I asked her how much gray hair she could see (I have no gray where I can see it in the mirror).  She told me just a little in the deep layer near my neckline in the back.

“That’s it?” I marveled.  One thing my family did right with me was give me good genes. I hate sounding narcissistic, but I always thought I looked pretty good.  Most other people did too.  Hardly anyone on either my mother’s or my father’s side looked anywhere near their real age (until age finally caught up with them, usually around 70 or 80).

“Yup,” my girl confirmed.   Then, “Mom, you’re done.  Wow, you look great!”

The result is a color a little deeper than strawberry blonde, but not really red either, sort of a dark mauve (the mauve must be from the “violet” in the haircolors’ name). My medium blonde hair on the top layer remained intact, and the effect makes my hair look thicker and with more 3-D depth.

The choice of color might seem a little eccentric for a woman my age, but I never pretended to be anything but a bit off the beaten path.  Besides, my daughter picked it for me.  It’s true,  I’m not much of a risk taker in much of anything, but when it comes to doing weird stuff to my hair, well…

“Bring it on!”

It will always grow out if you hate it.

Here are the final results, after the blow dry and the hair straightening my daughter did.   I think I just saved about $80.00.

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One last thing that made everything perfect.  Here’s the song we cranked up and sang at full volume so it reverberated against the white ceramic tiles that cover most of the bathroom walls.  It’s one of her favorite songs ever and it’s grown on me too.

Eating Blackberries.

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I had a good day. It was a clear, sunny day, not a wisp of cloudiness. This was a welcome thing after two weeks straight of rainy, gloomy, humid, stormy weather. I went to church this morning and felt so energized when I left that I decided to finally mow the grass (after all the rain, it really needed it). It was very hot and the sweat poured off me so heavily that when I finished mowing I looked like I’d taken a swim (TMI: I sweat a lot)

I swept my porch, decorated now with green plastic lawn chairs covered with blue and green striped cushions and my newly painted green wooden table that I found at a yard sale about 8 years ago. I sat at the table, feeling the hot sun, listening to the summer birds, smelling my freshly mown grass, my bare feet propped on the table, and eating a tub of fresh blackberries from the fresh fruit stand down the road.

There’s nothing like the taste of fat, juicy blackberries on a hot lazy day. They taste like summer and happiness.

Sometimes the little things

…make a world of difference in how you perceive yourself. I haven’t had my hair styled professionally in years.  I finally grew tired of the same old boring look and decided to get my hair done today.  I chose a short (but not too short) layered hairstyle and had honey-blonde highlights put in too (although naturally blonde, I’d been dying my hair to cover gray roots, and the build-up of the dark blonde color I was using made it way too dark).

The hairstylist told me (correctly) that my hair was “fried.”   But she made it look terrific and I feel so much more attractive, and that gives me a boost of self confidence.  It’s amazing what changing your look can do for your self esteem.

If you’re feeling down about yourself, go have your hair done, or do something else nice for yourself, like having a massage or getting your nails done.   It might sound trivial and shallow but it really works!

Here’s my new do:

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Hot chocolate, a book and a nap.

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I got home early from work, it’s bitterly cold (though sunny) and I’m tired. I don’t care that it’s only 3 PM, I’m about to drink the delicious hot chocolate you see pictured above, crawl under my blankets, read for awhile (a book, not my laptop!) and maybe even let myself fall asleep for awhile. I can think of few things I’d rather be doing right now.