Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Package

This the top of a drinkable probiotic product "GoodBelly BigShots." Makes me smile every time I open one.

Ending a Year

One thing I do every January 1 is to take the kitchen calendar and use it as a tool for looking back over the events of the year. The trips, appointments, celebrations that are written down serve as way of remembering other things that don't get written down. For me, reflection is a better way of moving forward than making resolutions. Self-reflection and clarifying. Backwards and forwards. In fact, I found it interesting to learn that the month of January was named after the Roman God Janus who had two faces – one looking backwards and one forwards. Makes perfect sense.

I've spent quite a bit of time this year thinking about how I live my life. I know many of you are aware that Tom and I have toyed with the idea of moving to Pittsburgh. Well, beginning in February, that's where I'll be. We rented a duplex for 6 months as a trial; I'll spend most of my time there, coming home every other month for a calligraphy class and spending some time in the office. I'll be working remotely and developing a once-in-a-lifetime relationship with my grandkids. Tom will visit for sure, but will primarily hold the fort down here. We both have a certain amount of trepidation, but there's also an excitement about it. Probably more for me than for him.

When I originally started talking about cutting back on my job, taking a piece of it that would permit me to work from basically anywhere, this is what I had in mind. Spending time away from Tulsa when possible. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out. A new journey, that's for sure.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Medical Care

I went to pick up a Rx today and the price was so outrageous even the clerk paused and said "Can that be right?" It was $743. I did not pay for it. I decided I would call the dr. tomorrow and see about getting an equivalent. The pharmacist said there was no generic. Tom told the pharmacist we'd be back after we mortgaged the house. I guess if I can't get an equivalent, I'll wait until after Jan. 1 so the amount can at least go toward my deductible. Doesn't that seem totally crazy? Plus it makes me mad.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

T-O-D-A-Y

Tom has a friend he's known for 40 years who was diagnosed with cancer in April. For the past few months he and Joe have been trying to find a time to have breakfast, have coffee, get together for some normal kind of relating but chemo appointments, various schedule conflicts always got the upper hand and they ended up settling for communication via email and telephone. Yesterday we received an email from his friend's wife that Joe was giving up. We made the trip today, regardless of inconveniences and schedule conflicts. Tom is so good in these situations. He has a calming, soothing, rocking sort of voice. He held Joe's hand and told him that his wife would be okay; that he wasn't in charge anymore. He told him he knew he still owed him breakfast. There was a chuckle as only guys, one dying with labored breathing can do. We left and Joe took his last breath within 90 minutes. Very eerie to get that call. Unsettling in the way that it feels when someone your age leaves this world.

His wife's words to me as we left this afternoon were "Don't wait for an anniversary to take that trip. Don't put off things you think you want to do." I was reminded of an old Erma Bombeck column about candles that melted in the attic because they were too fancy to burn. It's a reminder, a warning, a story we've heard a million times and yet we continue to save the best for last. We put off doing what we really want to do, waiting for the perfect time, the perfect situation. We say Life is short, but we don't act like we really believe it.

Today. That's what we have. Right now.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Salad

Of all the menu items I made yesterday, my favorite was the salad. I copied the ingredients from a salad I had recently at the French Hen, but I changed the dressing and the type of greens.

I used fresh baby greens tossed with a dressing made of 1/4 c. mayo, 1/4 c. maple syrup, 3T wine vinegar, and 1/2 c. oil. I put the tossed greens on a plate, arranged pear slices, sprinkled pomegranate seeds and toasted walnuts on top, and added bleu cheese crumbles. My only regret is that I didn't make more. [The French Hen used baby spinach and a balsamic dressing. My maple dressing worked very well with the pears and cheese.]

Part of the fun was opening a pomegranate for the first time. I'd had the seeds, had the juice, but I had never actually purchased a pomegranate. My best advice would be to wear an apron when you disassemble one. Lots of spurts from those little juicy seeds!

Friday, December 25, 2009

A White Christmas

Yay! A real white Christmas! It's so quiet out;I love the way snow muffles the sounds. And it's especially quiet on Christmas morn. Elves were up late, kids up early. Of course at my house, I'm up early and Santa is still asleep. Merry Christmas to everyone.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday Blah to Blessed

My sister's been hounding me with the question "Why aren't you blogging?" The more clutter I let in my head, the less I'm likely to blog, which is probably when I should. Maybe it would clear the clutter. I struggle with this December holiday. Too much external energy, not enough time to replenish the internal energy.

I'm better now. The fudge is made and cut; the cookies are baked; cakes are done; brown candy finally tolerable, and last night the traditional pork pies completed the package. These meat pies are part of Tom's family tradition. My family didn't really have a tradition to carry on, so I have willingly adopted this one, although last night I realized what a labor of love it is now that there are only TWO of us to enjoy it on Christmas morn. Tom's daughters salivate when they hear the words "pork pie" but it doesn't help when they are coast to coast. We made three big pies and two small ones, with enough meat for one more big one, which I'll finish tonight. These are double-crust pies filled with ground pork loin seasoned with cloves, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and a butt-load of onions. We'll take one to the daughter in Seattle when we visit in January, and the others will go in the freezer. It is a nice tradition to carry on; I think we just need to adjust the quantity we make. Maybe two pies next year?

With a blended family, with kids grown and scattered, Christmas is a different holiday. Things have to go in the mail so there's not much under the tree. Still, I like the tree, the lights, the Christmas music. I like sitting there early morning with just the tree and mantle lights on, having my coffee. I like planning a simple Christmas dinner for us and a few single neighbors. I like that it will be cold on Christmas day so we can have a fire.

All in all, I guess I'm pretty darn happy.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Remnants of a Visit

After a holiday whirlwind, it always feels good to sit down, breathe, and enjoy a bit of nothing. Clean up the house, put things away that were brought out only for the kids, take inventory of the refrigerator, wake up with no particular agenda.

The one thing I haven't put away yet is the doll house. I just haven't been able to bring myself to disrupt the cozy conversation of "brother and sister" having their snack of hot chocolate and banana cake.


See, they had been fussing and arguing for several days and finally went out to the terrace for a snack and some talking. I think I'll give them a few more days and then tell them it's time to come in.

Mission Accomplished



We did it! Just under three hours for 13.1 miles. No pain, lots of gain. A beautiful day in so many ways.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Power of Encouragement

I don't really know how this happened, but all of a sudden, I have just done 10 miles (run/walk) because I committed to do the Route 66 Half Marathon with my daughter in less than two weeks. It's been a slow build up, and like I said, I don't know how it happened. My feet have complained and begged me to reconsider; my hips practically scream at me every morning, and then I get this little email or text that says "We can do it" and you know what? We can.

Then today I had lunch with a colleague and he says "You need to have ten miles under your belt if you're going to do that run. You can do that. Just do it." And I did.

And don't forget that someone who acts impressed with what you've done. It feels so good.

All I'm saying is that I would have given up or backed out on this deal if I had not had encouragement and motivation from several people. For that, I am grateful. It's such a great feeling to finish something that you had doubts about because people believed in you.

I'm just feeling grateful tonight for the people in my life. You know who you are. Thank you.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Golden Afternoon

I took a break from sifting and sorting, sat on the front porch and watched the wind blow ginko leaves to the ground. Our driveway looks like a path of gold doubloons. These leaves don't crunch yet. They're soft still, and so bright. Lovely.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 5

Today, I discovered that Day 4 is really Day 5. Now, that's sad. Still going.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Clutter clearing

Today is day 3 of cleaning and organizing my supply closet. And I really mean Day 3. I have spent two entire days pulling everything out of that closet, sorting, tossing, reorganizing, shaking my head and wondering how and why I can accumulate so much stuff. I now have a path into the room. I made the mistake of not taking a "before" picture, so an "after" picture won't have any impact. Too bad. It would have been impressive.

Of course, when you clean a closet, you don't just clean a closet. It turns into redoing book shelves, reorganizing sewing boxes, categorizing health files, and so on. It turns into new projects such as "I think I'll decoupage that ugly little bookcase." It turns into discoveries of supplies purchased for a great idea, which still seems like a great idea, and means another project. It turns into that beautiful feeling of accomplishment and almost tranquility when you walk into the room and open the closet door.

I am actually getting rid of some things that I cannot even mention for fear of offending someone. I held it (them) in my hand, thought about it, and then carefully put it in a box.

I love the idea of the universe taking care of you to provide you with whatever you need, when you need it, but there's also this feeling of "ah-a" when you have the perfect piece of ribbon, the perfect embellishment, or the perfect piece of paper that you saved not knowing what its intention was. Maybe the universe tells us what to keep if we listen.

Today, the universe and I are going through drawers of paper scraps and miscellaneous treasures to determine which ones are worthy of keeping and may be intentioned for another life.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Over served

A friend of mine has a saying when she's had too much to drink. She'll say she was "over served." I always like that way of saying it. But, besides wine and alcohol, we're so over served in so many ways. Think about it. The classic coke was originally in a 6.5 oz. bottle. Today, the most common size is a 12 oz. bottle, and though it says "Contains two servings," we know most people will drink the whole bottle.

Coffee is the same way. When you measure cups of coffee for a catering situation, 6 oz. is considered a serving. I sometimes use an "old-fashioned" coffee cup with a saucer and it's noticeable how much less coffee that cup holds.
 

And what's with those candy bars that say "servings 2-3." Come on, we all know they're intended for one person. It makes it so difficult to make sense of the nutrition labels for fat and calories. I guess, though, if you're even thinking about buying one of those big candy bars, you probably don't know that nutrition labels exist.

This isn't news, I know that, but having just returned from the convenience store trade show with buckets of junk, I find myself reading labels to see if I can justify eating some of it. Four servings in a little sack of bridge mix? I don't think so.

Hello South Beach.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

6:40 Sunset

I'm home after a long eight days in Las Vegas where the color of the sky was neon and the sounds were bells and whistles competing against each other. It was so nice to sit outside last night and see the sky and hear . . nothing. At 6:40 p.m., the sky was still a streak of bright blue with yellow-pink swashes. So beautiful, in fact, that I immediately thought of (and only a few people will appreciate this) paste paper. I snapped a picture with my mind and thought "I'm going to look at the sky each night for a week (or a month) at this very same time and capture the look in watercolors to use as ideas for paper."

So this morning, I drew a square on a small sheet of watercolor paper and tried to remember the sky last night. I put too much yellow down but it didn't matter. It was a good exercise.

But, here's my point. As I put down watercolors it jumped out at me that the sky, with all its blues and yellows, is never green. I'm sure there's something about refraction and prisms of light that explains it but it still was something I'd never thought about.

Tonight, I will have my 6:40 sunset sighting and see what square two looks like.

So good to be home.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Waiting . . .

I'm up early this morning, making a coffee cake for an office birthday, but what's really on my mind is my doctor's appointment this afternoon. I'm both dreading it and looking forward to it. Know what I mean? I want answers, but know that today, a first visit, he'll probably say there are tests to be run and I'll leave still not knowing anything. I keep thinking what if he tells me my problem is stress. What about my lifestyle would I change? Then I think what if he tells me I have stomach cancer or some horrible disease, how will I handle that? All I know right now is something's wrong, has not been right for several months and I'm tired of it.

Right now I'm waiting on my cake to cook. Waiting for the sun to rise. Waiting for the coffee to drip. Waiting for answers.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Why Pittsburgh Makes Me Smile . . .

















Not to mention lusting after the twinkle shoes . . .

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Second Spring

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. -Albert Camus

I love this quote. It reminds me of kids picking up fallen leaves just like seashells. Each one is so pretty and the next one even more so. The colors, the way they dance their way down to the ground. Autumn even has its own scent. Not floral like the first spring, but more woodsy. A scent with some experience to it. Not a fresh scent, more of a used scent. And the more it wafts, the more the leaves dance their way down.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Sister's Funeral Day

My youngest sister died after a long battle with Huntington's disease. She was 48 years old. It was something we knew would happen. In fact, every time I saw her for the past 10 years, I felt I was saying goodbye. This time it was real. I flew to Las Vegas last night for a memorial service today.

On the cab ride in, my driver was a young Jamaican woman who asked if I was in town for business. No, I said, a funeral. Questions pursued. Who, how, when. Too many questions. I was tired. It was late. I tried answering with short answers, indicating I didn’t really feel like divulging information or going into detail about this event. Didn’t my sister have a house (meaning why was I going to a hotel); were my parents coming (no, they are dead – I tried saying deceased but she thought I said diseased). Finally, I said, No, it’s just me. No one else. And without pausing or thinking, she asked if I would like for her to go with me. No one should have to do this alone she said. I felt like crying. Her care and concern was so genuine.

Emily, 16 years old and the youngest of four children, told me it was hard to look at me sometimes, I reminded her so much of her mom. She, who has Kym’s skin and smile and teeth and quick looks and big laugh. It was as if she was Kym young and I was Kym if Kym had lived without Huntington's.

The kids shared simple memories, nothing unusual, nothing startling, just memories that let other people know that at one time their mom had been just like any other mom. Emily wanted to tell everyone about the time they drove through Wendy’s and her mom rolled the window up on Anna’s head. John told about her painting the girls’ fingernails and then because he didn’t have anything to do, she’d paint his clear. They remembered their mom with red fingernails and red lipstick. And when Emily tried to wear red lipstick, her mom told her that red was for ladies. She couldn’t wait to grow up and paint her fingernails red.

Anna was the first born who ended up giving up her childhood to be a 9 year-old caregiver. Anna takes charge now. Anna put together the pictorial life of her mom. Anna designed the tombstone and helped with the service arrangements. Anna had to sign off on things, pick up the pieces, be sure the DVD worked. And Anna’s boyfriend wasn’t there because he’s black and her dad wants nothing to do with him.

John was the only one who spoke at the service other than his dad. John wanted to tell everyone that his mommy was a good mom. That even though she wasn’t a regular mom, she was stubborn enough to hang on so she could see her kids be able to survive on their own. From her he learned that there is good and optimism in every part of life, even if it’s not like everyone else’s life.

In the Phoenix airport waiting at gate C19, a trio of women with voices like angels are singing Precious Lord take my hand, lead me home. I hear it and wonder if I'm really hearing it. I can barely hear them, I can't find them, I'm actually wondering if this is really happening. Then I spot them, they are real. Their harmony is such a sweet blended sound. One plays a guitar. Then they sing I'll Fly Away. It's surreal. I move to be within better hearing distance. By that time, they'd moved on to Get Your Kicks on Route 66.

Lenny was at the funeral. He was with Kym when she died, holding her hand, talking to her the way he did every night. Them having their one-sided conversation so she could relax enough to go to sleep. This time, I guess one would be correct in saying he talked her to death. She relaxed, went to sleep and that was that. He said she was his life. He said she saved his life. He always called her Pretty Lady and took her flowers every week, just so he could see her eyes light up and hear her delight. Even as he approached the coffin displaying her skeletal frame, he greeted her with “Hi there Pretty Lady.” There are times I've often said it's too bad Kym and Lenny didn't find each other when they were healthy, but really, I believe they found each other when it mattered. I remember her telling me she was his eyes and he was her feet. He was legally blind and had MS but could get around by himself, whereas she couldn't. He helped her with her walking, telling her how to concentrate and where to look. I remember one visit when she was so proud of her walk. We went out to the courtyard of the apartment complex and she would say, “Watch me walk” and off she'd go. Over and over. So proud of her accomplishment. When we sat down afterwards, inside on the sofa, she leaned over on my shoulder and slept like a baby. Proud, content and worn out.

When I last visited, on her birthday this year in February, I took her roses. Her caregiver told me today that that birthday visit meant so much to Kym. They had to keep the roses until they just fell apart, she wouldn't let them throw them away. It reminded me of a birthday cake I made her when she was about 5. It was a rabbit cake, one where a circle is the head and the other circle is cut so that ears are made out of the edges and the middle is cut into paws. I iced it in fluffy seven minute frosting with lots of coconut. Kym loved that cake so much she wouldn't let us cut it. We ended up throwing it away, uncut and hard as a rock a week or so later.

So many times I've said Kym lived a tragic life, and guaranteed, she did have her hardships. But today, I did not feel the tragedy of her life, I felt the love. I felt the joy. I felt the optimism that inhabited her and that kept her going. May she rest in peace and dance with the gods.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jalapeno Jelly

Today I ventured into a world I thought I'd left way back there in my early days. I made jelly. But in all my jelly days, never did I need to wear an orange bandanna like a cowboy bank robber in my kitchen. And still, the coughing, sneezing, choking and running for water persisted. My cat ran for cover early on. It is amazing how the fumes from those little peppers permeate the air. I had to go into the backyard only one time to catch my breath.

As I looked for recipes, I was surprised to find that jalapeno jelly recipes had primarily bell pepper in them with only 3 jalapenos. That just didn't make sense to me. I finally found one here with the only ingredients being jalapenos, vinegar, sugar and pectin. The peppers were from my one little pepper plant that still keeps producing. I have two big bags in the freezer, I have given some away, used some and now used about 18 peppers to make jelly.

Start to finish, the project took about one hour and 20 minutes. When I took those jars out of the water bath, I had forgotten how sweet that little popping sound was, letting me know that all the jars were sealed just right.

Six lucky people will get one hot! Christmas present this year. Or maybe only five;)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Much Ado . . .?

Now that the Obama mini-controversy has come and gone, I wonder how many people will think it was all much ado about nothing? Does it occur to anyone that the blown-out of proportion hubbub was in fact "indoctrinating" kids? With the national drop-out rate at about 32%, does it hurt to encourage kids to stay in school? If kids feel important because the President of the United States talks to them, is that bad? I've been bewildered about this from the beginning. Sharing isn't communism. Expressing concern that kids work hard and accept responsibility for their success isn't political. I would almost guarantee that if George Bush had talked to the kids, used wrong words and incomplete sentences and gibberish metaphors, these same people would have praised him for his efforts. Go figure.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Attic Treasures

We are in the middle of a project at the house that has involved cutting into the roof, which in doing has exposed the far edge of the attic, revealing mostly trash from a previous remodel, scraps of sheetrock, lumber scraps, etc. But along with this was a cardboard box that had six woodcuts, each wrapped in Houston newspapers dated 1981. The box was labeled "Kay's woodcuts." Some have chain attached, as if they have been hung for display. Oh, to know the history. A few are abstract, but most are portrait type; some are even double-sided.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Apron Zen

I used to love sewing. There were several sides to it: solving a puzzle, imagining the result before it happened, completion. It's been a long time since I bought a pattern and made anything. First of all, have you priced patterns lately? Totally ridiculous to pay $15.95 for an apron pattern. But, when they're on sale for 99 cents? I couldn't resist.

Sewing is such a process. Choose a pattern, choose a fabric, cut the thin paper pieces apart, follow directions for laying out, pin, move the cat from the fabric, cut, plan. I had forgotten how important following directions was. I have a tendency to jump ahead and figure things out my own way. This was different. I found myself pouring over the instructions. You wouldn't think an apron would be all that difficult, but this one is not just your ordinary apron. Totally worth it.

I got lost in the process of sew a seam, press it; I became reacquainted with the hum of the machine and the awareness of a bobbin about to empty; I consciously made myself watch the needle and the distance from the edge, trying to go slow and control the stitch. And when it was finished, I wrapped it up and mailed it -- unfortunately without taking a picture. And it was so cute.

The final step of sewing is just as meditative to me. I always fold and iron my pattern pieces, putting them back in the envelope just so. There's something about that I like. That paper is so thin.

When I see aprons in the stores for $36, I will say to myself (or sometimes out loud), "I could make that." And this time I did. And I have short-lived fantasies of making them to sell. Then I add up my hours and decide it's probably not worth it. Half the fun of sewing is giving it away.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Boom-De-Ah-Dah!

Here's just how I'm feeling today. Click here!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Wedding















Invited to See into the window of their love
Invited to Hear the passion that fills her heart
Invited to Feel the joy that surprises the soul

I cry, contemplating the torment that would be hers
If forced to live a life without the right to express her love

Right hands patting left knees
Glances and smiles that shine with tears
Full hearts and reined-in sobs
The room vibrates with joy as flags wave

My throat tightens even as I remember
Someone brave enough to bare her soul
In a red barn with twinkle lights and Queen Anne's lace
The rain fell but there was never a brighter day

Best wishes for a full life to Megan and Sarah

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sky Blogging

I didn't, but I should have. Today, flying Delta to DC, I actually had wireless access on the airplane. Totally a surprise and totally cool for me. I hate to be such a nerd about it, but it made an impression. Why can't every airline do that? and why does it have to cost $9.95? Southwest is the only airline that would even consider offering wireless for free. Wonder how long that will be? Countdown . . . . .

UPDATE
Just as I expected . . . check this out.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dinner on Our Own

There are some nights when I just don't feel like cooking. Either I'm not hungry, I'm just out of gas, too much going on. It varies. I'm very lucky that Tom is always willing to (1) order a pizza, or (2) be on our own. Last night was one of those "I don't feel like cooking nights." We voted to be on our own.

Here was my dinner: leftover edamame salad that I'd made the night before, topped with some leftover grilled chicken, alfalfa sprouts, fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden and a smidgen of creamy italian dressing. I was in heaven.

Tom's dinner consisted of popcorn, butter pecan ice cream, and brownies. He too was in heaven.

Dontcha love men?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Secret Tooth Fairy

This was fun to do. I was in church this morning, and a first grader sitting several rows ahead of me had just lost a tooth, and I mean JUST lost a tooth, perhaps his first judging from his excitement. It was sweet, not even knowing him or being part of the excitement. I wrote a note saying Congratulations and signed it Your Secret Tooth Fairy, folded up a $1 bill very tiny and tapped the shoulder in front of me to pass it up to him. His unbridled joy was a real high for me. He kept looking around, wondering who it was from -- and he could not stop grinning and peeking in his shorts pocket to be sure it was still there.

It reminded me how good it feels to do random acts of kindness and how seldom I actually do them. It's totally selfish in some ways, but really I have to say it's win-win. Try one today, see how it feels and let me know about it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Power of Music

I've always known that music had a power over me. Inexplicably, a piece of music will bring me to tears and rather than just give into it, I seem to want to understand why now, why this piece, what does this "mean?" Something about music helps me connect with my feelings, which have always been difficult for me to express. This essay that 37 Days discusses and links to, just keeps me crying.

The essay is by Dr. Karl Paulnack, Director of the Music Division at The Boston Conservatory. About a particular piece of music he says, "If you know that piece of music . . . you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn't know you had." I love that phrase, crying over sadness you didn't know you had. I have felt that so many times.

Read his essay, "Music: Essential for Life". It's one that should be read by everyone. Read it. Save it. Share it.

Summer Salad

I made this yesterday and love-love-love it.

Green bean-walnut-feta salad

1 1/2 lbs. fresh green beans. Cut off the ends and then cut beans into thirds. Steam for 15 minutes. Plunge in cold water immediately to stop the cooking.
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted for 10 minutes in shallow pan at 350 degrees.
1 small red onion, sliced ever so thinly
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Combine above ingredients, toss and chill. I had so many fresh cherry tomatoes from my monster plant that I cut a lot of them in half and added them to this mix. A good addition.

Dressing:
3/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 1 T. fresh dill chopped, 1/4 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper. Put in jar with lid, shake and chill.

One hour before serving, pour dressing over salad and toss.

Obviously with the cooking and chilling, it's not a spur of the minute salad, but believe me it's well worth planning ahead for.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Recall

There's something very unsettling about getting the dreaded phone call after a mammogram requesting that you come in for "special views." It's even more disturbing to have those second views require yet "another angle." And do I have to say what the next invitation to "follow me for an ultrasound" does to your stomach?

For two very long hours, I sat there in a tiny little room with three magazines I didn't care about, my mind having time to put all sorts of things into perspective. What was undone, what didn't matter, what were we having for dinner, how does this happen. Lucky for me, this day had a happy ending. All is well. All is benign. Carry on.

Still, it's that jolt that reminds you to love every day. A jolt that says some things don't really matter. And some things matter so much.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Message

This is the message you get if you visit the Ramstein Yard Sale web site on a Sunday. What a wonderful wake-up call.

Today is the official yard sale addict recovery day. It's the day when we all take time away from our computers to enjoy the sunshine, life, friends, church, and our family.

Life is too rich to spend today in front of the computer, so we're taking a rest. Come join us in the park on a walk, in the hospital visiting our friends, snuggling on the couch reading a story.

And don't worry, we'll be here tomorrow!

Your friends,
Adam and Austin \

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ultimate Lemon Squares

Today I made Lemon Squares using a recipe I got from the French Nest. She adapted it from Anna Olson's recipe, who has a bakery in Port Dalhousie. You'll notice that she calls for "icing sugar" which I am assuming is powdered sugar or confectionery sugar. Anyway, that's what I used. I squeezed fresh lemons for the juice and just for good measure, I used a yellow mixing bowl and a yellow spatula.

It's totally unfair to use Tom's review as Word because he's such a sucker for lemon bars. But if you're looking for a winning recipe, here's a Luscious one.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 cup + 2 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest (I can never get zest. I guess I don't know what to do. Anyway, I omitted this.)

*Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan
*For the crust: In a medium bowl, cream the softened butter with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the icing sugar and 1 cup of the flour, and beat on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium, and beat until well blended. Press the dough firmly over the bottom of the pan. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Set aside to cool.
*For the topping: In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, granulated sugar, remaining 2 1/2 tsp of the flour, the lemon juice and the zest. Beat with the electric mixer on low speed until well blended. Spread over the cooled crust (I was too impatient to wait) and return to the oven for 20-25 minutes more, until set. Let cool thoroughly in the pan before cutting into 2-inch squares. (I cooled and then refrigerated before I cut and dusted.) Dust with icing sugar.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cooking Fever

I'm reading Julie & Julia right now and whether it's the book or the extra time I have lately, I find myself wanting to try new recipes. I'm focusing right now on appetizers. Today I tried spinach-artichoke-tomato puffs. The mixture looks terrible -- in fact it made TD gag just to look at it. Spinach, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese all processed till smooth. You're supposed to roll out puff pastry dough on corn meal, cut into 3" squares, put a tablespoon of filling in the center, fold the corners up and bake. I did not have cornmeal so I used polenta instead. It was not the right thing to use. The polenta is too granular and sticks to the dough so the bites are grainy. I think I'm going to try using crescent rolls and forget the fancy flaky pastry dough.

The other appetizer I tried was called tortilla bites and was a rolled up tortilla with spicy cream cheese spread, fresh spinach leaves on top of that, then grilled shrimp seasoned with a cajun spice and some grilled red peppers. I didn't have enough shrimp so I added some mahi mahi, which was a good substitute. In fact, if you don't like shrimp, you could do the whole thing with that. This was very good and actually pretty easy to make. You roll the tortilla tight and slice into 5 pieces, using a toothpick to hold each piece together. That was our dinner the night I made it. That and a small salad. Felt a little spa-like.

The Julie & Julia book is a great read, btw.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Warped! Which Moon Walk?

Here's how warped I am. Listening to an NPR segment this morning about how after three years of painstakingly thorough searching and believing that the video of the moonwalk was most likely lost forever, tape restoration experts were able to refurbish existing footage, making it clearer than ever -- what did I think they were talking about? Michael Jackson of course.

Come to find out, today is the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. And they were talking about the real moon walk. Of which, I so remember watching in the middle of the night in a hot apartment, water cooler air conditioner blowing on me, feeling like I was part of history.

The step for mankind. Wow. Forty years ago.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

First Decision of the Day

I have my favorite coffee cups. The first decision I have to make most days is which cup to use. Some days I tell my husband to surprise me, but most days call for a certain cup.

I remember visiting an old man one time who kept standing in front of his cabinet. I asked what he needed. "A glass to warm my milk in," he said. I picked one and said, "How about this one?" "No, I need the silver one." Sometimes I feel like that old man. I need a certain cup.

This is a very simplistic version of following your gut or listening to your instincts. You don't have to understand the why of it, you just have to recognize that for whatever reason you have a need and you choose to follow it. If we learn to follow our instincts on these little messages, I believe it will serve us well when bigger instincts come along. We'll be accustomed to listening to our own messages and knowing it's okay to act.

Here are my favorite cups.

 

 

 

 
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Art Play Day

I was invited recently to join a group of women artists who have a play date once a month. The woman who hosts the day has devoted a small, ugly little 2-bedroom house, totally to art. This is probably the original house on the property; she has (or someone has) built another house for her residence.

One bedroom is used for the "paint room," a place where silk-screening, fabric stamping, etc. is done. Shelves with silk screens, jars of paint, all sorts of supplies line one wall. The closet, sans doors, is completely filled with, well, S-T-U-F-F. Tissue papers, old jewelry, gadgets, gizmos, things you should never throw away. I mean stuff is everywhere. In the center of the room are two long utility tables butted together for work space.

The other bedroom is the fabric room. This closet, also sans doors, is filled with stacks of fabric stacks, and then there's more fabric on shelves across the room. This fabric is "hands-off" -- this is her stash -- but the bins at the end of the room are fair game. Big bins with such luscious cast-offs as pieces of "bad" stamping or silk-screening, remnants of velvet and lace and sequins, some ugly, some cute, some you just want to frame and hang. Tons of things to fight your way through. Plus, there's an ironing board set up, all ready to go.

The "living/dining room" is filled with a huge quilting machine--I bet it's at least 12 feet long. A bookcase jam-packed with art books; two long utility tables butted together to make a square which is used for projects, lunch, chatter, etc. Add the clutter of a real artist, pieces hanging on the wall, some tossed casually on the machines, a wall of large spools of threads, and it was truly a visual feast. Almost sensory overload for me. I didn't know where to start.

Everyone that attends pays $10 for supplies and brings a lunch. There is usually a focus but if you want to try something else, have at it. The focus this time was what they call "skins." Essentially, this is collaged paper, fabric, strings, etc., that you assemble onto a plastic bag with glue that has been watered down; let it dry and then pull it off. The piece has enough substance that you can sew through it, cut it up and use another way, etc. I was going to make a book cover with one piece but ended up using it on the bottom of a glass bowl today.



Definitely the best $10 I've spent this month.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Summer Celebrations

Some people will find this hard to understand, but today I am driving 2+ hours to help celebrate my ex-husband's 30th wedding anniversary, among other things. I feel very lucky to have been able to maintain an amicable relationship with both him and his wife, even to the point of calling them friends. For the most part, I think we're in the minority.

Today, we will celebrate three wedding anniversaries, two birthdays, and a graduation. Forget that it's 102 degrees and that many of the celebration activities will be outside, I'm anticipating a festive day. Kids, dogs, music, good food and laughter.

Expect a full report.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Doll House

Several months ago I bought a big box of doll house pieces at an estate sale. It was a real bargain. No picture of what the doll house should look like. No instructions. Just a big box of wooden pieces in plastic bags with the promise that it would become a doll house. It was too good to pass up. Today Lucy was coming to visit so we had great incentive to tackle this project. What a great work out for the brain. A gem of a puzzle! I'll spare you the details of getting it put together and jump to the finished product. It's about the cutest thing you've ever seen. I especially love the playground equipment.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Collectors

What is it with collectors? My sister recently sent some photographs of a house she visited in Germany where the man collected coffee pots and the woman collected dolls. They lived amidst 8,000 coffee pots and 3,000 dolls. Why? There were so many they couldn't possibly display them in a visual or educational manner. They were just there. Everywhere.

















Freud might say that the traumatic loss of something going down the toilet was what caused the collector to try to gain back "possessions" that had been lost. I don't really buy into that. I think these two fall into the category of hobbyist collector. They probably have no special attachment to the items. How can you be attached to 8,000 coffee pots, especially when many of them are alike? I think he just likes the idea of collecting something. I'd be interested to know how he started collecting this particular item. How on earth do you amass 8,000 coffee pots? Where do they come from? Does he search for them? Maybe he used to own a coffee pot store? Dolls, I can see how a woman might collect them. She had some; her gramma left her some; she has her daughter's, she has her mom's. But 3,000? Visually, they have more interest, but 3,000? Where do they come from?

My sister has to go back to the house to pick up a "schrank" (the apartments in Germany don't have closets; you have to buy a wardrobe or furniture for that purpose). I think I'll suggest that she interview these two people and get the low-down. I'd love to know the "rest of the story."

Today's Quote

This quote is one that I cut out of a letter I received in 1980. It was a solicitation letter for a magazine subscription. I don't remember the magazine, and I don't know who was quoted, but I have carried this little piece of paper around with me for nearing thirty years. I believe in this quote just as much today as I did then.

"I require little of my own life; it need not deliver money or fame or even happiness. But it must suggest to me enough significance that I remain interested in it, as much as if it were a play."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Going Into the Closet

I'm taking the quote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” (William Morris) and changing it to "Have nothing in your closet that does not make you feel beautiful." Today I am tackling my closet. I'm trying very hard to stay focused and part with things that I used to love, but are now either tired or somehow have "shrunk" or just don't fit my life. There's a beautiful dress that I bought, have never worn, and if I'm honest with myself, I know I will never wear it. It's a dress that would have looked great on me 15 years ago. It will never look great on me now. It needs that thin frame and flat belly that have recently disappeared to make it work. So far, it's not in the pile. It needs to go in the pile.

All of the t-shirts from my 5K races are in the pile. That was a tough one. I don't wear any of them; they just hold memories of a past identity that's hard to let go of. I think it's time to let go.

For organizing my summer things, I'm trying something that I read on another blog. I'm hanging all my hangars like this:










Then as I wear something, I'll hang it back like I normally would. At the end of the season, I'll know which items did not get worn.











If what they say is true, that your environment mirrors other situations in your life, I wonder what my closet says about my life? By the end of the day, I'm hoping my closet says something fabulous!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sweet Dreams

This little piece was my test experiment for painting a quilt. I actually love the way this looks even though the lettering stinks and the border is sloppy. The letters were drawn in glue and painted around with textile paint then colored in with fabric markers. I love the idea of this piece and would like to do one "for real." For now, Lucy will tuck her baby dolls in with this one which hopefully will result in sweet dreams for all.

l
 
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Next?

I love completing a project and looking back at the process and seeing what I'd do differently next time. My favorite row on the quilt is the top row -- it's the sun, then a green, then a landscape. The colors all flow together just right. If I was doing it over, I'd design the entire quilt around those colors and that "scape." It's peaceful and cheerful at the same time.

My next project is a guest book for a friend's wedding. I've been trying to come up with a way to make it different than a regular guest book but don't want to over complicate it or mess it up. Her invitation is very simple, very elegant so the colors and style will be great to use. My thinking cap is on. This weekend I'll do a test book.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Baby Quilt

The quilt is finished and hard to photograph. Here's a collage of the blocks.

And for a slideshow

I'm playing around with Picasa and the web album possibilities. This is a slide show of some art projects I've done over the past few years. A few of Sam's & Henry's are thrown in for good measure.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

White Out
















Penguins vs. Red Wings at home. Pittsburgh fans wore white t-shirts. An amazing effect, all those white t-shirts and the white ice. When the Pens scored, it was a visual extravaganza. I know the white-out is not an original idea, but OMG it worked! They won!!

Imperfect Perfection

Yesterday Tom read my horoscope and it said something like "You move faster than most people." I probably wouldn't have described myself like that, but I admit there are many times I think "Why aren't they doing such and such? If they'd just . . . "

Today was one of those times I probably acted too quickly. At least, I acted before I thought things through. My sister's house is for sale but isn't getting the action she wants, i.e. sold, so after a conversation with her, I listed it on craigslist. The response was so overwhelming, I had to delete it less than four hours later. I need to figure out what to do. Who knew?

So, I'm remembering the quote: “Winners take imperfect action while others are perfecting their plans.”- Kevin Nations. I have no idea who Kevin Nations is, but I like what that says. It's so easy to get caught up in wanting to do everything just right that we take no action -- I should know, I've done it. Still, there's that paradoxical side of me that acts and then decides the next step based on the outcome of the first. I'm a planner, but in so many ways, I'm really not. I'll do something and then figure out how to make the first step work. The quilt I'm working on is a prime example. An idea that may or may not work. More on that later. Especially if it works.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday, Sunday

For some reason, I've tried to do as many different things as I possibly could cram into today. I'm worn out but I just keep going, keep moving, it's as if I can't stop or relax or slow down. I'll sit down for a minute then !pop! I'm up again. It started at 6:00 a.m. this morning. I went for a bike ride, some hills that made me work and sweat, came home, showered, made coffee, made pumpkin-raisin muffins, caulked a fountain that was leaking, and then proceeded to undertake a project of a hand-painted baby quilt I've had on my list for a while. I had already drawn my pictures, so today I started by putting down glue resist and then I paced waiting for it to dry. I almost started to paint the bench that's on the front porch, but even I realized that was too much for today. I read for a while waiting for the glue to dry (Empty Without You, Intimate Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt; fascinating) and then I ended up painting all day. I'd paint, hang the piece on a clothes hangar and put it outside under the patio umbrella to dry. Go back inside, clean the water, clean the table, put down new paper towels, and start all over again. Today was so hot that by they time I went outside with the next piece, the first one was already dry. Compliments of the hot Oklahoma sun.

Some of the pieces I painted twice just to get more color. One, I completely did over because the colors and design didn't fit with the others. I ended up painting five "pictures" and four pieces that were color only. My idea is to have 3 rows of 3 -- picture, color, picture; color, picture, color; etc. While my painted pieces "cured" in the dryer, I whipped up some of the Barefoot Contessa's Pecan Oatmeal Raisin cookies (except these are actually walnut oatmeal raisin; just had a taste of one and whoa! are they good.) My painted fabric is now in the washer and will have to air dry when it's finished before I can do anything more. THANK GOODNESS for that! I think it's time for a glass of wine. That way I'll have to sit down.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Beautiful Friday

I took a bike ride down the Riverwalks path this morning. It's always so surprising to me how many people are out just toolin' around. Sitting on a hillside, just talking. People walking their dogs, babies in jogging strollers, roller blades, serious bikers, serious runners, lovers, all on a Friday mid-morning. I wasn't a serious biker, but I wasn't out just to relax either. I'm more of a get the exercise, enjoy it, then get on to the next project.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day or Labor Day?

While some reflected on the meaning of this Memorial Day, I believe we got our wires crossed and acted like it was LABOR day. Holy cow, we worked our asses off today. Between finishing up the cleaning, emptying and readying my sister's house to sell, and then working to organize our own garage, we pretty much filled up the entire day with nothing but work. At least there was a smile of satisfaction when we were able to close the door and say this really is the last trip. There is nothing else that has to be removed; nothing else that has to be done.

All during this process of my sister moving, there have been times when it felt so strange, felt as if she'd died. Like cleaning out her cabinets and disposing of food; going through storage boxes looking for documents necessary to put her house up for sale; paying bills and tying up loose ends. Today it reminded me of dealing with my grandma's house and business when she went into the nursing home.

I'll be glad when the house sells. Even though it's with a realtor now, there's still that nagging feeling of things undone; I'm ready to feel like it's all done.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Live With Intention



My latest project. It's not a book; it's more of a folding card, I guess. It's not perfect but it sure was good practice for some lettering. I used a #5 Mitchell nib for the blue text and a 1/4" flat brush for the white. The text is miscellaneous "advice" for a graduate. Fun to read; fun to work on.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mayfest

There's always something new, something that one person makes, then two or three start making and then, bam, it's everywhere and not unique any more. Fused glass, right now for me, is old. Still beautiful colors, still fascinating, but booth after booth of fused glass jewelry is not exciting. New this year were earrings made out of guitar picks. I saw at least two booths with jewelry made from guitar picks. Not something I would wear or buy, but fun to look at and at the very least, an interesting idea.

I spent some time talking to Sally Wade, an artist from Tyler, Texas, who does silver work. What caught my eye about her work was that she did lettering on small pieces of jewelry. Stamping each small stroke. She explained that she makes her own chisel tools for stamping and had designed an alphabet that could be entirely constructed using only four marks. Sort of a Neuland alphabet, for those of you who know what that is.

Another artist's work I was fascinated with was handmade paper projects and I can't believe I didn't get her name. Narrow pieces of handmade paper folded into zig-zags and woven like a lattice-top pie crust. I immediately saw torn paper with calligraphy on it woven like that -- that will be something to experiment with.

A drop-dead gorgeous day for art. Throw in a little jazz, a bratwust and voila, you have a day. And if you're brave enough, you can climb the jungle-gym made out of old bicycle frames.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New Take on Scrapbooking






I've been working today on the repair of a 70-year old photo album for a friend of a friend. It's a photo-diary of four 17-year old boys' "voyage down the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers in their homemade boat." They left Tulsa on June 2, 1940, and arrived in Baton Rouge on June 25, 1940. The newspaper clipping announcing their arrival in Baton Rouge has an advertisement on the back of it for "large soft bath towels -- 10 cents."

The Log of Ha-Pe-Jo-Jo (the name of the boat) is neatly typed, with the date in black type and the entry in red. I can see the typewriter ribbon in my mind as I read every page. He went to so much trouble to keep this journal. It's put together with brass brads that are attached to a page in the album. I had to make a new page for that because the weight of that page and probably the number of times it had been handled, had torn it completely away from the binding.

He writes about buying a $30 1934 Ford to drive the rest of the trip after they hit New Orleans. They went to Atlanta and then headed back home to Tulsa. Long story short, they ended up selling the car for $18 and bought bus tickets home. Too many flats, the car too hard to hold together. They arrived home July 11, so their trip was about 6 weeks.

They had many "swell" dinners, saw quite a few "swell" shows, and generally had a "swell" time. It's a treasure of a book.

I've never met the man who took the trouble to document this incredible journey, but I've decided that my "invoice" for the repair of this book will be a request to meet him and perhaps get to hear him tell me the story himself.

Besides new pages for the front matter and adding some pages in the back for loose photos and news clippings, the repair was mainly the covers. I made completely new covers, using watercolor paper for the board part, covered it in black Strathmore, but covering it "backwards" so that the old cover of the album could be glued in its entirety to the front. The covers are under weights now and I hope to reassemble the album later this weekend.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

What's Too Far?

It's never too late to go too far....Carl Rohrs

I'm in a calligraphy workshop all weekend with Carl Rohrs, a guy who does exquisite work and refers to himself as a sign painter. He doesn't draw lines, he doesn't mix gouache. The consensus of the entire class was we wanted to be his girlfriend when he told us (and showed slides) he made his girlfriend a card every month -- OH were we jealous. All works of art. Literally.

BTW: The "taking it too far" statement was about decorating letters, not making works of art for lovers . . . . .or was it?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Art Dog Park

I went to my calligraphy guild meeting last night; the program was collage cards. Who knew it could be so tedious and nerve wracking to glue scraps of paper and add a few beads or buttons? Believe it or not, there's a system to it. There's a strategy for our choices and our intentions. It's the disciplined freedom, the method in our madness, and so on. The idea of "rules" or "guidelines" for art may seem counter-intuitive, but it's just the opposite. To quote Christine Kane, "It’s tempting to think that a system would stifle your emotions. But actually, a system provides boundaries. It’s like taking your emotions to the dog park. They have a fenced in area where they can run around."

I love the idea of my emotions (and creativity) being at a dog park, running free, chasing, knowing when I have to stop. I love the energy that the idea generates. It almost leaves me breathless to think about it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

On the Fringe

I'm getting very close to what many are calling my "retirement," although I don't agree with them. I AM cutting back work hours and work commitments, but I don't consider it retirement, per se. I guess because I will maintain a certain level of "gotta show up and perform" in my week, it doesn't feel or sound like "retirement" to me. It almost just sounds more civilized. People keep asking, "What are you going to do?" to the point that I am sick of that question. I want to scream I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'LL DO. I don't know any more than I know when I get up on any given Saturday. I don't want to plan right now. I want to experience the feeling of nothing to do. I want to willingly enter the unknown. I want to travel for a while without a road map. I want to take each day as a true present-day miracle.

The last two days I've been working outside and I'm always surprised how therapeutic gardening can be, not to mention, physical. I've got tons of weeds and cleaning out to do, which is truly the physical part. But the soothing part, the therapeutic part was planting some lavender, thyme, rosemary and basil. Oh, the fragrances. My oregano and parsley came back from last year so the oregano is already a nice size.

My garden has a new helpmate or muse or guardian this year. As my sister disassembled her life, she asked me if I would take care of Megan, a statuary that looks just like her very own daughter Megan when she was a young soccer player. Same number on her jersey and all. That may sound corny, but I think there's going to be something a little sentimental about having Megan out there in the back yard. Just this morning, as I planted and watered, she tumbled over and got her knees and face all muddy. I actually found myself saying, "Oh Megan. Look at you." She really looked like she just got off the soccer field. A little hose-down though and she was back to her perky self. Megan, if you're out there reading this, welcome to my world. I'll take good care of you.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stand By Me

Must be Music Week. Thanks to Reggie Ezelle for getting this to me in a round-a-bout way. He writes, "This is one of the best pieces of sound engineering work I think I have ever seen. It is a composite audio/video of song whereby additional tracks were laid in by different singers and musicians from different places around the world. The finished product is tremendous!

"The song itself is that classic standard "Stand By Me" originally released in 1955 by The Staple Singers and released again in 1961 by the Drifters." Thank you Reggie!

Turn up your volume and and get ready to tap your toes.

Click here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Julie Andrews Would Be Proud!

I could watch this over and over. I smile just thinking about it. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

ILVTOFU

I don't have a vanity plate because I haven't been able to think of anything I feel strongly enough about to want to announce to the world. I enjoy, though, sitting at a stop light trying to figure out the plate ahead of me and wondering what happened in their life that made them want to put that on a license tag. A news item this morning struck me as pretty funny, although to the woman who made the request and was turned down, I'm sure it wasn't the least bit funny.

Seems that the Colorado Department of Revenue rejected her request for a license plate professing her love of tofu over concerns that it could be seen as obscene. Her request for a personalized plate with the phrase "ILVTOFU" was rejected due to concerns that it could be misread as "I-LV-TO-F-U."

Did you know there are rules against certain letter combinations? F-U is one such combination.

"I love tofu; it doesn't mean anything bad," she said of her license plate request. "I'm very expressive, I'm anti-fur, anti-rodeo, anti-circus when they come to Denver and I thought here's a chance to be positive and say I love something."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Viva la difference

The more I think about it, the more I walk through my house, the more I realize I could not do what Jennifer is doing. Selling everything she owns and leaving. I have to be careful not to over analyze the difference. It is what it is. I realize I AM content. I realize I AM happy. I realize my heart is filled with gratitude. The things I'm grateful for aren't big things or complicated things. Here are ten things that come to mind this morning.

1. The volunteer redbud that has thrived and grown to bloom its heart out this spring.

2. Starbucks espresso coffee (especially this morning).

3. A husband that dares to seize his inner designer and rearrange the "tablescape" in the kitchen.

4. A sister who doesn't keep credit card receipts but kept all my letters in chronological order and tied them with a ribbon.

5. A cat who wants to be in the same room with me all the time.

6. Big white azaelas that seem to have survived two bizarre nights of freezing temperatures in April and still promise blooms.

7. A daughter who never fails to make me laugh.

8. A drawer full of fresh vegetables to make my lunch.

9. My clean white sweatpants that make my morning so cozy.

10. The hint of pink in the morning sky that lets me know today is dawning.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Symphony is Sizzling

With my sister getting ready to move, she is uncovering all sorts of interesting things, one being a box of letters from me going back about 34 years when she was in Seattle. These are real letters . . . in envelopes . . . typed on a typewriter; a pouring out of emotion one only tells a sister. One sentence I loved was "I long for one of our long conversations that resolve nothing but covers everything."

These letters are about as close to a journal as anything I have. It's amazing to me how unfamiliar some of the drama seemed and at the same time, the rush of memories that began flooding me. One letter detailed a "crush" I had had on a violinist/conductor. The excitement of watching him perform; the invitation to a concert; my description of what fascinated me about him. "He enters through the exits and leaves through the entrance; he talks about things I seldom allow myself to think." I had no illusion of a relationship, per se, but saw it more as an affair, even though both of us were unattached. It was exciting to me but I don't remember much more than what was in the letter. My sister reminded me that's when she sent me this apron. I'm glad she kept the letters. I'm equally glad I kept the apron.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Guud Zjob!

I was at the gym today and even though the weight area was filled with sweaty guys grunting and groaning, I was determined to start my quest for those toned arms. With my little 8 lb. weight I finally got up the nerve to get right in the middle of it and use one of the empty benches for my tricep work. There were these giant weights at the end of the bench and it wasn't long before I realized I was using the bench of someone who'd been taking his pause between sets. Since I was doing one arm then turning and doing the other arm, I just kept going. I could see his feet pacing. When a bench opened up a few benches down, I told him I could move since my weights were not nearly as heavy as his. "No, no, no. Stay," he said. And I did. Finishing my routine with no grunting, I put my weight up, the swarthy Italian, dripping with sweat and wearing those little gloves with the fingers cut out, stopped and gave me a thumbs up. "Guud zjob," he said. For some reason, I felt so proud.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Keeper of the Stuff

My sister is leaving the US and moving to Germany for a job for an undetermined length of time. To do so means going through her lifetime accumulations and deciding what to sell or give away and what to take and or keep (i.e. put in storage). Any move makes you do that, but to move abroad makes the task much more intent. One thing this seems to do is encourage you to examine who you are and what "stuff" means to you. The other thing I'm seeing is having to determine what your role is in terms of other people's stuff, i.e. your kids. How long do you remain the keeper of school books, favorite sweaters and kindergarten drawings? Where do you draw that line and say "Here's your stuff. You're in charge."

My dad sold all of my high school treasures in a garage sale (without telling me) right after my mom died when I was 22. My pep club sweater and jacket would probably still be in an attic if he hadn't. And all my old sweetheart letters were tossed. How musty would they be now and who would be in charge of them? And you know what? It doesn't matter that I don't have them.

When my (current) husband and I got married, there were many times we referred to something we used to have but had "lost in the divorce." There was a certain amount of resentment associated with that statement. One day we talked about people losing everything they owned in a tornado and how miraculously life seemed to continue. We agreed at that moment to refer to anything we had lost in a divorce as "I lost that in the tornado." Somehow the resentment disappeared and we were happy to be where we were in our lives.

There's something liberating about giving up possessions. Having our identity tied to our possessions is sad, but very easy to do. I do it, I know I do.

What could you give up and still be you?

Quinoa

Last night I tried the grain quinoa for our complex carb at dinner. Pronounced keen-wa, it's most like couscous in weight and texture. I cooked it with garlic, onion, and chicken broth. Takes about 15 minutes. It's the only grain (as I understand it) that is a complete protein. It's a great substitute for wheat bulgur in tabouli.

This morning was a very filling bowl of 5-grain "oatmeal," cooked with soy milk and a couple of scoops of protein powder. I used Truvia for sweetner and some cinnamon. A few walnuts and 1/4 apple and I should be set for the next 3-4 hours.

Day 3 and still going strong.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Eating Clean

I've heard the term "eating clean" before and it seems pretty self-explanatory what it is, but until I bought the book I hadn't been so inspired to try it. I guess I thought I pretty much already tried to do it. And in a sense, I do. But there's something about reading the premise and making a commitment to really try it that makes a difference.

In a nutshell, eating clean is eating whole, natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates. It also means staying away from the junk that includes man-made sugar, bad fats (hydrogenated, trans-fat), preservatives, white bread, and any other ingredients that are unnecessary. An easy way to remember if a food is clean is: “if man made it, don’t eat it.”

A person that eats clean generally practices the following:

* Eliminates refined sugar
* Cooks healthy meals
* Packs healthy meals
* Makes healthy choices when dining out
* Drinks a lot of water
* Eats 5-6 small meals per day
* Eliminates alcoholic beverages (or significantly limits it)
* Always eats breakfast

One section of the book is devoted to "cooler" menus, which is all about taking your food with you, which makes sense for this style of eating. I do that when I go to work, but weekends I get in trouble. I leave the house not even thinking about being hungry and then I get busy with errands and have to grab a quick bite someplace. Eating six small meals is not about snacking, it's about PLANNING the six small meals. That's where your cooler comes in. Leaving the house with a day's worth of food. Think of it as life becomes a picnic!

I've discovered there are magazines about eating clean, clubs, blogs, and the list goes on. It's a real movement that may not be new, but my increased awareness makes it very visible to me right now. I'm on board with it.

I've also read so much lately about green tea being a fat buster, metabolism booster, and all sorts of other good things. And in my search, I've found that all tea is not created equal. The one that I've found was easy to brew and doesn't get bitter is Uncle Lee's Green Tea. I just happened on to it, but have since found out that Uncle Lee was the first tea manufacturer to introduce green tea into the North American market. The one I am using now is green tea leaves with jasmine.

My goals this week: no diet sodas and no alcohol.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I sat next to an 84 year old woman yesterday on the flight from Jacksonville to Dallas. She'd been in Tallahassee for a couple of weeks visiting her granddaughter. She shared with me a small picture album her granddaughter had put together memorializing her visit and in the back of it, she had included small sheets of paper with a day by day accounting of their activities. What a thoughtful idea. I can't tell you how many times I've returned from a trip and tried to retrace the days. It's so easy for the days to blend together when you think you'll never forget where you went, the funny thing that someone said, small insignificant details that can bring memories swirling back in your head. A simple idea to remember if you have a mom or older relative visiting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Art Quilt

Just finished step one of a new project -- art quilting. I've painted some fabric using a glue gel resist. Next step will be to machine stitch on both side of the white lines and then embellish with beads, embroidery, whatever works. I'd like to figure out a way to incorporate some lettering on it -- I've considered transfer or printing on the fabric first. For this first experiment, I may use markers. Just an experiment at this point.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Day 2

I'm starting a food journal. Everything I read about wanting to alter your diet & lose weight says if you keep a food journal it is almost like magic. I started yesterday. It was easy yesterday mainly because I did everything right -- no cheating, no wine, no forbidden snacks. My goal is to try it for 6 weeks and see if I can lose these pesky extra pounds.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Me Super-Woman!

While I was in Costa Rica in February, I let myself get talked into ziplining. If you don't know what ziplining is, it consists of a pulley suspended on a cable mounted on an incline. They are designed so you are propelled by gravity to traverse from the top to the bottom of the cable. They were probably originally created as transpsortation in the jungle but now are primarily entertainment for touristas.

Anyway, here's a short video of the "superman flight" of yours truly. So much fun! There were seven cables in all, but this was the only "superman" cable. The others have you in a sitting position with your hands lightly on the cable to slow down if necessary. With the superman position, you either keep your arms in front of you (faster) or straight out to the side. And to think I almost didn't try it!

video

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Facebook

I just can't get into Facebook. I want to--it seems like the hip thing to do right now--but every time I look at that command "Write something" and "What are you doing right now?" it makes me think how uninteresting the thing that I'm doing "right now" really is. Does anyone care that I just made blueberry muffins? or made a card for a friend dying of cancer? does it matter to anyone that I have new athletic shoes that are white lightening and mandarin orange? and that I have a mighty powerful new arch support hiding inside them?

Maybe it's that I think my life, as it is, isn't enough. Maybe I should lighten up and accept that I'm ordinary. That it's okay to be ordinary. And maybe I should celebrate those new white lightening and mandarin orange shoes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Just Around the Corner?

I was out of town for five days and the night I got home, even though it was midnight, I could tell how much had changed in the yard while I had been away. My yard is starting to come to life! It's so energizing to look out the window and see bursts of color in bare beds and dark corners. Here's a peek at what is making me smile these days.

Of course, tonight the forecast is 30 degrees -- I hope it's not bye-bye blooms.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The First Step

I made the announcement this week at work that beginning in May I will cut back on my work hours and responsibilities. No jaws dropped, no one even seemed interested. No questions were asked, not even a comment later. I expected more, maybe an envious shrug or "Wow. I wish I could do that." But work, for now, goes on as usual. Some days it seems pointless, and yet it's still all I know. I have muddled around so long in this work behavior that it IS normal for me and I anticipate that it will be a while before I experience a sense of clarity in who I really am.

I talk about wanting to cleanse my body of food toxins, of alcohol and sugars. Just as important is a cleansing of the toxins that come from deadlines and must-dos and a feeling of no control.

I'm ready to get started.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Movie Magic

It seems like I go weeks, even months, without seeing a movie and then it's as if I can't get enough. This happens every year about Oscar time. What a coincidence.

Although I haven't seen Milk, my vote at this moment for best actor is Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler. He IS the wrestler. It's a very sad story in many ways and when my daughter asked if it was a true story, I told her that "No, it's not based on a real person but it's a true story for more people than we want to admit."

For best actress, today I'm drawn to Anne Hathaway-- haven't seen Revolutionary Road and Kate Winslet will probably win best supporting for The Reader. I'm actually surprised that she is being recognized for The Reader -- I'd read that they'd pass over that because of the sexuality. Good movie; better book.

Best Movie? I loved Slumdog. It was such a surprise and even with the poverty and tragedies, it ended upbeat. But then Benjamin Button -- wow -- I keep thinking about it -- Haven't seen Milk. If I were voting though, I'd probably vote Slumdog if for no other reason than everyone seems to be so taken with it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Absence

I haven't blogged for a while, and though I like to reference my "blogging without obligation" icon, if I'm honest, I know it's because the things on my mind have been things I also wanted to keep quiet. It's very stifling trying to hide things from others. Hiding things from ourselves is just as stifling.

I've been saying lately that I want 30 days to reacquaint myself with myself. I don't really know what this means, but I keep remembering a gimmick phrase for intimacy -- in-to-me-see. This is what I feel like I need right now. Some time with no expectations, no demands, no "I should be"s -- to rediscover who I am.

I feel guilty and shallow in some regard even thinking about this. My friend, whose husband suffered the brain injury, is practically held hostage as he heals. Not able to get out for simple pleasures without making arrangements and plans. Her spontanaeity is certainly stifled. I guess it doesn't really matter what stifles us, it all feels the same if we let it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

January 20, 2009. The end of an error. What an emotional day. Pull yourself up. Dust yourself off. Get to work America. I like it.