April 2015

April 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Comma Talk

Before we move forward, there's something you need to know.  I'm sure you've noticed already, but I have a love/hate relationship with commas.  I love them, because they are so helpful in forming sentences.  I dislike them, because there are so many rules surrounding them!  Who could ever remember them all?  It is very out of character for me to go against the rules, but in this instance, I am conflicted.  

I have always had a love of words.  I am intrigued and entertained by learning word origins and alternative uses of familiar words.  I am an avid spelling bee watcher.  Is there anything more captivating on ESPN, like ever?  And, sit me alone at a bar with a cup of black coffee, a sharpened #2 pencil and a crossword puzzle, and I am in complete heaven.  I might not surface for hours. 

I also have always had a love of music.  Learning to feel when the notes are short and long, and why the composer made those choices.  The crescendos and when you must slow things down are all intended to make you feel something.  I love how you can manipulate your voice to accommodate those directions.  I'll actually never fully understand the voice as an instrument, but I will forever enjoy using mine as a form of expression and art.

Just like a well-written piece of music is art, sentences are, as well.  Instead of bringing together whole notes and dotted halves, a sentence combines words.  As in music, it is up to the artist to arrange them as they see fit.  They can be arranged to evoke feelings of peace, anger, sadness, love, humor, rage, beauty, and you get the idea.  The words chosen and the way they are strung to one another is the artful expression of the writer.

So, please excuse my misuse of the comma.  It is not always unintentional (my "artful" run-on, overly full, wordy descriptions), and it is also not intended to send those who rejoice in perfect grammar batty.  I leave them out, I include too many, and I am aware of this.  The cause, in the end, goes back to the words. I hope that the words I separate with too many commas help you to see what I see.  I also misuse the comma, because of those darn rules. So. Many. Rules.

I apologize in advance, and hope we can move past this together.

Now, what's on the agenda this weekend, folks?  Here's my bulleted list:

*House of Cards
*Dress Making
*Bread Baking
*Park Playing 
*The Beach

See you Monday!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Recipe Card Swap

It occurs to me that the heading of this post may seem outdated to many.  It probably is, but hear me out on this.  The printed word matters to me.  Paper things matter to me.  I like how paper feels, how it smells and how it sounds. I just plain like it. Whether it be in the form of a book you just can't put down, the feel of your Sunday newspaper folded just right as to allow perfect crossword puzzle completion or the distinct weight (or lack thereof) in your hand of a pretty, hand-written recipe card.  It matters.

I also love technology.  I love that I can google any darn thing under the sun, and within seconds gain knowledge I didn't have before. Yet, as with all things, there should be balance.  That's what I try to do.  Sure, I get most of my news, not from the crinkling pages of the morning newspaper, but from social media. I'm not often found pouring over dusty volumns of an old encyclopedia tucked back in abandoned sections of the library.  I do, however, keep an up-to-date recipe card box.

In having so much information available to us, we are left with the task of organizing it.  I know that there are computerized was of keeping our online recipe finds at the ready, but I don't like those.  I like to write things on paper.  So, I do.  Once a week or so, I open all of my tabs and choose the recipes that worked.  The good ones that my family enjoyed, and I spend a few minutes with a favorite pen and my pretty, little recipe cards. I find that doing this each week keeps it from becoming overwhelming or too time consuming.  Heck, this morning I jotted down two delish recipes in the time that it took to finish my first cup of coffee. 

Here is my swap for today.  And, I look forward to trying any you'd like to leave for me in the comments below.  It's one of the recipes that made it into my recipe box this morning, and it is absolutely a must try! On Valentine's Day I made these Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles for my loves (and myself) and adapted them for us by simply swapping the all-purpose flour it calls for with an equal amount of ground oats.  And with it being Valentine's Day, instead of sprinkling them with sea salt, I used colored sugar.  These are a treat!  


I know.  The chocolate looks crazytown.  Can we try to look past that?  I will if you do...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Building Character

My grandfather had a go-to saying that really stuck with people, including me.  When events in life didn't quite go your way, he would reassuringly tell you that, "you're building character". Many times I'd experience a set back and run to that little dity, not thinking much about what it really meant at all.  I'd jokingly repeat the phrase.  Silly girl...

When I recently took some time to ponder the words, I finally heard him.  I heard what he had been trying to say all along!  The events in life that make you struggle and feel like a failure are the very same ones that teach you perseverance and courage.  In bouncing back from a trial, you grow your self-esteem and worth, your skin thickens for future troubled times and your ego is kept in check, as to not become over-inflated. YOU ARE BUILDING CHARACTER.  How reassuring is that?  It's amazing.  I think if I had joked less and listened more, those words could have gotten me through some toughies along the way.  I think if I had joked less and listened more to everything people said...well, anyway. I joke. That's what I do, and it's fine. 

So, the funny thing about character is that just when you think that you couldn't build any more...you do.  You're coasting along, all fine and dandy, and SMACK!  More character.  

I recently built some character in the kitchen.  As I've mentioned before, we are transitioning our family to a gluten-free lifestyle.  That, however, should not in any way mean that brownies are out of the picture.  Period.  It should not.  I found a recipe for Black Bean Brownies, tucked it away and waited for a fun opportunity to bake.  I noticed a Facebook event on a friends wall entitled "Brownies for Breakfast".  It was an event set up by a grieving mother, that recently lost her school-aged daughter in a car accident.  The day of the crash, she had allowed her to eat brownies for breakfast.  This event was in remembrance of a baby gone too soon, and intended to remind us to let loose and live each day to the fullest.  What a amazing event set up by such a strong mother.  

Okay, we were way in!  I busted out that recipe and the black beans and the...wait, we were out of honey.  It was fine, I decided just to sub in maple syrup.  Okay, I got out the coconut oil, the cocoa powder, and the...oops!  I was out of chocolate chips.  It was alright, because I had a darker-than-dark bar of chocolate that I shaved up and threw in there.  I was sure that these changes would be undetectable, and that my toddler would be thrilled at the sight of his breakfast.  He gagged and spit the black bean brownie out. Fail.  My husband came home from work and saw the brownies waiting to surprise him.  This man loves food, like I love food.  He excitedly took a bite.  I watched and waiting, knowing that he was bound to love them.  His nostrils flared and I knew.  Fail.  The Black Bean Brownies were a bust. I dare to say that the recipe was not to blame.  Perhaps my creative substitutions had a little to do with it.  However, I built some character, and it only makes me want to try again. I'm sure that my family can't wait!

Have you built character lately?  I bet so.  I'd love to hear about...

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Day at the Beach

Enough about warm, cozy blankets!  Let's talk white sand, blazing sun and okay, still freezing water.  That's two out of three in my book!  When I noticed that temperatures would reach close to 80 degrees this weekend, I felt a certain responsibility.  Sure, I had a full square of bulleted tasks on my desk calendar for Sunday, but we may not live in sunny Florida forever.  Gosh darn it, I'm going to soak in every minute of paradise that I can. Also, I did it for you, family and friends.  With you enduring such cold, how could I sit home and waste that kind of gorgeous weather?  You're welcome.

So, yes.  I ditched my list, shaved my legs and started reworking the plan.  While my husband got in a quick run, I readied my son and I, made a fast breakfast and got to work filling the cooler. A big part of beach days for me is the food.  I don't want to eat out, I want a picnic.  Oddly, as much as I enjoy junk food, for me beach fare should include fresh, cold fruit and crisp veggies, lunchmeat roll ups with yummy cheese, pretzels, raisins, you get the idea.  Baggie after baggie of surprises to slowly divvy up over the course of our stay.  So, yeah, I got chopping and bagging and cooling.  

When the hubby returned, he was put on beach toy and beach chair acquisition.  And, he did a fab job quickly tearing apart our somewhat still unpacked garage to find buckets, shovels, little boats, chairs, and the ever important cup holder for my hot coffee.  I know, but you're getting to know me, aren't you.  
Always.  Hot.  Coffee.

Wow, breakfast, lunch making, beach bag packing and car loading all before 9:30 AM!  It felt like vacation behavior.  We were off.  It took about an hour to get to St. Pete Beach, but it felt much faster.  Parking was readily available at 10:30 AM and we set up camp for the next few hours.  What memories we are making. Not yet for our son, but definitely for his momma and dad. The kid loves all things beach.  He loves the water.  He loves running over to our beach neighbors and throwing his ball on their towel uttering some sort of 2 year old invitation to play. He loves the picnic.  He loves playing in the sand and pretending it is snow. And we love him.

As always, I overshared photos of our day.  I'm kinda sorry for that, but not really.  I am so grateful for the happy days in life.  Bad days have come, and for sure they will come again. Knowing that, I will always rejoice in the joyful ones.  The ones that I hope to never forget.  The ones that make you stop and notice the sand in your teeth, the sun on your face, the warmth in your heart and the snuggly nap on the way home.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

My Itchy Pink Blanket

As in most of our country today, it is a chilly afternoon in Florida.  I'm finding that it is far chillier here than I could have ever imagined.  I was under the false impression that we would be spending our days basking in the sunshine, perfecting our sun-kissed glows beach-side while sipping freshly-squeezed orange juice each day, all year round.  Um.....yeah, no.  It gets cold here.  Maybe the number isn't as low as places farther north, but it just feels colder here.  I was scammed by Florida, but I still like it and forgive it.  

You know what?  I'll admit it.  I'm somewhat glad to have a bit of winter here.  I've always lived in a four season climate, and I would have missed wearing my gray hooded sweatshirts and snuggling all of my soft, warm blankets.  Anyone that has spent considerable time with me knows my love of blankies.  If I am at home or even in the car, there is always one close at hand.  Out of all of the many I hold dear, my favorite is one that wouldn't be chosen out of a lineup.  It's old, itchy wool, faded and misshapen from my poor laundering skills, and I LOVE it.  

Before it found it's home, resting on the back of my desk chair, it was my nana's.  It kept her warm in bed during cold New England winters.  When she passed away, it somehow made it's way to me.  With tears in my eyes as I type this, and my lap covered warmly in her blanket, I am grateful to those who save things.  For a person like me, it's such a gift.  I have items in my home that belonged to and remind me of each of my grandparents.  So, before you toss that old, warm blanket...think of mine.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Recipe Card Swap

I love food.  I mean, I love it a whole lot.  I have a favorite food for most any kind of occasion.  Many occasions are defined for me by the food I will serve or expect to eat.  I have my go-to sick day food, sad day food, snow day food, holiday food.  You name the day, and I've got a food.  

I sadly, tested positive for a wheat allergy recently.  Can you imagine the dismay?  I was honest to goodness sad.  I always suspected, but it was never official.  Now it was, and I couldn't ignore the signs my body had been sending me for years.  I was forced to explore my options.  It has been my mission, in the weeks since this discovery, to find recipes that won't make me sick, but that will allow me to continue my love affair with food.  

Guess what?  I've become healthier, I've become more conscious of the items and ingredients that I am serving my family, and I've also saved money!  Eating fast and easily prepared processed food is surprisingly pricey.  Shopping the perimeter of my grocery store and making many things from scratch has absolutely been beneficial to our family budget.

There is also a satisfaction I get from the entire process. Researching new recipes, selecting the fresh ingredients at the store, and combining them into delicious and nourishing final products has made me an active participant in my health and the health of my family.  Watching the dough rise, smelling it bake in the oven and seeing our two year old gobble down my homemade bread has been more fun than I could have ever thought at the beginning of this endeavor.  

So, the love affair continues...Thank God!

Here's a recipe that we enjoyed last night.  It was a gluten-free, dairy-free, most-everything-free crowd pleaser!  It looks too simple to be love affair worthy, but that assumption is very wrong.  Make this.  Trust me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My trusty home calendar

Do you have one?  I didn't, but I cannot tell you how vital it has become to my day-to-day life.  If it's on the calendar, it happens.  If it isn't on the calendar, it doesn't.  So, things like laundry, dishes and everyday things are on there, as well as, above and beyond things that are important to me.  Recently, Valentine completion was on the list, and reseting our guest bedroom made it, too!  If you are a homemaker, and still winging it, I encourage you to give this strategy a go.  

I use a simple month-at-a-glance desk calendar upon which I make my bulleted list.  Of course, you may like a book-style planner, or some other format.  Whichever you choose, stick to your list.  Do not rest until you have checked off each item.  Now, that brings up a great point.  When planning your week, and selecting your intended tasks, be realistic.  I know that my son will nap each day for about 2 hours, and I plan accordingly.  Any baking or kitchen tasks can easily be done while he is awake.  We actually have lots of fun in the kitchen together.  I plan tasks that involve my complete attention for his nap time.  For example, ironing napkins or an important sewing project.  

Also, in being realistic, don't bite off more than you can chew.  Divide lengthy tasks up over the course of a few days.  An example that comes to mind is the recent Valentine mailings I mentioned earlier.  The first day, I held a brief photo shoot with my son.  The next day, I edited the photos and selected the one to send off for printing.  The following day, I procured the cards at the grocery store and picked up the photos.  And on and on, until each was addressed, stamped and mailed off to beloved family and friends.  Having each of those small tasks separated and listed on my calendar ensured that they would happen, and that it was a relaxing and fun experience for both the giver and the receiver.  How do you plan your days, and stay focused on what's important to you?