Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Around Here | December.

…I spent much of yesterday sorting through this month's photos - over 200 of them, thanks in part to daily prompts from both FatMumSlim's (yes, I went back!) and Tracey Clark's Picture the Holidays class. I've challenged myself with Tracey's class to take all the photos with my "big" camera; it's nice to have it back out on the counter again…and I'm delighted with many of the images. Here are ten of my favorites (in addition to the one I already shared), some of which don't even have twinkle light bokeh!

Day 1 - Turning Over a New Leaf | the front of my house, framed with leaves

Day 2 - Reframing the Season | looking into the living room from the screened porch (three trees in sight!)

Day 5 - The View from Here | the same trees from Day 2, but from inside

Day 11 - Minimalist | in my neighbor's front yard

Day 12 - All is Calm

Day 13 - Simply Divine | on our "big" tree

Day 16 - The Season of Lights | on the path by the lake in my neighborhood
Day 21 - Attitude Adjustment | all the yarn I had left to knit, so pretty with a twinkle light backdrop!

Day 25 - This Magic Moment | the table…after dinner
Day 27 - A Breath of Fresh Air | frosted berries from our morning walk

Friday, December 27, 2013

Looking Back | 2013.

…at thirteen of the best things that happened around here.

Rob & Katie and the sparkler sendoff (a favorite moment from a favorite day)
1. Katie and Rob's wedding. The day of - May 18 - was wonderful, but the planning and preliminary parties - notably the bachelorette weekend in February where Katie and her friends shared one cottage and my friends and I shared the other (and there was snow) and a shower in April hosted by my sister and sister-in-law - and sharing the celebration with friends and family made it truly memorable. I'm so grateful, too, that we have hundreds of photos to remember it all.

Marc & I - November 17 before a wonderful dinner in the Dominican
2. Our 30th anniversary. and getting really comfortable with the whole empty nest thing. Marc and I celebrated with a trip to the Dominican Republic back in November. It was the first time the two of us had taken a vacation together on a plane since our honeymoon. We ate and drank and read and lounged for five whole days in the sun. We also had a Nespresso machine in our room and I lost count of how many espressos I had.

3. The half marathon. Way back in March, Katie, Rob, Sara and I ran 13.1 miles. This was my first half marathon…and likely my last. In a burst of post-event enthusiasm I signed up for two more - one on Thanksgiving morning and another next March. Our Dominican trip pretty much put me off the Thanksgiving one and I just realized today that I'll be out of town for the one in March. Oh well. I'm glad I did it. just once.

4. The mid-distance running group at the Y. More post-event enthusiasm encouraged me to join a running group, and this part is sticking with me. I've made friends and like running with others now more than running solo. Quite a change in just 12 months!

5. Yoga. I resisted at first. The one class I took last year wasn't very good and I was too into Pilates to give it a second chance. But then I took a class this spring - the teacher subbed for one of my Pilates classes, but she taught a Yoga class - and I had second thoughts. The girls at running raved about a 90 minute class on Friday mornings and I decided to give it a shot. First class…and I was hooked. My routine now includes three classes a week - two Vinyasa Flow and one Yin. Combined with a few days of running, I think I've found a fitness routine I can live with for a while.

6. Katie & Rob built a house (and moved in) that's just three and a half miles from ours. I love having them close. I especially love that we see them (ok, mostly that Katie and I see each other) regularly and have fun together!

7. The prayer shawl ministry is real. The timing was right, for sure, because we had more than 20 women show up for the information session in April. Monthly meetings started in May and eight months later we have a solid core of about a dozen ladies. We've made several dozen shawls, lap robes and baby pieces and have expanded the ministry to include a local cancer infusion center and a single mother's outreach program.

8. Our whole family is on Instagram. Katie and I started back in early 2011, then Sara joined, and we got Marc on board the morning after the wedding. I was enjoying looking at all the photos that the guests shared…and he wanted in. Now he regularly shares photos on his Asian adventures and it's great to follow along. But I have to say that the photos he shares of our lives here together are my favorites. Also, #tbt.

9. Photography. I took a phone photography class in July and learned so much, especially about iPhone/iPad apps to edit photos (PicTapGo and A Beautiful Mess are my favorites). Inspiration spark! Then Katie & I both bought a 50mm 1:1.4 lens last month and whoa. I'm in love with my DSLR all over again.
my "stats" view from Goodreads
10. Reading books and audiobooks. I read 28 (those two unstarred books at the bottom are "not gonna finish" ones) books this year; more than any recent year by a long shot. In addition to discovering short stories, I also found a few new favorites - Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Diana Gabaldon's Outlander and John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany. I started listening to bookish podcasts, too, and would highly recommend Book Riot, Books on the Nightstand, Bookrageous and (if you're ok with R-rated language) Literary Disco.

11. Another 2-day walk. It's a fall tradition. and now we've raised over $20,000!!!!

12. Teaching knitting. I started nearly four years ago (!!!?!!) and I am finally feeling like I figured it out. I have about 15 regular students who fill three classes each week. They keep me on my toes - did you ever hear the way to really learn is by doing? it's true - and they inspire me.

13. Our new home. not just our 2nd house, and I know it helps that we sold the first a few months back.  Now we've made new friends, figured out the traffic patterns and really settled in. We love it. and it's home.

Thanks for reading all this. I didn't think it would be so long, but … that's how it goes sometimes! Reviewing the list, it strikes me that most of these things were not ones I planned a year ago. And so I'm reminded again how important it is to be flexible about my priorities and really, to simply be present in the moment with the things - and the people - that matter most.

Did you have any "aha" moments this year? Please share!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

In the Blink of an Eye.

...or so it seems anyway...it was just December 1st and now it's Christmas Eve. dark early. which is not so great since I was up past midnight. but gives me a bit of quiet alone time (maybe even an hour or two since Marc's office is officially on holiday today and without an alarm I'll bet he can sleep past 7 am).
Katie & Sara, Central Park, Christmas 2009
I just hung this last "ornament" on our Advent tree. also known (especially to those of you on Instagram) as our "throwback Thursday" tree. Marc and I have both enjoyed the 24 day trip down memory lane and a few of the photos have shown up on our Instagram feeds this year.
Santa and me. circa 1967
Katie, me and Sara. Christmas 1993

…in the blink of any eye indeed.

A sure reminder to live each and every moment to its fullest. And to take lots of pictures.

Wishing y'all the very Merriest of Christmases!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ten on Tuesday. Making a List.


…today Carole's asked about our to-do lists. Quite contrary to my normal MO, I've been resisting getting all those things running around my head down on paper. But once I did, it wasn't all that bad. We've scaled back a lot this year on gifts, and Marc's been away for a week, so I've had extra time. I hope this feeling of relative calm lasts!

1. Holiday cards. We haven't sent one in years, but Katie convinced me (and gave me a great coupon). I finalized the design and ordered them this morning. Plan to get them addressed, stamped and into the mail next week.

2. Daily December entries for Project Life. Scheduled for this afternoon. (I haven't done a single one so far…)

3. Groceries. Related to Marc being gone for a week, the pantry and refrigerator are nearly empty. Must do. tomorrow.

4. Holiday sangria, birthday card and gift for a sweet friend who's celebrating a milestone birthday this week. I'm hosting the party Thursday night, but everyone is helping with the food, so it really should be this easy.

5. Holly's annual checkup. She's out of heart worm medicine and her rabies vaccine expires this week. must do!

6. Sunday School lesson. It's my turn to teach on Sunday.

7. Shop blog post. Yep, I am behind on two blogs, not just this one! (and if time permits, I'd really like to get this blog updated for the new season).

8. Post office. Two packages to mail. Thursday?

9. Homeland. I hadn't watched a single episode of Season 3 til Saturday…and now I've seen all eleven, but need to re-watch that last episode before Sunday's finale.

10. Knitting. of course. I haven't finished any gifts, but three of the four I've planned are started.

With just two weeks to go, what's on your list?

click here to join the Ten on Tuesday fun!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Throwback Thursday | A Christmas Elf.

…one of my very favorite photos of my dad, from Christmas Eve 1967 (I think). That red wagon was our big Santa gift that year. 

Of course he had to be sure it "worked" after he assembled it…smart thinking since that festive holly mug he's holding was a hot drink we call Tom & Jerry's, a Sheffield family holiday tradition.

Tom & Jerry's
my mother's recipe

Batter
Slowly beat 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks; stir in 1 pound of powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon nutmeg. Refrigerate in a covered container. It keeps for a week or two (if it lasts that long!)

For each drink
Add 1-2 heaping tablespoon(s) of batter to a warmed mug (the batter is pretty rich, I prefer less, but I think others in my family like the full two tablespoons), a jigger of dark or spiced rum or brandy (my dad's favorite), and boiling water to fill the mug. Stir to dissolve the batter. Add a little sprinkle of nutmeg. Enjoy!

Sadly, I don't think we have any good Christmas elf stories from our girls' childhoods. But I think this one serves well for two generations!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Grounded.

…of course I had grand plans for today - Marc left dark-early for Asia and we had a contractor scheduled mid-day to fix a leak in the attic (no real worries - it's all under warranty and it's just a little leak). I had my laptop and printer on the kitchen counter first, followed shortly by 8 weeks of stuff and the rest of my project life supplies. yep, I'm in catchup mode again. and committed (in a good way) to getting caught up this week so I can document (most of) December in real time. I'll spare you the view of my kitchen counter right now (it's not terrible, but I'm not proud of it!)

…because I have this one to share.
Day 3 of Tracey Clark's Picture the Holidays. Grounded.
A lot has changed in just three years!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving.

…feels weird that it was just a few days ago because now twinkle lights abound, Christmas music is playing outright (instead of just when I'm alone in my car), we've watched Elf and The Holiday…and I'm behind on my daily December journal. yep, hello December!

But before I give this new month its proper welcome, I wanted to share a glimpse of my favorite November holiday.

Just us. 
Sara, Marc, Katie, Rob
delicious food.
still figuring out my new lens… it can focus really close!
(yes there were leftovers; this is some of what Katie & Rob took home)

delicious wine.
from Tablas Creek (and a tasting trip Katie & Rob made to Paso Robles a few years back) and Triseatum
and fun. even taking photos. yes, that's Marc. and yes, those are smiles!

thank you Katie for these last two (in focus!) photos!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Daily Photo.

...like so many things in my creative life I have a kind of love-hate relationship with the daily photo. I love how the photos capture everyday life and show - in daily detail - what changes and what doesn't, what I love most about this life, especially the people (and the dogs!), the places, the seasons. But I hate the days when everyday life is just too everyday...those days I struggle for inspiration to document even a single glimpse of anything.

Last December, after two years and two months of relying on my own inspiration for a daily photo, I decided to follow someone else's. Except for the day of and day after Katie's wedding, I took and posted an #fmsdailyphoto on Instagram every day this year, up to last Thursday. That's 302 daily photos. Back in August, I started "collecting" them.

Seeing the photos altogether tells a story (yes there's knitting, and Holly and summer...changing to fall), but I'm not sure it's really the story I want to spend my time telling, at least not right now. I certainly appreciated those daily prompts; most were fun, some were challenging, and a few were downright weird. Honestly, it was the October 17 prompt which made me re-think the whole thing. The prompt was "first world problem". My unimaginative response was a black and white photo of microwave popcorn (partially popped...) Yep.

It inspired me to take a different approach. I'm only five days into it, but I usually find that sharing something here is a good start to a new habit! On Instagram, I'm sharing a daily #fromwhereIstand photo; those are all taken with my iPhone.
from November 1
The Instagram community continues to be a wonderful source of inspiration; I've added dozens of new contacts and have enjoyed getting more comments on my own photos. But it's made me use my phone camera way more than my DSLR, and I'm missing it. (Yes, I've said that here before). So I'm challenging myself to take a second daily photo with that camera. Those I'm sharing on Flickr. (that's right Mom, I'm putting photos on Flickr again!)  It's been a long time since I've been part of the Flickr community - I'm curious if it still exists, or if Instagram (or Tumblr, or Twitter, or some other platform I haven't even heard of?!?) has taken its place. We'll see. 

from today

I know a few of you take daily photos; how do you make it work?  

As always, thank you for reading! (and my username is mere2007 on both Instagram and Flickr; if you're reading my blog you probably already know that, but just in case... I'd love to be friends there, too).

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Basil Citrus Goat Cheese.

...the party was a lot of fun and I'm so thankful Marc pushed me to go. Our neighborhood is only 17 houses and I now know (almost!) everyone's name!

We all brought snacks to share and my basil citrus goat cheese was a hit ... no leftovers and a few people asked for the recipe. Thought y'all might like this, too. It's really quick and uses ingredients you likely already have on hand*.

Basil Citrus Goat Cheese
Inspired by this recipe

10-1/2 oz log of goat cheese
1-1/2 T lemon zest
1-1/2 T orange zest
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T blood orange olive oil (not at all necessary, but I had it and it worked well with the other ingredients)
1/3 C olive oil
Plenty of salt & pepper
1/4 C fresh basil, thinly sliced

Assemble a few hours ahead so the flavors blend and the cheese softens. Place the cheese in  a shallow bowl. Make 1/2" deep cuts, every 3/4" or so across the top (to make more room for the vinaigrette to sink in).

Blend the zests, garlic, oil and salt & pepper and pour over the cheese. Spread the basil on top.

Serve with crackers or crisps.

*This used the last of my basil, but I still have plenty of rosemary. Thinking maybe a rosemary cranberry mixture for fall?
Holly in her costume!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween.

thanks to my sister for snapping this photo - and letting me borrow the hat!
...for the first time in many years, I'm going to celebrate. Marc's away and all the neighbors are gathering in the little park across the streeet for adult beverages and snacks. I have a hat. And I'm hoping to find Holly a costume today. I'll bring plenty of candy with me, so no one will be ringing our doorbell (and that means - again, hopefully - no barking). It's supposed to be warm and dry. Sounds like the perfect way to spend this evening!

Wishing you a fun Halloween - however you celebrate it!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Finished Knits.

...whoa it's been a while. I'm two months into journal #19 and have five bits of yarn tied to the elastic band, which means I've finished five projects.  But none have been shared here; and until an hour ago I didn't have finished photos of those projects (plus a few others) on Ravelry either. I'm honestly not sure why I've been so remiss with the FO photo shoots, especially because Madeline is such a striking model!


She's been wearing my Meadowsweet Shawl (fka "Meadow Mystery") for weeks now; happy coincidence that the Prairie colorway looks so wonderful in my study!


She stands near a west-facing window that gets lovely afternoon sunshine.

Perfect for modeling shawls,
Piper's Journey, for my church's prayer shawl ministry
scarves,
Linen Stitch Redux
and a soon-to-be-gifted surprise.
just a teaser for the blog, but knitters can see the full piece on Ravelry here
I also added photos of my Irokata Tee
These were taken at the shop last month
and Folded Poncho.

This poncho is probably my favorite finished piece of the past few months. It's knit in a lightweight cotton/silk blend yarn that's been great for the late summer/early fall, but it's just about time to put it away for the season. I have some Jo Sharp DK-weight wool in my stash; as soon as I knock out a few more projects, I think I'll make another poncho for the winter.

So yes, I'm still knitting... and finishing. I just need to get better about the photographs!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

By the Numbers.

...the story of this year's 2-Day Walk.
Karen and I at the Opening Ceremonies in front of the Hard Rock Cafe
4. training walks of 10+ miles (until about four years ago, this would be a zero. we've learned!)
...along the way on Saturday
13. B'rest Stops along the route, including Saturday's lunch. We try hard to make that also be the number of bottled waters we each drink. I think we managed that. (The folks in charge say this should also be the number of potty stops we make...we did about half that).
best sight of Saturday afternoon...about a mile before that "20 mile" sign above
15. combined years my sister and I have participated. She's the 8 and I'm the 7. I can't imagine doing this event on my own...and I hope I never have to. But kudos to Karen for her solo first year.
um yeah, much better together!
27. thank you notes written.
cool sight from Sunday morning; this is a new feature downtown
30. miles we each walked for this year's event.

36. ounces of beer consumed after we finished the first 20 miles on Saturday.
Karen, Sara and I enjoyed a drink together before Saturday night dinner
450. miles we've walked for the event since we started.
at the finish line: Karen, my mom and me (holding the quilt my sister-in-law Lydia and her quilt club donated last year)
700-ish. miles my mom drove to finish the walk with us. This year, for the first time, survivors who couldn't walk the full thirty miles could join us at the last B'rest stop to walk the half mile together. We were so glad to have her there; she's the reason we started walking...and, together with my dad, our biggest supporter.

2,675. dollars we raised this year thanks to our generous family and friends.

20,690. dollars we've raised since we started.

That last number is amazing to us! We are blessed by your generosity. And oh so very grateful. Thank you!

We've already signed up for next year; neither of us can imagine not doing it. And numbers like this are wonderful encouragement.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Reflections.

...inspired by figuring out 40, this is a slightly different take on currents, using the senses to reflect on the week.
a gift from my mom, who's visiting this week
tasting :: pumpkin spice lattes, apple cake, red wine, dark chocolate almond bark and ravioli lasagne (yes, I cooked...for company!). It's almost cool enough to think about soup in the slow cooker...maybe next week?

hearing :: quiet mostly when I'm home alone (which was a lot this week), and podcasts when I'm walking Holly or driving. Especially enjoyed the new knit.fm (hosted by Pam Allen and Hannah Fettig, this is ear candy for knitters) and the October 4 episode of Selected Shorts which included Steven Millhauser's "The Dome" read by Alec Baldwin and Nicholson Baker's "Subsoil" (still enjoying short stories and this podcast was my "fix" for the week). Also iTunes Radio; I played the Dinner Party station when we had everyone over on Wednesday and I think it's pretty good. Definitely worth another listen.

smelling :: spiced pumpkin and frasier fir candles at my house, and spiced chestnut at Katie's. Loving the smell, too, of the fallen leaves underfoot while we walk.

seeing :: my parents; they're visiting this week and I enjoyed lunch with them on Monday and dinner Wednesday. My mom brought me that gorgeous mum and it's like having fall sitting on my kitchen counter. I'm also well into Tracey Clark's Picture Everyday class and this week's prompts are about details...I'm noticing so much more!

feeling :: rested and a sense of calm; very welcome after this crazy busy year, and especially right this second as I'm getting ready to spend the weekend away with my parents, sister and brother and spouses and then dive into the birthday season and the holidays. Of course maybe this is just the calm before the storm, but I'm still grateful for it!

wishing & hoping :: for nice weather this weekend (yikes, I've wished for that a bunch lately!) ... and that this new-found sense of calm helps me stay balanced over these next few months.