12/20/2012

thursdaybook - long johns rule!

For today I am,

Seeing... Piles of dirty dishes and laundry and unpaid bills and a floor that needs desperately to be mopped... a flurry of tissue paper snowflakes dangling on the mantle and the overhead light... colored lights glowing on our tree... sunlight peeking down the hallway

Hearing... Cars and trucks pounding down the freeway... leaves whooshing off the carefully raked piles and down our street... the occasional clunk of our ineffective wall heater... the tick of our broken clock... the thrum of the washer and dryer and the whir of the gas oven roasting spaghetti squash for lunch

Tasting... Coffee

Working... My neglected house needs some TLC today, and of course it's Advent and there's always Christmasy things to do. A bit of shopping and wrapping and secret projecting

Reading... Just finished my Mediocre Christian Fiction book and am casting about for a new fiction piece. I'm thinking of dipping into some literature. Doesn't cold weather seem to beg for Dickens? Or Wuthering Heights?

For our read-aloud, we've begun Christian Smith's book on Biblicism, The Bible Made Impossible. Very much looking forward to this. And, we've decided that in 2013, we're going to plunge into poetry. We've scores of poetry books and probably 4 or 5 complete Shakespeares, but we've yet to read any! So, perhaps the word for 2013 will be Poema. :)

Learning... Hmmm... I don't know. Today is mostly work. But we are going to do some due diligence research into various organizations for our Christmas donations. I expect to learn a bit doing that.

Creating... My house is cold. I think today I will create some banana bread. And then eat it, spread thick with butter. And wash it down with tea. Yes, today is good for baking.

Dreaming... Of that banana bread. Of all those piles gone and in their place, freshly ironed tablecloths of Christmas plaid spread out. Of candles lit and gleaming warmth into my little house. Papers filed or burning in the fireplace. Of dinner bubbling in the crockpot.

Pondering... Like everyone else, I suppose I'm thinking about guns and fear and politics and what the hell do we do next. I'm trying to figure out how to sort out the cacophony of emotion within and without. How to discern which responses are primal/human ones, which are American ones, and which are Kingdom ones. What are my ways? What are God's ways? What ways and weapons should I use to stand against darkness? How do I help heal the broken? How do I love people in the face of such fear? Both theirs and my own. What does it mean for me to be a peacemaker in such a time as this? What does it mean for me to be a protector and defender of the helpless and vulnerable? How do I open the eyes of my heart and see the things I am blind to? How do I walk circumspectly, for the days are evil?

Thankful for... My appliances (even the mostly ineffectual wall heater), my long johns, my scarves, my future banana bread, my man - oh how I love him.

12/18/2012

thankful tuesday, moldy oldy edition



It's Thankful Tuesday over at Micha's. And today, it is especially good to count "Thankfuls":

- My space heater. Oh, man. Old houses. Yeesh!

- Lysol wipes. I try to be all eco-friendly-hippie-style with my cleaning. But its winter. Old house. Mold. Wiping down the window sills with these babies helps a ton.

- Hot coffee. And hot tea. We have peppermint and rooibos (which we put vanilla in) and organic chamomile (which we put honey and Bushmills in) to make things a bit more festive. It is good to have hot things to drink when you live in old, cold, moldy houses. Lately we've been heating up water in our Baptist Coffee Pot and using that to make our French press or tea or cocoa. Easy peasy.

- Our Christmas tree. Oh, I just love it. We both do. Every now and then one or the other of us just hollers out, "I love our tree!" Its just the tiny fake tree that I bought back when I lived in my tiny apartment in Fake New York. Since we spent our first Christmas as a couple mostly at my place, its sort of our First Christmas Tree. We have colored lights and only hang ornaments with a memory or a story or a particular awesomeness about them. It sparkles and shines and makes us happy.

- Ibuprophin. The fallout from last Friday's tragedy for me was massive pain flareup. Sadness, stress, etc. etc. all comes to rest in my jaw, neck, shoulders and upper back. Blerg, blerg, blerg. So, I am thankful for the ability to take the edge off till I settle down.

- Our fireplace. Aside from the extra heating, I love being able to give myself some extra cozy when I need it. Sunday I lit candles and burned through a whole box of wood while I cut out tissue paper snowflakes and listened to Christmas music. That crackling flame just speaks peace and rest to me. Love firepits in the summer and fireplaces in the winter. And because we have no central h/a, we can light a fire whenever we want. Yippee!

- Our stockings. I hung both sets. The fancy, velvet, matchy matchy ones - very lovely. And in front of them, the traditional tiny ones. This year, MM made me embroider my name on mine too. I'd resisted b/c I'm not very good at embroidery. And it takes a long time. And my tiny stocking already had a cutsey design on it. But after all the snowflakes, I popped in North and South and added my name. It does look nice, despite my lack of skillz. And MM feels like things are more balanced. (Only thing is now I want to add something cutesy to his. Maybe next year...)

- Santa's workshop. We are moving more toward making gifts and tokens for people instead of buying things, and I am so stoked about this years project! We did our prototypes yesterday and they turned out pretty good for our first ever try. I'm hopeful that our idea will work!

- I'm thankful for stripey tights and chunky sweaters and my super cute new boots!... for neighbors who put up Christmas lights or open their windows so we can see their trees... for clean dishes and folded laundry and the smell of banana bread baking... for MM who rubs my back and holds my hand and hugs me close and acts like Buddy the Elf when he rides escalators in San Francisco... for a sky that's half sunny/half cloudy behind lacy branches that release the last of the autumn leaves to flutter to the ground.

12/16/2012

gaudete

Today is Gaudete Sunday. To our Advent lineup we add the candle of Joy. Often pink or light blue instead of the darker advent color like the other candles, it symbolizes that the Light is growing in the midst of the darkness. We've passed the halfway point. Christmas is almost here. The wait is almost over.

"Gaudete" is the imperative plural form of the Latin verb gaudere (to rejoice). It is a command ordering us to rejoice. And in the various liturgies the emphasis is on rejoicing always. No matter what.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

A lot of people are finding it tough today to light a candle of Joy while we mourn another shooting. But the darkness we're feeling so keenly makes the command all the more important, I suppose.

In between all the rallying cries for gun control and vehement declarations of "my cold, dead hands," my twitter and facebook feeds had quiet reminders to just let all that go for a bit and grieve. Mourn with those who mourn. Acknowledge that we are in a dark space filled with all kinds of evil and that it hurts to be here.

Many people called out, like the earliest Christians, "Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!" We often say that as a plea for rescue, "Calgon! Take me away!" We pray, essentially, "Come on Jesus! Come in Glory; Kick some ass; and GET. ME. OUT OF HERE!"

But, of course, it doesn't work like that. We don't just get to snap our fingers and make it all go away. It's not about kicking ass. It never has been. And we don't get to just stick our fingers in our ears, close our eyes, and La-la-la-la our way out of this mess. We, and our broken hearts, have to somehow live in the wreckage.

And, apparently, rejoice. Because the Lord is near. Especially to the brokenhearted.

And not just the mothers in Conneticut, but the ones in Darfur.

And Detroit.

And Haiti.

And Palestine.

...

The miracle is not that He rescues us out of this world someday, but joins us in it now. In our pain. In our confusion. In our fear and darkness and despair. He weeps with us and suffers with us. Now.

Other people in my twitter stream quoted the only O Antiphon we still sing, which ironically includes a command to rejoice because God With Us shall (has) come. I've always liked this song. The key sounds sad and majestic to me. Perfect song for this Gaudete Sunday.

Come Lord Jesus.

The Lord is near.

Rejoice.

 ~ ~ ~

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

12/04/2012

between the merry and the jolly


Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Time that all
The children call
Their favorite time of year.

Pandora's Indie Christmas and the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack seem to suit my holiday mood this year. A touch of silly and jazzy to soften the somber. Someone (and not Kathleen Kelly) referenced that Joni Mitchel song:

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
Singing songs of joy and peace.
I wish I had a river I could skate away on.

I don't really want to skate away on a river, but I do find myself needing more quiet these days. Time away from the bustle and noise. Time to listen. Time to feel and to process what I'm feeling.

Even though my paleo cinnamon rolls were a total disaster, Organized Craft Day was great fun. I got to see some of my girlfriends I've been missing. Oh, how I needed that. We're hosting another event on Saturday - an afternoon coffee and cookies party to celebrate the joy of Tubas. :D

But in between these parties is the Advent week of Hope. One candle in the dark of winter. A reminder for me that in between the Merry and the Jolly is the work of quiet. It's the only way I know to make my jagged edges smooth.

This week I'm gonna lay low. Bake some cookies and sing along with Sufjan and Zoe and the Peanuts Gang. Light that candle every night during dinner and pray simple prayers that speak of hope.

11/30/2012

gentle beginnings




Oh, Internet. Things continue apace both inside and outside of me. This week found me all up inside myself needing to think, plan, process, and pray. That giant burst of creative energy and gobs of people just sapped this introvert. Have been recharging my batteries and re-centering myself for the next round. (Advent! Christmas!) It is good. The sapping and the recharging. I love both. I love the stimulation of creating and connecting with people. And I love the process of assimilating all that my soul had absorbed in that stimulation. (That's the thing non-introverts don't get about us. We are just delighted to sit with our own selves, like, for HOURS, thinking. We just find our own minds fascinating. Ha!)

Yesterday I burned up all the Storm Watch 2012 Emergency Firewood, so I could have a side of cozy to go with my tea, blanket, and journal. Other than laundry, dishes, and cooking, I pretty much spent the day pondering. And writing. And pondering some more.

Today, I've got to clean and cook and prepare for an event at my house tomorrow, and I need a bit more pondering, so I'll just make this quick and random. Some favorites this week:

Christmas Lights - MM and I love driving around looking at lights. We've had a few evening errands to run this week, and have taken that opportunity to tack on Christmas Light Tours. We have a triple love for lights. 1) The well-executed, stately, elegant, classy jobs. There's usually some kind of color scheme silvery/purpley/blue or red/white or "vintage big bulbs", and things match and have a lovely symmetry and completeness about them. Very nice. 2) The over-the-top, Vegas, all-the-bells-and-whistles, crazy jobs that make Mr. Griswold look like an amateur. These ones are a jazz-hands, light show spectacular, and we admire the audacity, showmanship, and dedication. 3) The people who try to do over-the-top, but don't quite make it. Things are mismatched with some random thrown in. We like them cause... bless their hearts.

It's been fun to make coffee, pop in our Ray Coniff Singer's album, and take in all the sparkle. I love that MM likes to do that kind of stuff, and doesn't think I'm lame because of my fondness for these simple pleasures.

Organized Craft Day - Tomorrow's event. So excited! A decade ago (gulp!) a friend of mine asked if my roommates and I would host a craft day at our house because she liked the idea of crafting, but wasn't particularly crafty herself, and if someone else could organize it, she might be able to execute it. She gave us giftcards to Michaels, and voila! Organized Craft Day was born. Every year in the fall, we'd fill our house with a bunch of women and do some kind of craft. We made candles in little flower pots. (Very messy and lengthy - that turned more into Organized Craft Week. But very cute and fun. Learned a lot.) We made cinnamon "gingerbread" (saltdough) ornaments. (G's gingerbread people came out of the oven all warped with arms and legs in odd positions, so she turned them into Discobread People, painting them in shimmery sateen and glitter colors like they were wearing lame and sequins. Fabulous!) We did those glass ornaments where you dip paint inside and swirl it around. One year, I did it in the spring, and we learned how to crochet while watching the BBCs Pride and Prejudice (Oh, Colin Firth.)

Anyway. Fun, creative, girlie kind of day. This year I'm teaching folks how to make the paper stars I discovered last year. And I might make paper snowflakes to string up around the house. Again, I'm thankful for MM who will spend the day holed up in the office or garage while we women take over the house with our glue guns and glitter. (Oh how he loathes the glitter.) (I love you, Baby.)

The gentle beginning of the Christmas season - Because we don't have a TV (hooray for Hulu and Netflix!) and mostly listen to CDs in the car, we aren't bombarded with Christmas music and commercials starting in September. During all that baking for the Anniversary party and the Whiskey tasting, I did get a bit of a twitch to watch Elf, but I resisted. I held to our rule of no Christmas til after Thanksgiving. And I'm glad. We watched "Christmas" chick flicks on Pajama Day, which were really just romantic comedies set around Christmas time. And MM grabbed a couple Christmas CDs for our Christmas light tours. And the other day I listened to a bit of Pandora's Indie Christmas station. (Love She and Him and Over the Rhine!) But that's about it. We're taking out Henri and putting up our little tree this weekend. We're making our schedule of concerts and gatherings and rest time for the month. We're figuring out what to do for Advent, since we can't eat those Trader Joes chocolates anymore. We're figuring out our Simple Christmas gift strategy. It's been fun to do a bit of quiet thinking and dreaming and sort of ease into the season. I don't feel overwhelmed. I feel peaceful. I have happy anticipation. Which is what Advent is all about: being in the waiting moment, and excitedly looking forward to what is about to come.

And in light of what is to come for me today, I'd better get offa this computer and get to work.

Around this time in:
2009
2010
2011

11/27/2012

thankful tuesday - feasting edition


I've set up shop in the Yoga Room. (Which these days is more like the Watch Movies and Knit Room, and that suits me "right down to the ground" as they say.) Pale light filters through the fog outside and the water beads clinging to the windows. She and Him and their Indie buddies sing and sigh and plunk ukelele Christmas tunes out of Pandora. The perfect melancholy sound for a misty fall morning. The morning's candle glows steady. Gold against all the silver.

Piles of laundry and dishes threaten to topple over on the other side of the door I've closed, but if I turn the music up I won't hear. I was supposed to write yesterday, but instead I did laundry and dishes and cleaned my desk. Good things, but I need to write. MM told me so yesterday, but I couldn't get it together. He's right. I do. Writers need to write or we go a little crazy. Too many words bouncing around in our souls. So today I'm buckling down and doing it. "Butt in chair" as Anne Lamott exhorts. I've got a few blog posts in progress, my journal open, my "dreaming notebook", pens, letterhead, and my phone for the occasional tweet. If I get really fancy, I may work on one of my "manuscripts". But for now, let's start with some Thankful Tuesday goodness. Hit Mama Monk for the other goodness.

The Whiskey Tasting. It was a great effort and a big success. We scrimped and saved and worked hard to make it happen and do it well. I'll describe it all later, but for now, know that we had to select 8 high end whiskies, pair them with 7 fancy appetizers (which is not easy), figure out paleo versions of them, test recipes, write a book about whiskey, design the book, format it, print it, and bind it. We cleaned and cooked (appetizers and two pots of Irish stew) and decorated and hosted our guts out. And it was a great night. Lots of laughter and good conversation. Good connections. And this was a donation for a charity, so a couple inner city kids get to go to summer camp now. All good. We are thankful it came off well. And thankful that its over. We're tired. Happy tired, but still. Tired.

A peaceful Thanksgiving. This year was with my family, which is always a crap shoot. You just never know. This year, we rolled well. Tasty food. Good conversation. Peace. Harmony. Laughter. Hugs and good wishes all around. Phew! I'm glad of these good times. We need them. It was good to see my mom and hug her neck. We miss each other.

"We are a family." MM and I have taken to calling ourselves a family. We haven't kids or pets, but we are a family even so, and it has been good to be mindful of that. We are a family. And it is a good one. :)

Walk in the Park Friday. I've never liked all that crazy Black Friday stuff. And thankfully MM doesn't want to hit electronic stores at 4 am either, so we sleep in the day after Thanksgiving and lounge and light a fire and eat leftovers usually, and go for a walk in the park. In Fake East New Jersey, November is the month with the gorgeous color show, so it's the perfect day to drink in the glory of fall. We kicked leaves and kissed under a canopy of red and orange and watched giant leaves the size of dinner plates swirl to the ground as we sipped coffee and grinned. We meandered our way past the Shakespeare theater, through the public garden, around the golfers and all the other families out enjoying the amusements. We ate a mediocre lunch at a little grill. Tromped over to Starbucks for more coffee. And finally made our way home late afternoon. A delicious, golden day.

Pajama Day 2012. A friend of mine's family celebrates Black Friday with Pajama Day. They stay in their jammies, eat food, drink coffee, watch movies, and take naps. Awesome. Love it. We had walks to take and Whiskey Tastings to host, so we did Pajama Day on Sunday. We lounged about in the Yoga room watching chick flicks while I knitted and MM played sudoku on his phone. I made Fake Thanksgiving Dinner, and we finished the night with White Christmas. :)  Perfect.

Fake Thanksgiving Dinner. OK - this was delicious, and I'm saying so myself. We didn't get a turkey this year so I did chicken instead, but everything else was Thanksgivingy: Rosemary chicken, roasted in porter; Oregano mashed yams; Parsnips and onions roasted with nutmeg and allspice; Braised brussel sprouts with minced garlic and mustard; green beans roasted with prosciutto; and my husbands amazing gravy. Dessert: homemade chocolate truffles. Holy smokes. We kept rolling our eye and having foodgasms. It was insane.

We are so blessed. In the space of a week, we had three huge, delicious feasts in warm, peaceful homes filled with laughter and friendship. While others worry about bombs and invasions and government takeovers and try to climb out of the rubble, both physical and emotional, we held hands and walked in a beautiful park under a blue sky. How on earth can I dare complain? How? Gah! But I do. All the time. So. These Thankful Tuesday posts are good for me. I have so, so much to be grateful for. All the time.

Happy holidays, friends.

11/15/2012

Thursdayrandom - projecty goodness

Hi. Gotta make this quick. Lots to do, not enough time, etc. etc. But, I had a giant mug of half caf during my writing time at Starbucks this morning, so I need to do at least a random things post. And so, a list:

~ I miss dressing up for the office. There are lots of things about being on sabbatical and/or telecommuting. One of the highlights is getting to stay in your jammies or wear yoga pants everywhere. But, man. I love fall. And I love the clothes that go with it. Tweeds and corderoy and wool and cashmere and all those deliciously textured fabrics layered. And boots. And cute shoes. And hats and scarves. And lipstick. I only ever want to wear lipstick in the fall. Today I spied on all the ladies in line at Starbucks to see what the latest workaday fashions are. Cute is what they are. I may wear my fake tweed skirt and some lipstick tomorrow, just cuz.

~ I got my coffee in a real mug today. I always mean to do that, and I always forget. Hoping to remember more. For one thing, their mugs are Freaking Huge! Wow. And it feels good to curl my hands around my mug and feel the steam on my face as I ignore my notebook to spy on ladies fashions.

~ I did write in my notebook though. A lot. These days I'm fired up and tender-hearted and though I sit down to journal, what comes out are essays. Things that need several drafts and may end up here or somewhere. Things are stirring in my writerly side. We shall see where they carry me.

~ Life has been full of projecty, creative adventures lately. Costumes, Fascinators, Layer Cakes from Scratch... And now - olive stuffed cheese balls and dark chocolate truffles. And another book design project, which is not going as smoothly as I'd like. But, there it is. It will happen despite the technical difficulties. We print on Saturday, and then begin yet another adventure: Bookbinding. Just a simple one for now. But it will be a fun project to learn on. Then. If we survive these things - Christmas presents. I'm pretty stoked about our ideas for this year. :D

~ Oh, another creative adventure was me making my own pumpkin spice latte. And I went the Full Martha on this one. First, I roasted a little Trader Joe's pie pumpkin. Then I made it puree. (Well, technically MM made it puree. I was angry at the blender for bonking on the job, and he figured that I should not attempt using the handmixer til I calmed down. He calmly mixed and I added bits of water to the bowl. Turned out awesome. Despite the Mutany of the Blender!) Then I mixed a bit of the puree with unsweetened almond milk and autumn spices (cinamon, allspice, ginger, clove, etc.) and vanilla and a smidge of honey and warmed it up. Poured it into mugs with piping hot, dark, French pressed coffee. Not bad. Although, next time, I want to add whipped cream. Ours needed a bit more creaminess. But - flavorful. And not made from fake chemicals and sugar, sugar, sugar.

~ I made the wreath and decorated the mantle, but I haven't pictures of it all yet, cuz I have two more things to do before they are picturable. Soon.

~ OK. I've eaten my lunch and drunk my water. Time to get back to work. Hope your Thursday is magically delicious.

~ Yes. I think quarter-caf might be a better choice if I'm getting the Giant Starbucks Mug.

11/12/2012

life moves pretty fast


I write occasionally about rhythm and balance and what I am learning to do to manage the wild ocean of this life.

In my modern, city, office-working life, I find it quite possible for entire natural seasons to pass by me, unnoticed. I pass comfortable days in air-conditioned cars, houses, and businesses. The soft, blue glow of computer screens and fluorescent lights can wash over me at any hour day or night. I buy my food at fully-stocked grocery stores that always have what I want whenever I want it no matter the weather. I measure my months in deadlines and my weeks in tasks or meetings. The consumer culture marks each year with "the new Fall TV schedule," "football season," and "the Macy's semi-annual sale." There are holidays as well, "The Christmas Shopping Season (starting on October 1)," "Presidents Day (Sale)," "Black Friday (or now, Thursday)."

For years I would wake up in the dark. Commute. Work in my office. Commute. Do whatever tasks and projects. Go to bed. Wake up in the dark... And suddenly, Summer had passed into Autumn and I hadn't roasted marshmallows at a campfire or floated down the river. I would leave my house in an Autumn rain and return in a Spring rain and have missed the fog and frost and the first budding of the trees. I registered no difference in my homogenized, climate-controlled life, which is really not life at all.

Real life is vibrant, pulsing with fire and blood and wind and magic. This world is a delicious technicolor symphony, not "PTA Beige." Life is strange and wonderful and beautiful and terrible, filled with peach blossoms and fat babies and death and war and sex and first love and broken hearts, sunrises and otters that play in the sea... And if I don't pay attention, I miss it. Ferris Beuller was right.

So for the last decade, I've been trying to attend to, and celebrate, the natural seasons. The next few rhythm posts will talk about what that looks like for me.

11/09/2012

it is a miracle

Hello friends. I've been busy. In a good way.

This last month I've been creating a lot. In anticipation of some events. I made Halloween costumes for MM and me:



I made hair fascinators for the women in my family to wear at my in-law's Birthday/Anniversary party. My first time trying this, and I was pleased with the results. They're delightful feathery, flowery, sparkly things. (Click to embiggen the photo and see more detail.)


I baked fancy layer cakes for the party. One was a Pamelas gluten free vanilla cake, but I also learned how to make a chocolate paleo layer cake from scratch. Oy! I basically used Paleo Mom's cupcake recipe, but added more baking soda and used 1/2 butter and 1/2 coconut oil. Deeeeeelish!



I also learned how to make a stabilized whipped cream frosting that could hold up to transport and a couple hours in a reception hall. Because we don't do cornstarch anymore, and a lot of stabilizers are made with random mystery ingredients, we went with this recipe. Cream cheese. Oh, Lordy. We used more vanilla than it called for, and honey instead of sugar. Deeeeelish again!

And beautiful! My sister-in-law decorated all the cakes with flowers. Wow!


(Aren't my in-laws darling! Hi Mom and Dad! :D )

The party was great. We worked our buns clean off (which is why we had to have leftover cake for breakfast two days in a row, right?) So Sunday MM and I lounged like it was our jobs. It was a day for a leisurely breakfast, a quick drive to see some of the fall color that we've been missing in our rush to prepare for parties, etc., a Phat Nap, and an evening of watching Lord of the Rings in our sweats. Marvelous.

This week I've spent putting the house back together and banging out tasks for our next events:
 ~ A demonstration of my husband's sword school
 ~ Thanksgiving with my family
 ~ Whiskeytron - a whiskey tasting my man is hosting two days after Thanksgiving.

I bought new glassware and new towels and a supposedly unbreakable French Press. (We'll see about that, Mr Press. We'll see.) I returned the two chipped pieces for the dishes I bought last week. Did I ever show you the millions of dishes we own? Here:

Wow.

It's been laundry and cleaning and decorating and then more laundry. Today I'm making chicken stock and taking down my beloved bats. :) It's time to hang the fall wreath and decorate the mantle.

The holidays are upon us. Here's a quote that I found the other day that sums them up quite well, I think:

"It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat, and it is a a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do, and the holiday season–like all the other seasons–is a good time not only to tell stories of miracles, but to think about the miracles in your own life, and to be grateful for them." ~ Lemony Snicket, The Lump of Coal.

Happy holiday season, folks.

11/01/2012

thursdaybook - feathers and jack o'lanterns

For today I am,

Seeing... Feathers and flowers and tulle (a secret project for my in-law's anniversary party this weekend)...

I'm also seeing 16 place settings worth of white dishes - ack! ack! ack! I have never owned this many bowls! I've had several meltdowns over purchasing these. We need new dishes, and we host a lot of parties, but we want to pursue simplicity, and Jamie the Very Worst Missionary only has two coffee cups, and this is a LOT of dishes! I had to be talked down off the ledge a few times and get all sorts of affirmations ("Are these really white? Or are they that creamy white? Is stoneware OK for every day use? This seems like too good of a deal, are they covered in lead?" In the end I bought two boxes, and called it a day. We're pitching all our old stuff and then some. And starting in three weeks, our dishes will start earning their keep. (They are very pretty. And actual white. And not covered with lead. All is well.)  

Hearing... It feels like a day for jazz music, so I'm starting out with some jazzy stuff and will go from there.  

Tasting... Coffee. Nothing goes with jazz quite like coffee. Except maybe wine. Oh, or a Manhattan... Anyway. I'm having coffee.  

Working... Party projects galore. And housework. I've got 3 loads of laundry and at least that many for the dishwasher - I seriously own a lot of bowls now. So those will be going in the background while I sew and bake and design and whatnot. I need to stay on task today so that tomorrow doesn't find me a giant stressball.  

Reading... Um. Nothing. Maybe twitter. Too much to do for the party.  

Learning... Well, my baking is all paloe/gluten free, so I'm learning about that. Today's projects are muffins and a buttercream frosting for tomorrow's cakes. I'm a little freaked out about having to bake a new thing for a giant party with strangers. Blerg! But - onward and upward.  

Creating... I wish I could show you, because they are so cute! But the be-feathered secret project is for the party and my in-laws read this blog, so I can't post pictures yet. But - this is also a first time project for me, and I've really enjoyed designing these things. :D  

Dreaming... Of November 10th. The first empty Saturday in months. We are staying in our jammies all day and watching movies. There may be Chinese takeout involved. Amen and amen.  

Pondering... My brain doesn't have enough room for deep pondering this week. It's too busy designing and remembering what to buy at the store. I have been thinking about the election, the hurricane, the plight of Haiti, the old customs of hospitality that come forth at Halloween, the origins - both pagan and Christian - of the holiday, the depiction of a a young man coming of age in Sean of the Dead, and about how some people grow towards light and healing and how others just stay stuck forever. So, there's some stuff percolating down there, but it can only come up in fits and starts.  

Thankful for... Jack o'lanterns winking light on doorsteps... and cute trick-or-treaters saying "Thank you! Happy Halloween!"... a fun pumpkin carving party on Monday... winning "best costume" at our friend's Halloween party... encouraging news about my friend's dad... beautiful new dishes... apple pie cookies... a warm home and my husband's love...

10/30/2012

i wrote this post yesterday

I write occasionally about rhythm and balance and what I am learning to do to manage the wild ocean of this life.

This morning I awoke in the cold dark, sad from painful dreams, my heart weighed down by too much sad news. A dear friend's father is dying. Another friend just rushed to her family home to get in a visit while her "Grandma is still Grandma." Another friend just kept vigil on the third anniversary of her son's sudden death. Yet another friend wept at lunch the other day, grieving the death of her marriage. My own family is facing health problems and financial stress. My country is getting clobbered by a contentious election. Humans keep eating each other. (Seriously. What the hell, people??)

That's just too much for 6am Monday morning.

And it is definitely Monday. I have a huge to do list, filled with regular weekly tasks (budget spreadsheet, cleaning, laundry, etc.) as well as preparation for a pumpkin carving party tonight, a Halloween block party Wednesday, and my in-laws anniversary party* Saturday. And of course, tickling my mind, are the "coming up" tasks that need to be addressed starting next week: a couple double dates to organize, Thanksgiving travel and menu to arrange, a fancy Whiskey Tasting event to prepare for, and holysmokesChristmasisalmosthereandwehaventstartedanythingyetackackack! And after Christmas my job search kicks into high gear and we want to find a new place to live and then packing and moving and setting up and...

Balance? What balance? How do you balance the Mother of All Todo Lists with a Wounded Heart? Maybe like this:

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. ~ Isaiah 30:15

I keep coming back to this. I've written about it before. A couple of times.

This verse speaks to me of the difference between what is needed and what is needed. Yes, yes. I need to clean and shop and bake and build and organize and arrange. I really do need to pay the bills and get the oil changed and the tires rotated and spread the mulch pile. I need to see if the extension chord will reach outside, and if we have propane for the lantern and batteries for the carving tools and cinnamon for the apples... I need to find a job and find a new house and figure out a paleo version of Thanksgiving stuffing. Yes, yes. Of course.

Nevertheless, this morning, before launching into my errands and tasks, I hauled a wicker chair from the porch into a patch of sunshine on the front lawn. I poured a cup of half-caf, grabbed my journal, and a hat, and just took 20 minutes for quietness and rest. I attended to the million blades of grass coated with dazzling crystalline dew drops. I noted the silken streaks of spiderwebs shimmering in the morning light. I watched the leaves on our neighbor's tree flutter in the breeze, and observed the color change beginning on my street. I drank in the bright oranges, yellows, pinks, reds, purples, and white from our little garden. I enjoyed our cute bats.

I sipped and looked and let myself be a soul inside this body. I let that soul take in as much beauty as it could in that 20 minutes. I prayed and cursed the darkness as I sat in that pool of light. "Oh Lord, make haste to help us." I prayed and marveled that I could be sitting under blue skies in a pool of golden autumn light while a hurricane pounds my East coast friends. I prayed and stilled my heart.

This is not easy for me.

I do not rest well. I am Action Girl. Solve all the problems! Do all the things! Fix the broken stuff! Bring order to the chaos! Organize! Alphabetize! And when facing a bunch of projects, I want to cross stuff off the list(s)! Right now! Get'erdone!

But a wounded heart needs mending. An introverted soul needs time to think and feel and process all it has absorbed in recent days. Tense muscles need to stretch and unclench and release. I need to breathe. And to pray. And if I try to bang through my tasks and deadlines and projects without caring for my soul? Well, it just goes badly. Nothing gets done and I am a mess. And I have learned the hard way, that my neglected soul shrivels up eventually, and I am left a wraith - neither living nor dead.

So today - what was needed was for me to sit on the lawn and drink coffee in the sun, To Do List be damned. The list is still there of course. And huge. And it will all get done. And it will get done more efficiently and less frazzly because I did what was needed first.

On days when I don't have 20 minutes, or a sunny lawn, I try to do something. Even five minutes helps. A two minute break to microwave some tea, curl my hands around a warm cup, breathe in the steam, and remember that I am a person. Taize music in my ears as I crunch on a deadline. Thirty seconds to appreciate the verdant grass beneath rainy skies. And some days I only have time to light a candle in the 6 am cold and take in a few slow, deep breaths as I try to remember that stars are twinkling above the hurricane.

10/23/2012

thankful tuesday - space heater edition

It's Thankful Tuesday. Autumn arrived in earnest at the Pink House this week, so I must sing its praises.

- A storm blew in and brought great gulps of rain to our dry valley. Hallelujah! It is dewy and drippy and soggy and wonderful. We've fallen asleep to the patter of rain two nights in a row. I'm sure by November we'll be over it, but for now, we are in love.

- The trees have begun to turn, and our new drive through drifting leaves is beautiful. It will be awhile before they really strut their stuff, but for now its fun to catch bits of red and gold peeking out between the green and brown. I'm sure we'll make a pilgrimage to the Golden Tree of the West (a beautiful tree in our old neighborhood) soon.

The other thing that turned this week is our hydrangeas. Remember the lovely blue and purple of this summer? Check it out!

THAT is the color we saw when we moved in. And had no idea how to achieve it. Basically, all we had to do is let Fall happen. Whoopie!

Oh, and check these out too, harvested from our very own little garden:

So pretty! Well, mostly. Ignore the wrinkled table cloth. Instead focus on the cute little pumpkins. :)

- Our little porch bats all curled up against the cold. In silhouette, they look like Batman glaring down at Gotham from a skyscraper, clenching his jaw. Only, cuter. I know I wrote about them last week, but I still just love them. We are hoping they last for the trick-or-treaters.


- We hauled out Little Blackie the Space Heater this week. She's much quieter than my old radiator, Goldie, but its still comforting to hear her little hisses. And to stand near her and feel the waft of warm air blowing against me. It makes me laugh that my husband tolerates my naming things. He refers to Little Blackie now, too. Come to think of it HE'S the one who named the Golden Tree of the West...

- Butternut squash soup. Oh. Love it. The soup is one of our "Game and a Meal in One" dinners. I make a giant vat of the stuff and we set it on the table, along with every spice and seasoning in the house. We each scoop one ladle-ful into a small bowl, add a few herbs or spices, and eat the bowl. Then we do it again but with a different seasoning combo. "I'm doing ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon." "I'm doing oregano and basil." "I'm doing rosemary and paprika." We experiment and play around and taste each others creations. This is a fun one to do when we have guests. Especially people who are afraid of butternut squash. They almost always get a kick out of the experimental part at least.

- Oregano and cheddar biscuits. To go with the soup, you know. These suckers freaking rocked. BAM! I'm getting better at paleo baking. I can't wait to try a paleo version of the apple pie cookies.

- Fire. With all the cold and rain and soup and biscuits, we need the cozy flicker. I stocked up on tealights and and a jar candle in "Apple" scent. I grabbed a firelog for good measure, but we've not had enough time in the evening to use it. My friend Jovi sent the info for their woodlot so we can order a pile of - hopefully seasoned this time - firewood.

- Sweaters. I pushed things a bit and started wearing long sleaves last week, but now I need the sweaters. MM grins and his eyes bug out each morning when he sees me wearing one. "Oh, I like this one!" It's all the same stuff as last year, but its been awhile. His enthusiastic appreciation makes me blush and smile and shuffle my feet. And wear more sweaters.

Happy Tuesday folks. What's making you thankful today? Make sure to visit Micha and read the other thankfuls.

10/16/2012

thankful tuesday - snickerdoodle-y

I have a rhythms post cooking, but yesterday I spent the morning having tea with a friend and today is Thankful Tuesday at Micha's, so I'm a bit behind. Soon. For the moment though, I just want to sit and be thankful for...

~ Our Halloween Bats. I am not a big Halloween decorator, per se. I'm more about harvesty autumn things. I love the rich colors and leaves and pumpkins and hay bales and corn stalks and all that business more than zombies and skeletons, etc. But our neighborhood is really into the whole Halloween thing, so I thought I'd do a little something this year.

The other evening, I cut out bats of various sizes, added a purple glitter accent, and MM and I strung them up last night. I love them! They are bent cardstock, and the curve of the wing makes them dip and sway and spin. Totally look like bats fluttering. They are awesome. And so cute. :)


(Click photo to view larger.) And, note our garden. Rad. Also, I made pillow covers and the table cloth yesterday. Isn't that fabric pretty? Love the purple. Quite a Martha day for me. I even set out a decorative gourd. I know.

~ Paleo Snickerdoodles. Despite the rising temperatures, yesterday just felt like a snickerdoodle day. I had an invitation to morning tea, so I whipped up a batch of Urban Posers. Very delicious and snickerdoodle-y.


And speaking of paleo treats - check THIS out! Our family has a big party coming up and I'm bringing gluten free cakes. This might just have to be one of them. Woah nelly!


~ Roasted Cabbage. I didn't really grow up eating much cabbage. Mom would add it to the corned beef on Saint Patrick's Day, but it was always boiled within an inch of its existence. Slimy. Weird. Then as an adult, I'd have tacos with cabbage or spring rolls or sometimes an asian salad. These are good too. But this last year, I started just roasting wedges with oil, salt, and pepper. So freakin' good. We had some last night with a roast chicken, zuchini, and sweet potato. Perfect.

~ This view. Sunday was a weird day. We were tired and out of sorts and I was frazzly and couldn't find a place to sit at Starbucks. And the park was hosting a church service and the worship team was testing the sound system. And blerg blerg blerg! On a whim, I drove to the river and walked up the bluffs, and saw this.


I sat for an hour or so watching fish jump. (Huge ones! Always just out of reach for the various fishing boats. Must have been maddening for the fishermen.) I saw hawks, ducks, geese, squirrels, and dragon flies. I watched the plumed grasses flutter in the warm breeze.  I watched the slow, lazy river flow under the old bridge. I listened to kids hollering and dogs yelping and birds chattering and men swapping sports scores from the boat launch. Mostly I just took in the blue and the green and the yellow of the day. So peaceful. Lifegiving.

Later that night, MM and I snuggled and talked and prayed and rested. We just needed some peace and love, I think, cuz the next day we were all sorted out.

~ Good Health. I had my yearly doctor visit today, and it just feels miraculous to be where I am today versus where I was last year at this time. My stress level is way down and my body just feels so much better. Our doctor didn't even blink when we mentioned paleo. He smiled and said high nutrient diets are great, and recommended going ahead and adding the weight training in now instead of waiting. He's doing all the blood/urine tests to just make sure all my numbers are good, but was very encouraged to hear and see how much better I'm doing.

Me too. I've always been a healthy, energetic person, so the last couple years have been scary for me. I felt weak and frail and in so much pain. But now, I am hopeful that next year I'll be able to report that I can do lots of pushups and situps and I can use the 10 pound weights instead of the 2 pounders. This is very different than how I felt this spring.

What are you thankful for today?Add a comment. And zip over to Micha's to see what's cookin' over there. (Pictures of little boys in bowties for starters.)


10/11/2012

joyous

It is a quiet sort of day. I plan to curl up in the sun with my journal for a bit and then write, sew, bake, and clean some things. In lieu of me babbling on and on, I leave some lovely words by Dallas Willard. HT Tonia.

"Until our thoughts of God have found every visible thing and event glorious with his presence, the word of Jesus has not yet fully seized us...
We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. Undoubtedly he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseperable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness."
Abundant love. Infinite joy. And to think, we are "made in His image."

10/09/2012

thankful tuesday - we so fayn-cee edition


We're celebrating Thankful Tuesday at Micha's today. Here's my list:

~ A new route to MM's work. We live next door to a gorgeous park, and for the last week or two we've avoided the traffic-laden main streets and have driven through a portion of parkway. Its a curvy road with groves of tall trees on either side. Pale sunlight streams through leafy branches, landing on dew-soaked grass. It's like driving through a forest. We sip coffee or tea from our travel mugs and chat. As someone who spent two decades in bumper-to-bumper commutes, I give this morning ride two thumbs up.

~ My brain. I updated a couple websites and blogs last week. And my "two hours, max" project turned into twelve hours, a break over the weekend, and several cusswords. The sites were all out of date, software-wise, so I had to do a bunch of upgrades on the back end and with the sites themselves to get all the bits of technology to play nicely with each other. There was a bug in the upgrade package, so I had to do some workarounds, blah blah blah - The important thing here is that: I AM FREAKING SMART PEOPLE!!! (Just threw the horns for myself.) I am so proud I can hardly stand it. This came on the heals of several weeks of work-related frustration and discouragement, so huge boost. Yay!

~ An encouraging note. A friend of mine sent me a message about my post from yesterday that just warmed me through and through. Again. It's been a discouraging time lately, and it meant so much to hear that something I wrote mattered to someone. She didn't know that I'd been discouraged; she was just kindly sending a note of thanks. Powerful to me, though. Words can build up as well as tear down. I need to be better about that - telling people that they have an impact on me. A friend of mine calls her website, "Your Story Matters." It does. I need to tell people that more often.

~ Fall. Oh! Finally! Good night nurse! It's been 100 degrees here til just this week. Now its in the 70s and the mornings are chilly. I put on a sweater today! I bought twice as many apples as we needed just so we'd have spares for apple crisps and cobblers and pancakes and... I pulled out the When Harry Met Sally soundtrack for the car. (Because I couldn't find John Denver in the morning rush.) I bought a big pumpkin for the front porch and set up my little scarecrow. I'm thinking of making paper bats to decorate for Halloween. I want to go walk in the woods and pick apples and make a pot roast and popcorn balls and spiced cider... OK. I'll stop now. I just. Be still my heart, I love this season.

~ And also... The glorious blue skies lately... a couple good hair days in a row... a fixed toilet... a sprinkle of nutmeg in my coffee... a gameplan for the approaching our big fall projects... a new golden bug light for the front porch... zinnia bouquets all over the house... MM being extra lovey-dovey, dreamy, romantic yesterday... upgrading to the $8 wine this week, cuz we so FAYN-CEE!

What about you? Is anyone thankful out there on this Tuesday. Leave a comment. Or, go visit Micha's site to see her list and leave a comment there.

10/08/2012

blue sky monday

It's Monday. I spent some time outside in a patch of sun, sipping tea and thinking thoughts and admiring the blue sky, in an attempt to pull myself together for this new week. I'm not tired, exactly, but I'm not rested either. I could use a vacation. Someplace quiet and beautiful. With maids and cooks and someone to bring me a cup of tea or a glass of wine depending on the hour... Apparently, I want to vacation at Downton Abbey.

Life is full these days, so I don't forsee much whitespace in the near future. I need to find my rest in the midst of housework and doctor visits and getting the oil changed and meeting deadlines and paying bills and planning events and loving my people...

~ ~ ~

The word we use a lot to describe the peaceful equilibrium we desire is "balance." We want to have it all, but in moderation, and all things in balance. But I don't think that's how life really works. Sometimes we have too much of everything all at once. Or nothing. Or the wrong things. And there is not enough time to fit it all in. There just isn't. To do everything we want we need longer days and stronger bodies and more years. Shoot. Just think of the books that I won't be able to get to in this lifetime.

Life is organic and mysterious and messy and beautiful and terrible and chaotic. Period. Life isn't stable or steady. It is a wild, rushing thing.

These days balance in life seems less like steady, orderly moderation, and more like surfing. Life comes at me in crazy waves. Huge waves that come in fast, and I have to paddle!paddle!paddle! to catch one just right, pop up, and bend and shift in response to the roaring power beneath my board. I can't control any of that power. Life just happens. And keeps happening! But I can train hard and know myself and my center of gravity and learn to read the waves and (try to) ride them instead of getting pummeled.

~ ~ ~

The last decade or so I've practiced "surfing" by learning to approach life more in terms of routines and rhythms and seasons and less in terms of deadlines, schedules, and "having it all". I am learning to evaluate my life on a regular basis and add and subtract things as needed.

This is hard for me. Saying "no" and "not right now" is not my default. I love all the things!



And it's gotten even more complex, now that I've got a surfing partner. Now it's the ebb and flow and wild rush of three lives: his, mine, and ours. We work hard to listen and discern what is needed and say yes and no to things accordingly. Sometimes what is needed is to invite someone to dinner; and sometimes what is needed is to hunker down and take a nap. We talk a lot about simplicity in regards to money, stuff, and time. We create routines for housework and administrative tasks and food preparation. And then we test and tweak and adjust as each season brings new considerations.

~ ~ ~

I may spend a bit of time writing through what we do and where we're at and why. This may be boring or interesting. Meanwhile, this is what the sky looks like today above my house.


10/02/2012

thankful tuesday with butter, salt, and oregano

Micha is busy moving her family halfway across the country, so she isn't "hosting" Thankful Tuesday this week, but I'm  following her meme, so I'm doing the whole graphic and everything.



Tadah!

~ Mashed yams with butter, salt, and oregano. Oh so delicious! MM and I are begining to think about our first paleo Thanksgiving. No bread stuffing, no rolls, no eggnog, no pies... That just sounds too sad. We can't do anything about the eggnog, but we can figure out low-sugar, paleo/gluten free versions of all the other stuff. Anyway, last night we had mashed yams with butter, salt, and oregano and decided that we need to bring it for Thanksgiving. I can just imagine it smothered with MM's delicious gravy.... and carmelized brussel sprouts with mustard sauce, and green beans and shallots....

~ Tiny pumpkins. It hit 100 degrees here in Fake West New Jersey yesterday. Blerg. But I don't care! It's still Fall, dangit. I've got zinnias to gather into bouquets and the beginnings of my tiny pumpkin collection piling up on the sideboard. They make me unreasonably happy.

~ MM's brain. My man is so freakin smart. And he has read all these things and knows all this stuff about things and events and people that I'm clueless about. He challenges me and stretches me and shows me several whole universes that I never knew existed. Sometimes my brain hurts from all the intense thinking, but it's facinating. We don't agree on everything, which gives us lots of opportunity to talk and philosophize.

~ Calisthenics. We seem to be all healed up from our various injuries and have started exercizing again. I did one full-on, I'm-in-the-army-now pushup yesterday. And five situps on the exercise ball. It was terrible. And awesome. Trying to figure out the best rhythm for us, but it looks like, for now, we can do some bodyweight stuff without much trouble. Finally! So, it's back to pushups, squats, situps, dips, and eventually pullups. (Geesh! Pullups scare me.) We're also using the Rolly Uppy thing that MM made for us to exercise our forearms, wrists, and hands. I do NOT want to get tendonitis in my thumbs ever again!

~ And... The Harvest Moon... crisp apples... hot coffee... new Chucks... clean dishes... fat squirrels running along the fence... sitting on the porch after dinner looking at the stars... fresh flowers in mason jars... holding MM's hand... a fresh crop of roses in the back yard... jojoba oil...

10/01/2012

dancing under the harvest moon

We had such a great weekend that I barely remember it. What happened? Oh, yes.

On Friday, I picked up my man after work and we went clothes shopping. MM's lost gobs of weight and inches since we've switched to paleo, and could no longer fake it with his work clothes. He has a fancy pants job that requires, well, Fancy Pants, and you can only add "pleats" so many times before they start looking more like Clown Pants. So, a quick trip to Nordstrom Rack, and he can last a little while longer. I'm praying that we get three months out of this set before buying more.

I've lost weight too, so I got a couple pair of pants at Khol's. It felt so good to have pants that fit! I hadn't realized how irritating my other pants were. I have a butt again!

Saturday, we slept in a bit and had a leisurely morning before heading to the ocean for a hike. Halfway there I realized I'd forgotten to grab my hiking shoes. Since I didn't want to brave the sandy cliffs in sparkly flip flops, we used our Super Smart Phone Powers to locate a DSW. I'd wanted new Chucks anyway, so it wasn't a total loss.

On the way there, MM prayed that we could find the store and they'd have grey Chucks in my size. We did. They did. I was briefly tempted by some blue ones, but clearly Providence favored the grey. Also, discovered that I need a size 7 NOT a 7.5. My red ones have kindof looked like Clown Shoes on me these last several years, and I never realized I'd gotten them too big. The More You Know.

Apparently, MM and I have problems with dressing like clowns.

We hiked all around the sandy, rocky cliffs of a close-to-us beach. The sky changed every minute, fog rolling in and out and pouring into the nooks and cranies of the coastline. Silvery sun shimmered on the water and the mist glowed on the sea. The salty wind alternately carried and muffled the rhythmic blast of the fog horn, the clang of harbor dingies, the call of birds, and happy shrieks of children. We saw lizards, tourists, herons, terns, egrets, hawks, a lone sea lion, and the largest crow ever. It was the size of a mini Cooper, I swear.

Oh, and a snake.

Yeah. It slithered across the path just a few feet in front of me. It was black with a long yellow stripe down its length. Talking about snake encounters, MM and I couldn't remember that little rhyme about snake colors and which one's are dangerous. MM vaguely remembers "Something something black, stay back." And I vaguely remember "something something yellow, Dangerous Fellow." Or is it Friendly Fellow? These guys know.

See? Gonners. We don't know our snake rhymes!

(Yet sadly, I have a LOT of "Ice Ice Baby" memorized.)

We tromped around and explored. There's tons of trails, and I'd love to go back and do more of them. After our hike, we went to the beach and enjoyed the ocean. That spot was going off. Big waves. Double overhead. Tons of surfers. One guy got pounded so hard he broke his board.

After we got too cold to sit there anymore, we headed home. We emerged from the fog just in time for sunset and a gorgeous Harvest Moon. Hanging huge and bright and radient in a purple sky.

We stopped at Peet's for coffee, and they'd turned on their super loud DON'T SLEEP HERE HOMELESS PEOPLE music, sort of a dreamy, jazzy, romantic guitar. So MM and I set our coffees down on the roof of the car and danced under the Harvest Moon. One of our best moon moments!

We have moon moments. Once, we lay on the pullout couch and watched the moon traverse across the sky til it went out of the window's view. We hauled our porch chairs out to the driveway one time to watch a particularly bright and beautiful moon. We ran down the street to catch sight of the Super Moon. And at a wedding recently, our party favor was an eclipse viewer, so we could watch the moon cover the sun. Now and then, when one of us catches sight of a particularly good moon, we'll holler for the other to join us. "That's a great moon! We should kiss!" (I know. We're dorks. We can't help it.) Tiny slivers of moon remind me of Rich Mullins, so I'll sing to MM,
"The moon is a sliver of silver
like a shaving that fell on the floor of a carpenter's shop.
Every house must have its builder
And I awoke in the house of God..."

We made it home, and slept the sleep of good children. Sunday, we woke up and did our usual Sunday things. I had a productive day, but started to feel frazzly and stressed by 4 o'clock. Our house is decidedly un-autumnal in the late afternoon heat (97 degrees???), so we headed to Starbucks for some air conditioning and groovy tunes. After an hour of mellow music, my foot on MM's knee, and a decaf Americano in my tummy, all was right with the world.

And today it is October. My favorite month. MM came home from Trader Joes yesterday with a pie pumpkin. I'm going to puree that baby and test out a recipe for me to make my own pumpkin spice lattes.

Happy Monday. Happy October. Happy please-o-please-o-please Autumn. 

9/25/2012

zombies and muffins and audrey hepburn's hair

Hello, friends.

I've been settling into new rhythms with MM this month. He started a new project with earlier hours and we are not morning people. So, it's taken us awhile to get our act together. We get up at 6 now, which may not seem like much to all you 5-5:30 people, but whatever. This is a big deal to us.

 ~ ~ ~

Autumn always kicks my nesting instincts into high gear. I have an irrepressible urge to Craft! Bake! Decorate! Wear an apron! Sew an apron! Crochet!

You know how McDonald's puts chemicals in their food to make you want to eat them? (Oh. Those fries. What IS it? Good, Lord!) I think stores do that too. As soon as the school supplies are out, the haul up stuff that smells like cinnamon, vanilla, eucalyptus. Stuff is all sparkly and has pictures of pumpkins and fall leaves. It's hard to resist the sensory deluge. I become, like, an autumn zombie, shambling through the aisles at Michaels, "Craaaafts! Craaaafts!"

~ ~ ~

To that end, I cleaned out the globs of sloshed fish juice (yum! who wants McDonald's fries?) from my oven, and today I'm going to attempt Paleo Banana muffins. Cinnamon and ginger and deliciousness awaits. Whoopie!

~ ~ ~

A BFF surprised me last week, by bringing me a whole box of Mrs Meyers Clean Day products in a bunch of flavors! Too fun! I've been wanting to try them, but they are expensive in the grocery store, and I just bought a whole bunch of eco cleaners at Costco that I want to use up before spending more money.

I've tested a few out and do enjoy most of the scents. Honeysuckle or Geranium are getting my top vote right now. I've used the scrub on my bathtub and got good results. And the freshening spray has actually helped our linen closet, which usually smells like Cigarette Smoke and Old Man. #winning!

The only thing I'm not sure of is the liquid dish soap. It's quite perfume-y and the suds don't last as long as my regular eco brand. The dishwasher soap is great, though.

~ ~ ~

I haven't been doing daybooks, so I'll just give a quick rundown. Finished:
The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexander Dumas - Bad title. Wasn't really about him. This is actually the third book in the Three Muskateers series. The second has an equally lame title, The Twenty Years After. Seriously, Dumas? Anyway. It was OK. I think it may have made more sense if I'd read all the books in order. But I read the first one 20 years ago and didn't know the second one existed til now. Meh. It's ok. I love the Count of Monte Christo, but these I can take or leave.

Evolving in Monkeytown by Rachel Held Evans - I enjoy her blog, and it's been a launch pad for me to learn a lot about issues that the Evangelical church is wrestling with lately. This is her memoir about keeping her faith in Jesus despite a huge shift in her worldview. It wasn't what I expected, but it was still a good read. Better than some other memoirs I've read recently.

One idea that really struck me is that people in the generation just after me, so folks in their 30s and younger, have a very different idea about "who is my neighbor". Because of the internet and the connectedness of media, they have friends all over the world. So global issues are their issues. It is not Us/Them for young people. Rachel's father put it this way, "When I was a kid, we were told to eat our food because the kids in Africa are starving. My children know those African kid's names."This global-connectedness changes everything.

Right now, I'm reading the philosophy book, still. It's just dense, and my brain has to be very awake and with-it to read it, so it's taking awhile. And I'm re-reading Little Big Man. MM had borrowed it, and enjoyed it, but it's hard for me to talk about it, b/c its been 20 years since I read it. Really well-written book. Will be fun to chat with my husband about it when I'm done.

Together, we are reading Simplicity and are in the home stretch of Pascquale's Nose.

~ ~ ~

In movies we've watched:

Double Jeopardy - which was not as good as I'd remembered.

Trollhunter - Oh, man. This was great. MM watched this on a weekend when I was away, and wanted me to see it right away. It is one of the best "found footage" fake documentaries. Its Norweigian. Funny. And really well done. Even the FX, which you know they didn't have a big budget for, were great. I want to see it again.

Valhalla Rising - Wow. I don't even know how to explain it. Its kind of a viking movie. Set in Scotland first and then the New World after. The main character doesn't speak through the whole film, and doesn't have a real name. It is weird. Ethereal. Violent. Beautiful. And powerful. Gives a commentary on spirituality vs. religion in unexpected ways. Total trip. This was another one MM found the weekend I was out of town.

Breakfast at Tiffany's - MM had never seen this, and he'd had it on his list to see for a while. I'd seen it once before. (In San Francisco. In Union Square, just outside of Tiffany's. My neice had come out to visit me in California, and we stayed at The Mark Twain, had a delicious French breakfast at Cafe La Presse, tromped around China Town, and went to the movie in the park. It got cold, so we stopped in at Ross to buy blankets, and I swear all the fancy theater patrons we passed thought we were homeless people.)

Anyway. It is a beautiful film. Audrey Hepburn is gorgeous. And the characters have good chemistry. But ultimately, its a sad story, really. I mean anyone can see that this chick is a trainwreck. And the guy seems to be getting his act together, but the whole "I can help her" thing, just feels codependent to me. And, ok, she gets out in the rain and looks for the cat, but I just don't have hopeful feelings about their future. (She has great hair, though, doesn't she. And those clothes! Sigh.)

~ ~ ~

I have rambled long enough. Have a lovely afternoon. I'm off to bake muffins. Rock on.

9/04/2012

cheers to summer

Last night, at 8 pm, MM and I sat on a restaurant patio and raised a glass (primativo for me, malbec for him) to the end of summer. Who cares that the solstice is two weeks away. The light changed two weeks ago, and the nights are getting colder. We can feel the change coming. We've been cramming in last bits of summer goodness the last couple weekends. (Baseball game, fireworks, an afternoon paddling around a mountain lake, coffee in the front porch garden, games of dice, cheese...) I'm sad that we didn't get to everything on our summer list, but the lure of autumn is too strong to resist. So, we celebrate the turning of seasons and enjoy what is.

 ~

What is, is:

 - New routines and new attempts at old ones. Evening chores, bedtime rhythms, and morning tasks are all getting a reboot as MM starts a new gig that has him to the office an hour earlier than usual. We are a) not morning people and b) artists, so we reeeeeaaaaaaly need rhythms to keep us moving. Otherwise the trash piles up, we don't floss, and end up running around in the morning freaking out because we have no lunches or clean clothes. And so, we tweak and update and try to create rhythms that make sense in this new season.

 - Organizing and archiving and downsizing. We've taken several carloads to Goodwill in the last couple weeks, and I've got a pile of old papers to burn. We're set to scan photos and are researching ways to convert old videos and cassets to digital formats. Our goal is to move to a smaller place, and we'd like to not haul unneccessary things with us. So, we're doing a lot of talking about stuff. How much do we need and why? Etc. Etc. I'm thankful for fall sales on organizing stuff. Oh, how I love plastic bins!

 - Hunkering down. Two years in to our marriage, we have a much clearer vision for what we want and what it will take to get there. We've got a lot of work to do just to get to "baseline", so we're re-committing to the unglamorous, unsexy work of damage repair and foundation building. At the end of it all we will be lean, strong, and ready to blast off. But right now, its just the daily work of paying bills and doing pushups.

 ~

It is also:

 - Using the "fall" mugs for coffee and tea, and cinnamon apple bakes for breakfast

 - A new journal, decorated for autumn, ready for new ideas and a new season of growth and learning

 - A garden bursting with cosmos and zinnias, and mornings cool enough to sit on the porch and enjoy them

 - New books! We finally finished our read-alouds and are excited to start Richard Foster's Freedom of Simplicity. We also ordered books from B&N.com the other day, and shelved MM's Harvard Classics. I've renewed my reading of The Story of Philosophy, and have a plan to integrate those essays with works in MM's collection. It feels like school is starting.

 - New clothes. We're both losing weight and running out of suitable clothes, so we need to do some back-to-school shopping of our own.

 - New projects. MM starts a new project today. We've got a real deadline for a project we're working on together. And I've found a couple of job postings that look promising. We've also got ideas percolating for Christmas gifts, MM has a few woodworking projects, and I'm starting to long for textiles.

 - An autumn list filling up with ideas to make the most of this season's offerings. MM's hankering for mulled wine by the firepit. I'm getting the itch to see apple farms, pumpkin patches, and corn fields.

 ~

So - cheers to you, summer. And welcome, fall. You're my favorite.

8/15/2012

perennials

So. Hi. It's been awhile.

We went away for our anniversary trip and then life just sort of got evaporated in the fire of 10,000 suns. Er, a heatwave.

We survived, of course. Two weeks of 100+ is no big deal in the grand scheme of things. We had Bushmills on the rocks and trips to the ocean and a day of napping beneath the fan in the yoga/dance/game/TV room.

And frozen watermelon slushies - my WORD! (Seriously - 8 frozen strawberries, 1/4 frozen super ripe watermelon, a few blueberries just for fun - Holy Crap! Mind blowing. Especially when your house is 110 degrees.)

And, though it is still very much Summer here, things are cooling down enough to think straight again.

~ ~ ~

Part of thinking straight is re-visiting our response to our landlord. We were so hurt and angry and frustrated that they would a) take the tree out for no good reason b) in the middle of a heatwave when we had no AC c) not care, and d) leave a giant pile of mulch in the lawn for US to move - that we basically pouted.

I stopped watering the front lawn. We pulled our porch furniture and our decorative statuary and declared, "This house is dead to us! Dead!" We frantically tried to find ways to break our lease and leave early and just move, dangit. Even considered bumping up our house purchasing plan 4 years because we were tired of Idiots Ruining Our Lives, etc. etc.

But. Yesterday, after a month of gnashing our teeth and rending our garments, we decided that logistically, unless the Perfect Perfect Perrrrrrr-fect rental comes along and the stars align and our ducks stay nicely in a row - we just can't leave til after the holidays. There is just too much going on.

So. We stay for awhile.

~ ~ ~

This decision feels right. And by this morning we'd decided to put the furniture back (and the statuary). And not only will we water the lawn, but we will also plant things in the newly sun-drenched flowerbeds.

Perennials, even.

Lantana. Our favorite. (Well, except roses (MM) and zinnias (me).)

When we moved here, it felt like the right place for us to be. And we wanted to be a blessing to the neighborhood. It's a quiet and unfriendly (though polite) neighborhood, where people don't really know each other or act neighborly. And us sitting on our front porch a lot, gave us the chance to do that. We've gone beyond remarks on the weather and had real conversations.

We don't want to let our butthead landlord spoil that for us. "We want to return good for evil," MM said.

We don't know when we will be moving, really. (Our ducks move around a LOT.) But no sooner than the new year. And until then we want to bring Life and beauty into barren spaces. And, oh, if any of our conversations are an indicator, there are some seriously barren spaces in this neighborhood.

The dead parts in me need to be cultivated and nurtured and brought to life, too. So, win-win. And hopefully the house, and my soul will be in better shape by the time we move on.

8/09/2012

thursdaybook - dog days edition

For today I am,

Seeing... The dog days of Summer in all their glory. It is hot, folks. H-O-T. And we have no tree. And no AC. Our house is a Pepto Bismol Pink Easy Bake Oven. And all the blinds have begun breaking, so in the bedroom, we had to tack up beach towels. (Klassy!) Between that, and the Giant Pile of Mulch in the (dead) front lawn, we're looking pretty white trash these days. Oh, neighbors. We had so wanted to be your friends.

Hearing... The tap-tap-tap, click-click-click of MM as he designs a database. He's working from home in the Easy Bake Oven, poor guy. Nice for me though, to have him here. He's cute. (I just winked at him, but he didn't see. His brain is in Database Land. I'll try again when he comes up for air. And coffee.

Tasting... Which is what I'm tasting. Not great coffee, though. Because our tap water is super chlorinated, it makes coffee taste gross to me. We buy me spring water or distilled, but we ran out this morning, so the coffee is nice and chlorine-y.

There are some chlorine-y things I love - like when I clean my bathroom with bleach, or add a little to the water when washing my floors. It feels CLEAN to me. And if I get enough of the water/chlorine ratio on a hot day, it reminds me of swimming in a pool. Man, I spent hundreds of summer days in pools. That awesome feeling of coming home so hungry and so tired. There is nothing like the deep sleep that comes the night after playing all day in the sun and water. Like Ann Lindburg's "the sleep of good children."

Working... My main work these days is finding work. I'm updating my website, writing up portfolio pieces, revamping my resume. All this takes lots of thinking, which is giving my brain cells a workout. I'm tired at the end of the day. Last night I slept 9.5 hours, and could have probably slept longer. But, it's good.

Creating... Well. I'm doing a lot of writing and some designing. I'm behind on a lot of creative projects, and my art project is languishing. I just don't have a lot of energy left after the soul work and the work work.

But, I did use a food processor for the first time to make cauliflower rice. Very cool. Two bursts with the pulse button - done. Takes, like 30 minutes to chop by hand. And, last night, I cooked with shallots for the first time. Made an amazing pasta sauce. I know those aren't creative, but they were new and exciting, which is what creating feels like, so I'm putting them in this section.

Reading... We are blasting through books in the EasyBake!

Today, I'm finishing upBirthright, the last of my library stack today. (Good timing, as it was due yesterday. I'll be 10 cents poorer this afternoon.)  That one had some very exciting bits. Duels, guns, assassination attempts, perjury, kidnapping, woah Nelly Olsen! So far, the best of the biographies.

I'm late on this because I took a couple days to read Matthew Paul Turner's book, Churched, a memoir of growing up in a Fundamentalist home. Funny and poignant. We read his blog, and MM follows him on Twitter, so it was fun to read a bit of his story. Made me laugh.

A lot, actually. And had this funny moment with MM. We both grew up in Evangelical circles, and find that we both learned some of the same Sunday School songs. Its fun when something reminds each of us of the same song, and we have those little, "Hey, you know that one too!" moments. Well, this book had a reference to one of my Sunday School songs, and I'm trying to read it to MM, and I"m laughing so hard I'm snorting and crying and have to try several times before I can get it all out coherently. And he didn't remember the song. All that hillarity and effort and it was a bust. Oh well. I still had fun.

I may pick up a few more biographies for the last month of summer, but at home I'm down to:

Bookbag - The Story of Philosophy
Read Alouds with MM - Pascqualle's Nose and Changes that Heal

Learning... How to work a food processor... how to make more paleo dishes. Little by little, I'm putting together my own collection of recipes. If I can add even one new thing each month, eventually, we'll have a fun rotation of meals. Hard for a non-foodie like me, but it's happening. The new lunch system and the food processor were both encouraging. Things feel simpler now. I have breathing room to figure this out.

Moving Around... Stole this from my friend Rachel. It's mostly too hot for moving around, but I at least got the yoga/tv/dancing/game room ready to rock and roll. We'd set up our comfy chairs in there for a movie marathon and left them there for a few weeks. Now the floorspace is clear and today will be my first day back to stretching. I'd halted my 100 pushups/situps/etc. program when my hands and knee started hurting, but I'm feeling like I can begin again. Adding in some exercises for hands and knees this time. Next year, I'll be lifting weights - Booyah!

I also went an a nice walk with a friend the other day. And I'm hoping for another one tomorrow. If we go early enough in the day, it's nice under the trees. Of our neighbors. Because we don't have a tree. I'm totally not bitter.

I also went on a short bike ride yesterday. We've not gone in a month, or so, and should get back to it. MM loves bike riding, and we're right by the river trail. It's just hard to get motivated to do it in 100+ weather. Soon.

Dreaming... Of a new career direction... of travel plans... of moving to a new house with a landlord that doesn't cut down shade trees in July. (see? totally not bitter.)... And, weirdly, of Will Ferrel as a zombie who kept trying to steal my truck. Not really sure what's up with that.

Thankful for... A big glass of iced Jasmine Green tea... Friends that make me laugh... the new lunch system... the food processor... an emotionally supportive husband... zinnias and crepe myrtles, and the smell of the sidewalk after a summer thunderstorm... ibuprofen... $10 dancing lessons...

7/31/2012

Thankful Tuesday - easy bake oven edition


We're celebrating Thankful Tuesday at Micha's today. Here's my list:

~ A week by the sea with my One True Love. We celebrated our 2nd Anniversary by getting the heck out of Fake New Jersey, and, well, heading for The Shore, I guess. (But we didn't run into Snookie and her pals, so we're safe, I guess. )

Anyway, it was fantastic. Cool and sunny with almost the right amount of wind. (We couldn't get our kite to take off.) Perfect days staring at the waves. Perfect nights falling asleep to the sound of them. We stayed in hotels and camped. My Sweetie's first time car camping in a state park campground. (He's more hardcore than me. He usually cold camps in the actual wilderness.) To thank him for his visit, "the Pacific ocean punched him in the face." Hard! A couple guys on the beach saw it and got ready to rescue him if a rip current pulled him out/under. But my man got up again, laughing.

~ Two years with my partner in crime-fighting! He's so great. And sexy. And fun. And awesome. Yay! Seriously, though. He is a gift from God. I still pinch myself to believe that I get to spend my life with this man. I came back from our first date with what I call, "Disney Princess La-La Head". Completely dazzled. And I still am. <3<3xoxo!!!

~ A new system for lunches. The switch to Paleo has been awesome but rough. It's a more expensive way to eat. And it requires more planning, prep, and cooking. You can't just throw a sandwich together or grab a bowl of cereal. And our old plan of eating leftovers for lunch wasn't working. If we saved food for lunches, my man didn't get enough dinner. So now, Sunday is food prep day. We plan the menu, buy the groceries, and while we make dinner that night, we also make a big pot of soup, and grill meat and chop salad toppings. Then for lunches we have soup and salad all week. And I don't have to scrip and trim and scramble to figure out lunches. It's only been two days, but its much better already.

~ The sympathy we've gotten from our friends and family about our tree being chopped down
. We are so sad about this unnecessary loss. One friend (with a degree in sustainable construction) explained all the technical reasons why it was a bad idea to chop down an old shade tree in a suburban neighborhood in our area. And then he called the owner of the house a jerkface. (Yeah! *Fist pump*) I know, I know Jesus loves the little jerkfaces of the world. But we're still sad (and mad), right now. And its nice to see frownies when I post pictures on Facebook. Our people get us.

~ And we don't have a TV, and our Internet is hopelessly slow, so I've not seen a second of coverage. Well, except for this video, of course. How awesome are they? BUT, I feel like I have because of Jen Hatmaker's live Tweeting of the Olympics. It's even better than when she live-tweeted her kid's middle school dance. Hilarious!

~ And for good measure: cool breezes at night... a barbecue, so we don't have to cook inside the Easy Bake Oven that is our house... iced tea on a hot afternoon... hummingbirds that still frequent our hydrangeas... a coffee date planned with a friend this week... a man who is more patient with computers than I... lists crossed off, and piles sorted through, and rhythms, and a return to our little household liturgies of daily life (prayers, shirts, swords, read-alouds...) - these make me feel peaceful and centered...  Amen.