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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mental Cleansing

Occasionally we all get in a behavioral rut. We know we need to grow in a certain area and substantially change our approach, and yet we do not make the change. Are we simply lazy? It could just be that we haven't found the proper motivation to increase our efforts. We are in need of some good 'ole mental cleansing, because if we see the situation more clearly, we will change.

Let me explain what I mean by "mental cleansing." If there is a good action or service that we are ignoring or balking at, we must name all of the reasons we have for not rising to the challenge; essentially, not being who we feel called to be. We put a clear face on the "buts." For example," I should ... but …". It could even be that we are putting conditions on our good deeds. "Of course I would do .... if only...".  Let's look at an example: "I know I could be more present to people, but I am so tired, and I have so much on my plate right now, what about me, and…!" Let it roll! Only when we put all of the reasons in the light will we become fully aware of them and rob them of their power. It may take some effort to clearly recognize the motives for our paralysis and omissions. But, once these are clearly and completely identified, we come to the realization that these "buts" aren't so big after all, or if they are, they are not big enough for us to not grow as persons.

     In life, we have a great opportunity to grow our hearts. We do not need something in our environment to change in order to feel inspired to double or revamp our efforts in that area we feel called to change. Rather, we each have a voice inside us calling us to greatness of spirit, and it wants to be heard. It is a compelling voice that makes us simply unhappy with stagnation.

  We are now ready to cast aside all reasons for taking the easy road. (It reminds me of a quote by Hesiod, "... the deathless have set sweat before virtue...") Our reason is strengthened and now made clear and what is more, reasonable, which shores up our willWhen we change for the better, even if a full change takes some time and tremendous effort, everyone wins. We become more of what a human being is meant to look like, which is truly beautiful ( we all know of someone like this), and the people around us find someone who is actively seeking to love them more fully.

     Our mind is our greatest gift. In addition to solving the many problems we see in the world around us through our professions, let's use it to understand and change the world inside us. Then, the world outside us will change, and more quickly. 


Friday, December 23, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

I meant to write last weekend, but a nasty virus stopped me. Here is a little of what is going on around here for our first Christmas in Miami! These little cards make me happy. Thanks to all of my family and friends for sending them! I got the idea to string them across the mirror from Ballard Designs.
I went ahead and put the link up for the antlers page. I have my eye on these and think one would look awesome above the mirror. They are just a touch rustic, the white plaster makes them chic, and they are reasonably priced. All around cool! My taste still reflect the Northeast, I think.

The presents stringing in make the kids happy, of course! The anticipation is growing!

My husband even joined in with his little touches. And wouldn't it be so grand to have a couple of boxwood balls atop these candlesticks?

So, back to the virus. Many of my new friends have stepped in with flying colors to help me this past month. Thank you! As much as the American in me loves to do things myself and not put people out of their way, I am reminded of Christmas in all of this. Why? Well, none of us can go it alone, nor are we meant to. Isn't this the meaning of Christmas? For unto US a Child is born. Because we need him, too.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

As Good As It Gets

Today was my baby's second birthday! An appropriate song for the occasion would be Eva Cassidy's Who Knows Where the Time Goes ( ). He is our youngest of three, and he makes each of us count our blessings daily.

I get such glee out of surprising the kids on their birthday mornings. I only do some simple decorations and a plate full of presents, but it is just for them. Here is the picture I took the night before his birthday. This year it was truly touching to see my older two join in on the fun. They were so very excited to decorate for him and thought about where each decoration should go, even making him puppets (you can see them in the picture). It moments like these ...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I love this gas station

                                                 No, I am serious though!

I can get my delicious $2 latte in this beauty. In the back is a sit down restaurant. I have never seen anything like it! Or, like this:

Those are bags of vegetables! Toto, we are not in Bethesda anymore! I love that Miami has such flair and is not so, well, serious. Yes, of course there are pockets, but it is so huge and diverse, that the possibilities are wide open, kind of like the sea that surrounds it...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rainy Day Steamer

There was a chill in the air this morning in Miami and I thought of making these while we decorate a little later on today. It has since warmed up :), but I thought I would pass this gem of a recipe on to you. Kim introduced me to these at Starbucks in High School, and now I make them for the kids on cold rainy days. They are great when you aren't ready to commit to a hot chocolate and I always have milk, sugar, and vanilla on hand.


2 c. milk
1/2 tsp vanilla ( a little really goes a long way!)
Between 1/8 and 1/4 c sugar ( to taste)

Heat on Medium Low in a saucepan. There is no need to make this super hot- it just takes longer to cool for the kids! Who is going to give this a try? Have a wonderful Sunday and happy decorating this month!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Time Well Spent

National Gallery of Art, Jean-Honore Fragonard

What types of activities should I be doing with my kids? It is a question I have asked myself countless times and even ask friends what they do after school. I know there are things to be done, and that they need to play, but I wanted to put the use of time in a context that saw the big picture. And then I happened upon a tiny but luminous idea presented by one of my favorite authors, Jane Austen, in one of my favorite books, Sense and Sensibility. Austen presents one family's surprise with the industrious use of time in the other, and In the few sentences it took to form this clear image, I found the exact idea that I was seeking! Yes, youth is a time for playing and exploring, but also a time for learning the value of time and how it can be well spent through the pursuit of healthy and helpful activities along-side fun adventures. It is all time well spent. Thanks again, Jane!

Childhood forms how we think of life, the importance of the time we have at our disposal, and how we view ourselves and others. How much of our adult life is spent perceiving the present reality through the lense we first  viewed it? That is, much of how we do things as adults is affected by our acute and habitual memory. One day, our children will be relying on their own acute memory and habits, ones we are helping to shape as we speak.

Childhood  is a chance to form good habits and lifelong skills that bring one joy and promote good use of time. The way I see it, the more i can impart good habits, methods of thinking, skills, thoughtfulness, and a quest for beauty to my children, the more time they will have in their adult life for doing the things that God asks and that bring joy to themselves and others. They will innately know how to spend their time. They will not be going against the grain as adults, trying to learn a skill they need, which takes precious time and sometimes an entire re-wiring of the way to look at something, which can even be a painful endeavor, almost  requiring new eyes, if you will. A run of the mill event can even be viewed from this positivistic angle. For example, one of the things we do on a daily basis in childhood is learn how to habitually pick up our toys. Besides creating a habit of order, one is learning how much time tidying up takes and how to speed up the process as one grows. When else will a person learn how to clean ( or any number of things) if not in childhood? It is a worthwhile, positive endeavor to teach and allow time for this, folks! 

Through the daily routine, we are helping to form our children's ideas about food, work ethic, relationships, and seeing God as a Father, Friend, and Helper, and so, very much a part of the day. As a consequence of this mind frame of using time well, I decided to finally teach one of my children how to play piano and am so very glad for it. I am seeing the reality of its being a very good use of time for a child, along with playing with siblings.

I will leave off with questions for us all to ponder: What do we strive to communicate about life to our children? Do these values enter our day or week,  naturally? There is little time to loose! :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wrist Flair

No, I did not come up with this idea. :) I saw it the other day on Kate Spade New York's website. And, it was fun to try! I felt like my wrist was a Christmas present!

Scarves are so versatile. I have been using them all over the house, too. It has been a lot of fun changing color schemes that way and softens thing up a lot.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Cookie a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Cookies are the greatest. Especially when they are chewy and the right blend of flavors. I grew up on some amazing cookies from my grandma and mom, so they are just a part of my life.

As a mom, I enjoy baking ( especially cookies ) not only because it is nice to have a completed project with a high success rate, I love to eat them daily :), and I love to see my kids and husband enjoy them. I especially love to see my babies on the verge of toddlerhood chew. It is one of life's little blessings. I know that when my kids grow up, cookies and baked goods will be a part of their memory like it is a part of mine.

Baking isn't easy for everyone. Not everyone has had the fortune of having a grandmother run a small-scale baking business even at age 90. It is a tough science! Here in Miami, I have yet to figure out my oven and how it works. I think the heat plays a factor, not just the age of the oven. :) So, I will share my favorite recipes with you over time, because half the battle is having good recipes, and give any tips I can to make it turn out just right.

Baking also can be made less time-consuming. Many times we don't bake because it takes too much time. But, somewhere along my years as a mother, I discovered something that made baking a whole lot more accessible. SIFT THE DRY INGREDIENTS, COVER WITH PLASTIC WRAP, AND LET IT SIT UNTIL YOU ARE READY TO BAKE. It can happen a few days later. I am convinced the baked good turns out more moist this way. And when you are actually ready to bake, it takes 2 minutes to finish. It will change your entire outlook!

Baked goods make our homes smell great and pamper the spirits. I think that is just as important as an apple. And for the times in my life when I eat too many cookies, I turn to Tracy Mallet to get me back on track. But that is another blog posting!

**Here is a favorite from my grandma's home town that works out every time and seems to stay moist even when I bake it a little too long.



-I find that all of the batter for any bread mix is too much for a loaf pan. I put about 2/3 in the loaf pan and then make a smaller loaf ( it is amazing how sharing it can be such a pleasant surprise to our friends!). The smaller loaf can take about 30-40 min. The bigger about 45 min. But, the bread should be firm, dark brown ( no wetness peeping out). If you are not a baker, go ahead and use the loaf pan and bake for an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350.

1 1/2 c sugar
1  3/4 c flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

2 eggs
1 c (half a can of libby's) pumpkin
1/3 c water

grease pans with crisco ( not lathered, but lightly) and dust with flour, banging the pan to shake any excess flour out. Bake for 35-45 minutes ( see tips). 

Happy Baking and Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, May 8, 2011


In my adult life, I am daily struck with the virtue of the women around me. Without intentionally looking for it, I happen to notice the way a friend handles a situation, and it is a quiet lesson I am grateful to learn. It may be their patience, grace, cheerfulness, sincerity, loyalty, depth, humor, generosity, or Faith that is particularly exemplified through a small but significant action. Thank you, and Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reclaiming Beauty

What is true beauty? How can it be expressed? It is an age-old and fascinating question that women of every age have asked. Another question: Is it all up to personal definition or are there common characteristics linking various tastes to point toward one true beauty? I think these questions beg to be asked anew because we all know that how we present ourselves is part of our means of communicating who we are.

We know society largely deems beauty as physical perfection, insisting that this perfection is flaunted. This message is so intrenched that is sometimes difficult to think otherwise. But when this approach is taken, a woman's real self is eclipsed. Rather than being truly admired and loved, revealing too much only succeeds in reducing a woman to an exterior. This can only mean that there exists a true beauty, distinct from society's notion, that is capable of radiating a woman's inner strength and personality.

Only true, respectful, and modest beauty can reflect the woman we are. There is often a misunderstanding of what modesty means which includes a fear of being frumpy. Rather, true beauty fits perfectly with and includes modesty, which is the protector of persons. Not only is the woman safeguarded through modesty, children learn of their own innate dignity through positive role models and men are protected in their state in life, whether single, married, or celibate. True beauty ensures that women are seen as persons with an immense amount to add to the lives of those around us, starting with our families, and society as a whole. By putting care in the way we dress and even act, we are channeling energy away from seeking admiration and putting it toward developing our talents to serve with greater knowledge and ability. Each woman has her own talents and achievements that society awaits, and these are the core of the beauty she possesses. The more a woman develops her talents and serves others with them, the more beautiful she becomes, because she is mirroring the Beauty of God, who lays down His life for others. This beauty is able to shine out when the overall presentation reflects our innate dignity. 

So let us pause to consider our own presentation and its significance. The effort, time, and thought this takes is all very well spent because we know that what we do reflects out beliefs. We are communicating the truth about who we are, and we want to be heard correctly. Taking the time to consider ourselves and our presentation to our families and to the world will give us a voice about who and what women are at a time when these are sadly misunderstood.
        As mothers, we all desire our children to grow up with a strong sense of their worth as human beings. We want our daughters to be loved for who they are and we want our sons to respect the women in their lives, generally and specifically. In order for this to happen, lets reevaluate how we present ourselves as a group to help reshape society's image of women as a whole. Through the way we dress, our children and the world are taking daily note of our personal definition of beauty to better understand themselves and others. Lets give them the right picture.