- Set an intention for the month.
- Groundhog Day.
- Super Bowl Sunday!
- National Homemade Soup Day.
- Lunar New Year.
- Send Valentines Day cards.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Birthday.
- Make a pink floral arrangement.
- Plant beets, chard and lettuce.
- Pink/red mani/pedi.
- Take Valentine treats to work.
- Pick up a bottle of champagne.
- Bake something for my sweetie.
- Valentines Day.
- Switch decorations to Mardi Gras.
- Stock up on spring scented candles.
- National Random Acts of Kindness Day.
- President’s Day.
- Trip to the library.
- Dinner with a friend.
- Dry bed sheets outdoors.
- Polish copper cookware.
- Plan March blog posts.
- Dinner party.
- Make and freeze a big batch of meatballs.
- Prep winter outerwear for storage.
- Drop off donations.
- Reflect on the month.
I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions. The thought that on January 1 you’re supposed to suddenly declare all the things you wish to accomplish for the entire year (only to abandon them all by mid-February) doesn’t work for me. I prefer to set monthly intentions. That way I only have one new habit to focus on per month and can change and adapt my list as the year goes on.
That said, I saw a wonderful idea in a post on A Cup of Jo a week or so ago that really spoke to me; more/less. Illustrator Julia Rothman had pinned up a sheet of paper with things she wanted more or less of in her life in the new year. Brilliant!
I’ve read that the best way to start a good habit or to break a bad habit is to focus on adding things to your pile of good rather than obsessing over the bad. This list format helps with just that. Spending too much time comparing your life on social media? Glance at the list and see that you want to spend more time with friends. Send the text. Meet up for coffee.
The list doesn’t deal in absolutes. If you order take-out once, you don’t feel like you’ve submarined your entire resolution and chuck it all out. Just plan on cooking dinner in tomorrow.
As you can tell, I’m really taken with this way of thinking and am adding it to my existing monthly intentions. Below is my personal more/less list. What’s on yours?
- More time outside. Less camping out on the couch.
- More fruit. Less sweets.
- More time with friends. Less listening to internal negativity.
- More moving. Less vegging.
- More doing. Less excuses.
- More home cooking. Less takeout.
- More calm. Less clutter.
- More books. Less television.
- More creativity. Less judgement.
- More patience. Less snapping over stupid things.
- More organization. Less chaos.
Until next time.
- Finish up the champagne in some New Year’s Day mimosas.
- Set up new calendars with birthdays/anniversaries/important dates.
- Set an intention for the month.
- Shop for Julie’s birthday.
- Twelfth Night
- Take down Christmas decorations and store for next year.
- Take my new bike out for a spin at least once a week.
- Write thank-you notes for Christmas gifts.
- National Bubble Bath Day!
- Go to a yoga class.
- Keep up with daily readings.
- Refresh and restock baking supplies.
- Make a winter white floral arrangement.
- Blue winter mani/pedi.
- Schedule doctor/dentist/vet appointments for the year.
- Shop after Christmas sales for accessories to freshen up winter wardrobe.
- Start planning a spring garden.
- Stock up on candles for the rest of the long winter nights.
- Organize my craft cabinet.
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- Play with new art supplies..
- Curl up with a good book and a fire if the weather permits.
- National Pie Day!
- Try a moisturizing mask to refresh winter weary skin.
- Make a delicious stew.
- Meet a friend for coffee.
- Ellen DeGeneres’ Birthday
- Plan February posts.
- Bake something new from Pinterest.
- Trip to the library.
- Reflect on the month.
Until next time.
Do you have a cook, baker or entertainer on your Christmas gift list? Does the idea of finding a thoughtful, appealing gift for them strike fear in your heart? I get it. I love to cook and bake and over the years I’ve received my fair share of gifts in that vein. Some of been home runs. (Thanks again, Cole, for the mandoline!) Others have been duds. (Does anyone really need a separate appliance that vertically roasts chickens?) Sometimes it can feel impossible to find something your foodie a) will like and use and b) doesn’t already have. Here are some ideas for gifts that are new, different and down-right beautiful.
Until next time
I haven’t posted since February! I have no excuse. It’s time to get back to it. I read a genius article recently about how our brains are being rewired due to online versus analog reading. It was thought-provoking and made me glad that I came of age, an avid reader, in the days of physical books. But the thing that jumped out at me was one particular thought: Beauty in, beauty out. Here, in the author’s own words:
“In Silicon Valley, they have a saying that explains why an algorithm starts producing unwanted results: Garbage in, garbage out. The idea is that an algorithm can only work with the information you feed it. Aren’t writers – all creators – algorithmic in that way? Our job is to process what we consume. Beauty in, beauty out. Garbage in, garbage out.”
It’s really the simplest of ideas; to do better, you have to consume quality. To write well you must read good material. To cook well you must eat good food. To make authentic art you must view good art. The idea is not to copy a writer or artist or maker you admire or to slavishly follow recipes or lists or someone else’s path to success. What you’re doing is increasing your knowledge base so you can easily recognize quality; in other’s works, of course; but most importantly, in your own.
I took this idea as a jumping off point. I think that this idea doesn’t just apply to any given art or craft you’re hoping to master but quality of life as well. If you focus on what’s wrong or unfinished or imperfect in your life then that’s all you’ll see: the flaws, the glitches, the messes. Conversely, if you focus on the bounty and abundance of your life then that’s what will fill your heart. Sure, you’ll still see the things that need work but instead of seeing them as a reflection of yourself as an unworthy being you’ll see them as a chance to improve your already bright life.
Positive thinking is not a panacea for the ills of the world and it’s certainly not meant to blind you to the problems of modern life that you can do something to help remedy. Instead, it’s meant to help you continue to strive to improve your lot and the greater world around you. This can be especially important to those of us who struggle with mental health and especially important at this time of year when the struggle can be the toughest. Look for the good. Look for the happy. Look for the beauty in your life.
Here’s a link to the original article:
I Have Forgotten How to Read by Michael Harris https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/i-have-forgotten-how-toread/article37921379/
Until next time
What kind of cook are you? Do you follow recipes down to the minutest detail? Do you rely strictly on convenience foods? Do you use your kitchen for coffee making only? Or are you able to conceive a dish in your mind and present it on a plate?
Much of the difference in types of cooks comes down to three things: desire, confidence & experience. If you have no desire to cook, then no amount of instruction or coaxing will change that. But if you want to cook & want to be able to freestyle in the kitchen, then experience is the key. Experience builds confidence, enhances skills and gives you a mental “flavor library” to draw on to create your own dishes. Also, a few templates don’t hurt. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
When I was a novice cook I had the good fortune of stumbling onto an issue of Bon Appetite magazine shrink-wrapped with a separate little guide about basic cooking techniques. The technique guide was helpful, but it was the recipes & pictures in that first issue of Bon Appetite that really inspired me to embrace cooking. They all seemed so interesting & exotic! Now realize, I was barely 20 years old, lived in a small city in the Deep South in the pre-internet days and had just met the man I wanted to spend my life cooking for. Those recipes were the Holy Grail! First I had to weed out all of the ones that had ingredients I didn’t know or couldn’t find. The ones that were left I followed slavishly. Some hits, some misses. But most importantly, they gave me the confidence to try, allow myself to fail occasionally and eventually to trust my own instincts in the kitchen.
Fast forward 30+ years. I have worked as a baker in a popular local coffee shop, taught cooking lessons and catered dinner parties. Now, I’m back to cooking for just the two of us again. My husband, while a MUCH more adventurous eater than he was 30 years ago, is still a die-hard carnivore. Don’t get me wrong; I love fish & seafood of every kind, crave a really good rib-eye with some regularity and find a perfectly roasted chicken to be a thing of beauty. But given my druthers, my favorite way to eat follows this template: whole grain or grain substitute, greens or other veggies, nuts & cheese.
Instead of being limiting, a template like this is empowering. There are nearly limitless possibilities! Sometimes it’s a fresh greens based salad with a scoop of cooked grains added for heft finished with nuts for crunch and cheese for that luxurious creaminess. Sometimes it’s a grain bowl with cooked veggies, again sprinkled with nuts and cheese. Sometimes it’s a warm lentil salad with wilted greens and nuts and cheese. Sometimes I use two or three of the components and add in a protein: pastured eggs, leftover chicken or steak, quickly cooked shrimp or wild salmon or the only cold cuts and bacon I’ll use; Applegate Farms. The common bond that all of these meals share is that they’re healthy, filling & delicious.
The thing to remember is being able to whip these yummies up starts at the market: good food in your cart means good food in your fridge which means good food in your body! Next week I’ll be back to talk about what to stock your fridge, freezer and pantry with to be able to whip up delicious meals like these. Remember: eat good, feel good!
Until next time!
Remember my New Year’s resolution to read more and connect with other readers from this post? I’m taking concrete steps toward that goal by reinstating and idea I had several years ago: The Round Robin Book Club.
In its original incarnation, it was my girls, my sister and myself. We are all readers, but separated by distance. We were each going to take a quarter, choose four books, order and distribute the books, each read our assigned book then include a review with it before mailing it off to the next person in a designated order so that by the end of the quarter we would have all read all four and could get together and have a group phone call to discuss them all. I threw out some sample items to address in the reviews but the one that stuck was “Which character would you most like to punch in the face?” Our first books were “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt (If you’ve read it, we all wanted to punch Boris!), The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (amazing little book!), The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (which I don’t think any of us ever recovered from). It started off so well!
Then came the first of our darling grands. We never made it past that first quarter.
Now my girls have four beautiful children between the two of them, with number five set for arrival in June. They are deep in the throes of young motherhood and any reading they get to do that doesn’t involve Gossie, Goodnight Moon or parenting advice is completely for their own pleasure and at their own schedule.
So I’ve regrouped with a new cast of characters! My sister Nichole (who lives in the Dallas area) and me of course, my friends Erin & Jen (who live in the Boston are and are participating as a unit) and my friend Cynthia who is local to me.
Since I started this, I took the first quarter (actually 2 months since we got a little bit of a late start). I had a framework with the books I chose the first time and stuck with it for the rebirth: one work of literary fiction, one work of fantasy, magical realism or magic, one lighter fluffier book and a wildcard. So without further ado, hear are the books that the Round Robin Book Club will be reading for the first quarter of 2017:
A Work of Literary Fiction:
Commonwealth by Ann Patchet
The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives. One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families. Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them. When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another. Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.
A Work of Fantasy, Magical Realism or Magic:
The #1 New York Times bestselling author’s ultimate edition of his wildly successful first novel featuring his “preferred text”—and including the special “Neverwhere” tale “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back.” Published in 1997, Neil Gaiman’s darkly hypnotic first novel, Neverwhere, heralded the arrival of this major talent and became a touchstone of urban fantasy. Over the years, a number of versions were produced both in the U.S. and the U.K. Now, this author’s preferred edition of his classic novel reconciles these versions and reinstates a number of scenes cut from the original published books. Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew, a young London businessman with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he is plunged through the cracks of reality into a world of shadows and darkness—the Neverwhere. If he is ever to return to the London Above, Richard must join the battle to save this strange underworld kingdom from the malevolence that means to destroy it.
A Lighter, Fluffier Piece:
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
(This one went to Cynthia and involved a lovely brunch at The Beckery.)
Don’t miss this curiously charming debut! In this hauntingly beautiful story of love, loneliness and self-discovery, an endearing widower embarks on a life-changing adventure. Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden. But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met—a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places. Featuring an unforgettable cast of characters with big hearts and irresistible flaws, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a joyous celebration of life’s infinite possibilities.
And a Wildcard:
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by The Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams
An instant New York Times Bestseller. Two Spiritual Giants. Five Days. One Timeless Question. Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships—or, as they would say, because of them—they are two of the most joyful people on the planet. In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness’s eightieth birthday and to create what they hoped would be a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering? They traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of a week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our time and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy. This book offers us a rare opportunity to experience their astonishing and unprecendented week together, from the first embrace to the final good-bye. We get to listen as they explore the Nature of True Joy and confront each of the Obstacles of Joy—from fear, stress, and anger to grief, illness, and death. They then offer us the Eight Pillars of Joy, which provide the foundation for lasting happiness. Throughout, they include stories, wisdom, and science. Finally, they share their daily Joy Practices that anchor their own emotional and spiritual lives. The Archbishop has never claimed sainthood, and the Dalai Lama considers himself a simple monk. In this unique collaboration, they offer us the reflection of real lives filled with pain and turmoil in the midst of which they have been able to discover a level of peace, of courage, and of joy to which we can all aspire in our own lives.
(All book detail information from Amazon.)
So, have you read any of these? What did you think? No spoilers, please! Do you belong to a book club? What’s next on your reading list? Let’s chat books!
Until next time!
I love the new year! It always feels like a fresh start. 365 blank pages just waiting for you to write your story. This will be my story but I hope if you follow along you might find some ideas that inspire you too.
Of course, the New Year always brings out the resolutions too. I don’t believe in the “don’t, won’t, never” school of resolutions, “I will completely give up sweets!” Or the “nothing to ninety” type either, “I will go to the gym everyday!” when you went 3 times in the last 6 months. I think the best resolutions are those that focus on adding good to your life instead of trying to eliminate bad and those that don’t have a fixed deadline or schedule, allowing you to pick them up were you left them without guilt.
That said, here are my resolutions for 2017!
I will look for more opportunities to embrace creativity.
This blog is one step in that direction! I look forward to not only developing my voice and working on my nonexistent photography skills but also in searching out fun, new, exciting ways to be creative so I can share them with you. I also received this amazing book for Christmas along with all of the art supplies necessary to complete the prompts.
If you don’t follow Jennifer on Instagram, @augustwren, you should! Her paintings-a-day are always inspiring and so pretty! And now she has put that concept into book form for us non-artists. Each month has a different theme and set of prescribed supplies and each day has a specific prompt. I’m so looking forward to beginning this journey.
I will work toward making our home a reflection of our life.
Are you familiar with the Danish word hygge? It’s a concept that doesn’t have a direct English translation but revolves around coziness and conviviality. It helps the Danes deal with their long dark winters and contributes to their enviable national happiness quotient. While hygge often involves socializing with friends over coffee or intimate dinners, I believe hygge starts at home. Since I live in Louisiana, battling fierce winters is not an issue for me but my darling husband and I are homebodies. I want our home to be a place of refuge: free from irritations, calm & serene and snug & cozy.
I’ve already begun a slow-motion redecoration of our home. I’m focusing on serene colors, cozy textures and accessories that make me happy. I am not an interior designer and this is not a show home. This is real life. There is dog hair and there is clutter. But I do want to share this ongoing project with you in it’s authentic state.
I want to read more.
I used to be a prolific, voracious reader. I was never without a book and usually had my next several in waiting. My focus has slipped. I don’t find myself easily sliding into the flow of words and drifting along with them the way I used to and I miss it. I think I can improve this and find myself once again intimate with the words on the page rather than just a casual acquaintance.
I also want to engage and exchange ideas with other readers to help rekindle that fire. Book reviews, discussions and suggestions will all be in the plan. If this sounds like something you would enjoy, please join in! The more the merrier!
I would like to have a weekly baking day.
We, mostly him, have a sweet tooth. If my sweetie does an after work grocery run, there are bound to be a few things that jump into his cart. He also likes to bring me treats. Obviously this is not a bad thing and I am a lucky girl, but it has gotten a little out of hand over the holiday season. It’s time to take back a little control over what we’re eating.
I used to bake for a living so this is not a stretch for me. Simple cakes, chewy cookies and yummy bars are all easily in my reach. And if I’m doing the baking I can control the quality of the ingredients and feel better about what my sweetie is eating. Besides, he’s such a kind and generous soul, I can see a lot of these treats making their way to his office to be shared. There will be recipes!
I want to restart my yoga practice.
Three years ago, as a New Year’s resolution, I went to my first yoga class. I was clueless and nervous; but once I got over my anxiety, I took to it like a duck to water! I loved feeling my body move in ways I didn’t know it could, to feel my strength and flexibility improving with each class and the calmness that settled my over-active mind. For eighteen months I went religiously 3 times a week. It was an amazing investment in my health and well-being!
Then a health issue disrupted my routine. At first it was just a missed class here or there and then my attendance became sporadic at best. I haven’t been to a class in over a year. I certainly don’t expect to just jump right back in to my old schedule but I’m going to commit to a beginners class, hopefully once a week. My instructor is incredible and knows about my limitations and I am confident that with her help I can regain my strength and flexibility, not overnight, but eventually.
I will find ways to socialize more that fit my personality.
I am a homebody and an introvert. I am not naturally comfortable at a large social event or in an overly noisy, crowded setting. I have a small circle of close friends rather than a large group of acquaintances and that’s fine with me. When I was working, a lot of socialization occurred naturally. I was good friends with several people I worked with. But now that I’m not working, it’s a little too easy for me to slip into hermit-mode. I need to fix that!
There are plenty of opportunities that I can take advantage of: lunch with my work buddies, a catch-up dinner with a dear friend, coffee with one of my younger friends who is looking for a little mentoring or a low-key concert with my husband. Those encounters energize rather than drain me. I need to make more of an effort to make them happen.
And last but certainly not least:
I will practice mindfulness and gratitude daily.
As humans we are constantly looking forward, planning our next move. I want to focus on being in the moment. I want to recognize an appreciate all of things I have and how lucky my circumstances are rather than constantly living in the future.
Whew! I had no idea I had so much to say! If you’ve read all the way through, thanks for sticking with me! If you’ve read something that speaks to you, let me know in the comments, I want this to be a conversation not a soliloquy. What are your resolutions or plans for 2017?
Hello! I’m Crystal otherwise known as The Quirky Quaintrelle and this is to be my blog. I love spending time with my family & our menagerie of pets, good food & drink, pretty things, classic style with a twist, a cozy home, books, the occasional bit of craftiness and so much more!
I believe in paying a few dollars more for the attractively designed option over the strictly utilitarian. I will always stop to look at pictures of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Audrey Hepburn or Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. I adore British television and period-piece movies and almost anything featuring magic. I read everything: novels, classic literature, history, science, travel, social science, comics and describe myself as ferociously curious.
Food & wine are my love languages. Bring me chocolate, a fancy coffee, a bottle of Cabernet or a really good pizza and I will be a very happy girl. And other than my darling husband and my sweet sister, cheese is my best friend. I love to cook and I love a good restaurant meal and, yes, I’m the one taking pictures of everyone’s plates before they take a bite.
Right now I’m just practicing. Stretching my legs and finding my voice. Starting in the new year I hope to post at least 5 times a week on all of the things I mentioned above and whatever else strikes my fancy. I hope you’ll find something that interests you and you’ll follow along and strike up a conversation while I set out to make 2017 my most beautiful, magical & charming year yet!