Advent – Wake Up

The television and internet are designed to hold our attention. Have you ever noticed how sometimes it’s difficult to turn away? How you keep surfing channels or sites, looking for entertainment long after you’ve said there’s nothing of value there?

More and more people are taking “social media breaks” where they quit for a couple of hours or even a couple of days. All because they are aware that the pull to constantly check for status updates and read notifications is eating away at their precious time.

I haven’t quite gotten to around to something that drastic but I feel like I’m ready to try it. Ever since the autumnal equinox I’ve tried to spend the half hour around sunset each night sitting in my living room with lighted candle and a book, welcoming the darkness while I carry the light inside. It’s a ceremony I started last year and one that has given me a sense of peace and connection with the earth and the seasons and my place in both.

But even so, my typical week only sees me making two trips downstairs in the late afternoon. Because of the near-compulsion to be online to read more, watch more, connect more, even as I know I actually need to disconnect more.

That’s why I cherish Advent and Lent and the activities related to prayer and contemplation associated with both. This year I will be following AdventWord, if not always here, at least always on social media.

After lighting the first candle in the beautiful advent wreath my mother gave me (and taking a picture for social media, of course), I set down my phone and sat quietly for 10 minutes, thinking about the word for today, #WakeUp, and what it means to me.

To wake up, we first have to realize we’ve been asleep. As we come into consciousness, we leave the world of dreams and enter the world of action. We tell people to “wake up and smell the coffee” as a way to get them to see the truth about a situation. In the social justice arena, we implore folks “Stay Woke” once they’ve been able to realize the truth about how the world works, as a reminder to not slip back into habitual thinking and acting.

I admit I am not a devout Christian by anyone’s standard. If anything, I am a lapsed agnostic. My faith and spirituality doesn’t fit neatly into any of the boxes I’ve come across, and instead I’ve taken it upon myself to create my own. But even so, there a times when I find the traditions of the church I grew up in to be a valuable tool for expressing my beliefs. The rituals of reflection and prayer around Advent and Lent are especially resonant for me, coming at times in the year when such activities are welcome as a quiet space in an otherwise hectic schedule.

Advent is a time of preparation. Not just a pre-Christmas warm-up, but a time to create a space for the message and meaning of Christ’s coming. It is a time for me to reflect on what that message means to me and how I can actively live it out. Meditation and prayer are not simply one-way communications with the divine, they are part of an active and on-going conversation, filled with hope, motivation, support, and most importantly, guidance on how to be an agent for love and kindness in the world. A prayer without action is simply words — powerless, impotent, nothing more than noise. We must recognize that a prayer is a call to action. We must be the ones to carry it out into the world. To make it happen.

The command to “Wake Up” is a call to step out of our comfortable bubble and look around us. Where are we needed? Where can we help?

There are many in positions of power who would prefer we stayed asleep — unquestioning, uninterested, and uninvolved. The work to divide us, fostering hate and deception, and rewarding ignorance. They lie and tell us to fear differences, to fear change, to fear the “other.” Tragically, too many too often use Jesus’s name to do so.

As a progressive Christian, as lax as I am, it is my prayer that we can find a way to overcome that fear and hatred and replace them with love and kindness. It is my duty to make it so.

Friday Favorites – Wonder Woman Mug

I’ve written before about how dishes make me happy — bowls and plates and even a travel mug. I don’t know where this weird affection for these kinds of things comes from and, frankly, I don’t have much interest in finding out. I’m too busy enjoying my special plates and favorite mugs!

I was surprised to find this in my mail box!

Speaking of favorite mugs… a while back a friend posted on her Facebook that her husband had bought her a Wonder Woman Mug. I immediately replied with “NEED!” because, well, it’s a Wonder Woman mug, and of all the people I know who needs one, it would be me. While I’m not a comic book nerd so much (I’m slowly becoming one, though), Wonder Woman has always held a special place in my heart.

And I know I’m not alone in this. Over on my SRPS blog, I have written more than a couple of post featuring great artwork and crafty items that others have dreamed up to celebrate Wonder Woman.

Even though my “Need!” response was just a joke, I was thrilled to find one in my mailbox the within a week. Seriously. I have some amazing friends! (Thanks Carla and Greg!) And ever since then, this mug has been a regular part of my life. In fact, I’m drinking tea out of it while typing this up!


On the mornings I wake up in a kind of funk, just pulling this Wonder-full (see what I did there?) mug out of the cabinet brings a smile to my face, and helps me remember I’m strong and brave and kind, just like Diana Prince. And, just like her, I need to go out there and kick some ass.

Six things you’ll always find in my freezer

So, I think most people who know me know I have trouble throwing things away. (You should see the state of my craft room.) Usually this habit isn’t much of a problem, because I’m able to find ways to use the things I’ve been able to save, but sometimes things get away from me and then I wind up with a way more stuff than I know what to do with. But that is for another post. (Seriously, you should see my craft room. Or, more like, scary-stacks-and-piles-of-stuff room.)

But, because of this trait, which I’m pretty sure I inherited from both my parents, who got it from their parents who survived the Depression by scrimping and saving and “making do,” I have found ways to cut out a lot of waste food going into the trash or compost bin. These are things that I use regularly enough that I never get too far behind. Instead, by saving these things, I’ve cut down on how often I need to buy them.

Here are the six things you’ll almost always find in my freezer.


Yep. Sexy huh? But seriously, I can’t believe more people don’t keep their bread in the freezer. It never goes stale in there! And you only need to let each slice sit on the counter for a couple of minutes for it to thaw. I’m pretty much the only one who eats bread regularly around here, and it can sometimes take me two or three weeks to go through a load. When I buy bread now, I just immediately put it in the freezer.

In the morning when I make toast or — my favorite breakfast these days — PB&J, I just take out what I need. It stays soft and delicious and never goes bad. Plus, once it’s frozen, you don’t have to worry about it getting smushed.

Juice and Milk

Milk & Juice
Did you know you can freeze milk? Yep! I hate tossing out spoiled milk. It seems so wasteful, considering the environmental cost of milk in the first place. But aside from that, it’s nutrient-rich food that many people can’t even afford.

I usually go through a half gallon of milk each week. I have a small glass of milk with my PB&J, and occasionally a small amount in my tea or in something I’m cooking. But sometimes because of various reasons, I have some left over by the time our Friday shopping trip comes around again. So, I just pour it into a jar and keep it in the freezer. Once I get three or four jars, I have enough to skip buying milk for a whole week. I just let the jar thaw in the fridge (it takes about 24 hours) and give it a good shake before drinking. It tastes just as good as fresh milk.

The same goes for the juice. I like to drink tangerine juice (it’s sweeter and less acidic than orange juice) in the afternoons when I take my iron pills. But I can’t get through a full half gallon each week unless I have friends over helping me. (And by helping, I mean doing tequila shots with tangerine juice chasers. Hi Heather!) I could buy the pint, but it’s a better bargain to get the larger size every other week and just freeze half of it.

Salsa Cubes

Salsa cubes
You know when you get a take out burrito and they give you chips and salsa, which you almost never eat and wind up throwing away? Well, aside from trying to remember to ask them to NOT give me those things, I’ve at least found a way to save the salsa. (And the peppers that come with Pho take-out, and those little bits of onion that are sometimes leftover when a recipe only calls for half an onion.) I freeze them and then use them when I make black beans.

It’s so perfect! They’re the ingredients I’d be adding anyway, and here they are in little plastic cups ideal for freezing for saving! I just freeze the salsa in their cups, and then pop them into my “salsa” freezer bag to use the next time I’m cooking beans.

Whenever we have bones left over from chicken or pot roast, I add them to my “bones” bag in the freezer. Once the bag is full, I make stock. It actually takes longer around here to get enough bones to make chicken stock than maybe at other houses because Eric really loves to clean the chicken carcass by picking every last morsel of meat off and eating it. I’m not kidding. When I cook a chicken, aside from the “oyster” I most look forward to eating the breast with its crispy skin. Mmmm. Eric, on the other hand, will volunteer to carve the cooked bird if he’s allowed to sit with the carcass at the table and work away at it. He gets some funny looks from our dinner guests sometimes, but if it makes him happy, I’m happy.

Beef Stock Cubes

Stock cubes
But even though I make stock fairly regularly, sometimes I still need to buy one of those containers at Trader Joe’s, and then only use a cup or so of it. What to do with all that leftover stock? Stock cubes! I’m very happy with my ice maker, but I make sure to keep a set of ice cube trays specifically for this purpose. Freezing the stock into cubes makes it easier to add them to little things like cooking rice or smashing potatoes. Once they’re frozen, just empty them into a bag and they’ll keep for a very long while.


It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. I’ve been busy with my SRPS blog.

Anyway, I thought I’d start off light with a short RWLP post to help me get back into the swing of things. In addition to doing a lot of research for various posts, I’ve also been taking in a whole lot of media.

Reading: Anne of Green Gables
I haven’t read Anne of Green Gables since I was a kid, but I’ve always had fond memories of it. Re-reading it as an adult was a wonderful blend of visiting old friends and discovering new insights about them. What I love about Anne is her uncanny ability to always see the best in people, even when they’re being down-right dreadful to her. And her wonderful sense of awe about the natural beauty around her. I have to wonder how much of her rubbed off on me when I was reading this book when I was a kid?

I never did read any of the sequels in the series, although I loved watching the CBC television show from the 90s. The Kindle book I bought a couple of weeks ago is actually the complete series as well as many other writings my Lucy Maud Montgomery. I cannot wait to dive into uncharted territory!

Watching: A lot of different things
I finally finished Gilmore Girls, and have been spending most of my time watching this and that, getting myself ready for the Fall series premiers of my favorite shows by watching the last couple of episodes from last season, including How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal, and The Good Wife. I’ve also been checking out some new and new-to-me shows, like Arrow (eh… I only like it so-so) and Quantico (the first episode seemed promising).

Eric and I finished watching Madoka Magica (what a great story!), and have just started watching Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex with the idea of watching through all the TV series and then the movies. It’s an ambitious goal, but with the weather turning cooler, it’s doable.

Listening To: Not much
It’s kinda sad, but working from home means I rarely spend any time in the car, and that means I rarely listen to the radio to hear anything new. And if I’m sitting at my desk, I seem more likely to queue up something to watch rather than something to listen to. Weird.

That said, I do follow several music blogs, and through them I do find new music to listen to once in a while. Most of which I wind up blogging about over on SRPS: Flint Eastwood, Elle King, and Ana Tijoux.

Maybe in preparation for the next RWLP post next week I’ll make it a point to log into Spotify and actually listen to some stuff.

Playing: Child of Light
Eric and I have been working our way through Child of Light. I’ve had it for quite a while, but never finished it. In fact, I really haven’t played much of it at all, as it turns out. It’s a lovely game, though, and I feel about ignoring it. I’m looking forward to playing more over the next couple of weeks.

Friday Favorites

I have a welldocumented obsession with perusing the local Goodwill for dishes. Most I use for serving food or as mini-vases, but I found a pair of what I assume are some kind of small mug. They’re larger than a sake cup, but smaller than a small soup bowl. I feel in love with them immediately, although I hadn’t a clue what I would possible use them for, but I was confident I’d find something.

Front View

I figured it out pretty quickly once I got them home. The size is perfect for storing my homemade deodorant. (Note to self: fix the photos in that very old post!) And it looks lovely on my bathroom counter, which is also blue.

Top View

“I think it’s important to find the little things in everyday life that make you happy.” Paula Cole

I couldn’t agree more. Every morning when I pick it up, I get a little spark of happiness, as I do with all of my Goodwill dishes. It’s such a little thing — the joy brings outweighs it ten-fold. And I think it’s the little joys that add up to a truly contented life.

What do you do to bring little sparks of joy to your day?

A little light reading

I see bloggers sharing photos of stacks of books. I’m not sure what the purpose is besides showing everyone what they’re reading in a quick image.

So, here’s my current stack. Oh, who am I kidding? This is only one of what could easily be considered many stacks.

Stack of books

You’ll probably notice that five out of the seven books shown here are library books, and two are even from other libraries and came to be by way of the miracle inter-library loan.

You may also notice that they’re all non-fiction. I keep being invited to join reading groups where the focus is on different fiction genres (sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction, etc.). I want to join them, but I it takes me what feel like forever to get through a novel. It’s not that I don’t love novels. I do. But my intense craving for understanding history and how things got to be the way they are is primarily satisfied by these kinds of books right here.

So, from the top down, we’ve got:

Letters of a Homesteader, by Elinore Pruitt Stewart
Frontier Women: “Civilizing” the West? 1840-1880, by Julie Roy Jeffrey
Food in History, by Reay Tannahill
Labor’s Promised Land: Radical Visions Of Gender, Race, and Religion in the South, by Mark Fannin
We are an Indian Nation: A History of the Hualapai People, by Jeffrey P. Shepherd
African-American Odyssey, by Albert S. Broussard
The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans, by Lawrence N. Powell

They may seem like disparate topics, but you can be sure my brain is always looking for ways they intersect. There are so many ways!

Monday Musings

A blogger’s happy meal.

Crackers cheese and pears on flower plate

This is a picture of today’s lunch. It’s not that much different from the lunch I have most days. It’s pretty perfect in that it satisfies my cravings for something sweet and something salty, something crunchy and something smooth. But there’s also the sheer simplicity of it that satisfies my craving for something simple and uncomplicated, while also being visually satisfying.

I can nibble on it while working on blog research or writing. Which is good because I tend to get wrapped up in whatever project I’m working on and forget to eat lunch until I’m past hungry and into the making poor decisions state. Too many times Eric has come home to me greeting him at the door asking, “What’s for dinner? I’m starving!”

I always use what I refer to has my “happy plates.” Simply put, they’re plates that I’ve bought here and there that make me happy. This one came from Goodwill almost 9 years ago, and was the plate I kept at my desk when I worked in a real office. I had a mug that matched the color of the line around the edge, and a large white bowl. They were the set of real dishes I used to heat up and eat lunches I brought from home so I didn’t have to eat out of a plastic bowl.

These crackers are my current favorite crackers, Stoneground Wheat from Trader Joe’s. The cheese is TJ’s Monterey Jack, which is nice and mild and creamy. And the pear is an Anjou that I picked up several weeks ago, also from TJ’s, and has softened in the fridge so it’s perfectly sweet and juicy. The project that I worked on while eating was research for a post about a television show, which I’ll post on my “princess blog.”

While snacking, I was thinking about the kinds of things I’m sure many bloggers ponder: How can I make sure I make it entertaining enough for others to want to read? And share? Is this going to sound stupid? Maybe I should just check Facebook for a minute.

In fact, I think a lot of the blogging work I do is thinking. Which is one of those things that’s difficult to quantify and sometimes challenging to justify, even if only to myself. Or, maybe I should say, especially to myself. See, there’s a part of my brain that doesn’t think I’m a very good writer. And so when I’m in the thinking stage of writing, that part feels like it’s necessary to share its opinion. Loudly. And often.

When I’m in the writing stage I’ve already turned it off, or at least down low enough that I can ignore it. But when I’m doing the brain work, contemplating where to start, and how to organize things, it’s more difficult. It’s not impossible, of course. If it were, I’d never write anything. I have developed strategies to counter most of its arguments, most of the time.

But it is harder when I’m tired, or sad, or hungry. Which is why it’s really important for me to eat. Especially something that makes me happy. Hence, my happy meal — something delicious, appealing, and pretty that nourishes my body as well as my soul.