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,, 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 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,'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, 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?