Tuesday, January 7, 2014

On Thinking Warm Thoughts

"The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money."
~Thomas Jefferson
I'm surrounded by candles and covered in handmade afghans and being incubated by two warm fur children and a laptop.  Bone chilling hardly seems an accurate description for this type of freezing. 
Winds whip, causing doors to slightly open as powerful gusts find their way through tiny cracks and crevices.  The furnace chugs away, sprinting through this Antarctic marathon without stopping for rest or refueling.  My tea kettle constantly whistles, signaling another warm cup, another attempt at these 'staying toasty' antics. 
Unbeknownst to them, my fuzzy socks and fingerless gloves have intense responsibilities placed upon them today.  I hope they are prepared for such lofty, albeit unreachable expectations.
Dare I say that I am in heaven?  Is it alright to completely revel in this feeling of cozy and snugly and calm?  Because, you see dear friends... I'm loving it.  I'm completely thrilled.  I can't smile brighter.  I live for days like this.  Days when I can enjoy our home, bake bread, light candles, knit and create....
 Upon emerging from my protective blanket cocoon, I shuffled into the real world, only to find cold, cold, and more cold.  Without hesitating, I prepared  myself a perfect cuppa and quickly gathered this-and-that to add to the simmer pot. (I promise that a nifty simmer pot makes staying in and being chilly a lovely little adventure.)
"What's that?  You want to make one, too?"
Good.  I hoped so.
  Here's how.
Simmer Pot Instructions
First, boil water in a kettle or pan.
While the water heats,  slice one orange (or lemon or lime....let your imagination run wild) and gather any other ingredients that suit your fancy.
(I also added cloves, vanilla essential oil, and dried rosemary from my summer herb garden.)
Cinnamon, allspice, lemon, cranberries and pine tree sprigs are all delightful additions and options- I promise.
Add all ingredients to the simmer pot of your choice. 
(I found my copper one at a thrift store for $2.00-score!)
Gently pour the hot/boiling water over the chosen ingredients.
Lastly, turn the stove on to a low setting (I usually set mine at 2 or 3) and wait for the yummy scent to waft through the air.
*Note: I typically use the same simmer pot for a few days, adding this and that as time passes.  Also, be sure to add more warm water every few hours to keep the potion from becoming 'sludgy' or burned.
With that, I'm lighting a few more candles, heading to my craft nook, and setting off to work on some paper crafting projects that I have up my sleeve.
Stay warm, my friends.  Stay warm and enjoy this day.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dear reader, you are invited...

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."
~Sarah Ben Breathnach
I've always had a sincere love of notebooks and list making.  Interestingly, I enjoy writing a list simply to allow myself the "crossing-off" pleasure of items and tasks.  "Did that," I chide at the completed chore.  "Finished," I proudly gloat to the errand gone by.  And perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that I often save these crossed offed lists.  Do I do 'cross off and save' as a way of validating my self?  As a way to feel accomplished and worthy of a few moments of high quality couch napping?  I can't say.   

However, I can tell you this.  I am currently engaged in a different type of list making, a type of jotting down that's not only cathartic, but joyful and rejuvenating and wonderful and gratifying.
But, pardon me, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Sometime in October or November, I came across a book by the title of The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story Christmas.  I knew I had to have it.  Something about it called to me, and without missing a beat my husband and I made a quick stop at Barnes and Noble.  You guessed it, the book--well the book became mine.

I fell in love.  Ann Voskamp writes in such a way that one feels she is sitting down for hot coffee with an old friend.  Allow yourself envision it....
This friend is the kind of friend who has chipped, faded, and mismatched mugs, full of good cries, hearty laughs, and meaningful conversation; a kitchen table pocked full of dings and dents, evidence of memories and shared moments and solved problems; an old braided rug, worn thin from years of friends shuffling in, children playing, and pets resting.... I kid you not, I bet Ann is that kind of person.
(My Jesse Tree and grass that serves as straw for Baby Jesus' manger)
While reading The Greatest Gift, I also participated in her study and made myself a Jesse Tree, which depicts the ancestors and family heritage of Christ.  When Christmas day came and I finished the last page of the story, I felt full, albeit empty- longing for more of Ann's words.
 "Now what?" I sat wondering.
Enter, One Thousand Gifts.  The words are gentle and beautiful and soft and kind.  The premise of this book is grace and Eucharist, and finding joy in the everyday moments of life.  Generally speaking, it's about finding God and thanking God for the little (and big!) glimpses of wonderful in daily occurrences.  It's life changing, that I can promise.
So, back to my love of notebooks and list making. 
While reading the book, it suggests that the reader keep a list of the gifts (with the intention to find one thousand) that fill and grace her life.  It's a very spiritual discipline, and I've found it highly transformational, giving deep awareness to gratitude and beauty and love and thanksgiving.
I found myself truly excited to embark on this journey of gratitude and gift listing. I searched around until I found the perfect little notebook, one that
was pretty, would fit in my bag or purse, and that simply put, made me happy. 
I'm reading and I'm listing and I'm finding myself so aware and blessed and thankful. 
Won't you join me? 
Let's read and make lists. 
Let's find the magic in the everyday and give thanks for our many gifts.
Let's do this together.
Blessings and peace for a happy new year,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Keeping it Cozy

"There is no austerity equal to a balanced mind, and there is no happiness equal to contentment; there is no disease like covetousness, and no virtue like mercy." 

The yarn has worn a permanent groove between my thumb and index finger. The snow gently falls upon the pine boughs, weighing them down, creating the most serene feeling of comfort and contentment.

For some reason, I can't bring myself to step away. The yarn and I have a connection and its running deep these days. We've found ourselves quite the little relationship and it has become quite obvious that we're inseparable.

As the snow quietly tumbles I'm snuggled with my handmade blanket, a fuzzy puppy, and a basket of yarn. I'm pretty sure that both if us aren't moving until much later tonight.

We're keeping it cozy, that's for sure.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Intricate Simplicity

“Every dew-drop and rain-drop had a whole heaven within it.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It was one of those mornings when I woke up and instantly wanted a pair of fuzzy socks and a flannel robe.  The chill had me rushing to make my java and itching to reach some state of comfort and warmth.

Looking out the kitchen window while rubbing my palms together for warmth, I followed a squirrel across the fence and I admired the herbs and they reached skyward.  

"Burr," I thought.  "Fall is approaching."

Just then my coffee finished its brew cycle and Little Peep-ster "ruffed" for potty time.  Grabbing my java I followed her to the patio, enjoying the rising steam as the warm coffee mingled with the cool, damp air.

While I stood, cupping my toasty morning kick with two chilly hands, I noticed it.
Gently-- and with amazement-- my eyes traced a helter-skelter, zig-zag path through the lawn.

They were everywhere.
Every single nook and cranny, every tree and every shrub and every plant....

Woven in the most intricate and beautiful patterns, hundreds of dew-covered spider webs made their day-break debut.

The absolute beauty and exquisite detail of such creations completely captivated me and before I realized it, Charlie and I had traded warm coffee and cozy socks for wet and soggy bare feet.

With old pajamas and bare tootsies we canvassed the lawn, pausing to admire the construction efforts of the spider.

Invisible except for the dew, the spider webs created the most gorgeous decor.

As the sun reached higher into the morning sky and the golden rays gave warmth to the day, those magical water droplets vanished, leaving only a sticky reminder of the morning wonder.

I knew it was a beautiful sign.  
A sign reminding me to search out true beauty and to look for the silver lining.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Shine Om

"Sometimes the universe smiles upon you."

I always enjoy the month of August, mostly because of the beautiful light.  As the sun rises in the morning, it brings with it a promising shimmer, full of golden sparkles and smatterings of optimism.  Conversely, evening creates an amber glow, allowing flowers to drift into sleep under a warm golden blanket, while being gently lulled by the serene songs of crickets and cooing doves.  It's truly one of my favorite experiences--the sunrises and sunsets of my dear August.

But this August, between those sunrises and sunsets, I made some new and wonderful friends- friends that will forever hold a most special place in my heart.

You see, this August I completed my yoga instructor certification, a certification that I owe to those dear friends.  

I've been beyond blessed to have found myself surrounded by such amazing individuals-- It has truly been my honor and privilege to learn with them.  They will forever be carried with me, as they were there for step one of my yoga journey.

Namaste, my yoga friends.

May bright, beautiful, and positive light always illuminate your paths.

August 25: A Radically Awesome Day

"When Zoloft and balloon animals can't seem to raise your spirits, the best way to brighten your life is to run the Color Me Rad 5K."

It was one of those things I tucked away in the back of mind, thinking "Gee- that would be fun."
And then, one day, while checking my e-mail, the happy little "ding" announced a full inbox.  As I sifted through the messages, scanning and deleting, my eyes fell upon the words 'color' and 'rad' and my interest piqued.

Who in the world could resist such fun?

Not me.  No way.  

The "race" (I use the word liberally) wasn't even timed.  Perfect.  I'm working on toning down the competitive edge-- I'll keep you posted on how that goes.  (wink, wink)

The magic of colored dust shouldn't be lost on anyone.  Try it sometime.  You'll never forget it.

Between the blasting music, the happy people, and the crazy outfits one couldn't help but to have an extreme amount of fun.

Do you see this neon blue haze?

Surprisingly, I started the school year with an ultra-hip blue streak across left side of my hair.  Apparently a bit of dust got trapped under a pigtail holder for a bit too long....oops.

I'm still reeling from the fun. I've never been so gross or took such a long shower.  Plus, over a week later and I still sport a greenish stripe.  Awesome. Pure Awesome.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It Was Beyond Great

"Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life."
~Pablo Picasso

We got crafty the other day, Megan and I.  Having a crafting partner was a nice change, as usually I'm left to my own with anything in the creative realm.  

She made some string art for her college house and I made a crayon canvas for my classroom.

Let's not kid ourselves.  I mean, I'm not the least bit jealous that she gets to jet off to college to live with her sorority sisters while I get to move into a very dusty, asbestos filled classroom.  

No, not one hint of hostility or jealousy here.

I looked forward to our day for a full week, continually thinking and planning how it would be, what would happen, and how the projects would turn out.

I'm pretty sure that we impressed the heck out of ourselves.  It's not everyday that two Duquesne grads are seen lugging planks of wood and wielding hammers.

Or, for that matter, connecting a hairdryer to an extension cord and turning the old Conair on full blast while sitting under an umbrella on the patio.

What a great day. One of my summertime favorites.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Infused with Sunshine

Grow what you love. The love will keep it growing. 
~Emilie Barnes

With happy fingers I plucked tomatoes from the vine.  My feet danced a snazzy jig and off I rushed to pull up the onions. Ponytail sagging over my left shoulder, I gave it a little toss and snipped away at the fresh oregano and basil.  

It was salsa making day and I had to gather the ingredients.

When I say "gather the ingredients" I secretly smile- no lies here.  This shopping spree took place on our little patio (with some banana peppers and jalapenos from my sweet mama).  I never, ever get to shop in my own corner of the world, so imagine my sheer joy when I realized that I had grown enough produce and herbs to make and preserve an entire batch of salsa.

Big. Proud. Grin.

Honestly, I'm still amazed that it worked out.  I mean, I really did it!  I really grew an entire garden full of ripe red tomatoes, crunchy bell peppers, flavorful onions, and spicy banana peppers and jalapenos.  In some small way, it proved such a joy to see it come to fruition.  

With the harvest gathered I packed it away and headed across the lawn and over the fence to my parents' house.  My mom and I had a salsa making date and I wasn't missing it for the world.

We pre-gamed with a good cup of hot java, read over the recipe, checked out our impressive stash of veggies and herbs, and took stock of the situation.

She pulled out her canning equipment, we discussed how it would work, and then set about chopping and chopping, slicing and dicing.

Thankfully, my mama chopped the tomatoes, removing every one of those pesky little skins.
She's a trooper and a master of all things kitchen.

I preferred dealing with the peppers and onions and garlic-- more aromatic and completely worth the watery eyes.

After much preparation, which included boiling jars and sealing lids, our "Sunshine Salsa," as we chose to call it, emerged from the cooker and our hard work was complete.

 My mama and I had ourselves the most wonderful time: talking, daydreaming, and admiring our hard work.
I'm beyond blessed to have such a special person in my life. I can't imagine learning from and with anyone else.

Now we're all eagerly awaiting football season.  
There's something about a salty corn chip, a scoop of summertime, sunshine salsa, and Sunday afternoon Steelers victories.

Bread Baking Day

“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” 
~Robert Browning

The clicking sound of the oven preheating, mixed with the tapping of Charlie's tag against her water dish are the only sounds to break the silence.  The house is calm and in order, two notions which I love.

I'm about to say farewell to that calm and order, because in a few short days this holier-than-thou summer vacation will screech to a halt and I'll find myself thrown into the tornado of adolescent issues, paper grading, and lesson planning.  

While I try and forget about the alternate life awaiting me (a life which I truly do enjoy), I'm baking bread.  Two loaves. 

Yes, you read correctly. I did use the baking word.  I've long ago given up on baking cakes, as that tended to end in disaster and dysfunction, while giving my ego a strong lashing.  Plus, we don't really eat enough sweets to make it worth the while.  Sure, a cookie or ice cream cone here and there, but overall we're just not sweet treat eaters.  

But, bread, well bread is another story.  I'll never turn down a slice of homemade bread, be it topped with jelly, oozing with warm butter, or -heck- even plain (my personal favorite).

For the past two weeks we've enjoyed nothing but our own homemade bread.  No preservatives or chemicals or crazy compounds- just whole grain goodness with nifty designs (mostly stars) carved into the perfect golden crust.

Could this be a dream come true?  Carbs and art?  
I'm in bread baking heaven.
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