Friday, June 29, 2012

On Preserving and Keeping

“The art of living does not consist in preserving and clinging to a particular mood of happiness, but in allowing happiness to change its form without being disappointed by the change, for happiness, like a child, must be allowed to grow up.”
~Charles Morgan

Sometime this winter, when icicles hang from the eaves and snow piles high on windowsills, I will find myself grateful for this day.  As a matter of fact, I'm betting that I'll be thankful in early autumn, when I officially begin my soup making, sauce craving, and winter comfort food craze. 

As I flit about the kitchen (clad in warm slippers and flannel pants), adding basil or rosemary or parsley to the bubbling kettles, I'll remember today. 

The extreme heat and humidity shall rush to the forefront of my mind and I will recall (with happiness) the day I gathered and harvested my herbs while wiping sweat from my forehead and squinting my eyes from the sun. 

I'll think about the little gnats that swarmed around my face, the butterfly who danced on the daisies, and the finches that sang and hopped along the edge of the patio.

Inside the freezer, on the second shelf, my herbs are hibernating, preparing themselves for another time, another season.

And the beauty of it all is that these herbs (chives, oregano, sage, parsley, basil, thyme) began as small seeds, sunning themselves in the warmth of my window.  

 From spring to winter, the magic continues.

Summer Evenings

"The night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand."
~Frederick L. Knowles

Perfect summer evenings are early showers with wet hair
cooling your back as it dries.  

Perfect summer evening are lavender candles
gently flickering in the slowly enveloping darkness.

Perfect summer evenings are cups of hot tea
easing your psyche to a place of calm and rest.

Perfect summer evening are held between bound pages,
full of amazing plots and fascinating characters.

Finding Our Way

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” 
~John Muir

  Under the shade of our umbrella, Chad-o and I found ourselves engrossed in a new pile of magazines.  While we read, we chatted and discussed and sipped tea, all-the-while enjoying the sun and warmth of a Sunday morning.  

An adventurous hike, on an unknown trail, wasn't on our to-do list.

Oh well. So much for the list.  

Weekends mean relaxing and de-stressing, so we fired up the Internet, looked up the trail we wanted, and set out for our adventure.

Charlie wants it to be known that she ventured leash-free for the entire hike.  She's quite the independent rebel these days. (Clap your paws, please- per her request.)

Truth be told, our destination served as the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail Bridge that crosses the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  Finding the real trail proved a bit more difficult that originally thought.

But find it we did.   

While hiking along, we came across a mailbox attached to a tree.
Inside, we found a waterproofed journal, full of documented experiences and anecdotes from fellow hikers.

I found sincere amazement at the respect and care people took to preserve the trail and the thoughts of those who have gone before.

Chad-o took the liberty of writing our sentiments, while I lurked about taking photos.

Of course, a true note from us would contain our signature marking:

(A code that, contrary to popular belief, has yet to be cracked.)

 After one last hill and uneven set of rocky steps,

we reached our ultimate destination.

I can't tell you how many hundreds of times I've traveled under that bridge.  Honestly, for many years- all through college- that bridge served as a happy symbol.  I'd pass under that bridge and think to myself, "I'm home."

What a great adventure and a fabulously wonderful new perspective.

Remember That Bike Ride?

"Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia." 
~ H.G. Wells

Dear Self,

Remember that bike ride?  The one that you and Chad-o completed on the second of June?

Do you remember all 62 miles?  Do you remember how the first 30 miles were completely uphill, against the wind?  And the second 30 miles?  Well, I trust you won't forget them, either?

 Do you remember how much you loved those skittles and how you mastered the art of eating pretzels while peddling? 

Will you ever forget how wonderful it felt to shower and eat a pizza and nap?  

June 2, 2012
Chad-o and I participated in a 62 mile bike ride benefit for the Salvation Army.
Good times.  Good times.

Ace Kaufman, My Dad

"My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me."
~ Jim Valvano


Fathers' Day- That lovely day, on a bright summer afternoon, to honor the amazing man who no matter how old you get still occasionally fills your car with gas, brings you a Starbucks, and reminds you about silly things like slipping on the ice.

A little patio picnic hardly seems enough to thank the man who has been my friend/support system/savings and loan department for the last 30 years.  But he, like myself, appreciates a good meal, so a hearty meal I whipped up.

When I think back on times with my father, so many of them involve a gut-busting laugh or some kind of cynical behavior.  One of my earliest (and most favorite) memories involves a math test during first grade. 
Happy sigh, sly grin.  

Do you remember those lovely timed (4 minute) tests that had 10 rows of 10 addition problems?  
I do.  I always will.

Truthfully, the entire addition concept didn't prove too difficult for me.  In fact, I don't think I ever left a single test unfinished.  However, no matter how many times we took those blasted tests, I missed the same problem-- over and over and over again.  And, as it goes, the problem usually popped up three or four times over the course of the 100 problems.  Therefore, out of 100 problems, I'd consistently score a 97 or 96.

Well, that just didn't cut it with me.  My seven-year-old, pig-tailed self would become downright distraught over my erroneous ways and I would continually make my parents practice flashcards with me until I convinced myself that I could earn a perfect score.  

You see where this is going, right? (I can tell you are on the edge of your seat.)

Miss Shockey would pass out the timed tests.  I'd proudly take out my sharpened pencil and adjust my arm so that my nosy seat partner couldn't copy my correct answers and I'd sit somewhat patiently, waiting for her instructions.  I'd sit there, with my test upside down, fingers gripping the corner, anticipating the very second when she said, "You may begin.  You have 4 minutes."

With lightening speed I'd flip that test over.  Rush, rush, rush I'd go, neatly answering problem after problem.

Then, when all 100 problems were finished I flipped my test over (that nosy seat partner, again) and wait for her to announce, "Time's up!"

Those school days seemed like forever as I waited for the return of my test.  Just when I thought I might die- seriously- Miss Shockey would pass out our take-home folders and review the day's learning and activities.  "Blah, blah, blah," I remember thinking.  "Just give me that math test, already."

It never failed.  96/100.

That night, as we ate dinner, my dad looked over my test and congratulated me on a wonderful job.  And then he said the one sentence that I will never, ever forget.  "Cathy, 4+5=9, damn it!" 

He was joking, of course, but for some reason I just thought that was the funniest thing ever.  I laughed and laughed and the more I laughed, the more he said it.  

I never, ever missed that problem again.  And to this day, every time I see the combination of 4 and 5, his voice plays in my mind.  

Thanks, Dad.  Thank you for everything.  I'm so lucky to have you.

Friday, June 15, 2012


"You realize your true identity as consciousness itself, rather than what consciousness has identified with.  That's the peace of God.  The ultimate truth of who you are is not I am this or I am that, but I Am."
~Eckhart Tolle

For years I've read about and heard of the benefits of meditation.  Without a doubt, the positives of such a personal awareness practice speak for themselves- reduction in anxiety levels, relaxation of the nervous system, enhancement of the immune system, increase of problem solving skills, and the ability to develop tolerance and perspective.  But try as I might, I couldn't get past the vision of an elderly, bearded man, sitting cross-legged on the edge of a mountain. 

Truthfully, the notion appeared so incredibly simple that I convinced myself I was somehow missing a key element.  I truly believed the notion of sitting and "being" while focusing on my breath or a mantra seemed, quite frankly, too easy.

However, recently my husband and I have noticed ourselves surrounded by people who give off negative energy, who continually play the "keep up with the Jones-es game", and who, sadly, go out of their way to create rift and strife.  

We have great talks, that Chad-o and I.  We sincerely attempt to keep life goals and priorities in perspective.  We strive to have balance and peace and responsibility and thankfulness, all-the-while continually focusing on the development of ourselves through education and fitness and positive life choices.

Well, a few weeks ago, I decided that I really wanted to concentrate on  recognizing the wonderful blessings in my life.  I had found myself weary of of peoples' long lists of wants, the "bigger is better" attitudes, and the hectic, fast-paced, often-times meaningless life swirling through today's society.  And, without warning, the meditation word gracefully entered my foremost thoughts.

Like any lover of psychology, I unearthed a few favorite books I had previously read, and re-read my margin notes and highlights.  Specifically, works by Eckhart Tolle and the Dalai Lama have particularly inspired me.  

While reading and researching, I came to the conclusion that meditation certainly deserved a chance.  I furthered my investigation, read  a few more articles, and committed myself to approaching the practice with an open heart and an affirming attitude.

I'm here to tell you that my meditation practice has earned a spot as one of my most favorite parts of the day.  As a matter of fact, I enjoy it so much that starting next week I'll embark on a four week meditation study to further develop my understanding and practice.  

Perhaps you could also benefit from the numerous positives associated with disciplined meditation.  It's ever so spiritual and healing and peaceful and life-changing.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Patio Relaxation

“There is practically no activity that cannot be enhanced or replaced by knitting, if you really want to get obsessive about it.”
~Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

High above the leaves appeared to glow with an electric green phosphorescence, only to be complimented by the crystal blue of the afternoon sky.  The air had a slight nip to it, giving a beautiful sunshiny day the crisp feel of a high-school football evening in September.   

I took the opportunity to grab my knitting basket and head for the patio, where, dare I say, I spent the majority of my day.  Getting some uninterrupted time with my needles and yarn proved exceptionally cathartic.

There's something about knitting- perhaps the steady rhythm or the soft feel of the yarn or the promise of something special created from a single strand- that keeps me very focused, yet completely relaxed.

Like I mentioned, I had perched myself outside, under the shade of the umbrella and steeped a fresh mug of  amazingly wonderful and beautifully colored blackberry mojito green tea.  

Sip and stitch. Sip and stitch.

  As if my world couldn't get any more perfect, I decided to snip some of my lavender.

Wow.  Heavenly delight.

Between the warm tea and the relaxing scent of lavender and the gentle click of needles this day earns a spot near the top.

I'd Have Bet Against It

"When you are through changing, you are through."  
~Bruce Barton 

Up until about a year ago I'd order everything like this:

"I'll take the tossed salad, hold the onion, please."

"I'll have a veggie sub, on wheat bread, with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, and pickles.  No onions, please."

As a small child young adult, I would browse through recipes and think to myself, "Mmmm, that looks delicious.  Too bad it has onions in it," and then, sadly, I'd flip to the next recipe while cursing the recipe designer for ruining everything good with a slimy onion.

Well, well, well.  

I don't know when the shift occurred, but sometime in the last two years I became very fond of the onion bulb, proudly requesting it on by submarine and salad.  "I'm such the culinary explorer," I silently declared. (How lame, right?)

I look back over my childhood and can vividly recall the piles of little onions and "green things" that would accumulate on the side of my dinner plate.  I can hear my mom saying, "You can't even taste them, they just add flavor."  And, I remember pushing around "onion-y" meals and trying to hide them under slices of bread- very, very sneaky of me.

Therefore, the realization that I truly enjoy, albeit willingly add onions, scallions and chives to my recipes comes as an honest-to-goodness surprise.  I never would have thought.  

And, I never, ever, in a million-gazillion years would have imagined myself planting, cultivating, and harvesting them in my own garden.

My inner child is so angry with me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Starting From Seed

"And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree, yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so."
~The Bible 

I started on St. Patrick's Day weekend.  

Ever so thoughtfully, I purchased my seeds and planed how to arrange them in the rows and rows of squares.  I made sure to place the seeds at the proper depth and to provide the perfect amount of water and sunlight.

Somehow (somehow), it worked.

Truth be told, I'm very fortunate.  As it turns out, the window in my classroom practically creates a greenhouse effect for my precious seedlings and plants.  Combine the abundant light with a well-placed heating vent and I have the perfect recipe for germination.  

See, I wasn't kidding about the fortunate part.  Lucky me.

Therefore, about a month ago, a brought these munchkins home, as to acclimate them to the outside temperatures.  You see, it's very important to gently introduce seedlings to outside temperatures and conditions.  To have re-potted them and placed them outside would have stressed their fragile stems, leaves, and root systems.  

As you can imagine, it proved quite the theatrical number as I would run outside, in the dark, in my pajamas to bring them in for the night.  Because, as you can probably imagine, it wasn't until I was snug in my bed with the pillow perfectly fluffed and the warm quilt tucked under my chin that the notion hit me--"The herbs!"


All of my antics wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the sweet old lady who lives behind us. You see, she lives alone and has 24 hour care and a constant stream of nurses watching over her-- who never sleep, just so you know.  I don't even allow myself to imagine what they must think of me.

None-the-less, the herb garden is in full swing.  I find particular delight in it this year, as almost everything I have planted I grew from seed.  

Let me just tell ya something.  Seeds, although more tender and difficult, are much cheaper than plants.  You can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be repeating this seed planing thing next year, and the year after that, and the--well you get the idea.

 This hummus- a crazy, improvised recipe- goes down as the first of many delicious treats from my little herb garden.  

Important Blessings

"God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers."  
~Jewish Proverb

Without a doubt, one of the biggest blessings that Chad-o and I have are our mothers.
They are, simply put, quite wonderful.

I truly believe that God chose the women he did to be mothers for us, because, to be honest, it's the perfect match-up. 

These amazing women continue to serve as examples of strength and wisdom, beauty and grace.

And because we are so blessed by them, I wanted to honor them with a handmade treat on Mother's Day.  

Jossie and Linda, we are so very thankful for you.


"Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was."

Sadly, I spent an entire weekend scouring our local stores for the ingredients needed to begin my baby bean sprouts.  I went everywhere, from big chain stores to local mom-and-pop joints.  At each place I would inquire about sprouts, and at each location I was given an ultra weird look and directed to a humongous display of seeds.  

I had officially given up my search and resigned myself to the Internet, where, thanks-be-to-God, I can somehow manage to find everything my little heart desires.  I won't even complain about the shipping costs, as it often beats the expense of gas and the other things I end up purchasing for myself along the way, like, say, Starbucks. (I try to resist...really...honestly.)

As it turned out, my Internet search, although fruitful, wasn't necessary.  In a practice of patience and a leap of faith, I decided to wait a few more days with the deep down, cross-your-fingers kinda hope, that I would be able to find my sprouts.

And, (gasp) wouldn't you know, that I found me some bean sprout seeds and an amazing set of sprouting lids at a health food store in Ligonier?

Want in on a little secret?  

Growing these lovely bean sprouts turned out to be one of the easiest things I've ever done.  

They are super healthy and pack an insane amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants into one's diet.  And- big bonus- bean sprouts, as it turns out, are extremely high in fiber and are one of the few foods that fall into the category of  a "complete food".  

Add them to salads, top a pita with hummus and sprouts for a delicious lunch, heck- eat them plain.  

I'm telling you, you'll never turn back.
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