Friday, December 31, 2010

End of a Year

As I started trying to write our year-in-review letter, I realized it was going to be harder than I thought to sum up 365 days in one page. To get started, I read back over my blog entries for the past year and unlike my sister who thinks blogging is self-serving, I rather enjoyed reliving some of those days. For me, blogging has become a type of journaling, I suppose. Having a record of some of my joys, thoughts, struggles, frustrations, accomplishments, etc. and the mere act of putting them into legible words gives me a sense of clarity, sometimes relief, sometimes sharing.

I started blogging in April 2007, 278 posts ago. I know I have a faithful few who pop in regularly and comment, and then there are those who read but never comment, but it doesn't matter. I do enjoy the comments. It lets me know you're out there. It's always a surprise when someone says "I saw that on your blog . . ." and I didn't even know they knew I had one!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Meanwhile . . .

We didn't send Christmas cards this year, and of all years we should have started the Christmas letter update, this was one. I'm thinking maybe a happy new year card with a review of 2010 is the best approach. Originally, I wasn't much of a Christmas letter fan, but the older I get, and the more people move around, I see great value in them. At least it's a way to keep relatives, lost friends, etc. in touch with how your life is progressing. And that, in fact, it is.

Anyway, here's my start for the card. This is a scan of the original with no touch up. I printed one out and touched up the light letters with colored pencils and it improved it mucho. The scribble text at top right (to which my husband commented "you can't even read this") is a piece of a scribble journal written on coffee filters. I can say whatever I want because I write over it every which direction and it will never be read. It's a lovely idea, produces interesting texture for use in various places and is Very cathartic. In this instance, it is covering some small writing that I hated. I'm not crazy about that corner.

I used Zig markers for the letters. The black marker suffers from a lost lid and I had to dip it in some black watercolor occasionally, but I actually like the faded charcoal effect. The purple is way too dark for my liking. It did make me realize though that I need to invest in some new markers, new colors. (As an aside, anyone who ever wants to buy me a gift, Zig calligraphy markers are great! Gift certificate from Paper & Ink is another idea:)

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Art of Giving

Being the season that it is, I wasn't surprised to receive a package in the mail. It was when I opened it and discovered who it was from and what it was, that was the surprise. It made the me think about giving and how much joy there is in (1) receiving something unexpected and (2) finding that special little something that is just right for someone you know -- something that isn't on their list.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the Christmas lists, but sometimes it feels so rote. Like I'm doing someone's shopping for them, without putting any feeling or thinking into it. I am much more excited about giving a gift that wasn't requested but, knowing what I know about the person, I feel certain they will love it. Or it suits them. Or I know they would never buy it for themselves. That's the kind of giving I like to do. When I find that special gift, I feel more tuned in, like my heart is more open.

On the flip side, of course, I can drive myself crazy trying to find THE right gift and fretting that "they already have everything" and whatever I buy will just be tossed in a drawer. It's a very fine line.

And then sometimes, me thinketh too much.

Merry Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Life of a Cookie Swap

I baked cookies all day yesterday and got up at 5 a.m. this morning to finish up. Yep, I have a cookie exchange tonight. I like that the tradition of a cookie exchange continues. I organized my first one 25 years ago. Five friends and five people who liked to bake. We didn't have rules per se, but it was pretty much understood that you needed to "bake" the cookies. Some were very clever at getting out of baking. Like the one year we each got rolls of cookie dough to bake at our leisure because "they're better fresh." One year someone gave us the mix in a cute jar so we could put them together when we liked. And then there was the year that someone hired the school cafeteria baker to make her cookies for her. Like anything that continues over time, there were stories and memories that would be resurrected every year. It was a joyful event that got on the calendar early. Eventually, everyone's kids left home, and though we didn't have a need for 10 dozen cookies, we kept baking, mainly for the friendship and annual gathering. We carried on our exchange for 20 years, even after I moved 75 miles away.

This year, my exchange is with my daughter and her friends. Martha Stewart has had quite the effect on young bakers and it'll be interesting to compare the generations. I have a feeling not much will have changed, except maybe the recipes will be more elaborate.

My recipe this year is Simple Sesames, which are simple enough, but time consuming, as evidenced by the amount of time I have spent. A rich, buttery cookie that bakes for 30 minutes at 300 degrees.

Simple Sesames
2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 cups flour
1 cup sesame seeds (I toasted these)
2 cups coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds (I used the slivered ones, then chopped)

Cream butter, gradually adding sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add flour and mix until just combined. Stir in sesame seed, coconut and nuts until well mixed. Divide dough into thirds. Place one third on wax paper and shape into roll 2" in diameter. Repeat with remaining dough and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Slice into 1/4" slices. Bake at 300 degrees on ungreased cookie sheet for 30 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Imagined Superiority

This is a spill your guts post, so if you're looking for something cheery and homey, you'd do well to move on. Have I mentioned that transitioning from a full-time job to a more relaxed life is difficult? Besides dealing with the how do I spend my time, make the most of my day, and not really knowing how to relax issues, the ego comes into play. An ego that I didn't even know I had. An ego that is reluctant to disappear.

When anyone has done a job for fifteen years, in all likelihood, I figure they have refined and simplified it to the point where it appears easy to others. I feel like that's where I am. This is where my ego entered. In announcing that I would continue to work part-time for two more years, the next step became training someone, passing the job on, releasing it, etc. And that's harder than I want it to be. It's hard because I find myself in a place of imagined superiority. Thinking one person or another wouldn't be right for the job. Thinking I know what's right. Saying that out loud makes me feel small, but at the same time, I think it makes it easier to release. And that's my goal today. To release. To think about something else. Maybe not even think at all.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Nothing Corny About This!

Here's my find of the season. These are the cutest, yummiest, most addictive Halloween cookie ever! The good thing is they're bite size. The bad thing is they're bite size.

Make your sugar cookie dough and divide into thirds. Line a 9x5 loaf pan with waxed paper and press one third of the dough in the bottom. Place another third in a bowl and add a small amount of orange food color. Mix until well blended and then press the orange dough on top of the white. Place the remaining third in a bowl and use yellow food color. Press the yellow dough on top of the orange and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Invert loaf pan onto a cutting surface. Peel off the waxed paper and slice loaf cross-wise into 1/4 inch slices. I actually used a metal ruler as a cutting edge for the slices so they'd be equal and even. Lay the slice on its side and cut into 6 (or so) wedges. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about an inch apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes. Cool 1 minute and immediately place warm cookies in a bowl with sugar, rolling to coat. Store in loosely covered container.

You can use your own recipe for the dough, but here's the one I used. A soft, easy to work with dough.

1 cup butter, softened (I use unsalted)
1 1/2 cup sugar, divided use (Use the 1/2 cup for coating finished cookies)
1 large egg
2 T orange juice (I used milk instead)
2 t orange zest (did not use)
1/8 salt
3 cups flour
1/2 t baking soda

This recipe made about 15 dozen miniature cookies.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Fall Wrap


Here's an easy to do wrap-job which was adapted from my friend Juleah's blog. She used these cuties to make hair decorations; I just glued it to a package instead of a bobby pin. I can see so many ways to use these. (Cindy, I can see you using these for napkin rings for Thanksgiving!)

Here's how simple it is. Felt circles, felt strip. Burn the edges. I did exactly what Juleah did--used a tea candle to burn the edges. It took me a minute to get the hang of it. Some of the felt flamed, some didn't. I couldn't decide if it was my technique or the dyes in the felt. I was able to get a good rhythm after a few circles. Always seeing the bright side, I say the flamed parts actually add some dimension to it. Sew the circles together by adding beads. Voila!

I have a lot of white felt from another project so I'm seeing a winter wonderland scene for something. If you try these, I'd love to know how you used them and how you changed things up. That's part of the fun, ya know?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's Autumn

I'm back in Pittsburgh after what seems like weeks of work, mayhem and travel. Maybe because it was. To Tulsa. To Atlanta. To Baltimore. To Charlotte. And back to Pittsburgh. Everything was good, but I'm just glad to not be going anywhere right now. I need time to sit and watch the leaves fall. And fall they do. Here, you are very aware of how many leaves there are because all you have to do is rake your leaves to the curb and the borough picks them up. No bagging! About now, there are massive piles of leaves along the streets. The only downside of this procedure that I can see, is kids probably don't have the experience of jumping in a big pile of leaves while the parents rake. I never did that anyway.

The sky is blue. The whole world seems golden and red. It's a perfect autumn morning. I love the chill with the promise of a sunny day, light jacket required. My head is saying enjoy today. My head and my heart are in tune for once.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Am What I Yam . . .

I love the fact that I grew up in the '50s. My memory of the milkman coming into our kitchen and looking in our icebox (which is what we called it then, even though it wasn't) to see what we needed probably sounds like a made-up story to a kid today. The milkman knew how much cottage cheese we ate, how much milk we drank, and that my mom loved buttermilk and cornbread on Sundays. Sometimes he'd wink and tell my mom he thought we needed a quart of chocolate milk. Even when I think about it now, it seems surreal. I also love the memory of the knock on the door Saturday morning that announced someone selling a sack of six glazed donuts for a quarter. What a treat that was! Without even knowing it, values were being instilled and memories being built.

My childhood was one of order and trust. Our routine wasn't elaborate, it was just orderly. We cleaned house on Saturdays, but we went to the library first. We ate dinner as a family. And there was no reading allowed at the table. The kids did the dishes and swept the kitchen floor. And then there's that sweet memory of being outside on the sidewalk playing and hearing my mom through the kitchen window saying, "Oh, Paul, let them play. I'll do the dishes." We weren't the Cleavers, but we were damn close.

Appreciating the principles that are an established part of ourselves helps us to realize how grounded we truly are. The things that have influenced us the most are not always apparent to us in our everyday lives. I think it helps to take the time to become aware of the main beliefs that guide us. All of those childhood experiences are an essential part of who I am and who I have become.

We all have quirks, we all have essentials. Take some time to think about how those came about. It can be rather enlightening.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Versatile Blogger Award

Cindy at Cindy's Clipboard has awarded me this award:


To accept this award I have to:
* reveal 7 truths about myself
* select 7 blogs that I would like to share the award with

So here are my seven truths:
1. Given a choice, I will make something rather than buy it. Food, gifts, cards, you get the picture. This causes extreme angst at times, the pressure I put on myself.

2. I always score 50-50 in right brain-left brain tests. This may sound cool, but creates conflict within me most of the time.

3. I eat mostly vegetarian although I don't call myself such. Beef is rare in my diet these days.

4. I love the internet. Immediate gratification. Don't know how I existed without it.

5. My sister and I are all that's left of our immediate family. She lives in Germany.

6. I'm a believer in "third time's the charm" since I found true love in my third marriage.

7. I'm still a reader of books and newspapers, even though I'm connected online. I will have a difficult time giving up the tactile experience of reading a book.

Seven blogs I'd like to see participate:

1. Sarah in Disturbia

2. WordMarks A Journal

3. Collagitation

4. Fifth Child Studio

5. Eat, Drink, Decorate

6. Simple Living with a Dash of Chaos

7. Echoes of Grace

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

No Underestimating Allowed

I'm one of those people who hesitates to throw away paper scraps, bits of ribbon, foil wine tops, Chinese newspapers, you name it and I can call it a "treasure." I have a box devoted to these things. The label on the end says "Don't underestimate what's in here!" Every now and then I open it up and go through it. I have some amazing things in there. It's a project waiting to happen.

Sometimes I think I should label each day with "Don't underestimate what I have in store." It all goes back to You are what you manifest. Walking out the door with a mindful thought of seeing the positive.

The meditation quote on that appeared on Kathleen Botsford's Echoes of Grace blog today spoke to me in a fierce way.

What if we set out every morning with curiosity,
with the intention to notice
as many opportunities as possible?
Would it not be like reading the world
as a holy book~a Lectio Divina of sorts,
that ancient practice of spiritual reading?
Every day we could be pouring over
the unfolding of new and possible worlds.

There are innumerable, small opportunities
to be helpful, attentive or kind.
Taking up these opportunities,
would we not come to know that we are
a living part of the infinite story?

Gunilla Norris

Some days I'm struck by the people, random people, who make me smile. It's all good. And it's a gift. And that's my goal today. To give a gift.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Vacancy: Chairman of the Universe

I took a break today, left the office and went to the bookstore. I walked around the New Age spiritual section, the self-improvement section, pop psychology section, but the place where I got the advice I needed was in the card section.

A retro card with a woman on the phone saying "I have resigned my job as chairman of the universe." And it slapped me in the face. I'm trying to control way too much and I need to stop it. Get over myself. Resign that position.

Maybe now my face will relax.

Happy Thoughts

I'm reading The Art of Racing in the Rain right now, and until last night, I'd been saying what a sweet book it was. Last night it turned ugly and I had to put it down. I couldn't deal with injustice to anyone at the moment, not even on a page. I couldn't be witness to meanness. Right now I need peace and light and happy thoughts.

I am enjoying this book so much, though. One thought or phrase that is used frequently (because the guy is a race car driver), is "The car goes where your eyes go." "That which you manifest you are."

Today I will manifest peace and light and happy thoughts.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Gansta Luv

I watched Public Enemies with Johnny Depp tonight. I decided I could have been a Doll in the '30s. What does that say about me? What is it about gangsters that were romantic? Why do I root for the bad guy?

Here's what Ryan Adams of Awards Daily said:
Gangster lore resonates because the struggle to rebel against a tyrannical social system that seeks to keep huge segments of the population under the thumb of bloodsucking bureaucratic control is as old as civilization itself. Rarely is the positive identification with thieves so clean-cut as with a Robin Hood legend, but when the failed banks, evaporated savings, and brutal foreclosures of the great depression ruined the lives of so many families, it’s little wonder that any rascally individual who dared come along and stick it to the bankers would be regarded with a complex mixture of revulsion and awe, fear and admiration.

This seems like a whole lot of words to say Johnny Depp is hot.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Right Now

I'm not very creative right now. All my energies are being spent at work on drama and change. I come home exhausted and I wake up writing pep talks. Ugh. Can't we all just be nice to each other?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dreamland

Dreams fascinate me. It seems if we pay attention, they can help us understand some things going on in our lives. Things below the surface that we may be ignoring or just not accepting. When I wake up in the morning, if I lay very still and focus, I can usually remember my dreams.

Last night my dream was all about snow and traveling long distances in treacherous weather. It wasn't scary or harrowing. There was just a lot of snow. There were several instances in which I was very protective of either a child or a young woman. Once I was trying to clean up a spill on a bed in this cabin in the woods. There were a lot of helping situations. Every time I would go outside, I'd have trouble finding the car because there was so much snow. And in all this, I had a great idea for a sweatshirt that would say "I've been to Helinski and back!" I thought that was so funny (in my dream) and so clever.

When I looked up "snow" in my dream dictionary, the main thing it symbolized was difficult times, etc. My own analysis is my difficult times at work right now and the fact that I AM feeling protective toward the staff that I've been responsible for over the past 15 years. It's a warm combination of mothering, mentoring, caring. I've had difficulty giving up that position and turning it over to someone else. All this dream did for me was help me recognize what's going on. And I suppose even if that's not really what it meant, it caused me to think about this. I feel better.

But, hey, what about that sweatshirt??

Monday, August 23, 2010

WWYD?

Say you’re traveling with another person, for business. Say you have more flight history, i.e., you have “priority access” for boarding. Say the person you’re traveling with is not “priority,” but (lowly) Group 4. Your assigned seats are across the aisle from each other.

How would you be inclined to handle the boarding process? Would you say, “Hey, I’ll hang with you; no need for me to board early.” Or would you say, “Hey, I’m up. See you there.”

You tell me yours. I'll tell you mine.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Giraffes Gone Wild!


This is the next step in the giraffe project. Expanding it, using layer of the drawings, color, etc.

I used watercolors and watered down Dr. Martin's iridescent copper ink to expand on the giraffe project.

Taking the first ones I drew, I transferred them onto tracing paper, flipping them so they'd all face the same direction. I kept overlapping them until they filled the page. I re-drew them on watercolor paper with a good ole Sharpie and used the iridescent copper for their spots, watercolor for the green and the blue. Ta-da.

It's finished. It's in the drawer. I'm waiting for some genius inspiration on how to use it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blind Contour Drawing


This is Exercise 2 in my drawing book. The assignment was to look at pictures of giraffes and draw without looking at your paper. It's called blind contour drawing. Blind contours are usually done very slowly and in a single continuous line. The assignment was to draw for about 10 minutes. It's harder than it sounds, slowing down like that. Supposed to improve eye-hand communication.

I looked for a picture of a giraffe bending down or drinking water, but couldn't find one. The pictures I found were either just of the head or were out in a field. But, I actually like these silly little creatures. The "taking it further" part (which I haven't done) is to try layering three or four of your drawings and see if you can pull them together some way, either using color or adding lines.

I've been drawing inanimate objects while I am sitting out on the back porch. A pot of flowers, a chair, things like that. Interesting results that may one day have another life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Last Bite

You know when you're mixing a batter and the recipe says "alternate flour with liquid, ending with flour?" Do you ever do that with your meals? Alternating meat with vegetable, and then deciding what to end with? That's exactly what I just did. Salmon, broccoli, salmon, etc. And then I made the conscious decision to have two broccoli bites so I could end with salmon. A conscious decision.

I don't know why that gave me pause, but it did.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rocky Times Two


I recently bought a book "Drawing for Mixed Media Artists--52 exercises to make drawing fun." I'm lovin' this book and I'm only on Exercise One!

The first exercise was to draw cats from your imagination. Think about their ears, bodies, tails, etc. Keep your drawings simple. After you draw about 30 cats, pick one or two that you like and then expand on it.

I had the perfect model, of course, because I see Rocky in this position every day, many times a day. This was a good exercise because it was one I wouldn't have done on my own. (Who would think to do this?)Taking it to the next level for me was adding watercolors and Pearl Ex.

Yes, of course I'd like to redo it and do a better job on the blinds and window, etc., but overall I like it. Maybe because it was a stretching exercise for me.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nora Plays the Piano

Get ready to smile! This is too much.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Collage Under Glass

I did this piece in July, but didn't post it then because it was a birthday present for my seester and I didn't want to ruin her surprise. I admit I totally copied the lettering style and quote from Lorraine Douglas. I love that style and it's not as easy as it looks. Even though it was her idea of spacing and style, it IS my lettering. She used a brush. I used a pointed pen. And that little quote still makes me smile.

This is on a very thin glass plate with a slight curve. All the collage is done in reverse, i.e. you layer from the top down because you're doing it on the underneath side of the glass. I did the lettering on Arches, used shaved pastels for a bit of color around it, then tore it to fit the plate. The plate is about 4x6.

The lettered piece was put down first, then I used different kinds of torn paper, some type torn from a book, etc. to fill out the edges. If there were any clear spots of glass showing, I covered it with something. I used good ole Modge Podge for my "glue" and sealed the bottom with flat black gesso.

Behrenberg Glass Company is a great source for "seconds" in glass bowls and plates. I ordered several platters and different size plates to have on hand to experiment with. These are delicate and make great gifts.

A little paper, a little fabric and a little time

I stumbled across this project from last year, still waiting for something to happen to it. This was part of an art play day I went to where we collaged paper, fabric, threads, on plastic bags using watered-down glue. You just peel it off the bag when it's dry and then figure out what to do with it. This little piece is still waiting for some inspiration to hit me.

It makes me want to do this exercise again. It's one of those things that you can do when you're not feeling particularly inspired but you might end up with something to inspire you. This is really pretty sturdy. I'm thinking it looks like it might end up as a funky book cover with some sewing. Oops. Just remembered my sewing machine is in Pittsburgh.

Back in the pile it goes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

So, how hot is it really?


It's so hot that when we went to the movies on Sunday and left a 12-pack of soda pop in the car, the cans started exploding on the way home! First one popped and we all looked at each other, like "What was that?" Then I looked in the way back (station wagon) and saw brown liquid on the floor. The cans were still in the cardboard so I opened the carton and determined it was only one can. Oh well. One can. Big deal.

But then . . . BOOM! another one. And because I had been so smart to open the carton, this one went all over the windows, the ceiling, etc. We had reached the first drop-off house so we took the carton out of the car and put it in the yard. Pop, pop, boom, boom, and so on. Like Dr. Pepper fireworks. It was hilarious and at the same time a real mess. Thankfully, only one exploded on the ceiling and all over the back of the seat.

Lesson learned. Don't leave sodas in a closed car when it's 102 degrees.



Photo by Professor Andrew Davidhazy, of Rochester, New York.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Recipe for Summer Diversion

Warning! Danger Ahead!

Your favorite glass filled with ice
A shot of vodka, preferably chilled
Organic peach lemonade (available at Whole Foods)
Top off with a dash of ginger liquor
Be prepared for a bit of heaven:)

Is it really 'just" a tree?

From the road, it looks like a regular tree. Yes, it's a big tree, but still, it's just a tree.

And then you spy the entrance. Or if you're lucky, you're shown the entrance by your favorite 4-year old.
And you discover an eerily wonderful world.

With arms that invite swinging . . .

And arms that look like people to hold your drinks and toys and stuff. . .

And trunks that boast calling cards of all the people who have previously visited.

Some days you never want to leave.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Breakfast at the Park

Lucy and I walked to the park for one of our breakfast picnics yesterday. She strapped on her "safari bag" diagonally (one of my small SAK purses with a short strap) and we were off. She's wanted to be a safari girl her "entire life!" We were barely out the door when OH! a puma needed our help. We stopped, fed it a few berries and continued. OMG! a baby cheetah crying. We unzipped the bag and and the baby fit right in. We added a tiger before we made it to the park. The bag was getting very full. We had tea and crackers for breakfast and after a tour of the fairy's tree house it was time to start home.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The is En-Lightning

The other day Tom was going to play golf and said something like "We'll play if it doesn't lightning." I thought that sounded so odd and I questioned if "lightning" was a verb. We talk about "the lightning" and "lightning bolts" but I never thought of it as a verb. "It is going to lightning" just doesn't sound right.

But it is. I looked it up. Lightning is a word in which the same form is used as a noun, an adjective and a verb. Then I thought, there must be a term for words like this. But in that search, I came up empty. One web site has a list of 150 words which are both nouns and verbs. I just keep thinking there must be a term for these words.

Anyone?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dr. Spock Has Left the Building!

A woman I work with is expecting her first grandchild this fall. Her daughter has asked her to go to Grand-parenting class and she is incensed! "I don't need to go to class to know what to do with a runny nose. I raised two kids of my own." At that point, tears began to fill her eyes and I knew she was very upset about her daughter's request. (Do you get how perceptive I am?)

So, being me, I googled "grand-parenting classes" and was pretty surprised by the result (4 million results in .32 seconds). Seems that these classes are a pretty popular thing right now, the primary reason being that so many things have changed since "we" had kids. The way you put a baby in the crib is one, of course. That seems to change every year as more research about SIDS comes out. But one thing was a complete surprise to me. Baby powder. One thing most people say about a baby is "Oh, I love the way they smell." Well, not any more! Turns out it's not good for some babies to breathe baby powder as it can cause breathing difficulties. I have no idea what the substitute is because, you guessed it, I haven't been to grand-parenting class!

Some classes include a section on infant massage and baby CPR, but most seem to be geared toward bridging the gap between new parent and grandparent. Tips on how to keep your mouth shut and back off might be a good starting point for those classes, but it seems to be about bringing the new grand-parent up to speed on what parents are learning in their maternity and parenting classes, just to be sure that everyone is on the same page. If you know why the new parents are making certain choices and decisions about parenting, it seems like it would go a long way in refraining from comments like "When you were a baby, I did such and such."

My advice is not to be offended if your son or daughter suggests a grand-parenting class. No telling what you'll learn and that narrowed communication gap will be priceless. Besides, you can always sneak a peek at Dr. Spock in the privacy of your own home.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Onion Tart

We have company visiting; both are vegetarians so in an effort to be the ultimate hostess, I gave considerable thought about what to cook. Last night's late supper is something that has immediately been added to my list of favorites and will reside as part of my current repertoire. And the best part -- it's so simple!

I had never made a tart before, although I've made plenty of pies. The only difference in making a tart as opposed to a pie crust is the way you deal with the edges. For a tart, you fold the excess (a half-inch or so) over inside the pan and press it against the edge to reinforce it. I made my basic pie crust, pricked the bottom and edges and baked it at 375 degrees for 33 minutes -- 20 minutes with weights (I use navy beans on foil instead of purchased pie weights) and 13 minutes without weights.

While the crust cooled, I sliced a large onion into very, very thin slices and cooked them for 25 minutes in 2 T. olive oil, adding salt and pepper to my liking. The onions weren't quite caramelized, but they were very close. I spread them evenly over the prepared crust and then took a heaping cup of goat cheese and spread it over the onions. I sliced small tomatoes as thinly as I could and put them on top of the goat cheese, overlapping the edges and covering every single inch of the cheese. A little olive oil drizzle (about 1 T.) and about 1/3 cup more goat cheese, and ta-da, it's ready for the broiler. Put this under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes until the cheese starts to brown slightly.

I put chopped fresh basil on it before I put it under the broiler, but I would recommend putting the basil on after it comes out of the broiler, just before you serve it. The freshness of the basil was compromised by cooking it.

My daughter suggested when I took it out of the oven, I should "Hot tart coming through . . . and she's got dinner!" I didn't say it, but I thought it was funny.

This was so good, I could make it again tonight and be very happy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Still Trying to Decide

This outer border is a little bright for me, but this is what I'll live with today. I'm beginning to wonder why I decided to "update" the look.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Yes, A New Look!

To answer Diane's question from the previous post about my new blog-design, I'm sorry to say I can't take credit for the photo. I've been a little brain-dead or creative-dead, something, since I got back to Oklahoma. Yes, I've been busy, but it's been yard work, physical sweating work, not thinking or creating work. I think the fact that I had not written anything was bugging me so I messed around with the design instead, just to feel like I was still connected to it. It was time for a new look anyway. All elements are from the blogspot's new templates.

I'm anxious to get back to doing something creative. I have projects on my table waiting for me, and I know I will get around to them. But the outside, hot though it be, has beckoned instead. Some of it, I realize, is a good way to procrastinate summoning the energy to create. Maybe I need a muse. I don't understand inspiration. I don't know what inspires me or gives me the spirit to create. The desire is there, just not the energy.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Life


The baby birds are almost ready to fly. We saw one with his head hanging out of the nest, looking down, as if to say "I'm supposed to do what?!!" It's been so much fun watching the birds with Lucy and Henry. Both will sit on the porch, whispering, so the mama bird won't be scared.

And what a nest the mama Robin made. The details in this picture aren't great, but the nest itself is such a tight construction. The dangling grasses make it look like a design element has been added.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Exorcism for Tantrums

One thing I miss about living alone (among others, of course) is not having anyone around to read those fascinating tidbits to that I find in the newspaper. So, in light of that absence, you, my faithful few, get to hear about this.

In the Pittsburgh paper on Tuesdays, there's always a column by a John Rosemond, a family psychologist. He writes about problems kids have that parents try to put fancy names or "disease" to but instead should be dealt with as a developmental issue. Today's column is about children stuck in toddlerhood at age 7 (or so) who still have tantrums. I thought the solution to this was ingenious. That's why I had to tell someone about it.

The parents were trying to label their daughter bipolar. He told them she's a toddler in a 7-year old body, still convinced that what she wants, she deserves to have and will throw a tantrum to get it. He called it her delayed ability to take responsibility for her own happiness. The solution was for the parents to tell their daughter that they had seen a television show in which a famous doctor talked about children who still threw tantrums at age 7. The reason, they told her, was that she wasn't getting enough sleep and they were going to put her to bed right after supper but no later than 6:30 p.m. until the tantrums stopped for 3 weeks. If there was even a little tantrum, the three weeks had to start over at the beginning the next day.

It took six weeks for them to "cure" the tantrums. The little girl is very happy now and they will all live happily ever after.

This made me think about adults we encounter now and then who still believe they are entitled to get what they want when they want it. Maybe they just need more sleep.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Scavenger's Delight

I've always been a scavenger. Even in grade school, I would drag home treasures that I found on my short walk home. The people on the corner were great neighbors. They threw away so much good stuff. I remember somehow carrying home an entire set of dishes. My family actually used them for a long time. They were pink and grey, very nice stoneware. But I digress. Here's the real story.

I currently live two blocks behind a private school. The other night on my walk home, I discovered that the art department had cleaned out the pottery studio and discarded projects that students had not picked up. A gold mine for a scavenger and a step up from dumpster diving.

Lizz (yes, Lizz with two zs) had a good thing going that I don't think she fully appreciated. Having just attended the Three Rivers Art Festival, I had seen a lot of pottery and hers was not too shabby. I don't know who Lizz is, but she might be surprised to know that she has an exhibit going on at my house.

In the first picture, the figures are things I already had. Her pottery complements it so well, it looks like I bought it to go with them. The last piece is not hers.



Friday, June 11, 2010

A Day at the Science Center

Lucy and I spent the day at the Carnegie Science Center recently. It was fascinating to watch kids and imagine what kind of adults they will turn out to be. One little guy was working with velcro-tabbed PVC pipe to design a plumbing system on the carpet wall. The goal of the activity was to be able to put a ping pong ball in the top and have it travel all the way through the system to a cup. Intuitively, he seemed to know how to connect them so that it would work. There was no one explaining it to him. He was probably 3 years old. Lucy would add a piece, but it was pretty random. Not much rhyme or reason. He would calmly remove it and reposition it. Interesting to watch.

Then there was the Earthquake Cafe. A diner table with booth seats, a hanging lamp, and three choices of earthquakes to experience. Although there was a sign that clearly stated "If others are waiting, please limit your experience to one earthquake," there were four 10-12 year old kids who kept switching seats and essentially hogging the cafe. Lucy and I waited. The line behind us got longer. The little girls behind me said, "but the sign says . . ." so finally, I had to step up and say, "You've been able to experience this. There are a lot of kids who haven't. How about you going to the back of the line if you want to go again?" The ring-leader glared at me, but they all left. Yea for the adult.

In one corner, there were large spongy building blocks. One guy had built a tower about 4 ft. tall. When Lucy added a piece, it toppled over. He was pretty upset and came to stand right in front of her spouting nonsense. Lucy didn't say anything. She had a triangle piece, like the top of a house, in her hand and she very calmly put it on the top of his head and walked away. The boy shouted, "That's not funny!" It still makes me laugh to think about it.

Four floors. So much to see, so much to experience. When we left, she wanted to know if we could go again some time. "Of course, we can. Let's wait a while so when we come back it will seem new again." Her reply? "Maybe we can go tomorrow."

I took a nap when I got home.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Baseball

I didn't grow up being on a team. Not that I wasn't a "team player", it just didn't seem an option. Other than softball, I don't know what the options were for girls. I read, I drew, I fantasized. There weren't teams for that. I didn't play sports. It was okay; it wasn't weird.

Sam, 9 yrs. old, is getting into baseball. It's interesting to watch boys who aren't quite "buddies" give those tentative pats of encouragement before each bat. Sam is not a touchy-feely guy, but he gives his teammates several pats on the shoulder before they go out to bat. It's sweet to me. It's almost like a secret world that adults aren't privy to. I doubt that he could say why he does it. It is just what he does. And it's good.

I've learned more about baseball this weekend than I ever thought I wanted to know. One, I learned that I liked the young ump and did not like the big bellied ump. I learned, for the most part, you always play first base for the Out. I'm wrestling with learning something about tagging and outs that seem to fly in the face of justice. And I learned that on a hot summer day it's really quite relaxing to stand in the shade and cheer for 9 year olds to slide and catch a break when they can.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hopscotch

Lucy's fascination with hopscotch is, pure and simple, the sweetest thing to witness. Last night I walked over early evening and there she was, on her corner, looking like summer incarnated. Barefeet, colorful summer dress, hopping, turning around, hopping back. Over and over. She bemoaned the fact that someone kept taking her stones when she left them on the corner. She spends quite a bit of time finding the perfect little rock. Last night we finally settled on a piece of petrified wood.

Hopscotch is one of those games that all kids, especially girls I guess, just seem to discover. I don't know how. I did a little research (read: google) and learned that hopscotch was used as a military training exercise eons ago. The first hopscotch was 100 feet long!

I suppose jacks will be next. I can't wait! One-sies, two-sies. I loved that game.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Morning Sounds

When I made the decision to move to Pittsburgh, the one thing I heard over and over was "But, the weather!" and the one thing that I'm enjoying most is . . . the weather. Here it is late May and I'm still able to sleep with the windows open. I love that. I love waking up to the bird sounds, the cool breeze, and that fresh smell and feel. This morning as I woke, the birds sounded like one of the chants at church where they go "tone-tone-tone-up." I felt as if I were in a chapel. Then came the trains. A slow, slow drone that was like an orchestra warming up in slow motion. I lay there listening to it all and finally decided to get up and join the day.

I have a feeling it is going to be a good one.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nemacolin & Fallingwater


Wow. Somehow life got in the way of blogging. While I haven't been blogging, I've been busy doing other things. Tom came to Pittsburgh for a week and while he was here we went to Nemacolin, a woodland resort in the Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains. I love the way that description sounds. It's a beautiful area of over 2000 acres with wildlife habitats, golf, skiing, just about anything you might want to do outside. On the grounds was this beautiful little meditation chapel. The picture at the beginning was the walk to the chapel.


Just a short 20 minute drive from Nemacolin was Fallingwater, the famous private residence built by Frank Lloyd Wright, maybe even the MOST famous one. If you are not familiar with it, it's a structure that is cantilevered over a waterfall. This is one of those amazing places that was a "weekend home" for a prominent Pittsburgh family in the early 1940s. Here are two photos. One, the home from a distance, and one showing steps from the living room down to the water so the Mister could flyfish without leaving the house.



I think I'd have a hard time staying for only the weekend.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 2 chef-dom

Tonight I was going to warn you not to try brown basmati risotto, however after 90 minutes of stirring and wondering, I have to say Go For It!

Here's my prep. I sauteed garlic and green onions in olive oil, added brown basmati rice and stirred, stirred, stirred. This was supposed to infuse the grains with the vegetable flavors and prepare it for the next step - - which was adding white wine (suitable for drinking -- not cooking wine) and let it vaporize. After the rice was dry, I began adding hot chicken broth and stirring, stirring, stirring. After about one hour, I made the "not written decision" to put a lid on the rice and let it simmer on its own. Forget the stirring. I was tired of stirring. I was tired of drinking wine. It was a good decision.

During this "down" time I sauteed cubed zucchini, cubed yellow crooked neck squash and coarsely chopped kale. I added a chicken breast that had been covered with basil, oregano, herbs de Provence and freshly ground RED PEPPER. Let me say again. This was a good decision!

At the last minute, I added freshly grated Parmesan cheese, the vegetables and chicken. I inhaled and did a double-take. Absolutely excellent!

And, as before, I have lunch for tomorrow. Double good!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chef-dom

I've been trying to cook healthy meals for myself the last few weeks. Honestly, sometimes I think I have missed my calling. Tonight, for instance, I am convinced I should have been a chef. Linguini in a red pepper alfredo sauce topped with wilted spinach and then finally topped with salmon coated in sesame seeds and ginger. I'm still reveling in the flavors and fighting the urge to go back and eat tomorrow's lunch.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Jonas Salk

As one who grew up in the '50s, I still remember the year(s) when we couldn't play in the plastic swimming pool or with the water hose because of the fear we might get polio. The fear was real. I didn't understand it, still don't really; how you "catch" polio playing in or around cool water. But every parent was afraid of sseeing their kid in braces. But, bless Jonas Salk, a vaccine was discovered and took away that fear.

The research for the vaccine was done at University of Pittsburgh, headed by Jonas Salk. The coolest thing I have read is that he refused to patent the vaccine. When asked by Edward R. Murrow who owned the vaccine, his reply was "the people." He added, "Can you patent the sun?"

I haven't seen it, but there's a movie about the vaccine and the research. Probably worth checking out.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lucy Photographs the Garden Store

We visited Reilly's Farm & Garden Store today, looking for landscape materials. I gave my camera to Lucy again and she got busy. She's really getting into this photography thing. I heard her saying, "Oh, good one," when she took the shot of the pots. She really liked that one. And then she'd sit down cross-legged on the sidewalk to get a particular angle or shot. It was fun to watch what grabbed her attention.

A Red Stool

I'm almost afraid to post this because the picture probably won't do the project justice and you won't be as charmed by it as I am. A while back, determined to pull myself out of a funk of not doing anything, I started gluing paper on an old naked wood stool I had brought with me. It was spattered with paint and what-not and was a simple utilitarian stool. I didn't have a vision when I started, or if I did, it's long gone.

Today, I officially called this project finished, and I love looking at this little red stool. Whether it's the actual transformation that I love or the fact that it went from OMG what am I doing to I hate this part of it, or why black bars? (Thank you Sarah), it's now a smiley piece that will go in my living room and serve to remind me that all I need to do is jump in and try. Or as Christine Kane said, "Stop Gathering and Start Making."

I used joss paper and pages from an old book (Westward Ho) for the legs. The top is a collage of things I had saved, with the edges bordered with more joss paper. The cross bars started out as black, but with the addition of the joss, it cried for red and thankfully my daughter immediately saw that and voila!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's been eleven weeks . . .

It's been eleven weeks since I moved to Pittsburgh. Three of these were spent in a dazed funk trying to get my bearings; three were spent back in Oklahoma, so essentially I've been functioning here about five weeks. There are definitely things I miss about Tulsa, which may surprise some people since I've complained about living in Oklahoma all my life.

Part of it is the ease of getting around and taking care of life's business. For example, Whole Foods is "right there" in Tulsa. I could drive there in a flash. Michael's and Hobby Lobby, for all they don't have, were on the way home from almost any place. And don't forget the drug store on every corner.

Yes, there's a Whole Foods here, yes there's Trader Joe's, and "real" art supply stores, but every one is an outing. I haven't been to Whole Foods; I've been to Trader Joe's once which was a disappointment because they don't sell wine here since all the liquor stores are state owned. That was a surprise to me because I have been thinking the reason T-Joe's didn't come to Tulsa was Oklahoma liquor laws. So much for that theory.

Some days I ask myself why I'm here. I miss Tom, miss our routine, miss figuring out what I can cook that he'll eat and I will still enjoy cooking it.

On the flip side, I'm energized by discovering areas with fresh markets, sidewalk vendors, local galleries and sales. I'm empowered by finding my way home without backtracking and tears and frustration. I have to admit I think I've regenerated some brain cells in this process. It feels good to have reached the edge of my comfort zone and then kicked myself in the butt.

But forget for a minute about comfort zones and personal energy. There's a different type of energy that encircles me when I witness Lucy's excitement about finding a baby ladybug on the nature walk field trip, when I laugh til my sides hurt because Sam is afraid people will think we're homeless if we eat on the lawn of a restaurant because the music is too loud and the air conditioning is too cold inside; when Henry beams just because I watch him play his computer games for a while. These are just simple everyday things, not big events. These are things that aren't special to tell anyone about, and yet for me, right now, these are the things I think about when I go to bed. When I think about my week. These are the reasons I'm glad I'm here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Porch Night in Mayberry

I walked to the library early this evening to return some books and ended up checking out the new Joyce Carol Oates novel, Little Bird of Heaven. The purpose of my outing was simply to get a little exercise and return my books. But as I walked back home, I passed my daughter's house and her porch beckoned me to come sit and read a while. No one was home, but the house was unlocked -- this is Mayberry, remember -- so I went in, poured a glass of wine, took my new book to the front porch and inhaled the evening. I don't know how I got any reading done for the people watching I did: lovers strolled by on a date -- I could tell by the wallet on a chain that she carried and swung; a married couple out for a walk eating their ice cream cones; people walking dogs, families with skipping children, a developmentally challenged adult with the kindest companion to help walk the dog. The birds sang, the grass whispered. It was so peaceful, I couldn't think of anyplace I'd rather be.

Sarah's house is on a lopsided corner, one that isn't a 90-degree intersection, so people tend to cross at angles and meander more. It's a great location for that very reason. So many of the houses here have large front porches. In fact, DreamWorks recently knocked on Sarah's door inquiring if she would consider letting them use the house with its inviting porch for a movie in the works. There have been several walk-throughs of the site location team, but no decision yet. Several houses are being considered.

My sister, who had the best porch ever in Tulsa, used to refer to her time there as "front porch therapy." Not her therapy, but her as the therapist. Neighbors seemed to come out of nowhere and poured out their souls. Recently, fellow blogger, Cindy, wrote about her own porch.

I miss not having a porch, but as long as I have a porch of movie proportion about a mile away, who's to complain?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Child's Eye

Yesterday Sam had his first "travel soccer game" -- a big deal for a 9-year old. An easy drive, 35-40 minutes on a gorgeous day. Sarah, Henry, Lucy and I drove over to watch, to cheer and eat Cheez-Its.

Lucy was having a very rough day, had had and we had all experienced several of her meltdowns. During the drive over, I gave her my camera and told her to take pictures of our trip.

So, what does a 4-year old take pictures of? Her shoes, her brother, and the passing sites. All very predictable, considering we're in a car. But, there's one that jumped out at me. It looks like it's been enhanced or manipulated, but it hasn't. I love it.



Here are her other photographs.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring in PA


So much for "Oh poor Pittsburgh and the terrible weather there." It's bordering hot, some would even say we've crossed the border. I might be one of them. It's sunny, beautiful, still, and a delightful spring. Frankly, I get a little tired of the emphasis put on weather comparisons. Most people have a horribly lopsided, totally out of proportion idea about what the weather is like here.

The spring is beautiful, much like spring in Tulsa, but more green. So many flowering trees, Lenten roses, tulips, daffodils, forsythia, a star-like blue flower I'm not familiar with, the rhododendrons. One thing I really like is the black soil. Isn't that odd? But for an Okie, that black soil is very exotic. I remember the first time I saw black soil was when I was about 22 years old on a visit to Illinois. I said (sad to say, in all seriousness), "Why do they burn all the flower beds?" And that's when I learned there was something other than RED DIRT!

Lawzie me!:)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Trivia

I didn't know this before today. I found this information on Collagitation. Easter is the only holiday in the christian calendar, where they forgot to change the pagan reference when they booted out the old gods and took it over. Its name still bears homage to the goddess, Oestre. She was, of course, a fertility goddess, hence all the rabbits and eggs.

I've always thought the eggs symbolized the new beginning or breaking through, something like that. Now it all makes sense.

Happy Easter!

Easter is such an interesting holiday for me. I don't feel especially connected to it and yet I feel obligated to participate. Probably a result of my childhood. What else to blame it on? I don't remember big Easter baskets or decorating eggs. Growing up, other than the religious part, my Easter was new shoes, a fancy dress and not being able to wear either one until church on Easter Sunday. I'd look at those shoes, put them on but not be allowed to wear them to church or anywhere else until Easter. What was so important about waiting for that day? I never understood. As I grew into teenage years, Easter was about getting orchid corsages from doey eyed suitors and sewing my own Easter suit or dress. And still, a fancy dress. Easter was church, but church was every Sunday. Easter church was different though. The songs, the flowers, and the fancy dresses.

My favorite Easter memory is a more recent one, when my sister and I went to Europe, not for the holiday, but over the holiday, a few years ago. The fountains in the German villages were decorated with so many hand-painted egg garlands. I'd never seen such decorations before. The women collect hollowed eggs all year long, hand paint them and prepare garlands for the town squares. Yes, hand painted, not dyed. Such detail and so gorgeous! We happened to be in Vienna for Easter. We went to Easter church in the big cathedral there, St. Paul's I think. All the pomp associated with it gave me goosebumps. And though I'm not Catholic, I welled up when the bishop said Happy Easter in English. Easter Monday is as big a deal as the Friday before Easter. Everything shuts down.

The kids downstairs just woke up to find the Easter bunny had been busy all night. Such joy and laughter rattled the walls, I reveled in their hunt.

It's a bright sunny day, perfect for egg hunts. Here's hoping your basket is full!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Fortunes

Here's a painting technique that is easy and versatile and could be used for a lot of different things. On this sheet, I didn't cover the entire page with color, but when you do, it looks almost like stained glass. As I look at these photos, I wish I'd painted more of the white.

I used blue painter's tape to block out small areas of the paper. It's perfect because it has "low tack" and doesn't leave a residue. I filled a dropper with ink and then, not squeezing the bulb, used it to draw lines across the paper. I then took a dry brush and swept across the wet inks. This gave a crosshatched result and some shading. I let that dry about 45 seconds then took a contrasting ink and with a damp brush, painted in some of the white areas. I used acrylic inks to keep it transparent. The purple ink was in a dropper but didn't do as well as the black with the brush. A different kind of ink. It would have been better to use it for painting areas rather than a big swash, I think.

I didn't start out to make something to use fortune cookie fortunes, I was just experimenting, but then, the spaces were the perfect size and I needed to make a retirement card and I had a big bowl of saved fortunes, so . . . there you have it. . . the art process in motion.





Thursday, April 1, 2010

Old to New to Old

We've carted two concrete pots around for about 15 years, have used them but never really "owned" them in terms of giving them any personality. Frankly, they are so heavy that they've ended up residing on the side of the house with nothing planted in them because they just didn't add much to any spot they were put in.

With the new covered porch, we wanted some pots to dress it up. I decided to try my hand at painting these concrete ones and putting them into use again. Here's the "before" picture.



And the "after" picutre.



As much as I didn't know what I was doing, I have to admit this ended up being a fun project and I wondered why it took me so long to try it. I used watered down acrylic paints, painted them on, immediately wiping it off, to try to give it an "old world" look. I used waterproof sealer on it when I was finished.

They look great on the porch and I have a feeling, will look even better when the plants tumble out and they "wear" a little.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Little Known Tidbits

We all have little secret hobbies (ahem), some of which we don't talk about to anyone, and some of which we talk about only to close friends. Well, my close friends, gather round. I'm about to tell you my secret.

For some time, I have taken pictures of random things, yard art being one. Who knew there was an audience for such! Today, lo and behold, I have been recognized for one of my random pics. Take a look. It's totally out of this world!

I submitted a photograph to a blog entitled Along Life's Highway and immediately got a reply from the "editor." This is a fun blog worthy of an occasional, if not daily visit.

And in the Yard Art Game, I scored a big 17 points! Whoa! I'm psyched.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Double Lives

I don't understand how people have multiple residences. Do they have duplicates of everything they love? Are their lives totally different in each location? I'm not there.

In Tulsa without many of my favorite supplies, so to satisfy a need for some creativity, I made a trip to Michael's and bought a good piece of paper, some pearl-ex dry pigments and a few acrylic paints in spring colors to experiment with different background techniques. A sampler of sorts. It's interesting in and of itself to limit myself to a few supplies. I keep thinking, "Oh, I'll use this tool . . . but, oh, it's not here."

Results so far have been satisfying enough to put the next idea -- what to do with these experiments -- in motion. And I even took pictures to post, but, oh, the gizmo that goes to my camera to connect to the computer isn't here.

See what I mean?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Amazing Performance Art

Now, this is a performance. I was absolutely mesmerized by this. I don't know the story behind it, but I just can't believe what she does with sand. Take a look. It is worth 8 minutes of your day. And don't think after a few minutes that you've seen enough.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Eye'm watching you

A Downtown Job


So, this was new to me, but an obvious solution in a city like this. Someone's job is to walk around downtown using what appears to be a heavy-duty fertilizer spreader filled with salt or sand or some mixture thereof, and voila! walkable streets and sidewalks.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Most Beautiful Sound

This morning, waking to freshly fallen snow, I checked the sidewalk which I shoveled TWICE yesterday and saw it was once again "full" and in need of a shovel. I made some coffee and began to think about my day. Lo! a sound, a motor, a neighbor with a snow blower . . . and he's approaching my sidewalk. Will he stop at the driveway or will he continue and do my sidewalk too? Oh, bless his heart, he did not stop. I don't know who he is, except that he has a big ole heart and a snow blower.

He doesn't live next door, maybe around the corner? I saw him on the other side of the street as well. How nice it is to live near a good Samaritan.

I will say that I think he uses discretion about how far to go. For instance, he did not go any farther than my house. In my mind, I think he saw that I had made the effort yesterday and the next house had not. (Although I did do a one time shovel of her sidewalk early). I don't care his rationale, I love being on the receiving end this morning.

And just FYI, as of 6 p.m. last night, Pittsburgh had received 42.8 inches of snow this month. It's one for the record books.

Monday, February 22, 2010

An Incentive

I had a very frustrating day driving over the weekend, trying to find my way to of all places Walmart. Walmart is not my favorite spot and why on earth I chose Sunday afternoon to do this, I'll never know. When I say frustrating, I mean something like two hours driving in what seemed to be circles, cloverleafs, and various over- and underpasses. Pittsburgh has so many hills, you can't see what's on top, unlike the Oklahoma landscape where you can see for miles. I found out later that this area is something I liken to 71st and Memorial at Christmas, except there are more roads, more cars, more options. And I won't visit 71st & Memorial unless I absolutely have to. Now I know.

My next adventure will be downtown Pittsburgh. My incentive? Joshua Bell is performing March 2 and I bought a ticket. I'm so excited. I have listened to his Romance of the Violins, oh, maybe 500+ times. It's my favorite morning music. Even Lucy likes it. "Yaya, that music is so pretty." She calls it Prince and Princess music.

I will make several trial runs to Heinz Hall; I will Google, Mapquest, do whatever necessary to get there on time and in a peaceful frame of mind. No way will I arrive frustrated.

NOTE: if you haven't read or heard of the experiment in Washington, with him playing in the train station . . . see the video below. How many beautiful things do we miss by just not paying attention?



and the story itself is worth a read here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just Being

I have my list of work tasks; my list of calligraphy projects and here I sit watching it snow. I will absolutely get out today for a much needed hair appointment, even if I have to walk.

Although I am determined not to miss "my destiny," I'm also aware of not forcing things. Letting things unfold as they will. Almost like a stilted conversation, where you sit and listen and don't respond immediately and the other person continues to talk and spill out their thoughts until there's a connection. Still, there's always that voice in the back of my mind that tells me to do something. To say something. Is this enough? What now? What next?

It's the simple act of being, of doing nothing that is so difficult sometimes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Banana Recovery


It bothered me all night. I couldn't really believe that it could be the pan that caused my banana bread not to cook. It had to be the oven. Never in a million years did I think it was me. But, it's confession time. I forgot to put in the baking soda yesterday. That was the problem. I made another loaf today and it was (almost) perfection.

I'm so happy I'll be able to use my gorgeous loaf pan for its intended purpose.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Banana Bust!

Sad to say the banana bread was a bust. A different oven, a new pan and my same trusty recipe did not work well together. I don't think anyone really cared except me. The bread would not cook in the middle. Even after much extra oven time, the entire interior of the loaf was doughy. Very strange.

I'll find another worthy recipe for the pan though. It's so beautiful, I have to have it dedicated for something special.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Settling In

Tom left Monday to go back to Tulsa and I have to admit when I went to bed, I felt disoriented and wondering about this move. I felt very alone. Of course, having 22 inches of snow on the ground, being exhausted from a week of non-stop settling-in activities, and then getting a cold on top of all that, did not help. I slept for 12 hours, just to give you an idea how fatigued I was.

Today, I mustered the energy to brave the roads and find my way to Target and the grocery store. This was huge! It's one thing to learn your way around in a new city; it's something else to attempt it with all the snow. The amount of energy this move has taken has been overwhelming. I wasn't prepared for the brain freeze or the glazed eyes. I've always adapted pretty easily, found my way around, and been pretty cavalier about things. This had been different. Of course, I'm older and it's been a long time since I've introduced anything new into my life. It's been very interesting to say the least and I'm sure it's recharging some brain cells I've let lay idle.

Tonight, there's fresh snow falling, a predicted 3-6 inches on top of our 22, and the promise of even more tomorrow. I am nestled in my 98% settled spot with some Missouri wine which is surprisingly good, some NPR jazz and a book that may be so-so. No cable yet, which is interesting in and of itself.

Tomorrow I have a date with Lucy to make banana bread, her favorite. My birthday present from my sister was a Polish pottery loaf pan made especially for banana bread (our interpretation of its purpose). You can expect a picture tomorrow of the finished product.

I better get a good night's sleep because Lucy is not one to be taken lightly.

Happiness Blogging Award


This morning when I read Cindy's Clipboard, I discovered she had passed along the Happiness Blogging Award to me. What a great way to start the day!

I'm supposed to list 10 things I love and pass this on to 10 bloggers. This is pretty hard, because today I'm loving just about everything. Here are my top 10:

1. My (very!) supportive husband
2. My daughter & her family
3. My sister
4. The way a piece of art finishes off a room
5. Completing a project
6. Braking in a long line of traffic to let a car in
7. Five-cheese Mac at TGI Friday's (would love to have some right this very minute!)
8. The phrases and sentences that Lucy comes up with to describe a situation
9. Well-executed calligraphy
10.My new place in Pittsburgh as it comes together

Now, I don't mean to blow this but I am not going to pass this on to 10 bloggers. Not because there aren't 10 blogs that I love and read religiously, but I know they don't read me, so what's the point?

Thanks, Cindy, for the recognition.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Here's the Difference

Yesterday the weather forecast here was 8-14" inches of snow, and they were right on target. But here's the difference. The snowploughs were staged on the highways by mid-afternoon. By early evening, trucks were spraying, scattering salt or sand on my street. This morning, the snowplough has been down my street three times already. Too bad they don't do driveways!

Here's the view from my "sun" room . . .

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The First Pittsblog

We left 8 inches of snow in Oklahoma and drove to Pittsburgh. Some would question the sanity of that, but already it's worth it. When a little one tells you "I love you as much as how far you used to live," well, you can see what I mean.

We arrived Sunday evening, with no intention of unloading the truck. We were dead tired, brain dead and just glad to be here. But when you add two young boys willing to carry stuff up stairs trying to see how strong they are, a son-in-law who is incredibly strong with just a touch of ADD, and a daughter who is in shape and energetic from corralling the entire crew, a 16 ft. truck can be unloaded in nothing flat. When it was all said and done, it was definitely the right thing to do. Tom and I worked that night assembling the bed and literally fell into it. Nighty night.

Monday morning we walked less than a block to a restaurant to fortify ourselves for the day's work, then the fun began. Right now, we're about 90% unpacked and organized. The main area left is my art room and office, which requires a trip to IKEA and that's the plan for today. I'm ready to get set up and have a bit of my old routines in place. There are plenty of new routines, one of which is using a French press for coffee. Only one day of it, but I'd say I'm hooked.

Right now, I can hear the train rattling down the track. This is a new sound for me. Not a bad one, just a new one. Lots of new sounds and sights. One thing we have commented on is that people here drive slower. The speed limits are slower. Lots of bifurcated streets (love that word and I've heard it so many times lately, for some reason.) And from what I've read, Pittsburgh drivers are rated #1 for courtesy. I'll let you know. I have a feeling my driving here will test their patience.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

If I Were a White Book, I'd Live Here

There's something about hotel decor. It's bigger than life. It's bold. It's something you'd never have in your house. The Lorien Hotel in Alexandria, VA, is a boutique (Klimpton) hotel. I've stayed here before and am always fascinated by the "book room." It's an area off the lobby where they provide complimentary coffee in the morning and wine in the evening, both of which I've enjoyed. It's a calming room with just enough interest to offset the sterile personality.

One wall, about 15 feet long, floor to ceiling, is solid bookshelves with every single book wrapped in a white-enamel paper book jacket. White and off-white plaster decorations serve as bookends and break up the monotony of the books. Shelves are painted a soft tan. I am actually quite taken with this wall, whereas some people come in and are completely put off and angered by it. To me, the entire wall is a piece of art. The people angered say things like "How could they cover up the titles of those books?" "Why would anyone do that?" "Who does these things?"


The rug in the room has a soft fudge border with a grey-blue interior. A sofa, about the color of the border, faces the book shelves and has four oversized end pillows. Rather than the usual 14" sized pillows, these are 24" square. Two are soft blue; two are cream. Other furniture includes gray leather cubes, matching the interior of the rug. In front of the book shelves is a black lacquer drop-leaf table with an over-sized white porcelain rose and a black iron bird sculpture. The table lamp has a clear glass base and a white shade.

The coffee table in front of the sofa is an 8 ft. long leather ottoman. On top of it is a wooden tray that covers the majority of the tufted leather. In the tray is a tall, white square vase with fresh white hydrangeas, a white lacquer box and a gi-normous hand that I absolutely love!



Two tan wing backs and two dark blue club chairs complete the setting.
But there's one more thing. Above the sofa is mirror, 8 ft. long, 4 ft. tall. It's as if the designer wanted to be sure that you could see (and enjoy) the white book art anywhere you sat. With the placement of that mirror, you never lose sight of the books. And that's why I think it's art.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Perspective

It's an interesting exercise to go through your life's accumulations and see what you want to take with you to set up a new life. It's especially interesting when you want to leave your current life looking as if nothing has changed. I have stacks of boxes in the garage ready to go to Pittsburgh, and yet nothing seems to be missing from our house. Only when I unpack and start trying to make an empty place feel familiar will I know what I'm missing.

One thing I've had a difficult time with during this process is over-thinking. Thinking about things from every angle, trying to figure out solutions for things that don't exist yet. I've had to make a conscious effort to step back and realize that nothing will be of universal proportion and things will unfold as they are meant to. I've had to remind myself that I'm not in control and crazy thinking will definitely make me crazy.

The countdown is here. This time next week, I'll be writing from Pittsburgh!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Resolution for the Day

Henry Moore said, and I quote, I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the year's. I like this. Much more manageable. Not as much pressure. I can do this.