Friday, November 26, 2021

A day in Boston

It’s easy to take the train (MBTA) into Boston for a day trip. This time, I drove to one of the end-of-the-line stations near me; next time, I will try the commuter rail and compare the experiences. You can buy “T” tickets from kiosks for one ride or several.


Boston Public Garden

I walked around the North End, with a destination of “Mike’s Pastry”. I originally planned to get a cannoli, but when I saw that they were $5 each (probably worth it), I decided to get a “Napoleon”, which looked fabulous (and tasted marvelous) for the same price. I was going to get a cocoa at CaffĂ© Vittoria and use the rest room there, but the plan changed a bit when the wait staff took the orders for a group of male customers who sat down next to me after I arrived, and completely ignored me. When more male friends of the neighboring table arrived, I gave them my table, used the rest room, and left. This ended up being a good thing, as you will shortly see.


Stephanie's Restaurant

I walked through the farmer’s market and wished I had a wheelie cart with me like many other shoppers did, because I was hesitant to lug around bags of affordable fruits and veggies for the rest of the day. Faneuil Hall has many name-brand shops now and fewer local places as in years past. The food stalls looked great but it was crowded and I decided to look for a restaurant with tables where I could relax a bit. I walked past Park Street Church and through the Boston Common, pausing to admire the trees and the State House.


Copley Square, Trinity Church

In the Boston Public Garden, I found a bench and decided to sample the pastry I got earlier. In the blink of an eye, a large squirrel climbed onto the bench near me and leaned against my bag in an effort to snag some dessert! My phone was in a zippered pocket so I didn’t get a photo of the squirrel, but it seemed to understand “no” (like my cats do!), and it lumbered off without any human snacks. 


I walked along Commonwealth Avenue, where crews were wrapping trees with sparkly lights. I didn’t do any shopping, but wanted to experience Newbury Street, and found a restaurant I’d been to many years ago. This resulted in a stupendous hot cocoa that was every bit worth the calories, along with a tasty sandwich in a comfortable place to warm up.


Boston Public Library

I walked along Boylston Street for a few blocks, then caught the T back to my car. FYI, train parking garages have a payment system by app, which is not the same app as other town parking apps, such as Salem. Of course not! Anyway, it was wonderful reconnecting with Boston, and I look forward to future visits to museums, a walk along the Charles River, Harvard Square and more.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Donations are getting more difficult

Donations are getting more difficult  


I realized that it’s going to be more challenging to post a weekly list of what I passed along. At this point, monthly might be more reasonable since I gave away the “easier” items already. I’ve continued to sort through letters and even my high school graduation program. Now it gets tough. I’ve been mulling over my high school yearbooks- stay or go?


Gloucester, MA

I donated some children’s books last time and am now struggling with keeping my very favorite ones. They can stay as I continue to sort through other books. I have a pile of papers to shred, and buying a shredder is on my list. 


Salem, MA

Are you a “saver”? I’ve found two other things that I’ve saved, and am ready to stop saving them for now. In addition to the body care items I mentioned previously- it’s great to have 4 containers nearly empty, almost to the recycling bin with toothpaste, lotion, eye cream, etc., I have stockpiled travel snacks for years. Not to say that one exact item was saved for years, but that I’ve had a “travel” storage area for years, and there has been an increasing amount of nonperishable food items in it, and that’s stopping as of now. I started bringing my own coffee on trips when I discovered a fabulous German invention of individual packets of coffee that already had powdered milk, sugar, and/or a spoonful of cocoa in the packet! Even lactose free! Some hotel breakfasts are robust with healthy options, while others (in the US) have relatively unhealthy options, especially since COVID. With an increase in Air B & B’s and hotels with microwaves and mini-fridges, I’ve been bringing my own packets of oatmeal, single-serving tubes of peanut butter (some even come with half a tube of jelly attached!), crackers, etc. Most of those items are good for a long time, but I don’t have any travel on the horizon, so it’s time to enjoy them at home. Here’s to 9 mini peanut butter packets and a bunch of oatmeal/grits envelopes. And a pile of mini-toothpastes from the dentist that might as well get used instead of saved for trips!


25 pounds went out the door last week!

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Letting go of the past in week 5

In my favorite basement a few years ago, cute storage boxes organized everything from old school papers to Christmas decorations to tax records. This recent move included:

·      6 waterproof hanging file folder bins 

·      5 small “apple green” boxes with music and other paper/storage items 

·      5 white and black boxes with old calendars/journals/other stuff (2 large, 3 small)

·      9 medium sized charcoal-colored boxes with Christmas items and other stored things 

Topsfield, MA

They all sure looked good in that former basement, fitting perfectly between the shelves.


And now, they take up a lot of space in a basement-less place. The weight challenge started as a physical invitation for me to feel relieved when sharing items with other people, such as photo frames last week. Now the weight feels more emotional. I am not going to weigh a bag of letters that I wrote to my Mom, which she kept for decades, and then I kept when cleaning out her apartment. After looking through them, I realized that I cannot keep 25 storage boxes of history for the rest of my life. I was going to scan the letters I sent to my Mom years ago, before setting them lovingly in the trash compactor, but admitted that I would probably never read scores of scanned letters again. It was good to see sketches of former gardens that I made for her, and reports of vacations to exotic destinations.


Topsfield, MA

I’ve also begun going through a box with old journals. I am not asking myself to toss them all right away, but I found a few that it’s ok to part with, such as reports from summer camp in junior high. They brought a smile to my face, and although it’s sad to part with parts of myself, as represented in those journals, I’d like to free up some floor space that is filled with boxes because the closets are full. 


Gloucester, MA

I’m still glad to have the charity donation bag with items to weigh, and am finding more uncomfortable shoes in said closet, no matter how good they look! For those of you who have kept history, do you have a ritual for letting them go?


20 lbs donated this week, not including bags of letters unweighed but let go of.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Best cheesecake ever?

I have shared so many cheesecake recipes here and have made more that didn’t get into posts, I feel like Forrest Gump: peanut butter and jelly cheesecake, blueberry pie cheesecake, pecan pie cheesecake, carrot cake cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake, cupcake cheesecake, brownie crust cheesecake and plain old regular lemon cheesecake. It is possible that the superlative cheesecake has just been made and consumed this month!I also cannot believe that I forgot to post the pumpkin cheesecake recipe here, as it has been the overall winner so far. I just made it 2 weeks ago but didn't take photos, so I will correct that omission the next time I make it.


Thanks to the original recipe from

I made some modifications and may have to scientifically test the hypothesis that it’s outstanding the next several times I make a cheesecake!


I modified the original “Oreo” crust recipe by using gluten free oreo-type cookies that came in a 10 oz package. I used 1 stick of melted butter and wished I had used a blender to really pulverize the cookies. The old “mash the cookies with a rolling pin or can” (inside a plastic bag) technique was ok, but finer crumbs would have been better. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper, spray or grease it, and pop the crust (pressed into the pan) in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up.


Preheat the oven to 350.


I used 2 packages of cream cheese (8 ounces each). This made for a thinner cheesecake, but it was so rich that it didn’t need to be super tall. I used less sugar than called for, ¾ of a cup instead of more, and found that to be plenty sweet. 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons vanilla, about 8 oz or so of chocolate chips, melted, followed by 3 eggs with a hand mixer - only because I don’t have a stand mixer! When you take the springform pan out of the freezer, wrap a layer of aluminum foil around the bottom and partly up the sides of the pan. Pour the cream cheese mix over the crust and spread it around. Place another pan filled halfway with water on the oven rack under the cheesecake. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.


Turn off the oven and open the oven door slightly to cool the cheesecake slowly for one hour.


Gloucester, MA

For the coconut topping, toast ¾ cup pecans and ¾ cup coconut flakes in the oven for 10 minutes. Bring to a gentle boil 1 cup canned coconut milk, 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, ½ cup of brown sugar (this is less than the original recipe), and 3 egg yolks. I stirred it the entire time as it thickened. After at least 10 minutes, turn off the heat and add 1 teaspoon vanilla and the toasted nuts/coconut. My topping did not get to a pudding consistency that was expected using evaporated milk in the original recipe, but it tasted fabulous after firming up overnight in the fridge. In fact, I needed to warm the topping in the microwave for 30 seconds to get it to spreadable consistency so I could top the cheesecake.


Essex, MA

The original recipe calls for extra chocolate frosting to decorate the cake, which I skipped, and nobody noticed or complained. I used the leftover egg whites for an omlette at breakfast the next day.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Week 4 – lots of pounds of donations

After buying several non-consumable items last week, I’m pleased about the large bag of donations that is in the works now. I’ve created a specific challenge to help meet my goal of downsizing: my reward for passing along 100 pounds of items will be a trip to a local used bookstore. Can I go to this bookstore any time I want? Yes! Do I need to buy any books? No! But I do well having something to look forward to and I’d rather avoid tempting shops while I truly want to move things out, not in.


Ipswich, MA

So, to that end, I am ruthlessly finding items I don’t love, and setting them aside to be weighed once the bag is full. I’ve collected (bought) picture frames over the years to create gallery walls, but I can’t stand the thought of silver (nickel) frames on my gray walls, and I’m ready to keep what I truly love- nothing else. So there are a number of frames in the bag to bless someone else’s home. 


Gloucester, MA

I went apple picking and got some consumable fruit, cider, and gluten-free donuts which did not taste good to me. Apparently, apple cider donuts are worth the gluten, which I can have periodically, just not multiple times per day. The farmers’ market yielded corn on the cob, other fruit and veg, and a small bag of delicious mini apple cider donuts (with gluten)!


Salem, MA

More walks along different beaches are keeping the exercise and sunshine goals going, and I found the small path over the hill from my new place to get to the library by a walkable shortcut instead of a drive. Yay!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Week 3, not so minimal

I’m proud of myself for focusing on my intentions and will freely share the non-consumable items I brought home this week. In consumable purchases, I checked out another grocery store and was pleased to see a sizable health-food section and plenty of gluten-free, lactose-free and vegetarian options throughout. I’ve continued to explore the new area by taking walks and spending time in nature. As tempting as it is to pop into local shops, I am resisting the urge. It’s easier for me to not even go into the store- I can see enough pretty things in the windows.


Lynn, MA

I bought room darkening curtains and hardware to hang them, which I have never had before now. The parking area lights are a good safety feature but shine brightly through the window blinds and sheer curtains that I already had. I looked at several different types of shoe racks and decided to try cloth hanging ones since I have enough closet space. They seem to work so far, and having limited/designated space for shoes is helping me with the other endeavor of passing things along (out of my home).


Tossing/donation report: shoes! I can hear my friend Jessie’s voice (she offered to fill this role): why do I have 2 pairs of strappy, dressy, sandals in black? Well, because the prettier ones were so uncomfortable that I bought a second pair that don’t hurt my feet. OK, time to go, pretty shoes. Maybe someone else can enjoy you. Ditto about 2 pairs of black pumps. Next week I’ll tackle the extra sneakers I never got rid of when I got new ones.


I realized that I am attributing emotions to things that other people wouldn’t. For example, I bought a fun nail polish color in Germany, and the bottle is DONE. It was included in the 10 pounds of stuff that I weighed today to help me keep track what I’m bringing out of the house (I am not weighing recycling, which would be a LOT of pounds). I feel sad about saying good-bye to that bottle of nail polish because I can’t get the same one again and it represents the great selection of nail polish shades that I discovered in Germany. AND THAT’S OK. I’m putting way more meaning into something than I need to.

Salem, MA

If you have a favorite tip to share about downsizing stuff, please leave a comment!

Monday, September 20, 2021

Week 2 living minimally

Getting to know local grocery stores and farm stands is interesting. This coming week I look forward to at least one farmers’ market. In the meantime, I liked the farm stand a few minutes away, and plan to return. Their bags of spinach and spring mix for salads looked great, plus signs indicating local produce were helpful. They were completely out of just-harvested corn on the cob, and another customer asked the clerk while I was checking out when more corn would be in (40 minutes from now, was the reply). Nearby was a boat docking area which was posted “not for beach parking” but since there were enough spaces at the time, I sat on a rock at low tide for a few minutes. The mud really tugged at the bottoms of my sandals/flip-flops (which have now been relegated to stay in the car permanently so I can stop by various beaches on the way home from work). I have special water shoes that I need to find, and I don’t mind the feeling of mud on my feet, but I’ll need to designate a car/mud towel for my feet afterwards.


Salem, MA

In terms of consumable purchases, I bought light bulbs and batteries, gassed up the car (which passed inspection and now has Massachusetts license plates!), and am experimenting with different gluten free crackers, frozen g.f. cinnamon raisin bread, and one bottle of local “raspberry lime rickey” soda. WAAAYY too sweet, but tasted great when watered down and a wedge of fresh lime squeezed in.

I’ve emptied so many more boxes and made plenty of trips to the recycling bin. Interestingly, some boxes I don’t even want to unpack. I will probably keep some boxes with their contents and see how I feel over the next few months. I might need the china cabinet for some books, and will bring other books to my work office, where a lonely bookcase is eagerly awaiting contents.

Gloucester, MA

It was fairly thrilling to determine the first two items to be given away as I was unpacking, and I selected a box to designate as the donation bin. Someone already let me know about a place to bring items for donation. I also started a closet system where I put the items I’ve worn to one side. Right now, that section is small, but eventually it will become apparent what I haven’t worn yet, and that might help decide whether to keep it or give it away. Some items I’ll keep due to circumstance, such as my floor-length black skirt for choir concerts, not knowing if there will be an in-person choir concert this December (the first rehearsal is mid-September). Plus, it took a long time of searching to find that skirt, and it wasn’t cheap, so given my dream of singing in choirs for the rest of my life, that’s worth holding on to.

I have kept shells from past years, but so far am not bringing new shells inside (good thing I'm working on this challenge right now!)