Thursday, April 7, 2011

Right Now

So, how are things going in your neck of the woods? I thought I'd share with you some sunshiney flowers that have been gracing our rooms since we've put our house on the market. Aren't they cheerful and lovely? I am thinking to myself that I would like to make a greater effort to just add fresh flowers to my weekly grocery list even after we've finished showing the house. Yes, they are an indulgence, but you really don't have to purchase expensive bouquets. I also like to add greenery from my yard to fill in the bouquets, so you could fill 3 nice sized vases with 2 bouquets.

If you are in the right season, you may not have to purchase them at all if you have planted a cutting garden. In fact, you may want to add cutting garden to your springtime planting list. They are fun to have and are beautiful inside and out. Some favorite, easy cutting garden flowers to grow are: cosmos, tall snapdragons, and zinnias. There are many others, of course, but these are easy to grow from seed and are sturdy in vases.

So, I am up to day 30 in my Lenten pledge to eshew complaining (I haven't been counting the days - I just went to check the calendar!!). And how has it been? Not too bad actually. Oh, I can think of a few moments where I certainly wanted to say something and I can think of a few situations in my future that may prove to be trials in whichI would want to complain, but I won't. Certainly, I am learning:

1) I don't really need to complain.
2) I can replace the urge to complain with something completely different.
3) The benefits of my not complaining need to extend to myself as well as others.

I'll explain these further.

I don't really need to complain.

I was talking with my friend the other day about this and I felt the need to clarify. Complaining is not the same as "not getting angry." Anger is a feeling that God gave us that we should not try to squelch, but instead use as a tool to help us recognize when we experiencing a siuational outcome we didn't expect or  that we believe should have gone a different direction. I don't think it is realistic to live without ever getting angry.

Complaining is a different matter.  I love how Jack Canfield clarifies complaining in his terrific book, The Success Principles:

In order to complain about something or someone, you have to believe that something better exists.You have to have a reference point of something you prefer that you are not willing to take responsibility for creating... Think about this...people only complain about things they can do something about. We don't complain about the theings we have no power over. Have you every heard anyone complain about gravity? No never....The circumstances you complain about are, by their very nature, situations you can change - but you have chosen not to. You can get a better job, find a more loving partner, make more money, live in a nicer house, live in a better neighborhood, and eat healthier food. But all these things would require you to change...But why don't you do those things? It's because they involve risks. You run the risk of being unemployed, left alone, or riduculed and judged by others. You run the risk of failure, confrontation, or being wrong. You run the risk of your mother, your neighbors, or your spouse disapproving of you. Making a change might take effort, money, and time. It might be uncomfortable, difficult, or confusing. And so, to avoid risking any of those uncomfortable feelings and experiences, you stay put and complain about it."

Until I had read this book last year, I had never thought about complaining in that way; it really changed my perspective.

I also don't think about "complaining to management" in the same way as I do generalized complaining. If my meal is brought to me incorrectly at a restaurant, I'm not going to not say anything because I'm practicing not complaining. I would speak up - politely - and ask to have it corrected. Complaining to me would be simply griping about it during the meal without doing anything about it. Or complaining would be nitpicking over every little detail of the meal just to make the staff's lives miserable.

Ultimately, I believe complaining, the grumbling and mumbling the Bible talks about, doesn't accomplish anything at all.

So, what do I do when I feel like complaining these days?  I can replace the urge to complain with something completely different.

I can praise God.

"I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations." - Psalm 89:1 KJV 

And I can give Him thanks.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7

I can choose to say something positive instead.

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."
 - Colossions 4:6

And I can extend that grace to myself as well. One of the other verses I think of regularly is Ephesians 4:29. It says,

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what it helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

One morning I was being pretty hard on myself and I thought of this verse. I was starting to complain to myself about myself in my head and realized what was happening. I wondered if I could extend the grace I was working so hard at giving to others, equally to myself as well?  "...that it may benefit those who listen." Certainly the one listening (me!) was not benefitting at all from my inner diatribe. I began to let some of that negative stuff go, and intead focus on what I could say positively to myself and obviously it completely changed my attitude for the day.

So, these are just some of the lessons I am learning from my sacrifice. We always do find blessing in our sacrifices, don't we?

Briefly, in other news, in the art class I teach weekly to other homeschooled students, I am now doing a series on portraiture. We practiced a couple of weeks ago with just eyes, noses, and mouths, and today we put them into practice in portraits. We started with photos from magazines, as it's easier to start with someone you don't know!

The girls were quite focused and worked diligently. They've come such a long way from the work they began with in the fall!

And finally, to continue my food diary, there has been a lot of Sunflower Sour Cream love happening! This stuff is SO yummy and so much better for you than dairy sour cream. Yesterday at lunch we had it on our crunchy-shell tacos, along with beans, lettuce, black olives, onions, and salsa. I love cilantro, but we were fresh out! The SSC made it's way into breakfast and lunch for me today too.

Breakfast: Raw cauliflower and Sunflower Sour Cream. Leftover vegan mac & cheese (mmmm... I love this stuff. I halve the recipe for my family of four and I almost always use smoked paprika instead of regular, but regular is great too!), and grape juice. Maybe weird to some; I'm not a big sweets person generally and not in the morning either. Plus, I like to get protein in at the start of my day if I can.

Snack: A handful of smoked almonds

Lunch: Baked potatoes with SSC and "bacon" bits (soy), garbanzo beans (chick peas) sauteed in olive oil with garlic, onions, cumin, nutritional yeast, and spinach from the farm, plus raw farm veggies and more SSC as dip.

Hmm... and what's for supper? I think I'll have some quinoa w/nutritional yeast, olive oil, and salt (a favorite quick meal!), maybe some brussels sprouts and a Bunny Spice smoothie, since I prepared a bunch of carrot juice this past weekend.

I don't mention beverages with our meals, because it's almost always water unless I make a smoothie in place of our fruit at lunch.

That's it for right now! Hope you're having a lovely week.

P.S. Oh! I almost forgot!! I ran seven miles last night!! Woo hoo! That's the furthest so far and it was wonderful! :)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What DO You Eat, Anyway?

Aaaahhh... so nice to sit down with a cup of tea after a morning of errands, errands, and more errands. I've got more ahead of me too, as well as a "Kitchen Factory" evening planned. I hope this tea will give me the charge I need to keep me going.

Well, we've found our realtors and our house will be listed as of Monday! This is very exciting, but also stressful, of course. This is one of the reasons for a kitchen factory evening. The first couple of weeks a house in on the market are usually quite busy; our family has to be ready to head out pretty quickly as needed. So, I'm trying to put together some easy things for the week ahead. I'm soaking chick peas tonight, so they can cook tomorrow. I want those and pinto beans done before Monday, as I don't see that I'll be able to necessarily be simmering beans on the stove for any length of time once we are listed - at least in the beginning stages. Cooked chick peas and pinto beans go into two of our easy go-to meals. Hummus and refried beans are always quick and easy for wraps and burritos and they are fairly portable if we have to dash out as long as you don't overstuff them.

Super-plump blueberries are in season now at our local, organic farmstand. I picked up a pint and will make blueberry muffins for the morning. I also picked up gargantuan sweet, Florida onions (seriously huge; Maia said, "This one is as big as my FACE!!) that I'll throw into the tabouli that I'm making for our monthly potluck tomorrow at our house church next door. My recipe calls for scallions, but there were no scallions at the farmstand and while I could have picked them up at the grocery store, I decided to use what was available locally. So, sweet onions it is; I'm sure no one will complain!

I was able to purchase a peppermint plant at the farmstand too.  Strangely enough, I've had a difficult time getting the mint plants I've tried in the past to take off. Usually mint just takes over. I'm pretty sure it's that the Florida soil just doesn't hold the moisture and I need to water it more than I'm used to watering herbs. It was in a pretty large container and I decided to try again in order to use mint from my garden for my tabouli, rather than purchasing it over and over. At only $5, I reasoned I'll get my money's worth easily (I LOVE tabouli and make it frequently)... as long as I remember to keep that mint watered!!

Other things on my "To Make" list are: Sunflower Seed Sour Cream (so good as a veggie dip!), a bunch of carrot juice for our "Bunny Smoothies"(that Sara taught me how to make when she and her family visited us a couple of years ago), and vegan mayo. I have breakfast bars on the list for later in the week too. I hope to take these with me on my trip to Ft. Lauderdale next Saturday. My strong, bold, sweet, and sassy grandmother passed away at 94 years of age this past Thursday and I will be attending her gravesite service there.

So, that's a lot of cooking I have in front of me. I may throw in a batch of granola too if I don't feel like keeling over after all that!

My neighbor was talking with me yesterday as I arrived home from my evening run. She was talking to me about running and food, asking me what I eat before I run, and then just asking me what I eat generally. She said, "So... what do you eat?"  I'm always so ill-prepared for this question, because my diet feels as regular and ordinary to me as yours does to you. After all, I have been vegetarian for 23 years and am coming up on my 4-year vegan anniversary.  I became vegetarian at 19, so nearly all the cooking I have taught myself, originally started as vegetarian. In fact, I don't think I've ever cooked an animal other than a fish and doing so would be a steep learning curve for me as well.

So, anyway, I was thinking that there may be others who are curious as to what a vegan eats on a day-to-day basis. I don't claim to be a foodie and there are plenty of gorgeous, vegan blogs out there. I like good-tasting, whole food, but other than these kitchen-factory-type days where I prepare a bunch of things all at once (often in order to preserve and use the fresh food we get from our CSA), I don't like spending oodles of time in the kitchen. I like to keep things relatively simple. My children are old enough too, to make some things for themselves, so they often do that now for breakfast and supper (because of work schedules, our big meal of the day is at lunch). So, I thought I would do a sort of regular feature at the end of my posts for a while, just listing what I've eaten for the day. I know it might seem kind of weird, but it's because I often get asked the same question my neighbor asked me. And, if you're a blog reader, you've obviously got a little bit of curiousity about other people's lives, so I will try this for a while. Perhaps you'll see something you'd like to try or try a combination you've never thought of before. Or maybe you'll see that eating a vegan diet isn't really all that weird... or maybe you'll decide that it is! In any event, I'll create a list that I can at least refer to myself - or refer others to when they ask me that question! :)Lu

The only other thing I would add, is that there are a few staples in my kitchen that are often not in non-veg kitchens. You will likely see them popping up as ingredients again and again. You may or may not be familiar with these foods, but they are readily available in most American supermarkets and/or health food stores these days.  The main ones I can think of off the top of my head are: nutritional yeast, regular and silken tofu, tempeh, and the grain, quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah"). I won't bother explaining what they are here. I know that all that information is only a few mere clicks away on the interwebby, so, I'll leave that to anyone who is interested to go digging on their own.

And now, without further delay:

What I've Eaten Today:

Breakfast: A bowl of "Cheesy Broccoli and Grits" and some store-bought vegan "sausage" patties (wasn't thrilled with these; I bought them when we were struggling to find help for Paul's digestive pain and these were "gluten free", "soy free", "dairy free", etc. I won't get them again), and a cup of Earl Grey tea.

Lunch: Peanut butter, thin apple slices, red-leaf lettuce, and agave nectar on a toasted sandwich. I'm not a fan of regular pb&j. There's not enough crunch there for me, so I usually throw something in with cruch or I toast the bread. In this case I did both, because the bread was fresh out of the freezer! I also took about a half a cup of raw walnuts and pecans sprinkled with salt and mixed with raisins on the road with me while I was running errands. I took a big tumbler of water too with some cucumber slices in it from our CSA farm.

Snack: PG Tips tea and Jello brand pistachio pudding made with coconut milk. Ooo - not a healthy snack, but I'm just vegan - not perfect! ;)

No supper for me today yet. I'm off to run more errands and then back to the kitchen factory. Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Messing Around and Spilling Over

This month's Sketchbook Challenge was titled, "Spilling Over".  I was kind of stumped by this one, but just decided to sit down one day and work it out.

Given that we are preparing our home for market, there isn't a whole lot of time to devote to outside, recreational projects. So I was thumbing through my new book, Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun by Carla Sonheim. I found this fun, cool technique in there for doing a portrait using an eyedropper and ink and voila!  I was in business!  I just thumbed through a magazine and picked out some fashion photos. I didn't have a lot of time and I just wanted to play - to mess around.

I didn't have any ink, but I did have some bottles of concentrated watercolor that actually have their own droppers with them. After you outline the picture with the dropper, you cover it with a piece of toilet paper and then quickly lift off. The result is so cool - it looked very much like a print to me; so fun! 

Over the next couple of days I added color after the original outlines dried. I gave the one above kitty ears, because my younger daughter loves to wear them and the guitar is because my older is learning to play.

Unfortunately, since this was all watercolor and not ink, things really did smudge (spill over!) a bit more than I might have liked, but this was all just experiment anyway - just play.

I came in one day and found what I'm pretty sure was evidence of real-life kitties on the table (a no-no!) overnight. Smudges on the redhead just wouldn't go away. Oh, well.

And the last one got a little bit of magazine page jewelry for a necklace and a bracelet.

All in all, I like my little collection and will likely share this exercise with my art students. This was a good exercise in loosening up for me. I'm usually much more precision-oriented, so this was good practice for me.

Friday, March 18, 2011

One More Reason: Feed the Beasties!

One of the many reasons I love homeschooling my children is that I often get to learn something new right along with them.  So here's something Eve and I learned a couple of days ago in science:

There are two reasons why we sweat. I knew the first reason: to cool our bodies. What I didn't know is that our sweat also feeds beneficial bacteria and fungi that live on the surface of our skin. That's right, 65,000 of these little dudes live on each square inch of your body and what's more is that they protect you from the pathogenic bacteria and fungi that want to make you sick!

A cold, non-sweat-producing body, therefore, is more suseptible to the bad guys. It occurred to me then, that this is likely a large reason why people get more sick in the wintertime. Wouldn't it be a good science (fair!) experiment to see if people who exercised to the point of sweating at least 5 days a week got fewer illnesses during cold weather than those that did not regularly work up a sweat in the cold and flu season months?

As someone who is moving up north, this has given me even one more reason to maintain my fitness.  Not only does exercise reduce the risk of chronic diseases and elevate the mood along with all sorts of other benefits, it also helps protect us from colds and viruses. So, get out there and work up a sweat, so you can feed the beasties!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Special Treat for You for Lent

Enjoy this fresh perspective on Jesus' own 40 days!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thoughts on a Peaceful Morning

This is the view from where my day begins. After the tea kettle has been set to boil and my cup is prepared; after I feed the four "starving" cats that mew piteously around my ankles until their dishes are set on the floor; after my bird, outside on the lanai has also been pet and fed, I head to the living room to my rocking chair, settle in with my tea and my Bible and let my day begin.

I deeply appreciate my quiet mornings and this time I have alone with God and my own foggy thoughts, slowly coming into clarity, has become a treasured part of my day. No longer a "discipline" as it once began, my morning routine is just that: routine; I am always a bit out of sorts if I miss it. 

Another habit over the years has been to clean up everything after supper. What hasn't been so firmly established, however, has been to make sure the dishes are also dried and all put away before bed.  I have long been a dish-drainer stacker, but I was finding that the last thing I wanted to do in the morning while waiting for the water to boil was to be putting away dishes.

So, now, before bed, I, with help if necessary, have been trying to have everything put away before I go to bed, so I can be welcomed by a peaceful kitchen when I greet it in the morning. Incedentally, I have had to resort to using bleach in the last year to really get my sink white. Despite baking soda, lemon juice, salt scrubs, and a multitude of other gentler, natural cleansers, nothing really works on a white sink the way bleach does. That said, I have found that I can use a tablespoon of bleach in a spray-bottle of water and it works brilliantly.  I clean with baking soda and soap and then about once a week, give the sink a misting and that is all I need. I didn't really want to resort to this, but I comfort myself with the fact that my tablespoon of bleach goes a very long way and given that I live in the Sunshine State in the land of swimming pools, I am okay with using this small amount. Also, even though I love the look of a white, porcelain sink, I will not likely get another one for this very reason. At the present, as we move toward getting our house ready for market, little details like a very clean sink become important.

And you know, if white were still popular, we'd have a very sellable kitchen! :)  I did used to have more, personal things on the walls, such as family photos and a few, fun posters. I like a kitchen to be very homey and comfortable, because we spend so much time in here. All of those extras have been removed and just a few things remain, so that someone else might picture themselves here.  I confess I don't really like that idea. I do love our house. If I could move it up to Minnesota - and insulate it like crazy! - I would.

That said, I have loved all the kitchens I have ever lived in - purchased or rented. Apparently - if the HGTV "House Hunters" show that I watch over at my mom's on Wednesday night is any indicator - stainless steel everything seems to be pretty important to a lot of people. I confess that I just laugh when I see that folks will walk through a home with perfectly good appliances and talk about how they will "need" to be replaced. Personally, the only appliance we have ever truly "needed" to replace has been our dishwasher and that, of course, is an appliance of certain luxury.  I have always had more of a "make do" mentality. If an appliance was not functioning properly, of course, we'd try to replace it, but I don't go wasting appliances on a decorating whim. Acutally, I have always loved that I can still provide noursishing, tasty food for myself and my family no matter what kind of kitchen I've had, be it spacious or a narrow galley.

I know that our kitchen is "dated" (it was built in 1986 and other than cosmetic changes, most of the original kitchen remains), but it has served our family well and I'd like to believe it will do the same for someone else. It's given me many a peaceful morning.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring Break!

My family and I are on Spring Break this week. Are you?  We've got family in town, so there will be trips to the beach and fun in the sun and at the pool. Enjoy yourselves this week if you're on a break too. And if not, enjoy yourselves this week anyway. Think warm thoughts and know that spring really is just around the corner!

See you next week!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Running is Cool

I've been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks now.  Usually I think about it when I run. Ultimately, thinking that running is cool must be the thing that keeps me going back out there. It's kind of shallow, I know, but there it is.

See, I don't run because I love it. At least, after one year of running, I don't love it yet.  I do go through phases - like one I am enjoying now - whenI really DO like it and I'm genuinely enjoying it.  But running is hard for me. And though it's gotten a little easier, it hasn't gotten remarkably easier.  At least it's still harder to me than I'd hoped it would be at this point. My goal right now is that I'd like to run a comfortable 5 miles on a regular basis.  I've achieved the 5 miles twice and the most recent one felt amazingly good. But I did that almost 2 weeks ago and haven't done another 5 since and I've continued battling with shin splints in the meantime.

I know some people are built to run. Some people can go out and just do a few miles right out of the chute.  Not me.  Running has never, to my recollection, been something that I've done for the sheer joy of doing it.  It's always been work - even when I was a child. Dancing, I love. Yoga, I love. Gymanstics I love(d). But running was always an effort.

Maybe that's why I think running is so cool.  I think it's because it doesn't come easily to me and I admire those who do it with such grace. My knees don't like running. My feet, which are prone to plantar faciaitis (I have lousy arches) require supportive shoes. My hips aren't much of a fan either from time to time. In fact, as I said to an online friend about a week ago, just the fact that I can run at all makes me feel like a superhero.

I'm amazed - seriously amazed - that my body has allowed me to travel 5 miles in just over 11 minutes a mile. That's pretty darn slow, folks. But my feet keep moving and sometimes they keep carrying me even when I don't believe they can or they ought to.

 Running surprises me.  Often it disappoints me. I think that because I have accomplished something - some speed or distance - that I should be able to do it regularly. But running is humbling. It's two steps forward and one step back for me on a regular basis. But I keep going out and it also gives me happy surprises too. Like that last 5 miles I ran. Dang, I wish I could run like that every day.

 I can never really tell if I'm going to have a good running day or a bad running day. I keep trying to come up with the "magic formula." After a good run, I'll wonder what I did differently and try to replicate it, but every run is different for me. I find this extremely frustrating most of the time. But running continues to teach me things about being a biological being. Some days simply are better days than others; it's not all in our heads, it's also in our whole body.  For example, on days when I feel tired and think I don't feel like running but go out anyway, occasionally I'm surprised with a wonderful run, but more often I find that my body responds tiredly. My heart rate goes up faster over a shorter distance than on a good day and I feel like my body is verifying what my head was telling me, "I am tired!"

But I continue running for those days when my body really does feel like it is moving like a well-oiled machine to the music of my playlist, when my heart is keeping pace with my legs and my breathing and we're all working hard together, but it is a good working. I'm not a fast machine, but I do get the job done, nonetheless! And slowly, slowly, I am seeing distances that were once goals of mine become the regular workouts and new goals take shape. It's slower than what I want. That irks me. I feel like I should be farther along than where I am and I do get frustrated hearing of others accomplishing what has taken me so long to acquire in a fraction of the time. And because of that I sometimes think, "Maybe I'm just not built to run." But I guess I don't really believe that...

I run because it's my own thing. I've never been a competitive and I don''t like competing in front of an audience. I know that some people really do and that there is value in team sports. I respect that, but it has always been a loathesome experience for me. I have always preferred sports for the sake of fitness and health over competition.

I also run, because some days I just don't have time to walk! Acutally, that's one of the ways I started running years ago before I took it up again last year. I was taking regular fast walks, but some days I wouldn't because I couldn't fit it in. But if I ran... well, then, I could squeeze in a little more now, couldn't I?

I also like to believe that because running can be done in a lot of different places, I will be able to incorporate that into my life too. For the most part, I run different routes around my neighborhood. But I could run in other parts of my town if I take time to map out some new routes. And someday I could run while on vacation or like so many runners in Runners World magazine, take a vacation based upon a race. Just knowing that fuels me to keep going, because you never know where those potential paths may lead and I want to be prepared to do that, should the opportunity arise. Crazy, right? But whatever works to get you up and moving.

I do wonder if I will always "just" be a shorter-distance runner. At this point in my life I don't see myself with a goal of a marathon, but I have learned - and running has taught me - never say never. Plus, I want to be able to run while I can. I know there may be days in the hopefully-distant future when I will wish that I could run again, but for some reason or other I cannot. So, I'm just going to keep at it for... well, for as long as I still like it, I guess. And, well, you know, cuz running is cool.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Guest Blogger Book Review: The Dark Hills Divide

Hello.  This is Eve again and today I am reviewing for you Patrick Carman's, The Dark Hills Divide.

A good book of fantasy is The Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman. The Dark Hills Divide is the first of a four-part series about the Land of Elyon. The land of Elyon is in danger of being destroyed and rebuilt under an evil leader.

The main girl of the four books is Alexa. Alexa is a girl of twelve and lives in a sheltered community behind huge walls. They have three cities which are also surrounded by walls. They are all connected by roeds with the same huge walls surrounding them. No one has ever been outside or even seen outside of the walls. The walls were built because of monsters that supposedly live beyond the walls in the Land of Elyon. There is only one room in a special lodge that Alexa goes to that lets her see outside the wall. Alexa had stolen her mother's spyglass once so she could look outside the wall. She did not know that one little spyglass would change everything.

The Dark Hills Divide is a spectacular book! Both my sister and I love it. Patrick Carman leaves a cliff-hanger at the end of every chapter. This makes very exciting. I really recomend this book to younger readers around the age of eleven who like fantasy. This book is my favorite book! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Harajuku, Horses, and Other Stuff

Things have been moving at the speed of life around here, which means we've been busy.  Home repairs continue toward the move, but life does go on around the various projects underway.

A number of years ago my nephews introduced Maia to a little thing called Pokemon.  Perhaps you've heard of it? Little did we know that this would be a gateway into everything Japanese for all of our family.  Maia has always been a fanatical drawing artist and once she discovered Pokemon and Manga style, she'd found her true love! In fact she hopes to pursue this kind of art in college.  But  before we get ahead of ourselves (!), in our present lives Japanese pop culture is ever-present - for both my girls. In fact, as I write this post, my younger daughter, Eve, is on the couch with a virus  and is studying Japanese on her own with her little Japanese dictionary at her side and papers on which she is practicing Katakana.

The girls are also influenced by Harajuku style.  I didn't even really have a name for it until I heard Gwen Stefani's song, "Harajuku Lovers" just the other day.  Obviously, my girls are not the only ones loving what they see across the Pacific.

Last week Maia mentioned again that she wanted to dye her hair red. But not a natural red; she wanted bold red. Having had purple hair, magenta hair, and black hair myself at various times, I understand the desire to count your hair as an accessory.  So, off we went to the beauty supply store and picked up a demi-permanent shade to try out in case she didn't like it.  Eve picked up a magenta shade with a semi-permanent color.  It wasn't as strong and just mostly ended up showing up on her highlights from last year. Maia suggested some before and after shots:


(For the record, I love both their hair JUST the way it is and told them so... a few times, in fact.  But, I understand the urge and it's just hair...)

After! Pretty, pretty! She loves it and will be picking up some permanent color in a few weeks!

I have to say that I actually really love Harajuku style.  It actually reminds me some of the way I used to dress, but there are just even more layers! The Japanese, if you don'k know, have a "thing" for CUTE. And trendy styles for teen girls there consist more of big bows in the hair, school uniforms, and lots of ruffles.  I was watching one of the videos Maia likes today and told her that the band members looked like teen 6 year olds. American girls tend to end up in styles that say "sexy" as they get older, rather than "cute".  So the fact that my girls are into going with cute is just fine with me! :)

Last Sunday after church, Eve and I attended her first horse show.  She is learning to ride English style and students and her trainer from their club were competing.  I love that she brought along her own horse for the show...

Below is her trainer, Jillian, on her horse, Myakka.

And I thought I'd share a couple of easy dishes with you. Eating a vegan diet is so second nature to me at this point that I don't think about it at all and things are easy-peasy, just the way I like them. I'm not a foodie, because I simply don't have time and don't really like spending lots of time in the kitchen.  However, I do like good food that is good for me and that means that I probably do spend more time in the kitchen than someone who doesn't cook with whole foods.  Still, to me, these are quick and delicious dishes that you might want to try.

This morning I had oatmeal that I love, love, love. I use whole, rolled oats (not instant, though it really takes hardly any time to cook anyway). I don't like my oatmeal very runny or gummy.  In fact, I often eat it raw as a cold cereal.  But when I do cook it like I did this morning, I only add 1/4 cup more water than the oatmeal that I use.  This morning I was the only one who wanted oatmeal, so I used 3/4 c oatmeal and 1 c water.
My favorite sweetner for my oatmeal is pure, maple syrup.  I always add a pinch of salt and usually also add 2 t of vegan margarine (Earth Balance is my favorite) and almond milk.  Then there are the wonderful options that make homemade oatmeal so wonderful:

Add apple chunks, cinnamon, and raisins while the oatmeal is cooking.
Add walnuts and craisins while cooking or after it's done.
Add a T of peanut butter... If you add raisins to this, it's like pb&j oatmeal!
Chopped banana and pecans are lovely.

This morning I added chopped almonds and strawberries from our CSA farm while the oatmeal was cooking too.  SO yummy and so fast and so much better than those little, individual packages!

Since I'd gone to the farm yesterday to pick up our share, we had fresh kale on hand for my husband's and my favorite kale salad. To think that Paul used to not like kale at all. I didn't mind that, because that always meant more for me.  Seriously, I could eat a whole head of kale by myself. But alas, now he always hopes for leftovers!
Kale Salad

Toast some pine nuts or walnuts in a dry skillet over med heat until browned and aromatic.  While toasting make a marinade of tamari, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Pull leaves of kale away from stem and tear into large, bite-sized pieces (they will shrink when cooked) and then rinse.  When nuts are done toasting, add to marinade.  Add kale to skillet (still over med. heat) and add 1/4 c water. Put a tight lid on and steam for one minute. Toss and steam for one minute more. Drain and add to bowl with marinade. Toss and GOBBLE! You can eat this hot or at room temperature.  Yum, yum, yum!

And I just wanted to show you these beautiful, yellow beets from the farm.  I did nothing but steam and eat them, so there's no recipe to share, but they're just so pretty. :)  Well, that's all I've got for you today! Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 11, 2011

February Sketchbook Challenge: Opposite

This month's Sketchbook Challenge theme is "Opposite." I decided to do the metaphorical representation of the dual nature of Christ as depicted in the familiar Lion and the Lamb.  In additon to the subject matter, I limited my color palette to black and white, blue and orange.  Blue and orange are complementary colors, found opposite each other on the color wheel.

I sketche this out in my Moleskine watercolor sketchbook.  It is worked in pencil, watercolor, charcoal, and watercolor pencil.  I have never limited myself to a certain color palette before, but have admired others' use of this technique.  I really liked doing it and hope to do more of it in the future!

Above is just a peek at the whole of my sketchbook.  The left-hand sketch is just one I did last week while my younger daughter was at her horseback riding lesson.  That's a sketch of "Archie Pony," the pony she rides and so named because there also is an "Archie Horse" that resides at the same stables.  I wanted to get a sketch of my daughter brushing him (which is why he has the chains on his bridle), but I ran out of time and she was off and eager to ride!

I'm happy that I have challenged myself with the Sketchbook Challenge this year.  This challenge and the book that came for me in the mail last week, Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun by Carla Sohneim, has put sketching back up there in the front of my brain.  I confess that it does not occupy the same kind of space that my knitting does, but it is still important to me and I don't want it to fall by the wayside.  I like that it exercises my mind in a different way. 

More than even each individual piece for me is the pleasure of looking over the whole sketchbook.  It is not so much for me to create something magnificent every time, but instead, just to do it, because I find that even pieces that disappointed me in the past are things that I return to look at with fondness and I'm so much gladder for having done it than having created nothing at all.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Full Plates

Oh, I hope I'm not overdoing things by joining this fun group:


Tonia, over at Study in Brown has begun this letter-writing group.  I kept reading about it on a few other blogger friends blogs and was intrigued for a couple of reasons. 1) I do love wrting and receiving letters. And 2) I often have used letter writing as a form of ministry to edify others. A favorite Bible verse of mine is this one: "Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land." - Proverbs 25:25  But we are busy here.  So very busy.  I'm not exaggerating; we are planning to move. More on that in a minute.

I'm glad I actually went over to Tonia's blog to see exactly what the parameters of the club were, because it basically involves just writing letters to whomever, whenever you like! Sweet.  I can do that.  I have let down pen pals, as much as I love them, in the past.  I didn't want to commit to something else, knowing that I could disappoint myself and others.  But no quotas.  No timelines.  Just a gentle nudge reminding me that this is something I do like to do and when I do find a free moment, I could, in addition to my knitting, sketching, journaling, reading, blogging etc (good grief! hahahahaha! - can you see my reasons for hesitating?), choose instead to pick up a pen and write a little something to someone in my life.  As I mentioned, I do write to others, but I could do a bit more... I would like to do a bit more.  The key words here are "a little something" and "a bit more", because my past tendency has been to write long, engaging letters that are many pages long.  I usually write these over a couple of days.  But as much as I love to send and recieve long, newsy letters, the knowledge of the time they take me has actually kept me from writing them more frequently.  So, perhaps I can send shorter letters more often.

I do think, however, I will need to let my self-portrait project go.  The "52 Weeks of BAM" is a fun project, but I am not finding the time or energy to take well-composed portraits. So, if I don't want a year of photos of my hands and feet (! - lol!) I'm just going to put that one on the back burner for now. And as tempted as I am to send my snail mail address to some online friends of mine, I will be holding off until some of this bigger stuff is beyond me.

That bigger stuff.  Yeah, it's been in the works for some time now, this attempt at a move of ours.  I didn't want to say anything publically until my girls had a chance to tell their good friends on their own, in their own time.  These blog posts link up to Facebook and some of my girls' friends are on there, so I was waiting.

There are many reasons for this decision and those I will, for the most part, keep to myself.  But the main reason is one I have spoken of here many times and that is one of homesickness for my family - both my own siblings and my husband's.  Yes, my mother lives here in Florida.  And yes, I will miss her terribly.  I wish she would come with us, I really do.  But our destination is a return home to Minnesota and the long winters are not appealing to her (and I can't honestly say that long winters are appealing to me, but family is and they win out over weather).  Fortunately, she has the time and the means to travel frequently.  I am hoping for many summertime visits from Grandma! 

So.  We have slowly been preparing our home for the market.  My husband has been slowly making his way through the house, painting every room and even the outside of our home.  We are closing in on seeing the end of the painting tunnel!  There are a few more repairs that will need to happen and then the staging of the home.  I am praying that God will provide just the right family to our home here and that He will be making a way for us to make our way back to our family and friends.  I am trying very hard to patient and rely on His timing. 

One of the more fun things for me has been getting rid of stuff!  I just took another large load of clothes and unused household items (extra dishes we really don't need) to Goodwill and another large load of books to donate to the library.

I was especially happy to donate to the library.  The library is one place we always visit first whenever we have moved to a new community and we even like to visit libraries when we travel. A nearby library is such a wonderful thing on so many levels, but one of my favorite uses of it is that it provides storage!  I do not have to own shelves and shelves of books.  I can rely on the fact that there is a place in town that will have nearly everything I need to read and if it doesn't have it, it can get it for me via an interlibrary loan.  Obviously, I own books, but I only keep copies of favorites and reference works that I turn to again and agian, such as craft books, cookbooks, books on my Christian faith, some favorite works of children's fiction and picture books, etc. 

Today I took about 5 full bags of books.  I wished, however, that I could have parted with more, as I love that feeling of space and liberation!  But the books I kept are those our family uses and dearly loves and so, though we don't have totally clear shelves, we did gain more space.  Reorganizing will be a project to come over the next few weeks.  This goal feels like suh a Hurculean effort, but like everything, baby steps are the key.  Baby steps and patience are helping me carry my full plates!

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Guest Blogger Book Review!

Hello, I am Eve. I am writing a short book review here on my Mom's blog, on a book that I finished for home school.

I think Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Bell is a very good book. This work of fiction is suited for readers who like drama, humor and a hint of romance. My Mom first spotted it at our local library.

Genevieve Welsh is a normal girl with a normal summer planned out for herself. But when her mother decides to take them all to an 1890's camp, she thinks that her summer will be ruined.

The summer turns out not to be so bad when she makes a new friend and there is a "cute looking boy" named Caleb not too far away from their cabin. Everything changes, though, when she finds a rival, Nellie Olson, who is after Caleb too.

Little Blog on the Prairie is aimed at girls around eleven and older. As of writing there is no sequel, but I still really enjoyed reading it. I highly recommend this book for girls around my age.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bread is Good

It's been a pretty yucky week so far.  So, I'm choosing to thank God for His presence and provision and I am sharing my bread recipe with you.  It's easy-peasy, inexpensive and so reliable. It's also vegan, containing no dairy or eggs.  I've only ever had requests for MORE bread, not less, so I don't think anyone has ever missed those ingredients.  Plus, using just the water and oil, it saves even more money!

 My electric mixer was a thrift-store purchase about 5 years ago and was easily 25 to 30 years old at the time.  It finally bit the dust this past autumn and I've been doing all my mixing by hand ever since.  I actually am enjoying making the bread even more now that I'm doing it all by hand.  My recipe reflects that.

Easy Whole-Wheat Bread

3 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c sugar
2 T salt
4 t yeast
4 c water
1/2 c light olive oil
6 c unbleached, all-purpose flour

Stir whole-wheat flour, sugar, salt, and yeast into a large bowl.  Heat water and oil on the stove until about 120 F. Add water to flour mixture and stir for a few minutes until it's nicely blended.  Continue stirring in unbleached flour one cup at a time.  After about the 5th cup of flour, I turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and with oiled hands, begin kneading, adding the additonal flour as needed keep it from being too sticky.  You may need more than just 6 c of the unbleached flour as you near the end.  Sometimes if it's seeming too dry, I'll oil my countertop and knead that in too before I add more flour.  Knead until it is nice and smooth - about 10 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl, setting dough in the bowl and then flipping it over so that it is coated on both sides.  Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about an hour to hour and a half.  Punch down and divide in two.  On an oiled countertop, roll out 1/2 of the dough into a 9 in.-wide rectangle to release air bubbles.  Roll up, tucking in ends as needed and place into prepared, oiled bread pan.  Repeat with second half.  Let rest and rise for about 20 minutes.  While the dough is resting and rising again, preheat oven to 375 F. Move a middle rack lower, so that the tops don't burn when the bread rises even more in the oven.  Bake for 40 minutes.  You can brush with melted Earth Balance over the top if you like, for a softer, shinier crust.  I like mine as is.  Let pans cool for about 10 minutes, then remove bread from pans onto racks to completely cool.  I know it is tempting to eat the bread when it is still so nice and hot, but it will hold up much better for you for slicing into pieces if you let it cool thoroughly - at least an hour!

This past weekend I spread one half of the dough with brown sugar and cinnamon before I rolled it up to place in the pan and made cinnamon-swirl bread.  YUM!

Let me know if you give it a try! Enjoy! :)


Image by Alan Blaustein - available at

Friday, January 21, 2011

Next Week She Will Ride

This was the smiling face of my girl last October when Grandpa and Grandma visited and we all took a trip to Busch Gardens in Tampa.  It just about broke my heart.  She has wanted to have riding lessons for a number of years now.  But not everything is financially possible... This photo is of her on just one of those small, pony rides where the little ones get to just ride around a small circuit.  She was giddy.
So, imagine my joy and her UTTER delight when my mom offered her a chance to try out her dream.

We toured the barn on Thursday and... week she will ride!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Art and Color: Power for Positive Change

Don't think the arts are worth investing in? Is it wasting time to doodle?  Is it not practical to want to be an artist? How vital is art anyway? What can YOU do with a box of 64 colors?  Well, a lot, actually.

For more information on this very cool project, pay their site a visit!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sketchbook Challenge: Highly Prized 2

My second sketchbook challenge offering for the theme, "Highly Prized."

Scenes from the Week Past: January 9-15, 2011

Just a few images to share from our last week:

One of the things that I love about homeschooling is that my daughter can work on a project, cozy in her robe on a drowsy, Monday morning.

Preliminary sketches being done for a piece that would be finished in charcoal.  This week's assignment was to draw an instrument.

It's citrus season!  The grapefruits and tangeloes abound in our backyard. homage to Amanda Soule who has many tips of shoes in her fabulous photography... :)

I had one down-and-out with a headache-causing cold.

All was better for our mid-week visit to Grandma's house.

And one sketchbook challenge was accepted and begun!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sketchbook Challenge: The Justification and First Sketch

Hahahahahahahahahaha!  Did I really say this?! :

Drawing and painting may end up on the back burner for a while... for a while.

That's the hard thing about having a blog.  Or putting anything in writing for that matter.  You can always look back and find where your inconsistencies lie.  There's evidence.

Well, at least I also said this:

That may prove hard in a week when my art students return... and inspire me again!

I gave myself a safety net.  But I didn't think I'd need it so quickly!  But last night... late last night... I suppose when my tired brain was more receptive to insidious plans, hypnotic spells, and devious suggestions... I saw this:

*sigh* I woke up with a list of sketching ideas floating around in my brain.  I'm weak, I tell you, weak!  But this is only one prompt per month.  I really only need to do one sketch per month. I don't need to do all of my brain list.  In fact, it is highly, highly unlikely that I would be able to find time to draw everything my mind puts in front of me.

But I was lucky this morning, because I got all my errands done yesterday. I have a day to play!  So, taking advantage of a quiet, sleeping family, and getting the pets all fed and occupied with their goodies, I made myself a pot of tea and got to work.

This month's Sketchbook Challenge theme is "Highly Prized".  Think on that for a moment.  You will be surprised as to what your mind conjures up.  For most of us, our direction will likely first head to our families.  For many, including myself, our faith. I wanted to stretch myself beyond the obvious, though.  It's not that I won't sketch those things too, perhaps, but what else do I prize, and why? When I began to think about the things that I care for, the things that make up my daily round, I began to get a number of ideas, the first of which is presented here as well as the text I included on the page.

I don't really think of myself as a technology lover. I'm certainly not into all kinds of gadgets & never feel the need to have the latest of anything.  In fact, I just purchased my first-ever cell phone in Nov. of 2010. And despite the fact that I felt a bit shallow thinking of my iPod shortly after thinking of my family & my faith, I have to admit that it's true.  I was even skeptical when my husband gifted it to me for Christmas 2006.  I mean, I enjoy music, but not all the time. But what I hadn't considered was podcasts.  Like the blogosphere that had connected me with so many amazing, interesting people from around the globe, podcasts did the same thing through sound.  I often feel like a fish out of water in everyday society, but through the internet & podcasts & communities that form around them, I connect daily with other creative people.  It's been literally life-changing for me, a sort of lifeblood in otherwise lonely times.

One of the cool things I love about working in sketchbooks is that ordinarily, they are for your eyes only.  Some sketches may develop into works of art, some sketches may be works of art, and whole sketchbooks are their own genre of art.  But for me, there are no real expectations when I come to my sketchbook pages.  Like my journals, they are just thoughts on paper with imagery included.  I am more of a written word journaler, but whenever I sketch it adds another dimention to my experience.  I lose myself in the concentration of the lines being placed on the page.  The final outcome may or may not be pleasing to me, but it still cements a memory, still captures a moment of time - my time.  That is what is important to me. 

I will never be famous.  At least I don't plan to be, nor do I want to be.  Despite the sharing I do of myself in this space, I'm much too private of a person to desire fame.  I do, however, wish to leave a mark.  I think that is why the words written and the images collected never seem to stop.  I am a collector of my own life.  A storyteller telling myself my story.  I believe that someday my decendents may enjoy glimpses into the past - mine and theirs - through my words and art.  Especially in a world that's highly digital, marks on a page, handwriting... anything handmade...seems to have that much more value.  At least it does for me. 

I'm excited by this challenge and hope that I will be able to create a minimum of 12 sketches this year.  I aim for more, but I do know how the things of life like to make claims on our time.  But I love projects. I really do!  For me, they make the ordinary extraordinary.  Do you have any that you are working on for 2011?  And if not, feel free to join me!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

You Know You're a Grownup When...

Now THIS is fabulous!  I'd made something similar years ago, but lost the file in one of the computer upgrades.  I started to make another one and then I said to myself, "Self, " I said, "I bet there are many grocery shopping list templates out there on the world-wide webby already." And I looked and I found one.  But, being vegan, I was going to have to do a lot of modifying of it.  But then I said again, "Self, you know there is probably a vegetarian shopping list out there too.  Why not check before you reinvent the wheel?" And so I did, and so there WAS!  The list was modifiable for my family's needs and now, oh, it's just brilliant as far as I'm concerned.  It jogs my memory.  But more than that, other family members can simply check the list when we run out of something.  Having had a few years of mommy experience under my belt, I am not naive enough to think that this will always work, but hopefully we'll have fewer moments of walking to the cabinet only to find the last of the bread has been used and not reported to the bread buyer!

You know you're a grownup when you get excited about appliances... and grocery lists.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Links to Love and Inspire on a Snowy Day

While the rest of the country seems to be taking turns being blanketed with snow, we have remained pretty mild on the gulf coast for the past couple of weeks.  So, then why do we find our intrepid heroes inside watching Disney teen and Mary-Kate and Ashley movies inside instead of out in the nice weather?  Well, my Eve is laid up with a virus (hence, "Avalon High" and "A New York Minute") and I am having some lower-back issues, so it's the heating pad and stretches, if not yoga, for a few days for me.

In the meantime, I've been enjoying some of the great content that I've found in the blogosphere lately.  I've really been enjoying Tiffany's blog.  From there I learned about this. I'm thinking about it.  It seems like a good challenge, has an open-ended timeline, and I've been looking for some interesting projects to do in this new year. Elsie's is always a cheerful place to visit. She's started her own project for the year.  I won't participate in this one, but it will be fun to watch!  Due to that project, I've been introduced to Lia's fun home on the web.

So those are some of the faces and places that are new to me in this new year.  Hope that you pay them a visit if you have the time.  Perhaps a heating pad behind your back too?  Or at least a snow day.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mid-Week Mix

This is our second year as members of the Gamble Creek Farm CSA and we are just into our third month of receiving shares.  Our gulf coast season for receiving produce from the farm is from November to May or early June.  That's a nice, six-month stretch of fresh, locally grown veggies. 

Last year, my family had its own share; this year we are splitting the share with my mom and her s.o. Last year we had oodles of lettuces and every week there was a large head of cabbage.  There was hardly room in my fridge for all that greenery; we had many salads and many green smoothies last season.  This season has been different.  The lettuces bolted early-on and had to be replanted.  We haven't had as many greens yet, but they are picking up again.  Last night's share included: spinach, eggplant, roma tomatoes, peppers, kohlrabi, cabbage and baby bok-choy.  We had ratatouille for lunch today and I think we'll have a cabbage and noodle melt tomorrow. 

I'm so thankful for all the online recipe sources. Vegweb is a gem!  When we were introduced, through the farm, to kohlrabi and bok choy last year, that is where I turned to get some ideas.  Vegweb is where I turn first for everything vegan -- mmmmmm!  Kohlrabi (that pale-green, alien-looking bulb in the bottom left of the photo) is now one of Eve's favorite veggies.  She loves me to cut up carrot-stick size pieces of it to eat raw.  I enjoy it like that, but love it even more roasted and in stews.

Art class began again for the new year.  Today I introduced the girls to charcoal.  They were delighted to move beyond their graphite pencils and really took to experimenting. (That's a wet rag, by the way, in the middle of the table, for wiping blackened fingers!)

After they'd practiced for a while I asked them what they thought of the new medium: friend or foe?  A couple of girls liked it and one declared it a "frenemy"!

I took a couple of photos of my newer projects to update my Ravelry page.  I'm working on a pair of Monkey socks (Ravelry link), that famous Cookie A. pattern.  Yes, I'm about 5 years behind the popularity curve for this one, but I am really enjoying the pattern so far.  They are my first socks I am doing on a circular needle instead of the double points.  I'm loving that I'm not having to fiddle with trying to keep "ladders" out of my knitting.  For those of you who don't know, "ladders" are spots in your finished work where you can see where one needle met the next.  It's kind of like seeing a seam where you don't really want one.

So, I'm liking the circular and then... this morning I found the tip of one of my needles on the floor.  I must have shut the drawer on my project last night and broken off the tip. :(  They were wooden Knit Picks Harmony needles.  They are lovely, but since my looser knitting has forced me down to the teeny-sized 0 needles for my sock knitting (ugh), I'm going to purchase the nickel-plated ones to replace these.

And here is the Watered Steel Cardigan (Ravelry link)I cast on a couple of days ago.  I'm knitting it out of Lion's Brand Fishermen's Wool.  I've just barely started on the lace pattern at the bottom of this seamless cardi, but so far, so good.

Finally, yesterday when we were at our weekly library stop, I was having Eve pick out a couple of books.  I wanted her to find another to read for school.  She found two that she liked and I was trying to convince my more reluctant reader that she could still get the other one and read it on her own time, like before bed.  "But I need motivation, Mama," she said.  "That's why I like when you assign them for school." "Well," I replied, "why don't you make it a new year's goal?  How about a '12 in 12' that I've seen knitters, crafters, and readers alike, assign for themselves? " She could give herself a book to read a month and keep a running record of it in her journal.  She liked the idea and is going to give it a try.

I like the idea too.  Last year one of my resolutions was to "read more fiction." And I did, but I didn't really keep tabs.  And some books I started and then didn't finish.  I am such a non-fiction reader and have a hard time, sometimes, settling in for fiction.  It really has to capture me and I wish I could figure out just what it is about certain books that I like and what it is about others that have me rolling my eyes and tossing them aside.

There are few romance books that I have ever really liked other than Jane Austen's.  And I loved Wuthering Heights, but that is not exactly a romance.  It is more romantic anguish!  I adored Dickens', Great Expectations, but his Bleak House grew dull for me and I have never made it very far into Tale of Two Cities (I wonder if I should try that on audio?).  I also love Anne of Green Gables and am currently, for my first book of the year, reading the third in that series, Anne of the Island (it's a free Kindle download, so you can't beat the price!).  And The Scarlet Letter was compelling, but I only got into that with the help of Heather Ordover and CraftLit.  Once started, though, I loved it!

I'm not all about classics, though. That's just what comes to mind when I think of books I have reeeeally enjoyed.  In 2010 I read Maeve Binchy's Circle of Friends and I also really liked Curtis Sittenfeld's An American Wife.

I can tell you what I don't like and that is dark novels.  I look to my reading for escape and entertainment and while it doesn't all obviously have to be fluff, I'm not interested in anything pertaining to missing or molested children, incest, or a great deal of violence.  I can read murder mysteries, but they are not usually full of sordid details of twisted acts.  That is not entertaining for me; it only serves to make me sad.

So.  I'm going to try to keep track of at least 12 pieces of fiction this year.  And I'd like to read at least two biographies too.  I'm not sure if those will be in addition to, or in place of, a few of the fictional works.  I'll also say, that my track record for setting these kind of every month or every week or every day goals is not very good.  My Project 365 of a few years ago, fizzled around April.  And even online book groups that I've tried to do do not always make it to the end.  But I'll give it another go.  I'll be accountable here and to my daughter and we'll see what we can make of it all.

I'll be perusing various book-listsand re-looking at my birthday book, Honey for a Woman's Heart for recommendations , but if you have any favorites that seem to meet my criteria, please do share them in the comments!
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