Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: Year End Wrap Up


Just as I become accustomed to writing "2011" on everything, it’s time to switch it up. Just yesterday I was trying to wrap my head around the idea of a new millennium…but now we are well into the next thousand years. And it’s amazing how much has changed in just this short amount of time. We have hand-held devices that practically control the weather and I have a teenager that practically runs the house. In a blink of an eye it all changes. And if we are doing something right, we learn and grow and change with the times. Our hearts grow bigger, our minds open to new ideas, and we become aware in this finite time that there is still so much to be done and so much love to share. We must keep moving forward with our eyes set on the year ahead of us.
But like most year-end reviews, there is a place to reflect and see what went right and what didn’t work so we can make a few adjustments in the coming year. I believe in lists and resolutions, commitments and revolutions. I believe the time is now and the answers to the future are entwined with the actions of our past. I believe that in the beginner’s mind all things are possible, but the expert’s there are few (Shunryu Suzuki.)  I believe that the children are our future and we are making a mess of it. I believe there is still plenty of time to turn this ship around.  I believe that compassion is more important than how much I get in my tax return. Here are a few other things I learned this year:
·         I believe that reaffirming how I feel in a written blog has made me a more positive person. Writing regularly was one of my better choices this year. But regularly letting time get sucked away on useless internet surfing was one of my poorer decisions.
·         Living in the moment was a skill that I began to develop this year resulting in far less anxiety and worry. Conversely I have not taken enough action towards long term goals for myself or my family leaving me to wonder how we will tackle all of our plans for the next year.
·         I feel closer to my extended family that ever before, but it leaves a hole in my heart that cannot be filled when we are always so far away.
·          I have learned that art fills my soul, but sadly I must cut out the crafts if I am ever to make progress as an artist.  
·         I have enjoyed my boys and tried to soak in every moment, every hug and every wish, forgetting that I can let go and allow them to do it on their own.
·         I have rediscovered that my husband is my very best friend, but often times I forget to be a good friend to him. 
·         I have hungered for knowledge, forgetting that ignorance is bliss.
·         I have dreamt big and still fell short.
·         And most importantly, this year I have learned the secret of true happiness is wrapped up in one little word – gratitude.

This is 2011 in a nutshell. I can learn from the ups and downs and all the in-between to help make the next year even better. But the one thing I know for sure is that this was the best year ever! What about you? What ups and downs did you learn from to make this your best year ever?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: No Gifts Please!


Birthdays seem to come more frequently the older you get. When you turn eight a year is only 1/8th of your life; when you turn 38 it’s 1/38th and as that number grows it just magnifies how fast time speeds by you. I’ve flip flopped all year over my feelings about being in my late 30’s now and that there is no denying that I am aging. How can I pull a muscle in my back just reaching over to put on a sock? Are those sun spots? Will I actually have to color my hair for the first time ever to maintain my redhead status? And I find that I am squinting to read every now and then. And so it goes.
But I heard something the other day about aging (not that I could remember for the life of me where I heard it.)  I heard that I should embrace it wholeheartedly, for not everyone is afforded the opportunity to grow old. And at that moment I found new resolve to never regret the experience of adding another year to my life. Every wrinkle will be the sign of a life well spent and every grey hair will be a sign of three loud boys running wild and keeping me on my toes. There is no better way to say I am alive, than another birthday celebration!
There is one catch, though, to all the confetti throwing and cake eating…celebrate with me, but no gifts please! About three years ago I canceled birthday gifts for the rest of my life. I’m serious! I imagined if I were lucky enough to live 95 years, how many bottles of smelly lotions would I obtain? How many times would my kids forget to get something and in embarrassment ignore me all together instead of just picking up the phone or stopping by for a chat? And I am sure the money could be used for noble causes like saving kittens from drowning, but the truth is probably more selfish than that. I don’t need random stuff, I just need you! And time well spent is the best gift of all; that I am serious about!
So this birthday is the best birthday ever and here are a few reasons why:
·         Everyone in our home has found the Christmas spirit!
·         I have really amazing friends.
·         My husband can still impress me (speaking of aging well!)
·         I see small miracles happen every day.
·         My home is warm.
·         I have intelligent, capable children that already seek out their future.
·         I have more creative ideas than I have time fulfill, but I’m trying!
·         I am afforded the opportunity to do the job I have always dreamed of doing - stay home and care for my family, or as I have self titled: I am Queen of the Home!
So cheers to me and another year! Raise a glass in celebration and tell me what made this your best week, or birthday, ever?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: When My Heart Finds Christmas

There have been times in my past that I was exhausted in November just anticipating the work to be done in December. I've only mentioned the absurdity of it all a few times. The commercialism, the perfect planning on my part, the late nights and long shopping days just to pull it all off for one day!? I've even lamented the days of my childhood when magic still existed and everything just wonderfully happened (becuse of another mother exausting herself!)

But the season need not be dreaded! It's warm in our house this year with all kinds of anticipation. The kids are excited to participate. My husband has all kinds of plans up his sleeve to make it a fun Christmas season. We have already indulged in holiday activities. We even spent our Thankgiving vacation in a festive holiday theme park. This year is looking up in the grand picture of Christmases past.

How did the whole home find Christmas again? It's a simple secret....I found Christmas in my heart. Looks like when mom has it, the good spirit spreads. It's a simple secret that is applied throughout the whole year, but doubles when December comes. So, yes, I just made up my mind and made plans to get everyone involved. I wanted the whole 25 days to be celebrated. To my surprise, as soon as I asked, everyone was more than willing - they were coming up with their own plans to make the season bright!

This has been the best week ever! I must share with you the fun things we are doing:
  • I am making handmade cards again for the first time in years. You can see from the picture that it is not a quick throw together, so if you want one delivered to your mailbox, you have to put your request in now!
  • Taylor and Gavin are actively making presents for their little brother. And for their grandparents. It's wonderful to see them excited to be doing special things for family.
  • Finn wakes up every morning singing Jingle Bells. Melts my heart!
  • David has taken it upon himself to build Lego tables and platforms to slide under the beds for each of the boys. Guess when everyone decides to get making, so does Dad!
  • We started the Elf on the Shelf tradition this year. Finn named him Nickelman. Fun every morning!
  • Advent calendars for all. Yes I made that, too!
  • The movie "Elf." I watch this one year round and can recite it word for word. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!
  • Pies, cakes, cookies, candy.....oh my!
  • We are making fleece tie blankets for the Linus charity that gives handmade blankets to kids in the hospital. Easy to do while we cuddle on the couch watching movies.
Tell me, what made this your best week ever? What are you doing to help your whole family find Christmas?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: All Hands On


The world is abundant of mass produced goods and digital replicas, prepackaged meals and plastic lawn ornaments. On the back of every plate is a stamp that says made in China and cards now arrive in your inbox, not your mailbox. We are easily detached from all this manufactured stuff. Our merchandise in theft proof packaging is devoid of human contact, has traveled thousands of miles and will crowd our landfills soon enough. But there is something magical about handcrafted goods because the human factor still exists. Someone actually has to take the time and put their heart into making the very thing you will use, devour, admire or hang on your wall. It seems so simple, but these little things are the very nature of our humanity.
I am a maker of these things, so it comes as no surprise that I am building a reputation of promoting a handmade revolution. We can be real for a moment – I still shop at Target and some nights DiGiorno will do for dinner. But it is so satisfying when I can do it myself. I love to see the moment when all the ideas come together and something tangible and real has come of the time and talent well invested. Most of the online communities I frequent are full of do-it-yourself kind of people. In fact they afford me more ideas than I have time to tackle! But I know there are enough artisans making quality products that I can substitute some of the things on my big box shopping list for beautiful handmade gifts.
 Do you have projects planned, decorations to make, cards to send, and cookies to bake? There is something authentic to giving a homemade gift, but if you are not the making type, have you considered buying handmade from sites like etsy.com or renegadehandmade.com or doing a search for local shops in your area? In the spirit of my effort to “Occupy Christmas” and take the commercialism out of the season, I have been compiling lists of great and affordable handmade items either to make….or buy from a real live person that handled it with care and love. In an effort to keep you out of the stores on Black Friday (which now starts on Thanksgiving!!) I am hoping you will see another way to give gifts this year. Handmade is just the beginning, but certainly the most gratifying solution for my creative soul!
Spending the week elbow deep in handmade goodness has made this the best week ever. Here are a few of the lovely - practical and rather reasonably priced -things I have been admiring (links under each item):

Strawberry Fairies
Bird and Branch Necklace
Slugs - Rainboot Liners
Sherlock Holmes Book Safe & Flask Holder
Bow and Arrows
BBQ Spice Rubs
Red Bird Print
Paint Your Own

Tonight I will be buzzing about in my studio, making things for you. So, will you join me? Pour some eggnog or a hot buttered rum and tell me what you are making to make this the best week ever?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: Make it Meaningful

I may have about one week left of golden fall leaves before they have all fallen from the trees. The cool autumn winds have replaced humid summer days and sweaters have replaced shorts. The sun is shining and the days are getting shorter. I think of home. I think of family. I soak in the calm before the storm of a busy holiday season.  I briefly enjoy orange and yellow before red and green take over. I want to snuggle up and read a good book and make pies and share long visits with friends. Autumn is the perfect season to realign myself with all that is kind and true, reminding my soul that there is so much goodness left to be found in this world. It is the perfect season to think of giving.
If Thanksgiving is the season of gratitude, then what follows in December should be a manifestation of those feelings. I keep thinking about how I want to share the love I feel. My heart is full and there are people in my life that I want to say thank-you for another wonderful year. And who can deny that first look on the children’s faces in the wee hours of Christmas morning? So, every year when the leaves have all descended from their homes above and made a pile big enough for jumping, I know it’s also time to finalize the game plan for the Holidays.
This must be the reason we all get caught up in the buying frenzy. But the mounting tab for useless plastics and smelly lotions boggles my mind. It’s always been a bit unsettling to me to say I think of you all year fondly with this gift pack I picked up in the checkout line of Costco stamped “made in China.” It’s no secret that there have been more than enough Christmases past that I have resented the whole process. I was feeling a bit Bah Humbug about the whole thing again, until I stopped for a day or two and began to let this simple fact soak in…the change begins with me. After all, it’s what I have been saying about everything else this year. For all the times that ringing in the New Year has left me exhausted and saying “Merry Giftmas” was more appropriate; I vow to do it differently this time. I will give with meaning, or I won’t give at all. I will not tire myself of shopping, wrapping, shipping and checking the credit card statement; making, baking, toiling and slaving for naught. It will come from the heart, or it won’t come at all! And more importantly – my kids know it!
We are all on board this year and I can honestly say I am surprised! This pleasant turn of direction has made it the best week ever! Let me give you a few more reasons why:
·         I asked the kids to make gifts for each other and their relatives and they were excited and full of ideas. Who would have known?
·         Yummy pumpkin everything.
·         Everyone in this house has agreed that less would be more this year.
·         Harry for the Holidays.
·         We are starting a service project together. Handmade fleece blankets for kids in the hospital and the best part is that we can snuggle up on the couch watching movie together while we do it!
·         I’m thinking outside the box for special gifts from local shops or services in hopes to make mall time minimal and American Made possible.
·         David has a lot of leave time he needs to use up. Which means lots of family time this season. Which is in fact the best gift of all!
So, as fall is wrapping up and Christmas swings into full gear, how will you make it meaningful? How will you give from the heart? How will you make it the best week ever?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: Share the Love

At this very moment I have a full pantry and a full fridge and more than enough food to put a full spread on our table, despite the skyrocketing prices of food. It’s shocking to see our food bills climb when the paychecks stay the same. It means making different choices about what we buy and prioritizing how we spend our money. Less going out and more time eating in. Less premade food and more homemade meals. Far more homes are growing gardens and turning to traditions we haven’t seen in ages like canning, bread making and long term food storage. Most families I talk to have become keenly aware of the need to be more self reliant and less self indulgent. It feels good to take charge and still come away with full bellies in a warm home.
Unfortunately cuts backs for everyone also means cut backs in giving. America’s food banks are falling short at a time when the amount of people in need has increased.  Yep, I’m getting on my soap box. There are many of us who have enough to share with those who have too little. My boys hauled in 40 pound backpacks to school today because they were told that last year the county’s food drive fell thousands of pounds short of what they needed. And I think we were among the many who forgot to donate. Well, not this year! I figure that if I could pick up a couple extra items every time I went food shopping and drop it in the donation box…and if I could encourage everyone I know to do this…well, you get the idea.
So, yeah, for Happy Hour this week, I am buying canned goods instead of drinks! How about you? Will you buy beans instead of beer, macaroni instead of margaritas, or stuffing instead of soda? Because we have food on our table, it has been the best week ever! Here are a few other things that make it the best week ever:
·         Everyone is healthy (despite a sugar overload).
·         I have found mittens and hats and winter coats that fit everyone, without the need to go shopping.
·         The kids have enthusiastically agreed to help make some Christmas gifts this year.
·         Fall colors in Maryland are amazing and vibrant.
·         When it’s cold out, we have heat.
·         I have two eyes and two hands and a mind that all have the ability to create.
·         Good and kind people have inspired me to look at life in new and wonderful ways every day.
How about you? Do you have enough on your table to have had the best week ever? How do you plan on sharing the Love?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: The Weekend Smile

It’s Friday morning and the weekend smile has begun. I’d like to say that things slow down around here and we can take it easy, but in our house, the weekends are quite the opposite. We are running from sporting events, to family events, to house projects and yard work. But we are together. We can take few extra minute to linger over coffee, use our best teamwork skills to get a job done, or take the afternoon off and explore the beach. Yup, weekends are still my favorite part of the week.
No matter what challenges we faced during the week, what news filled our heads and worries were on our shoulders, the weekend is a good time to bring life back into focus. I suggest the best remedy for a long week is time with people you love, a moment of silent gratitude and play time. Laugh a little, go outdoors, and put your arms around someone important. It won’t be long before you are wearing the weekend smile, too! And this Friday I’m ready to SMILE, kick back and reflect on the best week (or two) ever because you would not believe how good life has been:
·         I finally got to spend a week with my sister after a 3 year time gap. Now I miss her even more, knowing how great we are together, but that just means I know how much I love her.
·         We were caught in a rain shower after a morning digging in the sand at Sandy Point State park’s beach.
·         Liz Lemon makes me laugh so hard!
·         I know it’s a month early, but I am making a big turkey dinner tonight. We are so lucky to be well fed.
·         My middlest son had a very cool birthday party that left him grinning from ear to ear. Check out the cake I made!
·         The laundry is done and put away…at least for the next six hours!
·         I’ve got new art to share. Soon, very soon!
Tell me, what put the weekend smile on your face? What made this the best week ever?
7 Layer Rainbow Cake

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: You, me and Z

Well, it turns out that I have been fighting off Pneumonia for the last two weeks. Couldn’t do it all on my own, so I got some help from Zithromax. I am grateful that humans have been given the wisdom to discover modern medicine and before long I will be back and running as usual. I know droning on about being sick is not an exciting story to read, but those who are sticking it through to the end of the paragraph are the ones I want to share my thoughts with today the most. Z can only do so much.
The power of thought and love go a long way when you are sick, and when I have felt my worst, it was you I was focusing on. Your love, strength, prayers, positive energy and well wishes you’ve shared with me are the sentiments I breathe into my lungs, while everything else is sent out! Every day when I find a quiet moment, in my mini-prayers and meditation, I visualize you.
·         I visualize my grandmother and aunt that have passed but leave a strong spirit of love on the shoulders of their loved ones.
·         I visualize my aunts and cousins that have been so supportive, even when I am not sick they continually fill my heart with love.
·         I visualize my mom always wanting the best for me because she has been in my shoes before and I know she wants to see me happy and fulfilled.
·         I visualize my father and his own power of positive thought that he continually shares with me.
·          I visualize the love and literally benefit from the hugs (and heaps of help) of my family living under my own roof.
·          I visualize my very close Mother-in-Law, who even though I get to spend time with her, I know that the rest of the time she spends thinking of me and my family because that is where her heart is always.
·         I visualize my “new” sister by marriage and I know that being close to her is creating a bond to last a lifetime.
·         I visualize so many supportive friends that I know would be here if I just ask because they are genuine in their friendship.
·         I visualize the good people I have only known on the World Wide Web because even the power of love from those never met is source of strength.  
·         And of course I visualize the love I share with my sister. This is not a bond that can even be described, but time and space apart doesn’t stop us from being soul mates.
I find my spiritual strength, the strength to heal, in the love I have mentioned and sometimes sources that I didn’t know were there in the first place. But ultimately, it turns out that when I take the time to focus on this love that has been so generously given to me by so many good and kind people, then I know I can find the strength to do anything. So you, me and Z we are going to send this illness packing! Because of your love – this has been the best week ever

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: In Bed

Is where I should be. No margaritas for me, just orange juice and rest. If wild boys will allow it! It’s not flu season, but somehow I’ve managed to pick up a whopper. I will spare you the details, but let me tell you that today I value health (and Advil) more than anything! And I am grateful that we have good doctors, my husband has more than enough sick leave that he could hang out with me, and my boys felt sympathetic to their ol’ mom – as long as they weren’t hungry (or tired, or bored, or looking for lost uniforms…).  So, yeah, it feels a bit like my body is being used as a construction site this week, but when it’s over, who knows what part of the structure has been re-enforced? Stronger than before, right?
As far as peace and quiet with a house full of monkeys…I’m accepting that is just not where I am in life right now, and, well, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It would be no fun to be sick and alone! It’s the monkeys that remind me that it’s still the best week ever! Sure, I’ll still make a list:
·         Homemade soup, stock and all. (ok, yes, I still made my own chicken and rice soup!? crazy lady!)
·         Strength enough to stick to the rules and dole out punishments…let’s see who has learned lessons by the end of the week?
·         Did I mention my husband took time off? It was nice just to have someone to hug when I really felt like crap!
·         My monkeys brought more monkeys over and ran rampant through the neighborhood, just like boys should do!
·         Fabulous documentaries on Netflix that re-affirm that even in our economy is in shambles, we are still blessed with so much in America.
·         Lots of love sent over that Facebook connection. Don’t know what I would do without it!
·         A home that I continually feel comforted in. It carries the spirit of love from the last owners, I’m sure, but we have made it a very happy place to be, even when we’re at our worst.
Can you find the positive in a negative situation? I am setting this goal every week, flu or no flu, fabulous or not, because there is no other way to live life. So, tell me, what made this the best week ever for you?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: Words of Wisdom

Everyone needs inspiration to get through the day. For some it’s just a ride with the top down and good music blaring and for others they turn to written word. I have found myself seeking that which uplifts and inspires me from all sources and then mixing it up into my own mash of inspirational goodness. And it is amazing where the goodness turns up! Facebook statuses, NPR, Mumford and Sons, an art documentary, Pinterest.com, my children and their wild, innocent ideas about life, or my husband struggling to find a path of truth through a sea of misfit government employees. Now I carry a notebook where ever I go because I am saving these things to use as arsenal at a later time.
...Because at any time the weight of the world could crush us if it were not for that which continually gives us strength to climb above it. If one positive voice can be heard above the useless negativity, it might just give us enough courage to live a better life, even if it is one day at a time. And I believe reinforcing these ideas through signs and music, conversation and written word, action and humble silence, will make a difference on how much of it sinks into your being and becomes a part of your daily thought.
This week has been the best week ever because I have really been absorbing these great ideas and turning them into something tangible. I have been sketching, making watercolors and carving stamps with fabulous quotes on them. And each time I finish another piece of written art I feel inspired to share the goodness and I emerge from the studio with a happier soul. I will be ready to open a new Etsy.com shop by October so I can share the goodness with everyone, but in the mean time I am posting a few of my prints and ideas right here to share with you to help you have the best week ever. These are my favorites right now:
·         “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” Goethe
·         “It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart, but the welcome I receive with a restart.” & “I need to know how to live my life as it’s meant to be.” & “Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” Mumford and sons
·         “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
·         “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Churchill
·         “Everything is fine, not final.” & “Keep your eyes open as if everyone else is a poet.” Jason Mraz
·         “You have to be brave with your life so others can be brave with theirs.” unknown
·         “Let’s have an awesome day, okay?” Jena Garzaniti (my sister on her FB status)
·         “As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.” Emerson
·         “Do not fear death so much, but rather the inadequate life.” Bertolt Brecht
·         “Amazing people do not just happen.” unknown
·         “Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit.” Thoreau
·         When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.” Erma Bombeck
What are your favorite quotes? Share them with me and I may even be inspired to make a new print or painting out of your quote and if I do, I will surely send you a copy! Tell me, What inspired you to have the best week ever?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: Always The Best Week Ever

Truth. Some weeks are better than others. The boys are getting over Pneumonia. We have soccer seven days this week which means that our anniversary weekend is going to be interrupted and dinner will not be served at the table this week. It rained so much in the North East I thought we were going to float away, or at least kill each other for being cooped up so long. My youngest boy is the master of throwing tantrums.  I am procrastinating things I must do and things I want to do, while the to-do list keeps growing. I really should go jogging. And I don’t think David has any life outside of work and assistant coaching two soccer teams so who am I to complain?
But the sun is shining on this very cool September day and I am ready to celebrate the best week ever. How is it that every week is the best week ever, especially after the last couple weeks we’ve had? Because how can it not be the best to live this life? How can I not make every moment count? When I come to the end of another week, no matter what happened, I must allow the influence of “Friday Happy Hour” to take over and remind me that I am living a beautiful life. In a beautiful home, with three wonderful children and a very hard-working and loving husband. I can’t help feeling like it’s the best week ever when I put being alive and living my life in context to the rest of the world!
So, that is why every week is the best week ever. That is why I have been reinforcing it through writing and proclaiming it to the world. That is the power of believing. What other positive things can I say about this week?
·         I watched a few episodes of “Mad Men” and became deeply grateful for the progress we have made in racism, sexism, health and so many more things in the 21st century. Maybe we have made some progress.
·         Finley is now the proud owner of a Captain America costume and sometimes I can use “What would Captain America do?” as a motivator to get him to do the right thing.
·         The garage is clean and David can park his Jeep in it again. That was all his doing. Pretty amazing if you ask me.
·         Gavin spent hours with me in my studio drawing. This week he says he wants to be an artist when he grows up. We’ll see on that, but he knows how to get on his momma’s good side!
·         At the doctor’s office we discovered this year Taylor has put on a lot of weight and grown a couple inches…after struggling with being sick for a couple years, it is great to see him healthy.
·         I met local artists at a gallery opening and was inspired to make another step forward. I have loved crafting for so long….but I have to keep making the transition to painting and fine art. It will happen!
·         David and I will be celebrating our 13th anniversary. It’s no easy feat, but so very worth it. Marriage is not for sissies!
So, that’s this week. How about you? Can you find a reason to make every week the best week ever? Will you celebrate Happy Hour with me? I’ve got Sangria and a smile…


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Confessional: A Citizen's Speech

I will speak my hard honest opinion on this 10th anniversary. An evil man at the bottom of his watery grave is rolling over victorious today. We are fighting terrorism, racism, extremism, injustice and inequality and in the same breath we slowly become that thing which we abhor. We are struggling through loss of life, homelessness, poverty, weakening education, cracking infrastructure, and crumbling moral, yet our leaders are more polarized, pointing more fingers and unwilling to compromise in order to bring us out of this turmoil. Love is Lost. “United We Stand” is a forgotten sentiment and in its place is a nation divided against itself.
In the weeks and months following September the Eleventh  we stood arm in arm in solidarity. We held hands and cared for our American neighbor. For we had all lost. We were all forever changed. But we vowed we would not let the enemy win. We would hold strong as One. One country. One people. One testament of strength in the face of anyone who would do us harm. Do you remember that feeling of loss and heartbreak for all 300 million of us at once? And the feeling that followed when we raised the flag out of the ashes and onto our rooftops, overpasses and car windows? We had a moment in time where we could look at a stranger and know that our differences didn’t matter because we were in this together.
But something happened. And like lemurs we all jumped off the cliff together into a senseless void. We lost our way. Lost our souls. And hardened our hearts and slowly allowed the enemy to win. What have we done to this great nation? How in the world can we pull ourselves up from this darkness? Hope will not be found in the actions of our leaders, our Congressmen, our CEOs, our Generals, or the petty thief willing to take the last nickel of our American Pride. No change will be found in those great hypocritical voices you are waiting to speak up for you! This is not somebody else’s mess to walk past and leave for another generation.
Patriotism comes from inside. It rests on your shoulders; you carry the burden on your back to make this change. It is what we choose as citizens to do differently today that will determine if we can stand united tomorrow. Will you put racism and judgment aside? Will you get off your soapbox of righteousness and be humbled? Will you reach out to your neighbor and help raise the barn? Will you put the anger aside long enough to make your voice of encouragement heard? Will you stop believing the hype and trust in your heart? Will you love your country? Do not ignore the opportunity. When we all make the step together, it is louder than any bomb. And only then when we begin to care enough and find compassion again will we turn this story around, honor to the sacrifices made on that fateful day and give it the grande finale it deserves.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Feed Them Breakfast

I don't think I need to extol the virtues of breakfast. I won't repeat what you have heard a million times, but it's true. Not just for them, but for you! So, instead of regurgitating the facts I will just give you a week's worth of very good choices that take only 15 minutes or can be prepped the night before so you can't make anymore excuses for yourself or your family!

DAY ONE: Whole grain French Toast, topped with mango, plain greek yogurt and real maple syrup. Kids might prefer vanilla yogurt, but the contrast of the plain with sweet fuit and maple syrup is what makes this one yummy! What other fruit is in season? Strawberries, peaches, pears...it's your call!

Mango topped Whole Wheat French Bread


DAY TWO: Whole Grain Oatmeal Banana Bread. My kids are picky about whole grains and substitutions, but they love this bread. Make a couple loaves the night before and you have a couple days worth of breakfast. We like to toast a slice and top with cream cheese. You could make these modifications for pumpkin bread or zuchini bread.

Here is my recipe conversion of the classic Banana Bread:

5 ripe bananas
2/3 c. Greek Yogurt
2 eggs
3/4 c. demera sugar
1/4 c. honey
2 c. flour (King Arthur's whole wheat white flour)
1 c. oat flour (Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbs. baking powder

Mix bananas, yogurt, eggs, sugar and honey. Add all the dry ingredients. Mix well. Pour into two greased bread pans. Optional - sprinkle top with dry oats and demera sugar. Bake in a 350 F oven for 50-55 minutes or until cooked through. Let cool completely before slicing. Keeps well if wrapped and at room temperature.


Low Fat Oatmeal Banana Bread

DAY THREE: Home cooked "McMuffin" Come on, you haven't thought of this? Scramble some eggs, top with real cheddar cheese and add a slice of (natural, nitrate free) ham to your English Muffin! You could use a whole grain muffin, or a sweet cinnamon raisin bagel, or toast, etc...top with turkey bacon or turkey sausage to keep it light but change it up every once in awhile. This breakfast is a great one to make and take - or as I like to do, send with my husband to work so he eats something besides Pop Tarts!
Homemade "McMuffin"

DAY FOUR: Oatmeal. It's loved in our house. But I never make instant. Buy the 5 minute cooking oatmeal, following the portion size you need to fit your family (then add an extra serving or two because you will come back for more) and then throw in the good stuff while it's cooking. In this version I made Apple Raisin Oatmeal. Added cinnamon and vanilla, too. I topped mine with pumpkin and sesame seeds. Other versions we have gobbled up at our home would be Purple Monster Oatmeal - blueberries that burst when cooking make the whole dish purple! Mango Maddness Oatmeal. Peaches and Cream Oatmeal. The trick to healthy natural oatmeal is to throw the fruit and spices in about three minute before it is done cooking. The fruit naturally sweetens the oatmeal but still retains it's texture this way. If you still like your oatmeal sweeter add a little honey or demera sugar, but taste it first to see how much you will need. This stuff really is good on it's own!

Disappearing Apple Oatmeal

DAY FIVE: Breakfast Burritos. Or Tacos. I love mine on these corn tortillas made by La Tortilla Factory. But how, you ask, do I have time to saute all those veggies? At night when I am prepping dinner, say I am making fajitas or an Indian dish, I make lots of extra onions, peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes and any other vegetable and put them aside for later. The next morning I can scramble my eggs and add already cooked veggies (the type and the amount each person likes) right to the eggs. Top with cheese or salsa and wrap up in a tortilla. Skip the tortilla and go for extra veggies if you want to stick to your diet!

Breakfast Burrito

See how easy and yummy that is? If you get up fifteen minutes earlier, then everyone can leave the door well fed! Take these ideas and go with it. Mix it up, add something else and tell me what you did. Make it yours, but just make it!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: Safe and Sound

At the end of the day, no matter how long the hurriquake lasted, if you are safe under one roof together, then it’s a good day. This week was just that simple. Plus we are lucky that after a whole lot of dancing with Mother Nature we are left unharmed. Or better than that, we are closer than before, well rested, and properly prepared for the next time! So, yeah, I’m kicking back this afternoon with an icy margarita after a week of beautiful sunshine and enjoying the best week ever!
And you? Grab a drink while I share with you some of my favorite blog posts from the past and maybe one of them will remind you why this was your best week ever, too!
Welcome to Belgium My first blog post ever, back in the day when I lived in Europe.

See You Later, Not Goodbye When my husband was deployed to Afghanistan in 2008.

Perfectly Perfect Recounting the birth of my third son and the trouble we had with his kidney.

LudiCristmas My thoughts on Christmas 2008, which still hold true today.

My Final Paper The last paper I wrote for a college course - it's about divorce, not camping.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow About leaving Belgium and moving home in 2010.

Significant Changes The moment I decided to bravely post my plans for the future.

Go Find Yourself My first challenge as I ramped up the amount of work I was putting into blogging.

Sunday Confessional A moment of honesty about who I am, and that we all could use some honesty about our faults.

Sweat and Tears Time to get real and start taking care of the one body we have been given.

Where You Invest Your Time Don't forget this month's Challenge - Come on and give it a try, you'll be glad you did!


And on a final note - if you brave enough you will read THIS POST on another blog. The Brave Girls Club is a cool idea. But this post had me in tears today because, well, it's sad and inspiring AND exactly what I am trying to achieve in my outlook in life. Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ten Before the Tenth: Where You Invest Your Time

"Where you invest your love, you invest your life." Mumford and Sons
Summer is winding down and school has begun again. I can feel the closing of another year. Time passes quickly and when I think about it I choke on my heart welling up inside of me. Slow down days!
I wake every morning grateful to begin a new day so full of possibility. Glad again to see each face of the people I love; the people I share my every day. The coffee is poured, lunches are made and encouragement is shared before a foot is set out the door. What gets me out of bed is the motivation to make another good day happen.
As dusk settles in I know the hours have passed and another day is out of my hands. Time slips quietly away from me; a little stream picking up speed until it becomes a raging river rushing out to sea. And like water, I cannot hold on to time.
 I lay my head down again tonight, satisfied that we are all safe under one roof, but sorrowful that all my hopes for the day were not accomplished and the memories I hold on to are an attempt to put the brakes on an ever increasing fast pace life. I close my eyes wondering how I can do it differently. How can I do it better tomorrow? What choices will I make to improve the next dozen days of my life? If the world is spinning in circles around me, what direction am I going to step off in? What am I saying back to the world about what is important to me? How will I invest my time?
On the first of every month I like to post a challenge in hopes of inspiring you to do better, be better, and maybe spread a little goodness. This month I am asking you to get serious about how you spend your days and where you invest your time. It is never too late to re-access the year. September leaves us with four more months and more than enough time to make changes and set new goals. Take the time now to make a list of TEN meaningful things you will do before the end of this year. Concrete, abstract, a big project or a daily habit; it doesn’t matter as long as it’s important to you, your future, and the people you affect the most.
You have until the 10th at 6pm EST to report back here and share your list. Share what you can, but I encourage you to do so because when you put it out to the world you will find yourself more accountable. As usual, I have a gift. This month everyone wins one of my new hand carved, hand pulled lino cut art prints if you participate. (You must send me your address via e-mail once you have completed the challenge!) And, of course, you will have my gratitude!
Are you up for the challenge?
Are you ready to make every moment count?