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...