Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Hour: Mint Lemonade

One of my favorite places to lunch in our little local town of Mons, Belgium was a French cafĂ© and Bakery called Le Pain Quotidian. It was the only place that served good strong coffee. All their meals were organic and prepared fresh to order! Their usual fair included open face sandwiches called tartines, fabulous salads with a homemade vinaigrette and a basket full of fresh baked breads. And I always finished with one of their desserts! Come to find out, this cute Boulangerie is an international establishment with shops in New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., The Middle East, and of course all over Europe. But it got its start in Brussels. Now I am sharing with you “Limonade du Maison.” I adored this refreshing twist on lemonade so much I had to try it at home and who knew it could just be so simple!

Squeeze the juice from about a dozen lemons and a few limes, add one cup sugar, and 3 quarts water in a big gallon jug. Add ice and a few slightly bruised stalks of mint. Mix and serve in your favorite glass. Mason jars make me happy right now! Here are a few other things that made this week the best week ever:
  • We had a spontaneous trip into DC for a visit with my brother-in-law, Sam. It was great to laugh and joke with him for an evening.
  • The kids are out of school for the summer! (but I’m still trying to decide if this is going to be a good thing!)
  • Mexican Food. Need I say more!?

  • Perfect weather all week followed by much needed rain.

  • A day off.

  • This boy:

These are just a few things that made my week the best week ever. What made this your best week ever?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday's Traveler: The Storm

“It’s a shame I only made it to Paris four times…” I can’t believe those words came spilling out of my mouth. My good friend looked at me with “that” look and I shut it before I put my foot in any more. Right? Most people would kill to go even once, while I lived just over the border of France for nearly four years. It seemed common enough to me, yet I failed to tell the story. I may not be Elizabeth Gilbert, traveling solo through 3 countries in a year (at the publisher’s expense!) But I have had a “Pilgrim’s Heart” and have made a journey or two with a story to spare. So I say why not share? There’s always a discovery worth telling when one travels beyond the front gate….

In the South of France on the Mediterranean Sea there is a small town called Cassis…. seems like the logical place to begin would be Paris, but I’m not going to start with that story. I’m not even going to start with my move to Belgium. I’m going to tell you my high seas adventure. I wasn’t lost at sea, but there was a storm coming and it didn’t look good. I was traveling with my mom, the original “Pilgrim Heart,” to the center of where all good travel stories begin; Provence and the Cote D’Azur. We had a late start to the day and wanted to squeeze in time to see the Mediterranean before sunset. Specifically, we wanted to be out in the Mediterranean. Naturally we rented sea kayaks, signed no release forms, and were instructed with a typical “C’est La Vie” casual sunny, southern French attitude to be back before closing.

We began paddling into the blue. Into the waters that reached across the ocean to break on the beaches of Morocco and Spain and Tunis. We were in that sea; the one mentioned in history books and old movies, and now we were feeling part of something much bigger. Our eyes were set on a large cliff on the other side of the bay’s opening. We had plenty of time to reach our destination, enjoy the wonder of the moment and then make our way back to land before our time was up and the old boat owner was ready to close up shop. But we did not take into account that the heat and humidity was quickly turning into a raging thunderstorm; one that comes for a visit every summer afternoon. But when you are the visitor, the host looks daunting as you stare at it rolling over the foothills, into town, and assuming right out to sea; the very sea in which you were moments ago noting you were becoming one with.

Ah yes, my mother and I are risk takers, but not fools. Lightning and water don’t mix. And though we were given no formal warnings or wavers when we signed up to paddle our own boat, we were ready to haul it back to shore before the storm overtook us. At the time we thought we might have twenty minutes to make it back before the storm, but that meant some heavy rowing because it took more than twice that to get out to the point we were at. But we did just that. We paddled our little hearts all the way back to shore, breathless and exhilarated as we proudly hustled under the first big fat rain drops. Rushing past the topless women, finally pulling their things together as the rain splattered down around us all; laughing as we caught our breath and turned the corner to meet our robust and very bronzed shop owner. He shrugged and gave us that pouted lip, raised eyebrow French look and proclaimed, “But Madame, it is only a little rain. Why hurry so much?”

Why worry so much? Mom and I thought we had dodged a bullet, but it soon dawned on us that we were the only ones trying to get out of the storm. We made our way through the villa in the rivers of rain. Locals and tourist alike took shelter together and continued with their meals and shopping and long conversations. Gentlemen pulled out Champagne and a light supper and partook right there under the awning of their local business. Kids played in overflowing fountains. Life in Cassis did not stop for the rain. Life in Cassis just got started. And for us, the evening just got started, too, as we joined the crowds to eat and celebrate the moment. There is a good reason for the longevity associated with Mediterranean coastal living; every moment is tasted, savored, and enjoyed to the last drop even if the thunder is rolling in. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Happy Hour, part 2

Happily domesticated, irreverent, retro-feminist dreamer;
Rebellious artist, mothering redheaded vikings.
I wrote my TEN last year in a challenge to my sister. I know there are many other words that describe me, but I think I will stick with my original...
In the most diplomatic way I could think of, I did the draw the old fashioned way and wrote names on paper, tossed them in the air and let the littlest child pick one up to discover our winner. AND this month is my Aunt Kathleen! I'll be visiting her soon, so I guess she knows how it will arrive on her doorstep! ;) But I have to tell you that am so pleased to have some very enthusiastic responses, excited to participate and wanting to own a little bit of something that I created. So, the rest of my lovely friends who already left their TEN, try again next month because I'm not done yet!!

Friday Happy Hour

What better way to greet Friday than to proclaim my love!  Despite all my serious posts, this is a house full of laughter and closeness. I have so much to be grateful for that I feel the need to start a new “Happy Hour” trend and share all the goodness once a week. Please join me, with or without a drink!
·         I had a margarita last night and laughed out loud. It felt good.
·         My living room is almost complete and it feels so comfortable. Even David commented that he liked the neutral panel grommet top curtains picked out. I love happy places in my own home!
·         I talked with my sister for a long time on Monday. It’s becoming a regular thing again and I realize that if we aren’t always in touch, then something is missing. It feels good to connect, even on opposite sides of the country.
·         My body remembers how to run. I am so thankful that I have the physical strength to move and get out and go, despite all the aches and pains that want to creep up on me as I add the years on to the old machine. Just keep it moving along or it’s going quit on you!
·         I got lots of hugs and kisses this week because I gave lots of hugs and kisses this week. Redheaded boys fill me up like nothing else in the world can do!
·         Have you been to lately? It’s inspiring and I want to make things. I am making things. You will see…
These are just a few things that made my week the best week ever. What made this your best week ever?
{Important Note: Ten to the Tenth is over when Happy Hour is over tonight at 7pm EST. If you haven’t had a chance to post your ten words that describe you, then go back to this post and comment now before it’s too late! I will post my TEN at that time and draw a random participant to win an original piece of art by me! Yup, I’m putting it all on the line for you! Let’s do this thing!}

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunday Confessional

From my Facebook status on March 2011:    “I have really bad days, weeks sometimes. I am unmotivated, I yell at my children, I say the F-word all. the. time. I get into fights with my husband, I have credit card debt - again, I let my kids watch too much TV and play violent video games, I obsess about getting cancer, I can't stop interrupting people, I pass judgment on the people I love the most, I spend time on the internet instead of being productive, I eat too much junk food, I say I'm going to paint, but I keep making excuses, and last week I almost ran away from home....but instead I made a joke about joining the circus. Do you really know who anyone is just by reading their posts!?” 

It's Sunday Confession and I admit I am being far too open about it. I confess that I am too quick to proclaim my great ambitions, yet slow on the follow through. I confess that I am still intimidated by a blank canvass and scrapbooking is a comfortable place to be. I confess that I am still guilty of the internet time suck. I confess that I make inspirational moments sound so much easier when I write than I can actually pull off in my daily routine. I confess that at some point I will blog about the tedious day-to-day and what my kids are doing despite stating this was not the blog for that. I confess that I love knowing people are reading what I have to say because I like “putting on a show,” in words of course.  

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."  I believe that identifying who you really are also means looking at your flaws. Maybe it’s not necessary to leave my dirty laundry airing for the public to see, but it’s freeing in a way I can not describe. We are not perfect people. I hope that for a brief moment, someone out in the cyber world reads my words and sighs in relief knowing they are not alone in the pitfalls of this human life. For those who keep it bottled up and buried at the bottom of the sock drawer, I suggest you start by being honest with yourself about who you are and where you are in life. Then turn to the people that are closest to you and do the hardest thing; admit your faults. You won’t melt, and it truly does matter. Follow by letting it go, because there is no place for guilt. Change the action or change the belief.

So, there you have it: My Sunday Confessional. You don’t have to confess anything! But you only have five days until the tenth….so leave your list of ten on my last post before it’s too late! (Oh for heavens sake! If I can admit all that I have, it makes your part easy as pie!) One more thing before it’s too late – gratuitous pictures of the people that matter most to me:

"Can you lie next to her and confess your love, your love? As well as your folly and can you kneel before the king and say ‘I’m clean’" - Mumford and Sons, White Blank Page

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Go Find Yourself!

This is not the kind of blog that details my daily routine. The one that tells you what my kids have been up to lately. Not going to tell you the details of potty training or how the garden is growing. Or the new haircut or how far I jogged yesterday in sweat and tears. Typically, this is not that blog. Somehow from the beginning I have found myself on the track of trying to find the little truths in everyday life.  It’s those moments of clarity; those bits of reality that are evidence I am still thinking for myself.
And tell me, please, if we are not all trying to sort through the daily muck to see if we are still in there thinking for ourselves! Strip down the titles and duties and shoulds and shouldn’ts….what do you have left of yourself? And how can you give back to the world and all the people you love, if you don’t really know? If you don’t have something left of yourself at the end of the day, how are you going to get up and do it all again tomorrow?
Maybe I hesitate to post my ideas sometimes because I’m not sure if I am saying the right thing at the right time to the right people, but I know deep down I have something to say or I wouldn’t have written a hundred blogs in my mind already. I have pondered very serious issues and delightful, if not crazy insights, I’ve thought of stories of my childhood and dreams of my future, and more creative ideas than I have time to do….all without writing a word! All without saying that I, too, am searching for my own personal integrity in the things I do, the words I say and the intentions I put into the world every day.
Because I believe our humanity is at stake, and because I need to refocus my creativity where it counts; I have a new plan for this blog! If you follow me you will begin to see regularly scheduled posts that will motivate me to reach out to you and hopefully motivate you to give something back as well. You could call it a give and take, interactive blog that might have everyone thinking outside the monkey box before long!
So, I start now with my first regularly scheduled blog post that I call TEN BEFORE THE TENTH. On the first of the month I will post a challenge and anyone who wishes to participate can post their reply in the comments column before the 10th of the month. To help encourage people to play along and motivate me to create I will draw a comment at random and send an original piece of art (yes, by yours truly!) as a gift for participating. I know, that’s a big commitment from me but I guess I’m serious this time! Anyone can join in and I encourage you to spread the word around to get this thing moving along! OK!?
Here you go for June’s challenge:
Describe yourself in TEN words.
Come on, I DARE you to get real and get creative! Tell me who you are!
Yup, Just that simple, and I will post my answer for you on the tenth!