Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday night grateful moment

Oh it is such a lovely night out, finally. After a week (or two or three) of funky weather--when's the next rainstorm? wait a few minutes!--it has finally warmed up and cleared up quite nicely. Not hot, but not cold... and you know the hot will come! When the sun went down tonight the whole world was golden, for a few minutes; those are my favorite kinds of day-endings.

This week I'm grateful for my family, the near ones and the far ones, for their continued health and safety. This is a crazy world we live in, and I don't take that stuff for granted, at all. I shared a quote via text with my mom today--it fits where they're at (on vacation) and where I am too (not on vacation): "After all, a vacation is not a matter of time or place. We can take a wonderful vacation in spirit, even though we are obliged to stay home, if we will only drop our burdens from our minds for awhile. But no amount of travel will give us rest and recreation if we carry our work and worries with us." -Laura Ingalls Wilder, from a book of essays. Hope your trip is fabulous, you two travelers!

I'm grateful that Seth passed his driving test last night. Whooo! I've actually never seen him so nervous before. He usually takes tests like he's eating cotton candy, but with this one there was some sweating. He had the biggest grin on his face when he walked back into where I was sitting and waiting while he drove around with the tester. Biggest. Grin. Me, I'm grinning because maybe, just maybe, my taxi days are behind me?!

I'm grateful for laughter. I had a number of really good laughs this week, mostly at ridiculous videos Seth showed me on YouTube. But still, get the laughs while you can, right? In case you missed my sharing on Facebook, I would highly recommend starting this one around minute two, watching only the first couple of minutes of this one, and just enough of this one to get the gist. (That last one might just be burned into your brain for a while; I apologize about that!) But I do hope you laugh.

I'm grateful for early summer eating. Fresh pesto. Strawberries. Asparagus. Kale. Baby potatoes. All the freshness makes me happy! There are even a few ears of corn around here, and a watermelon... those might be pushing the season a touch, but I do love heading into this season of flavors!

I'm grateful that General is a) still here, and b) has settled in just beautifully, and c) that he and Chief do well together. Last weekend when we were working around the property, he was gallivanting here and there, trying to keep up with Chief, chase Seth on the mower, etc. When we came inside he collapsed. Like, in a heap, sound asleep. I thought we might have killed him from exertion... But he slept soundly overnight and woke up happy. And he's continued to just feel like a part of the family, which makes ME very happy too.

Nap buddies. 

Life on the farm is hard.

I'm grateful for hand-me-downs. This week I got two things handed down to me... and through the network of small-town generosity, both originated from the same lovely soul (let's call him Tom). A friend emailed me and said he didn't have enough sun in his back yard to support two fig trees and would I like them? Um, yes! And then later in the week, another friend asked me if I wanted a sourdough starter that had originated from the fig-giving friend. Again, a solid yes. So, sometime over the summer, I will hope to make some figgy flatbread and give a big shout out to Tom!

I'm grateful for sleep--the promise of not having to wake early tomorrow! Twice this week either husband or I had early morning commitments that meant rising, really being up and at it, by 4:45 a.m. Which, of course. means that you then worry about sleeping through an alarm, and wake at 2 a.m., maybe 3 a.m., and definitely 4 a.m. Turning off all alarms for tomorrow, and please, no one call! (If that isn't an invitation to the pranksters, I don't know what is!)

I am always grateful for new mornings, fresh starts, renewed grace to face whatever comes our way. Every. Day. There are promises that have significant meaning to me, and reminders. Here are a couple that bring me peace, lately:

I hope you have an absolutely splendid weekend ahead, filled to the brim with good things.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Midweek reminder: Everyone struggles

I've long been a fan of the quote:

Recently I saw this paragraph, and it really spoke to me, in a similar vein. How often we forget that we're all human, after all.

“The fact that you’re struggling doesn’t make you a burden. It doesn’t make you unloveable or undesirable or undeserving of care. It doesn’t make you too much or too sensitive or too needy. It makes you human. Everyone struggles. Everyone has a difficult time coping, and at times, we all fall apart. During these times, we aren’t always easy to be around—and that’s okay. No one is easy to be around one hundred percent of the time. Yes, you may sometimes be unpleasant or difficult. And yes, you may sometimes do or say things that make the people around you feel helpless or sad. But those things aren’t all of who you are and they certainly don’t discount your worth as a human being. The truth is that you can be struggling and still be loved. You can be difficult and still be cared for. You can be less than perfect, and still be deserving of compassion and kindness.” - Daniel Koepke

If you need that compassion today, I hope you get it. And if you're in a position to give, please do.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday night grateful moment

There was this thought, while I was on the road, that I might actually blog... seems almost humorous in retrospect. My days away were filled with meetings, learning, listening, absorbing. The evenings were filled with walking and eating. Blogging? Just didn't fit into the mix, especially with lack of pre-planning.

But I am here to share tonight! And looking through my pictures was a quick walk down recent-memory lane. You know that feeling, when you're home only 24 hours and it's like you were never gone? Trip? What trip? Yeah, that. That's where I am tonight...

But entirely grateful to be here--home, safe and sound!

This week held a great deal of interesting talk about all things "client." If you're in business, you have clients. And they have an "experience" with you. What is that experience, and how can you make it better? (Gone are the days of just calling that customer service, by the way.) Just when I thought (at the end of day two) that we couldn't possibly peel that particular banana any more, in unique ways, there were interesting and thought-provoking presentations on day three! Go figure. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to listen and learn, and to be reminded that the work I get to contribute to is quite interesting, in the spectrum of industries. Working for a big conglomerate making widgets, running call centers all over the country (or India)? Not for me.

Had to share this picture of the group we shared some space with on Wednesday:

Didn't actually see any men in black, though...

In the evening my work colleague Molly and I walked and talked and walked some more. And ate. We looked at a hundred (really) different menus online and on the sides of restaurants, looking for interesting, healthful food. I know, healthful? In New Orleans? Fresh ingredients don't just grow on trees down there, apparently. Or if they do, they drop directly into a deep fat fryer on their way to your plate! Our persistence (or was it pickiness?) paid off and we had really good food.

We went to Mr. B's Bistro, a little French restaurant with a sweet courtyard called the Grapevine, Cafe du Monde for beignets, and of course, Emeril's. Everything was entirely yummy.

A few of the sights we took in:

We took a streetcar out St. Charles Ave., to see beautiful old houses and ride past Tulane and Loyola. But about halfway out, the streetcar stopped, and the conductor told everyone to get off, that he wasn't going any further as there was work being done to the tracks out ahead. Meanwhile, we could see the other streetcar ahead of us, continuing on... something didn't add up. But when the guy tells you to get off, you get off. And catch another streetcar back into the city. We chuckled and thought he made a pretty good example of what not to do, from a "client experience" perspective...

I took quite a few pictures of houses as we zipped along in the streetcar, but when I went back and looked at them, they all looked the same. Essentially, part of a house (never got my trigger finger timing down perfectly) with trees and sidewalk, and the houses are very similar: most have columns, are taller than they are wide, and on narrow lots, with porches and shutters. I felt a little like we were in the middle of a movie set for something like In the Garden of Good and Evil, which I barely remember, and it's set in Savannah, not New Orleans. But, still...

I came home Thursday from an oddly quick-but-long day of travel to flowers from my sweet husband (he missed me!), a clean house and the anticipation of Seth coming home this afternoon. Grateful grateful for my guys. I am blessed.

And, pretty much immediately upon touching back down in the Valley, I stopped by the Blue Mountain Humane Society and picked up a little furry friend who had been waiting to come foster with us this weekend.

Meet General:

General is a seven-year-old Corgi who was surrendered by an elderly woman going into assisted living care. He's sweet as can be, and best of all, Chief seems to like him pretty well. There's the usual need for reassurance and affection, but no real overt snipping and jealousy. They seem like they will get along and become buddies, and it already feels pretty natural to have General here. I'm stepping out in saying that, as we're not being all official-like until the weekend is over, so keep your fingers and toes crossed that all will go well. So far so good, and whoo-hoo for not having to go through the puppy stage; I'm very grateful for that! 

I hope your grateful list is long as you head into the weekend! May you find rest and peace and anything else you're looking for! I will be looking for some extra zzzzzs to catch up on; travel is never kind to my sleep schedule.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday morning inspiration on a Tuesday

OK, so it's Tuesday morning by the time I post this, but still... post I must. It has taken me an inordinately long time to figure out a new blogging app, Blogsy, and I'm not sure I get it, even now. I'm in New Orleans at a work conference, and hearing news all around of Oklahoma and the devastating tornados, I can't help but think of the families impacted there and off a prayer of support and comfort. Such loss.

I have been having a lot of fun with Over lately. Enough so that I thought, over the weekend, "I could really get into this. Can putting text over photos be my day job?" Ha. Wishes me, and every other silly app addict on the face of the earth. I've heard tell of people dreaming of making a living with Instagram... I'd love to know if they could ever achieve that. Theoretically there are people pulling in cash from Pinterest, but I've been too busy to actually sit down and try and figure that out. Seems slippery.

Meanwhile, Over. Take a pic, put text on top, fiddle with it, post it if you like. If you have an iPhone, you really should check it out. It makes me very happy.
A few favorites from other Over users:

Everyone makes a mess in the kitchen, a fail, even an Epic Fail, on occasion. Take a look at some pretty bad kitchen outcomes. And live to cook another day!

And my favorite words for today:

"Someone who takes the time to understand their relationship with source, who actively seeks alignment with their broader perspective, who deliberately seeks and finds alignment with who-they-really-are, is more charismatic, more attractive, more effective, and more powerful than a group of millions who have not achieved this alignment. Nobody else knows your reason for being. You do. Your bliss guides you to it. When you follow your bliss, when you follow your path to joy, your conversation is of joy, your feelings are of joy--you're right on the path of that which you intended when you came forth into this physical body."

-Esther Hicks

I hope your week is off to an awesome start.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday night grateful moment

It's Friday night. What shall we be grateful for? (I'll give you a hint: For so very much.)

For love. Divine love, earthly love, all love. Such a blessing, is love.

(Total aside: did you know that a bunch of unicorns is called a blessing of unicorns? Me neither. How awesome is that?)

For seasons. There is wind in the trees outside our bedroom, blowing in exactly the right direction so that I can hear and enjoy it, and not be chilled. It's trying to rain a little, and acting quite like spring again, rather than the full-on summer we had a week ago. This is good.

For quiet. Other than the trees and my own typing, it is silent. And lovely.

For good health. Not to be taken for granted, for a moment.

For bright spots in our days. Laughter, an encouraging word (given or received), a pause to reflect. The sunset, cloud formations, rain on the sidewalk. A happy pup greeting at the end of the day. A happy son greeting at the end of the day. Seeing my guys together, enjoying each other.

For music. I blame my wallawallamusicmama friend Jen for the recent ELO fixation. This song takes me back to walking through carefully through a cow-pie riddled field to catch a ride to school, somewhere around 1982. And this song, too.

Jen got me started with this video:

I love the energy of the group singing and strumming! If you want to get lost in YouTube for a bit, keep following the Wellington International (and/or UK) Ukelele Orchestra from video to video. It's a little bit magical. I can also waste a bit of time in college acapella groups...

For the strength to not be completely wrecked by a new fitness regimen. Slightly (well, OK a little more than slightly for a day or two) sore, but not wrecked.

For seasonal eating. Salads! Love all the fresh greens available. Especially baby kale. So delicate and healthy! And our strawberry plants are loaded with berries--now for some sunshine to turn them red! And I'm back on the green breakfast smoothie wagon too, this time with kale--it's awesome. Seth took one look at my mug 'o smoothie this week and made a face, gah, too healthy. Nope, it's really the perfect way to kick off the day, for me. (Well, with a coffee prequel and chaser, of course!)

For new takes on old favorites. Sometimes I get a little exasperated at how many times we collectively circle around ideas and themes (fairy tales retold and REtold, anyone?!), but if we're talking Shakespeare, I can always take a few more stabs at the same idea. I have long been a big fan of Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing, but here comes Joss Whedon and his spin. Looking forward to it, so very much.

For down to earth people. I am so grateful for real people. I know, you probably think, doh, of course, Sher, you live in rural Washington state. How much more real can it get? Ha. Setting is not always an accurate predictor of real vs. silly fake. Amazingly, even in Walla Walla, Wash., one can run into pretense, positioning, ridiculous politics, taking things too seriously or personally... Which makes me grateful for real. Salt of the earth, baby. Bring it.

At the end of every week, I am grateful for the pause. The rest. The ability to step away from the pull of the everyday and express thanks and praise to my Creator for this life, these people, these opportunities to live and give and serve. Blessings abound. Just gotta pause and take it all in.

I hope your weekend brings you all the fun you can handle, and a little rest to go along with it.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Midweek reminder: Your work need not be lost

Lately I seem to stumble across quotes that I have long appreciated, but in a larger context. I really enjoy that, finding the words around the well-known nugget. It can shed a whole new light. This passage from Thoreau is a good example, as it is often actually misquoted: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler."

Listen how it was really written, below. The elaboration I find much more lovely, but probably not quite as "greeting card." Alas.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. -Henry David Thoreau

That paragraph calls me to live in the woods; simply, quietly, peacefully. And that if I can't live in the woods literally, I can simplify and scale back my life in the present... to live in the woods, figuratively.

What does this passage say to you?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday morning inspiration

Good Monday morning to you! I hope your weekend was as marvelous as mine--I was a little sad when the "festival of Mom" ended last night...

It's commencement address season, and here's a take on one that is quite inspirational, to me. Janet shared it on Facebook over the weekend, and I can't help but share further:

This post crossed my path recently and included some well-known (to me) and lesser-known (again, to me) tips on getting your day off to a productive start. It reminded me of the times I've gone to bed in my workout gear, just to save time and BE motivated upon rising. It may be time to start that habit again...

But then, there's always this new study on the core sets of exertion needed to gain optimal results, and the idea is that if you do them all in succession, with intervals, you can get it done in seven minutes. Seven rather strenuous minutes, but still... What do you think? Would you give that a try? I might.

Husband and I both took major stabs at closet reorganization this weekend. It felt good! Put a few things in the Goodwill pile, boxed up a few things we don't want to part with but aren't up for everyday wearing anymore, and generally got things in order for summer.

I love that feeling, having everything hanging semi-neatly with like items, folded and stacked pieces in order as well, shoes too... We didn't consult any organizational gurus before diving in, but I did see a few pictures on Pinterest that got me really excited AFTER we were done! Oh well, you work with what you have, and some of these are a bit oooh-la-la. Dream closets, I believe they're called. We're more (much more) like the first picture than any of the others, though lacking in number of bins on the top shelf. I want more of those!

How about the color coordination here? And the orange boxes? Love.

Who wouldn't love a marble-topped island in the middle of your closet?! Ha.

At first I thought, "Fabulous closet! Love the settee." But the more I look at this picture, the more I think it really is a showroom for clothing. (I think it's the multiples of one item that gives it away. But still, a lovely setting.)

Last tidbit for the day, something I need to remember, every day:
"Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace."
-J. Bridges

I hope your week is off to a great start! Seth and I have agreed to try out the seven-minute workout tonight... wish us luck!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day 2013

Mother's Day. A day filled with emotion, no matter which way the day cuts for you, personally. I know a few who would prefer to see this day slip by without mention, akin to single folk on Valentine's. Too much loss, too many memories and many of them not good. For others, it's a festival of love and appreciation, for both the generation above and below: Moms rock!

To all my friends, loved ones and readers who are missing a mother or feeling empty-nestish today: I'm sorry. I hope your memories of your mother give you a smile, even in the missing. And I hope your kids call or visit, too. To all my friends, loved ones and readers for whom motherhood is a role carved out in non-traditional ways: Bless you. The world is better for your mothering skills, put to use in creative and thoughtful ways.

And to those of you with a brood of loving, noisy, annoying and energetic children around, and all you want is just a half-hour of peace and quiet (or maybe even just to get to go to the toilet alone): Enjoy your day! Peace and quiet will come later--like, midnight!?--or when the last one leaves for college!

I count myself blessed to know so many wonderful mothers, and to have my own still healthy and present, as well. I am confident she'll forgive me for posting the picture above (circa 1987) of us in our matching dresses. I am also thankful to my mother-in-law for giving husband many of his great husbanding skills. Mothering isn't easy, but it sure is worthwhile work. I have blogged about Mother's Day in the past, and find, as I reread the post, even years later, I can't say it any better. I adore the boy I am blessed to call son, and I learn so much, every day, from being his mother.

In wanting to add to the Mother's Day mix this year, of course, I thought it appropriate to share this video from Google, showing the sweeter side of motherhood.

As well, this SNL video about moms on Facebook also made me smile. Seth watched that over my shoulder this morning, and had a little laugh.

And this rundown of mom texting fails is pretty good too; though, it's missing the well-known texting moment where mom tells her kid that his uncle has died, LOL. Kid texts back: Do you know what LOL means? Mom: Yes, lots of love. That one always makes me smile, no matter how many times I see it.

On my list of wishes for Mother's Day? A hug, a little time together, some conversation while we putter around doing bits of yardwork, and another hug. Can't ever get too many hugs.

Looking forward to my wishes coming true today, hope yours do too!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cinnamon sugar biscotti

Every holiday season, there are the baked goods that I share and feed to others, and then there are the ones that I don't. Surely I can't be the only one who has less-successful baking ventures? My reasons for not sharing--whether at the work event where I make nibbly foods, or in the baking tins I share with family and friends--can be varied: it simply didn't turn out, or it didn't turn out as I had hoped... two very different things.

The biscotti I'm sharing today didn't make the cut for one simple reason, it's kind of plain looking. I know that might seem really discriminatory--poor biscotti can't help that it's rather monochromatic and beige, can it? But when I'm assembling holiday platters and goodie boxes, color and texture really DO matter. So this is one that I nibbled myself with coffee during the holidays, but didn't share further.

I made one large batch--probably quadrupled what you see below--and cut the first log into slices and continued baking. Once I saw the color and decided to keep moving along in terms of other baking, I took the remaining logs (uncut) and froze them. I do remember happily enjoying a few with morning coffee, back in December... but then promptly forgot about them in the new year.

Imagine my delight when I was rummaging around in the freezer this morning, looking for something, anything, to be a small sweet treat to accompany breakfast, and I saw these goodies? I'm really the only one in the household who likes to have something sweet to go with breakfast; both my guys are just fine with eggs, potatoes, maybe a little fruit and breakfast sausages or something, but neither of them have my same "Where's some jam on a scone?" "I need a cinnamon roll!" or "Just one bite of a blintz, please?" tendencies.

I took one biscotti log out of the freezer, defrosted it in the microwave and sliced it. I didn't run it back through the oven this morning, as I was quite happy with the flavor and texture as I dipped it in my coffee. But I do think it certainly would have more of an authentic biscotti texture if I did that in the future.

The flavor is quite a bit like cinnamon-sugar toast from childhood, and goes really well with coffee. What's not to love?!

Cinnamon sugar biscotti
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, baking powder and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add 1 egg; beat well. Add egg yolk; beat well. Mix in vanilla, then dry ingredients.

Transfer dough to work surface. Divide in half. Shape each half into 9-inch-long, 1 1/2-inch-wide log. Transfer logs to baking sheets. Beat remaining egg in small bowl. Brush logs with egg. Bake until golden and firm to touch (dough will spread), about 50 minutes. Cool on baking sheets. Maintain oven temperature.

Mix 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl to blend. Using serrated knife, cut logs into 1/2-inch-wide diagonal slices. Place biscotti, cut side down, on baking sheets. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon sugar over each biscotti. Bake until pale golden, about 20 minutes. Cool on racks. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Store in airtight container.)

I believe I got the original idea from Pinterest, but when looking over the variety of recipes there and comparing to Epicurious, I went with the one on Epicurious. Simple, and delicious.

And, as I've already mentioned, it freezes well. Make a batch, and pull them out as needed for a weekend treat! I know I will be doing that again, soon.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday night grateful moment

Hard to believe we're really at Friday night again already, but I'll take it! The week was both long and short, full of a few unusual aspects (a few days away with husband, lovely) and a bit of the usual too... work, home, errands, yard... all the things I enjoy about our life together.

I'm grateful for this weekend--that it's Mother's Day, Seth is home, it's our local balloon festival--so the skies have been full of balloons the past two mornings and the weather looks good for tomorrow's launches too.

This time of year I always get grateful for irrigation, and for the underground variety especially. I do have some hoses around for specific watering at times, but having the ease of sprinklers is very lovely when daily watering needs to take place.

I'm grateful too, for the growth that sun and water bring in the garden. Not so thankful for the weeds... wish those would take a year off! But the little plants and sprouts we have so far are doing great, and there are a few more to join them, when it cools just a little. Putting poor seedlings out in 90+ degree weather just seems cruel.

I'm grateful for the time away with husband, for the relaxation and peacefulness. He worked a bit, I worked a bit, but generally we slept in and took walks on the beach and went to a movie (Iron Man 3, fun), ate out, tried to shop (didn't really find much), and just enjoyed being together. It reminded us that we need to do that occasionally! (As in, more often.)

I'm grateful for writers, and the time they take (the good ones, anyway!) to put their thoughts down for others. I got the newest Michael Pollan book, Cooked, on our trip, and read the first part of the section on fermenting to husband as we drove home. Interesting stuff! I love the way Pollan really lives in the material while he's writing, and shares his reactions--the good and the not-so-good. The section we read makes me want to get going on more than just sauerkraut in our crock! And it also encouraged me toward getting my sourdough starter going again, as somehow the last one died a sad yet fragrant death.

I'm grateful for all the flavors of spring--asparagus, spring onions, baby potatoes, rhubarb... all favorites, and a happy prequel to all the wonderful eating we'll get to do for the next few months!

I'm grateful for my family, so very much. Our threesome times are very special and lovely, and I'm incredibly lucky to have two guys who enjoy each other so much.

I'm grateful too for my friends. Near and far, they brighten my days. I am blessed.

I'm grateful for the sleep I will encounter soon.

I'm grateful for you, for reading and commenting and emailing/texting/Facebooking your thoughts about my musings in this space. I appreciate it, and you.

I hope your weekend is lovely and everything you want it to be.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Midweek reminder: Sunsets never fail to inspire

The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.” -John Berger from Ways of Seeing

I was walking on the beach a couple of evenings back, at the end of the day. When I first went out, with about 45 minutes of sunshine left, I was virtually alone; maybe three or four other people were out, wandering. As the sunset neared, people were drawn out of homes up and down the beach, many actually brought deck chairs and settled in, a few even got ready to start small bonfires to enjoy in the coming darkness, but all of them were facing the sun, watching it descend. By the time the sun lowered in the sky to touch the ocean, there were probably a few dozen spectators.

I sat on a dune and watched the people and the sun with equal fascination. If you didn't know any better, it might have appeared as if we didn't believe the sun would come up again, and this was a goodbye party. But also, it was stunning. Who could not watch something so beautiful, so rich, and so fleeting, even if it happens every night?

I can't count the number of times as I've driven home on an evening, I've been compelled to pull over and capture the sunset. I know the sun will set again tomorrow, and the day after that, and be just as--if not more so--beautiful. But something about the act of the sun slipping out of sight is, as the quote above implies, mysterious.

When was the last time you watched the sun set? How about a sunrise?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A-Z blogging challenge reflections

This many days past the challenge, it's a a blur. April? That's so last month!

But, I still thought it would be a good idea to write down a bit of a reflection, especially to look back on as I approach the challenge again next year (see, I'm already planning on it!), and want to remember thoughts about how it might go better... if it feels like a distant memory now, imagine how it will feel 11 months from now?

Going into the challenge, I didn't plan well. The night before, I was texting furiously with Lisa--help, I have no idea what I'm going to write about, I haven't thought about it, should I pick a theme?--and she was texting back: you'll be fine, just breathe. (Easy for her to say, this is her third year!)

But once I sat down and thought about it, I knew I didn't really want to be constrained to a theme, I wanted to write what I would normally write--some stuff about food and ingredients and what I like to cook; things that inspire me, move me, compel me; reminders of what's really important in life... so, I sat down with the alphabet and sketched it out. Most letters came pretty easily, in the first pass.

And then the challenge started and it all changed! Well, not all of it, but many times I approached the letter and changed my mind because something else had occurred to me in the meantime. I got into the rhythm fairly early on of needing to be at least one post ahead--that's what working full time will do to inspire you!--and so I made time in the evenings to sketch it out, edit it, and then make sure it was posted first thing the following morning. That's actually a habit I hope to maintain (famous last words) moving forward, as it allowed me more thinking/reflecting time between writing and posting.

What I did not do well was track which fellow bloggers I wanted to follow, once I'd found their blog the first time and commented (it took me a few minutes to think "oh, just hit the follow button and figure it out later," and not everyone HAD a follow button...) and make sure I returned to their blogs. I fell into a bad habit of making sure I replied to the comments on my blog, and visited those blogs, but in terms of venturing further, I often just ran out of time. I will figure out a better way of following blogs a bit more closely, next time.

Other than that, it went well. The blogging world has a funny reciprocity to it, with hopeful lasting connections. The best-case scenario is to find people you enjoy, who also enjoy you. (Kind of like real life, but different.) I feel like I found that, and will enjoy continuing to follow many of the bloggers who I've connected with in the past month. (I was trying to explain it to husband, while I was working on my Liebster post, and he just shook his head at me. Way too much work, he said. I chuckled and said, yes, work, but if it goes right, it's worthwhile work.)

My biggest surprise during the month was that there were times I thought I wrote a rockin' post, and it kinda went over "meh." There were other times I just sputtered it out, and I got comments about how awesome this post is, and this is the best thing, ever. So, that surprised me. Maybe I just don't know the/my blogging audience well, maybe I don't know when to be revealing and vulnerable and when not to, but it was an interesting observation. Sometimes it seemed it could be due to timing--weekends were less traffic-busy (odd for those of us with work, who have much more time for bloggy things ON the weekend), and there was a mid-alphabet lull while everyone geared up for the rest of the challenge. There were definite highs and lows in energy throughout the month, I noticed, but many bloggers remarked on that being the usual.

All in all, a good time. Many thanks to the organizers and assistants--you don't get a couple of thousand bloggers to participate without a bit of work, I'd say. Yowsah. Oh, interesting tidbit--when I signed up I was auspicious number 1,400. By the time they weeded out the non-participants and rule-breakers/spammers, I ended the challenge at number 1,175.

How about you, if you did the A-Z challenge? How did it go? And if you didn't participate this year, would you consider it in 2014?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday morning inspiration

Feels like a long time since I've done my Monday morning inspiration! That whole month of alphabeting kind of got in the way... It was a good break from the "usuals," but as I thought of items to share that have crossed my path recently, a few immediately came to mind:

Hointer. OK, so cool new companies might come along fairly frequently these days, but this one really caught my eye. Cool use of technology to hit a niche market and I am intrigued to see where it goes long-term. Right now you can only buy denim/jeans this way, but who knows what the future holds? Next time I'm in Seattle, I'm checking them out!

Back Bay Pottery. It's not every day I find an Etsy shop where I want one of everything. Well, maybe not EVERYthing, but quite a bit. Rainbow beads? Sure. An owl spoon rest? Well, if you insist.

Corgis are on my mind. I've even set up a board on Pinterest for the occasion, and just might have started following too many Corgi-loving Instagrammers, too. I'm trying not to get too carried away, as adding a new pup to our household is not at the top of anyone's list. I've been in this spot before and it didn't turn out so well (Ruby, dear Ruby), so we'll go in with eyes wide open... like these sweet Corgi pups! Ha.

Also on my mind... are reasons to blog. I've mentioned Narelle at Solid Gold Creativity before, as her posts are often thought-provoking. This one jives with some of my thoughts post-A-Z challenge (I have a reflections post still to come...), about why blog in the first place?, and the connections made possible through blogging.

As often happens, soon after reading Narelle's blog post, this quote then made itself known to me:
"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn't know I knew. I am in a place, in a situation, as if I had materialized from cloud or risen out of the ground. There is a glad recognition of the long lost and the rest follows." -Robert Frost

I'll leave you with one last rainbow for the day; this rainbow salad from Food&Wine practically leaped out of my computer, grabbed me by the shoulders and shouted, "Make Me! Soon!" So I shall, and I'll tell you all about it too. The entire slideshow of vegetarian dishes is really quite enticing, it's got me quite inspired to try a few.... beet gnocchi, anyone?

I hope your Monday is off to an inspired start, and the rest of the week follows appropriately!

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