Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Midweek inspiration: Two wings to fly

God turns you from one feeling to another
And teaches you by means of opposites
So that you will have two wings to fly,
Not one.

Check out my mom's blog for a sweet quote and picture of Seth and I walking the beach last week at the coast. And her 365 project too, she's a great photographer--the heron above is one of her shots.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Common Miracles Week #29: Sunshine & quiet

“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

Nov. 28th? Seriously? We came home to 63-degree weather yesterday afternoon, and while it was easy to believe the tales of high winds while we were away for Thanksgiving--areas in the yard where there had been bark were completely bare--it was also uncharacteristically warm. Heavenly warm. And, of course, undoubtedly soon to change.

But while it's here, I'll take it. The sun is shining, there's a tractor mowing in our field--a crazy sign of the nearing global warming apocalypse if ever there was one--and the dogs seem happy as clams. I'm a little worried they'll lose whatever winter fur they've built up, but I think the temps are supposed to dip later this week, to something in the 40s...

Sunshine streaming through windows never fails to lift my spirits and make me believe that anything is possible. I simply love it. I know that if I were to live where the sun shines (almost) 100% of the time I would probably take it for granted and stop being *so* in love with the sun, but since I live in the Pacific Northwest, that probably won't happen any time soon. What's the old saying about "without the bitter, the sweet isn't as sweet"? 'Tis true. Without the clouds, the sunshine wouldn't seem so bright. Without the rain, there wouldn't be rainbows... I could go on.

But, for today, I will just bask in the sunshine and be thankful for it's warming effect on not just my body, but all of me.

As for the quiet, I'm basking in that too. I (must have) said something snap-ish to my men last night (which of course I can't remember!), as husband turned to Seth and said, "Mom's ready for some quiet time, Seth. She'll be glad to get you off to school and me off to work tomorrow." My eyes widened a bit and of course I protested. And I'd still protest... but... I have gotten very used to my quiet. I wasn't always that way, but over the years of being more "at home" (and maybe a bit with age, as well) I've gotten a bit protective of my quiet. After a few days of high people interaction, being home and hearing only the sound of the dogs barking occasionally (well, this morning they are pretty excited about that tractor mowing...), and whatever snippet of music I might play, and other than that... just peaceful... that, to me, is completely restorative.

I found this quote last night in a devotional:
Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes. -Etty Hillesum

This from a young lady writing from a Nazi concentration camp. Talk about inhabiting a warrior's world...

I hope your Monday is off to a great start, and that somewhere in your day is that rest between two deep breaths.

To learn how the Common Miracle project started, go here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday night grateful moment

What a quick week! Zoom. I guess when you have a different party/celebration almost every day of the week, time is going to fly by!

This week we've been tickled to spend with family. In the guise of Thanksgiving vacation, we have also celebrated birthdays (mostly my mom (Oct. 24) and dad's (Nov. 19), and wee bit 'o late celebration for me as well), feted Kim on her recent U.S. citizenship ceremony, had a moment to mark the 6th anniversary of dear husband and I, and yes, had our Thanksgiving yesterday. And for good measure, this morning we opened up stockings and presents (CHRISTMAS! Now you know why I've been such a holiday fool this fall). Talk about a crazy amount of fun and food.

And at the end of this busy week, lots of gratefulness... probably more than can properly be listed here!

The mantle changed with the celebrations. Here's our birthday theme.

And our citizenship celebration theme.

And, of course, Christmas.

The anniversary was a little more difficult to decorate for, but Ma made sure we had flowers around!

The nieces, patiently waiting to open presents!

This week I'm grateful the power came back on (it was off for about 12 hours the day before Thanksgiving). I'm also grateful that subsequent storms weren't as severe, and that we've had peaceful walks on the beach without wind. Amazing, given how strong the winds have been at other times.

I'm grateful for family and the ability for everyone to flex and bend with the need to accommodate each other, different schedules and desires and interests.

I'm grateful for good food and lots of hands in the kitchen.

I'm grateful for leftovers. Thanksgiving food is always better the second day, and today was no exception. I'm full up on all the fixings again, and happy as a clam.

I'm grateful for sunshine. We had heaps and heaps of sunshine today. Warm and happy walks on the beach, even if a sneaker wave did catch Ma and Kim unawares... heads up next time, ladies!

How do you know you're on a Pacific Northwest beach? The pretty greenery in the sea debris.

I'm grateful for walks and talks with Seth.

I'm grateful to have wandered some great galleries and glimpsed some pretty amazing art. I didn't take pictures of the most captivating pieces--I don't think that's really an approved practice--but I was upstairs at a little gallery and saw these simple bird paintings that made me smile, and couldn't resist. They were actually affordable, as opposed to a lot of the art I saw, and totally up my color alley.

I also saw a large number of fabulous bronzes and sculptures, many in the natural themes--bears, owls, wolves, rabbits, deer--and was blown away by the artists' creativity and skill. It was very inspiring and reminded me that I need to seek out that kind of inspiration more often. Too many times I just skip looking because I don't have an immediate need, can't afford it, or think a gallery isn't going to suit my tastes. If I can keep my mind open, happy surprises can await. (Don't get me wrong, I did go through quite a few kitschy and run-of-the-mill galleries before I arrived at THE one. Good art doesn't grow on trees. But when you find it... wow.)

I'm grateful for husband, for these six years and for all we've learned and grown together. It's been wonderful and I wouldn't change a minute. He's exactly the husband God knew I needed.

In an odd way, I'm grateful to be done with the bulk of Christmas, and now can move on to December with really just a bunch of baking on my brain. I still have my two guys to take care of, but they're pretty easy... I am exited to get into the kitchen and try out a few new things for the work holiday party and a couple of cookie exchanges I am going to, as well as a little pierogi making with my Canadian girlfriends too. I know December is going to fly by, but I feel ready for it!

I hope your week has been lovely, wherever you are, whatever you've been up to. What are you grateful for this week?

And I hope your weekend brings you peace, love and sunshine.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thursday 13: 13 things I'm looking forward to eating today

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I know, this post should be filled with 13 quotes of gratitude, or 13 reasons I'm glad I married my husband six years ago today (there are more than 13, for sure) or some other deep and meaningful post, but nope. You get to hear what I'm excited to eat today. This is my favorite food day of the year. Period. Yum.

Tomorrow I'll make a stab at deep and meaningful, I promise.

Thirteen sounds like a lot of items to eat, but as I got rolling with it, it does appear that indeed, we will have at least 13 items at our ample buffet...

1. Turkey. I roasted three turkeys last week for a YoungLives dinner, so I'm feeling really ready to roast again! I experimented with a very simple roasting technique (450 for the first hour, 350 for the next three or so hours, cover as needed) and stuffed it with garlic, lemon and sage. And butter. That's it. It was amazing, and I think we'll give that a go again today.
2. Turkey loaf. This one is an old family favorite, from our more vegetarian days. Even though we all love turkey, we really can't envision the holidays without both on our plates. How odd, I know. But very "us."
3. Stuffing. We'll roll pretty simply with this one. Sourdough, cornbread, herbs. No nuts, no fruit, no meat. Definitely no meat. I am forever scarred by the Thanksgiving where a meat stuffing made an appearance. That's all I'm going to say about that.
4. Mashed potatoes. Did you know cream cheese is the secret to truly creamy mashed potatoes? I know, The Pioneer Woman does it too, but I swear I was doing it first.
5. Gravy. Simply and pure, like all good gravy should be.
6. Cranberry sauce. There was a small misunderstanding on the cranberry sauce procurement, so the grocery stores had better be open for cranberries in our early morning run!
7. Brussels sprouts. I'm feeling a little gratin coming on for the Brussels this year. A little cream, a little cheese, and there won't be any complaining about the Brussels, I am sure.
8. Yams. These puppies will get roasted in rosemary. I know, not really the sweet style, but, again, this is how we roll around here...
9. Corn casserole. Look at all these veggies! A girlfriend made this for the dinner last week, and I loved it--I don't have the recipe posted yet, but I will. It's a variation on this one, though.
10. Pumpkin pie. Simple, basic, and essential to this day.
11. Rolls with butter. Lovely bakery in town made a contribution (well, we paid them, but...) to our dinner of beautiful rolls. I think this is the one meal of the year when I feel that bread with my meal is critical.
12. Sparkling cider. Not a drinking clan, this is our beverage of choice. We have an assortment of the sparkly stuff.
13. Leftovers. Doh. Right after The Muppet's and some early Black Friday shopping (some stores are open at 9 p.m.? That sure beats early Friday in my book.) I anticipate some fridge raiding.

I hope whatever's on your table this Thanksgiving, it's right up your alley! I am off to roast the bird!

For more Thursday 13s, go here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Midweek reminder: This is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

Tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of our wedding day, and this poem has always been one that I associate with husband. Carrying his heart (as I know he carries mine) for the past six years has been a joy and a blessing. I knew when we chose Thanksgiving Day for our wedding it would serve a dual purpose: recognition of the gratitude we felt in finding each other, and sweet reminders of thankfulness in the years to come.

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
--e.e. cummings

Sure enough, we are surrounded by family and love and warmth and food. It is as it should be, and I am thankful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ten Word Tuesday: Prep

Thanksgiving prep day: almost as lovely as the holiday itself.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday night grateful moment

Oh happy Friday! You're finally here! Yeah for that.

This week I am grateful for so many things...

Our tree. I  know I'm early (earliest EVER), but I can't help it.

My men. And our dinner discussions, which are especially lively when Seth returns home from being away a bit. Live-ly! I'm sure we solved at least two world problems tonight, with some input toward a third. I'm sure the President is just waiting for our call!

The prospect of family time this coming week. Yes, I'm even grateful just in anticipation. Games, eating, napping, reading, more games, more eating, more napping. It will be a lovely time! Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, a little citizenship celebration and an anniversary? What's not to celebrate?!

For music. This week it's been almost entirely Christmas-focused as I've made various holiday mixes for gifting and trading and enjoying... Happy music, for sure. (Though I did make one mix that's pretty much guaranteed to bring you to tears, but I've been avoiding that one so far. Yeah, so, why did I make it? For when I want to have a good cry, doh!)

For pretty decent weather. As much as I do want snow, I want it to wait... just a bit. Maybe the first week of December, snow gods? Right now it's just great being able to move around outside, go for a walk, etc., without freezing to death. By death I mean the -6 F that my aunt MJ just relayed from Calgary, Alberta. That's just insane (no offense, Albertans).

For a-ha moments. I took the tree out of it's big bag (yes, it's not real, get over it. I like the fact that my tree didn't give its life for my enjoyment and can stay up until New Year's without being a fire hazard!) yesterday afternoon and saw pretty ribbons attached to each end of the plug-ins and said to myself, "What genius came up with that plan?" Apparently the cursing and swearing I did last time I put up the tree actually compelled me to think ahead and put like-patterned ribbons on each end that plugs in to each other! Bo-nus. I had a good chuckle about the fact that I have zero memory of doing that. But as I'm typing, I remember that one year ago we were in house destructo-zone from the water damage from a leak, and Christmas decorating did not happen. SO. Two years ago, that seems more understandable as to why I would have no memory, right? Not just that I'm getting old...

Which leads me to a lot of gratefulness that our house is in good working order (knock on wood), and that State Farm did such a great job of taking care of our costs in getting it back to that condition. Really. Every penny. I am thankful for that, and the fact that we had a good crew doing the work, too. A distant memory at this point, and I'm grateful for that too! Just a lot of general gratitude around the house situation, are you getting that? And that there's a warm roof over our heads during the winter months. Not something I take for granted.

For skype, and technology in general. Love the staying in touch factor, even if some texts just never do get returned... (sorry, couldn't resist). (I'm mostly joking. Mostly.)

For energy (and caffeine when the energy needs a little boost)! It is amazing what one can get done between 5:30 and 9 a.m. (and also amazing what good an afternoon nap does when the crash happens at 2:30 p.m.!). I love being a morning person, so much.

For inspiration. I was giving the Pinterest spiel to someone today (I think I converted her, too!) and was reminded that even when I'm busy and don't spend a bunch of time at it, it's there and it's a really great resource for new ideas. Here are some really clever ideas that I've found recently.

I'm grateful for friends, near and far. For the connection we've made, newer or a very long time ago. The world is an amazing place--one where a lot of pain and suffering go on, a great deal of the time. I find the human connection to be one of the best and most tangible ways to feel God's presence, here on earth. The love that people show to each other through the mundane and the horrible and the sublime... that's the stuff, baby. I feel so blessed to be a part of it.

I hope your week has ended well and that wherever you are, you're as warm as you want to be, and feeling blessed. What are you grateful for this week?


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday 13: A treat for your eyes via video

Once again, my little "saved-up" video collection has grown to 13, so here I am with 13 tidbits for your Thursday. Lots of music, but a few other treats as well...

1. A creative music video, I Need Nothing.

2. Champagne girl. You know you want to invite her to Thanksgiving dinner.

3. An oldie but a goodie: Taylor the Latte Boy.

4. James Blake covering Feist's There's a Limit to Your Love.

5. Lulu and the Lampshades, so fun!

6. Eleanor Rigby. One voice that sounds like many...

7. (Breakfast at) Tiffany's ad.

8. An Apple ad that never aired, apparently...

9. The Innovator's Cookbook. Inspiring thoughts toward new ways to come up with ideas...

10. Night at the Roxbury with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. I have a hard time believing that they did this, but I guess the video is the proof?

11. A fabulous break dance

Break ton Neck from Alex Yde on Vimeo.

12. Color art that makes my color heart go pitterpat.

13. Earth time lapse. This one's been making it's way around Facebook, so you've probably seen? See again!

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

Hope you saw something that made you laugh, or just smile a little. Which video was your favorite?

For more Thursday 13s, go here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Midweek reminder: The rehearsals of milky November

We are enjoying a few days of beautiful sunrises and mostly clear skies before a promised storm arrives. I saw this poem a few weeks back and tucked it away, just knowing... snow's a comin'.

 I have a recent affection (the past decade, so... sort of recent) for poems that deal with the natural world... weather, animals, landscape, beauty. Being exposed to them in college, I remember thinking, "Meh, let's write about feelings." Ah well. Getting on up in years is a good thing...

The White
These are the moments
before snow, whole weeks before.
The rehearsals of milky November,
cloud constructions
when a warm day
lowers a drift of light
through the leafless angles
of the trees lining the streets.
Green is gone,
gold is gone.
The blue sky is
the clairvoyance of snow.
There is night
and a moon
but these facts
force the hand of the season:
from that black sky
the real and cold white
will begin to emerge.
-Patricia Hampl

Monday, November 14, 2011

Common Miracles, Week 26: Autumn is my favorite (again)

“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 know! The autumn junkie is back for another round of wacko-fall-love. Look away now if this in any way annoys you.

What's common and ordinary, and inspires me today?
*The color of the sky up against the mountains, the shades of gray and blue and purple, dark and angry, but comforting.
*The colorful leaves, swirling in the wind.
*The doggies, running in the wind. 
*Butternut squash, especially with a little parmagiano and just the teensiest bit of cream.
*When someone sings the national anthem a capella and hits all the notes. Maybe some day I'll be able to hear that without tearing up. Today was not that day.
*Christmas decorations, still in their boxes, but a few feet closer to their December destination. I swear they are quivering in expectation. Really.
*Coffee with frothed milk. I had forgotten how yummy that is.
*Words that resonate:
So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home. -Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee Nation

I hope your Monday has been good, for a Monday, and that you see Common Miracles around you. (Because they are there, everywhere.)

To see how the Common Miracle project began, go here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Granny squares completed

The hexagon Granny square project has been done for some time! As you can see, it was lovely and green-grassy out way back when I took these pictures. But for some reason, the pictures got a little lost in my computer kerfluffles of the past few months and I just recently unearthed them.

The original project I found at Attic24, a delightful crochet blog, and the hexagon tutorial there was really quite helpful. Since I hadn't done a join-as-you-go project before, I took the longer route and chose to join the hexagons once completed. So, my overall look is a bit different than hers, but I like the way the black makes all the colors pop. If and when I do the project again, I think I will work the hexagons together as I go, and maybe even bring the colors down from 16 to maybe even just 4 or 8 for a more monochromatic look (as in, maybe all shades of blue, or green, or something like that). I know, how unlike me, to limit the colors! Well, we'll see...

Once I got all the hexagons done, I laid them out on the floor and was able to move them around until I liked the arrangement--didn't want any similar blocks too near to each other, of course. That step alone, of joining the blocks, took quite a while and wasn't nearly as pleasant as crocheting the hexis themselves, so I am rather looking forward to trying out the join-as-you-go method!

I donated the finished piece to the local Humane Society, for a silent auction they had at a fundraiser recently. I was happy to support the puppies and kitties, and I think the "cozy throw," as they called it in the auction materials, went to a good home!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday night grateful moment

On this Friday night, looking back, the week feels long. Not because it was particularly difficult, or productive, or anything tangible. Except dark. I think the early evenings wear on me a little. So much for the fall love, eh? I do still love it, but ask me how much I like going out and about after dark? Not so much...

But still, as ever, grateful. With long weeks the list should be twice as long, right? Ha.

This week, and every week, I'm grateful for my family. Little emails, texts, notes, pictures... ways of keeping in touch. I am blessed. A friend sent me a note this week telling me how much she appreciated my mom's voice on my Facebook page, as her mom has passed away and she really loves seeing mother-daughter interaction. That was really sweet, don't you think, Ma? Thank you for being you.

I'm grateful for technology that keeps me in touch with Seth when he is otherwise housed. (How does one say that sentence? Not my favorite sentence, for sure.) Keeping in touch, again with little texts and Facebook chats, it's a better world for me because of technology.

Sunshine was around this week--we had great sunrises and some decent sunsets, and even though there's a promise of a storm tonight, so far it's pretty peaceful. I am grateful sunshine on these crisp fall days, even if it disappears around 4:30. Ugh.

Time is such a precious commodity, and I'm grateful when I get a little extra dose of time with husband. He's a gem, and we had a lovely day today, chatting together and short-road-trippin'-it.

I am grateful when I see examples of courage in our world. I read this blog post and was struck by her courage, on quite a few different fronts. Would that I could live that kind of courage every day.

A Facebook friend posted this video and I just had to share. I am grateful for humor, wherever I can find it. Laughing and finding the funny in the world around me, with all the sadness and pain, is rather critical to survival, it seems.

I busted out the Christmas music this week (and I'm grateful I did!). I blame the early release on the fact that we're celebrating Christmas with my family at Thanksgiving, so I'm in the mode/mood anyway, so why not be humming a musical accompaniment, am I right or am I right? I'm still working on my official 2011 Holiday Mix, but have been thoroughly enjoying Michael Buble's Christmas album, as well as She&Him's new holiday collection too. Good stuff.

I'm not a paid staff member of Michael's fan club, but I can't help but tease with:

How much fun is that? The whole album is really quite fab.

And since I'm already in a holiday mood, I shall inflict on you these lovely images I have pinned this week... I know, we still have Thanksgiving to go, but indulge me just a little, OK? We are past Halloween (meaning, I'm not as bad as those big box stores!). I'm grateful for the holiday season ahead.

lights (now that we're all done with those tomato cages from the garden...)

ornament (would it be MY list without a little crochet?)

ornament (how fun are these?!)

OK, I'm done with Christmas for the moment... hope it's not too soon for you to have a little holiday cheer in your heart... and in front of your eyes!

This shows you how long the week felt: I almost forgot to mention my wonderful weekend in Canada way back when (last weekend!) and the gratitude I have for my grandmother and my aunts, as well as my lovely son for making the trek through the Middle of Nowhere, Washington, to get there. I'm grateful for friendship connections, new and old, in Kelowna, and for the wonderful memories that being there always brings back for me. I had breakfast while looking out over the lake, got to crochet while everyone else played Scrabble, enjoyed picking up MJ at the airport and getting coffee together, and coerced Bobbi and Seth into being homebodies (I told you I don't like going out into the dark) and watching movies and eating popcorn on Saturday night. Capped off with a marathon Steve Jobs audio listen on the way home, and no speeding tickets (that alone is a grateful thing!) and it was a very special time.

I'm grateful for the weekend ahead, that it involves some down time, some up time, and a lot of gratitude.

What's on your thankful list this Friday night? I hope a few things make the cut.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pumpkin donut muffins

Some find the pumpkin/fall combo confusing. Why only make pumpkin items at certain times of year, when canned pumpkin, at least, is available year round? Well, dear pumpkin skeptics, do you feel the same way about eggnog? Or Christmas cookies and candies? I thought not. There's just something so lovely and autumnal about pumpkin, and I always look forward to adding it to various baked goods (and my coffee too!).

I found these little goodies over at Ezra Pound Cake, a really comprehensive food blog with many yummy items. The muffins whipped up quite easily, and were delicious freshly out of the oven. I also took her note to heart and froze a dozen or so, and have enjoyed pulling them out of the freezer on weekends and enjoying them with our leisurely omelette breakfasts.

However, my one caveat about the recipe: it makes a lot more than it states. I doubled it (as I was taking to share with friends), and filled two dozen muffin papers AND a loaf pan. So, do with that what you will... enjoy more donut muffins!

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins
Adapted from Everyday Food (November 2010)
Makes 12 muffins (see my note above...)

3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin purée
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (use 1 to 2 tablespoons if just coating the tops)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 12 standard muffin cups (I sprayed muffin paper liners. That's how I roll). In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and buttermilk. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping bowl as needed.

With the mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture, and beat to combine. Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup. Bake for 30 minutes.

Let muffins cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack.

Working with one at a time, remove muffins from pan, brush all over with melted unsalted butter, then toss to coat in sugar mixture (as you can see from my picture, I pretty much just dipped the tops...). Let muffins cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container, up to 1 day.

FREEZING: The naked muffins can be frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat in a 350 degree oven, then coat in butter and sugar.

If you click over to her recipe, you'll see that my muffins look a lot orange-pumpkinier. I have no idea what's up with that. But they are a lovely fall muffin option. I think you will enjoy them!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday night grateful moment

Friday night in the old country. Well, that's what I call Canada, anyway. It's what I used to call the actual old countries growing up--you know, the general Eastern European area my ancestors came from... with a little bit of an accent... My old country always brings out the grateful in me. One of my all-time favorite grateful lists is from another visit here. Good times. And this afternoon, driving in under the bluest skies, looking out on various lakes along the way, it was indeed lovely.

This week I'm grateful that I slept through our first big windstorm. I won't say I didn't have a leeetle help, but still, I stayed asleep and actually overslept (that's what the help will do for you!). Sweet. Well, other than the rushing around after the oversleeping, it was pretty sweet.

My men are always high on my grateful list, and this week's no exception. They both spoiled me wonderfully on my birthday, in spite of being in various stages of illness and recovery. It was a lovely day and now a distant memory, other than the espresso I make every morning that reminds me of my thoughtful husband. I haven't had an espresso machine in years, but all my hours--I should count them up sometime!--of standing in front of a big old restaurant espresso machine in Sydney in 1989 came rolling back to me and I frothed up milk like a pro! Like a pro, I tell you.

Reminders are good, don't you think? (Well, I guess I can think of a few instances when they might not be great, but let's focus on the positive, shall we?) I am thinking of the kind of reminders that bring you back to you. Remind you of who you are. That may seem rather counter-intuitive--if YOU don't know who YOU are, who would? Well, if you're anything like me, you can get a little lost some days in the everydayness of what you're doing and who you're doing it for, and if that list is longer than YOU, sometimes you need reminders. Still with me? I was reminded this week of my "strengths," in a book I'm rereading for a local nonprofit leadership group. The book is Now, Discover Your Strengths, and husband and I each took the quiz a number of years back. I had forgotten that my strengths (according to this book, anyway...) are: responsibility, strategic, positivity, discipline, maximizer. (Does the word strategic stand out to anyone else as odd? Shouldn't it be strategy? Kind of like that old Sesame Street thing: one of these things is not like the others...) Anyway, I was grateful to be reminded of those words (whether I agree with them 100% or not is another story), and I'm grateful to still get a chance to use my strengths, even if it's not in an office, every day.

I'm grateful it's only just under three weeks until Thanksgiving. Such a wonderful holiday, and getting to spend it with my family and having Seth too? Golden. Bonus. Bolden? Golnus? Doesn't quite roll off the tongue, eh? I'll work on it. Meanwhile, I am very ready for turkey. And stuffing. And potatoes. And cranberry sauce. All the good stuff that makes up The Perfect Bite. Oh, the sublime anticipation.

As I sit at my aunt's, having just visited with my Grandma, with another aunt flying in for the day tomorrow, I am truly grateful for my family. I don't take for granted the bonds of my mother and her sisters, and their respective ties to Grandma as well... family means so many things to different people, but I'm grateful as can be that for me, family means hugs and warmth, good food, great conversation, understanding within differences, and love. Lots of love.

Creativity + persistence. I'm grateful for artists who can see past the practicalities that the rest of us get hung up on (sometimes the hangups are necessary, but still, what great art came from a deadline setter?). This video took more than a year and almost 300,000 jelly beans to make. If someone came to you and told you that timeframe and scope, would you sign off? Me neither. But I'm glad she did.

Oh, I am so grateful for music. So so grateful. I got my iTunes all set up and ready to roll on my new laptop and that was a bit of a chore. There are some new features to iTunes that are helpful, like being able to download all your purchases, from the beginning of time. As I browsed through music I bought way back when, I got all nostalgic, of course, so there are a few new mixes on the way... of old favorites and new favorites and OF COURSE holiday favorites as well.

I know I talk a lot about paying attention, listening, having similar themes come to you (me) again and again, but I swear a week doesn't go by when I don't see or hear something that I would have probably completely missed a week earlier... This week I saw a clip posted by a food blog on Facebook about a chef, Ottolenghi. A week ago that would have meant nothing to me, I might have clicked on it but more likely I would have skipped right on by. Because I happened to get a beautiful cookbook by Ottolenghi from my aunt MJ for my birthday, I of course clicked over. His love of cooking and cooking with people he loves: love it. I'm grateful for examples of people who put the love into the work, maybe even ahead of the work, and the work is better because of it.

Ottolenghi: Love is the Right Word on

I'm grateful for technology, every day. It makes staying in touch so much easier, and in some cases just simply possible. From texts and phone calls from husband while we're traveling, to skype abilities with the parents and Facebooking with friends, technology is a lovely benefit of living in the world right now. As Seth and I were listening to Steve Jobs on the way up today, on an iPhone, no less (!), and the author was recounting the first time Steve saw a computer and what an impact that made on him, I looked over at Seth and was struck by how second nature technology is for him (he's currently helping my aunt with some of her computer issues), and that the moment of seeing his first computer was when he was days old. So what will his a-ha moment be? What will be the thing that he looks back on and thinks, that was the first time I saw X, and my life was changed by that?

Whatever you have on tap for the weekend, may it bring good things your way. What are you grateful for this week? I hope it's a long list!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thursday 13: Survey says

I ran across this fun survey over at Randomness with Rachel, and tucked it away to use down the road... then it occured to me that it could be fun to make into a Thursday 13... I had to add a couple of questions, and changed one or two around to suit me, but it still does mostly resemble the one she posted. Mostly. Enjoy!

13 places I have visited:
1. Sydney, Australia
2. Melbourne, Australia
3. Orlando, Florida
4. Singapore
5. Penang, Malaysia
6. Hong Kong
7. Alaska
8. Hawaii
9. NYC
10. Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
11. Keene, Texas
12. Palm Desert, CA
13. San Luis Obispo, CA

12 items on my bucket list:
1. Have high tea in London.
2. Eat macarons in Paris.
3. Visit early Christian churches in Eastern Europe.
4. Eat gnocchi in Italy.
5. Do a Holy Lands tour.
6. Live on an island (as its only two inhabitants [with husband]... a very small island, maybe in a river rather than the ocean. This is more pipe dream than bucket list...).
7. Learn to sing. Really sing.
8. Learn to play the piano. Really play the piano.
9. Get a poem published. (By someone other than myself!)
10. Run a marathon. (Once upon a time this was going to happen by 40. Ha ha ha ha.)
11. Build a house. Well, participate in the building of the house by telling people what to do. And maybe swing a hammer occasionally.
12. Dip my toes in every ocean on Earth. (I might just look at the Arctic Ocean... Brrr.) I guess I just have Indian and Arctic to go, unless you're one of the people who buy into the fifth ocean thing... I don't mind adding Antarctica to the list!

11 things I love to eat (this list will not surprise anyone!):
1. Figs
2. Basil
3. Cheese, pretty much any kind but especially chevre, fresh mozzarella, brie and blue cheese
4. Crusty white bread, ie baguette, but more dense and chewy... ciabatta?
5. Custard
6. Hazelnuts
7. Sun-ripened tomatoes (especially WITH basil and cheese)
8. Steak
9. Warm chocolate chip cookies and milk
10. Roasted vegetables: cauliflower, butternut squash, potatoes...
11. Fondue (this deserves its own category, separate from cheese)
12. Berries: blueberries are at the top, followed quickly by raspberries and strawberries...

10 items currently on my desk:
1. Please do not be horrified, but 3 (count 'em) laptops in various stages of workability. Working on getting to ONE.
2. Nail polish
3. Files of stuff I pretend to work on
4. SanDisk to transfer photos from my good camera to my computer
5. Coupons from a massage therapist I went to recently. She's good.
6. A Little Book of Healing Prayer
7. Takeout menu from PFChangs
8. Wallet I keep meaning to transfer stuff into
9. Landline phone and iPhone
10. Box of tissues (for reading things like Mona Simpson's eulogy for Steve Jobs, or watching Parenthood. Gah.)

9 flowers I would fill my house up with every day if I could:
1. Plumeria
2. Gerbera daisies--every color!
3. English tea roses in pinks and yellows and peaches
4. Forget-me-nots
5. Siberian irises
6. Lilacs
7. Dahlias, in peachy pink shades
8. Sunflowers
9. Peonies

8 favorite songs (hard to keep to 8...):
1. Abide in Me, Kristen Chenoweth
2. The Luckiest, Ben Folds
3. First Day of My Life, Bright Eyes
4. The Way I Am, Ingrid Michaelson
5. Living Prayer, Alison Krause
6. Sailing to Philadelphia, Mark Knopfler
7. Extreme Ways, Moby

8. A Million Ways, OK Go

7 things I can't get through the day without:
1. Coffee
2. iPhone
3. Prayer (feel bad putting that in third place, but it's where it naturally occurred to me...)
4. Kiss/hug/I-love-you to/from husband
5. Hug from Seth (if he's here...)
6. Food
7. A shower. Well, I can, but I really have a better day if I do.

6 favorite authors:
1. C. S. Lewis
2. Jhumpa Lahiri
3. Anne Lamott
4. Donald Miller
5. Mary Oliver
6. Bill Bryson

5 animals I would have as a pet if I could:
1. Giraffe
2. Exotic cat, like an ocelot
3. Red panda
4. Fennec fox
5. Hedgehog

4 words to describe myself:
1. Persistent/persevering
2. Optimistic
3. Cheerful (especially after coffee...)
4. Honest

3 models of vehicles I have owned:
1. Subaru
2. Jeep
3. Honda

2 physical traits that attract me to someone:
1. Eyes
2. Smile

1 favorite season: Doh! Autumn.

Well, that was fun. I'd love to hear yours... you can play along in the comments or on your own blog!

For more Thursday 13s, go here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Midweek reminder: All we do is pass through here

Sometimes, I Am Startled Out of Myself,
like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.

-Barbara Crooker

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Common Miracles, Week #25: In love with the season

 “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

Fall continues to woo me... completely ordinary things surround me, but I am in love with them all. (Well, except for the dark. The dark I am less in love with...) The color variety, the crispness, the sweaters and boots, the fall flavors, the holiday anticipation, the pheasants strutting around the fields... it's all quite up my alley.

I am getting my iTunes all squared away again (things have been iffy in the computer world, but are definitely looking up!), and loving getting reacquainted with music I haven't seen/heard in months. Kinda cool, the memories associated with songs. I love that (mostly). Nothing (maybe other than some specific smells) can transport me so quickly to a time and place.

I read Mona Simpson's tribute to Steve Jobs yesterday in the NYTimes and had a quiet cry at my keyboard... a lovely piece, and oddly intimate. I didn't expect to be so moved by her words, by her telling of his last days and hours. 

The Beth Moore study I'm in right now isn't one of my favorites--it will be hard to top Fruit of the Spirit from last spring--but there are still nuggets in the mix... this morning was devoted to the Lord's Prayer, how to pray, etc., and that's my speed. I especially was internally nodding when she talked about praying without being results-oriented. I wasn't nodding because I know this and live this, but because I needed to be reminded of that fact. Pray to be in His will, not to have my will magically imposed on the world. Nuts. I mean, good reminder.

A warm mug of coffee is currently juicing me up to go mow/pick up leaves. Husband got me a wee espresso maker for my birthday--for a non-coffee-drinker, he does indulge my habits!--and I mastered the espresso this morning. Now on to the frothing of the milk... the little rituals of our mornings are quite soothing to me, especially on mornings such as this, where autopilot is really the only mode between 6 and 7 a.m. If I actually had to think? Not so good...

Words that pop up in multiple places around the same time always feel like tiny knock-knocks on my brain: Pay attention, Sher. I love that. I'm not talking about those silly urban memes like Lionel Ritchie's picture with the lyrics from "Hello" underneath it--which seems to come around every six months in a flurry like it was just discovered for the first time. No, I'm talking about seeing words, similar if not exactly the same, in very disparate places. Happens to me all the time. I dig it.

Two recent examples:

Some times you need to see things multiple times (at least I do) to Get It. I'm trying to lean in more closely and listen, but some days my internal chat is turned up too high and things whiz by unnoticed... Working on it...

That's my list for this day. I feel utterly blessed to look out my window and see sunshine and colorful leaves. Now to go mow them up!

To read about the Common Miracle project and how it began, go here.
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