Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday night grateful moment

Friday night in Canada, what's not to be grateful for?

It's lovely spending time with Seth, my mom, aunt Bobbi and Grandma. Today we relaxed, and then relaxed some more. Finally dragging ourselves out after a bit of lunch, we went to see Grandma and sat out in the sunshine for a while before going to watch part of an accordian concert in one of the meeting spaces. Such a cute, sweet couple danced through many of the songs. Just the two of them, quite peaceful and unabashed. Everyone else sat around in their chairs and watched. I tried to talk Seth into a polka or two... no luck. :(

Then there was a Scrabble game, and since only four can play, I said I'd sit in the loungy chair and watch and read... and nap, apparently. Oops.

I'm looking forward to watching friends pledge love and fidelity on Sunday. A day of celebration in Canada anyway ('eh?), but doubly so for them. As these events are wont to do, I know I will remember happily back to 2005 when husband and I exchanged vows, and hopefully I'll be able to keep it together--Seth is my date to the wedding and I don't think he'll look very kindly on a blubbery (even if I keep it quiet) mom on his arm! But love is grand, and I'm grateful, ever so grateful, that we found each other.

Tomorrow there's the promise of sleeping in a bit again (Seth, this morning, had a hard time rousing before 10 a.m. Vacation is goooooood.), and then more time with Grandma. And picnic food. What's not to love about potato salad and baked beans in the summer?

The nostalgia of seeing places from my childhood and happy memories associated with the people and places always makes this trip special. Today, I pointed out to Seth the office where my orthodonist practiced when I was a kid. Every time we're visiting it's something else: This is where I... Oh, look they tore that place down... Oh man, I used to love going there!

Not surprisingly, we have a number of rituals associated with this place and our trips. Seth and I dragged Bobbi and my mom to Scandia for a round of mini-golf in the heat (and mosquitos! Yowsa on the mozzies, they were fierce!), and then he and I did our regular burn through on $ in the arcade. Silly but fun. And it's tradition, after all!

Also on the list is White Spot, an oldie from my childhood with their zucchini sticks and sweet potato fries...

Being here reminds me of what a great childhood I enjoyed, full of many great memories, lovely friends and family, in a beautiful setting. If where you're raised has any impact on being launched into life, this is the place to launch from! I adore the Okanagan Valley, very much (as I've mentioned on previous trips here, here, and here). (One downside: summer traffic. Wow, that was thick today...)

This song is an old favorite for me, and fits my Friday night mood:

Hope you have a lovely weekend ahead of you, and your grateful list is long.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday 13: Road tripping with my boy

Thirteen thoughts while driving up the state of Washington, Seth in the driver's seat:
1. Wasn't it just yesterday that I was the youngster, driving to boarding school on these same roads, my mother beside me?
2. How did he get to be tall enough that he actually looks like he should be driving?
3. I love snacks on the road. Is it time for snacks? I know we just left, but surely it should be snack time...
4. Do I feel safe enough to nap? No, not quite. What if something happens and he needs my experience and wisdom, like, NOW?
5. Seth's profile looks remarkably like it did in the sonogram 16 years ago. Is that weird? That's weird, yet makes perfect sense.
6. In the old game of pause-time or invisible, I used to pick invisible, every time. Now, I think I'd pick pause-time.
7. The beautiful thing about working is that vacations are just that much sweeter. Not complaining about the working, just noting the difference. I like the difference, not having the days all run into each other.
8. I am so glad Seth doesn't like metal, or whatever they're calling that indecipherable loud music these days. He's mostly into electronic music, which I can handle.
9. This state is so beautiful. Not always in a predictably picturesque way, though. I have grown so very fond of the rugged, barren look through the middle desert stretch. Especially in winter, when the light is really thin and bleak.
10. OK, not it really MUST be time for snacks. Egg salad. Blueberries. Chips. Vitamin water.
11. Oh, where should we go out for dinner when we get to Kelowna? White Spot? Or somewhere less chain-y? Seth loves White Spot. (So do I.)
12. I have been driving parts of this road since 1985.
13. Huh. We just passed where I got my very first ticket. Father's Day, 1986. Some things just stay with you. This stretch of Hwy 97 still makes my foot hit the brake.
For more Thursday 13s, visit them at I hope your Thursday is as lovely as ours, wherever you are.
P.S. I napped, I really did.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Midweek inspiration: Every stone on the road precious to me

The Layers
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written,
I am not done with my changes.
-Stanley Kunitz

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ten Word Tuesday

Wishing for the coast, where rain in June makes sense!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday night grateful moment

It's raining on my summer. Hard. Buckets. With thunder and lightening to boot. What's up with that? Seth and I went out to pick cherries tonight and got a few pounds picked before it started up in earnest, and now it's blowing and cold and I can hear cherries splitting from the raindrops, even as I write...

OK, confession: I love it. But, it is getting in the way of weekend plans, in the sense of sitting by a pool and all, like I had planned, with girlfriends. Ah well.

Regardless of the weather, the thankful list this week is easy...

My men. Seth has been such a help at home these past couple of weeks, and husband has been so supportive at work. It's made my daily juggle go more smoothly, for sure. I am so appreciative of them both!

My health. I haven't mentioned health in awhile, which means I must be taking it for granted. (Tsk tsk.) I am, however, very grateful for good health--when I stop and think about it. I accomplished a great deal of lifting and hauling and shoveling last weekend, and didn't end up any worse for wear! I *did,* however, take a spectacular tumble in Home Depot on Sunday. And by spectacular, I mean, Olympic-medal-level bumbleness. I was more stunned than mortified (that particular emotion kicked in later), but the poor young man that was trying to help me looked a bit traumatized. (He saw me later when I was checking out and couldn't make eye contact, the poor guy.) All that is to say I have had a whopper of a bruise on my knee this week, and am glad it's healing up well. Still waiting to outgrow the awkward phase...

Our setting. From the immediate yard and garden, and our progress there, to our field of peas and beyond to the beautiful fields and pastures, Blue Mountains, etc., I am grateful for the view that surrounds us, every day. A lot of places in the world are beautiful, for sure, but I am glad to have found a home in this particular pretty spot.

Family. Beyond the three of us, I'm thankful for the support we have from our family. Near, far... (I almost launched into "wherever you are." Aren't you glad I didn't?) it is always good to know we've got a net of love surrounding us. Maybe a bit hokey on the mental image there, but the sentiment is heartfelt. When I see people more obviously struggling with daily life, whether because of mental illness or life choices, etc., it reminds me that life doesn't always deal the same hand to us all, and to appreciate the support that has been so readily accessible to me, my whole life.

Flavor. I am cooking up some salad and sandwich and appetizer and dessert goodies to take with me to visit the aforementioned girlfriends, and was reminded of all the familiar and lovely ingredient combinations that make me happy. Whether it's what cheese to put in the sandwich (you knew I'd have to go there) to whether the cherries should be in a trifle or a cobbler, and should I make three salads or four... I love cooking, still.

Memories. I had a memory this week that I recounted to a co-worker, of an experience when I was actually younger than Seth and I acted in a wildly irresponsible fashion... I was left alone for the first time EVER overnight, and took the opportunity to drive in to town (20 miles) and pick up a girlfriend to come spend the night with me. We told both sets of parents that she would be taking the bus to my house. (Never mind that the bus didn't actually come to our house... I suppose we must have said I'd meet her at the closest bus stopp--a half mile away--and we'd walk the rest.) I am absolutely floored by that memory now, that I actually undertook this level of deception and, more to the point, that I accomplished it, safely, and didn't get stopped by the RCMP (or my parents, who I think I informed when I was safely living in another country, at 20+ years of age). Crazy. And grateful. It does make for a good memory, though... (Good thing I know Seth doesn't read my blog. I would not have shared that story if I thought he would get wind of it.) I don't often trip down memory lane, but when I do, I like to think of the ones that bring a smile.

Friendship. I'm always grateful for my friend time, whether is a coffee or a spontaneous fro-yo moment, a FB note or a text. I saw this on Pinterest recently, and it encapsulated some of my thoughts on the kind of friends I have, and the kind of friend I want to be:

And speaking of Pinterest (which is never far off in any conversation, am I right?), here are a few more of my recent-favorite wordish pins to take you into the weekend...

On that note, I shall say good night, have a lovely weekend, and peace all around!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thursday 13: Summer musings

SUMMER! It's here, it's finally here! Not just in date, but in warmth and presence and joy. Summer joys, indeed. OK, maybe I'm getting a bit carried away. But seeing sunshine and cherries right out my office window, I can't help but get a little giddy (though it could be the second shot of espresso kicking in...)

To celebrate the giddiness, my musings might be a little random, but with a summer thread. I promise.

1. Seth is proving to be a helpful helper around the house. I typed the word "finally" in that first sentence, but that felt a little unfair. He's 15. Not 35 and living in the basement and thank goodness he FINALLY learned to put the toilet seat down. Not at all. He's just being entrusted with more responsibility this summer, with both his age and need to raise a little $$, and my work schedule. My kitchen? Clean. Laundry? Done, folded and put away. Windows? Washed (and then the power washers for the paint crew kind of undid that task...). Lawn mowed? Indeed. I'm enjoying this, while I have it!

2. I ate a strawberry, basil and brie wrap yesterday for lunch, and had one hand in a bowl of blueberries while doing so. Last night I stopped for my customary snack by the cherry tree. THAT'S how I know it's summer. Fruit abounds, and I love every pound of it--as I eat pounds of fruit, and as pounds seem to stay with me. I will happily have a little summer "fruit weight," as I call it. (More accurately, it should be called fruit-ice cream weight...)

3. Husband and I have been waking far too early lately, with the sunrise. Sometimes between 4-4:30 a.m. How insane is that? I was very tired around 8 p.m. last night, but then got my second wind. I need to obey the call to bed a bit earlier... but those long summer evenings...

4. Still enjoying my breakfast smoothie, and preaching the gospel of kale wherever I go!

5. We have a broken sprinkler pipe from the juniper-ripping-out adventures, and fixing it is proving to be more time-consuming than one (me) would like. Long story, but it involves mud, digging, more mud, and more digging. Riveting, I know.

6. The garden is overflowing. With weeds, yes, but also with our first summer squash and zucchini, with kale by the bagful, potatoes, cabbage and there are even wee green tomatoes. Bonus. There will be garden work this weekend, for sure.

7. My Pinterest time is mostly repinning right now, not a lot of internet-wandering-to-pin time. But here's my favorite pinned image, this week. (I know, you're shocked about both the content AND the color. Ha.)

8. A group of girls from high school are gathering this weekend nearby, and I'm going to go spend a day with them. I'm looking forward to catching up; there's something significant about that time we all spent together years ago, that still threads us all together. Funny how that is. Oh, and I'm going to make a bit of food for the group, AND I have a surprise I've been wanting to fiddle with for a bit. If it works, I will definitely be back to report.

9. We have flocks of birds that hang out around our property. I am usually a bird lover--the ones around our feeders, etc.--but these are annoying (noisy) and WAY too plentiful (starlings, I think?). To describe it as a scene from The Birds is not that far off. Our cherries take a hit, and sometimes I stand outside and yell, "CAW," at the top of my lungs and watch them scatter. (Good thing we live on acreage.) Once I yelled and then came inside to find Seth talking with a school friend over Skype, and they were both a little taken aback by my caw-ing. Ha.

10. Going to take Seth to visit my Grandma in Canada next week. I look forward to this trip, always, but this time it will be extra-special as Canadian friends are getting married that weekend too. Bonus. Oh and my mom is going to meet us there. Double-bonus.

11. Been plotting with oldest BFF (I always feel like I should clarify: oldest, as in longest, not OLDest) Corinne to see each other this fall. It's been a couple of years since one or the other of us has made the trek to see each other; this time we'll BOTH be trekking and meet up. Excited but don't want to jinx it by talking about it too much (what is with that blip of superstition? Weird.). I'll keep you posted if/how it comes to fruition, of course!

12. I love our pond and our goldfish very much. Our odd fascination with fish-watching has made both husband and I wonder about expanding our pond feature into two ponds or some sort of connecting pond structure... we'll see if there's energy for that later this summer, after our other projects are more completed... September sounds like a good time for digging another pond, don't you think (says the girl who will call a guy with a backhoe this time, not dive in with a shovel)?

13. Work is going. Most days it is going well. Things always take longer, have more hiccups, challenges, etc., than some people would like and/or anticipate (me), but I am enjoying the interactions, the input, and yes, even the challenges. I am struck, almost every day, by how much I love to learn. What is that? Like a second wind on acquiring new skills and information. Savoring that part of it too.

There you have it, my 13 tidbits, somewhat summer-related. Hope your summer is off to a great start! Any special plans you want to share? I'd love to hear about it!

For more Thursday 13s, go here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Link love

What's up in my online wanderings? A little of this, a little of that... the usual. I've been really scattered with my tuckings-away lately, but I managed to pull together the bits and pieces that have stood out the past week or so...

This concept is SO COOL. I cannot wait to play around a little bit with making a page, or a quiz thingy. I don't have an immediate use, but it just seems like a piece of technology I will find eminently useful. At some point. Do check it out.

I've shared this link with a couple of people who care about this sort of thing, but wanted to share it even wider, in case you care too! Food photography. I know, these days with all my Instagramming, it would seem I don't much put a lot of time and energy into my food shots, and, well, you're right. It's unclear whether I will step up the quality any time in the near future, but you'll be the first to know! Meanwhile, that post makes for good reading.

I learned a little (OK, a lot) about Vizio in this article, and the video is interesting, too. I like a Little Company That Could! (Well, if you don't count the WalMart association...)

Husband and I had a fun chat about National Parks this last weekend, and a pipedream (or is it?) that maybe we make a list and see how many we could visit in the next 25 years or so... We both downloaded the National Parks app to our iPads, so that's a good start, right? How many have you been to? I'm a slacker compared to husband, I think... He's in the high teens, for sure. I'm hovering in the single digits. (I had no idea there are 58 "protected areas," though, did you? My excuse is having been raised in Canada. What's yours?)

I cannot help but post about yet another kale salad! I am wild for the kale! And this salad has lentils, too. Yum. (I must say, our kale is the black Tuscan variety, not the curly as pictured in the recipe. I think Tuscan is primo.)

Just in case you are wondering what to read this summer, there's a flow chart to help you out! (According to this chart's particular genius, I should be reading Swimming to Antarctica [nonfiction] or Feed [fiction]. And, I think I might just check them out. See, it works!

Think men are the early adopters on all new technology? Think again. Interesting for those of us who use technology, and a must-read for those (ahem) who are building technology for the masses.

I saw this recipe and was immediately interested. I haven't moved from interested into the action mode yet, but I will. Raspberries aren't ON around here the way that strawberries are, and I think the chia idea would work with that berry too... but I have yet to sacrifice a single berry to anything other than my bowls of strawberries and ice cream, or my breakfast smoothie... In concept, this is one worth trying, I think. I'll report back when it comes to fruition. (Get it?) (Sorry, long day.)

I hope your week is off to a fabulous start!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday night grateful moment

Please watch this short video; it is my grateful list for this week. The sentiments presented so beautifully serve as a lovely reminder of the value of living each day filled with gratitude.

TEDxSF Louie Schwartzberg

Ricotta gnocchi

Ricotta gnocchi is one of those dishes, where, if I remembered how easy and versatile (and yummy) it is, I'd make it all the time! So, it's probably good that my memory fades... But when I remember all over again, pull out the ricotta and enjoy making and eating these little dumplings, it is always a pleasant "oh, yes, these!" moment.

Ricotta gnocchi
Makes about 50 1-inch dumplings
1 15 oz container ricotta
3 eggs
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper

Drain the container of ricotta in a colander lined with paper towels, for a couple of hours or overnight. (The original instructions on epicurious don't call for draining the ricotta, but I like to (and plenty of other recipes point that direction). The dough is pretty soft as it is, so getting rid of some of the excess moisture--even if it's just onto the paper towels, or tea towel if you prefer--helps stiffen it up a bit and makes for easier handling.)

Place the ricotta and eggs in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until very smooth. Add the flour gradually and mix thoroughly. Salt and pepper a bit, maybe a teaspoon of salt and a couple of grinds of the peppermill.

Meanwhile, have a pot of water on a low boil, nothing too rolicking. Take two teaspoons and fill one about half full and use the second to push the dumpling off and into the water. Depending on the size of your pot, fill it with about 12-15 dumplings. Let them cook until they float to the surface, about 3-4 minutes. Collect them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon or long handled strainer. Place into a bowl or on a tray until you're ready to use, and continue cooking the gnocchi until all the dough has been used up.

Now, what to do with these little bundles of cheesy goodness? Pretty much anything your heart desires! I treat them like pasta and combine them with tomatoes and basil and garlic and parmesan  (pictured above). I've also put them with marinara sauce, or a mushroom sauce. They are also very delicious pan-fried and tossed with parmesan and pinenuts (and kale, see below)... the options do seem to be endless, really.

I arrived at the world of gnocchi via the potato, but I have to say after making the ricotta gnocchi a number of times, I really do prefer the lightness (and cheesiness, of course) of this recipe. I first made them to accompany my very favorite beef recipe for dear friend Kate's bachelorette weekend, and topped them with a creamy basil and fresh corn sauce.

Since then I've tried these gnocchi in a variety of settings, and have to say a) it's a hard dish to ruin, and b) I do much prefer them warm. I toyed with the cool-to-room-temperature idea, extrapolating that they, like pasta, would work well as either a hot or cool dish. I was less than impressed with the cooler version--heavier feeling in your mouth, and less flavorful, in my opinion.

I hope you give these a try soon. So easy, and so good!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Midweek reminder: Agreements

I would have sworn I've posted about The Four Agreements before. Shocked, actually, when I looked through my blog archives, so find not a mention of it, since when I read about the agreements 13-14 years ago now, pieces of them were a-ha moments for me.

I remember vividly reading about the book in Oprah's magazine, and then getting the book at the train station in Philadelphia. I read the little book in the two-hour train ride to NYC; I'd been in Philly for business and then was headed into the city to see my brother and sister-in-law... 1998 or 1999... can't remember the year exactly, but I do remember the book, and thinking that it wasn't really all that much better in full book form, that the Oprah article pretty much covered it (and some of the expanded writing in the book is a little new-age-jargonish for me).

But that didn't stop me from reflecting, and continuing to reflect at various times in the years since, on the agreements themselves (the author has since added a fifth, which I find less powerful/revolutionary than the other four). I can't say I agree with every word or sentiment in each of the five points, or think they are the be-all, end-all of what it takes reach success. But, if I reflect on less-than-stellar interpersonal situations I've been involved with in my life, and think of them in hindsight using these agreements, every one of them could have been improved or even avoided, with these principals in mind.

So, common sense? Sure. But some days it seems hardly common in this world, what with how we humans interact with each other. Hence, the need to remind myself:

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment. It will be different when you are healthy as opposed to when you are sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

5. Be Skeptical, But Learn to Listen: Don’t believe yourself or anybody else. Use the power of doubt to question everything you hear: Is it really the truth? Listen to the intent behind the words, and you will understand the real message.
-Don Miguel Ruiz

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Green breakfast smoothie

Once upon a time, the breakfast smoothie/shake was a staple around our house. We enjoyed years of smoothies, really. But then, as with all tastes, you decide one day to try something different, mix it up a bit, and time goes by, new habits form, and before you know it, you can't remember the last time the Vitamixer was turned on!

Well, not quite... we have still enjoyed the occasional fruit smoothie to accompany the weekend breakfast extravaganza, but our regular habit has long gone by the wayside. Husband enjoys his steel-cut oats, Seth his egg and English muffin combo, and me, I waffle between hot cereal, granola, yogurt and breakfast cookies. But, as I reflected recently on our bumper crop of strawberries, and the overflowing kale as well, I thought giving a green smoothie a try might be worthwhile.

And it was!

Green smoothie
Serves 1 (approx 400 calories, if you care about that kind of thing)
1 cup strawberries
2 handfuls chopped raw kale (approx 3 cups)
1/2 cup yogurt
1/3 cup oat bran
1 cup orange juice

Place the strawberries in the bottom of the blender, followed by the kale, yogurt, oat bran and orange juice. Start out low on the blender speed, increasing until it's on high and the smoothie has mixed to your desired consistency. I pureed it pretty fine for quite a while, unsure how I would like the raw kale in this form. (Salad is one thing, but drinking it is quite another.)

I liked it, I really liked it. (Cue Sally Field.) It was fresh and not too sweet, and while the kale was strong, it wasn't too strong. If one wanted to tone down the kale further, a banana might help, but I tend to think bananas take over everything else, and wanted to get some strawberry out of the drink... and it was there, subtle, but there.

 I will definitely give this another go, and it just may become my summer standby, with the fruits varying with their availability.

Do you enjoy kale? Enough to give it a go in a smoothie? If you have any favorite smoothie recipes, please share--I've been collecting a bunch on Pinterest, and am always up for another!

Side kale note: If you have found the rampant proselytization of all things kale to be a bit over-the-top, you'll enjoy this article from Slate. I especially chortled around Day 6, of course!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday night grateful moment

School is out, and while summer should be fast upon us, she does seem to be taking her sweet time. I suppose we say that every year, or at least it feels more frequent. But for now, we'll take the cool and celebrate the end of a long week with some recounting of the blessings, thankfulness, gratitude.

Clouds. Our skies have been quite interesting lately, with colors and textures and moisture. Lots of moisture. (Rain, in case that wasn't clear. Like, days and days of it. Well, that might be overstating it a bit. Feels like days and days...)

Our verdant surroundings. I've given up on just calling them green. They're VERDANT. Lush. (OK,  green.)

Quiet. Utter peace, at the moment; stillness and calm. Love that!

Strawberries. I will not confess how many pounds of strawberries I've eaten this week... I'm in heaven that fruit season is upon us; so far there have been salads, smoothies, with ice cream, on cereal... every meal possible. And, at the grocery: decent-size, made-in-the-USA blueberries! With reasonable prices! I'll take it!

Friendship and laughter. Dear friend Melissa came and got me all hooked up with my serger, just today. We have been meaning to do this for quite awhile! I appreciated the motivation to sit down and read. the. manual (finally). We had some good laughs, and I will now proceed to serge everything in sight. Expect serged Christmas gifts, family. That's all I have to say about that. 

My guys, and their love, support, hugs and kind words. I am blessed.

The wildlife that surrounds us. There are birds and more birds; the noise can be almost deafening some mornings. I have gotten out of bed and shut the sliding door early on a weekend morning, just to tone it down a bit! But as much as I love the peace and quiet, I do love hearing their little chirps and twitters too. The bunnies have been scarce this spring, so far. A couple, but not our usual over-populating batch... possibly the hawks and owls have been busy? I haven't heard our usual Owen the Owl in some time, though, and I miss his hoots. The pheasants still do their thing in the pasture, but with the high grasses, it can be difficult to see them, except when they dart in and out. Oh and the fish, can't forget the fish. They are so energetic, zooming around the pond, gulping their little pellet food. Very glad to have the pond nicely stocked, and at least the local blue herons haven't spotted it (yet).

Paint samples. I put some paint on a few spots around the exterior of the house to test a color, and quickly decided it wasn't right. I am so very grateful I decided to do that instead of trusting the 8"x10" swatch I had previously. Now the appropriate color is up on the walls and I think we have a winner. If you're in the mood to look it up: Sherwin Williams' Foggy Day, at 75%. I know, what's the deal with the percentage? Crazy high maintenance, that's us. Foggy Day is much better than Uncertain Gray. I could NOT paint our house a color with the word uncertain in it. Just feels wrong. If it was Decidedly Gray, maybe. But wishy washy gray? Nope.

Dear sweet Chief. I swear, just about everyone I know is in the puppy way right now. The puppy pictures on Facebook abound--cocker spaniels, golden retrievers, labradors, corgis, oh my! But I am so happy with our mature boy right now, and his lovely chin on my knee. He's such a love, even when he's shedding!

Good energy. This video gives me a jolt of that good stuff. With all the gray and rain lately, it's good to have a bit of a smile in one's day...

Girl Walk // All Day from jacob krupnick on Vimeo.

I hope you have many smiles in your weekend, and that gratitude abounds! What's on your list this week?


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thursday 13: Quotes to share

Quotes are something I love to collect and share, as you know if you've been hanging out here with me for any time at all. Yet, it's been quite a while since I raided my quote pile for a few gems, and I've been on a bit of a quote-sharing kick lately (as you'd know if you were my Facebook friend or followed my rather lame Twitter account...).

Here are a few that have risen to the top, lately.

1. All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.
-Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

2. Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, "Where have I gone wrong?: Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night."
-Charles M. Shulz

3. Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
- Rainer Maria Rilke

4. Anything I ever learned comes down to something pretty simple: Don’t anticipate life; meet it. When you try to anticipate, you’re being an idiot, because nobody’s got the brain to outwit nature. I’m talking here about patience, about believing in yourself. I’m talking here about having the courage to wait. You will get what you deserve.
-Rod Steiger

5. Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What appears bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.
-Miller Williams

6. Almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious.
-Rainer Maria Rilke

7. Your light is seen, your heart is known, your soul is cherished by more people than you might imagine. If you knew how many others have been touched in wonderful ways by you, you would be astonished. If you knew how many people feel so much for you, you would be shocked. You are far more wonderful than you think you are. Rest easy with that. Breathe again. You are doing fine. More than fine. Better than fine. You’re doing great and don't let anything or anyone steal your right to feel good about yourself.
-Neale Donald Walsch

8. Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them--that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.
-Lao Tzu

9. Beauty is not in the face; Beauty is a light in the heart.
-Kahlil Gibran

10. The quickest way to change your attitude toward pain is to accept the fact that everything that happens to us has been designed for our spiritual growth.
-M. Scott Peck

11. Load the ship and set out. No one knows for certain whether the vessel will sink or reach the harbor. Cautious people say, "I'll do nothing until I can be sure." Merchants know better. If you do nothing, you lose. Don't be one of those merchants who won't risk the ocean.

12. If I were dying my last words would be: Have faith and pursue the unknown end.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

13. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bonus: My friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned all my limitations into beautiful privileges and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation.
-Helen Keller

In rereading through them, it is striking (to me) the apparent contradictions from one speaker to another... make it happen; no, just let it happen; be intentional; don't bother, it will all work out; life is great; life is hard. I like that.

For other Thursday 13s, go here. And have a great Thursday, while you're at it. Me, I've been feeling like Thursday MUST have been here days ago, but apparently not. It's here now, though, and I'm going to enjoy it!

What's your favorite quote of this bunch? Any new gems to share with me? Please do.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mid week reminder: Normal day

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.
-Mary Jean Irion

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Strawberry salads, forever

How many bowls of strawberries can one eat, really? That's a rhetorical question. But one that I've been asking myself--a lot!--as we scoop the sweet berries rather regularly to top cereal... ice cream... just to eat ad hoc, one at a time. When our strawberries arrive, they REALLY arrive. I spent an hour picking the other night prior to the monsoon, and came inside with upwards of 10 pounds to eat, freeze, eat and eat some more.

As it's been documented here in past posts, I am alone in this household in my love of fruit on/in a salad. Fruit salad itself is fine with my boys, but when you start adding greens, and nuts, and cheese (always with the cheese!), they both look at me a little sideways and shake their heads--politely, but I know what they are thinking.

So these two strawberry salads were eaten entirely by me. I'm proud to say it, I have been eating more than my share of greens and strawberries lately!

Strawberry arugula salad with baked brie
Serves 1 for a meal, two for a starter
4 cups arugula leaves (I added in a bit of baby spinach as well)
1 cup strawberries, sliced or halved, depending on size
Olive oil, drizzled
Salt and pepper to taste
Brie (three small slices, but that's really up to you...)

Clean and tear the arugula if the leaves are larger than bite-size. Place in a medium bowl. Drizzle the olive oil on the greens and toss lightly. Cut the strawberries and add to the greens, toss gently. Arrange greens and strawberry mixture on a plate.

Turn the broiler on high in your oven. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray (or use parchment) and lay the brie slices on the tray. Broil for 3-4 minutes, depending on your oven and how far your rack is from the element. When the cheese is bubbling slightly, take it out and let the cheese rest for a minute. Gently slide a pancake turner under the cheese, and lift onto the greens.

Salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

I really enjoyed the salty-sweet combination with this salad. Quite heavenly.

Here's what I can't believe about this kale salad: That I haven't tried it sooner. The whole "massaged" kale thing has been around for quite some time, but honestly, until you've tried it, you'll just think it will be like eating grass. At least, that's what was rattling around in the back of my mind... But you've probably tried it many times, and I'm the one late to the party... any which way, wow, it's great! The dressing really works its magic, and before you know it, the greens are soft and tender, and the whole combination is quite delicious.

The recipe I found to base this (and the dressing recipe) from did not have any cheese in the combination... obviously I had to change that! I experimented with a bit of blue cheese on one part of the salad, and a little parmesan on the other. Both were quite yummy!

Kale salad with strawberries
Serves 1 for a meal or 2 for a starter
6 cups of kale (this will reduce by more than half when massaging commences)
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1/3 cup cheese--blue, parmesan, I think chevre would be delightful as well...
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Clean and chop the kale, taking out the stems. (Even with our delicate garden-fresh kale, this makes a great difference in terms of the chewability, steamed or otherwise.) Place the kale in a large mixing bowl and add a couple of tablespoons of dressing and massage for a minute or two. The kale starts to soften pretty quickly, and you can tell by touch pretty easily that it's "done." (If in doubt, taste test!)

Add the sliced strawberries, cheese and nuts, and toss gently, with salt and pepper to taste. Place on a dinner plate (or two salad plates) and enjoy!

1 shallot, minced fine
1/3 c. olive oil
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar (I used a meyer lemon balsamic that added some great extra zip)
1 Tbsp. honey
Salt and pepper

Chop the shallot finely, put in a small container. (I start out with the little jam jar that I plan to store the dressing in.) Add the rest of the ingredients, put the lid on the bottle and shake like crazy for a couple of minutes. Voila.

Do you have a favorite strawberry salad recipe to share? I am open and ready to receive any new ideas you would like to send my way. There are still oodles of berries in the fridge...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

More questions! It's a questionpalooza!

There's a question-y meme that's been making it's way around the interwebs lately. I first spotted it here, at one of my regular haunts, a few weeks ago and tucked it away for exploring when I had a bit of time. Then, just last week I saw it pop up on a new-ish to me blog, Diary of a Square Toothed Girl, and saw that she opened it up to ANYone, so thought, hey, I'm in Q&A mode (as evidenced from my most recent Thursday 13), let's go!

1. Do you like your first name? Why? 
Now, yes. As a child, it took some getting used to. It stood out too much, especially since I went by Sher, and got a LOT of "Hey, Sher, where's Sonny?" Between high school and college I made the decision to go by Sherilee, and sort of embraced the name. But I'm fine being called either Sher or Sherilee--just no Sheri or Sheryl. Those are not me.

2. What is your favorite television show? Why? 
This changes, of course, with whatever new flavor is around, but I would have to say Downton Abbey has made me a very loyal watcher, the past two seasons. And Smash was a lot of fun just recently. The Middle makes me laugh out loud, as does Modern Family.

3. What is the greatest life lesson you've learned? 
Greatest? Oy. Just about anything I toss off here will sound pithily flip, and I'm sure I could dig up a quote or two to fit the bill... but here goes: Life is what you make it. I know people in very rough and tough circumstances who are pretty convinced they have it made, and I know people who sit quite comfortably to all outward appearances, and are miserable. So figure out what you want your life to count for, and aim for it every day.

4. Who is your favorite author? 
Too many to pick from! I usually haul out a C.S. Lewis for these kinds of questions... I like his mind, his subject matter, how he puts words together.

5. If you could be a pair of shoes, what kind of shoes would they be? 
Well, I posted a grateful list that featured shoes recently, and while I'd say ANY of those shoes would fit the bill, truthfully, the most like me are:

6. Twilight. Love it? Hate it? ;) (If you don't know what it is, lucky you.) 
I imagine myself as a non-fan, but I honestly don't know. I do not in any way enjoy vampire/werewolf stuff, so I haven't even been tempted to peek. I have heard that "it's SO not about the vampires and werewolves, it has big life issue implications" in the story, and to that I say: I'll take my big life lesson implications in a different wrapper, please. (Apologies to my girlfriends who are Twiheads. I love you, still.)
7. (Besides blogging,) what's your favorite hobby? 
What, to pick just ONE? Cooking. Gardening. Crochet. Calligraphy. Pinterest (that surely counts, doesn't it?). Depending on the time of day, or day of the week, it's one of the above.

8. Are you a fan of eggs? What kind? 
All eggs, any which way--though scrambled comes up on the no-thanks list much more than most other preparations. I would say poached, deviled, as salad or omelet or in a custard. Oh yes, in a custard. A friend posted this piece on Alice Waters and an egg she's famous for on Facebook just yesterday. Heavens, that sounds like a good egg. Might be worth a try, if I could find the right spoon...

9. Where is the most exotic place you've ever traveled? 
Exotic is probably in the eye of the beholder... or backpack of the traveler as the case may be. I would probably say Penang, Malaysia. Singapore. Hong Kong. All on the same trip. It was a great deal of fun and adventure.

10. What's the WORST thing you've ever eaten. (If it's your mother-in-laws cooking, I'll never tell...)
I myself have come up with some horrifying flavor combinations on my way to a meal, more than a time or two. But apparently I have blocked them out, as I can't recall exactly what those combos were... I did, though, come by it honestly--my paternal Grandmother was frightfully good at putting together many disparate ingredients and wrongly calling them a "casserole" or "salad," but it seems wrong to mention that, with her having passed a decade ago. I would actually give a great deal to have a meal with that lady one more time...

11. Can you keep a house plant alive? 
I am proud to say that I can. That has not always been the case. I used to refer to my method of tending plants as a "hospice." It was not uncommon for me to walk by, feel the dirt and say, "This needs water," and keep on truckin'. Days later: "This really needs water." And so on. I turned a corner somewhere in the past 10 years, and have kept some plants alive longer than they deserve--we had a couple of plants with mites last summer; I took them outside and I sprayed them and watered them and wiped them... leaf by fricking little leaf... and still. Mites. I finally called it good on one and threw it on the burn pile, all the while feeling guilty, like I could have done more! Ha.

Some people tag other bloggers, some just open it up for everyone... I want to do BOTH!

Here are my questions:
1. What would you pick as a major, if you could go back to college and do it again?
2. Who is the one celebrity with whom you would most like to have an indepth conversation?
3. If you could make a living doing ANYthing, what would that be?
4. What's your all-time very favorite dessert?
5. How many pairs of jeans do you own?
6. What is your favorite flower, and why?
7. What book has most changed your life?
8. What is your least favorite vegetable? Is there any way you can be persuaded to eat it?
9. If you could take a nonstop first class flight to any destination, where would you pick to land?
10. If your 15 minutes of fame included a stint on American Idol, what song would be your trademark solo?
11. If you could pick one former friend (who has remained elusive in this wild Facebook world) to reunite with, who would you unearth?

Here's who I'm tagging. Let's hear what you've got to say, then come up with 11 questions of your own and keep the meme going!

Jen at Stuff Jen Says
Chel and Gingerblue Studios
Janet at Fond of Snape
Shirley at The Livin' is Easy
Sherwin at Shower Wisdom
Rebecca at Mommy With A Cape
Cha Cha at Noodleroux
Slow Panic

Other bloggers, please do feel free to answer, and link back. If you don't have a blog--and why don't you? Come on, people!--feel free to fill up my comment area with your answers!!

Happy weekend questioning!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday night grateful moment

Tonight I sat in my car outside Seth's high school and waited for him to trumpet (along with the rest of the band) all the seniors into their graduation ceremonies. I began writing my grateful list on my iPad, and felt like I really was spinning the words quite beautifully. So imagine my horror when I could not find my draft saved in BlogPress on my iPad. Gone. Poof. Oh the grumpiness. I swear, the words of my post, they were like spun sugar, baby. Now, you'll be lucky to get gruel. Ha.

OK, so here's the gist: It was peaceful. And sunny. With a slight breeze. There were clouds building along the horizon though, and I felt sure a storm was coming. But, since I love summer storms, that was going to be just fine by me. I heard The Star-Spangled Banner float across the lawn, and stated in my post a conviction that nothing could compel me to get out and investigate what a large public high school graduation looks and feels like. (Girl Who Does Not Like Crowds is my native name.) Then. Pomp and Circumstance. My nostalgic heart pitter-patted. I kid you not, it was like something took me by the hand and said, "Sher, we know you can't stand crowds, but you really need to go see the spectacle." And so I did. I wandered the outskirts and discovered that it really IS as crowded and spectacle-y as I've been told. (Family: we have three years to plot our strategy. We CAN do it.)

This is the view as I walked the perimeter. The band is right by the guy in full military dress.
And all those miniature people in blue, that's the class of
2012! (Somehow the crowd looks deceptively small through the trees and bushes. There had to be at least 2,000 in attendance.)

I poked around behind where the band was playing and saw the back of Seth's head, essentially. I enjoyed hearing (a bit loudly--I was RIGHT by the drums) the school fight song after all the graduates were finally seated, and then kept wandering around the whole perimeter of the school campus. If I seem like some small-town girl at her first dance, well, I kind of am... I graduated from a parochial/denominational academy with 86 kids (in 1986, so how fabulous is that number?). So this hundreds of graduates business is a little crazy. Also crazy? The idea that police/security could be needed (other than teachers on PDA duty) at events; that was certainly not on my little bubble-world radar.

So there you have it, my evening. All that is to say, I DID have a grateful list, and it did include a few of the following...

The weather, crazy as it's been some days... I call it spring-into-summer and finally it's really starting to feel like the "into summer" part could come true. I'm loving it all.

 Driving home tonight.

The garden, and my fabulous husband who is keeping it weed-free, mostly. It's always to neat and tidy until the July heat and then it takes on jungle characteristics.

Our pond, and pretty fish. Some thoughtful co-workers gave a few orange, yellow, spotted and white-ish goldfish to help stock our little water garden. The new fish have integrated wonderfully and swim around in what I deem a happy manner. Who knows. They *seem* contented.

House "stuff" is progressing, though choosing a color to paint the exterior is somewhat challenging... there are so many tints and hues to any given color. Oy. But on the bright(er) side, juniper demolition begins on Monday, so set those tractors to high gear, the shrubs are getting yanked!

Our strawberries have finally ripened! I've been jealous of everyone else's early berries, and it seemed like ours were green forever. But this week it just happened! Fabulous flavor too. I have a hankering for a real strawberry pie...

Generous spirits. Does that sound fruity? What I mean is those who give to people around them, not in a material way, but in a supportive and a "I don't have to be first" kind of way. When you meet these people, you just KNOW. I am fortunate to have friends and colleagues who embody this, and I'm always grateful to meet new people who fall into this category as well. The world needs more generous spirits.

My family; I have big love for my family. We three, and then the larger group as well... just a pasture away we have a whole bunch of love and support from husband's family; and across the state there's more of mine, and up across a border too. I can't remember what got me reflecting on family this week, but I did some digging around in some picture files and have a hankering to scan a few... sweet nieces at early ages, lovely husband, dear Seth at any age (biased mom!), a couple of my "Sue Heck years" that make me smile. I posted the video below to Facebook this week, just because I am on such a Sue Heck kick (The Middle on ABC. If you don't watch it, you should.) Eden Sher (the actress who plays Sue) deserves an award or two--she nails the awkward teen so very well.

Laughter. Seth has been providing much in the way of laughter lately, the funny boy. Our car rides can be quite comical, which could sound disconcerting considering that HE'S the driver these days... but we're safe, really we are. Tonight on the way home from graduation, as the storm advanced, I commented how much I love a summer storm and his first response: "Well, as long as it doesn't mess with the internet." As I type that, it doesn't sound so funny. But it was somehow quite hilarious to the two of us, at the time.

 The driver. Calm. Confident.

 The mother/instructor/backseat driver. Calm. Relaxed...

Or is she? Ha.

He's such a fabulous boy to put up with his crazy mother.

It amazes me how quickly I forget my blessings and can stray from a place of peace or gratitude; it would seem like I should be able to stay on track for more than seven days at a time. I'm afraid not; this girl has the attention span of a gnat most days. This ritual has, I think, wired me to stay closer to gratitude, all the time. And I'm grateful for that!

I hope you can find a place of gratitude this weekend too, and share it with someone dear.


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