Last Week’s Good Things

weekIt still does not seem right to me that next week is Christmas. It is true that holidays have a whole different flavor when you do not have kids in the house. The excitement of the pending arrival of all things holiday are tempered when you have normal days and evenings that are not peppered with holiday doings and wishings and hopings of little ones. That is kind of holiday celebrating gigantified. Last week,  I tried to keep my own wishings and hopings continuing, and my celebration of the good things strong! Here were some of the things that caught my attention!

cookieMary Sue Milliken’s Border Grill Sugar Cookies – On some previous season of Top Chef Masters, Mary Sue Milliken always stands out as a good chef and a nice person. Good combination! Her name caught my eye in a sugar cookie recipe that uses crumbled potato chips. The salty addition to any dessert is a good thing for me. I made these cookies for a friend gathering along with another pretty great recipe for lemon ricotta bars. I have convinced myself that cookies are the ultimate dessert. They are compact, not too messy, flavorful, and not horrendously unhealthy in a reasonable cookie portion!

ginGin – “Gin” probably sounds a little bad, but the story behind it is nice. Dan’s Rotary Club does monthly scotch tastings, but occasionally they mix it up. This month, the mixing was a gin tasting which we held at our house. Prior to a few months ago, I was not aware that you can sip gin. There are varieties that are flavored such that they are more like sippers than mixers. While the turnout was light, the company was extremely wonderful. We sat around, ate Dan’s jambalaya, and told stories old and new. We tasted some gin and ended the night feeling happy.

gingerHappy Gingerbread Day – As I have written before, my sister and I usually have at least a text message a day. On Friday, she messaged me “Happy Gingerbread Day!” That is one of her things. She has a day for every day! Well, it so happened that on Gingerbread day I was walking home and stopped by McClain’s Bakery down the street. I am embarrassed that I have never stepped foot in that delightful space, even though it is so close to my house. I wanted a cup of coffee, but there in the counter were some very delicious looking gingerbread cookies. I bought one, and that afternoon gave it to a friend that I was meeting for a glass of wine. It was a happy gingerbread day

DSCF7624We have a wedding date – Sam and Jean confirmed the date for their wedding! How happy that is!

cbtlOut little coffee machine – When we went to Italy a couple years ago, we stayed in an apartment in Venice that had a little coffee machine. When we came home, we bought one of our own. It is not hipster of fancy or anything like that. But, when I want  a cup of coffee in the afternoon, just turning it on makes me think of Italy and what an unbelievable trip of a lifetime that was! To get a cup of espresso and a wonderful flood of memories is pretty great.

Whether you are reading this for the first time or as a regular, I want to thank all of you. While I enjoy tracking the good things that come my way, knowing that others may like what I write, adds a bit of extra good that I can’t help but appreciate.

Next week we will have very good visitors, so my posting will be iffy. Wishing you the merriest of holidays and many good things!

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Last Week’s Good Things

 

photoThis was the week that Dan and I listened to Pharrell Williams quite a bit. That means that the song Happy was often in our ears. That wasn’t the only good thing this week. Here are a few more:

03-25-14---Larry-Tye-Superman-event

1. Larry Tye talking about Superman at the Library – The Kansas City Library has an amazing schedule of speakers during any month. I can remember so many good authors and talks that I have gone to over the years. Last week, I left work and headed to the beautiful downtown library to hear a talk about Superman. Before the talk, I got to roam through the current exhibit focused upon how American comic books took on the Nazis, Hitler and the Holocaust. After that, I got my complementary glass of wine, and plate of snacks, and sat down to hear a very engaging Mr. Tye talk about the genesis of Superman. That was not a bad way to end a day!

2. The Etsy Gift – Dan had been telling me that he had bought me a gift on Etsy, but he wasn’t quite sure if I was deserving of it. This made me pretty sure that this was going to be something greatly amusing. I was not, however, prepared for the awesomeness of what it was. For the past few years, we have been talking about starting a brewpub called Goats & Rabbits. The Goats and the Rabbits were the two political factions in old time Kansas City politics. Over the past several months, the conversation about starting the restaurant has become much more serious as Sam and Jean are making plans to come to Kansas City. It is really getting exciting. And on opening day of that restaurant that will be made, I will be wearing this:

goat

3. Setting the Table for Company – After we came home from our trip to Italy, Dan and I both agreed that we should be more conscious about how we eat. One of the things that we talked about was sitting at the table for meals. As the kids left, it became more routine to sit in the living room and eat. We have gotten somewhat better at that, but there is still work to do. What is great about Dan and me sitting at the table is the same thing that becomes even better when the number of people at the table expands. I love setting the table for a meal. I like figuring out what dishes will be needed. I like setting down the plates, silverware and glasses. I like putting together a centerpiece and ironing the tablecloth and napkins. Saturday night we hosted our dinner club, so I got to get my table-setting jones met. Prettiness ensued.

table

4. Good books – I finished two different, but both great books this week. Sam recommended Mission Street Food, particularly for the philosophy that they take regarding business philanthropy. The book is an autobiography of their restaurants that started from a food truck night in San Francisco and grew to have a massive cult following. The other book was the novel, Salvage The Bones by Jesslyn Ward. This is the story of a family in Louisiana dealing with alcoholism, poverty, teenage pregnancy, and cruelty – as Hurricane Katrina is coming in. This was my gym book and as my treadmill time ended on Friday, I had about a chapter left. I reset the time and went to the end. It is quite stunning story telling. She manages to get such sweetness in the midst of some really pretty horrible scenes. It was definitely worth extra time on the treadmill.

5. Good Moods – There are just those days when there is nothing special, but it just feels great to be who you are; where you are. I had one of those days on Friday. I should have been feeling a little badly because I didn’t get any book work done, but I didn’t. I just reveled in the moments of the day. I read, exercised, made lists, grocery shopped, organized … Nothing special, but very special.

I hope all of us have some great mood days ahead of us!

 

Last Week’s Good Things

pansy lobsterHere it is, Sunday night and I sit trying to put the finishing touches on this blog post. Sometimes it is easier than others to come up with the list. That is why I do this. No matter how easy or hard it is, this makes me spend time thinking about it and getting it down. Here are my good things noted during this past week. I won’t tell you if it was easy or hard 🙂DSCF7649

Lobster Fest – This is two weeks in a row that I have included lobster as one of my good things. I can almost guarantee that this trend won’t continue, but I couldn’t possibly leave it off this week. Last night, for the fifth year running, we hosted Lobster Fest. Lobster Fest involves live crustaceans making their way from the East Coast to Kansas City via overnight and landing in our back yard where they are unpacked and steamed. Our shelled friends this year were slightly over two pounds each and yielded delicious meat. I must admit that my lobster eating was limited to the tail and claws because along with the lobster, everybody brought a dish to share. We started out with artichoke dip and Cape Cods. For dinner, we had a macaroni and cheese that had caramelized onions, bacon, and a list of cheeses. There was a vinegary slaw with cucumbers. I made my favorite cheesy biscuits that I pretty much fantasize about all year long. They are buttery, cheesy, and they get a dusting of sea salt on top before they bake. Dessert included these tiny cream cheese cookies and a pudding flavored with cardamon. Sharing this feast with the crew has made this annual event such a memory maker! Coming out of this year is a pledge that next year we will not don the plastic lobster bibs that come with the shipment, but handmade bibs designed by Nate and sewn by Micaela. I am counting the days already! DSCF7664

Fleece Lined Leggings – Wednesday morning I had to scrape my car. It was darn cold! Lucky for me, earlier in the week I had received my Amazon order of fleece lined leggings. This is a new discovery for me and so wonderful! They are soft and warm and the perfect complement for a cold day! I might have to order some more. I feel a uniform being created.

Heir Encore sung by Charles Aznavour – I don’t speak French and I don’t have a strong tie to anything French. This week, however, I had a transcending event with a French song. I was driving to work listening to Slate’s Culture Gabfest. The episode included segments about a new French film and a French television program. At the end of the show, they signed off and a song came on. At the time, I had no idea what it was, but I looked it up as soon as I could. It was Heir Encore performed by Charles Aznavour. It turns out that Mr. Aznavour is one of the most popular singers in the world. In 1998, CNN named him the Entertainer of the Century. Not only does he have extensive recordings, but he has been in tons of films, is a noted humanitarian, and was Armenia’s ambassador to Switzerland. Heir Encore has been recorded in English as “Yesterday When I Was Young,’ but the English version, in my opinion, doesn’t match the French version for beauty. Without any clue as to what he was saying, my imagination transported me on my drive to work. Dan and I were back at the Piazza San Marco in Venice, sitting at the Florian, drinking champagne. The band performs this song, and we dance.

DSCF5823

Good Training from a great Trainer – On Friday I attended a training on Project Management. It was an all day Covey workshop that was offered though my work. I learned a lot and left with some great tools and ideas. It was the trainer, however, who really made the day great. I attend a fair number of talks, meetings, and trainings. Earlier last week I had gone to a talk that I held great expectations for, but the speaker just didn’t have it. The leader of the Project Management workshop did have it. She was  knowledgeable and enthusiastic. She called us by our name and made sure that everyone was engaged. She had amusing asides that she shared and made us laugh. I left the classroom with knowledge and gratitude.

napkinsIroning Napkins – This is a weird one, but it has the quality of life element to it that makes it a good thing. We have used cloth napkins since as long as I can remember. It just seems like an easy way to reduce waste. We have about 40 cloth napkins in various stages of wear. Some we have several of; some we only have two of. There is something about the napkins being ironed that is really a nice touch. They look better on the table and they just seem better to me as I pick them up and put it on my lap. Now, just like I enjoy the experience of washing dishes by hand, I enjoy the experience of ironing napkins. Saturday – even though we would not even use cloth napkins that night – I spend about an hour ironing napkins. I listened to music and turned squares of rumpled fabric into perfectly folded and flat piles of sorted napkins. It was peaceful and relaxing. A good thing.

Rulin’s Update

woody1November 1, 2013. Two months left in the year – sixty-one days. The good(?) thing about having a blog is that it can hold the writer accountable. In January, I posted my “rulin’s” for the year, just as Woody Guthrie once did. We are getting close to a point where a pass/fail can be declared, but two months offers opportunity to at least pay attention to some of these things and perhaps sprint towards success. So today, I am looking back at my intentions, recognizing those successes, and looking forward to what I might be able to salvage.

Here were my 33 optimistic rulin’s followed by where I stand with each:

1. Finish writing my book. This is going to be the year.

Oh, what a sweet, optimistic thing I was back in January! Nope, not going to happen. But, I am really pleased with some of the progress that I made, advice I have been given, and even some new connections that I have made. I am hopeful that I am on a roll and that I will use my wonderful pool of advocates to maintain the push on me to get this done.

2.  I am going to drink more water. There, I said it.

I kind of think that I have done pretty well on this. I bought a new water bottle for work that I drain once a day. If not always successful, I am certainly more consistent.

3. My gym membership will be used more. I actually had some great momentum going at one time last year. I need to figure out how to gain that back.

Bad news on this one. I had the classic great run at the beginning of the year, but I have petered out terribly. Good news, I found my way back to the gym this week.

4. I will watch less television. Dan and I discussed last night that we would do at least one night a week television free.

We have not had a regular television free night, but it does happen. What I will say on this is that I have refused to pick up new television shows this year. I have my shows that get recorded and that we stay current on. What I tend to do, however, is turn on the television at night, just because. I am pretty sure that I can do better at this!

5. I am going to learn how to dance – my Christmas present from Dan.

We did this! We took our dance lessons and had fun doing it. Dancing – with any kind of expertise – takes practice. We have not done a good job at that, but there are still sixty-one days to make that better! 

6. I am going to fit into some of those clothes that I refuse to move out of my closet.

There are still sixty-one days to make this better…

7. I am going to spend time each morning at work, planning my day.

notebooks

When I do this, I am so grateful. I have tried different versions of planning tools this year. I found these wonderful composition books that I keep as a runner. One is for work, and one is for outside work. My work book has a weekly to-do list that I add to during the week and then transfer undone things to the new week. This has worked pretty well, as has using Wunderlist for master list keeping. I can definitely step up my game on this, but I judge this a partial success.

8. I am going to clean my office at work and keep it organized and inviting.

officeAgain, partial success. It looks like 2014 will see the opportunity to finally move out of our temporary trailer home and into a real building with most of the rest of our department. I am so eager for that to happen. In the meantime, my office continues to be a pretty nice location. I have a great view of the city skyline and I have embellished by walls with fun and colorful posters. Most recently, I strung ribbon near the ceiling and hung pretty postcards from the ribbon using fancy paperclips. Just walking into my office and seeing some of those images makes for a better experience. I am kind of psyched to decorate a new place!

9. I am going to re-up my Mug Club membership because going to lunch at 75th Street every Sunday with Dan is one of the things that makes me happiest.

mug

Perhaps the easiest thing on my list. Done.

10. I am going to learn how to draw Ali’s dog Banjo better so I can write stories about her.

I’ve worked on this, but I need to get back at it. I haven’t nailed her cuteness yet.

11. I am going to send fan mail (real postage stamped mail) once a week to someone I admire. I did this a couple years ago where I sent notes to authors of books I read. It was heartwarming how many wrote back and told me how much my note meant.

DSCF7127DSCF7129

I am doing this somewhat. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden got mail from Missouri, as did some authors. This is fun and I want to do better on. And I have some great postcards!

12. I will do what I can to make the possibility of us opening a brewpub one day a reality.

While I haven’t done a whole lot on this front, there have been some great conversations about this and potential for exciting things to be happening in the coming year.

13. I will be a better leader and employee by being more positive and creative.

One thing that I have tried to be this year is a transparent leader. I share what I know almost always. I am honest in my conversations and try to acknowledge when I am wrong and when I just don’t know the answer. I try to laugh and project a positive attitude. I am partnering with a co-worker in initiating some personal development activities for our co-workers. One of them is to show a couple TED talks over the noon hour. We had our first one recently and it went well. This week we start our SEVEN HABITS IN EIGHT MONTHS discussion group. I think that I have done okay on #13.

14. I want to video chat more with Sam and Ali.

We haven’t done this a lot, but we have done it more than we had. I like it very much!

15. Books – love them. I don’t really have to put it on my list because I will always read them, but I do want to read more! Good lord, there are so many wonderful books. Just yesterday, I got one in the mail that I had to order because Sam wrote me an email about how good it is.

My list will probably be shorter than last year, but I have had some winners this year. That book that Sam recommended was John Greene’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS which is a beautiful book about two adolescents falling in love while dealing with their own mortality. I just finished BILLY LYNN’s LONG HALFTIME WALK about Iraqi soldiers being “honored” at a Dallas Cowboys game. Excellent. 

16. Magazine – love them too! I have not done a good job keeping up with the wonderful print magazines that come into our house each month. I will do better.

Still trying

17. Computer – love my computer too, but I spend too much time with it and not enough time with rulin #15 and #16.

Have not done well at this at all. Sixty-one days to do better!

18. Last year I bought the Hugh Acheson cook book and that became my adventure cook book for the year. I didn’t do great with it, but I did okay. I got Girl and Her Pig for  Christmas this year. That’s my rulin there.

Miserable failure on this. I have not cooked anything from this delightful book. This will happen.

19. The Italy documentation will be completed. I haven’t updated on this, I know, but I will. I am actually doing okay, but I need it on the list to keep me moving.

italy album

While I am not finished, the beautiful album that we brought back is complete, other than some captions. It makes me so happy when I pick it up and move through the page. I have to decide what to do with the left-over photos and other momentos that we brought back. I thought at one time to do an album just of the meals we ate. That may still be an option. Just writing this makes me want to gather everything and look at it. Oh Italy – what a dream come true!

20. Be a better gardener. I planted basil last summer and did not make a single jar of pesto. I think one thing that I need to do is figure out a good watering system.

Not for lack of trying, I had a horrible year for basil. I planted it three times and only towards the end of summer did I really have any plants. I think it may have been a soil issue. The marigold seeds that I thought I planted turned out to be pot marigolds that were very different from my beloved marigolds. They were pretty, but not what I want. Successes were lettuce that was used in salads, lemongrass that was delicious in a few meals, and I have a great stand of chives.

21. Keep a journal better.

Oct20

Those fun composition books have really worked here. I keep a weekly running page that I have been photographing and using as the header for my “Good Things” post. I also have been writing pretty regularly in my 5-year daily diary.

22. Do the crossword puzzle every day. It keeps your brain fresh!

Not too bad here. One of the things that I do at work is copy off the daily NYT crossword and put it in the kitchen for people to fill in while they are heating up their lunch. I keep a copy for myself. I don’t always get to it, but pretty often.

23. See my friends more, and be better about setting up times.

I will never be perfect at this, but I think I have done okay here. Always can do better.

24. More movies. This is one of those things that I really do think that if I put it down, it will make me go see more movies than if I didn’t.

Sixty-one days to see some of those movies that I really want to see. I need to prepare for Oscar!

25. More live music. Ditto rulin #24

2013-04-03 21.12.25

Not great, but not horrible here. We saw some great shows this year. Sallie Ford playing with Thao and the Get Down Stay Downs was super fun. Jim and Micaela getting in the photobooth with Sallie continues to make me laugh. I got to see my man, Jason Isbell and the super delightful, They Might be Giants. We went to hear wonderful Bob Walkenhorst a couple times (should go more), and music at BB’s Lawnside. Already have tickets to see solo Jeff Tweedy next month.

26. Keep up with my Newbery Challenge.

This is my gym reading. When gyming goes by the wayside, so does Newbery. Two months to pick it up.

27. Pick two music albums each month that I really get to know.

I would say that I have done okay on this. I have tried to highlight some albums on my blog that I do get to know. One of the things that I have done lately is to email the artists to tell them that I have done that. It has been sweet to see how many email me back to thank me and tell me that they like my blog.

28. Make a photo album of 100 pictures from 2012, and put the 100 photos from 2011 that I ordered last year into an album.

2012 album

Success. Again, I need to add some words.

29. Take more pictures.

Success

30. Figure out how to start an Etsy shop. We have some ideas that we have been kicking around and doing some stuff on. Time to get real.

I bought a book about how to do it. Hmm. Probably there is more to it. 🙂

31. Get the attic organized. I made such progress when we got to fill the dumpster, time to make it right.

There are sixty-one days in which I can make good on this.

32. Bring my guitar out of hiding and play it again.

It is out of hiding and I pick it up every now and then. I think I need to restart lessons. That can be a whole new rulin in 2014.

33. Keep Deliberate Obfuscation active and fun for me.

This has definitely been a success. It is weird how fulfilling it is to check my stats and see that people are actually reading. 

 

The 304 days that happened before today have been almost all good for me. I have high hopes for the remaining days of this year, and I am already getting excited about some rulins for 2014. Who else is doing some reflecting as we hit this countdown of the last days of this year?

Last Week’s Good Things

Oct20Because of travel, this week was quite discombobulated. We got back into town on Wednesday. I went to work on Thursday – which was a day full of meetings followed by cooking dinner at Ronald McDonald House. Friday, I kept as my regular day off because I knew I needed a day to get many of the projects done before Ali and Jose come for their visit this week. Going into the new week, I feel like I am back on track and kind of caught up. In the midst of the confusion giving way to order, here is my shortened list of good things!

A Gloomy, Cold Autumn Day – I know that sounds less than good, but when you get to spend said “gloomy, cold, autumn day” in your warm, cozy house, it is a very good thing. Friday started out dreary and then proceeded to bring it on big time for the rest of the day. It was cold enough that at one point I looked at the temperature inside of the house and it was 58 degrees. That was enough to prompt me to turn on the furnace for the first time  this season. The boiler kicked on (also a very good thing!), and the steam heat started filling the rooms. Outside it was gray and misty. Inside it was warm and the chaos of an untended house was being put back in order. By the end of the day, the house was clean. In the freezer I found some spaghetti sauce with smoked sausage. I got that out, and when Dan came home, I heated that up and boiled some delicious Italian pasta that, I think, was Casarecce (I threw away the bag without paying attention). The sauce was thick and rich, and I tossed the just al dente noodles into it. The noodles soaked up some of the sauce and made for a pretty spectacular pantry meal. A glass of red wine. Good company. Wonderful food. Our house. Great gloomy, cold, autumn day.

pansyPansies – I wanted to brighten up our front step and some of the flower containers that have petered out with lack of end-of-the-summer attention. One of my favorite flowers is the pansy. They come in so many beautiful colors and some of them have that distinctive little face. On Saturday, we went to the garden center and I bought a flat of dark purple pansies. At home, I planted them around the house. Some went in with other things. Some went in an empty space in the ground. Some got their own container. They already have perked up the surroundings. Going out to get the paper this morning, just seeing them made me happy. What also makes me happy is knowing that these pansies are winter beasts! Almost always, a pansy planted in the fall will continue to grow and survive the winter here. When the first warmth of spring comes, there they will be again!

CC-Show_My-Grandmothers-Ravioli_s602x60My Grandmother’s Ravioli – Usually, I can take or leave Mo Rocca. I watch some of his stuff on the Cooking Channel or The Food Network, but it is usually due to not having anything better to watch. Yesterday, I was skirting through my go-to channels and I landed on the Cooking Channel’s My Grandmother’s Ravioli. The premise of this show is that Mo Rocca’s Grandma was a great cook and made epic meals, but, he never learned from her how to make them himself. In each episode, he visits some grandparent and spends time cooking with them. The episode I landed on was Mo cooking with Clara Corrado. Clara is 94, lives in Philadelphia and has a set of great grandson triplets who are all in the military. Part of the show was Mo and Clara making Care Packages for them. The repartee between the two was totally charming. The viewer finds out that Clara likes Korean shows and she invited Mo up to her bedroom to watch some videos. There is dancing and some singing. There is good natured teasing and some touching memories recollected. Mo totally seems like he is enjoying the experience. The episode sold me and I went on to watch three more episodes. One was an African American woman in South Carolina who took Mo to church with her and he sang with her in the choir. One was a body-builder grandpa in Florida who was standing in for his dad, who was supposed to be the one featured on the show. Sadly, he passed away shortly before the filming. This is by no means intellectually stimulating time spent, but showing such fun interactions around food and family met my requirements for good television.

It looks like it is going to be a beautiful autumn week here in the Midwest. I am excited for my girl to be coming home for a few days and getting to meet Jose. Already there is goodness around the week ahead!

Last Week’s Good Things

It was pretty easy to come up with a list this week, even if we did have to say good-bye to Ali and Banjo again. Here are some of the things that made it a good week for me.

  1. An Ali Day

I switched my day off this week so I could spend the day with Ali. Unfortunately, Dan had to to go to work, much to Banjo’s dismay.

Image 3We had a very fun day that started out with a trip to Costco and then to Bob Jones shoes – where the mannequins kept scaring us, but we were still able to buy some shoes.

Image 4We went to one of Ali’s favorite lunch stops – The Drop – where she always gets their bruschetta. After lunch, there was more shopping and we capped off the afternoon by getting manicure/pedicures. This was a first for me, but I was assured that I would not be tickled, it would not be awkward, and that I would enjoy it. It was totally a nice experience and I can say that my feet have never felt as pampered. The woman and man who took care of us gave Ali a hard time for living so far away and leaving so soon. I liked them. We capped off the day with dinner at Lidia’s. It was hard to see such a fun little visit end, but we made the most of the short time she was here!Image 5 2.Khaki Dance

I was reading an article that mentioned this Internet phenomena song, Hot Cheetos and Takis. It was one of those things that I bent down the corner of the page to remind myself to go and take a look. Y.N.RichKids are part of an afterschool and summer enrichment program in Minneapolis. The Hot Cheetos song got posted last summer and got all sorts of love – including over 7 million views to date. Goodness me, it made me smile, but this other song that the same kids do made me ecstatic! I just sat there for the whole five minutes with a gleeful smile on my face. 

3. A Reading Saturday

Dan had a meeting on Saturday so I was home alone and did not really have anything scheduled until dinner time. I started working on my vacation album (see #4), and then I picked up our book club book and started reading. At about 6:30, when it was time to go over to a friend’s house for dinner, I turned the last page. It has been a long time since I have spent almost a full day reading. It was purely wonderful. Image 1

4. Starting my Vacation Album

Since doing my Italy photo album (which is still not quite finished), I am bound to the commitment of making real photo albums of yearly photos and special events. This week, I got my prints back from our Roadtrip vacation, and I pulled together all of the this and thats I collected along the way. Now it comes down to taking the time to sit with it all and get it in the book and in place. So far I have gotten us out of town, to Dayton, staying in Jamestown, and meeting up with Sam and Jean in Cooperstown. It is looking pretty good.Image

5. Riesling

Sam has been all about Riesling this summer. I have not had much Riesling lately, so we went ahead and bought a couple bottles recently. The two that were recommended to us by the guy at Gomer’s were dry and very nice. A chilled glass of this at the end of a summer day is a very good thing. Image 2

Last Week’s Good Things

  1. Vanderbilt Student Playing with Billy Joel – My love for Billy Joel came with his release of The Stranger,the year before I went to college. I didn’t know much of his other work, but once at college, his music was in heavy rotation around campus. “New York State of Mind”  became a favorite, and it brings on a nostalgic pop culture reaction every time I hear it. This video is circulating around. It charmed me.
  2. 1998 New York Times article from Jim Bouton’s son asking the Yankees to let his dad play in the Old Timers Game – Last week I wrote about finishing Jim Bouton’s Ball Four. To get ready for our book club meeting, I did a little research on all things Bouton. One of the repercussions of the book’s publication was George Steinbrenner’s refusal to invite Bouton to return and play in the annual Old Timers game. Steinbrenner was not happy with Bouton’s portrayal of iconic Yankees like Mickey Mantle. This did not even change once Mantle wrote his own tell all book. In 1998, Jim Bouton’s daughter was killed in an automobile accident. The next year on Father’s Day, The New York Times published an open letter to the New York Yankees asking them to let bygones be bygones, and invite his dad to play. Michael, who was in college at the time, wrote:

       I see this as an opportunity to get my father some extra hugs at a time in his     life when he could use all the hugs he can get. It is something he would never seek for himself – he is going to kill me when he reads this – and maybe the kind of thing only a son or daughter can do for their father.

It is a sweet piece. The Yankees invited him, and I expect he got lots of hugs.

3.  Sitting on patios- On Monday, I wore my snow boots to work and I was bundled up in sweaters and scarves. On Thursday, the weather changed and the coat that I wore to work in the morning could be shed in the afternoon. Friday, I met a friend in the late afternoon and we sat on the patio at Julian and had a glass of wine and a chat. Last night, we grilled steaks and had a Manhattan on our patio. The weather board says that cold weather is coming back to town tomorrow, but I am thankful for these days of spring.

4.  fried egg sandwich with bacon and blue cheese – I love a good sandwich, and I made a pretty delicious one Friday night. This had a lot of flavor going on and made me very happy

5.  Dance lessons – One of the Christmas gifts that I got from Dan this year was a promise of dance lessons. We started two weeks ago. It is a very casual, low pressure format. We have fox trotted and waltzed. Next time we are in Italy and there is music in the piazza, we will be ready!

How Do You Start A Year Right?

woody1The wonderful list above was posted a couple years ago on Boing Boing and it is popping up again as we start a new year. The 33 rulin’s were penned by Woody Guthrie sixty-one years ago. It is a mighty fine list.

New year’s resolutions were pretty simple and private things pre-Internet. Like Woody, you may have written them down, or shared them with another over your New Year’s Hoppin John. That was about it. Today, there is so much on-line guidance about how to get yourself on track. There are so many nifty tools available to track your progress/failures. Like a lot of people, I definitely want to make sure that my year is set up for good things, and that my failures of last year won’t be repeated. But what is the best way to do that?

I must divulge that I give myself a little slack in getting my act together for the new year. You may notice that It is January 4th and I am really just getting serious about this. But it is okay. I have a January birthday! I have decided that my new year’s resolutions need to be made by my birthday. If procrastination is one of my vices, I don’t have to be mad at myself until January 18th rolls around and I am still resolution-free. If I get this blog post done today I am winning!

Last year I started this blog as a writing exercise and an accountability thing. While I have not followed through on some of the things that I claimed I would do, I did post fifty-two times last year. I am proud of that; I have very much enjoyed it. There seem to be a few people who read this, and it gets me to write. There really isn’t a good reason that this shouldn’t be my place to set my goals. It is public enough that I feel sheepish when I really drop the ball, but I don’t have to worry that the few people who do read this will rise up against me and call me a fraud should I not drink my 32 ounces of water every day.

So let’s get this done. What is it that I want out of this year and myself? What would be my 33 Rulin’s?

  1. Finish writing my book. This is going to be the year.
  2. I am going to drink more water. There, I said it.
  3. My gym membership will be used more. I actually had some great momentum going at one time last year. I need to figure out how to gain that back.
  4. I will watch less television. Dan and I discussed last night that we would do at least one night a week television free.
  5. I am going to learn how to dance – my Christmas present from Dan.
  6. I am going to fit into some of those clothes that I refuse to move out of my closet.
  7. I am going to spend time each morning at work, planning my day.
  8. I am going to clean my office at work and keep it organized and inviting.
  9. I am going to re-up my Mug Club membership because going to lunch at 75th Street every Sunday with Dan is one of the things that makes me happiest.
  10. I am going to learn how to draw Ali’s dog Banjo better so I can write stories about her.
  11. I am going to send fan mail (real postage stamped mail) once a week to someone I admire. I did this a couple years ago where I sent notes to authors of books I read. It was heartwarming how many wrote back and told me how much my note meant.
  12. I will do what I can to make the possibility of us opening a brewpub one day a reality.
  13. I will be a better leader and employee by being more positive and creative.
  14. I want to video chat more with Sam and Ali.
  15. Books – love them. I don’t really have to put it on my list because I will always read them, but I do want to read more! Good lord, there are so many wonderful books. Just yesterday, I got one in the mail that I had to order because Sam wrote me an email about how good it is.
  16. Magazine – love them too! I have not done a good job keeping up with the wonderful print magazines that come into our house each month. I will do better.
  17. Computer – love my computer too, but I spend too much time with it and not enough time with rulin #15 and #16.
  18. Last year I bought the Hugh Acheson cook book and that became my adventure cook book for the year. I didn’t do great with it, but I did okay. I got Girl and Her Pig for  Christmas this year. That’s my rulin there.
  19. The Italy documentation will be completed. I haven’t updated on this, I know, but I will. I am actually doing okay, but I need it on the list to keep me moving.
  20. Be a better gardener. I planted basil last summer and did not make a single jar of pesto. I think one thing that I need to do is figure out a good watering system.
  21. Keep a journal better.
  22. Do the crossword puzzle every day. It keeps your brain fresh!
  23. See my friends more, and be better about setting up times.
  24. More movies. This is one of those things that I really do think that if I put it down, it will make me go see more movies than if I didn’t.
  25. More live music. Ditto rulin #24
  26. Keep up with my Newbery Challenge.
  27. Pick two music albums each month that I really get to know.
  28. Make a photo album of 100 pictures from 2012, and put the 100 photos from 2011 that I ordered last year into an album.
  29. Take more pictures.
  30. Figure out how to start an Etsy shop. We have some ideas that we have been kicking around and doing some stuff on. Time to get real.
  31. Get the attic organized. I made such progress when we got to fill the dumpster, time to make it right.
  32. Bring my guitar out of hiding and play it again.
  33. Keep Deliberate Obfuscation active and fun for me.

Happy new year all! 33 is a lot of rulins, but I am pretty sure that I can keep on task. Nothing here is impossible, and all of it will make it a better year. How are your rulin’s coming along?

Driving Down A Familiar Street On A Beautiful Autumn Day

Friday marked two weeks being home after our Italy trip. Returning to normal, however, has not been easy. Having a cold, Sam being in NYC and dealing with Sandy, the election, Dan traveling for a week, the time change – there just seems to be a bunch of stuff that has kept me from settling back into a routine. Part of me resists. I miss traveling and seeing new things. I miss the Italian style of living. In many ways, I think the base of my feeling unsettled is that I didn’t feel like I wanted to be home.Yesterday, however, I had an experience that helped me.

November 9th seems like it should at least have the briskness of autumn, but yesterday had none of that in Kansas City. It was sunny, blue sky, 75 degrees and breezy. Trees were either bare or briskly losing their leaves with each gust. The streets were speckled with scampering leaves crossing every which way. It was truly glorious.

As usual, I had my Friday off, but I didn’t use it writing. Instead, I worked on continuing to try to get things around here back in order. I then went out to run some errands that took me over across the state line. After getting my things done, I ended up driving home via a street that I haven’t travelled in quite a while. The experience of driving on that street yesterday did more than anything else to make me feel happy about being back home.

When we first moved to Kansas City, we moved into an apartment in a very new and suburban part of Johnson County, Kansas. It was perfectly fine, but it was not what we really wanted in a place to live. After a year, we moved to a duplex in Mission, Kansas. Mission is one of the older areas of Kansas – older neighborhoods, big trees, cute houses, nothing fancy. Here we felt much more at home.

The duplex in Mission was the house where we brought Ali home to. It was the place where I had my first experience planting a garden as we dug a narrow space of dirt and I carefully laid out a square foot planting of vegetables and herbs. There was a little patio that we had flowers and more herbs in. We hung a little swing from the tree in the backyard. A plastic swimming pool and sandbox came out in nice weather. In the kitchen of the duplex, there was a bottom cupboard that held Sam’s pots and pans and the alphabet blocks that I had made him out of empty baby food containers. When I would fix dinner at night, Ali would be in her seat and Sam would be playing on the floor or sitting on the counter helping me.

There was a very quiet man who lived in the other part of the duplex and his mom and dad would often come to visit. At one point we had broken the bottom glass of our storm door, so we had just removed the whole of that pane leaving an opening where that glass should have been. Sam would stand there and watch the goings on and greet the neighbor’s parents as they came and went. They were charmed by him.

It was at that duplex where one of my funniest kid stories happened — involving trying to get two babies in car seats into a two door car so we could go pick up another child. In the midst of prepping the car by opening the two doors and going into the house to get baby #1, a big stray dog entered the car and refused to get out. Absurdity ensued.

Living in that duplex; in that neighborhood, made us understand what we wanted when we would buy a home of our own. When we finally did get our house and move, we left many sweet memories in that house.

The road that I drove yesterday did not even go by our duplex, but it was close and it was one of the roads that I traversed a lot while we lived there. There was just something about the beauty of the autumn day yesterday that brought on so much happy nostalgia. I am home and there is beauty around me. I am home and there are memories here. I am home and there are more memories to be made.

Italian Chronicles

It is hard to figure out where to start. After 16 days away from home, I do feel like I have returned a changed person, but I haven’t processed things enough to understand fully what those changes are, or how they will manifest themselves.

I’ve returned from that trip of a lifetime – an Italian adventure that took us to several locales and allowed us to experience extraordinary sights, sounds, tastes, and emotions. I have about 1500 pictures that I need to spend time with to annotate – before it all becomes a blur of beauty. I have bags of paper ephemera that I need to review and figure out where they will be saved. And, this time I want to do it right.

So maybe I will start there. How do you preserve memories? I have always considered myself a person who journals, but I have nothing saved that I worked on as a child, teenager, or college student. I think the earliest evidence that I have are some day-by-day diaries that I started keeping when Dan was in law school – maybe even when I was pregnant. Since then, my journal keeping has waxed and waned, but I have always loved the time spent with whatever that current journal may be.

I have photo albums – some kind of in order – many haphazardly arranged – most not well labelled. Now I can recall most of the content of each, but there are those pictures that make me scratch my head a little. What will they mean someday to Sam and Ali – or their kids? Now, most of my pictures are on-line – stored in my IPhoto or uploaded into an on-line service where I can select who to share with. Last year, I decided to make copies of 100 photos of things that happened that year, and put them into an album to catalog the year’s event. The pictures are still in the envelope with the nice album purchased for that reason. I need to get that done too.

There is this blog. I have enjoyed my efforts here. I think that this forum has given me another type of opportunity to catalog things that matter to me. The fact that some people read it regularly or just happen upon it when they are searching something random, makes it a different kind of record. Deciding what is both of interest to me, and honestly hoping it will be of interest to others, can be a challenge. The reason behind starting the blog was personal, but the public nature of it is not lost.

I honestly am thinking this through as I write this. I pledge to myself, that during  the next few months, I will use my blog as my conscience.  It will see me through my record-keeping, and, I hope, will also share some experiences and memories of the wonderful trip with anyone who cares to read.

Several weeks before we left, I bought a soft-covered Moleskine notebook where I jotted down some things that I wanted to do and taped in some maps that I thought may be useful. While we were gone, I spent some time journaling in that book about what had gone on each day. I still have plenty of blank pages in that book that I need to fill  in and I have lots of precious receipts, business cards, labels and what not that I want to include in there.

One of the last things that we bought while we were traveling was a beautiful photo album. I had seen it one day when we were strolling around Florence. I wanted it, but figured it was too expensive. By the time that I was about a block away, I decided that I had to have it. We went back a couple days later and it is now ours. It was made by a woman who learned the craft of book making from her parents. It is my plan to make it something that anyone who ever looks at it will understand what this trip was and meant.

Among the things that I want to capture:

  • Getting stranded in the maze of streets in Venice as the city started to flood and every direction to our way home seemed impassable until we finally found one – at which point, Dan had to dash into an open cafe to buy a bottle of “wine to go” so we could celebrate
  • Needing to learn how to read maps again because none of us had cell phones to help us find our way.
  • The hearty manner in which Italian men say Buongiorno! in the morning.
  • Sitting on the Campo in Siena watching an elderly couple walk arm and arm across the expanse.

Whether it is weekly or less often, I promise myself to chronicle my chronicles. I will share images (because one of the things that I love is to look at other people’s journals). I will share some stories. For what it is worth, I may give some advice for anyone hoping or planning to do something similar. I do love this blog! As a person who loves assignments and accountability, this is the best!