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Holiday Tips

Much Ado About Nothing December 14, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

Yes, the holiday season is here. Stop looking so surprised, overwhelmed and freaked out. It shows up same time every year, and the stores have been throwing up warning signs since mid-August. Yet here we are with panic rising in our throats. Not to worry, oh festive elf! I’ve got some fool-proof pointers that will make this year as smooth as eggnog (as long as the eggnog is 85% bourbon and fool-proof actually means 90-proof).

Tip #1: Do all your holiday shopping online late at night. Everything looks better and affordable online late at night. Sure, blurry-eyed exhaustion may cloud your better financial judgement, but you can cut back other places later. Think of what you’ll save in heating costs by burning your unopened credit card statements in the fireplace!

Tip #2: Go gift cards! Invited to the wedding of an old boyfriend once, I took a nice Macy’s gift card. Just the gift card. I didn’t actually put any money on it. Which I hope made for a horribly awkward situation for the lucky bride and groom later, but he didn’t invite me to his subsequent weddings. See how that’s a win? So stuff those stockings with empty gift cards. You come off looking like Santa himself and there’s zero guilt when they get lost later.

Tip #3: Don’t overthink your holiday dinner. Make a Chef Boyardee pizza kit crust into the shape of a Christmas tree and “decorate” it with pepperonis, post it on Pinterest, and look forlorn if anyone mentions turkey. If your family still insists on squelching your inner creative diva, lock yourself in your room – at least until the dishes are done.

Tip #4: Know now that anyone who tells you Christmas cookies aren’t breakfast food is not your friend. Those people are toxic and you don’t need them in your life. You need Christmas cookies in your life. Freeze a few. You’ll need them in February, too.

Last Tip: Remember the Holiday Serenity Prayer. God grant me the serenity to accept the presents I cannot exchange, the courage to exchange the things I can, and the wisdom to save the receipts. From my family to yours, have a wonderful and blessed Christmas season and year to come!

You can also find “Much Ado About Nothing” online at www.thewriterjean.com.

What! Dec. 7, 2017

What I Heard This Week December 7, 2017

An Oregon woman visited her boyfriend at the Oregon State Penitentiary and kissed him one very long “super kiss” as she was leaving. At the same time of the kiss, she was also passing seven tiny balloons filled with methamphetamine from her mouth to his. Two of the balloons ruptured in his stomach a short time later and he died of methamphetamine toxicity. Hmmm. He was serving a life sentence for aggravated murder in the stabbing death of his mother-in-law (yikes) and his girlfriend has now been sentenced to two years behind bars on drug conspiracy. That’s a heck of a kiss.


J.J. Watt and Jose Altuve received the Sportsperson of the Year Award during Sports Illustrated 2017 Sportsperson of the Year Show in New York City. Watt, honored for his $37 million fund-raising effort for Hurricane Harvey relief, and Altuve for his role in leading the Astros to their first World Series title in the storm’s wake, are the first Houston athletes to receive the award, presented since 1954.


So, you’ve planned your trip, then traveled to Hotel Charleroi in Belgium. Sitting all by yourself in the hotel room, you suddenly realize that you are, oh, so lonesome. (Now in real life, I can’t imagine feeling this way because there would be no office phones ringing, no kids needing something, no cats to feed, no clothes to wash…just pure nothing…but, for the sake of this short paragraph, you are sitting there and lonely.) Fear not, call downstairs and for just $4.00 a night, you can rent a goldfish. That’s cheaper than bad pay-for-view movies or ordering off the room service menu. Just one clever listener that lets you go to bed when you want and watch whatever you please on the television. Soon to be available at a Motel 6 near you, I’m sure. Beats the heck out of spending quarters on the vibrating bed.


In Des Plaines, Illinois, there is a replica of Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s location with the original sign out front looking just like it did in 1955. Vintage cars and everything. The old sign says that burgers are 15-cents and “we have sold over 1-million.” My little bit of research showed that McDonald’s quit updating the “burgers sold” number in 1994 and just stayed with the “over 99-billion sold” theory. In one of their training manuals it is noted that they sell “more than 75 hamburgers per second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day of the year.” If there are about 31.536-million seconds in a year, then multiply that by 75 burgers to get 2.365-billion a year and since it’s been 23 years since ’94, it would be approximately 55-billion more burgers (give or take a few.) When my kids were little and said, “What’s that?” I always told them that it was Dr. McDonald’s office. Therefore, in my mind, they would never want to go. Yikes. Sidetracked. I started this paragraph to tell you that they are getting ready to tear down the museum because of repeated flooding and a decline in visitors to the site. That’s a shame. Modern history.


Are you looking for a new Christmas tradition? Go see the Season of Light, the classic Christmas full dome planetarium show celebrating the customs of Christmas and exploring the question, “If the star of Bethlehem was a natural phenomenon, what might it have been?” Wonderful for the entire family and includes a beautiful tour of the winter circle of constellations. BASF Planetarium at The Center for the Arts & Sciences 400 College Blvd. 979-265-7661


A six-year-old was asked to write a letter to Santa. It said, “Dear Santa, Santa I’m only doing this for the class. I know your notty list is empty. And your good list is emty. and your life is emty. You don’t know the troubles Ive had in my life. Good bye. Love, Im not telling you my name.” (ps. the “troubles” in his life were just his brother.) Sibling rivalry.


According to 5 Gyres, by the year 2050, there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean, than fish. We should be so proud of ourselves. Go to 5gyres.org.


HAPPY BIRTHDAYS: Actor Ed Asner is 88. Actor Sam Waterston is 77. He’s great! Actress Beverly D’Angelo is 66. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Recording executive Berry Gordy Jr. is 88. He has been partners with Diana Ross since 1965.  Former Late Show Orchestra leader Paul Shaaffer is 68. Actor Ed Harris is 67. Apollo 13. Former NASA Astronaut Barbara Morgan is 66. Actor Judd Nelson is 58.

Singer Randy Newman is 74. His awards have included – Academy Award for Best Original Song (2011, 2002) · Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media (2011, 2000) · Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media (2007, 2003, 2001) · Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition (1985) · World Soundtrack Award for Best Original Song Written Directly for a Film (2006)


A celebration of life will be held for Bonnie “Miss Kitty” Smith at 2pm on December 18 at Kitty’s Purple Cow. Bring a dish and a bottle. I remember the first time I stuck my foot inside the door of that old purple building on Bluewater Hwy for one of Miss Kitty’s cheeseburgers and fries. I thought she was old then, wearing shorts (we called them hot pants) and waiting on every busy table in that restaurant. I fell prey to the poster of the lovely muscled young man in the women’s bathroom that had a little white door that covered his private parts. The devil made us all open that tiny little door. What I didn’t know was when you lifted the door, a loud buzzer went off all over the building, so you then had to face every single person in the restaurant knowing what you had just done as you shamefully walked back to your table. My kids loved popping quarters in the juke box. Her Sunday morning homemade waffles were the best. Today I realize that the famous Miss Kitty was much younger then, than I am today. She was 87 when she died and had never slowed down. Her family plans to keep the restaurant open. (note: the young man was clothed under that little white door.)


Animal control officers in a suburb of Dallas near Interstate-35, found themselves on two strange calls last week. First, they were called to pick up a 15-foot albino python. The snake was dead, so police assume that it was a pet that someone had dumped and left to fend for itself or it had escaped from a nearby home. Sad. One of the postings said, “maybe they will find the owner once they open up the snake.”  The same animal control officers had been called earlier to retrieve a pit bull from a tree. If you travel that direction, don’t drink the water.


If you missed the only visible supermoon of 2017 which happened on December 3rd, don’t fret, because on January 2nd and 31st of our new year (2018) there will be opportunities to view two more supermoons. Go to Virtual Telescope Project for live images.


The Houston Ballet Nutcracker is coming December 10-23, to Smart Financial Centre (thank you, Harvey) and December 30-January 6 at Hobby Center. 1-800-745-3000 Houstonballet.org. The Health Museum in Houston will have a Teddy Bear Checkup on Saturday December 9th. Take your favorite child and their teddy bear for an annual checkup. There will be information on healthy eating, healthy snacks, breakfast, photos with Santa and more. That sounds like fun. Perhaps I can borrow a young child.


Schlitterbahn Water Park and Resort on North Padre Island could be auctioned off a foreclosure sale in February if a deal for the property is not reached before then, according to US Bankruptcy Court in San Antonio. I saw a drone video of the property and it’s so sad to see all the graffiti and vandalism that has happened there.


If you hate where you are, “MOVE!” You are not a tree.


– Lisa

Starving Student

Much Ado About Nothing December 7, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

College. It’s the place where you pay big bucks to learn big things. My youngest son is currently close to finishing up his first semester at college and is learning some really big things. Like how not to starve to death. Last August, we settled him into his new dorm room with clean sheets, a manageable class schedule, and an ample meal plan. By Thanksgiving break, his checking account was dry, his gas tank empty, and he had $1.19 left on his meal plan until the end of the semester. Desperation is the mother of invention.

He reports that he’s started hanging around with sorority girls and his scrawny friends. Obviously, these are people who are not utilizing their meal plans and are happy to let him mooch a lunch now and then. I’m hoping the parents of those kids are all socialists or at least voted Democrat in the last election.

It seems that since the days when my dad let me starve in college, they’ve upped the age that you can sell plasma. So that option is out for him, at least for another year. But, by then, I’m hoping he’ll have wrestled his budget to the ground.

He “rented” his car so an international student in his dorm could take his test for his US driver’s license. He convinced drunk fraternity boys that he was cheaper than Uber (he wasn’t). He found a $5 bill in the dryer. He’ll be fine.

Discovering a new, hunger-fueled resourcefulness, he used his last nickels to buy a four pound jar of discount peanut butter at the Dollar Store. He can’t afford bread, but, no worries, the plastic spoons at Chick-fil-A are free. Coffee creamer and ketchup packets are yours for the taking just about everywhere. And if he tags along with someone going out for Mexican food, there’s that big bowl of free chips. I hardly worry that he’ll waste away to nothing.

I know, though, that college is making him smarter because he hasn’t asked me for money. Eating crow and swallowing your pride just aren’t that filling. On a positive note, I bet he’ll never run out of money again. Of course, he may also never be able to face another box of no-name mac-n-cheese ever again either. So college really is making him a better, healthier, smarter person!

You can also find “Much Ado About Nothing” online at www.thewriterjean.com.

What! Nov. 2, 2017

What I Heard This Week November 2, 2017

Thanks to the Astros for giving us all something to think about besides Harvey…something that made us proud and have happy, heartfelt thoughts. We all needed this. GO ASTROS.


After actor Paul Newman made the 1969 auto racing movie “Winning” his wife, actress Joanne Woodward gave him a Rolex Daytona with an art deco-inspired dial that was recently sold at auction for $17.8-million. The inscription on the back of the watch in all caps said, DRIVE CAREFULLY ME.  It is the most expensive wristwatch ever auctioned, but not the most expensive timepiece. A pocket watch made by Patek Philippe in 1933 sold for $24.4-million in 2015. Time IS money.


Paul Newman – “When you see the right thing to do, you’d better do it.”


In Utah, the mother of a 13-day-old infant boy and the woman’s boyfriend have been charged with first degree murder and three counts of child abuse. The baby was found unresponsive on the floor with a fractured spine and a broken rib with bruises and abrasions that were believed to be bite marks. The baby appeared to have no health problems when born. In my opinion, certain actions in this world are non-negotiable. The punishment must fit the crime and there should be just penalty for evil actions. An “eye for an eye.” No excuses.


Three teenage boys cruised several St. Louis neighborhoods and were able to “borrow” 48-pumpkins, a gourd and then somehow stuffed all that plus themselves into one small Subaru Forester before police found and arrested the porch pirates’ aka pumpkin-nappers aka thieves. I didn’t know that a Subaru Forester was that roomy. Then the tough job of finding the owners of the pumpkins began with a “pumpkin line up”, a social media post from the police department and at last report, all but 13 had been reunited with their owners. I did see the pumpkin line up and not a single pumpkin was decorated, so I have no idea how the people knew “their” pumpkin. Poor boys.


Researchers from the State University of New York at Fredonia found that sea salt – the same stuff that we use in cooking and in the salt shaker at dinner every night – is just one more thing that helps us with our daily intake of plastic particles. Yep, plastic particles are just everywhere now and you could be ingesting as many as 660 particles a year with your salt. We’ve got to start taking better care of our Mother Earth.


Paris Hilton, the former Simple Life star is the highest-paid female DJ in the world, commanding up to $1-million for a one-night gig. Kim Kardashian was her former assistant.


Budweiser plans to release a limited-edition 1933 Repeal and Reserve Amber Lager this holiday season. The forgotten recipe dates back to pre-Prohibition days but back in 1920, it couldn’t be sold outside St. Louis due to the enforcement of Prohibition which banned the manufacturing, transporting and sale of alcoholic beverages. Just little bit of history that you can pick up and drink in 2017. It’s described as a “light, hoppy aroma and a rich caramel malt taste” with 6.1% ABV and will be packaged in vintage bottles.


Nancy Rosatti recently retired and sold Elaine’s Fashions & Accessories in LJ. We will miss her kind heart, beautiful smile and a more than gracious attitude. Thank you, Nancy, for years of making us beautiful and always having something wonderful for graduation gifts or a last-minute birthday surprise. We will miss you and wish you the very best in this new chapter of life. Congratulations to Terry & Julie Edwards, the new owners of Elaine’s Fashions. You have some very BIG Brighton’s to fill. 😊


HAPPY BIRTHDAYS: Rock musician Bill Wyman is 81. The Rolling Stones. Actor Kevin Kline is 70. Rock singer-musician David Hidalgo is 63. Los Lobos. I love them! Russian President Vladimir Putin is 65. Cellist YoYo ma is 62. Civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson is 76. Comedian Chevy Chase is 74. Author R.L. Stine is 74. Actress Sigourney Weaver is 68. Gospel/rhythm & blues singer CeCe Winams is 53. Rock musician C.J. Ramone is 52. The Ramones. Actor-screenwriter Matt Damon is 47. Singer-songwriter-producer Bruno Mars is 32.


Actress Nanette Fabray is 97. Actor-comedian John Cleese is 78. Actress Cassandra Peterson is 66. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Actress Sophia Loren is 83. She is coming to The Grand 1894 Opera House in April 2018. Hockey Hall of Fame Guy LaFleur is 66. TV news correspondent Deborah Roberts is 57. Journalist Barbara Walters is 88. Actor Michael Douglas is 73 and his wife, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones turned 48. Model Cheryl Tiegs is 70.


Pro Football Hall of Fame Tony Dungy is 62. His book, Quiet Strength was No.1 on New York Times Best Seller list. It’s a great book. Dungy is an evangelical Christian and at one point in his coaching career considered leaving football for the prison ministry.


“Others determine your reputation, but only you determine your integrity.” Tony Dungy


Robert Guillaume died at the age of 89.  I remember him best as Benson, the level-headed butler on the TV series Soap and then the spin-off show, Benson. He was a hoot and the only sane person on the show. I can still see him rolling his eyes. He was magnificent on Broadway, Off-Broadway and was the first black ‘Phantom,’ replacing Michael Crawford in a 1990 production of The Phantom of the Opera in Los Angeles. He earned a Grammy for voicing the role of Rafiki in Disney’s The Lion King. I could go on and on.


New Orleans musician Fats Domino died at age 89. He was big in the 50’s and 60’s when he sold more records than anyone except Elvis during that time and was one of the first people admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He had more than three dozen TOP 40 hits including Blueberry Hill and Ain’t That a Shame. Supposedly, Elvis once said, “Let’s face it, I can’t sing like Fats Domino can.”


A lot of fellows nowadays have a B.A., M.D., or Ph.D. Unfortunately, they don’t have a J.O.B.Fats Domino


Former architect, Robert L. McKay, who designed the first Taco Bell restaurant (the Spanish-style arched and tiled building that is still the signature look,) then was so intrigued by the fast-food concept that he closed his architectural firm and joined Taco Bell, eventually becoming president, died at 86. McKay helped American consumers understand the exotic Mexican dishes that we now eat every day…like tacos and burritos and embraced the concept of franchising. Taco Bell had around 900 restaurants when it was sold to PepsiCo in 1978 for $125-million in stock.  I wonder what that would be in “today” dollars.


A 31-year-old Galveston man died from flesh-eating bacteria he likely contracted in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. It is believed that the carpenter suffered a skin puncture from a nail while repairing homes damaged by the flooding. It is also believed that a 77-year-old Kingwood woman died in September from the same infection after falling in floodwaters and cutting her arm.


Remember Howard Johnson’s. HoJo.  How about Sambo’s Restaurant. The name became controversial but in truth, was named for owners Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnet who opened the first restaurant in 1957. Steak and Ale? They always had frozen salad plates. I loved that. How about Bob’s Big Boy. Today I saw that the company owning 24 Dairy Queen locations in Texas has filed for bankruptcy and that they are shutting them down. The list does not have West Columbia on it. Whew. I would miss my cherry and banana Blizzard on the way to Austin.


Creepy Hollow Haunted House, is off 288 in Rosharon. Now, I’m not a haunted house sort of person. I won’t even watch CSI by myself. What I do appreciate is an organization that gives money back to the community and Creepy Hollow does just that. Just ask the LJ Lions Club. For those with weak bladders, go prepared. When my son worked there, I was certainly NOT prepared as I waited in the parking lot to pick him up. The website says: Do not enter if you suffer from asthma, heart conditions, prone to seizures, heart conditions, physical ailments, respiratory or any type of medical problem or are pregnant or suffer any form of mental disease including claustrophobia. No refunds for the wimpy or those that don’t follow the rules. There is a good reason that they post this. It’s still open this week-end and there is a $5.00-off coupon on their website for up to 4-people.


Typeractivity: the overuse of personal devices with special emphasis on texting. My daughter’s typeractivity is very distracting when I am trying to talk to her.


Target is listening to their customers saying that want they more emphasis on Thanksgiving and just an ease-in to Christmas promotions. It is hard to walk into stores in August and see Christmas trees. Thank you, Target. Another BIG thing for Target will happen on November 5th when they unveil Hearth & Hand with Magnolia, a collection of Joanna Gaines’s signature designs with modern, classic, industrial and vintage touches…“modern farmhouse style.” The merchandise is supposed to be arranged like a little shop inside Target. I don’t know about you but I loved visiting Magnolia in Waco and this looks like pretty good stuff.


I love you like biscuits and gravy” – unknown origin but understood by people all over Texas.


I was reading a newspaper when out of the corner of my eyes I flashed over an ad…Female Replacement SALE…for just the smallest moment I thought to myself, “What the heck?!?! Female Replacement Sale?!?!” My brain went in to overtime.  “I thought it was harder than that to replace a female…who would be having the sale…why aren’t we running that ad in The Source?” Yep, it was an ad for cows and I’m still blond. You guys would be so bored without me.


Former Vice-President Al Gore visited Rice University last week speaking on climate change and how the warming of the oceans will lead to more storms like Hurricane Harvey in our future. He said, “We can’t treat the world like an open sewer.” “Every day we’re dumping 110 million tons of CO2 in the sky and it traps heat.” We all know that when Gulf water is hot, a hurricane is more likely. My son said it was a great talk.


A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, states that within the next three decades, floods that used to strike the NYC area only once every 500 years could occur every five years. The primary blame for the predicted change is sea-level rise caused by global warming. Hmmm. Is anyone listening?


November 4th is the new full moon. Prepare accordingly.


– Lisa

Girl Boy Scouts

Much Ado About Nothing November 2, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

Men in dresses who aren’t even Scottish. Women in the men’s bathroom and not because the line is too long next door in the girl’s room. Boys want to be girls who want to be boys, and it all just gets so confusing. Now Boy Scouts are girl scouts but not Girl Scouts. Just girls being scouts ala Boys, although boys can’t be Girl Scouts so how is that fair? Because it has to be fair. And everyone needs a trophy.

Starting next year, Boy Scouts of America are allowing girls to join their ranks. Because how else can you earn your merit badge for Utter Absurdity? What exactly is wrong with girls being Girl Scouts and boys being Boy Scouts? Wouldn’t it just be easier to let the boys in on the cookie sales thing and let the girls do… I don’t even know what it is that Girl Scouts can’t do that the boys do, except pee against the trees when they go camping.

Honestly, I don’t think everyone has thought through this whole thing or considered the doors that will be blown open that can’t be closed again. How long will it be before a Siamese cat wins the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show because Fluffy the Persian identifies as a German shepherd. Will Lassie and Toto get cast as the leads in the Broadway musical “Cats”? And will crazy cat ladies be obligated to have dogs, too, on the basis of canine equality?

So if you ask me – and quite frankly, no one does – girls in Girl Scouts and boys in Boy Scouts or stop all the silliness already, lump them all together and call them “Scouts.” Whoever shows up, pays their dues, and builds a soapbox derby car is in.

Because, guess what!? Both sides are already charged to “Be Prepared” and “Do a Good Turn Daily.” Who knew, but both sides of the Scout debate have the same motto and slogan. We should probably now realize that what they’ve both been saying since the 1940’s is “Be prepared to do a good turn daily, because the world is going to get crazy and people will be weird, but someone still has to step up and sell cookies, salute the flag, deliver mulch, and help old ladies across the street. Scouts, it’s on you.

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