Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday night grateful moment

What a week! A whirlwind of activity, in many ways. A week with sorrow, joy, love, sadness, anger, fatigue and gratefulness. (You know, a typical week!)

This week a dear friend lost a son in a tragic accident. It is so hard to watch someone you care about have such a sudden and final loss thrust upon them, and I know the road ahead is going to be hard. I am so grateful for Sara, though, that she has so much love and support to uphold her in the coming months and years, and that she also knows where true comfort comes from.

Seth just got home from jazz band camp, full of stories, new friendships and a renewed fire for his trumpet. I'm so grateful he embraced this opportunity and enjoyed his week away.

I'm very very grateful that it looks like we are poised for a little family getaway time. That always fills me with joy.

I'm grateful for husband, who prioritizes our family time (see above). Who listens patiently as I catalog my aches and pains. And is kind about the strange noises I elicit from various yard/lawn equipment (I'm not very good with equipment, I may have mentioned one or two times. I break stuff.). And who shares with me his challenges and victories too. I am blessed.

This week I got inches away from finishing the various yard projects I've begun, and it feels very good to be in this place. I could keep going, right up until the car (filled with my men and our vacation stuff) pulls away from the driveway, but I will step back now for a minute or two... well, maybe after one more load of bark. No? I shouldn't? You're right. I am so grateful that my energy has been sustained through this project, and that the weather has been highly agreeable. Not over 100 degrees yet! Whoo-hoo. So grateful for that!

So far this summer we've harvested beets, radishes, lettuce, kale, summer squash, zucchini, a couple puny cucumbers, cabbages, onions and potatoes. Fresh produce is the best. I'm so grateful everything has come in so well after our funky spring and early summer... getting ready to plant the fall garden now. I haven't done that before, but am super excited to maximize our growing season!

I'm grateful this week for a backbone. Ha. You laugh and think that's a funny statement, if you know me at all, but it's true. I can sometimes/occasionally still fall prey to the "good girl" thing where I will acquiesce to things I don't agree with, don't want to do, don't think is right, to keep the peace. Not so much as I am getting older. And wiser. I do love that Maya Angelou quote: "We do the best we can with what we know, and when we know better, we do better." Amen, sister.

I'm grateful for friends, for the variety of people who make up my life. I am a lucky girl to have the friends I do, and I know it.

This week in the yard I was feeling rather scattered and didn't want to start a new book. So I jumped around a lot on my iPhone. One day it was Timothy Keller and Kristen Chenoweth from my iTunes library/podcasts. A couple of days it was comedy off Pandora. Another day I breezed through TED talks. I bounced around as my mood dictated, and was struck more than once by comedy that can go from hilariously funny to right across the line of decency, all in the same joke. Not a few times I had to skip through to another joke, it was that bad. And from people I generally like too... I think I've been ruined by the funny yet clean humor of Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan. I'm grateful for the variety of media available to keep me company while I work outside, always.

And because sharing from Pinterest has sort of become a part of my Friday night tradition, here are a few images from around the site that I've loved this week. I am grateful for the medium that is the internet, and Pinterest seems (to me) to embody all that is good about it. (I listened to a TED talk about internet criminals and viruses--that's definitely the dark side!)

calligraphy (I just love this lettering style.)

creativity (Great list to keep by my desk!)

 settee (Anthropologie, where pretty meets overpriced...)

dress (Anthropologie, as well...)

quilt (Love these colors!)

mango gazpacho (So summery!)

cat (Kinda how I'm feeling right about now!)

I hope the weekend ahead brings you joy and peace, whatever your week held. Peace to you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Midweek inspiration: It's your party after all


Temperature in the upper seventies, a bit of a breeze. Great
cumulus clouds pass slowly through the summer sky like
parade floats. And the slender grasses gather round you,
pressing forward, with exaggerated deference, whispering,
eager to catch a glimpse. It's your party after all. And it couldn't
be more perfect. Yet there's a nagging thought: you don't really
deserve all this attention, and that come October, there will be
a price to pay.
-Louis Jenkins

When I saw this poem featured just yesterday on The Writer's Almanac, it just fit so perfectly how my July feels. The picture is one my mom took, and featured on her 365 photo project (she's pretty talented, you should check her out).

I swear, though, I can already feel October in the morning air... which fills me with both delight and sadness.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Common miracles, week #11: Pausing on the road to judgement

Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world. -Pema Chodron

As you take a few minutes each day to quiet your mind, you will discover a nice benefit: your everyday, "ordinary" life will begin to seem far more extraordinary. Little things that previously went unnoticed will begin to please you. You'll be more easily satisfied, and happier all around. Rather than focusing on what's wrong with your life, you'll find yourself thinking about and more fully enjoying what's right with your life. The world won't change, but your perception of it will. You'll start to notice the little acts of kindness and caring from other people rather than the negativity and anger. -Jack Canfield

Jack sounds an awful lot like Pema, doesn't he? A Buddist nun and a businessman? Who knew.

A few years ago, Jack Canfield came to town. I don't imagine there's a person around who doesn't know who Mr. Chicken Soup for the Soul is, and the franchise has grown to the extent that it can be a little hard to take... well, for me, with my instant judgment hat on, anyway. Chicken Soup for the Country Soul? Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul? Chicken Soup for the Empty Nester's Soul? (Well, I might actually get that one in a few years!)

I had a wee bit of judgement ("sell out" would be an apt term for my premature musings) about these books and the man that started it all... and then I heard him speak at a breakfast for local business leaders (I like a breakfast date with husband!) and in about 45 minutes did a complete turnaround. I was so impressed with what I heard and how he delivered it, I got husband to wrangle tickets for his evening talk as well and we took Seth to hear him. His talks, both times I heard him speak, were inspirational, encouraging and practical--actual takeaways for my life, goals, dreams.

When I ran across the quote above from Mr. Canfield this week and saw how similar it was to Pema's, it struck me how apt I am to prejudge people. Really, all people. Pretty much all the time. I'm quite good at doing about-faces, and letting real information inform future interactions, but nine times out of 10, I initially judge. What am I saying... it's much closer to 10 times out of 10.

But, I work on it. I've spent a great deal of time consciously thinking about it, and have felt the impact of that active thought seep over into times when I'm not mulling it over. And I will continue to work on it, and put in front of myself the standard to do better. Be better. Less judgey. I think it makes for good human connections, and I like who I am when I'm working in that direction. That's my Common Miracle for this week: the pause on the road to judgement.

For more information on the Common Miracles project, see here. To see Chel's Common Miracle for this week, go here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I love steak + I love salad = many Perfect Bites of steak salad

Steak salad has been a favorite of mine for a long time...really, from the first bite I had of one such salad, years ago. A couple of local restaurants have usually served good summer steak salads... until one of them stopped serving lunch and the other had a major chef-changeover, thus new menu, thus no more steak salad...

But that's OK, I can make one for myself! Having a variety of summer ingredients on hand, and steak as well, makes for a happy girl in this kitchen.

It's been a few years since I first saw tomatoes and nectarines and/or peaches together in a salad--not what I immediately said "oh yes" to, but it proved itself a surprising sweet-savory combination. Add to that a little grilled steak, some avocado and blue cheese, and this salad has all the makings of a Perfect Bite. (I am a big fan of meals that can bring about a Perfect Bite, as you can read here, here or here, if you have spare time on your hands...)

Steak salad with tomatoes and nectarines
1 4-6 oz. steak, grilled to your preference, cooled and sliced thinly
1 tomato, cut into eighth wedges
1 nectarine, sliced
1/2 avocado, peeled and cubed
2 cups mixed greens of your choice, washed and chopped
1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
Balsamic vinaigrette

Arrange the salad greens on a dinner-size plate, and add the steak, tomatoes, nectarines and avocado in whatever order you'd like. Crumble the blue cheese over the top and drizzle with vinaigrette.

This one makes my day, whenever I get a chance to whip it up. I hope you enjoy as well.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday night grateful moment

I think I've already mentioned how quickly this week has flown by? That's probably in part because we've had scheduled things to do and that always helps time click on by... but, it's been a good week in spite of the speed...

In keeping with the zoom-zoom nature of the week, I'm doing a speed-Pinterest-version of my list. Sometimes pictures really do say it just as well as my blather! (Especially pictures with words. Love those.)

I am so thankful for:


...expression (I just love this video!)


...color (this week it's purple I adore...)



And, while there's no picture for this one, I am ever so grateful that my "regular" computer is back up and working again. I've been working with an older one that's still lying about, which is fine for various interwebnets kinds of things, but lacking in some of the programs, etc., of my little green Dell. Here's hoping it lasts... I'm not quite believing it will "stick" yet... I've had it up for 12 hours before, only to have it crash. So far I'm at 24+ and counting... tick tock...

I hope your weekend is full of all the things you want it to be, whether that's rest and relaxation, or activity... or a bit of both. That's my plan!

Peace to you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday 13: Daybook musings

Outside my window... well, the sun was shining a bit ago, but now it seems to have clouded up and it's quite breezy. Great for yard work, not so great for other planned afternoon activities (see below). Clouds, begone! (OK, 15 minutes later, it appears the sun may be back. What nutty weather.)

I am thinking... that the week has gone by awfully quickly, which is fine in one way, but a bummer in others. Still working on my "pause time" machine...

I am thankful... that it's been such a great week for working outside, as Seth and Jake have been so helpful. It wasn't unbearably hot, and in fact a couple of the days were rather cool, which makes for much more energetic workers!

In the kitchen... I made baked zucchini sticks last night, and have decided I don't like them (right now, anyway). I don't know, they just didn't do it for me. So that leaves me with the ever-present "What do I do with all this zucchini?" question...

I am wearing... yard work clothes; nothing too snazzy, for sure.

I am creating... a couple of presents that cannot be spoken of... yet. Birthdays are coming for a couple of near-and-dear-to-me folk. Well, more than a couple. Yikes. Better get hustlin'.

I am going... to take Seth and Jake to the pool this afternoon. Well... hopefully. There has been rumor of a "murky pool" that had to be drained... I hope it's up and going again, as I'm supposed to meet a friend for lunch while the children romp and splash. Anyway, I don't get to see this friend very often, so I'd really rather not reschedule! Come on, kids, don't pee in the pool. Nobody actually says anything about WHY the pool is murky, but I have my theories.

I am wondering... why certain crazes just take off at certain times... I'm sure there's a Crafting Tipping Point in there somewhere, but I doubt that Malcolm Gladwell wants to take that on any time soon. Ha. Here's my biggest wonder at the moment: chevron. What's with that pattern and why would I want it on EVERYTHING? Makes me think of Charlie Brown's T-shirt, which is cute enough, but on repeat? No thanks. Oh and the other thing I'm not so fond of: when crafters do embroidery in a hoop, and then just hang the piece IN. THE. HOOP. Don't they know that the hoop is a tool used to help make the embroidery smooth and easy? Not a frame? Why didn't anyone ask me about this? That one simply drives me nuts.

I am reading... Zip. Zero. Zilch. (Well, besides ye olde internet feeds...) Finished my latest audiobook last week and as I've had company in the yard this week, I haven't jumped into anything else. I did read the People magazine with the pretty Duchess on the cover while I was at the hair stylist yesterday, but I don't suppose that actually counts as reading...

I am hoping... next week goes as quickly as this one did.

I am looking forward to... a little getaway time with my men in a couple of weeks. That will be swell.

I am hearing... the sounds of my old dying computer coming back to life? Oh that it would be so. I am cleaning it off (again) and reloading Windows. We'll see. I like blank books, so blank computers rank pretty highly up there as well (as long as my precious pictures and documents are stored properly on an external hard drive...).

Around the house... we do track in a fair bit of dirt while working in the yard. And shutting the doors behind us when we go back out to the yard? Yeah, working on that. Sigh.

I am pondering... if I'll ever really make the leap to Google+. Maybe. Right now it just seems like a lot of work. I need to get that dang tutorial Seth promised me...

One of my favorite things... continues to be cheese. And figs. And black Aussie licorice. Did I mention that I found the closest thing to authentic Aussie black licorice at Walgreens of all places? Totally by accident while with Jen in Portland, and thankfully these generic-ish stores pretty much stock the same stuff, so voila! It's here in Walla Walla too. Oh happy day.

A few plans for the rest of the week... yard work with the boys today... then pool... then weekend. Whoosh.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

My yard cherubs--that cheeky one hiding behind the trailer is mine.
They have loved driving that little mower around, very much. (But safely, always safely.)

I hope your week has been lovely too.

To see other Thursday 13 participants, go here.

To play along with the daybook concept, go here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Midweek reminder: Fix what you can

Every day, problems exist. Most days, that information can sit there behind your left ear, just a quiet whisper. Other days, those problems/issues/concerns feel larger, and the whisper grows to a shout. Why is that? I can go along quite contentedly for some time (yes, say it, head in the sand--this week quite literally as we've put down almost two tons of sand with brick pavers), and then one thing or another will wake me up to the reality of issues that need solving, past actions and their corresponding regret, sadness for my own or others' pain (real and/or imagined)... you know, life.

I have found, more often than not, when that mindset creeps in, the single best thing I can do is get up and get something done. It is best if that something can be for someone else--a note, a prayer, a "helping hand," a smile. But I like practical solutions, and doing something tangible can make me pretty happy.

Last night, Seth was looking around for his Grandma blanket (the one my Grandma Kandt made for him that he uses on nights when his full comforter will be too hot) and it was downstairs. It was late, but mostly we were both too lazy to go down and get it. So we rummaged in the upstairs linen closet for an acceptable substitute.

I found (after getting Seth settled with an old quilt) an old crocheted blanket my mom made me sometime around 1984. I remember having it for sure when I left for boarding school the summer of 1984, but I probably had it at home a couple of years prior to that... And I remember Ma making it too, all the time and energy she put into it, and the border--I remember specifically watching and learning as she made the scallopy border. I loved that blanket and until it mysteriously disappeared during my senior year at boarding school, I always had it on my bed.

The summer of 1986, after I'd graduated high school, my mom and I were standing around at a church campmeeting in Hope, B.C., and we saw the girl's dean of that boarding school, across a common area. Over her arm was draped MY blanket. Oh wow. I don't think my mom hesitated for even one second. She recognized her handiwork! So, she marched over to the lady and said, "Where did you get that blanket?"  According to the dean, when the school year had ended and everyone had gone home, the blanket was found in a room. She didn't say whose room, or how she decided that meant the blanket would now be hers, but she also didn't argue and handed it over without any discussion. I remember meeting my mom's eyes over the dean's head in an agreed "this story sounds suspect," but we just said "Thanks for bringing the blanket back!" and went on our merry way.

The blanket did, however, now have a little hole in it. Not a big one, just enough to annoy me. I didn't use the blanket anymore, so as not to spread the damage, just put it away. And here we are, 25 years later (cough, sputter, that seems an outrageous amount of time), and I woke up this morning with the immediate need to Fix. That. Blanket.

I don't know how, but over the years the hole appears to have grown... I think laundering it after the campmeeting recovery might have contributed to that...
I had some off-white yarn that was very close to the weight and fiber makeup of the original, and luckily, my Ma and I were raised in the same crochet world, and the stitch was easy enough to mimic. I am hopeful that the new yarn will fuzz up softly like the old, and it will look seamless... over time...
See that scallopy bobble edge? I love that.

That felt good! Not every thing can be fixed as easily as that blanket, but it was one little thing that could be done, right now. I'm going to keep that sweet blanket out near our bed now, not tucked into a linen closet, and as a reminder of the little solveable obstacles in my way, each day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Soup for a warm day: Creamy gazpacho andaluz

So, with a post title like that, what we'll need, then, is a warm day, right?! That seems to be the plea throughout the Pacific Northwest right now: Where's summer?

When picnic planning for last weekend, I assumed warmth would be a factor--in the weather. Well, you know what happens when you assume, right? Sigh. We ended up eating it in a picnic shelter alongside the river, while raindrops fell and our (well, my) feet were wrapped in a blanket. Warmth, ha!

But this soup was warm in another way. I made a slight pepper adjustment (jalapeno instead of serrano), and it warmed us, all the way down! Actually quite lovely for my sinuses, but next time I'll stick with the pepper they suggest...

Creamy gazpacho andaluz
3 lbs. ripe tomatoes, cored
1 small cucumber, peeled, halved and seeded
1 medium green bell pepper, halved cored and seeded
1 small red onion, peeled and halved (I had and used shallots)
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
1 small serrano chile, stemmed and halved
Kosher salt
1 slice white sandwich bread, torn in one-inch pieces
1/2 cup EVOO (here I deviated from the recipe and used a 1/4 cup olive oil and made up the rest with V8 juice)
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
2 Tbsp. finely minced parsley, chives or basil leaves

Roughly chop 2 lbs. of tomatoes, half of cucumber, half of bell pepper, and half of onion and place in bowl. Add garlic, chile and 1 1/2 tsp salt; toss until well combined; set aside.

Cut remaining tomatoes, cucmber, and pepper into 1/4" dice; place in medium bowl. Mince remaining onion and add to diced vegetables. Toss with 1/2 tsp salt and transfer to fine mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Set aside 1 hour.

Transfer drained diced vegetables to medium bowl and set aside. Add bread pieces to exuded liquid and soak 1 minute. Add soaked bread and any remaining liquid with roughly chopped vegetables and toss thoroughly to combine.

Transfer half of vegetable bread mixture to blender and process 30 seconds. With blender running, slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup oil and continue to blend until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Strain soup through fine mesh strainer into large bowl, repeat with remaining bread mixture and 1/4 cup oil.

Stir in vinegar, minced herb, and half of diced vegetables into soup and season to taste. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

My variations include what I stated above in the ingredients list, and also: I didn't keep any fine dice of vegetables aside to add later. I like my soup all one consistency or another--smooth or chunky, not half of one, half of another. I also didn't push it through a fine mesh seive. I kept adding V8 juice until I got the consistency I wanted in the blender (a VitaMixer, so I was able to get it very smooth), and called it good.

While the flavor of the soup was lovely, it will be SO much better once using our garden tomatoes. Can't wait! Also, can't wait for the sunshine again.

I think the sweet dear we saw along the side of the road on the way to our picnic agrees, though she looked lovely in all the lush green.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Miraculous weekend: Common Miracles post, week 10

“Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts.
Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world.”
– Pema Chodron

I had the joy of some serious girlfriend time this weekend. My friend Kate came over from Seattle and she and our friend Megan and I spent most of Saturday talking and talking and talking (when we weren't picnicking in the rain, but even then we were still talking). We covered a lot of ground, and it was most enjoyable. We ate--alot--and chatted about family, friendship, life, love, God, death, birth, technology (two new Pinterest convertees on board!), work, kids, parents, marriage. Wow. Is there anything we didn't discuss? Politics, I suppose. (Thank you for that, ladies!) I always reflect later that I wish I'd listened more, followed this or that conversational tangent down this or that different direction, or just that the time could be more elastic, stretching out for longer time together, but seeming short still in "real time" (a la Contact).

I know, I'm the dork looking to see if the picture's been taken, but aren't the other two beautiful?

And then the giggles struck...

And didn't go away...

For me, the blessing of our time together was a miracle. So many people, every day, don't get that time. In some way, it's cut short, whether by choice or not. We have all experienced loss to various degrees, sometimes in a very deep and permanent way. Loss makes one more cognizant of how fragile time is, and not to waste it; not on things or people or situations that aren't bringing joy and peace to our lives. Loss really cuts through the nonsense (I have other words for it, but I want to keep the family-friendly feel of the blog, of course).

Saturday was one of those odd summer days in the valley, with thunderstorms rolling through. Husband and I went walking early in beautiful sunshine, before I took off for girl time, but the clouds were already forming along the mountains. It rained, thundered a bit, cleared and then repeated the process all over again. When we saw a break mid-afternoon, we took it, and headed over the hills to picnic along the Walla Walla River. Where, it promptly rained on us! But we found a shelter and enjoyed lunch together (separate post with recipes coming soon), before heading back to town.

Kate snapped these photos on the way back to town. It is always lovely to watch and hear how much she loves this valley; though she hasn't lived here in years, the affection for this place is always present. I love it too, of course, but seeing it through her eyes is always refreshing.

The rainbow below was actually a triple rainbow, layers upon layers of color lying low across the river valley in Oregon. It was magical (you know me and rainbows...). While we were taking pictures, two mules came along to say hello. Big mules with quirky ears, very sweet.

What a lovely weekend.

To learn about the Common Miracles project and visit Chel's blog, go here.
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