Friday Faves


Looking around, it was a bit of a challenge to find a couple of things that are making me happy in my immediate environment. I mean, other than food and Eric and the cats and friends. When thinking about the things around me, my most likely emotion isn’t so much happiness as anxiety, mixed with some resignation. And even, for certain things, a strong sense of dread.

The house is in a state of flux right now. We’re getting more serious about starting the kitchen work, and the front yard is waiting for a contractor to return a call so we can get started redoing that. The back yard, the garden, and most other rooms in the house have been somewhat neglected over the last couple of months. I’ve thrown myself into my new online social media gig a bit more heavily than I maybe should have, and coupled with my existing blogging goals for my “princess blog” and re-invigorating this blog, and a light sprinkling of depression, well… the house is a mess.

This anxiety is almost overwhelming at times, which, of course, makes it harder to pull myself out of any holes I happen to fall into. And, the worst part is, I know it’s all self-inflicted. The sense of “oh, that needs to get done too” is all coming from me. The feeling that I’m not doing enough is all from my own head.

Which, of course, is why it’s so important to take a few minutes to look around more clearly and really focus on the things that bring me joy.

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The Christmas cactus (which has never been transplanted) is enjoying the change in the the weather, and putting on loads of lovely buds. It’s even flowered once or twice! I keep thinking I’ll transplant it, but it seems so happy where it is.

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I get a happy, warm feeling every time I walk by our adorable pie-topper. I just can’t believe we actually got married! And I’m so so so happy with Eric and all the wonderful things he does and how much he loves me even when he doesn’t understand how my brain works.

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While the back yard and patio areas is mostly filled with dead plants in pots and leaves everywhere, the pink sourgrass is just coming back into its true beauty. I know some people think of these as weeds, but I think they’re beautiful. And it’ll make this lovely mounding pink puff all winter.

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And last, but certainly not least, even when I’m disgusted by my gross and messy kitchen (gross because it needs a serious overhaul AND because it’s often in need of a serious cleaning), I just have to look at the stack of jars on the windowsill, filled with beans and grapes and other miscellaneous dried goods that will get used eventually. There were more jars of beans here until recently when I made a big pot of mixed beans and spices for our breakfasts. But, slowly, over the winter, I’m sure I’ll restock it with a cup of this and a cup of that from the farm, and various dried veggies and fruits I plan to make with my new food dehydrator.

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Sustenance


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My daily bread:

Birthday hike with Cat

I was going to type up a whole post about how I need my friends, and my love of learning, and maybe add something about spending time in nature. But, when it all boils down to the most important things in my life, they’re in the pictures above. I need at least one daily hug from Eric (preferably 10 or 20), and I need my daily snuggles with Mr. Bob. The rest is all wonderful and a true blessing in my life, but these are my sustenance.

Happy New Year 2013


Someone once told me that whatever you do on New Years Day tells you what your new year will be filled with. So, for the last couple of years, I’ve made it a point to get outside for a hike on New Years Day, which is also my birthday. The first year we just went for a short hike in Annadel with my dear friend Cat. Last year, we went for a hike in Armstrong Woods with our friend Kyle and his out of town guests to show them the redwoods.

This year, I put it out for input from a larger circle of friends, looking for more people to join us and suggestions on places to hike. Our friend Kimberly offered to take us to the Willow Creek area. So, after about six hours of sleep, we got up early-ish on Tuesday morning and headed out. It was a cold and crisp morning — perfect for getting outside and moving around!

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Willow Creek is a California State Park run by Land Paths, as a “people powered park.” I’d never heard of it before, and was really excited to check it out. We hiked in off Freezeout Flat Road. Since it was still quite wet from the rains we had a couple of weeks ago, we decided to take the steeper uphill route, and save the shallower portion for the downhill.

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After hiking uphill for about 45 minutes, we made it to the ridge and a wonderful view!

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Found this old fence. My Environmental History lessons kicked in and I had to hike over and investigate.

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Then we headed over to a peak with a great view of the ocean to the west. Love the rock outcrops and trees.

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I love the grass in winter. It always reminds me of fur that’s been rubbed the wrong way or something. Some people think it’s ugly, but I just think of it as a different kind of beauty.

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I didn’t get any pictures of the downhill part. Mainly because it was a narrower trail going through denser trees. But also because it was muddy and it took more energy to pick our way through the muck. It was still quite lovely, though. More small streams running across the trail, pretty trees, and birds hopping around?

Cassini Meadow

And, we had cows happily bellowing in this lovely pasture to greet us when we made it back to our car. All in all, it was a great hike and a wonderful way to kick off the new year!

What did you do to start off 2013?

Friday Favorites


For Halloween, we bought a big bag of candy to give away, but since it was raining on Wednesday night, we still had a lot left over on Thursday morning. And I have to admit I ate far more of it than I should have. And not just because of the calories. Mainly, I’m upset with myself because it was such terrible chocolate waste those calories on. I think I’m spoiled on good chocolate. And my latest favorite is the Trader Joe’s Caramel with Black Sea Salt dark chocolate bar.  But the Caramel Toffee bar is pretty good too.

So salty sweet.

You probably already know that I really hate shoes. My feet don’t like being cooped up inside shoes, and if I can’t be barefoot, my compromise is usually sandals or flipflops. At least in the summer. Come winter, I can’t really get away with sandals when it’s raining or cold. So I have to make wearing shoes as bearable as possible. To that end, I make sure I have a good selection of fun socks. For a couple of years, my favorite socks were a pair of Smart Wool socks with red, green, blue, and yellow stripes. I loved those socks. I wore them nearly every chance I could. Sadly, they finally wore out last winter, and had to be relegated to the craft room to be used in some future project there. So, this summer, in anticipation of sock-wearing season, I bought myself a new pair of wool socks! And I got to break them out a couple of weeks ago, when we had our first cool weather. Yay!

Stripy, pretty, and warm!

And, finally, now that it’s cooler and wetter, I don’t feel nearly as guilty about taking a long hot bath. And just in time, since I bought this delicious soap at the Heirloom Expo back in September. I’d bought some of her lotion bars and whipped lotion last December for Christmas presents for my mom and sister, so when I saw her at the expo, I made sure to get some more goodies from her. But this soap is the best. So sweet and soothing, I’m almost sad to leave the bathtub when I’m done. I might have to get this scent in her lotion series as well.

This soap smells so wonderful.

What’s making you happy these days?

Autumn #1


I’m following in my friend Cazeria’s footsteps in taking on this assignment to post 30 photos of Autumn.

Here’s the first:

My fall feet.

Autumn in Sonoma County isn’t really the same as the stereotypical Autumnal scenes we carry in our subconscious. Yes, there are pumpkins and colorful maple leaves, but they aren’t really emblematic of Sonoma County. I have to go outside my normal sphere to find those things.

Instead, I prefer to focus on the changes in the landscape that is around me in my most mundane moments. I don’t mean to imply that these landscapes are any more “native” or “natural” (I put those in quotes because I’ve learned the falseness of even those innocent words) than the landscaped lawns with Halloween displays.

This photo was the first one I thought of when I first considered this assignment. Mainly because, in Sonoma County, Autumn isn’t quite as distinct as a season as it is in other climates. Instead, it’s just the winding down of summer. While some plants are moving toward dormancy, and the sun is shifting, it’s still mostly summer — and in the case of this week, the final hurrah of summer (95°F? WTF?!).

You can see my faded and chipped summer pedicure, in my summer sandals, and my summer jeans. But my feet are photographed in the school parking lot, meaning my lazy summer days are really over and it’s back to productivity and structure. The only really stereotypical Autumn thing in this photo are the leaves. The huge Sycamore trees in the back lot of the campus are doing their annoyingly Sycamore thing and dropping all their crunchy leaves all over the parking lot, where they get crushed into a fine powder by car tires.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Autumn. I love that in my brain Autumn is the beginning of the year. It’s the beginning of something new, something exciting and a little daunting. Summer is the break, and Autumn is the return.

Friday Favorites


This is going to be a quick one, as we have a house-full of triathletes coming in for this weekend’s Vineman race. How exciting! I might even be inspired to get back to the gym and start training again!

I have two things that are making me very, very happy this week.

Red and white and happy all over!

I bought these napkins at the farmers market earlier this week. I hadn’t intended on buying them, but I just couldn’t pass them up. The color and the print are so striking, and the fabric is exquisite. I got to speak with the woman who made them and she told me she has a connection with some really fabulous fabric manufacturers in Europe.

This dish is something I think I got from my friend Diane’s mother’s house when she was cleaning it out. A couple of weeks ago, I found it on the top shelf in my kitchen, and have kicked myself for having forgotten about it all this time. And making up for it by using it as often as I can. It’s kinda like a small-ish pie plate, ceramic and super awesome. It makes a great serving dish for many of the recipes I’ve been blogging about for the last couple of weeks. I imagine you’ll be seeing a lot more of this dish in the future.

Meditation Monday – mediocrity


The false choice of mediocrity

Too often, we’re presented with choices that don’t please us. We can pick one lousy alternative or the other. And too often, we pick one.

I was struck by Apple’s choice to put a glass screen on the original iPhone. Just six weeks before it was announced, Steve Jobs decided he wanted a scratchproof glass screen. The thing is, this wasn’t an option. It wasn’t possible, reliable, feasible or appropriately priced. It couldn’t be done with certainty, and almost any other organization would have taken it off the list of appropriate choices.

It was unreasonable.

And that’s the key. Remarkable work is always not on the list, because if it was, it would be commonplace, not remarkable.

I’ve been thinking about this post by Seth Godin about mediocrity. While it’s intended for business decisions, I think it applies to most everything. Too often we settle for what’s easily available. We want a shirt, but the colors at the store aren’t really our favorite, but we buy one anyway. We tell ourselves it doesn’t really matter.

I love this light blue bowl. Perfect for a snack.

Maybe it doesn’t really matter for some people. But for me, it matters more than I realize at the time. I mentioned in a previous post how I wind up keeping things until they fall apart. Which means that shirt I’m not terribly fond of winds up in my closet for five years or longer. That’s five years of wearing something that doesn’t make me happy.

And it’s not just clothes. It’s dishes. And home furnishings. And so many other things.

This little bowl comes in handy for dipping sauces.

It’s a challenge, though. We’re on a tight budget, and don’t intend to furnish the different rooms of the house until we have done the carpet and moved the walls. It’s a slow process. And I’ve taken some hand-me-down furniture from friends. Some pieces are really nice, even if they’re not what I’d purchase if money were available.

Lately I’ve been on a mission to pick up cute little dishes at Goodwill. My sole criteria is that it has to make me happy to look at. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive, or even unchipped or unstained. They only have to make me happy. Everything gets a 10 second appraisal, and if there is any hesitation, then I just put it back on the shelf.

I love this rainbow bowl!

But, while I may have an ever-growing collection of dishes that make me happy, there’s still quite a bit around here that is merely “made-do.” I think it’s time I start figuring out a way to replace them, one by one.