Archive for the ‘Just Stuff’ Category

Around here, the past couple of winters have been really mild. Uncommonly mild, even. Last year, we watched and waited for winter to arrive, and it never did. Not really, anyway. We just kind of shivered our way into spring.

But apparently THIS winter has decided to settle in and give us a good run for our money, at least in terms of temperatures. If I could ask for anything, I would like a little snow to go with the cold. Please and thank you.

This is how our week is shaping up, weather-wise.
I know, I know. I shouldn’t whine. This is nothing compared with some parts of the country, where minus signs frequently appear in front of temperatures, and polar vortex is NOT a noteworthy weather phenomenon. But here in middle Tennessee, we live on the teetering transitional edge between north and south. And some years, our average lows hover in the mid-30s – not exactly tropical, but not exactly locked in the icy clutches of winter, either.

Part of me is glad I don’t have my greenhouse up and running this year and  part of me wishes I did. Even on a cold, blustery winter day, a little sunshine and a space heater can make it feel like spring. But there is a big price to pay – namely the cost of keeping the inside above freezing every night.

While we start the inevitable countdown to spring (I generally begin marking off the weeks to last frost as soon as Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone), I’m focusing my time and attention on indoor stuff: cleaning, organizing, crafting, cooking and exercising. Maybe not in that order.

Last week’s menu had several new items from January’s Southern Living recipes. This week’s menu has a few more recipes from that issue. I’ve finally embraced the no-knead bread recipe, and we’ve eaten two loaves in as many weeks. I don’t know why it took me so long to give it a shot, but I’m glad I did. I got February’s Southern Living in the mail over the weekend and there are several more good-sounding recipes in it, so my family can rest assured they will get a nice mix of old favorites and new foods over the next several weeks.

I’ve kept up with my daily Bible reading and the 52-week organizing challenge; this week is pantry and spice rack cleanout. Luckily for me, I had done a pantry re-org before Christmas, so I’m coasting for a few days. Next week’s challenge is to set up a home recycling center, which is unnecessary because we have curbside recycling, and they sort everything for us, so if the temperatures aren’t bitterly cold, I hope to use that week to clear out a lot of the clutter in the garage. No promises, though.

I like to think of it as part of the organization challenge, but whatever you call it, I’ve abandoned any pretense at limiting my Fiesta collection. And so I’ve begun the hunt for a new/second hutch for the kitchen…a two-piece style with a breakfront so I can eek out a little more counter space as well as have more display room for my vintage dishes, and lower cabinets and drawers to stow cookbooks and linens and a few less-used cooking and serving pieces. I found a Hoosier-style oak cabinet last weekend at an antique mall, and I loved everything about it except the width (too narrow) and the price (too high.)  I’m holding out hope that stalking Craigslist will eventually yield the piece with exact dimensions and price I’m looking for.

So how is your winter going? Are you like me, and ready for it to be over and done with already? Or are you settling in and enjoying the season?

Happy Monday,

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I turned the big 5-0 last February.  To answer the inevitable responses to that statement,

No, I have no idea where five decades went. I just know they went really fast.
No, I really don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

But with certain milestone birthdays come certain “health screening” procedures, whether you feel all grown-up or not.


Monday and yesterday were consumed by one of those procedures. You know, the one where you devote considerable time to NOT eating, and ummmm, “prepping”…which is far worse than the procedure. The procedure itself is fairly unremarkable, because you get sedated, and then you sleep. And sleep and sleep. At least that’s how mine went, and yesterday afternoon involved eating, napping, eating, napping. (Side note, the results were good news – a clean bill of health.)

january-2014 SL magazineAnd now that THAT’s behind me (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun), I’m going to make good on making some one-dish wonders highlighted in this month’s Southern Living magazine.

Rarely does one article have multiple dishes that appeal to me, but this one hit the jackpot with three. This week’s menu lineup includes:

1. Tomato-Basil-Spinach Pasta – I’m adding shrimp and some Italian sausage to mine;
2. Paella-style Orzo with Fish and Herbs which is a great use of orzo in my pantry and tilapia in the freezer; and
3. Hammed-up Macaroni and Cheese to use up some of the left-over spiral ham slices from earlier in the week.

I’m pretty hopeful the rest of the week will go better…although that napping was pretty awesome.

Happy cooking,

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624px-XRF_12daysYesterday was the 12th day of Christmas, if you’re keeping up with the rather archaic tradition. But I didn’t give or receive 12 drummers drumming. No…my true love braved the wind and tucked away the last of the outdoor decorations in their storage tubs while I dismantled the Christmas tree.

Today the decorations and tree will head back to their space in the attic, and that will conclude the holiday season.  I am very grateful to be indoors because baby it is definitely COLD outside. We are expecting to hit 8 degrees (F) today. I’m not sure we’ve dipped down to single digits in a couple of years, and I really don’t remember the last time we had such a chilly day.

With the first week in 2014 past, here’s where I’m at on my resolutions, which address four areas: spiritual, cooking, health and cleaning/organizing.

Our church family has been challenged to all participate in a Bible reading challenge and I’m tracking through the Bible in chronological fashion, thanks to One Year Bible’s easy Facebook links. This one should be like riding a bike. (The one I fell off last fall, so close to the end. Sigh.)

I’m also planning to try Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking challenge. The first week was eggs, and I took a stab at shirred (baked) eggs on Saturday. Let’s just say I need to give them another go…and not overcook them. The concept has great potential for weekend Eggs Benedict if I can perfect the cooking time. This week’s challenge is to try a Polish dish. I like stuffed cabbages, but my family is not fond of them, so I’m not sure what we’ll do…maybe pierogies?

To counteract the effects of taking a cooking challenge, my healthy side will continue incorporating more juicing into my weekday meals, and I’m gong to reintroduce myself to my Body Pump classmates and the treadmill. I lost a solid five pounds in the weeks leading up to the holidays and – more importantly – lost my sweet tooth. Not a single piece of Halloween candy.  Alas, the sweet tooth found its way home for the holidays, but if I lost it once, I can do it again.

On the cleaning/organizing side of things, I am…intrigued by this weekly challenge. It looks interesting, but we’ll see if I can stick with it long-term.

So how are you settling into 2014? Do tell!

Happy Monday,

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Learning to love the old

We love (love, love) new. That new car smell – yum. New technology is as seductive as any mythological siren. New clothes are first off the hanger when we are looking for an outfit. We seek out new places to visit, new foods to try, new movies to see…we love new. Right?

fresh-start-new-yearAnd there’s something oh-so-beguiling about a new year. We buy a new calendar and all 12 months sprawl out in front of us. We like to think of January as a fresh start. A blank page waiting to be written. We clean our homes and vow to keep them that way. We resolve to clean our consciences and live better. Do better. BE better.

But no matter how much we all love the idea of a fresh start, the fact is we can’t trade ourselves in for a new model. We have to work with what we’ve got. We can clean and scrub, but we are going to continue to live in the same house, whether we’re talking figuratively or spiritually.  Realistically, New Year’s resolutions are really more about rearranging things…like priorities. Or maybe doing some renovations or remodeling – knocking out bad habits and replacing them with better, healthier ones.

So while we’re busy identifying what we want to change in our lives this year, let’s remember to love what is good and sound and make up the best parts of who we are. If we don’t love the old us, we’re not going to be happy with the new-and-improved us, either.

Happy new year,

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Recently, a yoga instructor encouraged us to “not settle for the first position your body gives you.” It’s good advice to stretch yourself – figuratively and literally – a little more, hold a pose a few seconds beyond what is comfortable, and to be mindful of your position, posture and breathing. By not settling for what is comfortable and “good enough,” you gradually improve your yoga practice and become stronger and more flexible, and positions that were too advanced and too hard can become possible.

Her admonition has stuck with me this week, as I look back at last year and look ahead to the next one. There were days when “good enough” seemed to be all I had to give. But if I’m honest with myself, some days I settled for good enough when I knew I could do more. So instead of making specific resolutions this year, I think I might apply this concept to more areas of my life: don’t settle for good enough. That doesn’t mean demanding more from others, but to stretch myself:

To be a little more grace-filled, graceful and gracious to others, even when they don’t deserve it. (Even when I don’t feel particularly full of grace.)

To give a little bit more of myself than the task requires. Even when I’ve already gone above and beyond – give just a tiny bit more, especially when it will make a difference. And even when it won’t be noticed or appreciated by anyone else. I will know that I gave my best.

To remain more conscious of my inner attitude and the demeanor I reflect to the world. To look up and out past myself, smile more at strangers and laugh more, listen more, and love more with friends and family.

I can’t change the world.

I can’t demand change from anyone else.

I can’t end poverty, hatred, envy and strife.

But if I change me, by requiring just a little more than “good enough,” it’s possible to make a difference. Just as a single, nearly weightless leaf can land on still water and make ripples larger than itself, I can – perhaps – gently cHappy-New-Year-2014-HD-Wallpapers3hange my world, by refusing to settle. Even one tiny candle in a dark room can provide welcome light to everyone in its vicinity. But only if it’s willing to give up some of itself in order to burn brightly.

What will you do with 2014? It is a one-time gift and we will only have it for 8,760 hours. May this be one year we can all look back and say we are leaving it better than we started it.

Happy 2014,

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My movie marathon

A few days ago, I awakened from a movie binge. (At least for me, this many movies in just a few weeks constitutes a binge. For others, maybe it’s just normal viewing activity.)  Looking at this following list, the average age of my movie choices is north of a decade. I’m not a new movie buff, it seems.

Among my newly discovered favorite movies is Secondhand Lions (2003), with Robert Duvall and Michael Caine. It’s a heartwarming coming-of-age tale with a “used” lion thrown in for good measure. There’s a reason I mention it first – it’s the pick of the litter.MV5BMTIzNjcyOTcxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwODE5Mjk2._V1_SX214_I also caught A River Runs Through It (1992), October Sky (1999) and Good Will Hunting (1997). Let’s just say I’m glad I watched the network cable version of Good Will Hunting, which had a lot of dubbed-over words. And I give high marks to the creativity of the censors – they found a lot of different words to use in lieu of the “f” bomb. And they had many opportunities to use those substitutions.

I watched Stepmom (1998) through tears (again) last week. It’s like dark chocolate – you have to acquire a taste for bittersweet, and on the heels of my recent biopsy, the specter of cancer hit a little closer to home this time around.

As I waded through The English Patient (1996) I was reminded why I prefer Casablanca: it was first, and it knocks an hour off the time it takes to spin the same theme.

And, in no apparent order, I have watched all manner of chick-flicks – many of them in bits and snippets…a few scenes here, an ending there:

  • Clueless (1995), a modern rendering of Austen’s classic “Emma.”
  • The Notebook (2004), a perennial favorite, especially if you love Charleston like I do.
  • The Vow (2012),  in which Ms. McAdams continues to muddle about in a state of confusion when it comes to affairs of her heart, bless her…well, heart.
  • The Devil Wears Prada (2006), which makes me thankful for my own ghosts of (gracious) bosses past.
  • Sleepless in Seattle (1993), a MFG (made for girls) movie based on another, older girls movie (An Affair to Remember). But an easy watch nonetheless.
  • Pretty Woman (1990) and Oceans Twelve (2004)…otherwise known as two faces of Julia Roberts.
  • Julie and Julia (2009), the movie that launched a million blogs and sold more than a few cookbooks as well.
  • Juno (2007), which isn’t quite a true chick flick, but it resonates more with girls than boys, I daresay.
  • Jerry Maguire (1996), which is a little bit o’ football, and a whole lotta romance.

To avoid overdosing on all that sweetness, I used Trouble with the Curve (2012) to ease into sports movies, Remember the Titans (2000) and Any Given Sunday (1999), and two prison tales, The Green Mile (1999) and Shawshank Redemption (1994), capped off by the second half of The Bucket List (2007), a dusting of Joe Dirt (2001) and most of Zero Dark Thirty (2012), just for good measure.

See, this is what happens when Mr. Official is off officiating, Swimmer Girl is away at school, and I have full control over the remote for the entire evening several nights each week. Care to join me? Just bring some snacks and drinks, and maybe a few tissues…we’re sure to find something worth watching.  Or send me a list of your favorites, and maybe they’ll become my faves, too.

Happy Monday,

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I have had an annual mammogram every year since I hit my early forties. They aren’t fun for those of us blessed with smaller amounts of “dense” tissue, and I suspect they aren’t much fun for our better-endowed sisters, either.

Most years, it’s an in-and-out process. A few minutes of discomfort, and then I’m done for another year. Twice I’ve had to go back for more close-up photos. The first time, I escaped with a few more mammogram shots, an ultrasound and a lecture on cutting back on caffeine (which I did), but this year I didn’t get away quite so easily.

Long story short, I had a cluster of micro-calcifications – a little 5 mm speck of irregular shaped deposits that an eagle-eyed radiologist spotted. And that quickly led to a stereotactic biopsy.

And that leads me to this post, for any other woman facing this procedure for the first time.

First off, breathe. It may be something, it may be nothing, but until you know, you don’t know, so try to just breathe and do something to de-stress. (Harder than it sounds, I know.)

Forewarned is forearmed. My so-called “specialist” doctor did a lousy job of prepping me for this procedure. Here’s what I wish I had known:

  1. Have acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) on hand. I’d suggest having a bottle of extra-strength and a bottle of TylenolPM (unless you take something else for sleeping). Take a couple extra-strength with food before the procedure, and plan on taking them for at least a day or two. If you routinely take aspirin, NSAIDs or Ibuprofen-based pain relievers, you should stop several days beforehand, if possible. (They thin the blood, which can lead to other post-procedure complications.)
  2. Unlike most surgical procedures, you should eat beforehand. Eat something light and high in protein, and not sugary, but do eat. Trust me.
  3. Wear a good-fitting sports bra, preferably one that fastens in the front. Make sure there’s enough room for a small icepack and possibly a compression wrap. Plan to wear it for at least 24 hours…longer if you had a lot of bleeding.
  4. Wear comfortable, loose, stretchy clothes. I don’t wear yoga pants except to yoga, but I’m glad I did that day.
  5. When they say “avoid strenuous activity” they really, really mean it. No lifting anything heavier than a fork; no vacuuming or cleaning…really, DO NOTHING. And if they don’t tell you how long to avoid activity, assume they intend it for at least 24 and 48 hours if you can manage to lay low that long. Plan on keeping an ice pack on the area for several hours. (So have a couple extra ice packs on hand, too.)

Had I known those five simple things, it’s likely I would have avoided the egg-size hematoma that is slowly (glaciers melt faster) resorbing, and that necessitated a two-week respite from my running schedule. And may cause distorted tissue on future mammograms.

Yes, this bruise is merely an EXTREMELY minor inconvenience compared to having breast cancer. But had I known those tips:

  • I would have felt far more in control of things while I was waiting for THE call with the diagnosis.
  • I would have taken it easy for two full days, kept the compression and ice packs on the incision. In ignorance, I kept the icepack on for an hour or two and then dove into light activity, and assumed the rising lump was an unavoidable part of the process.
  • I might have had a much faster and less painful recovery time. As it is, I have a deep, hard bruise that will do a slow fade, and MAY be gone by the holidays…or maybe not.

fight like a girlSo if you have been putting off a mammogram, please don’t let my experience scare you. And for heaven’s sake, do not procrastinate. Please. No matter how it turns out, early detection is the best weapon we have right now.

To those who are fighting against breast cancer, I say with all my heart, “you go, girl.” To those whose family members lost their battle, I pray for peace and comfort for you and yours. It may be little comfort, but I do think we will conquer this disease in our lifetime.

Happy Friday,

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