A to Z Blogging Challenge: B is for Brownies

This month I am participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. My theme is my Joy (sometimes Gratitude) List and each entry will be 53 words which is my current age. Enjoy!

Brownie with dried cherries and pecans, my favorite stash for the freezer.

Brownies are the ultimate all seasons dessert. 

Spring: serve cake like brownies with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

Summer:  top a fudgy brownie with mint chocolate chip ice or orange sherbet.

Autumn:  make turtle brownies swirled with caramel and pecans.

Winter:  bake a brownie crusted cheesecake topped with cherry sauce for the holidays.

The recipe says an 8 x 8 pan makes 24 brownies? Ha! Even cutting them into sixteenths seems kind of tiny.

Happy A to Z April!

A to Z Blogging Challenge: A is for Autumn

This month I am participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. My theme is my Joy List and each entry will be 53 words which is my current age. Enjoy!

No doubt autumn is my favorite season.  The perfect indoor season for hot tea, candles, movies, books and afghans.  The perfect outdoor season with crisp blue skies, colorful leaves, hikes, football and apple picking.  And the smells… wood smoke, roasting turkey, apple pie and simmering crockpot chili as rain plinks against the windows.

Happy A to Z April!

A to Z Blogging Challenge Starts Tomorrow!

I participated once before in the A to Z Challenge and while I found it fun, it was a challenge as I waited until the last minute to start. You really have to do at least some homework ahead of time and be organized. So this year I am ready! I am using my joy list as my theme. A little over a year ago I started a Joy List in my BUJO conveniently arranged alphabetically. In January I started writing posts. Somewhere along the way I decided each entry should be 53 words long. Yes, I totally borrowed this idea from Carrot Ranch and I went with 53 because that is my age.

In February I built the posts adding pictures along the way. In early March the A to Z badges became available and I was able to finalize and schedule the posts, finishing just before starting another round of census work.

I mostly used my own photos but for a few entries it was easier and made more sense to use the free WordPress photos.

And here we go!!

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Theme Reveal

In April I am participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. My theme is my Joy (sometimes Gratitude) List and each entry will be 53 words which is my current age. I mostly used my own photos but for a few I used stock photos. The posts will be Monday through Saturday each week for the whole month of April. I hope you enjoy!

But fun too!

Happy A to Z April!

2020 Possibilities

This year I am going to work hard on reconciling my planning, list making, scheduling self with my living in the here and now self. I actually think this is quite doable, I just need to strengthen some mental muscles.

So, typical planning me starts jotting down what I would like to accomplish in 2020. Then I think I should come up with twelve items and schedule one for each month. But here and now me said, whoa. What if I don’t want to work on something a whole month or I need more time or I want to start and stop and resume a project later?

New combined me stepped in with the compromise. I narrowed my list down to six items I really want to do. No assigned schedule, a few of my projects will be worked on all year. One of my items has a deadline so I’ll adhere to that. But I will let here and now me decide when to do the rest.

Here are my six goals for 2020:

  • Catch up on organizing my photos. I started 2019 already so I really don’t have that much to do.
  • I am going to make a scrapbook for my son this year. One page for each month and use the extra pages for birthday and vacations.
  • Put together my own book of meditations/words of wisdom. I recently got a copy of Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” and was surprised to learn it was something he wrote simply for himself. I am always collecting quotes or thinking odd little things I want to remember and have them scattered in different places. I’ll put them in one book and practice my hand lettering at the same time!
  • I am going to do the A to Z blogging challenge in April. I have my topic/theme and I am already drafting blog posts.
  • Take Carla Sondheim’s collage class. It is supposed to take a full year but I probably won’t start until maybe the beginning of summer. We’ll just see how it goes.
  • I love the idea of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November each year but November doesn’t work for me. I just have too much going on then. So I am going to make my own short term novel writing time frame. Probably a bit more than a month but my goal will be to have a first draft of the novel that I have been trying to write for the last few years done. No matter how badly it turns out!

For daily items I will continue with my yoga, meditating twice a day and keeping writing my joy/gratitude lists.

Gotta run, this day is full of possibilities to embrace. 🙂

Here and Now: December

Despite my best intentions the days this month have felt rather hectic. I have decided I am not a fan of the no-plan plan. I am thinking a “soft” plan would suit me better. I will put things on the calendar and when the day comes if I really don’t feel like doing whatever it is then I can re-plan it. Or if the mood strikes I can do it sooner. But especially for the holidays I need to see all I need to do posted on a calendar.

I am continuing with my yoga and meditation. I was worried I would quit the yoga now that I am getting up in the dark but found I love doing the yoga by the light of the 12″ tree in my office. It is peaceful and festive and the stretches feel really good.

Meditation continues. I am hoping my focus improves for the morning session (so much to do these days!) but I am loving the evening session and actually look forward to that period of peace and quiet before bed. Once again I am in the office with the only light coming from my tiny tree.

Something I forgot to mention last month is my gratitude logging. I write down at least three things each night that I am grateful for or brought me joy. I do believe this is having a positive affect on my attitude. Helps me look for the good in the day. (No line at the post office! A good coupon for Petco! Getting my second shingles shot out of the way, even if it did make me feel like crap for two days.)

My absolute favorite thing to do this month? Story time with my son. At bedtime we take turns reading a story to each other. We have a whole shelf of Christmas books, many of which he has technically “outgrown”, except I believe you can never out grow books. So we are visiting our favorites, “Oliver the Other Reindeer”, “Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake”, “If You Take a Mouse to the Movies”, “Mickey and Minnie’s Gift of the Magi”, just to name a few. That reading time together makes my heart happy.

Last year I colored the dogs, this year cats.

All the holiday pieces are coming together. One thing that I am doing differently is saving a few items to do between Christmas and New Years’. Not all the cookies need to be baked ahead of time, not all the movies watched before Christmas Day. For my family Christmas is celebrated through Epiphany, January 6th. I always feel a little sorry for those families that start the day after Thanksgiving and are sick of Christmas by the 26th. Just makes the winter that much longer.

I like taking my time preparing for the whole 12 days of Christmas (which start Christmas day). This year may not be quite as detailed in the planning but there will be activities and fun family time.

I hope you get to enjoy the whole holiday season, both the preparations and the festivities!

November Recap

My focus for November was yoga, meditation, creative time, random acts of kindness and having some computer free time. I am thrilled at how well I did for all these!

Yoga: Every. Single. Day. Whoo-hoo. I even added one new pose to my morning routine.

Meditation: Every day. “Self-five!” I am now up to ten minutes a day. I have been thinking about my twenty minute goal and realized I wasn’t really looking forward to it. Mostly because I would lose some of my flexibility as to when I could meditate if I had to have twenty uninterrupted minutes. Plus I wasn’t sure I could really focus for that long.

So I took a few minutes to really think about what I wanted and I have decided to stop at ten minutes in the morning and add an evening/bedtime meditation session. I will start with five minutes and add one minute a week until I am up to ten minutes. I will experiment with different times and bedroom vs office and see what works best.

It was a bit of an epiphany realizing I can simply do what works best for me and I don’t have to follow someone else’s guidance or rules.

Computer Free Time: I am doing better. I realized trying to do a set 24 hours was really hard but that after a quick use in the morning I could ignore the computer the rest of a designated day. Overall I felt like I was on the computer a lot less and that I am well on the path to less mindless computer use.

Creative Time: I have been working on lots of projects this month and enjoying them all. Now I just need to get some of them finished! Here are some of my accomplishments:

Thanksgiving place cards, even the dog gets one. 🙂
I got a book on lettering out of the library and found I loved it, once I let go of worrying over the end product and just focused on the process. I trust that with practice my spacing will get better, my lines straighter etc.

Still working on my felt winter window, slow going. But I have almost finished eight Christmas mason jar ornaments.

Now I need to figure out what to do with them!
I got some jars from the dollar store, made these labels and I am going to fill them with yogurt raisins. Do I give them to the naughty or the nice list?

Random Acts of Kindness: I accomplished this mostly through my driving. This time of year the snowbirds are starting to arrive so there are a lot of older drivers out there. Going slow. Forgetting where places are. Confused about the left turn arrow which could be at the beginning or end of the green light (and in a few intersections is at both the beginning and end). And it only gets worse through March. This year I am being extra patient and ultra courteous. I especially get to do this in the mornings letting drivers in/out of the school driveway right next to my son’s school. And yes, I do feel like a better person and less frustrated driver for doing this.

My chrysanthemum bloomed just in time for Thanksgiving. I loved looking at the blooms outside the kitchen window while doing dishes!

Here and Now

A few months ago I read something to the effect that looking back makes you depressed and looking forward makes you anxious. To be content you have to be in the here and now. This concept really hit home for me. I have put my focus on staying in the present and I have to say I feel so much happier! Now some of this may be due to the settling of the ol’ hormones but really I feel like keeping my attention on today, right now, has been a big difference maker.

I am finding contentment in getting up and seeing what I need and want to do. And then I do it. I don’t worry about tomorrow’s grocery shopping or the school event at the end of the week. Sometimes I make a list for the next day or two to get things out of my head (so I don’t forget about them but it doesn’t mean I have to do them), but overall I have become pretty good at happily being mindfully in the moment.

Gratitude heart I drew. Making the orange part I went into a kind of meditative state and then for each purple heart I thought of someone or something to be grateful for.

I would say the most important thing I learned from my “Magical Mindfulness” 21 day on-line retreat (from Kim Strobel) was that we have control of 40% of our happiness. Fifty percent is genetic and only ten percent is external/environment. I can do a few simple things and be forty percent happier! I say that is worth staying in the moment for.

While Kim gave us six things to think about doing I am sticking with three daily items: gratitude, meditation and exercise. And I’ll do a fourth, random acts of kindness, as often as possible.

My ombre gratitude leaf.

I have to confess that I was really surprised to learn that I have complete control over forty percent of my happiness. Am I the only one who had no idea about this?

Good Things Thursday: Autumn

If one can be homesick for a season then I am homesick for autumn. I know it isn’t “officially” here yet but I even miss the anticipation of fall. There is little for me to love about living here in the desert southwest but this is by far the worst time of the year for me. In the next week or so I’ll break out my leaf garlands and pumpkin decorations and do my best to create autumn inside my home.

But I can’t change the triple digit heat outside. I can’t make it really feel like autumn. I can’t create that crisp, fragrant air or conjure up a maple tree with flaming red leaves outside my window. I can’t wear long sleeves. And that makes me sad.

So today I am going to create autumn in my head and heart. This is a spontaneously generated list of all the things I love about autumn:

  1. chilly air
  2. the low angle of the sun
  3. watching football
  4. pumpkin chili
  5. chocolate chip pumpkin muffins
  6. colorful leaves
  7. the sound of the breeze in the trees
  8. hot tea on a cold morning
  9. the smell of apples and cinnamon
  10. picking apples
  11. meandering in a corn maze
  12. making pies and applesauce
  13. candles flickering in drafts
  14. apple cider
  15. wearing long sleeves
  16. cardigan sweaters
  17. cold, gray, rainy days
  18. tomato soup and grilled cheese
  19. that special shade of blue the sky is in October
  20. reading a good book under an afghan
  21. Movies set in autumn (like “Step-Mom” and “You’ve Got Mail” and “Hocus Pocus”)
  22. Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday!)

Looking at the list I realize I can actually experience most of these. And I bought two new short sleeve autumn themed shirts from Life is Good so I can wear “autumn” shirts. I have a camping trip planned in October which should give me a taste of cool air, colorful leaves and the joy of evening campfires and hot tea in the morning. Not a perfect solution but better than nothing.

Did I need this mug? No. But I bought it anyway. For now I am drinking iced tea out of it.

Just like that I feel better. 😊

Good Things Thursday

Just a quick post today, we have a few errands to run and then the triple digit heat will send us into the pool!

I am learning to let go of expectations (especially in regards to my son) and so many things are making me happy this week! I am, for a change, living in the moment.

I am enjoying the return of “The Good Witch” in addition to watching “Poirot” and the last few episodes of “A Place to Call Home” (but why is Olivia letting Matthew push her around?).

My son and I have just about finished re-doing his room. We painted a wall, ordered cool outlet covers and light switch plates and put up a spacious wall of cubbies. We took everything out and cleaned the carpet. His new bed is delivered and the under storage is plentiful and works great. Now we just have to clear out the closet.

A few weeks ago I got a call about the Census Bureau job but the training date was only 4 days after my surgery so I didn’t think I could go. They said they would put my name back in the pool for the second wave of hiring and I got a call this week, this time with a training date in August so I said yes!

Thanksgiving in June. I figure if you can have Christmas in July that would translate to Thanksgiving in June. I made turkey tenderloins, cranberry sauce (I always freeze a bag or two of cranberries) and a sweet potato pie that turned out quite tasty. (I tried a new recipe that had maple syrup in it and whipped egg whites to make it light.)

To help add a feeling of cool to the post!

I am a bit of a weather geek and one of my sorrows is how boring the weather tends to be here. Aside from the occasional large monsoon thunderstorm (mostly in August) there isn’t much that happens here weatherwise. But this year we had snow in February and an actual spring!

Typically we are swimming by mid-May on a regular basis and June is hot, dry, cloudless and still. This year we had vast temperature swings, wind and bits of rain, enough with all the pollen to turn our pool green. My husband spent a week trying to clear it up and we finally gave up and called in the pros. Three days later the pool was clear, just in time for the triple digit heat.

We had a thunderstorm one night, very odd this time of year, but exhilarating. And we seem to get clouds and overcast skies for part of each day, very atypical. The forecast is for a late monsoon season this year. I don’t believe it.

My local library branch has bookcases in the front of the library that display new books and recently returned books, staff picks and then some sort of themed display. (Right now it is kid’s books designed to get them to read over the summer.) I love browsing these displays and stumbling on a happy surprise. Last trip I found “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” by Kate Morton. I love books that show different periods in time and at the end find out how everyone connects! Looks like that is Morton’s theme and I am looking forward to reading more of her works.

Realizing that the only way to keep my son off the computer is to get him out of the house in the afternoons. I have several adventures planned for the next two weeks, most involving lunch and a visit to various places. Today we are going to Target to get a few items for his room, the library and finally Trader Joe’s for those tiny ice cream cones.

Happy Almost Summer!

And don’t forget Flag Day tomorrow!