The Week in Review 1/31/18

Favorite part of a meal: Still learning to make really fluffy homemade biscuits and this time I did better! I did three things different this time 1) I rolled them out thicker, 2) I used a mix of shortening and butter and 3) I “booked” the dough one time when I rolled it out (rolled it, folded it over into thirds and rolled again).

Something that brought me joy:  Getting a bunch of small, random tasks taken care of.  Made an appointment for the dog at the groomers, scheduled my car maintenance, got my haircut and washed a pile of cardigans now that our week of winter is over.  Also happy to see my lemon blossoms seemed to have survived the “winter week”.

Something I watched on tv:  I don’t watch much network television but I am really enjoying “This is Us”.  Happy to see the writing hasn’t deteriorated as happens with so many subsequent seasons of really popular shows.

Finished this coloring project:

 

Scrabble Stats:  Early last year I scored a used computer Scrabble game for $5.  (I don’t like playing on-line against real people, I like playing the computer. It’s the introvert in me.)  I noticed this week I was playing my 101st game.  I have won 96% of the games which I think is pretty good since I am sure the computer cheats and peeks at my letters!  I have had 13 seven letter words with my best word being “Birthday” and worth 82 points.  My highest game to date is 437 points. And I am staving off dementia with all this brain exercise.

 

How was your week?

Photo Friday

This week I went with an around the house theme:

I love my bears draft stopper though in this house it has become a windowsill decoration. I can pretend I am seeing trees and bears outside the window. A hard photo to take with the backlighting, need to learn how to do this.

My low maintenance bird, no newspaper needed.

A spot of color with my football teams themed jelly bean assortment. The colors don’t match the teams very well but I thought it made a pretty photo.

“Difficult is the excuse history never accepts.”

-Edward R. Murrow

Keep your focus!

The Week in Review 1/24/18

Favorite meal of the week:  We have a tradition in our house to make food representing the teams we are rooting for in the playoffs and/or Super Bowl.  This year we rooted for the Jaguars (really we were just rooting against the Patriots) and the Vikings.  And for the Eagles because we love QB Nick Foles, one of our University of Arizona boys!  Plus my husband really wanted Philly Cheesesteaks. For lunch we had coconut shrimp and coleslaw.  For snack we had hummus and pita chips and for dinner Philly Cheesesteaks.  Dessert was mini cupcakes decorated in all three team colors (nothing for the stinkin’ Patriots!), jelly beans in team colors and Touchdown Sundae ice cream. Too much food but we kept the servings small.

 

Something I am glad is over:  You know how when you put the Christmas decorations away you always know you missed something?  No matter how carefully you look later in January or even February you suddenly notice the overlooked item.  I found mine.  Phew, glad that is over.

In the kitchen, on the cookbook bookshelf, one metal Santa Star decoration.

Something I am looking forward to: Yoga.  I started doing yoga again and it has really helped with the stiffness I was feeling.  Now I look forward to how much better I feel after stretching all those muscles everyday.

 

Something that brought me joy:  Best. Nap. Ever.  I decided to embrace the spring like weather on Friday (75° and sunny) and take a nap outside on my swing.  Winter returned on Saturday.  Can’t say I am surprised.

Yup, I napped on this swing and it was good.

 

Quote:  “The harder you work the luckier you get.”  – Jerry Barber, golfer

I agree with this 100%.  Despite my nap. 🙂

How was your week?

2018 Aspirations – Part 2 – Be Happier

I only have 2 goals this year, be healthier and be happier.  I talked about the health side here.  Today is all about being happier.  This goal has been much harder to define, much harder to come up with a list of concrete steps.

It is not like I have been completely miserable lately.  I think much of my restlessness and discontent  is “the change”.  Actually I wouldn’t be surprised if all my feelings and physical woes are being driven by peri-menopause.  Hormones going haywire, living in such a hot climate (which is not my first choice) and  still figuring out how to be a stay at home mom now that my child is in school all day.  Full blown menopause can’t come soon enough, but even though I am 51 I am not even in the twelve month count down yet. I tell myself to be patient but I am so ready for the hormones to settle, the weight gain to abate, to move into the next phase of my life with renewed energy and focus.

For two weeks I tried to come up with a word that would summarize my goals for this year to no avail. And then last week (in the shower) it hit me:  “UNHURRIED”.  I am happiest when I can ignore the clock, when I am not rushing to get things done or be somewhere.  I like being able to focus on a task, any task and not have to worry about time.  This insight has been huge and I suspect will be very helpful in my quest to be happier. And maybe it will help with being patient for menopause.

“Unhurried” applies to both my goals.  I am not looking for quick fixes but permanent changes that I expect to take some time, maybe even the whole year.

Here are some other ideas that I am hoping will be helpful.  As the year goes along I am sure I will learn new things about myself and tweak as necessary.

  • I need to listen to myself more. Pay attention to my needs. Acknowledge them even if I can’t do anything about them right away. I need to spend more time doing what I want to do, whatever that may be.  Taking photos, coloring, taking a nap, skipping the laundry and going for a hike. Not always doing what is easiest but doing something that fills a need.

 

  • Embrace my introvertedness.  Or at least accepting it without guilt.  It feels odd to admit my favorite days are when I am home alone and have a balance of housework and time for myself. I like my solitude.  I like my free time. I like being ‘unhurried’!

 

  • Of course I will keep the house clean and do laundry and cook dinner but I won’t sweat it if something doesn’t get done right away or if I decide to do yoga before dinner prep. I am going to be more flexible in my routine. Try and let go of that “all the work needs to be done before play” mentality because, let’s face it, the work is never all done.

 

  • Get outside more.  I love taking walks and hikes and being out in nature.  I love bodies of water, the sound of a rapidly moving stream, the sun glinting off a lake.  Trees. I will forever be baffled about why people think the desert southwest is a great place to get outdoors.  Stickery bushes, blazing sun, rattlesnakes.  I’ll take a slow walk around the neighborhood in gently falling snow any day.   But I have made choices and I need to find the best way to live with them.  It is time to begin exploring the area more fully. I am sure I will be able to find hidden pockets of wonderful nature.

 

  • Less time on the computer.  Last fall I took a break from blogging and I was happier. So I really had to think about doing the blog at all.  Right now the plan is two posts a week  (The week in review and Photo Friday) and a monthly summary post for my be healthier goal. And if that is too much I can always go to one post a week alternating between Photo Friday and The Week in Review.  We’ll see.

I am not sure how well I explained my be happier aspiration.  The bottom line? I believe listening to my own needs and acting on them is going to wrought the changes I need.  Oh yeah, and reaching full blown menopause. Time will tell.

“There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

2018 Aspirations – Part 1 – Be Healthier

“Just where you are- that’s the place to start.”

                                                                                             – Pema Chodron, Buddhist Nun

First things first: what I hope to accomplish this year. I read blogs where people have 50 goals for the year and I think, no way. I am keeping it simple this year:

1. Be healthier.
2. Be happier.

I wish it was just this simple but of course there must be sub-steps and mini-goals and game plans.  But really just two goals, health and happiness.  They feel like really smart goals to me. Today we will talk a little about the health side.

I read a lot of books last year about diet and exercise and being healthy and have done a lot of thinking these past few months about what I really want.  I want to age gracefully.  I do not want to run a marathon, I just want to be able to walk the dog.  I do not need to touch my toes with straight legs, I just need to be able to pick up something off the floor.  I need to survive menopause.

One of the most surprising things I read last year was how it is not normal to gain weight as you age.  Your appetite should adjust itself naturally as your metabolism slows.  Our appetites no longer do this because of all the processed foods we eat:  large amounts of sugar, fat and salt are messing with our brains.

I need to relearn how to eat because I am hungry, not because I am bored or it is a certain time.  I also need to listen to my body and stop eating just before I am full.  What the French say is  “Je n’ai pas faim” or I am no longer hungry.  Not quite the same as eating until you are full.  And while I am not making weight loss a specific goal I must confess I am hoping it happens as a happy by-product!

Here are my initial steps for my be healthier goal:

  1. I can eat anything I want but I have to make it from scratch.  No processed foods unless all the ingredients listed are what I would use if I were to make it myself.  This means no palm oil or xanathan gum or soy lecithin.  While there will be a few things I can buy at Trader Joe’s the plan is I will be eating a lot more fruits and vegetables because it will be easier than making a bagel or some crackers. I think of this as the “Little House on the Prairie” diet.  Think about it, they ate fresh, local, seasonal foods.  Yes they ate bread and biscuits but seldom cake or candy.  Remember how big a deal it was for Laura to get a glass of lemonade one 4th of July?  I am going to try and make Ma Ingalls proud.
  2. When we eat out I am going to stick to local restaurants as much as possible.  We don’t eat out that much and when we travel this could be difficult but I am going to give it a go.
  3. I am writing down everything I eat.  Not weighing or measuring or listing individual ingredients but just a note of what I eat each day.  My focus is on monitoring my snacking.  The hope is as I become more aware of bad habits it will make it easier to change them.
  4. On the exercise front I am not changing what I already do too much.  Swimming or 10k steps depending on the season, yoga, qigong and I am going to try pilates.  Hey, pilates worked for Shonda Rimes and they recently opened a Club Pilates just up the road.  The least I can do is take the free class.
  5. Re-read “Food Rules” by Michael Pollan, one rule a day as a gentle reminder.

I have twelve months to revamp my eating habits with the hope of making improved, life long eating practices.  Once a month I am going to make a summary blog post to track my progress.  No, you will not have to read everything single thing I ate for the whole month. But the hope is having to write down what went well and what went wrong will help keep me aware and on track.

I will talk about the be happier aspiration in a separate blog post.  Until then, Keep Calm and Eat Well. 🙂

 

Photo Friday

Another new blog feature!  This one designed to help with my be happier aspirations. I love to take photos and I am going to use the blog to make sure I get out and look for photo opportunities, learn more about my camera and try new techniques.
Enough words, onto the photos!

 

My lemons from this season aren’t even ripe yet (see the green on the lemon at the top) but I am already getting buds and baby lemons. This is not good, there is sure to be a freeze sometime in the next 4 to 5 weeks.  Also I can’t prune or fertilize now. The crazy heat is responsible I am sure.
Look at all those buds. Crazy!

I am sure one day I will look back and think, really?  My inaugural Photo Friday post was of a lemon?

The Week in Review 1/17/18

I read a few blogs that have questions for other bloggers to answer and use on their blogs on a monthly or weekly basis. I don’t use them because most of the time there is at least one question that doesn’t interest me or apply to me. Then I realized, duh, I can make my own questions!
So I am starting a new feature for my blog: The Week in Review! I am shooting for every Wednesday and (so far) I have a list of 15 questions of which I will pick around five every week to answer. We will see how it goes and tweak as necessary.

 

The desert southwest version of snow.  Also the dessert version of snow! (Yes that would be sunshine falling across the table.  I added that for all those who have not seen the sun in awhile.)

What I am reading:  “A Cold Treachery” by Charles Todd.  I love this post WWI series set in England and I have a bit of a crush on Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge.  I am also re-reading “Alone” by Admiral Byrd.  I read this just before sleep, a little bit at a time.

A sidenote:  my two favorite books from 2017 were “The Martian” by Andy Weir and “Bury Your Dead” by Louise Penny.  I loved the story behind how “The Martian” got written and as for those who said it was too technical, that was a small part of the book and easy enough to read without worrying about completely understanding it.  I know I still can’t make water but do appreciate that it can be done. As for “Bury Your Dead” I am completely loving the Inspector Gamache series and trying to make it last as long as possible.  Each book in the series is better than the last.

A television show or movie I watched:  In the past I have been a jinx for NFL playoff teams.  Whoever I root for loses (bye-bye Bills), but this past week end I was cheering for both the Eagles and the Vikings and both teams won!  And that Vikings game, man the most exciting finish ever! Now I have to figure out who to root for between the Vikings (under the radar all year) and the Eagles (Nick Foles at QB, University of Arizona guy).  I am thinking Vikings because I believe they have a better shot at beating the Patriots even though I am seriously rooting for the Jaguars to take the Pats out of the Super Bowl picture altogether.

My current project: While I can knit (and purl) I am hopeless at following all but the simplest patterns.  I want to make my friend an afghan but dread lugging around a big pile of work.  So instead I am going to make a bunch of scarves and join them together. Sounds like a plan. A two year plan but so be it.

Highlight of the week:  A rare celebrity sighting.  I saw Kevin Ray who does the pre/post game analysis for the Phoenix Suns at my son’s First Lego League State Tournament.  He didn’t do any announcing though.

Something that brought me joy:  We have to make our own snow here in Tucson so my son and I made paper snowflakes and snowflake and snowmen sugar cookies. Fun stuff!

One of my son’s paper snowflakes.
Sugar cookie snowflake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this concludes the very first “Week in Review”!

 

Epiphany

In some cultures January 6th is the big holiday for the Christmas season. This is the symbolic date on which the Wisemen reached Bethlehem and said hi to the baby Jesus and brought him some birthday presents. 🙂 Not celebrated so much in the U.S. but in our home we use it as an excuse to end the holidays with one last bit of fun.

First we go for a hike, symbolizing the journey of the Wisemen.   Second my son gets three last presents representing the three gifts of the Magi. And lastly we eat Mediterranean food which is close enough for me to something biblical yet still tasty.

This year we had some logistical problems with the 6th of January.  Everyone else had finished with holiday time and life was reverting back to normal.  My son had bowling in the morning and I had bowling in the afternoon and then my son and husband were going to a hockey game.  So we delayed Epiphany one day.  A little sad but not the end of the world.

Sabino Canyon finally experiencing autumn color.

After lunch on Sunday we went for our hike.  It was the warmest Epiphany hike to date.  I got a little “hottish and sweatish” in my jeans and t-shirt but enjoyed meandering along the scary dry creek bed and scuffing through the fallen leaves and catching a bit of autumn color. Sabino Canyon Rec Area was pretty crowded but we got off the beaten path awhile and enjoyed the bird song and solitude.

I have never seen it this dry before. Hopefully we will have some winter monsoons this year.

Then my son opened his last three gifts. I don’t buy anything extra or special, I just put three gifts aside when I am wrapping presents.

The last three gifts.

And then we had dinner and homemade chocolate pudding.  Which thankfully turned out this time because the batch I made for Christmas Eve did not.

And now the holidays are over.  For real.

                                                                                          The End.

Twelve Days of Christmas: Days 9 – 12

I love the idea of a yule log burning the whole 12 days of Christmas. Sadly I do not have a ginormous fireplace or a full time staff to oversee the 24/7 burning of a giant log. I thought about a candle but who would leave a candle burning unattended for long periods of time? Not me. So this year I went with a chocolate yule log from the the Vermont Country Store.  Each day we shared 1/12th of it.  It helped depict the passing of the holiday season in a tangible way. (But next year I really want to use an LED candle in some sort festive yule log/holiday way.)

 

Day 9

Today we went to the Pima Air and Space Museum.   The weather was a perfect low 70’s and we quite enjoyed walking around both  inside the hangars and outside looking at all the aircraft. We also enjoyed lunch at the Flight Line Grill.  A little pricey but the food was better than I expected.

 

The SR-71,  my favorite aircraft.

 

Lots of WWII memorabilia. 

Day 10

Today I let E choose what he wanted to do between two options: I could take him to Office Max to use a gift card he received from Santa or I could take him and a friend to a playground.  He chose the playground and spent a very happy two hours running around with two friends.  Again the weather was perfect, 70’s and cloudy which is good.  Even in January the sun can be uncomfortably hot here.

Day 11

Today we went to Bookman’s, my favorite used book store.  My son had a $10 certificate the store sent him on his birthday and I still had a $15 credit from the last batch of books we took there.  We spent a happy hour browsing and then enjoyed a late lunch at Beyond Bread.

Day 12

Today presented a bit of a problem.  The last item we had to do was find some snow at Mt. Lemmon.  Too much gorgeous weather means no snow. Plus celebrating this many days in a row is rather exhausting!  And my son still had some school work to finish. So I must confess we rather fizzled out today.  We opted for a jammie day with both of us getting our needed tasks done in the morning and then spent the afternoon watching a movie he got for Christmas. (“Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Long Haul”.)

 

How cool is this painted plane?
Yup, that is part of the plane!

So there you have it, Twelve Days of Christmas.  But the season is not quite over yet, next up: Epiphany!

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Days 5 – 8

I had to ponder a bit about how to set up this years’ twelve days.  Over the course of a few months I jotted down a list of activities as the ideas came to me or as E mentioned things he wanted to do. Then I narrowed it down to twelve and made little tags.  But I didn’t want to actually assign activities to days until the time was close due to weather and how we were feeling and other things that may pop up.  So I came up with the idea to put the labels for the days on envelopes and made all the tags the same size.  Now I could just slip a tag in an envelope when the decision was made. Easy Peasy.  Really glad I did it this way as I ended up switching things around a lot!

An example day.

Day 5

Today we went to the movies and saw “Wonder”.  My son and I had read the book together earlier this year so we were excited about the movie.  And the movie did not disappoint. I may have shed a few tears.  And I loved that Julia Roberts looked, not fat, but lets say “real”, like a real mother of two kids.  Made me very happy.  And small child enjoyed it too, along with a large popcorn.  He is a growing boy!

Day 6

Fiesta Bowl day.  Now when I planned out this activities theme we had not yet won tickets to the Fiesta Bowl.  So I had a bit of a problem.  Going to a football game is not really a treat for my son. I finally came up with a tag good for one junk food item (he picked red licorice) at the game and the promise that January 7th could be a jammie day.  Okay, January seventh is after the 12 days of Christmas but it is also the last day of winter break from school and so I went with it.  Flexibility is good and E was happy.  We rooted for our PAC-12 Brethren Washington Huskies who sadly lost to Penn State.  But it was a good game.

Day 7 – New Years’ Eve

Today’s theme was all about pizza.  We made pizza totally from scratch: crust and sauce.  I was surprised at how tasty the pizza turned out.  I bought pizza flour from Hayden Flour Mills and used the recipe on the box for the crust.  For the sauce I just added Italian seasoning and garlic to a can of tomato sauce. Simple is so often best.  E also got a pair of pizza jammies and the Lego pizza truck.

Day 8 – New Years’ Day

Today was play a board game day. It was my effort to get my spouse away from the television a bit and small child off the computer.  I was sort of successful.  My son did play outside with a neighborhood friend for awhile and then they played some games on the WII.  After dinner all three of us played a few rounds of Sagrada, a very addictive game we got for Christmas.

 

Four fun days left this Christmas season!