Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Life in the Country...

I love living in the middle of nowhere.

It just takes the simplest of things to remind me of that little fact.

Sometimes, I just need to lie in bed & listen to the coyotes as they sing to each other in the otherwise still of the night.

Sometimes, I just need to peek out the side window & watch as the first blush of the sunrise warms the sky over the lake.

Sometimes, I just need to stand alone in the middle of the driveway underneath the blanket of stars.

Sometimes, I just need to stand at my front window & watch as a pair of foxes trot up that same driveway as if dropping by for a visit.


And, sometimes, I just need to look at my own front door.


My door was looking rather naked since the halls were undecked of their Christmas finery. It's a little too early to put up the cheery Spring orchid wreath, so I set off to find a little mid-winter inspiration. So, off I went to visit my dear friend "Michael", at whose place I found a nice little garland & inexpensive sign.

"Believe" used to be my screensaver years ago, a simple reminder that scrolled across my computer in beautiful Dragonscript font. It was a quieter time, filled with dragons & faeries & many more moments to dream. Stumbling across that little sign brought a wistful little smile, & I decided that I may need to be reminded a bit more often.

So, armed with my simple supplies, & with The Batman's assistance, I formed a new little welcome wreath; just a little reminder that Spring is on its way.

I wonder if my fox couple noticed :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Thought Experiment

Or... how I woke up this morning thinking about... Schrodinger's Cat.

And I decided to do a little more in-depth research.

Then I got sidetracked, & started clicking on Wiki links... which then led to me all sorts of random places.
Like quantum mechanics... and an episode of SG-1... & Douglas Adams... & Van Helsing... and Tears for Fears...

It made me realize that I'm still the same geeky kid I always was, only with a bigger base of things to explore.

I am the same little kid who used to pull down an encyclopedia (thank you, Jiminy Cricket, I can still spell it right!) to look up something simple, like dogs, or quartz, or Jacques Cousteau. And hours later, you would find me on the floor, amid a PILE of books, having leapt from one article to another, eventually ending up at a completely unrelated document, but totally enlightened.

It's what I do.
It's the way I think.
It's how I learn.

A seemingly random pattern, I know.
But everything really IS related, & linked, & intertwined.
And if you look long enough, & click on enough links, You'll see what I mean.

People always looked at me oddly when I said I read encyclopedias.
"You mean, for fun?" was the typical response.
Yes, for fun.
My little set of World Books, probably purchased from some door to door salesman, was the best gift little geeky me ever got.
(Note: I never DID get that Barbie I asked for, or my life may have turned out completely differently!)

Those books nurtured a lifetime full of curiosity & a love of learning.
I "went" places I had never dreamed of, or even heard of, & saw things I never knew existed. I learned about epicenters, & breeds of cats, & discovered the capital of Luxembourg is... wait for it... Luxembourg. (Much like years later, my children would learn the the capital of Djibouti is... Djibouti.)
I learned my constellations, & then went on to learn about the mythology of who & what there were named after.
At one point, I could list the first 100 winners of the Kentucky Derby.

It may seem pointless, my love of random links.
And sometimes, it is difficult to work the basics of quantum physics into everyday conversation.
And no one will play Trivial Pursuit with me.

But it keeps my busy.
And thinking.
And curious.

And I highly recommend it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Coming Clean

OK, so yesterday was a "snow day".

Sorta.

The phrase snow day typically brings to mind a blizzard... with white out conditions, hazardous driving, doorway high drifts blocking your comings & goings.

Yesterday really wasn't all that.

If snow were rain, then one might say that it drizzled all day.
It was so cold, that instead of huge, puffy flakes, there were these tiny little things that just sort of rained down all day.
And not really ALL day.
More like from 11 or so on.

So, technically, if I had really wanted to get out & get some things done, I really DID have the opportunity to do so.
The sanders had come through early (much too cold for the salt to work), & the plows even made a couple early passes.
And the driveway wasn't that bad.

But I really didn't feel like going anywhere, or seeing anybody, or doing anything.

Sometimes, it's just nice to have an excuse to keep the yoga pants on all day & not have to worry about mascara or whether your socks match.

So, yes, I kind of blew the whole thing out of proportion in the name of leisure.

And it was wonderful :)

I accomplished things that I wanted to... not that I "had" to.

I spent a little time in the kitchen creating a new cookie recipe.
And for dinner, made a big pot of "warm you to your toes" Roasted Garlic Potato Soup. You know, one of those, "oh my word, so much chopping & roasting & blending" sort of soups that you usually don't have time for.

And I Tabata'd, & corresponded, & did some light reading, & played with the cats.

All in my yoga pants.

Because of a "snow day".

I need those more often :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Snow Day

I'm getting snowed in.
Again.
Third day off in a row this has happened.

I'm sensing a pattern here.

Not that I mind.
I would SO much rather it snowed when I can stay safe & snug, with a mug of hot cocoa & a cat or two & watch the snowfall instead of having to drive in the stuff.

It is pretty, I'll give you that.
The swirling flakes, the blanket of white, then, inevitably, the clear blue (or deep black flecked with diamond starlight) skies that follow.

I don't even mind shoveling.
It clears your mind & works your body.

I just hate having to drive in it.
OK, I don't even hate the driving, just all the other drivers on the road.
Who more than once have driven with a speed too fast for conditions, or under the influence, or without a safe following distance & thusly messed up my bumper, my neck... & my rear end.
The car's rear end, to be accurate.

So, I will delight in the opportunity to stay home today.

And put on my favorite music.

And light a candle.

And try a new recipe.

And perhaps an old one.

And read a book.

And watch the snow fall.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Gut" Instinct

Sometimes...
You should just go with your gut instinct.

No, I'm not talking about that little voice inside that really does know better when you are trying to make decisions.
However, you should listen to that too.

I'm talking about that little voice that says, "bake brownies"... or "a nice cup of hot cocoa would be good right now"... or, in this case, "you really should make some Vanilla Bean Scones".

Seriously.

That little voice has been nagging me all week.
Every time I open the fridge & see the container of whipping cream staring me smack in the face, I hear it.
And, I hear it sometimes when I reach for that second cup of coffee.
And I even heard it at work the other day.

And, this morning, as I gave in to the fact that The Batman was NOT going to let me spend a leisurely morning in bed waiting for the 6:55am alarm... I was wishing that I had listened.

My little voice is quite wise sometimes.

My French Roast coffee with one packet of Sugar in the Raw & a splash of 1% is sitting hear in a rather lonely fashion, with room right alongside where a vanilla bean scone should be sitting. Well, sitting for a bit until I couldn't resist anymore.

But, alas, I didn't listen.

And by the time I would whip up a batch, & let them cool sufficiently to glaze, & let the glaze harden ever so slightly, the coffee would be gone. Or cold. Or have lost interest in the scone.

So, today, I will do without.

And, perhaps next time, I will listen to that little voice.

Unless it says, "make Petite Fours".
Then I would think the little voice is just being silly!

And, just in case your little voice is now prompting you to make them, Vanilla Bean Scones really are worth the time :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

There was an old woman...

...who had so many shoes, she didn't know...

Wait, that's not how it goes.

Lived in a shoe.

And had SO many children...

OK, two.
I have two.
Well, two that I've had from day one.
Little genetic progeny of my very own.
Well, half the DNA at least...

But over the years, I have been very fortunate to acquire several more children.
"Psuedo" children, as one of them says.

Children who have filled my life & my heart with laughter, & pride, & love.

The friends of my children, & children of my friends...

My Dance Kids; my Marching Band Kids; my Musical Kids...

They let me feed them, & spoil them, & watch them perform.
We have laughed, & cried, & created memories.
They learned to ignore the camera that inevitably followed them around.
We shared inside hugs, & jokes, & costumes, & more than a few pans of spontaneous brownies.
They texted "I love you" on Mother's Day.
And showed up at my door for cake.

We have shared their dreams, their triumphs, their failures.

They let me watch them grow up.
And became wonderful young men & women.

I treasure each & every one of the children that have entered my life.

And am SO very proud of them all.

And that... was my first thought on waking up this morning :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

One Fine Day

Can I just sit in my jammies & listen to Sting all day?

The morning dawned ever so slowly today. Almost like it was reluctant to face the week ahead; with a "can't we just ease into this" sort of attitude.

I sat here savoring the hints of pink behind the clouds; candlelight (Ocean Blossom), coffee in hand (Morning Blend with a tsp of Sugar in the Raw & a splash of milk), one cat on the couch, one at my feet (ok, sporadically, as kittens will be)... & Sting.

To clarify... Sting on the stereo.

Not on the couch.

If he was on the couch, I doubt I would be sitting here in my jammies writing a blog!

What a nice way to start the day.
And I'm thinking it would be a pleasant way to spend the entire morning.
(Fine, it would have been a WHOLE lot cooler if Sting HAD been on the couch!)

I won't sit here, of course.

Things to do, errands to run, soup to make.

But at the moment, none of that is pressing, & I'm going to stretch this out until the coffee is gone, & the morning light dims the candle.
And I have to get up & change the cd.

Because then I will probably get distracted & straighten something up, pick up a dish, notice the cats need water...

And the dawn will have faded into day.

And the week will have begun.

And if the week is anything like the way it started, it will be a fine one indeed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

One sec... I need more coffee.

Seriously.

I got all settled to write & the only thought I had was, "Rats, I need more coffee."
So, I suppose I wasn't really settled.
Or ready to write.

Some days are like that.

Once upon a time, I challenged myself to write something every day, first thing, before the bustle got started.
It didn't matter what; a memory; an anecdote (I love that word); a quick, 3-line blurt of poetry; a reflection on the sunrise.
Something... anything.

I found myself writing in my head constantly. Once I started, I couldn't stop.
It was a little consuming, but my tens of followers checked in daily to see what had popped out.

Then... it stopped.
I'm still not sure why.
Maybe I got consumed. By life... & the bustle... & the negative thoughts that no one needed to read.
And I found myself becoming less & less creative in ALL aspects of my life.
I relied more on stand-by recipes than imaginative concoctions.
Fewer "little touches" of decor were showing up.
Last year, I even sort of "forgot" where all the Christmas decorations went.

And a little hole inside me started growing.
And growing.

I was no longer creative... I was... mundane. (I like that word too.)

And as the little hole kept growing, I realized that I had stopped.
Stopped growing, stopped "doing", just... stopped.
And while I had stopped, the world kept right on whizzing past me.
And I started falling behind.

I watched others keep doing, & creating, & growing.

At first, I sort of sat back & wished, & watched, & stayed stuck.
Then, without really a conscious decision, I started moving again.
Slowly at first.
New recipes started showing up.
And a new wreath on the door.
And a photograph taken at an odd angle.
And a line of poetry.

And I started moving faster, falling back in step, finding my rhythm.

It's doubtful that I will challenge myself to write on a daily basis again.
Sometimes my mind is too busy creating other things.

But it feels good... to be moving... & doing... & growing.
Again.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Mystery of the Pineapple Jasmine Rice

Once upon a time, I posted a recipe for Pineapple Jasmine Rice.
I posted it for a friend.
Without ever actually making it.

Oh, it was my own creation.
I suppose I "virtually" cooked it; combining ingredients I imagined would blend together well, using a basic recipe for jasmine rice that I used frequently, but totally ad libbing the pineapple... & ginger... & other things.

And I created a monster.
Well, not a monster per say.
Just the biggest draw to my little recipe blog to date.

Seriously.

Each & every day, that rice recipe gets the most clicks.
And from all over the world.
Of course the majority of my readers are from the US & Canada, but people all over the world seem to get a hankering for pineapple & jasmine rice... together.

Yep, people in Australia, Ireland, Colombia, Malaysia... even remote areas of Russia, log onto the Stuff We Eat on a daily basis for their rice fix.
It just makes me smile.

Who knew that 2 little ingredients would be my international claim to fame?!

I say this with a smile.

I never did it for the kudos, I post the recipes for 2 basic reasons.
First & foremost, so that my son has access to them & can dazzle his friends with his pancake & Creme Brulee skills.
But also because I have a tendency to create on the fly & finally realized that it might work better if I actually recorded what I did vs. standing in the kitchen the next time wondering just how in fact DID I make that (fill in the blank).

And, yes, I did eventually break down & make some Pineapple Jasmine Rice.
I mean, I had to see what the fuss was all about.
And it was pretty good.
Pretty darn good.

Mystery solved.

See for yourself: Pineapple Jasmine Rice

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It never gets any easier.

Watching my son go down the ramp to the TSA check this morning I realized...
It really doesn't get any easier, does it?!

Six years ago, when he was the ripe old age of 16, I sent him through International security on his way to Dublin... alone.
Ok, technically, he wasn't really flying solo.
His dance partner & her mom were on the same 10+ hour flight.
And a family full of friends was meeting him at Customs in Ireland.
But still... it was the first time I sent him off... without ME!

And I watched until I couldn't see him anymore.
I watched him sneak a glance over his shoulder; as he put his belongings into the bins; as he stepped through the scan; as he went of on a Grand Adventure.

The first of many.

I've lost count now of just how many times I have snuck in that extra hug; stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek; waited until he disappeared around that last corner; texted "Love you!" as I walked to the car.

He has grown into a fine young man.
He walks with confidence, not needing to sneak that last little glance.

But I still feel exactly the same way I did oh so many years ago.
And get all misty the entire ride home.
And hate walking into that house without him.
Even though I know it won't be all that long until he is back again; to fill the house with laughter & music & his brand of energy. There is always a little piece of me missing.

He has been gentle & patient with my learning to let go.
He has made me proud & taught me well.
And paved the way for his sister.
Because all too soon, she will be following in his footsteps.
Maybe not the same path, but the same process.

At least I know the ropes now.
Even though it won't get any easier... I'm ok with that.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In the wee small hours of the morning...

I missed this.
Getting up, the house still quiet, the pale hues of dawn just starting to peak in the distance over the lake, the day not quite needing to be started yet...

Of course, I've already been up for a couple hours, half a pot of coffee is gone, & somebody has already been provided a warm breakfast, lunch packed & scooted out the door, cats are fed, dishes done...

But the day is really just beginning; the morning star still hangs in the sky; I can sit here & start over.

It's probably my favorite time of day.
I can be still.
And think.
Or not.
And watch the world come to life.
And wonder what that world holds today.

It's my creative time.
My clearest focus.
I'm the most energized; it's the best time for me to work out.
Or not.

Too often, the day gets cluttered, blustery & busy & somehow, when I finally sit down at 9pm with a nice glass of red only to remember I never lit the mandatory evening candle, I wonder what happened.
Where did the day go?
What did I actually accomplish?

In the wee small hours, the day is still.
There is no rush.
No scurrying.
No worries.
Just... stillness.
And potential.

And I like that :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Truth in Advertising

Caveat emptor.
Or maybe more accurately, "Careful what you wish for."

The little jar of advanced formula eye cream promised me the world.
Ok, it promised me less noticeable fine lines & wrinkles under my eyes.
And, being a woman of a certain age (I'll address THAT little phrase another time) & more than a wee bit prone to both fine lines and vanity, figured, "Oooh, now that would be lovely!"

Well... I started the New Year with a whole new look.
Yes, the fine lines & wrinkles were much less apparent.
The whole problem with that was the reason they were less noticeable.
Unfortunately, it was, um, not exactly the look I was going for.

Think Darth Vader's eyes when Luke removes his mask during the death scene in Return of the Jedi.
(Hey, even geeks worry about their appearances.)
Think four movie chick-flick crying jag.
Think, I don't know, "What did the other guy look like?!"

Not only was the area under my eyes bright red, puffy & unbelievably irritated, it hurt like the Dickens!
On the up side, you hardly noticed those fine lines & wrinkles!

The fault, I'm thinking, was not so much with the cream, as I had used it before. More probably, it was the combination of things I had slathered on the night before in hopes of greeting the New Year with a fresh, young look.
You know, if one cream can promise results, think what might happen if you add in a little serum promised to give you a fresher, younger appearance! And maybe a few rolls of that anti-puffer stuff.
Apparently, I had started quite the little chemical reaction; a little "Dr. Jekyl" potion of my own creation with its own vile results.

Luckily, I also own lotions with the gentle words "hypo-allergenic" & "fragrance-free" on the labels.
A day of cold water compresses & tender application of soothing ointments calmed my Darth Vader look & made me fit to greet the world again, best face forward.

Well, best face with some noticeable fine lines & wrinkles.

And the sad thing is that, given the quick recovery, you know it won't be long until I try something else equally misguided again.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Letting go...

And thus, begins the New Year.
It is already different from the year I just put to rest.
It... is white.

Yep, snow.
Waking to a brand new year & the first words out of my mouth were, "What the heck?"

That can't be a good thing.

Not so much that there is snow, I suppose it is to be expected.
In Wisconsin.
In winter.
I just didn't know it was coming.

I'm just sort of wondering how getting caught off guard first thing bodes for the New year.
Seriously.
Does this mean that 2012 is going to be a year filled with surprises?
A year that holds things I didn't expect?
Or didn't see coming?

Or is this a sign that I need to pay more attention?
Keep on my toes?
Be better prepared?

Of course, it just may mean that I should tune in to the news more often or check the weather app on my phone.

I suppose I should be sitting here in the quiet of the morning, with the candlelight... my coffee... the stillness... and be looking forward to the year ahead.

Instead, my first thoughts are of my kids who, due to choices to keep them off the roads in the wee hours of the New Year's morning, will now be driving in the first snow of the season.
Not with the drivers who made poor choices to celebrate a bit too much & get behind the wheel while impaired, but drivers who forget that significant physics is involved when you combine snow + pavement + a car/truck/SUV.

And that may be my lesson for the New Year.
That no matter how much I try & protect my kids, to watch over them, to help them make choices that will protect them & keep them safe, there will always be unforeseen circumstances when I need to let go, trust them, & believe that all I have attempted to teach them will kick in to guide their way.

I believe it is referred to as "letting go".

And that, my friends, will most likely be the theme of the New Year for me.
In a good way.

Happy New Year everyone :)