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When dawns are dark and dreary

Sunday, November 20, 2011

And days no promise bring
When every cloud is weary
Set out to meet the spring
When every cloud is weary
Set out to meet the spring!

This is a round we sang at Girl Guides.

And: dawns are dark and dreary here now, absolutely.

The light box helps! The gym helps! Thinking about my son coming home for Christmas helps! Watching Charlie chase squirrels through the back yard helps (grrrrrrrr, grrrrrr: fierce!) Flowers on the kitchen table help: I've got white carnations (they smell the best, clove-spicy) with some elegant branches of pine clipped from the back yard.

Singing helps! (OK, it helps me: but given the way I sing, maybe others not so much. I'll confine it to the shower . . . after my workout, maybe).

Chicken barley soup with lots of mushrooms helps.

Logs for the fireplace help.

That "set out to meet the spring" part? I'm thinking, today's a great day to start a pot of narcissus bulbs on the kitchen window sill: they should be in bloom by Christmas . . .

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

_LINDA 11/23/2011 9:52PM

    So I needed to start reading the blogs in order of the earliest first lol. Glad you can find some cheer in the dark dreary days! It was supposed to be sunny here this week but keeps clouding over. Its above zero a little bit and causing enough melt that it is now too treacherous to go out walking because of all the ice, not that it will be a long time before I can get out. Will seriously be thinking of that light box for my dark apartment!!

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PENNYAN45 11/22/2011 8:54AM

    What great ideas to brighten up those dark and dreary dawns -- and add sunshine to each day!

emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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TRYINGHARD1948 11/22/2011 3:39AM

    Definitely the way to think through Winter. BUT .... you could do six months in Canada and six months here and you would never have another Winter. Just a thought.

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DDOORN 11/21/2011 2:11PM

    We've been very fortunate thus far and have enjoyed some warmer, sunnier weather than is typical for this time of year.

But nonetheless the daylight hours feel like they have shrunken tremendously...! Sometimes I have to admit that I'll allow this feeling of "UGH! Long, dark days of winter!" to overtake me...even on a sunny day! Go figure!

I'm hoping my cross country skiing investment will pay off this winter! :-)


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KALIGIRL 11/21/2011 8:53AM

    The bulbs sound perfect and you are doing emoticon

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SALSIFY 11/21/2011 5:16AM

    Just getting out and walking the dogs in daylight helps - whatever the weather. I always feel relief after Dec 21 as things can only get better after that!

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SLENDERELLA61 11/20/2011 7:14PM

    Beautiful! Love the images!! We were at 86 degrees today and sunny, though, so I don't think I need your light. Wish you could come visit. (I will tell you, though, that we moved away for several years to a cooler climate, and I was dying for some fall and winter sun. We came to FL to visit, and it set a record for 14 days in a row not reaching 70 degrees. So, there are no guarantees.) -Marsha

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TRAVELGRRL 11/20/2011 12:42PM

    Love love LOVE to pot narcissus and hyacinths and amaryllis! Nothing like live, growing flowers in real dirt to brighten every single day!!

emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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FREELADY 11/20/2011 12:32PM

    Thanks for motivating me to get out my light!

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PHEBESS 11/20/2011 12:21PM

    When you have enough snow for some x-country, that will help too!

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CRYSTALJEM 11/20/2011 11:42AM

    Great ideas! I want a light box for Christmas, some narcissus bulbs sound perfect too. Hope it turns really cheery soon. CJ

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DONNACFIT 11/20/2011 10:46AM

    Hi..I was thinking of giving narcissus bulbs to friends for Christmas this year..who wouldn't love a preview of spring in Jan or Feb :)

Today is bright and crisp and my son is home for the weekend deer hunting with hubby :) the only draw back is it's bitterly cold and I've been doing the chores so the guys can be gone.

I like your song....I do think the excitement of the holidays makes up for winter...I'm a crazy Christmas person....

The soup sounds yummy..we're eating from a BIG pot of cabbage rolls (son's favorite)

Sending bright and cheery thoughts your way..and I might just buy a narcissus for me,too.

ps I have beautiful red roses on my table from my sweet hubby :) emoticon

Comment edited on: 11/20/2011 10:47:51 AM

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NANCY- 11/20/2011 10:16AM

    What help me is to keep busy. When I work on a project my mind focusing on something other than the dark. After the holidays, in the deary winter months I clean out the medicine chest, linen closets, that kitchen cabinet when the stuff is always falling out when I open the door. The accomplishment helps give me a lift in spirits too.

Comment edited on: 11/20/2011 10:17:06 AM

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 11/20/2011 9:25AM

    KAYAKING helps, too.

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RADFEN 11/20/2011 9:03AM

    Lovely idea, thank you.

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Oh oh -- McCafe lattes too!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Came home from work today to find a flyer in my mail for McDonald's "specialty" espresso based beverages . . . and a whack of coupons!!

They look like great espresso-based drinks. Freshly ground. Skim milk lattes and skim milk cappuccinos available. And even a sugar free vanilla version . . .

So what's not to like about that?

The first coupon offers a " free small hot McCafe specialty beverage". All good.

Then it's three "buy one get one free" coupons. Still good.

Next, 2 $1 off coupons. OK.

But then: 2 "McCafe Your Breakfast Meal for Free" coupons. Nope. Don't need to be eating McDonald's breakfast sandwiches with home fries etc. to get a free latte!

And even more invidious: "Buy a hot McCafe specialty beverage and get a free baked pie". Absolutely nope. There's maybe some redeeming nutritional virtue in a McD breakfast, depending on what you choose . . . but nothing much at all in a pie.

And finally: "Buy a hot McCafe specialty beverage and get a cinnamon melts for 49 cents". Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, cinnamon melts. Way more appealing than anything on offer at Tim Hortons if I stop in there for a latte.

The McCafe coupons set up a perfect slippery slope. And would be moving me way way way too close to fries, cheeseburgers, quarter pounders . . . . all of that.

Can't resist fries. Especially McD fries: thin, crispy, perfect. Does anyone ever NOT "large size" them? The essential trigger food.

I know that. That's why I haven't been to a McDonalds in several years. Not once. Really.

So even though I really love latte and cappuccino and espresso and I'm really glad that I could get them now at McDonalds, I'm going to have to redeem these McCafe coupons with great caution.

If at all.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

_LINDA 11/23/2011 9:59PM

    I asked for no junk mail so can't even get tempted. I confess I like those McD fries and I have actually been in there, but only to get a kid's cone, the safest treat for your diet. I am thankful I don't like coffee and those fancy drinks don't interest me. I am fortunate my Mom does not like junk food or eating in those places, just basic Asian fare for us..
Good luck resisting the siren call..

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KALIGIRL 11/18/2011 9:25AM

    Here's to not @ all (even though I own McD stock...)
How's that for talking out of both sides of one's mouth?

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NANCY- 11/18/2011 8:24AM

    Drive thru's make it easy to stick to saying "just a latte."

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PHEBESS 11/18/2011 7:54AM

    Cut up those evil coupons for fries and melts and all - and just save the good coupons for your skinny lattes!!!!!

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CARRAND 11/17/2011 10:27PM

    You're so smart to evaluate those coupons.

Starbucks is running a promotion that if you buy one specialty Holiday Latte you get a second one free along with the one you ordered. What in the world would I do with 2 Holiday Lattes? Drink them both? My husband doesn't do coffee. I could drink 2 Gingerbread Lattes with whipped cream - but I shouldn't - and I won't. I'm sticking with my decaf skim latte, thank you very much.

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FREELADY 11/17/2011 9:13PM

    Wow, you're helping me think straight!

I am vulnerable and I know it; I have to keep distance between myself and the unhealthy stuff that still tempts me sorely!

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KMICHA 11/17/2011 8:29PM

    I can drive right on by McD's. I have a hard time buying something out that I have at home. I'll redeem my Starbucks bags for a free coffee, but I don't usually stop for a treat or a meal while I am out and about.

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DONNACFIT 11/17/2011 7:58PM

    Hi..we got the coupon book too :) I hardly ever order fries with anything..way way too salty..now the coffee I like and the freebees can be for hubby :)

Do you have winter? We've had a few days of snow..

I've been MIA the last week..too much on the go to blog :(

It's almost time for tea..after I finish my coffee haha

Have a great weekend

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Skim Milk Latte at Tim Hortons

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Every Canadian knows Tim Hortons. Every parent at the hockey arena for the 6 a.m. practice has a double double (that's double sugar, double cream) or maybe two of those (one in each hand, functioning as wake up and handwarmers). And probably a doughnut as well.

Lots of Canadians never make coffee at home. No need. There's a Tim Hortons on every corner.

Which means it's not surprising that there's a Tim Hortons next door to my office. And always a line up out to the street in the drive through.

I've resisted Tim Hortons. I'm a Starbucks or Second Cup kinda person: skim milk lattes are my caffeine of choice. At home, French press freshly ground Colombian. Or my own home made lattes. At the gym, Keurig pod German Chocolate Cake from the machine. With splenda. And no calories (other than what's in the skim milk).

Sure, Timmies has had latte and cappuccino. But not the kind I drink -- They've been big on those totally ersatz 400 calorie ++ English Toffee or Caramel Mocha "dessert in a cup" type of speciality coffees, with a million varieties switched up seasonally (pumpkin and gingergbread and . . . like that. *sniffs*).

But now: real skim milk latte, real skim milk cappuccino, real espresso Right next door. Yay!!

So new that the nutritional info still isn't on their website -- but I called and got it. And input it into the Nutritional tracker (under Tim Hortons).

So: it's 100 calories for either the latte or the cappuccino in the 14 oz size (that's a medium). And 10 grams protein for the latte, 9 for the cap. Fat just 0.3 grams. Carbs 15 in either case.

A very reasonable snack with a good whack of protein . . . and it's an excellent thick and foamy latte.

I'm pretty sure I'll be wandering next door to pick up one of these on a semi-regular basis! (And nope: won't be having a cookie or a muffin or a doughnut or a wrap or any of that other stuff . . . never have. An occasional yogourt with fruit when I'm really desperate . . . or a bowl of soup. But that's it).

Caffeine: my only remaining sin. (As if.) emoticon emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TRAVELGRRL 11/17/2011 6:46PM

    Yay for you! Enjoy the occasional break from the office to wander next door for a perfectly lovely, foamy treat! Sounds heavenly.


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    I save money and rarely hit up Timmies for coffees anymore. I was on a 3x a work week habit for coffees and breakfast sandwiches there for a while, but have stopped cold turkey. Now i make my own.

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TEENY_BIKINI 11/17/2011 1:19PM

    " I'm a Starbucks or Second Cup kinda person: skim milk lattes are my caffeine of choice. At home, French press freshly ground Colombian. "

My gawd...

The most delicious blog ever.


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NANCY- 11/17/2011 10:16AM

    Since we make coffee, going out for it is rare. I'm a Dunkin Donuts fan. We used to have Tim Hortons here in Connecticut, but they left awhile back. I liked them.
You are great in finding out what you are consuming. You are inspiring.

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KALIGIRL 11/17/2011 8:29AM

    Love it! You even CALLED to get the nutritional facts!
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SALSIFY 11/17/2011 2:50AM

    I stopped drinking lattes after realising how calorific they can be. Usually skinny lattes are quite available over here - so it's good to know they can be not that bad in calories!

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_LINDA 11/17/2011 1:21AM

    So glad you can find something at Timmies you can enjoy -supporting our Canadian franchise rather then the yankee import ;) I never liked coffee so can't say I ever have a reason to go to these places although Starbuck's ginger cookie is pretty darned good! Good thing they aren't near me!

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ERIKO1908 11/16/2011 10:10PM

    YUM!! Craving coffee now...probably not a good thing for 9PM...

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VENISEW1 11/16/2011 9:28PM

    Glad to hear you found a low cal treat. Personally happy I never liked coffee other than a dessert like thing like a coffee coolatta @ Dunkin Donuts(which I try to stay away from b/c it's not diet friendly, lol) I saw McD's has a low cal coffee drink on one of SP this vs that emails and on a graph on someone's blog.

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PHEBESS 11/16/2011 6:08PM

    I'm a big fan of the nonfat latte or cappuccino! Yummy and even good for us!!

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TRYINGHARD1948 11/16/2011 4:28PM

    We have a Gloria Jean in our part of the world but no Tim Horton.

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SLENDERELLA61 11/16/2011 2:36PM

    So glad you have found this glorious, healthful treat so conveniently located for you. Enjoy!! -Marsha

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FRACTALMYTH 11/16/2011 2:28PM

    We've only got a Gloria Jeans in the town where I work (they tend to be the biggest/only chain out here)... I can't stand their chai... ugh. But the cafe next door makes a nice skim milk chai that I enjoy for morning tea, or I carry packs of Jarrah Vanilla Chai or Tetleys Berry Chai in my bag and make my own when I need a pick-me-up treat :D

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CRYSTALJEM 11/16/2011 2:15PM

    I avoid Timmies at all costs, but this might intrigue me enough to try. Thanks too, for putting the info into the tracker and sharing. Personally my treat of choice is a good London Fog or a Chai, but those skim lattes are also sounding like a yummy treat.

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 11/16/2011 1:54PM

    They've invaded my part of upstate NY, and yeah for the most part I've avoided them too. Maybe I'll try the skim milk latte sometime....

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MSPRIS3 11/16/2011 1:49PM

    YAY! Thanks for sharing this info!

I stopped going to Timmies a couple years ago, once you stop for a bit, it really doesn't taste as good as before! LOL

I too am a Starbucks fan, normally a Skinny/Non-Fat Vanilla Latte, (Pumpkin & GIngerbread Lattes when in season) and not all the time, maybe once every two weeks or so.

But, Tim's now has Skim milk? That is awesome news!

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This Week in Soup: Just a Happy Occident!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

In the freezer: two bags of PC Asian Medley frozen vegetables (baby corn, matchstick carrot, edamame, sugar snap peas, shredded carrot) and two skinless boneless chicken breasts

In the fridge: two cartons of chicken broth, half a cup of PC Memories of Szechuan peanut sauce, roasted garlic puree, soya sauce, a few mushrooms, a long skinny red shepherd pepper, 6 baby bok choy (the dark green curly kind).

In the cupboard: Chinese five spice, red pepper flakes, rice stick noodles.

Partially defrosted and cubed the chicken. Dropped into the boiling chicken broth together with the frozen Asian veggies. Added all the seasonings (no need for any salt with the soya sauce).

Sliced the stalk ends of the baby bok choy and added them. Cut the red pepper into long noodle-type shapes and added those too.

Soaked the rice noodle stick in boiling water for 7 minutes: then rinsed thoroughly in cold water.

Minced the curly parts of the bok choy, simmered briefly.

Took the pot off the burner. Stirred in the rice noodles.

So what is this? A noodle bowl, really, more than a soup . . . not recognizably any specific or "authentic" Asian cuisine. But: preliminary taste-test indicates it's pretty yummy! Easy, fast, colourful.

After all that activity for the brain, got three right first time at Trivia . . . . and now I'm off to the gym, with the sun shining.

Brighter all round!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

4A-HEALTHY-BMI 11/15/2011 4:43PM

    Still waitin' for that peanut soup...



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LINDAJ0621 11/15/2011 11:57AM

    Sounds great! I love to make soups. Will be trying something like that soon!

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SALSIFY 11/14/2011 4:19AM

    Sounds yummy! I love Asian soups & I make them all the time. I buy some good Thai red curry paste, Thai green curry paste & some Tom Yum soup base from my local Oriental supermarket for different kinds of seasonings if I don't want to make them from scratch. I also use these in stir fries. For lunch I often make an Asian style broth with veggies & poach an egg in it.

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TRYINGHARD1948 11/13/2011 10:47PM

    Yum, something in the tum does wonders for the brain. Well done, on both the culinary expertise and the trivia quizz.

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NANCY- 11/13/2011 3:24PM

    Yum... I should not have read this so close to dinner.
I do have a light happy light. However my status of not being in the dark referred to power being restored after that Nor'easter.

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BARBIETEC 11/13/2011 6:13AM


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JIBBIE49 11/13/2011 12:23AM


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DONNACFIT 11/12/2011 8:12PM

    Made soup today too..doctored tomato soup...added carrots, green and yellow beans to veggie stalk and water and a can of tomato soup ...simmered it then added some frozen meatballs and some leftover chinese fried rice..it was yummy :)

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ERIKO1908 11/12/2011 7:12PM

    I love how you just throw it all together and BAM!! (I'm not that free-wheeling...though I wish I were!!) Sounds YUM!!

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FREELADY 11/12/2011 5:56PM

    Sounds fabulous. I will try this. Thanks!

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FRACTALMYTH 11/12/2011 1:08PM

    Nummy :D

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CRYSTALJEM 11/12/2011 12:39PM

    Yum. A really good day by the sounds of it.

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_LINDA 11/12/2011 12:34PM

    How awesome is that? Good for you! Way to use up what is available! I did something similar for my leftovers, a PC stir fry veggie package including broccoli, snow peas, and shredded stalks and cabbage. I added diakon and parsnip as well as carrots, and steamed them all up, using left over sesame ginger dressing and dried noodles and almonds from an Eat Smart Asian salad kit. Also added chili pepper flakes for some punch, ate with a side of cottage cheese for protein as I am not a meat eater. I also seemed to find my brain this morning and got the trivia all right. Hopefully it will carry over and give me a decent bridge game! Exercise done inside on a cold, windy snowy day. Will walk to bridge though.
Have a fabulous day!

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KALIGIRL 11/12/2011 11:29AM

    Sounds soup- er!

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MSSNOWY 11/12/2011 11:17AM

    Sounds delicious. Enjoy!

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Not At My Brightest

Friday, November 11, 2011

First snowfall last night, and (because snow is covering the skylight) my study is dark this morning.

My 10,000 lux light box beats back the gloom successfully. Yay!

But: as far as my brain goes, perhaps I'm still not quite awake yet. That's my excuse anyhow.

Three wrong at Trivia before I managed to get three right. I'm clearly not at my brightest today.

emoticon emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BARBIETEC 11/13/2011 6:14AM

    SNOW!.. no!!!! hehehe :)

The sun will come back before you know it ::)

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PHEBESS 11/12/2011 3:42PM

    I have days when I'm a disaster on the trivia - I doubt I'll ever win that award.

But your soup (next blog) sounds brilliant!!!!!!

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TRYINGHARD1948 11/11/2011 9:33PM

    These days happen, a little disconcerting but we do recover, or perhaps we just get used to it. Thanks also for your comment on the blog, do be warned though, Ken and I came out as a young married couple and were only going to stay for two years but once we tasted life here we were here for life. We have been very fortunate. No need for a light box here. emoticon

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IMAGINE_IT 11/11/2011 6:26PM

    Awww..Ellen don't worry..you may think you not at your 'brightest' today...but to us..your Spark friends you are one BRIGHT Shining Light!! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
P.S. You will 'snap' back quickly and get a 100% on the Trivia questions...im sure! emoticon

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SLENDERELLA61 11/11/2011 4:35PM

    If you can do caffeine without it causing problems, there is a tried and true remedy for fuzzy-headedness that I like: coffee. There are times, though, when I'm too stressed for more jitters. The lightbox sounds like a good tool, but doubt I need it in sunny Florida. Lots of sun here today. 5 of us (Natalie, Gwen, hubby, me and Kahlua) all took a long minute walk today, although we 3 girls wore our hoodies. Anyway, wishing you good sleep, some sun, and good, clear thinking. -Marsha

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SALSIFY 11/11/2011 4:23PM

    I might have to ask Father Christmas for a lightbox. I don't mind cold weather but I realised it was already getting dark at 4.30pm today. I dislike the gloom.


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GROEDER 11/11/2011 8:23AM

    I wasn't very bright this morning either. I have had to ride my bike in the dark now that the time has changed. It seems that I tire faster and don't ride as fast. I will get back in the daylight this weekend and see it I do better.
We will have to look on the bright side!!!! LOL

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NANCY- 11/11/2011 8:22AM

    Why worry about trivia when you excel at more important things! You always brighten my day.

Gotta love those "happy" lights to get us through our darkest days.

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_LINDA 11/11/2011 8:14AM

    Maybe you should have slept in! I know sleep deprivation is causing a lot of my memory problems and inability to concentrate at the bridge table for example. I can't remember all the cards that have been played like I used to :( I get questions I have seen before in trivia wrong because I can't quite remember the exact number you need.
Hope your day gets brighter and you have a terrific weekend! I need to look into one of those sun lamps. Being in this dark North facing apartment and never getting any sunshine ever is a real downer (and why I am quick to stay with my Mom and her south facing house with floor to ceiling windows!)

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