Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Love and Fear....

I discovered this post, I started several months ago. Clearly, sometimes I forget to come back to half started posts.  But this is a good one-too good to delete or leave in limbo. A good reminder for me and hopefully helpful to you.  

I've been a people watcher for a long time.  It's a coping mechanism for me that I learned at a young age because there was violence in my childhood home.  Kids learn to watch people and detect signs of mood swings as a way of learning how to interact socially.  Multiply this by 'n' for kids who live with domestic violence.  Learning to identify the early signs, and then to decipher triggers can powerfully and positively alter your daily life.

Because I'd developed this habit of watching and then trying to decipher the why's of the behaviors or reactions, I continued to do it even after the violence had left my day to day existence.  I still do it today.  People are fascinating.  And it's this watching, observing and consideration that brings me to this post.

We label emotions a lot of things.  Like, adoration, admiration, warmth, joy, comfort, happiness, contentment...  What I've come to believe, is that there are only 2 emotions.  Love and fear.  That's it.  

We can call it whatever we want, but either you are feeling love or you are feeling fear.  When you are feeling love, it manifests itself into a hug, or a smile or doing your work well.  When you are feeling fear, it manifests itself as jealousy, rage, depression, envy, humiliation.  

When you are on the love side, you feel good.  If you don't feel good, you are on the fear side.  Our emotions tell us whether or not we are listening to our love thoughts or listening to our fear thoughts.

I need reminding of this sometimes and like most things on this blog, this post is really a gentle reminder to myself to recognize when I'm feeling fear and to scooch right back over to the light.  

Saying goodbye to the Year of Light

I've read a couple of blog entries with wonderfully insightful reviews of 2013 and I thought for a brief moment that I might create such an entry for myself. But as I'm sitting here, I'm just not feeling it. I feel ready to greet 2014 without a review. Besides, I've documented plenty of 2013 on this blog. All I really have to add is this:

It is New Year's Eve and thus ends the Year of Light. 2013 was a really good year for me. I've learned a lot about myself. I'm thankful for that with a depth of gratitude I'll not be able to adequately express. Every day this year I have become more and more comfortable being me. Since God dwells within me as me, being me is the most important work I do.

Thank you Year of Light. Thank You!

Happy New Year's Eve to you and yours.

Blissful Christmas!

It is New Year's Eve, but I wanted to include a brief entry filled with gratitude for this Christmas week. I've been on vacation since the 19th of December and it has been fabulous. We've taken each day as it arrived without expectation and let it unfold. Heaven! Sure there have been things to do, but the freedom and peace to allow each day to just be has been magical.

I was talking to a friend yesterday who asked about our Christmas and blissful rolled right off my tongue. It was really and truly blissful. Quiet, loud, busy, active,  This year I made a point to watch the faces of my kids as they opened gifts. Watching the emotions flicker across...  In those moments, I felt transported through the years, yet totally present in this one. It's the weirdest parental phenomenon, to look at your adult children and yet see them through the ages, like layers in a kaleidoscope. I love being a parent. It's the most challenging and joyous thing I've ever done and especially during this time of year, I am overwhelmingly thankful.

We bookended Christmas with two family gatherings on the Saturday's before and after. So it really has been a Christmas week for us. One for the books. Or rather just one book, the book of Love.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas Eve

Dare you not to sway and sing along with Annie and Al! from Scrooged!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Santa Hat Brownies

We went to a family gathering yesterday and I took these!

From Pinterest came the inspiration-you've probably seen the Strawberry version. I used raspberries because the strawberries looked sketchy, but in the end I like them better. They are smaller, easier to eat in one or two bites and the raspberries and chocolate are a thing of beauty! Besides, I have a thing for small desserts. I'm not a huge sweet eater and I generally skip dessert because I rarely want the whole serving. Bite size desserts are perfect for me.

To make perfect circles, I purchased a set of 1 round cutters that begins with 3/4 and ends at 3 5/8. I tested the sizes until I found one that suited the raspberries, then went to town. This is an easy dessert with a big wow factor.

Typically I make brownies from chocolate squares, but I was fresh out, so off the web...  I used this recipe and can highly recommend. The brownies were delicious, chocolatey and cut like a dream! I used mini chips - don't know if that makes a difference or not, but wanted to mention it.

I made whipped cream from heavy cream and a sprinkle of sugar, which I put in a zipper bag with a star tip in one corner. Piping a ring along the outer edge of the brownie, my husband put the raspberry in place and I put the smallest dot of whipped cream on the top.  I think they look cute and they were totally delicious.

Are you admiring the photos? Don't they look good? Yep, my son took these pictures! Nice, aren't they!

Thursday, December 19, 2013


I've been feeling very creative recently, which can I just take a moment to feel very thankful? Sigh, smile, bliss. Sometimes, I find myself in a vaccuum, where I'm separate from my mojo. But not now! I'm in the flow and it is good! This week I sent cheery holiday themed earrings to my best gals. My son says, why not your other nieces, since I mailed to only one... I said it's because they are holiday themed and not many young ones enjoy those. Am I wrong? or do you agree? So I made the executive decision to mail to my friends, sister, sisters in law, daughter, daughters in law, mother in law and just one niece.

Anyway, I made trees (two versions), snowmen (two versions), santa hats, and penguins. As per usual, I mailed off the items before I snapped pictures, so tonight I made more, except the penguins, they are gone. As is also usual, the pics are questionable. I apologize. I found the tree patterns on the web and hand made those with green wire. The snowmen with faces (not including the hat) are a single lampwork bead and I used two different magnetic beads to make the hat. The other snowman was a kit that came with all the parts. The santa hats are lampwork as well.  It was fun, fun, fun to make and mail them off. I love getting mail almost as much as I love sending mail!

I am also on a very intense knitting schedule, that has created a strain in my upper arm. A knitting injury. What the heckle? Is that even possible. I'd have said no, but since it's worse when I finish a knitting bout, I know that's the cause. Clearly knitting is for warriors! hee hee...

Sharing some more cheer!

Someone at work shared this video below... We all 'felt' it and shared it with our husbands. One husband said "That's a good marketing ploy. They didn't even spend any money on advertising, just put it on YouTube."

Yes it's a good marketing idea. What is wrong with that? They are in the business to make money... so am I. The difference between this and a beer commercial is that this touched every single person in it, in a real way that is visible on their faces. It touched me, too.

I hope it brings you some joy, too!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fill the Air with Joyful Noise...

There are so many wonderful things happening around the world and I'm doing my part to share them through this blog. Let us carry into the new year the love of Christmas! Let it begin with me.

I discovered this song, through a commercial. The words totally grabbed me. I dare you to listen and not think it great! Triple dog dare you!    

Jordin Sparks... This is My Wish

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Harnessing the energies of love...

“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” ~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Friday, December 6, 2013

What is going on?

Yesterday my son was walking through the small town where he works and while in a crosswalk, was hit by an SUV. The driver neither asked if he was okay nor stopped. What the hell is that? Seriously?!

Thank God, my son is okay, though I imagine he will be sore today.

I've been sitting here trying to put into words all the thoughts going through my head and a great many of them are unkind, mean, and not for public consumption.

So, I think I'll leave it at this: If you are driving a car, then you are responsible for any and every thing that occurs while you are driving it. Leaving is not an option, whether you ding someone's door or run into a pedestrian. You accept the responsibility by choosing to drive. Period. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What do you really, really want to do...

Here's the question of the day... What do you really, really want to do?

Have you seen the commercial for retirement planning where the guy asks people what would they be or do if money, education and time were not a consideration. I saw it for the first time yesterday and found myself without a response. 

Most of my life, I thought my dream job was writing. But yesterday when that was not the first thought in my head, and in fact there really wasn't a first thought, it gave me pause. Serious pause. I know with absolute certainty that if money were not a consideration, I would not do the work I do. Not because I hate any aspect of it, but simply because I don't love it. 

I like to be creative. I like making things. Cooking, sewing, crocheting, baking, knitting... I always imagined that I'd have some sort of artistic or creative job. But, I'm good with numbers and computers, which are much more in demand and that's how I ended up doing the work I do.

I once saw a show about a woman who'd been a stay at home wife and mother from the time she was first pregnant. Even after her children were grown and had families of her own, she never thought of going back to the career she had. The interviewer asked her about that and she said with complete and total ease, that being a wife and mother was her true purpose and that it had transformed as her children grew up didn't change the fact that it was her purpose. For her there was no going back.

Why does this snippet of an interview stick with me, years later? I'll tell you... this woman, even in the face of the interviewer who was clearly looking down his nose at her "non-occupation", was assured in her choice. When he asked the question, you could see her 'wheels' turning and she responded so genuinely to him that I wholeheartedly believed her. She meant it and she sticks with me because I want that surety. I don't want the same work she does, I want the confidence in my choices.

So, does it mean anything that I didn't have a response to a commercial? Of course, I think no it doesn't. But some part of me is thinking about it, and thus this post.

I know there are people who ponder these things, too. So if you are reading this and have any insight to share, please do! I'm curious.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Crock Pot Wonder

Here is a crock pot wonder I've 'adjusted' from a food show I like.  We had it for dinner tonight and it's a big hit!

Into the crock pot go the following items:

2-3 pound chuck roast
1 large or 2 small onions sliced in long strips or rings
1 jar of pepperoncini - including the liquid
1 cup beef broth
3 cloves garlic
1 potato quartered, no need to peel

Let it cook on high for at least 5 hours. The potato is just to absorb salt, because sometimes the broth can be too salty. I mean, you can eat it if you want to, I know I did ;-).

Once it's cooked, shred the beef. This delicious mixture goes on any kind of roll or bun or tortilla. The peppers are spicy and we pick off the stems as we make our sandwiches. They won't hurt you, I just think they're woody. You can top with your choice of toppings. I haven't had this a way I didn't like. I've had them with nothing other than the broth on a crusty roll and it's delicious. I've also topped with cheese, lettuce, and tomato - equally delicious. My husband is a mayonnaise addict and regularly puts mayo on his. I think you can put anything on it and it will be delicious.  

Today we had slider buns and I went classic: meat & pepper with a small scoop of broth. mmm, mmmmmm!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mini Cheesecakes

For Thanksgiving, I made mini cheesecakes...

I used this recipe from the Kraft website.

I made two versions, chocolate chip and fruit.

I used a Chips Ahoy Chewy chocolate chip cookie as the crust for the chocolate chip version. For the other, I had planned to use Nilla Wafers, which I'd been led to believe you could just drop them in as the crust. But, the size of the wafer is too small for regular cupcake tins and too large for mini cupcake tins. So, I crumbled them and used them just like graham crackers as the recipe calls for.

When the cheesecakes came out of the oven, they were very puffy, which when they'd cooled left the top concave. I decided to put a dollop of whipped cream into the indent to camouflage. I let them cool completely on the counter, then into the fridge for an hour.

I keep heavy cream in the fridge, so I whipped up a 1/4 cup with 2 t. sugar. While that was whipping, I peeled the liners off of each cheesecake. A dollop in the dent, which I swirled with the back of the spoon. Once I'd topped all the plain ones, I added cocoa and a little more sugar to the remaining whipped cream for the chocolate chip variety. Then I set fresh berries on the plain and a sprinkling of chips on the others.

They looked very pretty and tasted even better. Both were delicious, the cookie worked perfectly, but the fruit are my favorite. I love the contrast of the tart fruit with the creamy silkiness of the cheesecake.

Well, I have a pic of the chocolate chip variety, which I took on my phone and I'm waiting, waiting, waiting on it to ever arrive in my email, so I can edit and add to this post. Sometime, when that ever happens, I'll post the other pic. Whew! The internet finally caught up with my impatient self, so the pic is posted!

For now, take a look at that countertop! I still very much love it. Everything looks great with it as the back drop!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Revelations on Black Friday

Confession: I used to read a lot. When I was younger, I read voraciously. I still love books and check out lots and lots of them from the library. I find myself unable to read most books cover to cover. I am having trouble "getting into them" you see. I read and re-read paragraphs and chapters because I can't retain the details. It's upsetting to me. I love books. They've been my friends and teachers and I miss reading. I've missed it enough to spend time thinking about it and to write this entry.

There are two culprits, I think:

First, I have a lot of chatter inside my head. On any given day, there are a lot of thoughts, arguments, counter arguments, re-enactments, grumblings, solutions, and challenges rattling around in my head. It's terribly distracting. A book has to be really good to win the battle against the chatter.

Second, my household is vibrant and busy. It's a GOOD problem to have, and one which I'm very grateful for. I only bring it up because I realize this also contributes to the difficulty in plugging into a book. There is almost no time when there aren't people up and about in my house. My husband is an early bird. He is habitually up by 6 and often gets up before then. My kids are night owls and it's not unusual for them to be up until 2 or 3 in the morning. I fall in between - I like to be asleep by 11 and awake by 7. Because we are all on varying sleep and work schedules, there is no downtime in this house. At least, no regular downtime.

I don't have the ability to tune people out. Do you? I am sitting here typing this blog, while my youngest is watching a TV show in one room, my oldest is making food in the kitchen and my husband is snoring in the bedroom. I hear it all and can tell you exactly what the TV show is about and can repeat dialogue, even. There is virtually no way I can read a book in this house, most days. aaahhhh. interesting.

Same thing goes for meditating, a practice I began this year as part of the year of light. It's really hard to find any quiet time to meditate, for the exact same reasons as above. I miss meditating, too. I was getting really frustrated with myself because I'd be in the middle of a meditation and get distracted and... yada, yada, yada.

But, it's not like I would choose a different life. I love my noisy, vibrant family. I love their quirkiness and endless variety and wouldn't want to change any of it. I LOVE THIS MAGIC BLOG! I just needed to figure out what had changed to understand it. Now that I do, I feel fine with this change. Books will always be around and when time allows, I'll read them. Until then, I'll just keep plugged into the love and lunacy of my family and forgive the books, and forgive the meditation, and relax. All is Good!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Gobble, gobble to you and yours! For the first time in years, we are going somewhere else for Thanksgiving. We've spent the last few years, staying in, just us. It's a quiet and wonderfully intense family day. I will miss that, but am looking forward to today because it includes some of my favorite family members.

I've spent the morning making two kinds of home-made rolls, mini-cheesecakes and green beans. Okay, we are also making a turkey because we can't stand the idea of no left overs! Ha!

May your day hold things to make you smile!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Vanilla Extract Update

16 oz
Here is a picture of the extract I started mid October... It's been sitting the lower portion of
8 oz
the hutch all this time. It's fun to watch it progress. Initially, the liquid was clear, as vodka is. Each week, the color deepens. The two bottles look the same in the small pictures, but you can tell the smaller bottle because the vanilla beans are cut in half so they would fit. I opened a bottle to smell it today as I was reading a Pinterest post that says as soon as it smells like vanilla, it's good to go. It smells heavenly, but I think it needs to darken, so back into the hutch it goes.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fermenting Revisted

I've set some more veggies to ferment:  Carrots, onions, cabbage and celery.

I enjoy dilly flavored items, with a little heat, so my go to fermenting method is this:

3 T. of sea salt (non-iodized)
1 Quart of warm water

Dissolve the salt by stirring it in the warm water. Set aside.

Prepare the veggies. As near as I can tell, there isn't any kind of vegetable you cannot ferment. There's a lot of discussion about self brining and added brining. I am no expert and I recommend you do as I did, read everything you can and make educated choices. I've yet to make anything by self brining because I don't feel confident. Even with cabbage, I top off the jar with brine.

Back to the veggies... I did both carrot sticks and rounds. No special reason, just for variety. I also did alternating slices of red and yellow onions. Again, no special reason. Celery sticks that grew from the end of a grocery store purchase that I planted in the garden is in one jar. My husband picked it today and mostly it's tiny stalks, but hopefully it will be tasty. There are three jars of cabbage, as well. Decide how you are going to cut the veggies (I don't think it matters for fermenting what way you choose, it's only your preference), then pack the jars.

To each jar:

1/4 t. Dill weed
1/4 t. Dill seed
1/4 t. Red Pepper flakes
1/2 t. Peppercorns
2-3   Garlic Cloves

Note: for the cabbage, I skipped the dill weed & seed. I put peppercorns in one, peppercorns and garlic in another and red pepper flakes, peppercorns and garlic in the last. It's my first go around with cabbage and I wanted a variety to see what I like best. I wonder if anyone has done a slaw? I like slaw on sandwiches and burgers occasionally and I wonder how fermented slaw would be? hmmm....

The key to fermenting is keeping the veggies under the brine. This is somewhat tricky and I've tried several methods and none of them worked ideally. You want to find a way to keep the veggies submerged, yet allow the gas to escape. I'm trying plastic mesh this go around, the sort used to do needlepoint (picture tissue box covers). I cut them into rough circles, using a wide mouth mason jar lid as a guide, cutting them slightly larger than the lid - maybe 1/4 inch bigger all the way around. Then squish it into the jar, pushing all the veggies down. I used small mouth quart jars and once the plastic gets down to the shoulders of the jar, it will stay put even when the brine is added. And it has holes, which should allow the gas to escape. I'll let you know how it works~

Once you have your veggies, seasoning and mesh circle in the jar, it's time to fill it with brine. You want to fill into the neck of the jar, to ensure the veggies will remain submerged. I keep mine under a towel looking at it a couple of times a day.

This is the first day and the bubbling is beginning. I've stuck my finger in each jar, poking the mesh to jiggle the bubbles loose.  Especially the cabbage, which has a lot of air trapped in the shredded layers.
Curious about other things we fermented?  My all time favorite was the salsa, made from tomatoes from the garden. I made a second batch with tomatoes from the store - AWFUL. Actually it was good the first day, but after that, the tomatoes turned to mush and I just couldn't eat it. The first batch was a thing of beauty, though. Salty, tangy, spicy, chunky and delicious. From the first day to the last, which was about three weeks, the veggies though they softened, never became mush.

Fermented ketchup - mixed reviews. Primarily because the spices. It didn't taste like a ketchup any one of us had ever had. It was a weird mix somewhere between a bloody mary and barbecue sauce.

Ginger Carrots - I enjoyed these, but not as much as the dilly carrots. If I make again, I'll add dill seasoning in addition to the ginger I think.

Pickles - we still have pickles from summer. The smaller cucumbers make the best pickles. They are still very delicious, even after all this time. This summer, I tried to use every cucumber and next year I will not. I'll be more selective because once they grow larger than about an inch or 1 1/2 inches in diameter, the centers just do not hold up. As in they dissolve away and are a tad slimy.

If you have questions, please feel free to ask. If you are also fermenting, please, please, share your adventures!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sunday Reflections...

Yesterday I watched the one of my regular food shows and french bread pizzas were featured. Can I tell you something? Until I watched that show, I really never thought of making my own. Silly, I know. So, I decided to make some sourdough rolls about 6". Didn't they turn out pretty? Here is my tip if you are baking and wanting to achieve this golden brown color... Bake them as directed and then about 5 minutes before you take them out, baste with melted butter. The bread it hot and the butter starts sizzling right away and you end up with this beautiful color. The directions on the recipe recommended an egg wash, but I prefer the butter. I've tried putting the butter on at the beginning of the baking, but these bake at 450 and it's too brown for me.

We made pizzas today, slicing each roll in half and each of us were able to top it how we wanted. They bake in the oven for 375 for 20 minutes. Note: how long you cook them is up to you. It also depends on how many toppings you add and what kind of bread you are using. Homemade bread is denser than store bought and needs a longer time in the oven. I don't know why, exactly, probably some kind of additive or something. Anyway, I started checking at 15 minutes. I was waiting for the cheese to brown and the bonus was that the bread was lovely and crunchy. So for us it was 20 minutes at 375. I apologize for not taking a picture of the finished pizza, but by the time the twenty minutes were up, we were all too intent on eating to take pictures.

There is a small group of iris outside the kitchen window. I can see them from the sink. They are deep, deep purple and smaller than the others I have around the house. This year, they've decided to bloom twice. It's such a lovely gift from nature. See for yourself! Just another example of the abundance of life.

Well, it turns out I forgot to finish this post yesterday, so now it's Sunday-Monday Reflections.

The dishwasher is on the fritz and the replacement part doesn't arrive until tomorrow. Yes, I know plenty of people do without a dishwasher. But when you are used to it and it is integral to your cooking routine, it's so irritating. Whiny! Yes I am; don't hold it against me.

For anyone else who might be considering giving up caffeine... I am not caffeine dependent, though I do occasionally partake. Most of the time when I have one it's because I want it, but there have been one or two days after a sleepless night when I've used the caffeine to get through the long afternoon. A friend of mine says she feels "much better" without caffeine. I can't say there has been a dramatic change in any area of my life, though I do sleep more consistently. Mostly I wanted to get away from the 'need' for caffeine and I've done that. I didn't want to always be thinking about Diet Coke and now I don't. Oh, I think my teeth and gums are healthier. Which is weird to me as I didn't know pop had that effect. All in all, it was a good decision and one I've been able to easily live with.

Well, that's about it for the musings. I'm off to work this day. Hope you had a good weekend.

Today is Veteren's Day. For every soldier and their families: Thank you!
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Odd Items on Pinterest

First let me say this: I love Pinterest.

This also has to be said, some people collect the oddest categories of pins.  Side note, here, but very important: if you think my pins are odd, please don't tell me. In this moment, ignorance is bliss.

$10, Vintage Christmas Corsage - 1960's - In Original BoxToday, I was minding my own business when someone I "follow" started pinning "Christmas Corsages". Is that a thing? I mean it must be because she pinned like a dozen before I could hit the "unfollow" button. No really, is that a thing?!

Okay, it's not my thing and it's never going to be my thing, but I had no idea that was really a thing!  I'm including this picture, which I found on the net, but you will want to search them out. This one is a nice one, vintage and I can actually see someone wearing this on their coat. But some of them... oh my.  I saw one with a tree that was 6 or 8 inches tall!

Has anyone ever seen the David Letterman skit "Is this Anything"? Sometimes I wonder if I'm in such a skit. I'll be David, you be Paul.... Christmas Corsages... Is this something or is it nothing?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Daring Greatly

So, the book I mentioned a couple of posts ago is called Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. by Dr. Brene Brown.

I don't know how to say how much this book means to me. I feel changed for the better. It's amazing and I'd wish for everyone to read it. I love it almost too much. I've talked about it with everyone I know. Okay, here's the weird and honest truth... When I love something this much I'm stunned and amazed when other people don't. I don't have this same reaction to things I like or even really like. It's just when I really love something... like Sopapilla Cheesecake Squares or Valentine's Day gifts for my kids or pot roast carrots or Jane Austen.

So, I really love this book. I started reading this book after watching her TED Talk. Have you been to TED.com? OMG! It's a website with the tagline of "Ideas Worth Sharing". It's the most amazing site and I recommend it highly. Anyway, Brene Brown has two TED Talks and both are really, really good. Once I'd watched the first one, I was hooked. I checked out books from the library, found her website, and the obsession was in full swing.

First let me say, it's non-fiction. As if you can't tell by the title, but someone I talked to was surprised it's non fiction. I enjoy non fiction, but even if you don't, please think about reading her books.

The other thing I will say is that she gives definition to ideas I've been talking about on this blog - - shame and guilt and a whole host of others. Her definitions, built from years of research, helped me to be able to express what I've been feeling and trying somewhat unsuccessfully to verbalize. She also introduced me to her concept of Whole Hearted Living, which, of course, I want! Whole Heartedness is a term I hadn't really thought about before reading this book, but is a way of living and being that I've been striving for. It's a concept that I didn't have a name for, which is part of the reason this book means so much to me, I know. I've been looking for a way to unravel my emotions and understand why I react the way I do, sometimes. There is great power in giving things a name.

Brene Brown is funny and upfront in a way that I totally love. Interspersed in the book are personal stories from the research participants and the author that illustrate the concepts presented. They are helpful, funny, sometimes raw, touching and REAL. The book is also filled with statistics and research data, and that takes some attention for those of us who don't love data. But, my oh my, is it worth it! She has explored just what it means to be and live whole-heartedly with the help of thousands of research participants and the book tells the story. Every chapter is mind blowing and she fills the pages with little gems like:“Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight, but probably won my life back.” and "Courage is telling our story, not being immune to criticism." and "You're imperfect and wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging."

At the risk of scaring people off with my enthusiasm, all I'm really going to say about the book is this: It's good, really good. I found hope and healing and understanding reading it. I think there is value for everyone, but I firmly believe that we all find the wisdom we need when we are ready and not a moment sooner.

So, if you read the book and don't like it, no biggie. If you read it and like it, let's talk!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fall Back, a welcome visit and Vanilla Extract

I love fall back Sunday.  I know it's more a trick of the mind, but I totally love the extra hour.  I slept deep and really well last night.  When I woke up, thinking it was late, it was only 7:12.  That was the first best part of the day!

My youngest, a sophomore in college, is home for a visit! Oh my, is it good to walk through the house and see his face looking back at me.

This day seems like it's been going on forever and it coincides with a visit from my sweet little boy. It doesn't get much better than that.

Two weeks ago I started a batch, my first batch, of Vanilla Extract. I found an entry on Pinterest and when I calculated the amount of money I spend per ounce from the store, it was a no-brainer. I priced the extract at all the stores around me and the least expensive, not imitation, was $2.25 an ounce. While I try to buy it on sale, sometimes a girl's just gotta make cookies even when supplies aren't on sale. So the last one I purchased was $3.39 an ounce. It was on this day I decided to make my own now, not later.

This is what I did... I took my 24 year old to the liquor store and said help me pick out a vodka that is drinkable, but not top shelf. We chose a bottle that was $12.99 for 750ml, which is 25-ish ounces. Then on a shopping trip with my best guys, we visited our favorite 'little bit of everything' store and found 4 - 8 oz. swing top bottles and 2 - 16 oz. ones for $1.99 each. I'd already ordered beans online and they'd arrived within 2 days!  Two weeks ago, I cut the beans in half, so they were short enough to fit into the 8 oz. bottle, then split them down the middle leaving the tip intact.  I put 6 halves into each bottle, then filled with vodka. For the 16 ounces, I put in 6 beans that I did not need to cut in half because the bottle was tall enough for the whole beans... I did split them though. I closed the lids and put them in the hutch in the front room to become the most magical of baking ingredients.

In case you are wondering about the math, here's how it breaks down: beans were 16.99 (shipping included) for 25, which is $0.68 per bean. Vodka is $0.52 per ounce.  Each bottle holds 8 ounces vodka and 3 beans $4.16 + $2.04 = $6.20.  That's $0.77 per ounce!   That's 1/4 the cost of the last bottle I purchased - woo.  If we include the cost of the bottles, it works out to be $1.02 per ounce and even that is less than 1/3 the cost of that last bottle I purchased.  Ohmygoodness!

The only hitch in this plan is the time... It takes 6-8 weeks to create extract.

It's a win I think.  And I'm sure you are wondering... what on earth am I going to do with 64 oz of vanilla extract... I plan to give it away for Christmas.  I'm hoping to find some smaller bottles sometime between now and then, because 4 ounces is probably good for most folks. The two 16 oz bottles can become 8-4oz bottles. So, fingers crossed.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Corn Thief and the Wannabe's

Our property is surrounded by farm land on three sides. This year the farmers planted corn around us. We all love the corn. It noticeably grows every day, the leaves dance in the wind and when it's tall, we have a private oasis. Now it's fall and the corn is ready to harvest. The leaves, as they dry out, rattle together and sound like voices. It's a tiny bit spooky and perfect for this time of year.

Occasionally, the dog will decide a corn stalk is the perfect afternoon snack. She wanders over to the corn, selects a likely stalk and bites down and yanks until she pulls it out of the ground. (I have mentioned her love of eating all things, haven't I? Pine cones, gourds, dried moss... Oh it's a long list) The other day, she had just scored her afternoon snack of corn and took it out beside the pond to enjoy the warm sun, when the chickens spied her. Seeing she was eating they came running and began pecking the stalk to see what Daisy was enjoying.

Daisy leaped up with her stalk firmly clenched between her teeth and took off to find a safe spot, the stalk bouncing along the ground behind her. The chickens were in hot pursuit. No way were they letting that go so easily. Chickens firmly believe if it's good, run away with it. Since Daisy was running, it must be good. She tried a to find a spot to enjoy her corn, but the chickens caught up each time. She finally wised up and just took the ear of corn, leaving the chickens the stalk. So, Daisy left with the good stuff, the chickens pecked the stalk, determining it wasn't all that good and wandered away. Chickens are not all that bright. Daisy enjoyed her corn in peace.

This picture does not do the tale justice. The whole time my husband and I are watching the scene play out, I'm thinking I wish I had my camera, but no such luck. I used by phone to snap as Daisy was just getting ready to bolt with the ear of corn, leaving the stalk for the chickens. It was from a pretty far distance and the details are fuzzy. But, I didn't want to miss the action to try and find my camera. I wonder where that camera is? Hmmm....

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

First Snow...

It's snowing here!

Long time ago, when our local paper was written, in large part, by residents, there was a weekly column called "Between the Rows". The columnist, a farmer named Carey Glaze, wrote about an old farmer's tale that said the date of the first snow equals the number of snows to come during winter.  So today is the 23rd... 23 snows. YIKES.

I don't know because the article didn't say if it was snow or snow flurries or exactly what qualified and didn't. At the time I read the article I didn't question it, but I mentioned it at work a couple of years ago and boy did they have questions. We've tried rather unsuccessfully to monitor the winter snows to determine if the tale is true. Last year it was very close, possibly even exact (we'd forgotten the date of the first snow by the end of winter and were so tired of the snow anyway...)

So, this little post will help me remember at the end of another long winter.

Happy First Snow Day in central Ohio!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What is love?

There is no easy answer to this question. No single answer either. Love is as varied as the people who feel it. I don't think there's anything wrong with whatever your answer is, I"m just curious.

A long time ago, a friend shared that her 6 year old son was asked to explain how his mom and dad loved him.  His answer was they buy me things. She, my friend, was heartbroken, because she thought his answer meant she wasn't doing a good job of showing her love or teaching her son what matters and what doesn't. What she didn't realize was that her son was using the only language that he had. Plus, he'd probably never been asked that question before and probably hadn't really thought about it.

So today I'm asking you to think about it. What is love?

We use a lot of ice at our house. I like cold drinks - never have been a coffee, tea or hot cocoa drinker. I fill the glass to the brim with ice and then add water. I'd rather have to refill the glass because I ran out of water than to use less ice. I tell you that so you can understand what comes next. We use a lot of ice. We also live in the boonies and do not have an automatic ice maker. We keep 6 trays in the freezer and make ice nearly every day. In summer, we make it twice a day. Everybody has to contribute to the ice production - it's only fair. When I broke my arm two years ago, I lost strength that just hasn't returned. One area where I struggle is cracking the ice trays. Two of the six trays are particularly tricky to twist. My husband figured out that if those trays are on the top (don't ask me why, some science-y reason I"m sure), I'm able to twist them and get the ice out. So, he makes sure they are organized that way, so I can contribute and not be reminded of what I can't do.

To me that is love. Love is paying attention, understanding someone else's needs and doing what you can to make a difference.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hello World!

It's been a while, eh! Sometimes I crack myself up. I noticed that even in my absence, the blog is getting some traffic. It's both pleasing and puzzling. So I decided to look at the posts visitors are reading and sometimes I crack myself up.

I write just the way I talk. Extra exclamations, run on sentences, odd word choices... It's a hoot. It's a really good day when you learn to laugh at yourself! (Have I ever mentioned that before?) It comes with self-awareness, I think, and man oh man is it a good thing.

So, just in case you've been wondering where I've been... I discovered this really great book and I've been reading it every extra minute. If I"m not reading it, I'm talking about it or thinking about it. All day long. It's that good. More on that in a later post.

Here is one of the many items I just re-read "I'm humanly imperfect..." - LOVE it. I am humanly imperfect and so glad of it.

I hope to see you sooner rather than later. Until then, check out some of the old posts, bet they crack you up, too!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Self - Awareness - let's all get some

“When you hold on to your history, you do it at the expense of your destiny.” ~ Bishop T.D. Jakes

Self - Awareness is such an important skill. Please, please, please, spend some time developing the ability to see how you are and how that affects those around you. It is not okay to carry your childhood 'baggage' into senility. It really isn't. I could sugar coat this and say we are all on a journey and doing the best we can (which I believe wholeheartedly), but the fact of the matter is... it just isn't okay.

The thing is that if you aren't at least considering the people around you by the time you are an adult, you are just being lazy. Some will say self centered, egotistical, or shallow. I say lazy. You know the people I"m talking about... They wear the wounds of their childhood proudly and use them as excuses to behave any way they choose. They unleash their junk on you and claim "I had a bad childhood". Well people, I HAVE NEWS FOR YOU: (ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION?) We all have wounds. It's part of life. The difference between you and all the people who "Just don't understand" is that they aren't inflicting their pain on you or using it as a crutch to be small, mean, lazy, unkind and stingy.

Let me say it again... WE ALL HAVE CRAP TO DEAL WITH. It doesn't make you special or unique or deserving of special consideration. What makes people special is how they respond. What makes people unique is how they fulfill the promise of life. Special consideration is reserved for the brave and the strong who persevere, who strive, who attain.

Whew. Tough day. Needed to vent. Thanks for letting me.

BTW~this little blog reached 3,000 views today. That's so cool and a little freaky. I hope you are finding value here. I know it helps me.  Thanks for taking a peek.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Love doesn't end...

My friend's mother just passed away. The day I heard the news, I just couldn't think about it and here's why... My mom passed away 16 years ago and I know just how she feels. I know, because I've lived through it. It was the single most devastating event in my life and it took me years to be able to talk about her without crying. Every time someone I know loses a mother, I revisit those awful, awful days.

I had an interesting childhood, for which I was very angry with my mother. I didn't have a father, she was estranged from her parents, so it was really just her. There was no one else and when you are a child, you cannot understand the complexity of life that leads you to a place where you and your children are not safe. So, I was angry. Unfortunately, my mom died before I could ever say that I realized she was just doing the best she could, where she was. Could she have done better? You know the phrase, when you know better, you do better? In her case she did what she knew how to do, she did her best. So, no, she couldn't have done better. Neither could I - even though I've spent a million years beating myself up for being so angry and difficult. But there is no value in that. We were both at a disadvantage because our need was greater than our ability.

Back to my friend and her fresh loss. I feel her pain. Losing your parent sucks. There aren't any words that help, it just sucks. What did help was the friends and loved ones who stood with me, in person and in thoughts and prayers. They stood with me and made sure I knew it and there were some days I only got through because I had their strength to draw from. So today and every day I'll be standing with my friend, saying nonsense or nothing at all, but standing with her so she isn't trying to stand all on her own, so she knows she's not the only one and so she can lean on me when she needs.

Life has to end, she said. Love doesn't. ~ Mitch Albom

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hugs by mail

Trying to stay connected with kids is tough. There are so many things to distract them and me, it's hard. I read an article once, that said kids need 6 hugs a day, minimum. I'm a firm believer that it does in fact take a village to raise a healthy, sensitive and caring human being. While I can't always be around to give a physical hug, I think virtual hugs are important and valuable, too.

Toward that end, I've begun sending mail to all the kids in my family. Snail mail-you know the kind of thing, with stamps and addresses and everything. Children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews. Every week I send one or two letters, notes or packages out. Kids are so funny and I've been enjoying their reactions to the mail. What's also cool is the sense of fun and enthusiasm I'm feeling through this process. Giving really is a gift for the giver, too!

Today's package is headed to a 3 year old.  I found this adorable Printable online (thank you Pinterest). See my version above. I glued the frogs onto sticks, so she can make the frogs dance while she's singing the song. I included the full version of the song that I printed onto white paper and glued onto green cardstock. It's cute, just a little silly, and I hope she likes them.

I may have mentioned it before, but I have an affinity for frogs as my mom collected them. So each time I see frogs, I get a little memory of mom. Love that.

This practice is another way I'm sharing the light of 2013. The Year of Light has somehow gotten a little lost in the clutter, but I've put my focus back on it. These little love letters are just what the Year of Light is all about.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Follow up

Yesterday I let myself be ticked. I don't like feeling ticked. It's not my best self. It's not love in action. And it doesn't make me feel good.

When I post things on this blog I wonder if I really want to keep things out there for all eternity.

Will I still feel the same in a few days or years from now? Maybe, maybe not.

Will I ever want to re-read these things? Maybe, maybe not.

Do I want other people to read this? Well, that's the big question. In the beginning of the blog, it was a thing I was keeping for myself. It was a place to put things I created and store aspects of my life and since I was the only person reading it, no biggie. As time went on, I realized the powerful benefit of blogging through some 'issues'. Since that is much more personal and now other people are reading it, I've had more than one moment of contemplation about what to post and what not to post.

In the end, the benefit outweighs the risk. And I seriously hope that the somewhat random ramblings that comprise this blog will help someone else.

In the 50 years I've been in this dance, here is one thing I've learned...  talking about it is so much better than not talking about it. There isn't anything to be gained from sweeping your feelings under a rug. So, here is a brief follow up from yesterdays' entry.

After a small, intense discussion with the IC, we have effectively communicated ourselves into a place of better understanding, each sharing our intent in yesterday's misguided conversation. It was a really good conversation, actually. It makes me see, once again, how each challenging moment has a gift in it.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. ~ e. e. cummings

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Insensitive Comments

So, here's the question of the day... What do you do when someone makes an insensitive comment to you?

It's easy to be pissed, but is that really healthy?

Do you let it create hurt feelings and is that really helpful?

Do you ignore it, though on some level you are upset or else you wouldn't still be thinking about it? And if you ignore it, does the Insensitive Commenter (IC) just continue to plow through life saying stupid stuff? Do you care how the IC goes through life?

Well, here's my situation. I made a random off the cuff comment about someone else this morning, who was wearing much too short shorts. I said, "Why, why, why, is she wearing such short shorts?" She did not hear it, nor did anyone else except the IC. Today the IC decided to 'teach' me a lesson, by likening the sweater I was wearing to the teeny tiny shorts. He said "Why do you wear that red sweater with that little white top? Because you like it. She must like those shorts." There was more, but that's more than enough.

Here's the thing, I could spend some time explaining to you that I don't live in Hollywood, or NYC or the Bahamas and that shorts that just cover your butt cheeks are not really a good idea for anyone, let alone a woman well into her 40's. I could tell you more things, but in the end it is just trying to justify my opinion, which I don't think I need to do. My opinion is my opinion. I'm entitled to it.

What's upsetting to me about this is that he felt the need to guilt me about my opinion. What the hell! This is someone who is supposed to love me. Does he have to love every opinion I have, no. Should he shame and guilt me about a dislike of tiny shorts on full grown adult women? Hell, no.

I could have saved myself this aggravation by staying in bed, this morning. Or keeping an inside my head thought inside my head.  But, I didn't do either of those things. So, now I'm stuck with this thorn in my side. Freaking IC.

Have I ever mentioned before that guilt is a totally crappy emotion, both to have and to impose on another? Shame and guilt are two of the most destructive ways to hurt other people. Probably also contributes to my reaction, here.

Here's another point of contention... I could just fluff off the IC as stupid or thoughtless or a jerk. But I know he is not any of that. He is smart, and caring, and loving. Which makes this morning's exchange even more frustrating.

BLAHHHHH. Communication is a complicated business.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Easy dinner - totally delicious

Egg and quiche cups I made last weekend. Spray a regular sized muffin/cupcake pan with nonstick cooking spray. I used won ton wrappers, two per muffin cup, as the crust. Just fiddle with it until you get good coverage. Then I put a piece of thinly sliced deli ham. Next comes shredded cheddar. Half of the cups have a whole egg, which the others are quiche cups (scrambled eggs with cream). Top with salt and pepper (can you tell we like pepper?) Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes until the quiche eggs are no longer really jiggly.  It's not an exact science and I'd like to  be able to tell you exactly how long or what to look for, but it's about preference here.  The quiche eggs can go from runny to dry fairly quickly, so I tend to take them out while there is still some movement when the pan is jiggled and let them sit in the pan and continue to cook for a couple of minutes.  This way the eggs are creamy inside. I focus on the quiche eggs as opposed to the whole egg cups as a little runny yolk is good stuff. Or a little set yolk also good stuff. So, notice the weird lighting on the eggs...  It was a bright sunny day and the eggs looked beautiful to my eye, but through the lens... weird.  It also seems as though the won tons are burnt, but they were not. Here's what I will tell you about these egg cups. I made 12 on Saturday afternoon and they were gone by the next morning. I had hopes they might live in the fridge for a couple of days for breakfasts or snacks, but they didn't last 24 hours. I've made these several ways, using a lot of different items for crust and even made some crustless versions, but the wonton wrappers are my favorite choice. They have a crispiness, even on the bottom, without overpowering the ingredients inside. Also, the wontons come out cleanly every single time.  It took less than 10 minutes to prep, 15 to bake. Very nice.

This is also a good, quick breakfast for dinner option!

Adventures in Sourdough

I've begun a sourdough starter.  What a learning opportunity (have I mentioned I'm the kid who liked school?)!  I've enjoyed researching the topic and I've enjoyed working with the sourdough.  I have pictures of two of the items I made.  The most beautiful, I forgot to photograph. :(

After much consideration about whether or not to start my own, obtain one from a local source or purchase from a company, I decided to purchase from King Arthur Flour.  It arrived 11 days ago and I've been playing with it ever since.  I really had no idea how much attention a starter is "supposed" to receive.  That being said, I've been able to give it attention and make some delicious items while working full time.

The first thing on the agenda, classic sourdough boules.  The recipe makes two, but I"m only showing one because it looks so good.  As we all know, I'm not an experienced food blogger and my pictures reflect that.  I think they turned out pretty well for my first attempt.  They were (cause they're gone) crispy and firm on the outside, with a satisfying thump.  The inside was moist and it had a good chewiness.  The only down side, was it lacked the sourdough tang.  It was really tasty, but did not have the tangy-ness you might expect when eating sourdough.  So, more research.

When feeding the sourdough, you discard half of the starter with every feed.  That's a lot of waste, which is disturbing to me, so recipes to use the discard became a priority. Luckily, there are lots of them. Obviously  I'm not the only person who thinks it's crazy to pitch half the starter. These waffles are one of the discard creations.  I hope the picture does it justice.  They were a caramel color, with the crispness and loft that makes waffles so appealing. In addition, these had that sourdough tang! Awesome. The waffle mix is a two step process, where you begin the night before and leave the 'sponge' on the counter till morning. Sounds intimidating, right. Starting them the night before was no big deal and finishing them this morning for breakfast was super easy. The best part is the dough bubbles and rises, when all the ingredients are added in the morning and it's fun to watch. It's also much lighter than my previous recipe, creating a light, crispy waffle.

I'm pretty excited about this sourdough adventure and this morning I'm going to make new boules with the starter testing some adjustments I've made to bring on the tang. The waffles give me hope.

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A thought to ponder this day...

Today is my son's birthday. Each birthday of my children is this wondrous moment to celebrate what were the very best days of my life. Meeting my kids face to face for the first time was magical and empowering and humbling in a way that is like nothing else I've ever experienced. It's an everyday miracle to be a parent.

As I was posting birthday love on fb this morning, I found this quote and I wanted to share:

“...if anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will be the same again.” William Paul Young

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My List...

I finished my list. I woke up this morning inspired, which is the best time to do anything.

When I first posted about making a new list I thought I'd whip it right out, but each time I'd start, I ended up not writing anything or jotting one thing. Then I made a long list of anything that popped into my head, but that didn't feel right either. So, in the end, I took a step back, letting the ideas process in the back of my mind and then this morning I woke up and I was ready! I love it when that happens.

I ended up with 6 things on my list. It's a good number. How are you doing on your list? I thought I'd share some of the things on my list, for those who might be curious:

Work that is satisfying, rewarding and creative.
New windows for the house.
To be love.

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.” Sophocles

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sandwich topper

In researching fermented and pickled food online, I discovered this blog entry with a simple refrigerator vegetable pickle with a Vietnamese twist. It looked so good, I had to try it. The picture is my version. I actually made two, one in small jelly jar and the one pictured, which is a tall pint and a half. I'm admitting, right here and now, that I ate the entire little jar on my sandwiches last night. Embarrassing! But, they were different, delicious and crunchy and I could NOT Help Myself. Carrots, cucumber and daikon radish, in a sweet and sour pickle.

We had shredded chicken sliders, with the veggies as a topper. For me, the veggies were enough and I didn't add any other topping, though I think BBQ would be really good. The next time, and there will be a next time, I make these, I'm going to come up with some way to spice them up a little. They are good, but a little spice will make them great.

If you are looking for an easy and different twist, give these a try.  The most time is spent julienne-ing the veggies, but worth it.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Science right in the kitchen

Who would've guessed, but there is science happening right in my kitchen.

These are the fermented foods from today: Another batch of sour pickles (yes, we totally love them), pico de gallo, garlic & dill carrots and ginger carrots.

If you look around the top of the carrot jars, you will see the bubbling action, which is the fermentation in process.  I'm using small glasses to hold them down. Though you can't see it, there is a small jar holding the pickles below the brine, too.

The pico de gallo is an experiment, I've been told it doesn't need to be under a brine. I'm cautiously optimistic. It smelled so freaking good that I had to make a second, small batch that I pretty much inhaled the moment it was mixed.

So, how is your list going? Did you make one? I started making one and then decided I needed a couple of days to ponder. Tomorrow is the day.

Tomorrow is also the day to try fermented ketchup. More science.

Also found on Pinterest:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Natural Abundance

This picture is today's harvested items. The last time I was in the garden to harvest was one week ago. Not an exaggeration. Last Thursday, I picked all the ripe veggies in the garden. Today I did the same. There are still more tomatoes and peppers out there - probably as many tomatoes as are pictured and even more peppers.

See the basket of grape tomatoes? All from one plant. And if you've been reading the blog, you know that I've already harvested a ton, which have been canned.

What's my point? All of these tomatoes and all the ones I've been picking since July are from just 4 tomato plants. Just four. One grape, one roma, two traditional. What's my point?

These plants illustrate the way life really is. Life is naturally abundant. If you disagree, I refer you back to the picture - remember 4 plants yielded all of this, in essence 4 seeds.

If life were not abundant, then a single seed would yield at most one fruit. As you can see, that isn't what happened.

Abundance is all around us, but when you are speeding through your day and your life, sometimes you miss it.  It's good to stop and take it all in.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

This is a good thing to remember!

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Getting Focussed

I am on the cusp of a big breakthrough.  Do you ever feel like that?  Like you are cresting the hill and you feel at odds, or anxious or jumpy and you don't know why?

That's me.  Today.  This has been one really incredible week.  Really good work week, really good family week.  I even took a day off to celebrate the wonderfulness of the week.  Then this morning... I woke up and was just a little off.  No reason, nothing really going on...  Just a little off my game.

As the day has worn on, I feel at times agitated and anxious.  I'm having a hard time sitting still.  I even tried to watch one of my favorite movies, but no go.

It's easy to think this is worry or stress and focus on something not great and convince myself that is what is going on.  But, I know it isn't.  Don't ask me how I know, because I won't be able to explain it, just the voice inside my heart that says "All is Well".

Since I trust that voice above all others, I know that what is up is something good and wonderful and life changing. I don't want to resist the momentum that is flowing within me and so trying to squelch these feelings is out of the question.  What I will do, is focus my energy. Hence, this blog entry. Writing is a wonderful focusing tool.

Now that we are becoming empty nesters, it's time to re-evaluate my goals, I think.  There is a big change that happens when your kids transition to adult hood, that not one single person ever mentioned to me, ever. Really, no one, ever. Oh sure, I've heard the term empty nester and some comical stories of things people tried or what they turned their spare bedrooms into.  But, I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the fact that for 18 or 20 years you've always made decisions holding your children and their needs on a separate plain from you. From the moment they were born, they've taken priority and occupied a large portion of your thoughts 24/7.

For lots of lots of years, my husband and I celebrated our anniversary on bleachers because May is prime baseball time. In the entire 25 years we've been married we only went on one vacation by ourselves. I was so traumatized by the end of the week I couldn't do it again. Even during the teenage years, when those rotten stinkers drove me to the edge of madness.

So, this is a big, hairy deal. I really am not equipped to be a SMother.  I've never been a smother-er and I'm not about to start now.

Here is what is hard... Not considering the kids in every single decision. I've been a mom for nearly 24 years. That's a lot of habit to break.

I have a lot of extra time. Time I used to spend cooking or cleaning or picking up or watching an event or driving to said event. It's disconcerting a little.

What I will say, is this: I enjoy my husband and I enjoy the extra time we have together. There were times when our kids were young that I felt lonely for him, with all the activities, responsibilities, exhaustion... So this is a welcome change.

I'm having a hard time not buying extra groceries. What is that? Anyone?

Anyone else with kids... Let me say this to you, when you feel frustrated or overwrought or stretched thin, the part of your life that feels like that is gone in a twinkling. There will come a time when you have peace and quiet and five minutes to yourself and you will want to remember those stretched thin days with humor and with love.

Thank you dear blog. Thank you. I feel relaxed for the first time today.

I'm big into lists. I think lists are another way to help you focus. We make goal lists in our house. Well, we also make to do lists and shopping lists, but the kind of lists I'm talking about here, are what I call the Big Three. They provide a way of prioritizing and more importantly, they give you a visual cue to what is really and truly important to you. The Big Three are things we want to accomplish - short term or long term.  And the number is less important than the list, though I do think one is too few and 7 is too many.  If a thing hits your list, but never gets done, chances are it isn't all that important to you. Sometimes a thing hits your list and it just takes a while to come to life, but it might also not be a thing you really, really want.

I spent some time today thinking about ways to focus, which led me to thinking about the list. Mine is pretty old and there are some things on there that I don't think I really, really want. So this week, I'm going to make a new Big Three.

Would you like to join me? Here is my suggestion: Give yourself some time to think about it. Don't rush and don't feel pressured. This is your list and whatever you put on it is fine. It's not a Miss America list - there's no need to put world peace on it. Only put things on the list that make you feel good. If the item makes you feel guilty or sad, DON'T include it. Only things that make you smile or feel happy anticipation. It genuinely doesn't matter what you choose.

It might even be helpful to make a long list the first time out. Write down everything that pops into your head. Once you've exhausted all the ideas, start crossing some things off. Whittle down the list until you get somewhere between 3 and 7 items that you really, really want and that you feel good thinking about. Write a new list and make at least one copy of it. Put the first copy somewhere that you look every morning - the inside of the medicine cabinet, next to the coffee, in your unnie drawer.  Put the 2nd copy in your car.

The idea is to look at the list every day, as a reminder of the things that you are working toward.  I keep my car one in the visor and I can pull it out and look at while waiting for a red light. Again, it's important that you feel good or excited or happy or hopeful about the items on the list. If you find yourself not feeling good about an item, it's time for a new list.  Get that downer off of there!

If you decide to make a list this week, I'd be excited to hear what's on yours.

Dang, this is a long post. Thanks for hanging in!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tomatillo Salsa

Let me just start by saying this:  Food Bloggers, my hat is off to you.

I wanted to post about this salsa, planned going into it that I would.  I started off well, but, as you will see, the wheels came off the bus.  Anyway, on to the salsa.

I love Mexican food.  When I was young, we lived in Southern California and several times we went to Mexico, where we had real Mexican food and that is where my love affair with Mexican began.  You know and I know that a lot of what is sold has been "Americanized", which is not to say bad.  But, when we went to Mexico and ate, the food did not all taste like taco seasoning.  Just saying.

This year, in the Mondrian garden, we grew one Tomatillo plant.  It's the first time I've grown one.  It's been interesting to see it progress.  Something in the garden really likes the tomatillos, so we only get about 1/2 the crop.  Oh well.  Yesterday,  I decided to try making a tomatillo salsa.  After perusing many a recipe, I decided to roast the veggies first.  It would seem that traditionally, the tomatillos are boiled in water, but knowing I really didn't have enough tomatillos to make the salsa two ways, the idea of roasted veggies won out.  Next time I'll try without roasting.

I started with these ingredients: tomatillos, jalapenos, and one onion.  Have you ever worked with tomatillos before?  Me neither.  The husk is papery and pulls away to reveal a stickiness on the tomatillo.  I rinsed that away, then quartered each one.  I placed the cut vegetables on a small cookie sheet.  For the jalapenos I just cut off the top and left them whole.  The onion, I peeled and cut into chucks of a similar size to the tomatillos.  All of these went on the cookie sheet with a small amount of vegetable oil which I used my hands to toss and coat.  Then a sprinkling of salt and a heavier sprinkling of pepper and into the hot oven.  I started out on a low broil, then high until the veggies were slightly charred.  At this point, I forgot to take a picture.  Arrgh.  This is also the point where I once again marveled at food bloggers.  How do they do it?

I let the veggies cool, then slipped them all inside the magic cup that came with the stick blender.  It's just the right width and just about as long as it takes to say bibbidy, bobbidy, boo, you have salsa.  It was a little thick, so I added the juice of one small lime.  It was at this point that I thought to myself...  Where's the garlic? Dang. I didn't remember to add it to the roasting pan and I really wanted it.  So, I peeled a clove and put it in the magic cup and blended again.  The cup, being clear, allows you to look at the whirring action as it's happening.  Fun!

In the end it's still pretty thick and I think I could add water to change the consistency, but it tasted so good that I didn't want to fool around with it.  The seven tomatillos ended up making a pint sized jar of salsa.  These are not big tomatillos - some were medium and most were small.  So, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

How did it taste?  Well, in a word fantastic.  Roasting the veggies adds a really great grilled flavor (even though they were oven roasted).  It also calms the jalapenos down.  I put three in here, which I thought was going to be hot, but it was just medium warm.  So this means you get great jalapeno flavor without setting your mouth on fire.  The lime juice was a needed hit of tart.

I say, try making your own salsa.  It's fun and can be made to your particular tastes.

btw ~ did you see my toes sneaking into one of the pictures? bad toes!  hee hee, ha ha, whew i am soooo funny.

Have a great day, people.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Several things, no connection...

Heart Cloud
It's Friday. This has been a great week - for no particular reason. It's been a lot of little things strung together and I'm very thankful.

Work has been challenging for a while and I've been kind of down about it. This week I may have finally crested the hill. I am actually totally current in one aspect and that hasn't been true in months. CURRENT. Woo.

One day last week, I was talking to my co-worker and I said "Look at the sky the clouds are just beautiful." She came over to the window to look and said "Do you see the heart?" And there it was.  This is the photo I snapped with my phone.  There is the big heart and below to the left is a small heart.  Life is really amazing.

I've been seeing signs of love everywhere, lately.  I took a rubberband off a stack of mail a couple of weeks ago, set it down on my desk and sorted through the pile.  A couple of minutes later I glanced around to find a pen when I noticed the shape the discarded rubberband created. Both of these are unexpected, yet tangible proof that love is all around and we only have to be aware and open to it.

Everything I've pickled so far has turned out amazing. It's such a giant high. Two nights ago we tried the 2nd batch of fermented pickles, the spears. My oldest said, "Did you have any idea when we were stuffing cucumbers into jars that we were making the best tasting pickles in the world?" It really was a laugh out loud moment. He is naturally funny and has this way of phrasing things that really makes me giggle. Anyway... They are delicious. Sour, salty, crunchy, spicy. I may have mentioned the Dilly Beans and Spicy Grape Tomatoes, so I'll skip those. I also made pepper rings. The thing about canning your own peppers is that they are crunchier than anything you might find in a jar from the store. I'm not exactly sure why, but they are not mush and I'm enjoying it immensely. Also, canning your own peppers means they can be as hot as you like them. I put mild banana peppers in with a couple of jalapenos, which give all the peppers heat, but not as hot as just jalapenos. Another reason I think we find the canned items so great is that we are only putting in things we like. When you buy from the store, you have to take the spice combos as they are. But, not if you're canning. If you don't like star anise you leave it out. If you like it dilly, you have three ways to add it. Like garlic, add. Don't like garlic, skip. So, because our canned items are customized to us, they really are "the best ever".

Do you know people who fictionalize their life? I'm not talking about keeping private things private or even mis-remembering the occasional detail. I'm talking about the systematic re-writing of their personal history. It's puzzling to watch. That's really all I have to say about it. It's puzzling.

Yesterday I put a chuck roast in the crock pot on low before I left for work. I added a cup of beef broth, some black pepper, and a sliced onion. Oh, and couple cloves of garlic. I left it on low all day. When I came home, I shredded the beef with two forks and smashed the garlic and mixed it all together with the broth. I made mashed potatoes (peeled, diced, boiled, drained, etc). We had a scoop of mashed potatoes, smothered in the shredded beef and broth, surrounded by buttery peas. (I love peas and mashed potatoes, do you?). What would be really good here is a picture. Dang. Anyway, I promised to share my successful dinners and this is one. It was ready in under 30 minutes and was a hit with all.

Well, after working so hard on this post, I needed a little sustenance, so I had a pickle. Fermented pickles rule!

A family member had a mishap with a riding mower and though fine, was a little banged up. In telling the mower's sibling about the incident, the sibling starts complaining about the mower and the work that will have to be done and what was so and so thinking and isn't this a fine mess. Oh, there was more, but you get the idea. It's the sort of response that makes the sibling look like a GIANT weenie. Rather than identifying and owning true feelings, the sibling was raging about the mower. As if the mower is anything at all to the sibling. But, it was easier and habit to be pissed and pissy about the mower, thus avoiding the fear or worry that your sibling could easily have had a serious accident or worse. So, the lesson in there for all of us, when you catch yourself emulating the GIANT weenie, stop. It's okay to be scared or worried. It's okay to cry. Heck, it's even okay to say nothing.  By witnessing the weenie up close and personal, I get a chance to choose something else. And for that, I'm grateful!

Well, that's about all there is for this Friday. I'm considering dusting off my sewing skills and making something fun. Happy Friday!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes

The Spicy Pickled Grape tomatoes are the bomb. One jar from the first batch didn't seal, so it's been in my fridge taunting me and on Saturday I could withstand no longer.  They are tart and spicy and totally great. The garlic I put in the jar to flavor the tomatoes is awesome, too.  Yes, I ate it.  I told you I'm a nerd.  Not only was it delicious, it now protects me from werewolves, too.  ;-)

Have a great day!

"Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine." 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, August 16, 2013

Un-stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Remember when I mentioned the need to uncover some quick dinner ideas?  Well here is a winner:  Un-stuffed Cabbage Rolls!  Unfortunately, I did not take a picture, so you will just have to trust me.

1 c. uncooked long grain rice
2 c. water or chicken broth
1 T. butter
1 head of cabbage, chopped

1 T. olive oil
1 med onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 28 oz can tomato sauce

Disclaimer: I'm a very casual cook.  I almost never follow a recipe for savory foods.  Even writing out these instructions, I waffle because you can add as much or as little garlic or onion or tomato products. You can use fresh from the garden, you can add other veggies...  Anyway, this is what I did to make this tonight.

I put the water, rice, and butter into a pan.  While it was coming to a boil, I chopped the cabbage.  When the water started to boil, I put the cabbage in the the pan, but did not stir it.  This technique allows the cabbage to steam above the rice.  Put a lid on, turn the temp down to simmer and set the timer for 20 minutes.

While the rice is doing it's thing, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, sauce and meatballs (as many or as few as you like). You can also make this by browning ground beef or turkey or chicken in place of the meatballs, but as I had meatballs that's what we used.  Add spices here - again, use what you like - I used black pepper and cayenne pepper.  Let this simmer together until the rice is ready.

When rice is cooked, empty entire contents into skillet and combine.  It's ready to serve immediately.

It was really good and ready to eat in less than 30 minutes.