Category Archives: Life Life

A Change Philosophy

It’s unavoidable. If you live, you experience change. Change in weather, change in priorities, change in location, change in association…the list goes on. It terrifies some and excites others but we all experience it over and over again – it’s unavoidable.

That simple fact drives me to embrace it. I have that logic sometimes. I’ve been hedging my bets on wishes for years. You know; the necklace clasp is in front so kiss it and make a wish or blow out birthday candles and make a wish or blow an eyelash off your fingertip and make a wish…all these opportunities to declare what/who you really want. I always wished for the same thing: fun. I wished I’d have fun that afternoon or evening or even just for a good day that day. I knew there was a very good chance those wishes would come true, so I just kept (keep) on making them. And you know what? I’ve found a tremendous sense of power in my wishing. Who hasn’t thought it would be wicked-cool to make wishes come true? I can do it. I do it all the time:)

first day of schoolKiddo is in his second week at a new school. This change came one week after returning from our visit with family and friends in South Africa. He had a double ear infection (then undiagnosed) and I didn’t get him to bed on time the Friday, Saturday or the Sunday before his first day…nor the Monday or Tuesday following it. We had our reasons and he got some good naps in but wow…how’s that for some change?

And still, his reports from school have been glowing. He’s been so excited to go there and his teacher is complimentary of his manners (score: 1 Mama) and besides peeing himself a little during his first few naptimes, he’s dealing well with the change at school. At home, of course, it’s a slightly different story.

Llama llama, mad at mama. If there is a whine to be given, I’m getting it. Meltdowns, temper tantrums and all things four and fearsome (ok, he’s 3.5 but he started his terrible 2’s early, too!) are directed at me – and me alone. Fair enough, I am the instigator of much of this change, but his current tactics won’t get him anywhere with the rest of the world and it’s my job to teach him that; by not indulging him now.*

Kiddo needs to learn how to roll with the punches – because there will be punches. I’m hedging my wishes (for him to grow into a happy adult) by teaching him to do so. I wish for him to see a lesson in every challenge, an adventure in every detour and potential in every surprise. I want him to have fun.

I suspect more grown ups would have fun if they responded to change the way kiddo did the past couple of weeks. It’s ok to pee yourself a little when it sneaks up on you but try and use your manners while in company and save your craziness for those you trust can take it. That exercise of discipline alone should make it easier for you to start seeing a lesson in every challenge, an adventure in every detour and potential in every surprise. And if you’re still struggling? Plant some perennials, take up a weekly class or create some other constant in your life. But please make what you can of the changes, too.

I’m always surprised when my perennials come in…
the yard becomes so familiar again!
Still, with their leaving they’ve brought forth a change~
though each time different, they will come again.

*DISCLAIMER: Hubby would argue I’m more indulgent than I should be…he’s right.

So how about you? Are you a change-a-holic or a change-a-phob? What constants have you created in your life you can come back to again and again when change becomes overwhelming?

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A Sense of Place

I’ve felt at home many places in my life. My childhood room, summer camp, dorm rooms, staff quarters, apartments and homes.  I’ve always enjoyed new starts in fresh places and the challenges were met in great part because I was able to identify a safe place, a home base, where I could recharge, reflect and renew. These bases allowed me to venture out into new territories while still carrying a sense of place in my heart. Even in my most awkward stages of life, I have been able to identify a place to cry, pray or sit with my thoughts. The roof of my parents’ house, the cab of my first car, a state park in Nashville, the Loch trails of Scotland, a porch in South Africa. Each spirited me forth anew with balanced confidence, no matter the blows I took before or after.

I thought about this, what I’ll call a “sense of place”, when I went down to my family’s farm for my birthday the other weekend. I love that place. I always have. Such a delightful mix of dirt and sunshine and old and new. I came there as a child to run and explore and play and I go there as an adult to…well, run and explore and play. No matter that I have no legal rights to the land. I have claimed it with my heart and in the event it is transferred or sold I have still felt that sense of place with my feet in that dirt and it can be recalled through a memory, a photo or a story.

I think perhaps the ease with which I recall this sense of place is the product of practice. My mother and father made me equally welcome in both their homes, in both their lives. They also thrust me out alone into the world early in my childhood, my first stint away from home being two weeks at a girl’s camp in North Carolina when I was six years old. I learned to make Cabin 1 on Hillbrook Hill a home and from there the sky was the limit.

How important it becomes when you’ve been thrust out into the world to be able to identify and claim a “home” of your own; to carry and exert a sense of place no matter the territory. This translates easily to confidence and ease, both graces that attract others to your little circle of life. I know in my own life it’s been when I have had the least sense of place that I have had the fewest comforting companions; that I’ve felt most alone. It’s then I’ve had to be carried through by my faith that I will feel those feelings once again, that I’ve had to reflect on those places, or even that I’ve had to run to those places to remember the certainty they bolster; to recharge my sense of place.

How awful it must be if you’ve not felt these feelings. I can hardly begin to understand the struggle to find balance when you’ve never felt a sense of place. I’m sure there are those people out there. Unsettled, still searching people who never seem to relax completely. Looking for a place where they can let down their guard and recharge; prepare to go out into the unknown with perceptible balance and grace. Entire foundations have been built to provide this sense of place to people who have none. People have dedicated their lives to helping others achieve it. It is a powerful need, indeed.

Find a place for yourself. Go there and recharge. Prepare for the next day of your life and prepare to live it with balance and grace. Trust me when I say it will be easier each time you consciously do so. And, when the opportunity presents itself, please do what you can to welcome others and give them that same sense of place to carry with them. It’s a gift like no other.

This post is dedicated to the people of Rainbow Village; may your blessings be bountiful and your sense of place strong.

A Pot Luck

I like pot lucks for several reasons. They lift the burden off host(s), ensure everyone who comes will have at least one thing to eat they like, are an opportunity to show off and never leave me hungry. I like to see what people were proud to make and hear the stories behind the dishes.  I also like the pot lucks where everyone chips in on the work, offering their services and expertise;) They are generally gatherings of like minds…I just dig ’em, ok?
(duh)

So this post is going to be a pot luck of sorts. I’ve been working hard this week and have ideas and plans and well, it was my birthday for Pete’s sake! So I’m just going to throw out a few of the things that have been floating around my mind and see what you do with them. Oh, and I also wrote a post on the VikingToGo site we just launched. The Community is still a little buggy (email notifications are not going through at time of publishing) but I enjoyed writing the first blog post and I hope you will enjoy reading it. You can check it out here:

A Foodie Knows No Borders

Have I mentioned what my go-to pot luck dish is, by the way? Baked brie. Easy enough to keep puff pastry in the freezer and just buy a wheel of brie when you have an event. Wrap it in the thawed pastry, topping the cheese first with a dollop of jam. Brush with egg (less waste with Egg Beaters) and top with some nuts. I usually have shaved almonds on hand. I also like to drizzle some honey over it about halfway through the baking process. Anyway, cook it at about 350 F and/or according to the pastry directions (I’d say about 40 min.). Let it cool at least 10 minutes before cutting it…otherwise it gets crazy runny. Serve with crackers and Bob’s your uncle!

So here’s my baked brie for this week’s pot luck:

  • My family’s visit to the family farm last weekend fell on a weekend when work needed to be done for my cousin’s new blueberry endeavors. How wonderful to spend that time growing food with my family in the south Georgia sun. That and the slip and slide was also very cool:). Anyway all this had me thinking about what it means to have a Sense of Place. I think that will be my next set of musings
  • I made my first batch of laundry detergent and it’s brought my cost per load to about a cent. It took me 35 min of work and I’m sure I can do it in less time next time. I have detergent coming out of my yen yang, too! Oh and more importantly, it works – well – in my high efficiency machine. Well done, Suite101.com:

Making your own Laundry Detergent

  • I have all the ingredients I need to make my first batch of sunscreen. Keep your fingers crossed/thumbs held for me, please! I’ll let you know how it goes!
  • Have you planted everything you planned to plant this year? I still have some things that need to get in the ground…I’m getting behind…

Hope everyone has a great week! 🙂

Mouthgasm 2010: Sandestin

For those of you who read last week’s post, you know I needed to chill out. I did:) On Thursday afternoon I headed out to Florida with some of my best friends for some R&R on the Emerald Coast. We arrived just past 9 pm and by 10pm we were seated at Tommy Bahama’s for our first mouthgasm. The instigators?

LOKI-LOKI TUNA POKE
Fresh Ahi tuna, soy and sesame oil layered with freshly made guacamole and served with Tommy’s flatbread and tortilla strips

SOUTH SEAS SCALLOP SLIDERS
Pan seared, fresh basil, roma tomatoes, chipotle aioli, crispy “Tobacco” onions with Asian slaw

BAHAMA BASIL SMASH
Tommy Bahama White Sand Rum, muddled blackberries, basil and fresh ginger, “from scratch” sour mix and Sprite

Friday morning we headed over to the beach (first and last time…very odd for me on a beach trip) for a couple of hours and then hit Wine World (aka Chan’s) for some lunch and to peruse the gourmet cheeses (we ultimately bought blueberry cheese, jalapeno havarti & two large mozzarella blocks). After lunch we went to pick up some groceries and found we were all on the same, healthy mission. We didn’t end up with a bit of junk! Yogurt, dried fruit, nuts, juices & fresh vegetables were the picks of the day and I am so thankful for it. I swear putting these good things into our bodies made all the difference in the world…especially as the level of alcohol consumption was just the slightest bit higher than usual;)

Friday night turned out to be another late night, with us only sitting down to our crab leg boil around 10pm. Mouthgasmic…

Saturday morning we went to Another Broken Egg around 11am for breakfast. As my early to rise self had already feasted on yogurt, nuts and dried fruit I decided to order “light”:

BAKED BRIE DELIGHT
A delightfully mild white cheese softened and smothered with sautéed apples, raisins & pecans in a sweet Grand Marnier butter sauce. Served with lightly toasted French bread for spreading!

BLACKBERRY GRITS

At this point we understood our meals were off schedule. We embraced it. Some fun in the sun then we picked up some fresh fish for supper and hopped in the golf cart to go over to The Village for  oysters Christine was just dying to introduce us to: raw, served with wasabi and soy sauce…mmm…

We walked by a sushi place on the way to oysters…it seemed appropriate to stop for an appetizer…

I had some of the best salmon nigiri I’ve ever tasted (the fish tasted better than it looked…pleasant surprise!) and lovely, soft white tuna nigiri that melted in my mouth like butter. We also had a tasty order of edamames.

Palates whetted, on we went to the Acme Oyster House at The Village in Sandestin. Beautiful, beautiful oysters. More melting mouthgasms…totally smooth. We had a dozen baked and three dozen raw. Good thing we stopped in at the sushi place, too…Acme no longer had their soy sauce & wasabi oysters on the menu, so we ran back over to Osaka Sushi Rocks to ask our new friends if we could borrow some fixin’s. I must say, hands down, this was the most interesting and divine way I have eaten oysters to date. So-very-good.

We decided to skip the midnight fish taco supper we’d planned and hit the sack at a reasonable hour Saturday night. My internal alarm clock woke me up around 6:30am Central time (thank you, kiddo) so I decided to cook them up for breakfast instead. My friend Ann had the great idea to use naan bread for the tacos…good, good, good!

Us Georgia girls hit the road for home with a pit stop at my Aunt & Uncle’s in Marianna to have a bite for lunch and bring my grandmother back up to Atlanta to spend the week with my mom. I love Ruth & Larry’s place. I got to look at their garden and new greenhouse (foreplay) before sitting down to my last mouthgasm of fresh shrimp salad with avocados, 2 hr old radishes, remoulade sauce and muffins. For dessert we had Sticky Black Bean something with ice cream. It reminded me of rice pudding but was wonderfully different at the same time. I also saw these beautiful bay leaf garlands for the first time and was absolutely fascinated by them…very cool!

I found it interesting the way this little trip of ours shook out. Our meals were not of the interior grocery store isles, but fresh concoctions- most from the sea. The trip was soon centered around these mouthgasms – they were pursued so thoughtfully they became the cornerstone of it. I snatched up my morning alone time for yoga practice and stretching. I finished Eat, Pray, Love (and cried) – so apt. As each day passed, the same two words floated around in my mind: Restorative…Elemental…

And I am restored. The lovely food, when we dined both in and out (thanks, Erin, for knowing all the best places to go!), fed me not only physically but mentally. It makes me wonder – can our greatest imbalances be leveled with some attention to elemental needs? Moderation and health in nutrition and exercise certainly seem a reasonable way to test the theory. It’s not likely to hurt you, anyway…and you might just be surprised with multiple mouthgasms in the process!

Bay Leaf Garlands

I can’t wait for Mouthgasm 2011:)

Tending the Gardens

Spring is sprung on my side of the world. My perennials are popping back up (as are weeds) and I’m sorting through my seeds figuring out what vegetables to plant in my square foot garden. Long days are upon us and I know I will soon neglect the house and the laundry in favor of the yard and gardens. This will go on a couple of months before the heavy heat of Georgia Summer chases me back in to the air conditioning where my boobs don’t sweat. Then the yard will be on it’s own until the temperatures moderate and I’m ready to venture out once again.

The yard won’t wow anyone these next couple of months. Though I will toil, my greatest rewards will be limited: the rediscovery of plants I’ve already cultured as I pull back weeds, the potting of purchased (not nursed) plants in my patio containers. I’ll kick myself for not planting more bulbs last fall and applying pre-emergent weed treatments to the lawn. I know because it went down like this last year and I made few changes to my routine to alter the outcome.

It’s hard to believe it was Easter on Sunday. This year is flying by. It seems just yesterday I was beginning my spiritual preparation for Lent, thinking about my relationships and my self…trying to identify ways I can improve both. Now here I am, a chorus of “he is risen, indeed” echoing in my head and still I find myself wondering what I’ve actually accomplished. Fortunately, my spiritual growth is not regulated by the same seasons as my gardens. I do not have to wait for next Lent to plant my bulbs. I may find the heat of introspection chases me back to my comfort zone from time to time, but those seasons are my own and I have more control over them than those that guide my physical planting.

Knowing this, I have made some conscious decisions about my yard and gardens – both physical and spiritual.

1) I will not neglect the yard just because I value the fruits of my gardens more. If I make the effort with the yard (weeding, edging) I will have to mow less frequently. I will not have to deal with the shame an unkempt yard evokes. This behavior is neighborly. My body is my yard and my soul is my garden. Though I value the fruits of the soul, I will do the hard work necessary to get my body in good shape so that I may be free of the shame an unfit one elicits. Once the hard work is done, I’ll be able to work less frequently. I’ll take pride in my healthy body and my next door neighbor (hubby) is bound to appreciate it;)

2) I will wait for the rain before I weed. There is no sense busting ass digging at roots in solid ground. That behavior only leaves me frustrated and unsatisfied. Similarly, I will not force spiritual growth on myself when my soul is not ready. Much like rain, circumstances for growth are beyond my control. There’s no sense kicking myself for not scaling some grand spiritual staircase this Lent. I’m better off working on something else until that slow, steady rain comes in it’s own time.

3) I will prioritize and make the time. No one becomes a master gardener overnight (nor a master of anything else, for that matter). I will sometimes set aside laundry or other housekeeping responsibilities to work in the yard when weather permits. For my soul? I will tear myself away from a work project to go to the Wednesday noon church service or miss a self-imposed writing deadline to play with my son. Also, as my gardens are shared with my husband’s, I will make time to tend them together – even if that means doing the “tasks” he wants to do rather than those I’d like to do.

4) I will make every effort to learn. I will identify my trusted sources, open my mind to positive influences and make every effort to soak up ideas.Through this I will achieve growth.

5) I will not be afraid to try new ideas, even if they are foreign to me. Nor will I be afraid to cast aside those that do not suit my soil, plants or climate.

6) I will share. Just as many plants can be split and rooted to grace a new space, so can positivity be shared and fostered to grace another soul.

7) I will compost. I will not cast aside scraps of food or life lessons. Instead, I will allow them to ruminate and culture, applying them when the time comes, that I may grow beautiful vegetables and the fruits of the spirit.

So there you have it – my gardening plans. I hope the exercise of writing them down helps me stick with them:) I find sometimes the best gardens are those that require little effort (thank you, zinnias!) but even when the grandest of my planting plans are left unrealized I can at least see the outlines of them to guide me the next year. Here’s to a happy season (whichever yours may be) and a yard and garden to be proud of! What about you? Have you ordered your seeds yet? Which plants will you share with friends?

Carcass 101: Stock (with a side of Dumplings)

I’ve always said I would have been great in a Depression. It’s a rare occasion when I allow food to hit the waste bin and more often than not it’s after several rounds at the table. I am a left-over reinventing queen. My hubby rolls his eyes at the end of nearly every family occasion as I pack leftovers and carcass(es) for the trip home. He later tolerates me as I clutter the kitchen, sometimes taking a shelf’s worth of space in the refrigerator with my various stages of stock-making. But when you see what you can get from what you might have thrown away…whew-ie! Totally worth it.

So here’s a little Carcass 101 with some pot luck tips…

1.  If you have a large carcass, sometimes it’s better to take your time processing it. There are good break opportunities in the process so if your life will be less complicated by slowing it down, put on the brakes. Knowing this has made the idea of starting stock at 2:00pm on a Sunday much less daunting.

2. Break the carcass if necessary to fit in your pot. I generally let my carcass occupy about 2/3 of the pot and fill it with about an inch or two of water. Add water throughout the process to maintain these approximate levels.

3. Throw in some seasoning (sugg. bay leaves, rosemary, garlic, etc.) and whatever veg you choose. Chef Shea Markwell (Cooking School @ The Viking Store) gave me a killer tip on stock veg: as you prepare veg for meals save peels, skins, ends – anything you would compost – then freeze them. Just bag ’em, tag ’em and put ’em on ice until you have the occasion to make stock again.

4. Heat your stock and simmer for several hours. I’ll sometimes turn off the flame for little stints in between once the pot gets good and hot (it keeps cooking, anyway); I just have a hard time justifying such long use of my stovetop.

BREAK OPPORTUNITY: Nothing wrong with letting the pot cool down a bit before sticking it in the fridge. You can pick up the process tomorrow by just heating it up again.

5. Place a large pot/bowl in your sink and set a colander in it. Pour your stock through and set aside the broth. Let everything cool.

BREAK OPPORTUNITY:  This is a great stopping point if you have room in the fridge for both the broth pot/bowl and the rest. Either way, you really should stick the broth in. If you leave it overnight the fat will congeal on top and you can skim it off before freezing.

6. Pick out the meat from the bones and skin and toss it into the ziplock (first label and date the bag) you’ll be freezing the stock in.

IF SKIMMING FAT: once it has congealed, skim the top of the broth with a large spoon and toss it in the bin (not down the sink!).

Skimming fat from stock 1Skim fat from stock 2Skim fat from broth

7. Add the broth to the meat, squishing it around so the meat is surrounded by it. Get as much air out of the bag as you’re able before closing it.

6. Freeze.

And there you have it – Carcass 101. Does anyone have anything to add to the process? What do you do?

When I made turkey stock on Sunday I also made a batch (this one not low fat:)) into Turkey and Dumplings for our supper. This was both my first and second attempt at dumplings…the second turning out better:) I’m going to include a link to the recipe here, as well as my notes.

Epicurious.com: Chicken and Dumplings
– I only used the dumpling recipe (the quick recipe in the footnotes) and the cooking instructions from this recipe, but I’m sure it’s all tasty:)
Instead of Bisquick, I used Aunt Jemima’s Whole Wheat Panacake Mix. I’ve also made a tomato pie crust with this and both turned out lovely :})

PS. While making this I also made my shampoo for the week.

Good Businesses in a Price Economy

I spent a few hours working my company’s booth at the Atlanta Home Show last Friday. One conversation I had was with a woman interested in purchasing new appliances. I asked her questions intended to get her thinking about her renovation needs, guided her as only a trained associate can and we parted ways with the understanding that I would have one of my sales reps contact her with more information. Just after she turned the corner of the booth, she returned. “It’s going to come down to price, you know” she informed me.

I get it – I really do.  I’ve spent more time clipping coupons and comparing prices in the past six months than ever I’ve spent before! Still, I can’t help but wonder: at what point does a price-driven economy erode our expectations for and ability to provide quality service?

On Saturday, I went to a local nursery to purchase weed killer for my lawn. I know this nursery isn’t bargain basement, but opted to go there because they offer value to me in other ways. I know I can get in and out quickly because I don’t have to cross a football field of a parking lot or wind through 20 aisles to find what I need. I walk in to a well-staffed building and am able to ask questions of a knowledgeable associate, identify the correct products for my needs, check out and have my purchases wheeled to and loaded in my car for me.

After the nursery, I went to Kroger. Several of our family’s staples were on sale and I stocked up. I did not lose any sleep over Publix’s lost sales.

Next I went to the liquor store (does anyone else hear Sublime in the background?). I could have gotten my brand of wine for less cash at Kroger, but I decided I would rather support this local store in the hopes that they will continue stocking their shelves. This seems to be a challenge in my area, so the concern is real.

Each of these decisions was value-based. I considered the value of my time, efforts and cash in each and am comfortable with the decisions I made. In the situations where I knowingly paid more than I could elsewhere I valued time and efforts over cash. When I purchased more than I’d planned at Kroger there was also a convenience value (I was already there). I may not have taken advantage of the offers had they required an extra trip to the store.

I can respect the consumers’ right to weigh their own values. I exercise mine daily. What concerns me is that a price-driven economy prioritizes cash above all other values. So much so that many are willing to drain companies of their services then purchase elsewhere on price alone. This may ultimately put those companies boasting value services in a position where their lost (or matched-price) sales prompt management to drive down costs (read: furlough, head count reductions, etc.) and cause a service level decline.

I’m not suggesting this is a foregone conclusion. I’m suggesting, rather, that in a culture holding frugality in higher esteem with each passing day, we run the risk of being swept up in a price economy and letting service fall to the wayside. There is a difference between frugality and basing purchase decisions on price alone, but the distinction between the two is fine and debatable. If we don’t pause and reflect on these decisions daily we may even lose sight of it.

If you’re planning to make a major purchase, consider the service you’ll require in making that purchase – both pre and post sale. How much time would it take you to research your purchase yourself? How much are you willing to pay to rely on an experienced salesperson to help you make those decisions instead? Take that amount and hold it in your mind as you shop around. Is saving $50 on this particular purchase worth doing business with a company you get bad vibes from or one that doesn’t provide service value? It’s your decision and it will be different in every scenario – I just think we need to be mindful and ask ourselves these questions.

Let’s be frugal. Waste not, want not. But let’s also be thoughtful, supporting businesses that aim to do good business when we are able to do so. What do you say?