Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 - Gratitude and More

My last post of the year.  It's raining.  It's cold.  We had our bikes all loaded up to take a ride and the skies opened.  Rained like no tomorrow and it's still coming down.  Even heard a thunder clap or two.  I've been thinking about the new year coming up and what changes I'd like to make in my life.  I'm not a great one for making resolutions, but I do like to try to tweak things a little.  Strive for little improvements here and there.  In fact, there are so many areas for improvement that it gets a little overwhelming, so I try to just stick to one or two.
I think, overall, I'd like to be more grateful.  Gratitude for everything.  For the health I do enjoy.  Ignore the little twinges and swollen joints.  Be grateful that there is good help out there to take advantage of.  Be grateful that I can always continue to learn more about healthy living and healthy eating, and incorporate more of both into my life.  No whining that I can't do this, or can't do that.  Be happy that I have my bike, and a biking companion, and mostly blue skies to ride in.
You know what else I'm grateful for?  Good skin.  I know, it's a little thing, and not so very important in the big picture, but it's one less thing I have to stress about.  My mother is 82 and her skin glows.  I'm happy that I tend to take after her in that respect.  I'm learning to take better care of myself, and hopefully, at 82, my skin will glow like hers does.  I got one of those Clarisonic things for Christmas that clean your face with a soft brush, and this girl has NO clogged pores anywhere now!  And it does make you glow a little bit.  My mom gave me a tip to get some Vitamin E.  I did just that yesterday, and it really keeps the skin around your eyes soft and moisturized!  Who knew?  Goodbye, expensive eye creams!  Or, at least sayonara to most of them.
Those two things - health and good skin - are somewhat related.  It's hard to have one without the other.  So I'm thankful that I have an interest in keeping the status quo.  In continuing on with good habits, and learning better ones.
It almost goes without saying that I'm grateful for the awesome husband I have.  He supports me, loves me even when I'm ridiculous, and tries so hard to help me with everything.  He's taught me so much about love and being selfless - and he is far better at it than I am.  But I'm learning, and I try to do something each day that will make his life a little easier or more comfortable, or even just more delicious.
Ditto for the kids.  Each one brings something unique to the table.  Each one has their own special blend of awesome.  Andrew is sweet and easy to be around.  He never rocks the boat, he is never demanding.  He has health issues that are a worry, but he is a young man who doesn't like to be a bother.  You can do anything with him and he is fine with it.  Soothing is the word for Andrew.  The others are opinionated.  They are, each one, strong willed and outspoken.   They have strong spouses who are both delightful and determined in their personalities.  L and I are quiet by nature, and every so often the sheer force of their natures are a little overwhelming, but we wouldn't have it any other way.  They are people who know what they want, and they know how to get it.  I wish I'd had half of their confidence when I was their age.  I would have saved myself a lot of grief, I can tell you that.  So we're proud parents, and we wouldn't change a thing.  I'm grateful for the joy they bring into our lives, and for the pride I feel in the people they've become, and for the lessons they've taught me.  (Sooo many lessons and humbling experiences!)
And then there are the little ones.  Lexi and Mia are 6 and kind, and giggly - lovers of all princesses. Matthew is 5 and actively determined to figure out everything.  Hayden is also determined and announces that she is "a grumpy old troll girl" when things don't go her way (but she has her mother's husky laugh when life is good).  Skylee is 1 and busy learning about the world as only a 1 year old can.  I am so very grateful for each one.  Each one brings a smile and a joie de vive into my boring adult world, as only a small child can.  I always want to snuggle up to such innocence in the hopes that it will rub off like stardust on me, and I can take it home to brighten things up.
And then there are the hundreds and thousands of little miracles that occur each day and every day, all year long.  Those little happenings that we tend to brush off as "coincidences."  I'm not so sure, and in the coming year I want to try to be more aware and more grateful for them, as I'm pretty sure we are watched over more than we think - by angels of a sort, for lack of a better universal term.  I had a near disaster on Christmas Eve.  I'd made two pans of scalloped potatoes for dinner at my brother's house.  We had sliced the potatoes and put everything together in the pans, and all that was left was to pour warm cream over all of it, and pop them into the oven for an hour.  We were going to L's mom's house for an hour and just before leaving I yelled down to L to put them in the oven.  And off we went.  Just as we reached his mom's house (5 minutes away from ours) I had a sudden thought unrelated to anything I had been thinking about: I had forgotten to pour the cream over the potatoes.  I had to go back immediately and do that or they would have been ruined.  Now, you can say it was a coincidence, but I kind of like to think it was my Grandma gently reminding me.  She, who was a champion of family dinners, and serving others wouldn't have wanted my potatoes to be ruined.  I want to notice these things more, and also listen better to promptings I may receive to do for others.  We all get them, but they're easy to brush off, again, as silly ideas - things we may not be comfortable doing.  I want to rise to the occasion, put myself out of my comfort zone, and serve.  Make someone's day with a kind act, a kind word.  Maybe it's anonymous.  Even better.
So that's the kind of year I'd like to have.  Full of gratitude, health, family, friends and service to others. I've not always been good at all of these things, and certainly not all at the same time, and some of them are a stretch, for sure.  We don't always have all aspects under our control.  But as much as possible, I have to ask myself: why not me, and why not now?  Because if not now, never seems a likely possibility, and that would be a life wasted for sure.  Now is the time to try, to give it my best effort.  It starts today.

Happy New Year, everyone!  Wishing you all the best, and hoping that you, too, will discover the things that you need to do and accomplish, starting today.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sweetness of the Season

The big day is almost here.  The last three days have been a whirlwind of baking and wrapping and preparation.  There have been 3 types of cookies baked, 2 batches of banana bread (with macadamia nuts!) orange blueberry scones, and pumpkin cinnamon rolls made.  A batch of home made granola.  It's more baking than I do in a year.  And still, tomorrow, I have a large pan of scalloped potatoes and molasses biscuits to make and bake for Christmas Eve dinner with my family, plus Creme Brulee French Toast to prepare for Christmas morning.  Both yesterday and today I took a nap.  Had to.  I'm just not used to being on my feet that much, and for that long.  Much aspirin and Advil was consumed to ease my poor achey joints.  But I've enjoyed it all.  Every last cookie and baked good.  Every baking session working side by side with L - he rolled the cookie dough into balls, and I did the rest, either filling them with jam or topping the chocolate ones with crushed peppermint candy.  He was great moral support and enthusiastic helper.  And today he let me doze off while cuddled up watching "Miracle on 34th Street."  Sweet respite!
You would think that I would have eaten a ton of sweets with all of the baking, but strangely, being surrounded by that much sugar and butter totally dampened my desire for it.  I still haven't eaten one single cookie...
We all have our most cherished memories of each holiday, favorite vignettes, and number one quotes of the day.  These make up the stories of our lives and give us family traditions and tales that are retold year after year.
So far, my favorite quotes have been these:

Santa to Hayden: "What can Santa bring you this year?"
Hayden: "A present."

Santa to Mia: "And what would you like Santa to bring you?"
Mia: "You can surprise me."

Such simple and sweet expectations, and accompanied by one of the most charming Santa Claus images I've ever seen:

But the all-time award-winning quote of the Christmas season has to belong to my niece Emily's little girl:

"And they brought the baby gold, Frankenstein, and myrrh."  - Josie, age 4

I'm still laughing at that one.  Of course, this is the little girl who wants to marry Godzilla, so clearly, clearly there is a random streak somewhere in her brain.

Lastly, I saw this on a friend's Facebook page, and it kept me laughing, while reminding me to keep things simple.

May you all have a very Merry Christmas season with your families, friends, and loved ones.  Savor the memories, the glad tidings, whispered Christmas wishes, and the love.  Always the love.  And remember that it all started with the greatest gift of all - the birth of our Savior in a humble manger under Bethlehem's star.  Remember that most of all.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Christmas Wish

The Christmas season is ramping up.  Malls are hectic, and I've tried my best to avoid them.  And other than Target, I've succeeded in staying away from the confusion and jostling that take away (for me) the Christmas spirit.  I was lucky this year to be able to get my thoughts and gifts organized, ordered online, and either sent or received in plenty of time to be finished with my shopping by the first week in December.

L and I decked our halls last weekend.  We trimmed the tree, and it flowed together easily for a change.  L had wrapped the lights on the tree while I was still in Texas (yes, we are old school, and don't have a pre-wired tree) and so it's my job to hang everything else on it.  This usually culminates with frustration and mild obscenities when it comes time to do the top.  It's loosely made up of a large golden bow with long curly ends, 2 or 3 other long ribbon garlands, and then I loosely fit gilded branches and berries into the whole thing so it looks wild and unconstructed.  It's always a delicate balance getting those branches to stay put and at just such an angle, and normally I end up with bad words tripping off my tongue as I (almost) fall into the tree for the 10th time.  For some reason, this year it went together without a hitch.  Magical and beautiful, and I was thrilled that, for once, decorum had reigned supreme.  As with the tree, the rest of the downstairs went together with ease.  Where I usually struggle (and fail) to remember just how and where I'd placed things the previous year, this year everything seemed to know just the perfect place to be.  Sweet silent night.

I love my little dining table this year.  The beautiful wounded - and healed - reindeer and the jolly elf riding astride are the perfect centerpiece, set off beautifully by the glittered trees we'd already had.  It's a pity we won't be having Christmas Eve dinner at my house this year, but at least I can look at a beautifully appointed table every day.  In case you hadn't guessed we've been eating a lot in front of the TV this month - partly so the effect isn't ruined, and partly because the days have been so busy.  But come Christmas morning we'll have a gorgeous brunch at our festive table, and enjoy the whole effect.

The lovely new angel graces the mantle this year and is a perfect addition.  The room is fun to be in during the day with all of the bright and glittering ornaments, but at night it takes on a special look, with the twinkling glow of the tree lights reflecting off of the gold and sparkly items placed around the room.  It's warm and beautiful, and sets the stage perfectly for the true spirit of Christmas to abide.  Even L's train set and Christmas house seem to make me want to settle in and be cozy with family and friends.

Presents are wrapped, menus are planned, and the list of treats to be made is ready to be implemented.  This next week will be scented with gingerbread, cinnamon, and peppermint.  The kitchen will be warm and carols will be playing.  Our home will be warm and bright with Christmas spirit and peace, as I hope yours will be also.  In that vein, to steer our troubled hearts away from evil deeds and mayhem, and plant a seed of hope for good things to come, I offer you the following music for you to enjoy.  I'm a huge fan of John Schmidt and this is his latest offering for Christmas - and as luck would have it, it's one of my all time favorite pieces of Christmas music.  So peaceful, so majestic - it illustrates perfectly the wondrous miracle that occurred in that stable so many years ago.  It conjures up the bright star, the shepherds' wonder, the adoring wise men, and the amazing angel choirs singing to welcome the sweet baby in the manger who was the Savior of the world.  Whether you share my faith or not, this beautiful piece will settle your hearts and minds for a long winter's nap, and help restore your peace, sanity, and hope for a better world - my little gift to all of my blogging friends.  Merry Christmas to all -

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Back From Texas, Y'all...

Doesn't it seem like Thanksgiving was 6 months ago?  So old news.  I spent the past weekend in Austin, Texas visiting Scott and Ashley.  Can I just say I love Texas?  Granted, I've never been anywhere other than the Austin area, but I loved it.  The weather was beautiful, the locals were nice, and I had the best company all weekend.
Scott picked me up at the airport and we wound our way back to their apartment, waving a little hello to downtown Austin as we drove past.  It looked like a city I would like to go to.  Scott's apartment was great!  The apartment they had here in California was tiny (one bedroom) and had no storage space for anything.  It was next to a baseball field and not that far from a bad part of town, so their cars either got broken into (and totaled in the process) or balls from the field would smash their windshields.  No bueno.  Their new apartment is on the 2nd floor, and there are 2 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms, as well as a living room, dining area, a nice little kitchen, and a laundry room.  Yes folks, they are now the proud owners of their own washer and dryer!  Can you remember that milestone in your lives?  I certainly do.  It was a wonderful day when that happened.  Angels sang. No more laundromats, and random clothing articles mixed in with yours!
I also got to meet the new member of the family - this little guy:

His name is Kingsley, and he's one of the sweetest dogs I've ever had the pleasure to meet.  Apparently Texas is very dog friendly, and many restaurants have outside patio dining areas where you can take your dog with you.  And that's exactly what we did.  We went for barbecue and it was So.Good.  I chose a combo plate with brisket and turkey.  I have to admit that turkey wouldn't have been my first choice but I went with the waitress's recommendation and it was amazing.  Melted in your mouth.  It was all served with cole slaw, beans, potato salad and really good bread.  Yes, I know - many many carbs, but I was on vacation and I hadn't eaten all day.  So I enjoyed it.  We fed Kingsley little bits and he was a happy dog.
When we got back to the house, Ashley came home from work soon after.  So good to see her!  She just started a new job managing a beautiful flagship Sperry Topsider store in the Dominion shopping mall.  It's all outdoors - like walking down the streets of a beautiful little town, it is.  If you're in the area, you must stop into that store - I managed to bring a new pair of topsiders home with me - gray wool with brown leather trim.  Very, very cute.  And don't get me started on the baby and kid size shoes...
They gave me my own room to sleep in and I had one bathroom all to myself - heaven!  I slept well that night, and the next morning Scott and I went to breakfast at a little Mexican place in Austin.  Kind of hole in the wall, but everyone says you must eat breakfast there, and so we did.  And we were not sorry, either.  Apparently, deliciousness abounds in Texas.  After breakfast, some exercise was in order, so we picked up the Muff (I don't even think he knows his name is Kingsley - we just called him the Muff) and went to the dog park.  Now, the thing about poor Kingsley is that he was abandoned by the side of the road - that's how Scott and Ashley came to get him from the shelter.  He is determined not to be left again and he is so busy following right at Scott's heels that he doesn't play much.  Once in awhile he would forget and run off, but then he remembers and comes running back to Scott.  I tried to get more pictures of him, but when he'd hear the beep of the camera focusing he'd look the other way.  I managed to get one decent one:

Later in the day, after Ashley got home, we went to one of those theaters where they serve you dinner while you watch the movie.  I'd never done that before (new-fangled theaters...) and I'm here to say that I'm sold.  We saw Skyfall, and it was awesome.  Even better that you could enjoy a really good sandwich and fries while you took it all in.  L and I will have to do that.  We got back home entertained, bellies full, and tired from the busy day.
On Sunday we got up, leashed up the pooch and went to a place called North x Northwest for brunch.  It was a gorgeous day, and perfect for sitting outside enjoying our food.  All I'm going to say is that I had poached eggs on shrimp and crab cakes with Hollandaise sauce.  Need I say more?
Best. Breakfast. Ever.  There were other dogs on the patio enjoying their outings with their families and it was a perfect morning.
After breakfast we headed to a town about a half hour away from Round Rock.  I think it was called Solana or Soldana.  Any of you Texas people know where I'm talking about?  As you drive into this little town you cross over a river and there was a beautiful church at the top of the river bank.  Down closer to the river, there were 3 large angel sculptures fashioned in metal with green wreaths tied with red bows fastened onto them.  It was such a beautiful sight!  Of course, I wasn't prepared to take a picture... The town itself had a long street that was lined with large old oak trees and had lots of cute little shops, cafes, businesses and a little bed and breakfast inn.

We strolled up and down, and I enjoyed how welcome Kingsley was in each little shop. We bought fudge in a one shop, and I found a treasure trove of Christmas decorations in another.

It was a fun afternoon, and it was great to be out and about on such a beautiful day.  It wasn't until we got home that I realized how much trouble I was going to be in trying to get my new purchases home.  I repacked, rearranged, and finally wrapped the large reindeer and angel in bubble wrap and put them in a canvas tote that became my "purse" for the flight home.  My real purse got emptied and tucked into a compartment of my carry on piece.  And I was careful.  So, so careful.  And still, the reindeer broke.  Oh, the CARNAGE!  I was a sad girl when I saw what had happened.

But a few minutes with Super Glue, and L had the whole thing looking brand new.  Me?  I would have glued my fingers together.  The elf I bought will "ride" on the reindeer as part of my dining table centerpiece.

And the angel came home in perfect shape.  She will be part of the fireplace mantle decorations.

And so the trip came to an end.  I came home tired but happy.  It was good to see where the kids live and work.  Now, when I try to picture what they're doing, I have a good visual in my head.  It's comforting and helps me not to miss them so much.  You may wonder if I took any pictures of Scott and Ashley.  Yes.  Yes I did.  But they were for their Christmas card, and if I scooped them on that, they would never forgive me.  So I'll have to post it later.
And now, it's on to thoughts of Christmas, and decorating the house and tree.  We had an onslaught of ants - probably from the rain we had - and they've kept me so busy trying to exterminate them I haven't gotten anything out yet.  I don't know about you, but ants make me uneasy.  There's just so many of them at a time, and they're sneaky.  First here, and then they're pouring out of a different microscopic opening.  GAH!  But this weekend is the target for decking the halls.  How are all of you coming?  Shopping done?  Feeling ready?  It'll be here before we can wink.  Ho ho ho...

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