Anniversary Reflections

happy-anniversary-782471_1280My husband and I are celebrating a big anniversary soon. This is an amazing thing to me considering how difficult marriage can be. Not that it has always been easy, we’ve always done well.

To celebrate, we went to a place called The Melting Pot. This was an experience to say the least. I would recommend this restaurant for any occasion.

I’m not sure when fondue was invented, but it was quite popular in the 70’s. We all had memories of eating something out of a fondue pot. I don’t remember my family even owning a fondue pot, but I remember meeting a friend while camping and enjoying theirs. Fondue while camping is an interesting experience.

If you would like to experience fondue at its finest, The Melting Pot is a good place to start.  There are lots of options and we were able to choose our menu ahead of time. The fondue is made right at your table with an induction plate built into each one.

The first course is the cheese fondue with french bread, apples and veggies as dippers. Even my husband enjoyed the spinach and artichoke fondue, which was surprising.

For the second course, each person was given a plate of proteins to cook themselves in the fondue pot filled with broth. Veggies and potatoes were given to round out the meal. Though not strictly vegetarian, I still had many choices. Caleb, our grandson, enjoyed the cheese ravioli, especially when he was able to cook it himself.

Dessert was the best. We had two different chocolates to choose from. One was a turtle (chocolate and caramel with pecans) and the other was a silky dark chocolate. Again, there was a variety of dipping items including bananas, strawberries, brownies and rice crispy treats. Amazing.

Trying something new is one way to keep things interesting in marriage. I believe I am fortunate to have a husband who seldom says no to things like this. I am fortunate for so many different things and I am grateful for the past 15 years. I hope the next 15 are just as good.

Each anniversary has a specific gift assigned to it. Apparently, crystal is the traditional 15th-anniversary gift or watches for a modern one. We have never been traditional so our gift this year was a piece of property. We’ve had fun planning what to do with all the extra space.

We tend to run against the norm in most things. From trying new foods to making our own path, hubby and I have created a marriage that works for us. I think that is the key.

Friday Five: Lessons Learned While Building

 If you look around, lessons can be learned in everything. No matter how old you get, there is always something to be learned.

My husband and I are building a place or me to write and it’s been an interesting experience. I’ve learned a lot about actually building and as I thought about it, life.

Here are some lessons:

1. Gather everything you need for before you begin – It took us two trips to the home improvement store to get the needed supplies.
2. Having a second pair of hands makes the work go faster – At times I didn’t know if I was holding up the process, or actually helping but we got a lot done. Not to mention, having an extra person for holding and fetching.
3. Have a plan – this probably goes along with number one. The better the plan, the fewer mistakes. As I am thinking about upcoming projects, having a plan also makes things more efficient.
4. Communication is key – My husband and I work pretty well together, but we still needed to have some clear understanding. Of course, it saves on arguments and hurt feelings.
5. Measure twice, cut once – I’m not sure where this adage comes from, but it is most definitely a good idea.

One thing I am finding very interesting is that lessons come in the most unexpected places and, perhaps, not necessarily welcome. I believe that lessons come when we need them most and can often be painful. However, these are the ones that stick with you the most.

What were some of your most unexpected lessons learned?

Projects, Projects and More Projects

This weekend I worked on two different projects.

One I spoke about on Monday’s post. My new writer’s retreat is still a work in progress. There will be more posts in the future about my new space.

The second project I worked on is a major organization in my closet. Now, this may not seem like much but it was most definitely necessary for my peace of mind, much as my writing space.

There has to be a better way.

This is all of my clothes.
This is all of my clothes.

I’m open to suggestions. For now, this is what I’ve begun.

I’ve been thinking about a minimalist or capsule wardrobe for a while. If you’ve never heard about this concept, it is where you take everything out of your closet. The only items that go back into the closet are those things you love and work in your life. Each of the items is an intentional choice.

One idea is choosing 33 items for each season though I don’t know if this includes lounge clothes or workout clothes. Other ideas include having a certain amount of each item that mixes and matches with the other things in your wardrobe.

I’ve created a Pinterest board to help me work on this issue. It’s another way to put off digging into my closet, but this is how I tend to work. Research and education first then action.

Some of the sites I’ve looked at include:

theproject333.com
www.un-fancy.com
whowhatwear.com

The first step is often taking stock of what you have. Then you get rid of anything that doesn’t work aiming for a small number of pieces that interchange, most in a color scheme that works for you.

And my shoes!
And my shoes!

One of the reasons I am looking into this is because I hate shopping. I hate trying on clothes, never knowing what looks good on me. I often hate the way things feel. I like comfort and easy to wear clothes. If I must adjust something, there is no way I am going to wear it again. If I were to have a capsule wardrobe I would only have to go shopping a few times a year at each change of the season. This idea of minimal shopping is appealing.

The one caveat is that the clothing chosen for this would be of a higher quality. The reason being is that if you have fewer pieces you can spend a bit more on each one. I do believe you get what you pay for so if you purchase cheap clothing then it won’t last very long. Pay more to get a higher-quality item and it will last much longer thereby saving money in the long run.

Having too much clutter is a problem I don’t want to live with any longer. I managed to get rid of a couple of boxes of clothes, sort out things for fall and winter, and straighten things our so everything is easy to see.

This is a poor after picture.
This is a poor after picture.

In the coming months, we have many plans, including NaNoWriMo. I’d like to make my life as easy as possible so I can focus on my writing when that time comes.

 

From Raw to a Masterpiece

My thoughts over the weekend went from “I have no idea how we are going to do this” to “OMG, I am getting old.”

We spent the weekend working on a small writing space for me. Having more land means more opportunities. There are so many possibilities.

We began early Saturday morning. I say early, but it was probably after 9:00 on what was promising to be a warm day. Here is a picture of the building before.

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This pile of lumber and steel will eventually be an actual building. I think we forget that everything, including ourselves, begin with something like this:

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All it takes is a little time and the right elements and a masterpiece forms.

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Of course, the middle part is where the magic happens.

As with most things, you need a good foundation. As I hope to be able to use this in the winter, we began with insulation.

This is where the realization hit me that I am not as young as I once was. This thing is heavy and we had to flip it and adjust to get it just right. Also, the height difference between my husband and myself was never more apparent (there is about a foot difference).

Though we had to stop in the middle of the day due to the heat we managed to get the entire foundation complete before stopping for the night.

End of day one.
End of day one..

I discovered muscles I haven’t used in many years and was still sore the next day when we began again.

I learned a lot during this first day of the build. One, we’ve never really built new, from scratch. We’ve added onto our house, but that is more retro building. This is the first time that we’ve done this. The learning curve was a bit different.

My husband, who doesn’t work in construction, still knows what he is doing. There have been a couple of hiccups along the way. When isn’t there when doing home projects, but it will be wonderful when it is finished. I am grateful for all his efforts.

Finally, the best thing I learned: how to run the miter saw.

Who knows it may end up in a story someday.

Friday Five: Summer Faves

It’s summer here in northern Michigan. That means that one day the thermometer hits 90 degrees and the next 60. Summer in the north also means lots of good things.

I’ve taken some great photo’s of stormy skies as we’ve had several severe storms this month. Photo’s like this one:

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Life has gotten busy though I’m not sure when it ever slows down. As I sit with my calendar, I see nothing is going to change in the future.

Just like most people, I have lots of things scheduled. Some with family, some with friends and others writing related.

My husband and I are about to celebrate our 15th anniversary and are making a few plans. We have a camping trip scheduled and a grandson’s 1st birthday to attend in the next month.

It is all good, but it takes a toll on my energy levels. That being said, I am taking this moment to simply be in this moment. I picked up my CSA today and decided this was one of my favorite things about summer.  Here is my list:

1. Blueberries – I forget how much I like blueberries until I pick up a quart at the local farmers market and my husband and I race to see who can finish them first.

2. Warm summer days – Winter is quite long here and I want to take the opportunity to soak as much of the warmth into my bones before it gets here.

3. Harvest – Gardens are producing so much right now. Zucchini appears to have lived up to its reputation and I have more in my kitchen than I can possibly consume. Our first tomatoes came in the order. Remember toasted tomato sandwiches? Definitely a fave.tomato-498721_1280

4. Sitting by Water – Lakefront visiting helps to balance the heat with the love of water.

5. Walks in the evening – Finding some serenity outdoors after a long day at work is the best thing. I also like to walk in the morning just as the sun is rising, but I haven’t had enough energy for that. I’ll keep trying.

There seems to be a consensus about summer that everyone tries to enjoy it to the fullest. These are the things that make summer enjoyable for me.

What are your favorite things about summer?

A Resolved Difference

tree-204297_1280My husband and I are in the planning and execution stages of revamping our new property. The roof has been worked on and is now weather-proof. We are waiting for the doors to be delivered and we will paint sometime in the spring.

Landscaping has been part of the discussion since the beginning. It’s just such a large, empty space that needs to be filled. We have some trees that we will move later in the fall to fill in all the emptiness. It’s been fun.

One issue that we have had for a while is the discussion over adding a weeping willow tree to our property. The argument is simple:

I want one.

He doesn’t.

He tells me:

-Willow trees are very messy. They have a tendency to lose lots of branches after a storm.
-They won’t grow here. Willows need lots of water.
-They take up too much room. Willows need lots of space to grow

I love the beauty and grace of willow trees. I don’t even care if they are messy. One of my favorite things is that in the fall when all the leaves change, willows become these round glowing bright spots easily identified in a stand of trees.

I am still doing some research about how much water they truly need, but we can deal, I’m sure. We are working on the water issue along with everything else.

And, the last argument, we don’t have enough space is no longer an issue. In acquiring the land, we have more than doubled our small lot, most of it empty just waiting for something.

One of my first questions after purchasing this property was about a planting willow tree. The answer was a grudging “yes”.

The question now is, where to put it.

Friday Five: Reasons to Write Everyday

typewriter-801921_1280I try to write every day. This is a habit I began in the past couple of years and have enjoyed immensely. Well, I haven’t enjoyed it every day but most.

Here are my reasons for writing every day:

1. I wanted to write.
2. Writing each day builds a habit. Stopping, for me, even one day meant it was harder to get moving the next day.
3. Building this daily habit keeps the fingers and creativity limber. It also helps keep the crazies at bay.
4. The repeating habit tells my muse when to show up so writer’s block is kept to a minimum. I’m not sure that anything will stop it entirely but writing each day helps.
5. I am owning my writing and writing life.

Along the way, I decided that it didn’t matter what I wrote. It could be a journal entry, free write to a prompt or adding to a work in progress. It didn’t matter. What mattered is that I showed up each day and wrote. For me, the magic number was 500 words but I started out with one minute a day.

This habit began with a decision to write. I found an online group that supported my goal and I began. I still check in nearly every day. The accountability helps.

There are days where it is a struggle to reach my goal. On these days, I consider it a win if I get something down. On days where I reach 1000 word I bask in the feeling of accomplishment, but most days I just take what I can get.

One thing I’ve learned is that once this habit was created my brain wouldn’t let me rest until I got my writing done. I will admit it can be annoying when I want to take a break, however, I won’t reach my goals by not writing.

What goals do you work at every day and what are your top 5 reasons to keep going?

Where Do You Write?

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) wrote about having a writer’s space in A Room of One’s Own. In this book, she spoke of women writing fiction and the need to have both a place and the finances to write. When she write this book, women had specific roles and writing wasn’t one of them. Times have changed.

What hasn’t changed is the need for writers to have a dedicated space for writing. This space is physical and emotional space. How many of us have this space? How many of us make this space for our writing? It is difficult to find and to make this sacred. 

I have worked for the past year to carve out space for my writing, and I believe it shows. I still get up early most mornings to write though that is evolving. I have a desk at which to write while being surrounded by my large collection of books. I am grateful for this.

But I long for more.

I long for a space separate from the normal workings of my life. A place where interruptions require effort and social media doesn’t intrude. I would like a place where I can read without the sounds of television or phone.

I’m not the only one.

This is E.B. White’s writing space.

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artnectar.com
Virginia Woolf’s desk

guardian.co.uk
guardian.co.uk
Nigella Lawson, food writer

buzzfeed.com
buzzfeed.com
And, Neil Gaiman’s tiny writing desk

booktique.weebly.com
booktique.weebly.com
Finally, my own, very messy writing space.

IMG_0223I find it fascinating to see other writer’s spaces.  I can’t help but compare my own though that is probably not a good idea. This is my space and it works for me, most of the time.

Each of these spaces is dedicated for writing and attending to the muse. I’ve read of others who have small spaces separate from their homes to write in. Think Thoreau’s cabin. 

I am incredibly lucky to have a supportive partner in this endeavor and we have been speaking about a separate writing area.  We have even gone so far as to purchase the materials to build a writing hut use in this manner. We’ve enjoyed this planning process, deciding on which design and what furnishings to use, which ones do we already have and do we need to buy anything. The plan is to begin building in the next month with the completion of this cabin space evolving over time as things like these often do. I will keep you updated on our progress as soon as we begin.

Carving out time and space for writing has been a struggle for me and, I’m sure, many others. I believe it is worth it.

Where do you write?

An Easy Way to Entertain Children

When I was a child, and my mother newly single, there were no ornaments for the Christmas tree, so we decided to make them by using homemade play dough. Play dough can be baked hard for hanging. I don’t know if any of these ornaments survived over the last 28 years, but they were fun to make. Even the neighborhood kids got in on the action with some of the most memorable ornaments were the Kiss logo made by one of my brother’s friends. That tree still is one of my favorites.

I still prefer making play dough to purchased. There is something in the way each of them smells that makes me avoid one and enjoy the other.

My daughter and grandchildren were visiting earlier this summer and one Sunday morning Caleb and I made play dough. Caleb and I have made play dough before and he was a great helper. He was even willing to sit through the pictures.

Recipes abound in all sorts of blogs, and they are very similar. I found one since I didn’t have the one my mom used as a child, that made a lot at one time. Here is the recipe I used from TinkerLab.com. This site is fabulous for anything creative to do with kids. It is aptly named “The Best Play Dough Recipe.” You probably have all the ingredients in your house right now.

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Measure and pour everything except the food coloring into a heavy, large pan.

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Turn on heat to medium – low and stir. Play dough needs to be stirred nearly continuously to prevent burning.

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Caleb likes to stir until it gets too hard.

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Keep stirring. It will look lumpy and wet:

DSC_0264After only a few minutes, the dough begins to come together:
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This is after another minute:

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The play dough is done cooking when it looks dry and is hard to stir. Your arm will get a workout. Turn the dough out onto a surface that won’t stain. Knead a couple of times to get the pull the dough together. Be careful, it will be very hot. Caleb never gets to help with this part.

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For this recipe, I was able to divide into fours so he could have different colors.

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We used liquid food coloring in basic colors. The more food coloring you use the richer the color. I believe the paste food coloring can be used though I’ve never done so. The technique is the same: add the color and knead until all the color is mixed in.

Here is the red:

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Looks we could have used some more good coloring.

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And, the blue:

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Caleb enjoyed squirting the color in and it shows:

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Green is next:

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So pretty.

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Finally, yellow:

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This may be with about a half a bottle of food coloring, most definitely more than a few drops. The color is gorgeous.

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All the colors together:

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He sat still long enough for this one.

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The play dough is hot when the colors are being added so be careful. With all the coloring he added I ended up with these colorful hands:

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It comes off relatively easily and my hands were clean by the time I finished washing the dishes. Caleb played for hours that day and the play dough didn’t dry out. Homemade play dough doesn’t have any preservatives so I generally store it in the refrigerator. It will last for a while that way.

By the end of the day, we had one color since Caleb mixed them together but he played all week. The play dough held up and didn’t dry out. It’s one of his favorite things.

Play dough is also one of my favorite things.

Friday Five: Five Reasons to Be Grateful

coffee-750990_1280I often forget to be grateful. It’s not that I don’t feel it. I simply forget to say it. Nor do I always think about life in terms of being grateful. I believe that seeking out reasons to be grateful is important and can bring contentment to ours. Just to remember what we do have, rather than what we don’t, can bring joy.

 

Here are five reason’s I am grateful at this moment:

1. I am grateful for my home and family. Without these, life would be empty indeed.

2. I am grateful for an understanding and loving husband.

3. I am grateful for the little beast who distracts me with all her kitten shenanigans, like playing with the necklace around my neck while I work.

4. I am grateful for good friends.

and, last but not least,

5. I am grateful for rainbows and the blessings they bring.IMG_0194

Being grateful is a habit to aspire to. One way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal.

As a challenge, each night before bed, write down 3-5 things you are grateful for. This is a hard habit for me to build but one I hope to.

What are you grateful for today?