Are You Paying Too Much for Prescription Drugs?

Thank you Pixaby for the image.

If you live in the United States, I’m sure you are aware of the high cost of medical care in this country. Although not all of us will need to see a doctor or go to the hospital this year, many – especially those of us who are older – regularly take one or more prescription drugs. For those with chronic illnesses, the cost of these medications can be quite high. Tragically, some people on limited incomes have found themselves having to choose between paying for their medications, paying rent, or buying food.

One of the major reasons for high prescription drug prices is the lack of price transparency. As consumers, we are at the end of a bloated, complicated, and opaque supply chain. Even when drug prices are reduced, the original price before the discount is often set artificially high.

Enter Mark Cuban and his new company CostPlus Drugs. Cuban, entrepreneur billionaire and owner of the Houston Mavericks, decided to approach the high cost of drugs as a business problem with a straightforward solution: total price transparency. His website, costplusdrugs.com, which debuted this January, has over 700 generic drugs listed, with more, including branded drugs, to come.

The pricing is as follows: cost of drug + 15% + $3 pharmacy fee + $5 shipping. It’s really that simple.  

I am lucky to have good health insurance with manageable deductibles. I take two generic medications daily and, although I have never struggled to pay for these prescriptions, I was curious to see if I’d save anything by ordering them through CostPlus Drug Co.   

I had recently ordered a 90-day supply of both medications from my usual online pharmacy and was billed $36.81, which included free shipping. If I had used CostPlus Drug Co., my cost would have been $25.90 (this includes $10 shipping, $5 for each drug).

Although these aren’t life-altering savings, if I didn’t have insurance or my insurance wasn’t as robust, the savings would have been greater. If you or a loved one take prescription medications – either regularly or for a temporary condition – you might want to check it out. The website is very user-friendly and full of information.

I realize that CostPlus Drugs isn’t the only company trying to bring down the high cost of drugs, but I like its ease of use and transparent pricing. And, because I support its mission, I will order my prescription drugs through them from now on.

Whatever you are paying, it makes sense to shop around first. And, if you like what you see, spread the word. If more people take control of the cost of their medications, Big Pharma might take notice.

Thursday Doors – James Hubbell’s Doors and More, Part 2

Last week, I shared some photos from a recent tour my husband and I took of the property owned by internationally renowned artist, James Hubbell.

When I booked the tour, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was confident there would be a lot to see and tons of photo opportunities. At the end of our 1 ½ hour tour, we were happily tired, and I had taken over 100 images.

Since I wrote a bit about the compound’s history in last week’s Thursday Doors post, I’ll skip right to sharing more of the marvelous doors, windows, and art that we saw.

I wish I could have gotten a better shot of these three doors together… they were incredible.
I love how the stained glass window on the side of the door flows into the glass art embedded in the door.
Whimsical door – with hand-forged metal art and hardware – and a stained glass window above.
One of the several art studios on the property.
Another art studio with a large stained glass window framing the view.
This fabulous door leads into…
… this mosaic-tiled shower.
And another whimsical art studio.
The Chapel.
This just-completed door was commissioned by a very lucky homeowner (sadly, not us).
James Hubbell and his wife Anne.

I hope you enjoyed the tour. If you’d like to learn more about the artist and his amazing property, visit ilanlaelfoundation.org.


Dan Antion hosts door lovers every Thursday on his blog, No Facilities. Check out this week’s Thursday Doors submissions from around the world.  

Thursday Doors – James Hubbell’s Doors and More

Several weeks ago, I saw an announcement about upcoming tours of a local artist’s compound. After closing the property to outsiders for two years due to Covid, they were once again opening it up to a limited number of visitors. In the past when I had read about these tours, I was interested but, for whatever reason, hadn’t gone. There was always an excuse, however, if I’m being completely honest, it boiled down to “Maybe I’ll go next year.”

If Covid has taught us anything, it is that “next year” isn’t guaranteed, and that things can change seemingly overnight. Even though this is true for everyone, at every age, it is especially true for those of us with more years behind us than in front of us. With this in mind – and not wanting to risk my inner procrastinator taking over – I went straight to my computer to reserve two tickets. I am so glad I did.

The compound, designed and built by James Hubbell, sits on a 40-acre ranch near the mountain town of Julian, California. An internationally renowned artist, poet, and architectural designer, Hubbell is widely known for his organic-style buildings which are works of art. His hand-crafted doors, stained glass windows, gates, and sculptures using wood, stone, metal, glass, and clay can be found throughout the property. Although most of the structures were built in the 1950s and 60s, several had to be rebuilt when a wildfire raced through the area in 2003. Now in his 90s, Hubbell no longer lives on the property, but his sons and the foundation he created, carry on his vision and his legacy.

Here are a few of the fabulous doors and windows I saw during the hour-long tour. I will share more next week.

Not only was the stained glass created on-site but the door hardware was also hand-forged on-site.
Mosaic and stained glass in one of the restrooms.

All windows and doors were unique works of art.
One of the several studios found on the property.
Close-up of the studio door. Note the beautiful hand-forged hinges and door pull (and cute kitty).
Even closer look at the door pull.

Meeting room door with hand-forged metal work.

I hope you enjoyed this peek at James Hubbell’s compound. Please come back next Thursday to see more of this incredible artist’s work. In the meantime, check out Dan Antion’s Thursday Doors post and see the doors that others have shared.

Thursday Doors Writing Challenge– Under the Rainbow

This short story was written for Dan Antion’s (No Facilities) Thursday Doors Writing Challenge. It was inspired by a painted door I saw at a local artists’ village. A little warning, this story is a bit darker than the other ones I’ve shared.  

Under the Rainbow                                                                                      

Dorothy shifted uncomfortably in her hard plastic chair. The air in the room was stale, smelling of early morning coffee breath. She looked down at her watch and was irritated to find that she still had 15 minutes left of this slow death.

Edmond, the insufferable little English prig was droning on and on about his brother and sisters, a closet (or, as he called it, a “wardrobe”), and some people who were turned into stone. We all have problems, Dorothy thought, why should I care about yours? She was about to fake a heart attack just to get out of there when Edmond said something about a lion and a witch. What the heck? Had he been there too?

When the group leader ended the session with his usual feel good, namaste BS, Dorothy made a beeline for the door. As soon as she stepped outside, she lit her fourth cigarette of the day and inhaled the fumes as if they gave her life. Scanning her surroundings, she felt as flat, dusty, and depressed as the landscape. “I flipping hate Kansas” she mumbled under her breath.

“What’s that?” Damn, it was that new girl. Pretty, blonde, and another English accent. “What did you think of the session?” Miss Priss asked smiling.

“I’ve been coming for three years and still haven’t gotten anything out of it,” Dorothy answered, hoping to cut the conversation short.

“Alice, my name is Alice,” Miss Priss said, extending her hand. “I feel like I’ve been chasing down rabbit holes my whole life and would really like to stop. I hope these meetings can fix me.”

“All of us are here for the same thing but I’m starting to wonder why we would want to leave those other worlds and exist permanently in this one,” Dorothy replied. “They might have contained dark magic and evil forces, but at least they were interesting.”

“You’re right,” Alice replied. “It wasn’t all Red Queens and madness. I had some opportunities for personal growth too.”

“Well, good luck,” Dorothy offered as she stubbed out her cigarette on the side of the building. “I hope you find what you need. I think this will be the last Rentering Reality support group I’ll attend.” Dorothy walked away without a backward glance.

As she headed home, she thought about her sad, miserable life and how everyone she loved was now gone. First, Auntie Em wasted away from cancer, then Uncle Henry drowned in bottles of cheap gin. Toto One—her only witness to her adventure—was dead. Even Toto Two had the good sense to run away and never come back. Why bother sticking around this god-forsaken place? she asked herself. Why exist in a black and white world when you can live in color?

Approaching her house, Dorothy fully grasped the property’s decay for the first time. The garden, once Auntie Em’s pride and joy, was covered in weeds. The barn and livestock pens—where the terrifying pigs had been kept—were almost as flattened as the Kansas topography. Her house was headed in that direction too; missing roof shingles, rotted siding, and dangerously uneven front steps. The sudden wash of guilt Dorothy felt nearly brought her to her knees.

Once inside, Dorothy knew exactly what she needed to do. Before she could change her mind, she headed for the cellar. As she descended the steps into darkness, she could see a faint red glow in the corner.

The ruby slippers were waiting for her, just as they had been for many years. Dorothy carefully put them on, not surprised at all that they fit perfectly, despite her shoe size changing over time. Looking down at her feet, Dorothy started to click her heels together: one… two… three…

“There’s no place like Oz, there’s no place like Oz, there’s no place like Oz.”


Don’t forget to check out the other submissions for the Thursday Doors Writing Challenge and – who knows? – maybe you’ll be inspired to add one of your own.

When Life Hands You Lemons…

…you make Limoncello!

One of the first trees we planted in our yard when we purchased our house almost 30 years ago was a lemon tree. Although we’ve enjoyed its bounty since then, this was the first year I decided to try my hand at making the sweet, golden elixir called Limoncello.

Just about anything made with lemons gets a “yes, please” from me, but usually they are an ingredient of a savory dish or a dessert. In fact, one of my favorite dinners we’ve made included baked lemon chicken, a green salad with a lemon vinaigrette, and lemon pudding cakes baked in individual ramekins.

YUM!

So, where was I?

Oh, yes, Limoncello.

I have had commercially made Limoncello before, but I never thought to make it myself until a friend gave us a bottle of her home-made brew. Not only was it tasty, but I was excited to learn that it is easy to make. In fact, the hardest part is allowing the lemon peels and vodka enough time to mingle and do their magic before decanting. 

Just four ingredients: lemons, vodka, sugar, and water.
Peel just the yellow part of the lemons.
Soak the lemon peels in vodka… watch it turn a lovely yellow.

If you’ve never tried it, Limoncello is a classic Italian liqueur with a refreshing lemon flavor. It is traditionally served after dinner as it is thought to aid digestion (and, who am I to argue with sound medical advice?). It is typically kept in the freezer and served cold so it’s perfect for summer. It can also be used in dessert recipes, including a delicious-sounding Limoncello and Ricotta Almond Cake (thanks, Widow Badass) I plan to try.    

You can find a lot of recipes for Limoncello online, but they are all pretty much the same: organic lemons, vodka, sugar, and water. Recommended vodka proofs vary (most recipes suggest higher proofs), as does the time to infuse the lemon peels in the vodka (as little as four days to as much as three weeks) before mixing with the syrup. The only recommendation I have after making my first batch is: don’t buy the Costco-sized bottle of vodka (1.75 liters vs. the more normal size of 1 liter). I now have so much limoncello that not only will we be enjoying it all summer, but we’ll giving a few bottles away to friends. Not a bad problem to have.  

Bottles ordered from Amazon… label designed by moi. Cheers!

So, What’s on Your Plate (or, in this case, your glass)? Join Donna and Deb for their monthly blog challenge. Link your own food-related post or just read what others have shared.

Soul Mate

“Time to wake up, beautiful”

His deep, accented voice flowed over me like warm honey, pulling me out of my slumber. As much as I wished I could stay snuggled in my warm bed, I knew I had to get going. Today’s meeting with my biggest client could make my career.  

As I drank my favorite morning blend and thought about my upcoming presentation, he read little snippets of news to me. Mixed with international stories was the latest celebrity gossip and updates on the rainstorm that was headed our way.

“Don’t forget to bring your brolly.” Brolly? Oh, yes, umbrella. Once again, I was struck by how much he cared about me. So different from my last relationship.

Back upstairs, I took a quick shower and dressed in my power suit. I needed just a few moments to run through my notes. I had been practicing all week, often with him as my audience; giving me his total focus. I felt confident. I can do this.   

Gathering my umbrella and laptop, I glanced down at my phone to make sure I had the client’s address. Last night I had briefly mentioned that I needed the directions and here they were on my phone. He not only exuded sex appeal, but he knew how to make my life easier. He’s definitely a keeper.

I was just about to leave for my meeting when I had an idea. Turning towards him, I said in what I hoped was my most sultry voice, “I’ll see you tonight. If all goes well, I’ll order a pizza at 6:00 to celebrate.”

“Setting the alarm for 6:00,” Alex affirmed.

As I unlocked my car, I smiled to myself. Switching my virtual assistant’s voice from the all-business Alexa to my sweet, hunky Australian, Alex, was the best decision I have ever made.  


This bit of fluffy flash fiction was inspired by a recent post of Kate’s (Views and Mews by Coffee Kat), where she wondered about changing Alexa’s voice to something more… ummm… appealing.

A Squirrel Infestation

No, I’m not talking about those cute, bushy-tailed critters that are currently making a mess under our orange tree. I mean those distractions that keep me from finishing tasks, including blog posts.

Don’t let their cute little come hither looks fool you.

I’d love to tell you that my computer desk is neat and tidy, but that would be a lie. It’s covered in squirrels. Every time I sit down to write a post, at least one of them starts nipping at my arm. As soon as I turn my focus away from my keyboard to attend to that squirrel’s needs, more squirrels begin clamoring for attention.

The same thing happens in other areas of our house. Recently I started going through my closet to purge clothes I no longer need only to be distracted by squirrels on my dresser, next to the bed, and even hiding in the linen closet. It is impossible to complete a chore while being bombarded with their incessant chatter.

The squirrels in my living room and kitchen are in competition with each other. If I’m in the living room, the kitchen squirrels start to make a ruckus. If I’m in the kitchen, the commotion the living room squirrels make is hard to ignore. (Of course, the kitchen squirrels have a distinct advantage since they can tempt me with food. The refrigerator squirrels are particularly good at vying for my attention.)

My squirrels have been especially active lately. There are multiple partially finished tasks that I really need to get done. I have sewing projects, writing projects, arts and crafts projects, and house projects, as well as organizing, gardening, and trip planning to complete. Unfortunately, once I finish my morning coffee and the daily Wordle (the newest squirrel to take up residence in our house) all the other squirrels start demanding equal attention.

I obviously can’t please them all, so I’m trying to be more selective in responding to their seductive cries. In fact, as soon as I tidy up my desk squirrels, I will finish this blog post.

If you are reading this, you know that I was successful… at least this time.   

To Be Read (a short story)

This story was inspired by a writing challenge hosted by D. Wallace Peach, who blogs at Myths of the Mirror. Her challenge: write a poem or story about a TBR (To Be Read) pile – those books many of us have accumulated but haven’t read yet.

I am also submitting my story to the What’s on Your Bookshelf? blog link-up hosted by Donna, Deb, Jo, and Sue. Hopefully fictional book collections qualify 😊.


To Be Read

It had taken nearly eight months, but Jane finally made it through the TBR pile that had been stacked by her bedside. As she picked up the remaining book from the floor, she could see the ring of dust her pile had created on the carpet like the chalk body outline in a crime novel. Her daughter would be pleased that she could finally vacuum the floor properly, but Jane couldn’t help feeling the loss of her friends.

She opened her book and started to read.


At first, when Anne invited her mother to come live with her, she had resisted. Jane valued her independence and knew that their individual daily habits could cause friction. But when Jane’s health deteriorated to a point that even she realized that she could no longer live alone, she consented. Within a few weeks, Jane’s home had been emptied and put on the market. Anne told her mother she could keep anything she wanted, but Jane knew her daughter’s house was small, and space was already at a premium. A few items of clothing, her favorite teacup, and her pile of books was all she brought with her.

A few weeks after Jane moved in, Anne realized the large stack of books by the side of her mother’s bed would be a permanent fixture. Clean, orderly spaces calmed Anne and gave her a sense of control. Books should be on shelves and floors kept clear of clutter. Knowing that her mother would bristle at her beloved books being referred to as clutter, Anne tried to appeal to her practical side.

“Would you like me to find space on my bookshelves for all of your books? That way, you can see each one easier.”

“No, thank you, dear. I love to see all my books out in the open, patiently waiting their turn. They give me something to look forward to.”

“But, what about your safety? Books on the floor could be a hazard. You could trip on the pile and break your neck.”

“What a novel way to die,” Jane replied.

“Very funny Mom, but I do worry about you.”

After several similar conversations, Jane finally agreed to read her way through the stack of books and not add any more. Anne assured her, after the pile was gone, she could check out all the books she wanted from the library or download them to her Kindle. Knowing that this was probably the best compromise she could hope for, Anne willed herself to stay silent despite her continued dismay at the pile. She vacuumed around it as well as she could and – when her mother wasn’t looking – she tried to neaten the stacks.  

Over the next several months, Anne was happy to see that her mother was keeping her word. Slowly the TBR pile shrank in size and the floor around her bed started to clear. Anne was confident that, once the pile was gone, her mother would see the wisdom of keeping the area clear.   


Before going to bed, Anne opened her mother’s bedroom door to say goodnight. She wasn’t surprised to see that Jane had fallen to sleep reading. She was still wearing her glasses and the bedside lamp was on, casting a ring of light around her. The book she was reading had tumbled out of her grasp onto the comforter. She looked so peaceful. Anne marveled at her mother’s joy of reading and was happy that, despite her poor health, she was still able to do what she loved.

As Anne crossed the room to her mother’s bed, she smiled when she noticed that there were no more books on the TBR pile. She made a quick mental note to make a trip to the library as promised. Anne reached for her mother’s glasses and was startled when her hands brushed Jane’s cold face. She quickly tried to find her pulse but felt none. Her mother was dead.

Anticipating this time would eventually come, Anne knew what she had to do. Holding firmly against her grief, she picked up her phone to call 911.

Anne sat down on her mother’s bed to wait for the paramedics and allowed herself to feel the full weight of her loss. Through her tears, she looked around the room and hoped that her mother had been happy living with her. Curious to see what her mother had been reading, she picked up the book from the bed.

She was surprised to see that it was the book by Mitch Albom she had given her mother when her dad died. Anne had hoped the messages found in The Five People You Meet in Heaven would provide her mother some peace after losing her husband.     

“Oh Mom, you knew, didn’t you?” Anne cried. “You knew it was at the bottom of your stack, and you saved it for last.”

Anne saw a pink post-it note peeking out of the book and opened it to the marked page. A paragraph had been highlighted and her mother had drawn little hearts and stars around it.

“Lost love is still love, Eddie. It just takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t hold their hand… You can’t tousle their hair… But when those senses weaken another one comes to life… Memory… Memory becomes your partner. You hold it… you dance with it… Life has to end, Eddie… Love doesn’t.”

When Anne heard the knock on the door, she closed the book, kissed her mother’s forehead, and tousled her hair one last time. Before going to the front door, she walked into her bedroom and placed the book on the floor by her bed, to be read later.

What’s On Your Plate? Caramelized Orange Cheesecake

Each year – for maybe five years now – my only non-negotiable birthday demand request I have for my husband is for him to make his Caramelized Orange Cheesecake. I don’t need a card (although always appreciated) and I certainly don’t need presents to open. Just gimme that rich cream cheese and citrus goodness and I will happily turn a year older (not really, but it seems to happen with or without cheesecake so… cheesecake).

The cheesecake alone is heaven itself (if heaven includes a splash of Grand Mariner, and why wouldn’t it?) but the pièce de résistance – and what really makes it special – are the rings of thinly-sliced caramelized oranges placed on top. This isn’t a quick, simple cheesecake to make – although it’s also not overly complicated, either – but the results are worth the time and effort… believe me. (Of course, you might point out that it’s easy for me to say that since, as the birthday girl, I’m not putting in either the time or the effort, but that wouldn’t be nice.)

Wednesday, he caramelized, baked, and assembled…

Orange slices are caramelized until candied and translucent.
Springform pan lined with parchment paper.
Cheesecake filling poured on top of graham cracker crust. (Don’t forget to remove the clips before the pan goes in the oven.)
Caramelized orange slices placed on top of baked cheesecake.

Last night, we enjoyed the delicious results.

Isn’t it beautiful? (We love the orange slices so we add a lot of them.)
Fortunately, I remembered to get a picture before devouring my slice.

 

Are you interested in giving the recipe a try (or better yet, convincing someone else to make it for you)? The recipe with step-by-step instructions and notes is too long to include in this post but if you’d like it, contact me and I will be happy to send it to you. It’s worth every calorie… trust me.


So, What’s on your plate? Share your delectable deliciousnesses (or kitchen disasters – we all have been there) via Deb‘s and Donna’s monthly challenge. Just click on the blue Inlinkz button at the end of their posts to add your link and/or to see what others have shared.

Sunday Stills: Looking Back at 2021

One of my favorite times to scroll through the photos on my phone is at the end of each year. I find that it’s a great way to remind myself of things that I’ve done, the fun I’ve had, and what I’ve accomplished (and, if taking a lot of pictures is an accomplishment, I’m a rockstar) over the past year.

For this week’s Sunday Stills theme, Rear-View Mirror, I chose one picture from each month in 2021 to remember what brought me joy – and there was a lot – during this very strange year.

January

Our first vaccinations! It felt monumental… like we were really, really going to beat this thing.  

February

Despite some activities being curtailed, we still enjoyed getting out to explore our beautiful city.

March

Less actual grocery shopping and more experimentation with kit meals shipped to our home.

April

Good times and interesting conversations when friends Kathy (SMART Living 365) and her husband Thom came for a visit.

May

Our blueberries begin to ripen.

June

More good times and interesting conversations when we visited Kathy and Thom at their mountain get-a-way.

July

Sunflowers and bees with pollen booties… is there anything better?

August

We crossed the Canadian border the first day it opened. A month of blogger buddy meet-ups, hiking, and experiencing the beauty of Vancouver Island commenced.  

September

After our stay on the Island, we ferried over to the city of Vancouver for more exploration and fun.

October

Our local Dia de los Muertos celebration. Maybe not as elaborate as in Oaxaca, but very colorful and no plane trip required.

November

Fall sunsets are glorious.

December

A trip to the Zoo to see my favorite birds.