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I love my Fiesta dish collection. I have both vintage and contemporary collections and both continue to grow with new acquisitions.
macy's box
My newer Fiesta collection tends to grow in chunks – a new set of 8 bowls, plates or mugs will appear in boxes (often with that telltale red star on the side….curse you Macy’s – you give away my secret every time.)

My collection of vintage has grown more slowly – usually one piece at a time, although my new love-fest with pumpkin-colored OvenServe has grown more rapidly thanks to some vendors offering multiples of the same pieces.

When I view eBay or Etsy or LiveAuctioneer for new listings, I notice there are typically two approaches that sellers use: they either try to entice the plunderers with an intact collection, or they break it up piece-by-piece for the pluckers.

It seems the pluckers outnumber the plunderers – the collections often seem to languish without any nibbles. But I guess when a huge collection does sell, it temporarily tilts the scale in favor of that approach.

As a collector, I usually find my best deals one piece at a time. My frugal side insists on patient plucking. So what about you – do you go for the one-shot plunder and enjoy poring over your new haul? Or are you a picky picker, plucking your pieces one at a time? And can you say that five times fast?

Happy collecting,
Terry

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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,
Terry

New Year, New Foods

I’ve been mentally contemplating a “laundry list” of new foods I want to try to make in the new year. Why wait when you can jump right in on New Year’s Day?

Despite grafting myself in (via marriage) to the south, I have been slow to warm up to black-eyed peas. For the longest time, Pam’s black-eyed pea salad  was the only recipe I liked well enough to incorporate these humble legumes into a meal. But times and tastebuds change, and this year, Hoppin’ John (bottom right in the picture below) was on the New Year’s Day menu, along with dirty rice (small blue ramekin) and shrimp gumbo (in the Dutch oven and dark blue bowl on the left). Side note – I do love my Fiesta shallow bowls/deep plates…they come in so handy, whatever you call them.

IMG_5265Like most southerners, I’ve eaten my share of dirty rice and gumbo (and made a few attempts to make my own) over the years.

I’ve never been particularly thrilled with my own efforts, so I scrapped those old recipes and tried half-size versions of two new ones. Coastal Living’s Gumbo was easy and delicious; Prairie Woman’s Hoppin’ John was also a winner. Paula Deen’s dirty rice was a tad heavy on the chicken livers (which was my fault – the tub I bought didn’t indicate volume, so I guessed it was a pound, and I think it was larger than that), and even when I cut it in half, it made a HUGE batch. So for smaller families, I’d suggest cutting it to 25% and easing up on the chicken livers – maybe just a couple in there.

So what else is on my list of must-try-foods in 2014? I won’t spoil all the surprises, but here are a few that are warming up for their chance at bat:

Tavern thin pizza (I am homing in on a cold-rise pizza crust that will give me the texture I’m looking for)
Crusty artisan bread in my trusty cast-iron Dutch oven
Tuna pot pies
Poblano pepper-smothered steak

And I’m also going to try Reddit’s 52-weeks of cooking challenge.

What new food adventures are you ready to embark upon this year? Life really is too short to eat the same ‘ol, same ‘ol all the time (even though we have our favorite recipes just like everyone else.) And the worst thing that can happen with a new recipe is that it bombs – if it does, your next meal is only a few hours away. So I dare you to plunge in – look through a cookbook or recipe site – and find something new to cook …soon!

Happy cooking!
Terry

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,
Terry

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,
Terry

We got back very late Sunday night from a delightful Thanksgiving spent with family in Kansas. It was an adventure that involved a ticket (me) and buying a new-to-us car (Mr. Official.) Yeah, we really bought a car en route from Kansas to Tennessee. We don’t just take the road less traveled, we blaze a trail where no one else would ever think of going.

As soon as we pulled in the driveway, Swimmer Girl threw her bags in her Jeep, gave me a quick hug and a promise to call when she got back to school, and off she went. We unloaded luggage, shoved two HUGE grocery bags filled with frozen green chilies in my already stuffed deep freeze, and laid down our weary heads. My eyes didn’t close until I got a call from Swimmer Girl that assured me she had made it over Monteagle Mountain in the dead of a cold, rainy night and was safely ensconced in her warm dorm suite. (And you think a colicky baby can keep you awake.)

As I waited for her call, I mentally planned out my Monday: pick up the dogs from the kennel, get caught up on laundry (blissfully light thanks to doing a few loads courtesy of my mom’s washer and dryer before we returned home); plan dinner, call to schedule a plumber at our old house and a visit from the heat and air guys out here; and try to squeeze in a workout this evening.

The thought of that overstuffed and very frosty freezer kept nagging at me, and I knew before I dived into the holidays, I really needed to dethaw it (a perfectly acceptable term in Southern parlance). And the freezer in the kitchen was a frozen mess of this-n-that, too. It was high time to pull everything out, toss the frostbitten stuff, take a serious inventory and organize the contents of both freezers.

At first I told myself I would wait for a “good” time to tackle this thankless task. I looked at the extended forecast, hoping against hope a really cold day was on tap for this week, which does make it easier to keep the contents cold while I defrost the big freezer. No such luck. And honestly, do you ever find a GOOD time to defrost and clean out your freezer? Yeah, me either. So today’s overcast and cool day was as good as any other.

I didn’t get pictures of the messy “before” but here’s the afters…because it’s good to gloat I mean inspire others. One of these days, I’ll make good on my thread to hit the Container Store and get proper freezer bins. But for now…IMG_4549
IMG_4550
my herbs and bread baking supplies are reunited and handy.

IMG_4551
IMG_4552and I have a pretty good idea how much chicken and fish I need to use up sooner than later.

Out in the deep freezer, things improved as well.
IMG_4553
My baking chips, nuts and dried fruit get top billing (yes, I really have an entire bin full of baking chips and another full of nuts and fruit) and all the cuts of pork and beef and cheese are handy.

IMG_4555I can even send Middle Son out to fetch frozen vegetables without sketching a diagram to follow.

IMG_4554My containers of homemade broth and those gotta-have quick-fix foods are fairly accessible (and you don’t need an ice pick to dislodge them.)

Defrosting a freezer, or even just organizing all those frozen foods is never a fun or fast job, but I’m pretty sure my efforts will reduce our grocery bills over the next several weeks as I use up items I had forgotten I had. And it will be much more pleasant to dive into either freezer and pull out whatever item I happen to need. Time to let the cooking and baking frenzy begin, starting with some bolognese sauce and spaghetti tonight.

Happy Monday,
Terry

Here in middle Tennessee, we have enjoyed warmer-than-usual temperatures for the past several weeks. Last night I smiled as I followed a toddler down our church’s hallways – it was nearly her bedtime and she was perfectly comfortable in a sleeveless sundress. It’s just one of the many examples of why I love living in a mild climate. (In contrast, South Dakota and Wyoming have already seen a blizzard. Brrr.)

Perhaps this year’s extended fall is nature’s way of making up for a slow warm-up this spring and a summer than never really heated up. But whatever the reason, it looks like it’s time for the seasons to change. There’s no such thing as a truly graceful fall, and so it is with our weather:
october weather
Today and tomorrow we’ll hit close to 80 again – probably for the last time this year. In two days we’ll be lucky to hit 70, and the day after that we’ll be in the mid-60s. The extended forecast shows us bumping along in the 60s and low 70s throughout October, and the temperatures will continue to drift and tumble downward.

It’s time to trade out the sleeveless tops for something with a bit more coverage.

No complaints here – the marked change in seasons gives me the perfect excuse to change our family dinner menus and decor along with my clothing choices.

Later today I’m hoping to take advantage of this last gasp of summer weather to work outdoors and finish refinishing our kitchen table and chairs. And then it will be time to start winding things down for the season…and winding up for the next one.

Happy fall, y’all.
Terry

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