Leftovers: When Does Joy Turn to Obligation?

By: Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Leftovers: When do they move from being joyful endulgence to  another holiday obligation?

Are you over the leftovers yet? Does your fridge need a diet or a full-on cleanse? Does your dishwasher need a vacation? How to ensure all the food gets eaten the week after Thanksgiving is a conundrum for many, especially those of us raised in the ‘waste not, want not’ generation. There are all sorts of hacks out there to do just that. Heck, I even boiled down the nearly naked turkey carcass for broth I don’t like and made turkey pastry out of it. That’s turkey and dumplings for people outside of eastern North Carolina. I go to extremes to avoid tossing anything edible, but now I have a new dilemma. What do I do with all that pastry that nobody particularly liked, when the countdown monster of how many days the leftovers are edible is right behind me? Those noodles can’t go in the compost bin since it’s filled with poultry scent. We could draw coyotes and cats from miles around with that stinky rich broth. We could put it in the trash, but that’s stinky and gross. We can’t feed it to Fido named Tucker, because more than a little bit would be far too rich for his tender system. I might dig a hole and bury it away from the house and let nature take its course. At least I’d feed the earth worms.

About that fridge. Let’s call him Fred. Fred has gone from a state of being filled with uncooked foods, to stacked with cooked foods and partially eaten foods, to piled with foods that travel in and out of the fridge every day hoping to provide sustenance and not return. But do they return? Yes they do. They seem to multiply like the loaves and fishes in the Bible. To prove the amount is shrinking, the food has shifted residences from large Corning Ware Casseroles to medium-sized Rubbermaid containers with the cranberries going into small margarine tubs. The veggies started cohabiting, the butter beans, green beans, and collards moved into a five-by-seven oval Pyrex condo with their own personal areas and a flat rubber roof. That rooftop served as a solid patio space for other condos to stack and hang out in Fred and was a big help with conserving tinfoil atop pies, since aluminum wrap is a flimsy material for stacking.

On to the dishwasher which is an underappreciated appliance if I ever saw one. Let’s call him Doug. Doug tells me there are far too many people who believe the appliance ad hype about not needing to scrape off food residue and prerinse. I’ve researched this topic, since our household doesn’t have a garbage disposal thanks to the offhanded comment of a plumber twenty years ago. He told my husband that garbage disposals were bad if you had a septic system. Therefore, we must scrape our food somewhere besides down the sink. So, do we choose the trashcan, the compost bin, or the mouth of Tucker waiting at our feet for the slightest morsel to drop? Does the food that goes into poor Doug’s belly just disappear? Poof? Nope. Surprise! It swirls around beating against all the unrinsed and pre-rinsed dishes making them dirtier than when they entered the rack. Those squishy bits spread slime and grit throughout the machine where they wet, lather, and rinse, like we do our hair, except, thank goodness for us, we don’t have a tornado of crud flying around the shower to land all over us, only to stick and dry. If we did, we’d look and smell like the cloudy glasses that come from a dirty dishwasher. Cascade can’t fix the problem. Simple people like you and me, we can fix this.

And another thing, the gobbledy gook, see what I did there, (gobble, get it?) and greasy gunk in your pots that would never cross a wise person’s lips would make your own little Fido quite happy. Instead of wasting water to get rid of grease, wipe it out with a paper towel, trash it, and maybe finish wiping the pan with a slice of bread or half eaten biscuit and treat Fido to the highlight of his day. You know those big eyes and furrowed brows make you want to give him something good. Just do it, but don’t overdo it. And never share bones or pork. We learned about pork the hard way. Even better, if you want your dishes, pots, and pans super clean, just set them on the floor and let man’s best friend take care of the scraping and prerinsing. Doug can do the sanitizing and the problem is solved.

Tell the truth. Did you know there’s a food trap in the bottom of your dishwasher’s belly that needs to be cleaned of all those tiny pieces of crudola? Hmmm. Lots of people don’t know, so there you go, news you can use. We learn something new every day. Gotta run eat one last day of leftovers before I give Fred a cleanse and give Doug a rest.

Until the next big meal and gathering, Fred will survive on lettuce, carrots, milk, eggs, and a zillion condiments. Fred isn’t the only one who needs a cleanse.


Mammogram: Have You Treated Yourself Lately?


Hey ladies? Have you had your annual mammogram yet? How long has it been? Do you have a personal checklist? A to do list for taking care of yourself? I do. I’ve timed it for the end of summer as if I’m getting ready to go back to school. Why then? I used to be a middle school guidance counselor and before I took on the masses of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, I needed to be in my best condition. For me, that meant getting my teeth examined and cleaned, my hair cut, my physical exam, and most importantly, my mammogram. That is the top of the list.

Mammograms are a breeze these days. The scratchy paper shirts are long gone, replaced by plush, velvety pink, of course, bathrobes. Fresh and clean, and I know this because they come in a sealed bag. The dressing room is supplied with wipes, tissues, and sometimes spray deodorant for use after the procedure is completed. The only precaution before arrival is no lotion or deodorant where the machine will pick up the residue and get an inaccurate picture.

The employees are so kind and even entertaining. My most recent imaging center had two comical ladies in pink at the reception desk, rocking to the radio set on a blend of great music. They could have gone to the Barbie Movie and fit right in with their outfits. They included me in a conversation and even asked me if I knew what a fake pasta is. Do you know? Well, it’s an imposta. Get it? Cute.

The technician who laid my girls in just the right place on the machine had me posing like in a photo shoot with a knee bent and my chin up just so. I felt quite model-like in a weird sort of way. The ta-ta squishing is more tech savvy these days. No need for making skinny pancakes like in olden days. Another plus is, the machine corners are more rounded and less of a pointy cold metal contraption. Now the handsome machines are made of a comfy soft material better suited for your armpit’s resting place. I’m telling you, it’s not bad at all. I had mine at eight in the morning then rewarded myself with breakfast out with a friend. A win win all the way around. I thought about going to the dentist that afternoon but decided to spread the joy out until next week when I’ll also get my haircut. Can’t have too much excitement in self-care all in the same day. That’s like eating three desserts at the same meal.

So, if you haven’t had a mammogram lately, think about putting that vital item on your to do list. Call for an appointment and feel proud of yourself for not procrastinating. You’ll get results online in a few days. No more waiting anxiously for a phone call or a week or more for the mail to bring a letter with the results. Are you ready to check this off your list? Now make that appointment. Whatcha waiting for?

May 22, 2023


Pretend to be a Gardener: My Secret Recipe for Pretending you are A Plant Whisperer by Lisa Batten Kunkleman

Simple gardening 101: Geraniums

My favorite pet flower is the geranium. I call it pet because it makes me smile when I see it blooming away, just being itself, just like I enjoy watching a cat or dog living the good life being themselves. My geraniums are not constantly demanding food and water like many needy plants. They’re happy just lounging in a sunbeam and blowing in the breeze. They appreciate my efforts now and then to remove their dead blossoms, (that’s called deadheading), give them a good slug of water when the rain is busy elsewhere and maybe a sprinkle of plant food if the bloom production slows down a bit. But even without such attention, they tend to do their own thing till a freeze comes along. Being the good parent I am, I take my pets in when the weather calls for a freeze and I protect them until conditions are good to get back outside for the next year. A little extra plant food wakes them up from the cozy winter inside and they are off and blooming. If you wish your thumb was a little green, you might find success with the non demanding, beauty of a pet plant, the geranium.

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Happiness is so Fun To Watch by Lisa Batten Kunkleman

When life gets tough, try to find things to make you smile. Use all your senses to find it. Smell that toast. Rub that fleecy blanket. Listen to upbeat music. Taste that good smelling toast. Watch our granddog living large with his best friend, Water. He’s using all his senses I’m certain.

Tucker Dog and his best buddy, Water.


Storm Prep Tips before the Wind, Rain, Loss of Power or Water

Living for decades near the coast and on a farm with well water has made me be a storm prep fanatic. After nine days without power or water following Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and other storms to follow, I do the following while the weather people are forecasting:

Stock up on sink water. No need to go buy out the bottle water supply. Fill pots, pitchers, sinks or tubs with water. This is vital if you lose water and sewer when power goes out. It can be used for drinking, washing, flushing.

Charge up everything. Phones, laptops, tablets, flashlights, and anything chargeable.

Find your flashlights and lanterns. And batteries too. Check to see that these little used items actually work.

Move cars to safety. Try to move out from under trees and power lines if possible.

Secure all lightweight items in the yard. They can become projectiles that can cause damage and even break windows. Bird feeders, trash cans, umbrellas, lightweight furniture, potted plants.

Protect your pets. They will be scared and need shelter, food, and water.

Storms can range from gentle, lovely, and fun to massive, intense, and scary. Do what you can to prepare to make it easier. If you’ve got candles and flashlights to go with your water and sewer, you’ve got this.

If you’re lucky enough to not need your preparation because the storm misses you or lessens, that’s great news. You’ve cleaned up your yard and have pots ready to make tea and noodles and a bathtub ready to add some hot water to bathe a person or pet. Be safe and be prepared.

August 3, 2022


Missing Pieces or Extra Pieces?

By Lisa B Kunkleman


Seriously? We worked on this big ol’ Coca Cola Ads puzzle for a week and now that we’ve finished, there’s one piece missing and, are you kidding me, we have three duplicate pieces! How does that even happen? So now what do I do with this massive defective puzzle? Give it to Goodwill and let an unsuspecting buyer find out he’s bought a box of disappointment the same way we did?   

 Maybe I can give the puzzle to a local art teacher who appreciates all our reusables for her projects. I see all kinds of ideas on Pinterest using puzzle pieces. And how about the incomplete playing card sets I just found while rummaging through drawers in our hutch. There are oodles of creative uses for a misfit deck of cards. I’m sure the art teacher would love to have them, too. 

I found a fun collection of dice, an hourglass that measures a minute, and long lost playing pieces for games. Let’s see, here are Skip Bo, Taboo, and Catch Phrase instructions. We all know how to play but who knows, maybe we’ll forget as we age. Oh and here’s a little house from The Game of Life. I’m not sure if we still have that game but I’ll keep the house in case it turns up. Seems like the spinner broke and we talked about donating it to Goodwill years ago.

Here’s the Ziploc bag of orphan puzzle pieces. I hope we didn’t give away their parent puzzles. Aha, that’s where the guitar picks got to. And the marbles for Chinese Checkers. Yay. Now more than two people can play at a time.  

Found some more loose playing cards. Our grandson will love playing fifty-two-card pick up with the wayward cards. He can’t count to twenty-two, much less fifty- two but he might stay occupied for at least two minutes if we’re lucky.

I guess it’s time to take apart the puzzle. Man, it was a good one even if it was defective. Should I be honest and write in Sharpie on the back of the box what the situation is? “This is a box of disappointment.” I’ve gotta put those extra pieces back in there.Wait. I have an idea. Maybe I should add in all my other extra homeless pieces. Oo how fun is that? I know what I’ll write, “Enjoy. This one has a surprise ending.”

March 20, 2022


Even Windchimes Have Off Days

If you’re feeling kind of “off” and not your usual melodic or chipper self, take a look inside for stuff that needs to be cleared out. Even windchimes have visitors like dirt dobbers and spiders that leave gunk behind, clogging up lightness and tinkles. Don’t keep that mess inside clogging up life. Talk to someone about the junk that’s blocking your lightness. Clear the path so you can see light at the other end and make life a lovely sound.

Get a friend to help you get rid of your junk and clogs
Lightness and beautiful sounds once the junk is removed.

March 11, 2022


Tweezers and Flashlights

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

I really should keep tweezers in my car, along with other preparedness items like jumper cables and a flashlight. I’ve had several appointments lately where a medical professional needed to mess around my neck—and thanks to my new menopausal hair that grows in all the wrong places, my biggest concern was not some dreaded disease but that several whiskers had sprouted up overnight.


It bugged me so much, I brought it up with a nurse. When she asked how I was doing, I said, “I’d be a lot better if I had a pair of tweezers. All the way here I was feeling this little pokey hair under my chin but I can’t pull it out with my fingernails. When the doctor is supposed to be feeling my formerly hairless lymph glands, he’s gonna get pricked.”


The nurse said, “ I know girl. Right? Those little stinkers can pop up overnight. You can have a whole forest under there and never even know it until somebody shorter than you is looking up under your chin and rudely points it out.”


A week or so later, dang if it didn’t happen again. I was sitting in the dentist’s chair waiting for whatever fun Hygienist Jenny had planned, when I remembered a hair on my chin that mocked me in the rear-view mirror while I sat at a stoplight. Let me tell you, that’s the best place to pull out the tweezers and work on wayward growth. The daylight in a vehicle is amazing. I have got to get a pair to leave in the car.


Jenny was busily excavating and probing my teeth, (did you ever notice they use the names of cars for dental instruments), when I asked her, “Any chance you have a pair of tweezers so you can yank that obnoxious beard hair out? I’m sure you can see it with your spectacular goggles.”

Jenny laughed out loud. “Nope, I don’t have tweezers and I also can’t give Botox. I wish we could provide some fun services since our patients are already reclined like they’re relaxed and ready to stay put.”


“Oh Jenny. You may think I’m asleep in this chair while you’re picking and flossing, but actually I’m pondering. I’m imagining how haircuts, head massages, and mani-pedis would go over well, and even better, some moustache waxing. The possibilities are endless.”


Jenny laughed again and said, “By the way, my peripheral vision is so bad with these magnified glasses on, all I can see is tiny teeth that are made bigger, so don’t worry about me seeing a stray hair.”


  • Back at home, perturbed with the bad light in my bathroom, I aimed a mini flashlight up into my neck shade. Wowza! What a difference light makes. I saw the beginnings of a new grassland. Maybe a savannah. The flashlight is the bomdiggity. Heck, I’ll stock up on tweezers and little flashlights and leave them all over the house like people do with reading glasses. Maybe tweezers and mini flashlights should be sold as a set. I may never be bearded again. Oh my. What am I thinking. Forget the flashlight. There’s already one in everybody’s phone. I can design a tweezer pouch to attach to the phone case. QVC TV shopping, look out.



Give Me Paper and a File Cabinet by Lisa Batten Kunkleman

I’m trying to understand this trust in technology embraced the world over. As I type, my curser is doing a weird flicker and the beachball of death pops up to taunt me every once in a while. Even with all the apocalyptic movies out there providing ample warning that our power grid could disappear the moment the first aliens arrive, I know plenty of highly intelligent people who have all their documents, photos, emails, videos, and work on The Cloud. Really? Why?

I don’t even trust that electricity will always be there when I need to charge my phone or the internet will work at my house, for crying out loud. Our home internet has given me plenty of reasons to be skeptical. Have you ever experienced a flood or hurricane, or a big ice storm when the power goes out leaving stores unable to function without their high-tech cash registers? Banks that can’t operate without their computers? Street lights out, disabling drivers? Even a fallen tree branch on a power line can send whole neighborhoods into a helpless frenzy. Especially during quarantine when so many kids must do online school and those fortunate to have a work-from-home job are left to find wi-fi out in the scary, germy world.

So, have you given any thought to your medical records? The information we don’t think about until we need the backstory of a condition when it rears its symptoms again? I love trees as much as anyone, maybe even more than many but I do not scrimp when it comes to paper copies to refer to when the storms of life interfere with the world wide web. I learned too late of medical records that were purged after sitting around dormant for years. I may never know the details of my urology visits in years of yore if I were not such a journal keeper. It might take a little searching but I’m pretty sure I can find that information should another urologist need the origin of issues in that area.

I’ve learned to be wary of my on-line medical records as I’ve found far too many errors keyed in accidentally, perhaps by a typist squinting at a doctor’s abstract scribble or words of dictation that make absolutely no sense. I’m giving data input people a little slack even though I’ve been labeled with high blood pressure when it’s actually low, and with a terminal cancer nobody has ever heard of. Not even my doctor. That one could explain some insurance approval issues a while back. I don’t suppose the rumor of my demise on my son’s medical record helped with that either. Yep. Sam’s record said I was deceased. On my cardiac record, I discovered that I’m not sexually active. Who decides that? Is there a cut off due to age, or record of menopause, or perhaps it’s a visual decision of a patient based on graying hair or spare tire? I’m a little offended.

Thanks to incorrect records, computer crashes too many times, and living through a few natural disasters, I’m a backer-upper in the extreme. I share photos and old letters with people who might care, and store duplicates of important papers in separate locations, just in case. Because you never know. Don’t you love those cliches? Well, they’re pretty accurate. I don’t want to ever say, we lost all our photos or irreplaceable things. And so, I let my slight OCD tendencies guide my preservation instinct.

Often, I think I’m the only paranoid person who backs up life on flash drives, external hard drives, and on paper. I know that storage space is valuable both in a computer and physically in a home or office. I realize with our big old rambling farmhouse that my husband grew up in, I am beyond fortunate to have an office lined with file cabinets. Family history, medical records, normal people records, and my writings are filed with precision as paper backups of our entire lives.

When my husband and I leave this earth, our kids will be so grateful. And their medical records? I’ve made four giant notebooks of the highlights of their health journey so they can take it to appointments should the need ever arise to know what happened before they were old enough to remember or care. I can just see it now. They’ll say a prayer of thanksgiving for my being so thoughtful.

Ha ha. Just kidding. I know they’ll look for all the life insurance and bank records and probably recycle the rest so they can sell the file cabinets but I’ll be in heaven so what will I care? Won’t they have fun reading my journals to find out which of the four kids was my favorite? Maybe I’ll start a rumor saying they’d better look closely at each journal and document as there might be clues to a treasure hunt. If they fail to read carefully, they’ll never find where we hid the real treasure. Sweet. I’m going to get right on that since we never know what life holds. I only know that my life holds lots and lots of paper.

April 28, 2021


A Message From a Friend From Heaven

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

I was clearing out bookshelves a couple of days ago, March 26, 2021, when I’m pretty sure my friend poked me from her heavenly home. Purging away, I came upon a book with an e-mail tucked inside from my friend Pam Medlin. Unfortunately, Pam, a non-smoker, died far too soon from lung cancer on March 27, 2017. I was thrilled and surprised to see a little memory of her pop up out of nowhere. What timing! I put the paper on my desk to read the next day, on the fourth anniversary of her moving on to renewed health and happiness once again.


The email was titled, Four Boyfriends, author unknown, and sent to me on October 8, 2008. The ending has a surprise analogy twist. I love analogies. They give you something to think about. And the topic of death read on the anniversary of her death seems like a message from beyond. The condensed gist of the story is this:


A girl had four boyfriends. She loved them differently and treated them differently.


The fourth one she adored and treated him to riches and the finest of everything. She doted on him completely.

The third one she loved dearly and showed him off. However, she feared he would someday leave her for another.

The second one was kind and considerate and patient.  She loved him and considered him her confidant and helper through difficult times.

The first one was completely loyal. A partner who made great contributions for her life. Helping her maintain wealth and her kingdom. She paid him very little attention, hardly noticing him.


When she became gravely ill, she asked each boyfriend, “Will you follow me and keep me company?”


The fourth one said, “No way.” And walked off.

The third one said, “No. Life is too good. After you die, I will marry someone else.”

The second one said, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you out this time. I can only accompany you to your grave.”

The first one said, “I’ll go with you. I’ll follow you no matter where you go.” She was grieved that she had hardly noticed this one who was always with her. “I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance.”


These four boyfriends can represent our lives.

The fourth one is your body. No matter how much time and effort you lavish in making it look good, it will leave you when you die.

The third is your possessions, status, and wealth. When you die, it will all go to others.

The second is your family and friends. No matter how much they have been there for you, the furthest they can stay by you is up to the grave.

The first is your spirit. Often neglected in pursuit of wealth, power, and pleasures of the world, your spirit is the only thing that will go with you when you die. Cultivate, strengthen and cherish it now since it will continue with you throughout Eternity.


Wisdom from an old friend. I hope it touches others as it did me.