Friday, July 31, 2009

Look What I Received!!

Thanks, Stacy!! Golden bird knits presented me with a lovely little award - I am so blessed! Truth is, I have really enjoyed getting to know some new blogging friends recently. Stacy called it a 'neighborhood' - and I so agree. Although we live all over the world, we can connect so simply online. My only problem is I tend to spend too much time on the computer checking in with these friends - they are always up to something fantastic, it's hard to stop looking!

So again, my sincere thanks to you, Stacy, for sending this over to me and making my day!

Who Won the Giveaway?

The winner of the beaded necklace is... (another drumroll, please...)

Michelle is mommy to three busy and imaginative boys and a cool chick named Bolt (really, it's a chicken!), learning all there is to know about life on this fine earth. She comes up with all sorts of fascinating things to do and somehow has time to create absolutely beautiful things (that win ribbons in the fair!).

So, congrats to Michelle, and keep posted. I will sponsor another giveaway soon!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Looking Out For Lisa

Stacy, over at golden bird knits, kindly directed my attention to Megan, a very sweet, and very sick woman needing some financial assistance for cancer treatments not covered by insurance. The story made me cry, but at the same time made me furious at the continued realization that our health care crisis in America has grown in proportions equal to a tsunami, that we drag sick individuals through cancer treatments, and then expect them to pay for those treatments at a time when they can't go back to work for being so sick and run down. Or worse, they do go back to work before they are able to, and further run their bodies down, keeping health and equilibrium at bay. Worse yet, those who try to take better care of themselves stay home from work, only to have the wolf knocking/scratching/barking (choose one) at the door for the money to pay the doctors, the hospitals, the pharmacies.
I was touched by Megan's friends. I was really amazed at how they were able to rally around her at a difficult time. I am in awe of all the emotional and financial support that came pouring out through the internet - people just wanting to be a part of Megan's experience - to help her get better, or in the least, worry less about the medical bills.
Have you or someone you love been touched by cancer? If so, you know how it can ravage the body, the family, any sense of balance you may have come to expect. You know how everything you've come to depend on is suddenly no longer consistent. Anything you hope for now has a different feel to it - perhaps more urgent, perhaps more overwhelming.

I was touched by Megan's story, because it hit very close to home.

Meet Lisa-

Mother, wife, daughter, sister. Photographer, artist, gourmet cook, friend. An amazing eye for what is good and loving, what is balanced and special. Multi-tasker extraordinaire. Organized to a 'T'. Careful and mindful about how she moves through life. A 'real gem' in my book.

Lisa is my older sister. She is someone I love deeply, cherish, and someone I somehow hope to grow up to be 'just like'. When she discovered she had stage IV aggressive breast cancer last summer, I crumbled as she stood strong. While she talked about treatments and changes she'd have to make to her daily life, I listened as openly as I could, then fell apart after hanging up the phone. The pain I felt for her, being across the country and out of hug's reach, was palpable. The bouncing back and forth between treatment options, hospital options, what doctor to see, was dizzying. And then of course, there was the insurance issue -would they pay? Would they accept the treatment options she chose? They agreed to it all... on the phone.

Yet the year has passed and we have all grown tremendously, as one does when living through trauma. My mother and step-father dedicated an enormous amount of time throughout the year to help support the family through driving the carpool, cooking meals, teaching homeschooling lessons, among many other extremely important tasks. Without them, I know I couldn't have coped, much less my sister.
Cancer is ugly. It eats at you, and forces you to make decisions such as which part of your body will get cut away next for fear of it spreading. There is no time to consider the costs when fighting the oncology time bomb. But I wonder about the insurance companies who take it upon themselves to withdraw support midway through the treatment, because you change your job - just trying to make more money to actually pay the darn bills off. Or how about the fact that if you make more money, you get better drugs? That's a sad fact.

As a consequence, my sister has been left with an enormous amount ($30,000) of medical bills - more than any of us alone can make a dent in. She does not own a house, has all her other debt paid off, but is completely unable to work at this time to take care of the bills. Her husband is able to continue at his job, often with 60+ hour work weeks, but is only able to cover their daily living expenses with his salary. Yet daily, the bills arrive at their mailbox.
I am coming to you, my friends, with the hope that through our blog circles, we can put the word out for Lisa. I pledged to 'Look Out For Lisa' to help her manage her bills in whatever way I could. If you could see yourself clear to donate a small (or large) amount of money to her cause, the appreciation would be a thousand-fold. You would be doing a very good deed, and helping an incredible individual get back on her feet after a long and hard ride.

Lisa had a mastectomy a couple of months ago, and is now waiting for the final reconstructive surgery. She has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and is weighing future treatment options.

Please help me Look Out For Lisa. Please consider a donation. Please consider sending this post to everyone you know, and ask them to send it to everyone they know.
No donation is too small.

Together, we can make it happen.
No one should suffer more because of their medical bills.
The cancer is bad enough.

One of Our Easiest Recipes

Have you ever tried making sun tea? I'm not much of an iced tea drinker myself. However, being that the constant and pelting rain turned to blistering hot and hazy humidity, I have been drinking anything I can get down my throat lately. With just enough agave syrup, and a glass full of ice, it's like nectar from the sun.
Basically, you don't really need the sun to make tea. If you steep bags in a jar of water, the liquid readily becomes tea. The sun does help to deepen the flavor, however, releasing more of the essential oils of bergamot, lavender, lemon, orange, or whatever you have added to your tea.

Some recent flavors we've attempted are:
Lemon chamomile
Lavender Lemon
Green lemonade (green tea and lemon zinger)
White peach (white tea and peach puree)

Some we are going to try soon:
White raspberry lime (white tea, raspberry puree and lime juice/rind)
Lemon spearmint
Chocolate mint (we have a chocolate mint plant in the yard)

To make sun tea:

Use a clean, quart or gallon sized jar. Fill it with water. Add tea bags to your liking. I usually add about 6-7 bags for a gallon jar, but we like it really strong. after the tea has brewed in the sun for around 4 hours, you can sweeten it to taste. You can also keep it unsweetened (of course!) and sweeten it per glass - or not at all. We keep ours refrigerated. This will keep for days, though I'd be surprised if it lasted that long!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blogger Showcase

Here we are again on Tuesday - Time for another Blogger Showcase!

The reason I spotlight other blogging friends is because I just get so inspired by what all of you write and show and do and feel. It's my way of giving back to you, and my way of hollering to the internet world - "Here's someone pretty incredible!" So just bear with me.

The spotlight this week is on: (drumroll, please)...

Stacy at golden bird knits is an amazing combination of creativity, inspiration and kindness all wrapped up in one person. She spends her time crafting with yarn, collage and felting. Her two cats are especially silly - you have to check out Superhero Charlie.
I love checking in on Stacy because she is just like me - working hard to get by in this world, yet saving just a bit of time for herself for the creative side. She clearly states her experience of her own personal creativity as:

I'm so much happier since I've been blogging and doing more arts and crafts these last few months. I didn't allow myself to create for many years, often without realizing it, because I thought one of the requisites for making art was you had to be good at it. (Don't ask me how you ever get good at something without doing it badly in the beginning.) I never questioned that belief until recently.

Now I understand that creative expression is essential for me, and any judgement, self or otherwise, about the result is inconsequential.

Creating has nothing to do with who I think I should be or what kind of image I have for myself; it is the authentic expression of who I am. (Monday, May 18, 2009 post)

I love Stacy's honesty, her desire to take risks with her art, and her flexibility to find what works for her. She doesn't worry about how her creations will be received (as a recipient of one of her Artist Trading Cards, I can tell you I'm thrilled to have one of her pieces).

You might want to check out her knitting patterns, felting projects, or her incredible creative collages. Head on over to golden bird knits for a treat - you won't be disappointed!

Monday, July 27, 2009

My New Read

Has anyone read this book yet? The title grabbed me today, and I just had to take it down off the shelf. Something about the first paragraph on the back made me smile and decide to dive in:

"If the Buddha came to dinner at your home, what would you serve? Fast food? A frozen meal quickly reheated in the microwave? Chances are you'd feed your honored guest a delicious meal prepared with care. But the next time you have dinner, what will you eat?"

We have not used a microwave in our house for several years. A while back, we flew to my mother's house in the foothills of California for the holidays. There, we learned how to prepare nourishing and gourmet meals slowly, with thought and consideration for everyone's needs. To learn how to cook a meal without irradiating it was eye-opening for us, coming from a fast-paced world of working full time and raising two busy boys. The whole process took time, forcing us to slow down and become much more mindful. We wanted more of that at home for ourselves.

We came home from that visit and promptly put the microwave in the basement, where it still sits, rotting in the puddle of water our basement floor becomes after every rain. Learning how to cook slowly has been fun, yet challenging. I can still remember the shock on my mother in law's face when she discovered on Thanksgiving that we could not 'zap' the green beans as we had no 'zapper'. We figured it out, and I'm sure she chocked that experience up to Jill being her 'weird' self again.
Being more mindful about what goes into our bodies has not always been simple and clear-cut, though. I still use the microwave at work, since I have so little time to break between sessions. Of course, I could put more thought into what I bring to work, and how else I could prepare it. And what about those times we opt for a restaurant over home-cooked food? What about the long car trips coming up soon, where we want to pull over and grab a bite so the kids stop killing each other in the back seat?
These are the reasons I wanted to read this book. When things are tricky, I want to remember first and foremost why I try to take care of my body, as well as my children's bodies. I want a deeper understanding of why I make the choices I make, and how to make better choices in the future.
Would you like to read it with me?? Let me know.

And don't forget to leave a comment for the giveaway - scroll down!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

We Shall Overcome

Tonight, we attended the vigil and procession to replace the burned rainbow flag from the Unitarian church in my town. This post explained what had happened last week, which made so many of us quite sad and concerned.
The vigil began at a park in the Square at the center of town. My husband and I walked down at about 5:45, and wondered if anyone else would show. As we came closer to the Square, I began hearing drumming, and sure enough, there was a quartet of drummers in the park, holding their rainbow flags and grooving to a great beat. A small handful of people, none we knew, were milling about the small park. I felt a little uncomfortable not knowing anyone, but since this was not church that was affected, I was not surprised. I certainly was not too uncomfortable that I had to leave - I felt strongly about why I was there, and my shyness began to warm to the idea that maybe I would meet some new people from town.
Well, a few minutes later, and about another 75 people, I had found several people to talk to - some I knew and some I didn't. Some I recognized and some I didn't. After an hour, there were well over 150 people present, all lining the Square, waving flags and signs that said:

Our Town is No Place for Hate
I Am on This Side of Love
And as many rainbow flags and signs as you can imagine. One man danced around with his rainbow towel wrapped around him. Turns out, he came from over an hour away.

After waving to an hour's worth of Square traffic, we paraded up the street to the church to hang the new flag, complete with police escort (I loved that). It took a good 20 minutes to get everyone up to the lawn, and we made a huge circle of people, surrounding the minister. We sang a few verses of "We Are Gentle Angry People", listened to the minister speak about love and adversity, and watched as the new flag was hung in an even more prominent place for the whole town to see. We finished the event with several verses of "We Shall Overcome", as we automatically held hands with the person next to us. Due to all the people present, we all had to back up to include everyone, making the most enormous circle on the church grounds. It was touching - I hardly knew anyone, yet I felt such connection to everyone there. I was welcomed even though I did not attend the church. It was a humanitarian event, rather than a religious event, and all were welcome. The minister asked what towns people were from. I thought, "How funny" as I just assumed these were all people from my town, I just didn't know them. But no, they were from all over my state, happy to attend such an event - as a flag burning effects us all, no matter where you are from.

I was so proud to be a part of this. And walking up the hill to our house, our hearts warmed again to see our own rainbow flag gracing the front of our house, declaring our support of all the colors of humankind.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Food Bill Reducing Tips Thursday and Giveaway!

Ok, so it's crazy to do both the food bill reducing tips and a giveaway in one post, but here it is...

My sister has the BEST ideas - no matter what SHE says. We were talking tonight on the phone, because, sadly, she lives across the continent from me. Anyhow, I was lamenting that I had been to the grocery store today, walking up and down the aisles thinking about what I would write in this post this evening, and had come up with nothing too inspiring. Then she had this great Brain Blast! She said - and I quote - "I wish someone would come up with a 2-week listing of meals, somewhat within my budget, that I could rotate on an on-going basis. The listing would have an accompanying grocery list, and would have to be filled with good stuff- using good quality or organic ingredients". She talked about wanting to be able to take the time in the morning, when she is most available, and get things ready for that evening's dinner. She is wanting to avoid coming home and having that fateful 'afternoon bust' where you look around, overwhelmed by your day so far, and decide - 'let's eat out'.

So here's my challenge:
Why hasn't my sister already done this? Because it takes time and alot of organization - something that is quite the commodity around my house, and I bet, yours as well.

However -we can do this - together.

We'll start with just dinner. I can come up with several dinner recipes - many already on this blog - that are simple, include good food and are quick to prepare. But I bet you all can submit some recipes for dishes that follow the same guidelines. Who knows?? Perhaps we can create a web-book for other stressed out evening cooks! For 2 weeks, we'll need at least 10 more (I'll come up with 4 on my own). I can compile the listing for 2 weeks (complete with grocery lists) that could then be rotated to cover the next 2 weeks. As a group, we can decide if this should be more than a link here on the blog, or go the next step and create a web-book. Leave a comment, let me know you want to submit a recipe (or more) and we'll go from there.

Here are the qualifications:
  1. The cooks need to be able to find the ingredients at their local grocery store - no pickled tofu or anything exotic like that!
  2. The ingredients need to be on the healthy side - no cans of cheddar cheese or cream of mushroom soup, please!
  3. The recipes needs to be big enough for at least 4 people.
  4. The recipes can be vegetarian or meat-based - but again, no exotics like buffalo or quail!
  5. Each recipe needs to be accompanied by a grocery list.
  6. The recipes need to be simple, and be able to be assembled quickly - let's say 30 min or less from counter to oven.
  7. Think pasta, entree salads, casseroles, chicken/beef/fish dishes, etc.
  8. Tell your friends to submit as well - even if they don't read blogs!

Now for the giveaway!!

Today, I'm giving away another hand-made necklace:

This one is almost all purple, with brass spacers. It is approximately 30 inches long, and has these really beautiful hand-blown glass beads. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment (yes, leaving a comment about the meal listing above qualifies as well).

The deadline will be 9 pm EST on Thursday, 7/30/09.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tomorrow's the Day!

Hooray! Tomorrow is my last day of work until September!

I have been looking forward to this day for a very, very long time. Last week I wrote about getting ready to sink my teeth into summer break. Now it is practically on top of me, and I must say, it feels fine. After posting last week, I started wondering... "Should I have made more plans for the month? Should I have booked some trips? Should I have made plans to remodel a room? Should I have organized some friendly gatherings? Will we be bored? Will we eat each other alive? Will we become slaves to the television?"
Ah. So it took a couple of days for me to relax from that anxiety-producing monologue. Now I can't wait to have a few crash days - days where we just let things happen slowly and quietly. Then we will take it as it comes. We have some ideas such as going up into Vermont to visit friends, or going south to Maryland to visit family. I would like to paint our dining room, but for those of you who live in humid climates like we do, you may understand how painting in humidity is not a treat, and not for those who do not like to sweat (such as Me!).
I have made a contract with myself to make sure I spend an hour each day exercising in some way. I can go to the gym, take a walk, use an exercise video, whatever. But an hour per day it must be. This may seem harsh to those who know that I am learning some self-compassion, but I really need a hard and fast rule to actually get out there and take care of myself.
Something my husband and I are working on is an activity program for our younger son. We brain-stormed on it into the wee hours last night, and I'm pretty excited about it. Currently just an idea right now, what I can share with you is that we are looking to develop a monthly program for boys and a parent (mom or dad) to build, create, explore, discover, learn and have a really great time. After seeing what an amazing time our son is having at an invention camp he is in, we want to recreate the experience throughout the school year, adding other boys his age (11). We thought of activities such as:
  1. Building go-karts
  2. Building ice forts
  3. Building volcanoes that actually erupt without spewing all over the kitchen
  4. Building model rockets
  5. Cooking a full meal
  6. Building a robot
  7. Building inventions from trash and broken or disabled equipment
  8. I'm sure many other ideas will surface as we contemplate cool stuff
We have nothing against girls - in fact, being surrounded by boys all the time makes me long to do things with more girls. However, we feel our son needs some real rough and tumble activities to learn how to make friends his own age, while doing things that do not involve a screen. When girls are involved, he tends to shut down or be obnoxious (he's just that age), completely bypassing the whole point of the gathering.
Have you ever done this? We will be focusing on the 11-12 year old boys in our town, helping our son to reach out to a wider circle of friends than the one or two he has now. We have several books with activities, such as "The Dangerous Book for Boys" as well as others, which I will consult for good ideas. But please - if you or someone you know has ever done this, do share your thoughts or ideas. Even if you haven't done this, but have thoughts or ideas, I would love to hear them. No one I know has done this, so I have nothing to go by as of yet. Of course, that won't stop me (he he).
I think it's going to be an amazing summer.

And by the way - another giveaway is coming!! Check back with me tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blogger Showcase

Welcome to my first weekly blog series showcasing other blogs. One thing I love to do each morning is read other people's blogs. I find so much encouragement, real-life living in these blogs, and would love to share some of what these fantastic folks are doing with you. Some of these blogs will most likely be familiar to you, as many of us run in a similar circle. Others, I hope will be new to you, and will help us all open our circles to new and wondrous ideas and thoughts.

This week, I am showcasing 5 Orange Potatoes.

Lisa, over at 5 Orange Potatoes is such an inspiration to me. Mother to her two Little Ladies, she dreams up ever-fascinating ways to keep the dreams of childhood alive and well. I have often wished I was present in her household by the way she describes the fairy-sewn leaves in her yard or how she finds just the right vantage from which to watch bees sleeping. Daily, she has new and exciting ways to encourage her daughters to explore and discover the earth and all the marvelous aspects of it - things that we often take for granted, now being adults and oh so far from childhood ourselves.
For example, in this post, she helps the girls explore Queen Anne's Lace flowers, to see who lives inside them. Now, I have these flowers in my yard. The first time I saw them come up, about 8 years ago, I was enchanted. When I mentioned how lovely they were to my landscaping friend, she snorted, "Oh yeah - they're great, for a noxious weed". Yikes. I have since discovered how annoying they can be if left untamed - they took over my yard with their loveliness - and happen to be listed on the intrusive weed list for Massachusetts. But to see how Lisa explores the QAL with her daughters is just perfect. It made me smile and hope that I hadn't pulled every single flower out of my yard, so I could go out and look inside them. And here, she shows how they used dye to make 'fireworks' out of QAL - another reason not to completely quell the overgrowth in my yard!
And here, Lisa gives a recipe for Lavender Chocolate Cake. Lavender cake!!!??? Oh yes. Divine. And I can vouch that it tastes as good as it looks. I think lavender is one of my favorite herbs. I had never had the courage to cook with it before, only using it for scenting oils, soaps and cleansing waters. But pair it with chocolate, and all of a sudden, cooking with lavender sounds tempting. Scrumptious, even. You have to try it.

Check out Lisa's Blog, 5 Orange Potatoes. She is a beautiful crafter, and has lovely ideas for how to keep kids busy on long, hot summer days. And tune in next Tuesday to see if your blog will be featured here!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Sad Act, A Kind Response

I have something to share with you all.

You know, typically I try to be light-hearted, silly and sometimes downright ridiculous with some of my posts, trying to inject some humor into our lives as we aim to do what's best for our families, and for ourselves. But today, I am saddened and frustrated by an act of wrong-doing in my community, and feel the need to share the information. I'm sharing not because I don't want to be alone in this frustration, no. I am sharing because I believe this insensitive and callous act is occurring all over our country. I have the sense that some people are too uncomfortable to talk about it, or don't feel they can make a difference, or perhaps feel so awkward with the subject matter that they prefer to look away, or keep quiet. But I am taking a bold step to speak about it here, with hopes that I am reaching out to a sensitive and empathic audience.
The act I am referring to is the recent burning of a rainbow flag at a church in my community. The flag was burned during the night, with only the charred remains left at the front step for all to find the next morning. No one knows who did this heinous act.
The rainbow flag stands for equality in my heart. Overall, it specifically stands for the acceptance of individuals who are lesbian/gay/bisexual or transgender. At this church, along with this typical representation, the flag stands as a welcome for all who enter. We are all different. We choose different paths, we show different colors, both in skin tones, and thoughts. We make decisions based on what we feel is best and from the perspective of our upbringing, our home-life and community. In no way do we all need to agree on every choice, but we do need to find a way to live, work, be together.
I know there are people in our world who feel that being anything other than heterosexual is wrong. And though this fact saddens me tremendously, the point of this post is not to open a debate on sexual preference. What I struggle with is the fact that there are individuals who feel that burning a flag, a flag that stands for independence, trust, acceptance, equality for ALL humans, is a worthwhile activity.
Apparently, this is happening outside other churches - in Massachusetts and other states. Such widespread anger and hostility toward the very idea that there could be a safe place for all individuals is mind boggling. Although I can't sit out at the church, watching for who comes to burn the new flag, I can stand up to the fact that individuals are being made to feel unsafe in my community by a senseless act of only a few. I can write about it, speak about it, and remind my children how these violent acts terrorize us all. I can understand how these acts generally come from a place of ignorance and fear, rather than anything rooted in reality.
In an act of support, my family has hung a rainbow flag outside our home. It is my town's hope that by hanging numerous flags throughout our neighborhoods, we will be displaying our support of the church, the individuals it serves, and the LGBT community. My hope is that we will increase the awareness of anyone traveling through that we will not accept acts of violence toward anyone, no matter what differences we may have between us.
I challenge you all to look into your hearts and find that place which wants to welcome everyone in. Consider speaking to others from that place. Making one person feel safe is one hundred times better than letting someone else bring terrorism into our hearts, even if we do not agree.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Wish I could say it was a lazy weekend, but we did find many wonderful things to see as we zipped through our day.

Have a lovely Sunday, Everyone!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Food Bill Reducing Tips Thursday

One thing that helps me reduce my food bill as actually using up my food. There are about a zillion blogs out there participating in Food Waste Fridays, or No Food Waste, or something of the same idea, but what it basically boils down to is how to use up what you have in the pantry and fridge. What if all you have is cauliflower and cottage cheese? Or how about 1/2 loaf of bread and pickles? How do you plan your weekly (or biweekly) meals to come down to nothing wasted?
In line with what I wrote a couple weeks ago, if you take the time to organize your planning to 'piggyback' your meals, you should end up with less waste, as long as you are making just enough for your needs. Cooking enough for an army when there are only 2 of you won't help your budget at all - unless you have a very big freezer. But there will be those times when you have less desirable things to cook with. What to do?
I have been loving the recipes in Vegetarian Times that include only 5 ingredients. Though I have yet to see a recipe with bread and pickles, the ones I have seen are amazing.
Simplifying our diet seems to have helped our budget tremendously. Being summertime seems to help quite a bit - a quick dinner of loaded nachos and fresh-from-the-garden-salad sounds so much better than a full-course Indian meal.
So back to the undesirable ingredients. You have options.
  • Learn to like bread and pickles
  • Find awesome books at the library that incorporate strange food combining
  • Toast the bread, eat it alongside the pickles
  • Go to the store, hopefully along with other errands to make the trip worth taking, and purchase some small foodstuffs to go with the bread and pickles - to make them last a little longer, and a little more palatable
  • Don't ever buy bread and pickles again to avoid the whole problem/process
I'm sure you get the idea. Letting things rot in the fridge or become moth eaten need not happen if you decide to expand your creativity and flexibility about food. Those withered greens can still be ground into nut burgers or pasta sauce. They may not look appealing in their raw, limp state, but no one need know what state they were in prior to the heat. You can make an incredible meal, and be a hero to your friends and family, and only you are the wiser!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'm Getting Ready to Sink My Teeth In...

It's almost August. That's vacation time for me. I am lucky to work for a school, which lets out in August, giving us all a well-deserved break. I spend all year dreaming of this time, and when it comes, I am overjoyed with the possibilities of how to spend my time. There was the year I chose to add about a zillion supplements to my diet in an effort to be healthier. Then, I tried raw food dieting - something I tried very recently again. Another summer, I decided to redo the whole entire house, room by room, until my family revolted (after about the 3rd day) and we ended up at the beach every day after that. Then there was the summer my mother came to visit, and I got in a little fender bender which sent my car to the auto-hospital for 6 weeks. I didn't go too far that season. I joined a new gym in August one year, then promptly dropped my plans in September when things got busy again. What I love about summer is the possibility of something different. I don't really care that the plans don't always turn out the way I think they will, or that we didn't go very far, or do anything truly exciting. I don't feel as though I have to return to work in the fall sharing some amazing summer trip or anything. I am perfectly happy to stay around home, kicking up some projects OR going to the beach - either is fine by me. The great part is the time to do things, or not do things that I love.
However, looking at around 5 1/2 weeks of time off can also be somewhat disconcerting. That is really a long time if you look at 5 1/2 weeks of keeping the kids busy, finding neat places to go and things to do. Teenagers don't really want to go to the aquarium for the umpteenth time, so they keep me on my toes. Thank goodness they sleep in, giving me morning time to figure things out over a nice cuppa.
So some ideas that have come up for me so far are:
  • Read a fascinating new book. (suggestions?)
  • Take a daily walk down by the Charles River
  • Learn to cook a new cuisine (I've not done too much Middle Eastern or French)
  • Learn how to needle felt faces
  • Read another fascinating book
  • Read Three Cups of Tea out loud with the family - it's the required reading for the boys' school this summer
  • Learn to love my bicycle
  • Find all the farmer's markets in my area and visit them
  • Learn a new art/craft form - screenprinting, batik, a different beading style
  • Knit something(s) for a good cause
  • Try a new jigsaw puzzle
So many things to try, and thankfully, many days to try them in. I always love this time of vacations - the time just before, full of incredible anticipation, and none of the disappointment of moments not created. Of course it's during the moments toward the end of the vacation that I will look back at this post and feel melancholic, full of wishes for more time to do all these wonderful things, or to further explore more wonderful things. Becoming content with what we have, what we do, and what comes next is a real challenge and lesson for me. Seems no matter how I live, there is always something else I am looking for. Perhaps what I really need to put on my list for the summer is to appreciate the time I have, the strength that gets me there, and the opportunity to refuel my soul for the next school year. It's really a chance for me to reconnect with my family and friends in a slower time frame. How could anyone look back on that and feel regretful?
How do you feed your soul during time off?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Finding Time for Creativity

I have started to make it a priority to be creative. It's funny, because in my job, 5 days a week, I am a music therapist, creating music each and every moment - improvising much of the time. You could definitely say it was a creative job. However, I often feel as though there is a creative spark left untended. My assumption is this is due to the fact that at work, I am making music for others, my clients - basically becoming their vehicle for expression through music. It really isn't my music being created, it is theirs.
So the itch to make something out of my own thought process, my own light and color has been gnawing at me for a long time. I have only just begun to give this gnaw a voice, and I thought it would be fun to share some of it with you.

I started making notecards, mainly because when I receive a hand-made card, I think, "I could do that." So I thought - get to it, girl! Below are two examples of watercolor based cards that I began playing with. As a child, I had the pleasure (though didn't think it so at the time) of taking watercolor painting lessons from both the late Maulsby Kimball and Allston Hegg, both fantastic and impressive individuals in the Waldorf art community, not to mention amazing artists. My parents thought it best if my sister and I learned how to paint from the masters, and though I was not too thrilled to give up my Saturday afternoons at the time, feel quite grateful for it now.
Being a musician and not a visual artist for many years, I certainly need a refresher, but it was just lovely to get my fingers around the brushes again. I must say that it was after finding The Waldorf Way, that I finally found my watercolors and sat down to give it a shot. My humble beginnings are just that... humble.

I have truly enjoyed several blogs about needle felting (The Magic Onions, Felt Musings from Sycamore Moon), feel inspired by the beauty that comes from their hands. And though I am just dabbling in the medium, I can begin to understand why wool is so fascinating to work with. It's a bit like music, actually - maleable, with so many possibilities. Below is my first tiny fairy and a bell ball for the cats:

I have branched out from beading, though I have continued with that, and have started making funky earrings. And I know that knitting something special is in my near future. I have loved looking over what Linda at Natural Suburbia has been making with her children. Perhaps I should stick to music for a living... yes. Yet I get so much joy from making things these days, that I'm fine with ending up with shelves and boxes of little trinkets that came from some momentary bit of inspiration, not serving any other purpose than that.

With music, once you hear it, it only consciously lives on in your head. (It does move into your body, your soul, but that's for another lengthy conversation altogether, and definitely over some sort of hot drink). With art, you actually touch what you made. You get to hold it, revisit it, reshape it, and be fascinated with it again tomorrow. I feel like a whole new world opened up to me, and being that I am teaching myself, I feel slightly infantile in the process. No longer can I depend on years of having honed the artistic process, as I have with music. I cannot depend on anything at all, except that spirit which guides my eyes and hands. I hear you all saying, "practice, practice, practice" much as my mother did between my piano lessons, and I reply - "I will". I thank you all for your tremendous inspiration and amazing talent. It spreads farther than you know!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Noodles with Peanut Sauce

My apologies to those with peanut, or nut allergies. You may want to pass this post on by. My husband and I loooove noodles with peanut sauce, or Dan dan noodles/sesame noodles (little different, but close)/noodles with gado gado sauce/whatever you call it, we so love it.
My sister and I discovered this tiny noodle shop in Santa Cruz, CA, behind the bookstore (pre-earthquake), which sold Dan dan won ton noodles. You'd get this little bowl of steaming hot won ton noodles, covered in the peanut sauce and a few julienned cukes on top. Wow. Who knew heaven came in a bowl? I returned as many times as I could without drawing suspicion from those behind the counter. "Doesn't she have a home?" I could hear them asking themselves. Oh. But I loooved those noodles. And I never tried anything else from there - ever.
My sister and I discovered we could make these noodles at home - from Moosewood's Gado Gado recipe. Almost the same, but without the ambience of the quaint little noodle shop. One year for Christmas, I gave my father a huge batch of sauce in a beautiful container. I'm not sure he knew what to say, as you see, the sauce is a bit bland in color - like watered down peanuts. But oh, so good. You have to try it. Here's the recipe:

Any package (or fresh) noodle of your choice, cooked to your liking.

1 C peanut butter, creamy or crunchy - natural, no sugar added
1 tsp minced garlic
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
small dash of hot sauce - to taste
1/8 C soy sauce or to taste
2 T toasted sesame oil
water - 1/2 to 3/4 C

In food processor, put all your ingredients except the water. Pulse a few times to get things moving. You will notice that the soy sauce and the peanut butter have a chemical reaction, and make the mixture quite thick. Add water as the processor is on, but watch carefully that you don't add too much and make the mixture too runny - you want it to stick to the noodles. Season to your liking - more hot sauce, more soy sauce, more garlic, etc. Stop the processor and pour the sauce over the cooked, drained noodles.

Close your eyes when you taste these noodles for the first time. Trust me - it's heaven. And you can make them anytime. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Super-duper gratefulness to the rain Gods for giving us a well-deserved break today. A much-needed trip to the beach was enjoyed by all.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Who Won the Bracelet Giveaway?

The winner is... Laura. For commenting that we all need a laugh these days. May you enjoy the piece, and may it bring a smile to your face. (Send me your address so I can send it on it's way!) And congratulations!
And for the others - I wish I could send you all something. Check back in with me as I love these giveaways. It is wonderful to have something to share. Thank you for your comments!

Food Bill Reducing Tips Thursday

This week's tip is 2-fold:
1) Stop buying things wrapped individually, and
2) Get more creative with snacks.

My kids love snacks. Whether they are the 'good for you' kind or the kind I wouldn't want my mother seeing them eat, buying snacks can eat up your food budget. Quickly. Show me a family with teens and we'll see a family being eaten alive by their kids! Seriously! These kids come home and find every morsel worth eating in the house within 5 minutes. That cheese you hoped would be used for the enchiladas tonight? GONE. The tortilla chips you hoped would go in the lunches tomorrow? GONE. The bell peppers and carrots for tonight's salad? History. Finding snacks that satisfy the most discriminating tastes yet don't break the bank is my current mission. Here are a few that I have found so far:

Popcorn. Popcorn is my wonder food with the kids. I can serve it plain; with butter and salt; with curry powder and pumpkin seeds; with raisins, cashews and salt; salt and brown sugar or agave. I have also been know to get pretty fancy and make popcorn balls if asked nicely.
Nachos. You can find all sorts of toppings for nachos - the basic one is cheese (though plenty of great-tasting nachos can be had without the cheese. On top, you can add: beans, meat, salsa, peppers, corn, olives, sour cream, tomatoes, grated carrots, grated zucchini, basically any vegetable could work.
Fruit salad. Yum. My youngest just made a spectacular fruit salad with his aunt long distance over the phone. MMMM. The best things are those made with love. You know the drill here - any fruit will do it. You can leave it 'naked' or dress it up with yogurt and honey, sour cream and maple syrup, or a bit of your favorite jam thinned with a little bit of water or orange juice.
Chip mix. I came up with my own version of Chex mix - which I love, but it is expensive and has ingredients I choose not to eat. I get the equivalent cereals in the organic food section of the market, add gluten-free pretzels, nuts and sometimes dried cranberries for a shot of sweetness, then add whatever spicy-ness I am looking for, a few of the other typical ingredients (butter, salt, soy sauce or worcestershire sauce, etc) to finish with the recipe. I don't make it very often due to the work and cost involved (because of the organic part), but when I do, it's a great snack.

And just a little word about individual-sized packaging. Oh for crying out loud... do things really taste better when they come in those little tiny packages? Aren't the chips just the same when you take them out of an extra-large (and cheaper) bag and put them into smaller bags/containers? My kids insist I was born yesterday. "Oh no, mom. The ones with the little boxes inside the other boxes inside the bags are much fresher. They also happen to be the ones everyone brings to school. No one brings their own containers to school. That's weird." Too bad.

What snack do you cling to? What snacks do you keep around for your family??