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When I first graduated from college, I couldn’t afford a really nice place. I wasn’t living in squalor or anything; there were just lots of little defects that added up. When I had people over, they were surprised to find nice furniture and décor inside. I used to tell them “It’s a shoddy house, but a nice home.”

That’s the difference between the two words, even though a lot of people use them as synonyms. A house is a physical structure, while a home is more of an abstract concept....

Last week, we talked about a day for hiking. Today, we’ll look at options for folks who like to go a little faster when they travel.

Here in the United States, we’re used to traveling to do pretty much anything. We have a lot of land, so we sprawl. Not only do we jump in the car for routine stuff such as grocery shopping or school, we also travel to visit relatives or other entertainment options. I get twitchy...

People are going to make you mad; that’s a fact of life. For me, it’s when I’m driving. All other times, I am patient and charitable. Long line? I have a book. Struggling with the ATM? We’ve all been there. Appointment running late? It happens. But when I get on the road, all of that goes out the window. I complain about people driving too slow, driving too fast, missing light changes, failing to signal, parking poorly, and a whole host of other offenses. It’s probably a good thing that...

Saxophones are probably my favorite woodwind. They show up in everything from orchestral ensembles to modern rock, but they became associated most with jazz and big band/swing in the 1920s and 30s. They are an extremely versatile instrument, great for enhancing melodies laid down by the brass or the strings. Because the saxophone has the widest range of all the woodwinds, it is perfect for supporting both high and low tones.

Once there were fourteen different types of saxophones, all created by one man, Adolphe Sax (hence the name). Nowadays, there...

It’s the first day of October as I’m writing this. Where the heck did the year go? Wasn’t summer just starting a couple of weeks ago? Actually, I’m happy that autumn has arrived. Not only is the weather great and the changing leaves pretty, but three of the biggest holidays are in the last quarter. The kids get stuffed on candy on Halloween, everybody gets stuffed on turkey on Thanksgiving, and we travel to family for gifts and more food on Christmas. (Then we all make the same New Year’s...

By far, the most popular Halloween theme is death. It might be in the form of a zombie, vampire, or other critter, a group of headstone decorations, the random severed body part in the punch bowl, and so on. You’ll probably also see someone in a hooded cloak with a skull mask.

The personification of death goes all the way back to the Greeks, where he was known as Thanatos. In the stories of Homer, Sisyphus tricked Thanatos and chained him up, stopping all death in the world. For this and...

Have you ever known one of those people that aren’t happy unless they’re miserable? The kind of person who looks for the cloud around every silver lining? They can be pretty tedious to deal with. There’s enough bad news in the world that we could find something to be angry or depressed about 24/7.

Let’s not.

Life can be hard; no one denies that. There will be times when lots of problems jump you at once. However, that’s no reason to be a sourpuss all of the time. Spend some time every...

(I can’t believe it took me this long to make that joke.)

Quick question: How do you plan on celebrating International Coffee Day on October 1?

Better question: We know you’re going to be drinking coffee, so which new mug are you going to be showing off?

People get new mugs for a lot of different reasons. They may be replacing a broken or lost one; they might be updating the look of their place settings; they might find one that just tickles them for some reason. I have several mugs that...

I can’t believe we are already into September. Where has the year gone? I am glad of it, actually, because it means that our heat and humidity are finally going to start dropping. We’re getting to the time of year when we can open the doors and windows to air out the house again before winter settles in.

School has also gotten back in for everyone, so there will be football games and PTA meetings to attend. I’m looking forward to some crisp nights and changing leaves, too. Autumn is my...

There are a lot of definitions of “character.” Some say it’s what you do when no one else is looking. Others say it’s in how you treat people. You can also get a good feel for someone’s character by the way they handle adversity. Do they fuss and pout? Blame everyone but themselves? Expect others to fix it for them? Or do they learn from their mistakes and take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

When we’re small, we’re optimistic by nature. Kids aren’t paying attention to the big...