Zen and the Art of Painting

I come from a family of people who are, by nature, procrastinators. It always starts so well, usually with some sort of list. We outline the very logical and manageable steps to meet our goal with plenty of time to spare. Then, life. Suddenly, the absolute deadline is upon us and it’s all hands on deck to pull through at the last minute.

c700x420Which is how I found myself painting the baseboards in my guest room Tuesday night. I had to get them done so that the carpet guys could come Wednesday morning. As they installed the new floor coverings, I made the three-hour round trip to pick up my grandmother who was coming to spend Thanksgiving in that room. No minute like the last minute, you know?

Far from my first foray into baseboard painting, I’m a regular seasoned pro at edges and trim. There is something calming about moving a paintbrush along in patient, measured strokes. It isn’t a task that can be rushed, despite the looming pressure of carpet installation. It demands to be taken seriously. This is the kind of work I like to do alone. No distractions, no conversation, just a girl and her paintbrush. In the background, music plays to protect me from delving too far into my thoughts.

In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, Raj remarks that there is something lovely about washing the dishes.

“You know, I read that washing dishes can be an excellent form of meditation? The key is that while washing the dishes, one should only be washing the dishes…it’s about be present in the moment.”

It is at once frightening and grounding to be so present in a simple endeavor. I’m struck with the thought that I rarely do only one thing at a time. Even in the most mundane aspects of my day I’m often mulling over some other, more complicated problem or replaying a conversation to parse for subtext.

We’ve now launched head first into the Christmas season. Soon, the pressure of gifts, holiday parties, and financial strain will be upon us. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the merriment, I pray you will find time to be still and just wash the dishes.

Or paint the baseboards. Just don’t wait until the last minute.

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5 Things in November

Oh, friends. I’m struggling this month. In a cruel turn of fate I finished my tenure teaching 8th grade science and traded in my happy little middle school for the big, bad world of high school. I’ll be spending the next few months relearning names, classroom routines, and personalities as I take on five 9th grade Earth & Space Science classes. I’ve known this change was coming for months, but it was still a shock to the system.

Anyway, enough griping. November should be a time of thanksgiving and, well, Thanksgiving. Here are 5 things to consider:

Remember this | May my heart be brave, my mind fierce, and my spirit free.

Mediate on this| Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cray, and he will say ‘Here I am’… [Isaiah 58:8-9a]

Try this | Red-Orange Nails. Slightly less cheery than the vibrant orange of summer and not quite the striking red of winter, try this warm and seasonal nail color to rev up your fall routine.

*photo from Very Verve*

Do this | Write a thank you note to someone who has done something kind for you. It’s incredible how much joy you feel when you get over yourself for a minute and take time to let the important people in your life know that they have made an impact.

Accomplish this | Plan out your Thanksgiving dinner. It sounds obsessive (because it is) but honestly, it’s the best thing EVER when it comes to breaking a huge family dinner down into manageable pieces. Start with the time you’d like dinner to be served and work backward to when the turkey needs to come out of the freezer. You can also figure out which items need to be done day of, and which can be made ahead. I didn’t cook last year, but here’s the one I did in 2013:

Glorious.

Happy November!

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5 Things in October

I blinked and suddenly…fall. With 179 students, my schoolwork, church responsibilities, and silly things like sleeping and eating, I have been very much treading water this month. Which explains, for example, why this post is coming out on the 17th day of the month, instead of the 2nd.

Whatever, don’t judge me.

Remember this | “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life — And I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

Mediate on this| …so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.l  [Ephesians 3:17-19]

Eat this | Butternut Squash. Nothing says fall to me like roasting all the vegetables. Butternut squash ranks as one of my favorite cool weather staples. It’s exceedingly versatile and ridiculously easy to prepare. For a simple prep, peel and chop into 3/4 inch chunks, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast at 400°F for about 30 minutes, tossing once about halfway through. Yum!

Do this | Grown Up Study Group. I have an absurdly long list of things to do. I have assignments to grade, lesson plans to formulate, and papers to write. Yet, when I try to do the things by myself, I hit a wall of non-productivity. There are so many things to distract me when I’m alone in my pjs trying to work instead of watching tv or taking a nap. My solution has been to get together with a couple girlfriends in similar situations and take over a table at a coffee shop. Each girl in the group brings the things she needs to get done and our work is independent, but adjacent. No joke,  I’ve never been so efficient.

Accomplish this | Clean off your desk. At home or work, a cluttered desk can cause excess stress and loss of productivity. *But but but! I work better in…* I’ma stop you right there, you do not work better in a cluttered space. Clean it up. While you’re at it, check out Greatist‘s ideas for adding a little Feng Shui to you work space.

Happy October! Or what’s left of it…

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5 Things in September

Welcome, September!

The romantic comedy classic You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks’ Joe Fox describes fall as a time when he feels the need to buy school supplies and wishes to send his online love a bouquet of sharpened pencils.

Joe, I’m with you.

Fall is my favorite time of year and September is its gatekeeper. Soon crunchy leaves and pumpkin spice will descend upon us and the holiday season will shortly follow. Every year, I look forward to the days of cool nights and over-sized sweaters. There is a newness to fall, though everything seems to be dying, a crispness in the air that silently screams of coziness and possibilities. Here are 5 other things I’m loving right now:

Remember this | Every day is a chance to change your life

Memorize this| Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us…  [1 John 4:4-6a]

Learn this | Did you know that the human brain has 100,000 miles of blood vessels? That’s enough to circle Earth 4 times. So…now you know.

Watch this | With the insanity going on in Syria right now, this chilling video makes you stop and think about the world in which we live.

Do this | Entertain. Whether you host a couple of friends for lunch on a Saturday, or throw a dinner party for 12, open your heart (and your home) to those around you. Take time to be grateful for your friends and family and slow down to express appreciation for them.

Happy September!

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Monday Musings, but you know, on Tuesday: of new do’s and dishonor…

I hope you’ll forgive me, yesterday was a long day and time got away from me.

1) I did it!  I got my hair cut and embraced the chunky bangs for fall.  And can I tell you? I FREAKING LOVE THEM!  Hair cutMy sweet friend Lindsey did my hair and that girl is a genius.  I had a couple photos and we talked about it and then snip snip snip, magic.  If you live in the Southern Maryland area (or you don’t mind the commute) you can connect with Lindsey here. She is basically the sweetest person you’ve ever met and I could not be more psyched about my hair.

I’m sitting in my kitchen, staring out the window at the changing fall leaves.  Every year they do this; seasons change, the world is reborn, life goes on.   More than that, though, this is a new season in my life, one that is terrifying and exciting and altogether unexplored.  I’m not sure what’s going to happen next, or the girl I’ll become, but I know this: she’ll have fantastic hair.

2) My dad was fairly obsessed with Wawa coffee.  Not just my dad, my family, and almost everyone I know.  If you aren’t local, you might not know what a Wawa is, and I’m super sorry about that.  I’d tell you it’s a convenience store, but that would only be a fraction of the story.  That’s like saying diamonds are just rocks or chocolate is just a food. It’s so much more than that.

Anyway, my dad used to double cup his coffee, for he lived in fear of the coffee collar.  As a habit, I started double cupping my coffee.  I do not fear the coffee collar, but you get used to things, you know?  Yesterday, I was getting coffee and I stopped for a minute and had a thought: I do not live in fear of the coffee collar, why am I double cupping my coffee? That just seems wasteful (though I do put the cups in the recycling, so a little of my guilt is assuaged).  Single cup and coffee collar for me!

20141014_085010I got to my next stop, tutoring a sweet 10th grader and I noticed that the bottom of my coffee cup was damp.  C’est quoi?!?!

That’s right, the unthinkable had happened.  My coffee cup was not structurally sound enough to hold my pumpkin spice with french vanilla creamer and two Splenda!!!!!!!

Dishonor! Dishonor on you! Dishonor on your cow! Dishonor on your whole family!

Okay, maybe it’s not the big of a deal, but I’m going back to double cupping.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday Musings – of haircuts, duvets, and glass hearts…

Here’s what has me going this week.

1) I’m getting my hair cut next week.  Not cut off, just shaped.  I’ve been thinking about it since I gotLong Hair Collage my last haircut and was thoroughly displeased.  Honestly, I have the worst luck with stylists.  I usually like them for a while, but then something happens and they give me a mullet and now I can’t speak to them anymore.  No good.

Now to choose a style.  I trust the stylist I’m going to to give me a beautiful cut, but I’d like to at least have an idea of what I want before I plop down in her chair and say, “Make me pretty.”  Winter is coming and the temptation to sport a thick fringe in the colder months is almost overpowering.  I’ve never regretted having bangs, but I also know that growing them out is a hassle.  Ugh.  First world problems.

Photo credits:
Lucy Hale | Sassy Bangs | Red Hair, Don’t Care | Car Selfie

emmie-ruta-duvet-cover-and-pillowcases__0287079_PE308888_S42) Duvets are pretty much the greatest thing to ever happen in the world of bed linens.  I realize that this is a fairly small world, but whatever.  The beauty of a duvet cover is that, for a fraction of the cost of buying a new bedspread, you can completely change the look of a room.  Sweet.  I’ve been rocking out a chocolate brown cover all summer, but I feel like a need something fresh for fall.  I want to keep the same palette going, so I’m looking at this number from IKEA. It’s fairly neutral, but a couple of accent pillows and I think we’re really on to something here.

3) I’ve been thinking about the human heart.  Not the physical 4-chamber contraption just to the left in my chest, but the metaphorical, emotional heart, the one that gets bruised and broken and finds love and feels joy and happiness.  I used to think that hearts were fragile; beautiful glass structures that had to be handled with care lest they shatter at the slightest bump.  I don’t know about all hearts, but I’m fairly sure mine is made of leather, or pool noodles, or something.  I’ve been heartbroken, I’ve been hurt, I’ve felt pain so visceral I thought it would undo me.  Each and every time, though, the words of Robert Frost came back to me.

It goes on

Maybe not so fragile after all…

Happy Monday!

No Soup For You!

I hate soup.

This is a mostly true story.

I don’t hate all soups, but I don’t like many of them.  Something about things that are cooked together for that long and they all start to taste the same and…icky.  It makes me shiver a little just thinking about it.

That being said, today I made soup.  AND IT WAS AWESOME.

One soup that I do really enjoy is baked potato soup.  You can find it at most restaurants (though the best I ever had was at O’Charley’s) and it’s always super decadent and rich and you can feel your thighs expanding as you eat it.  So there is that.

I got to thinking, I cut my mashed potatoes with cauliflower to main them healthier, so why wouldn’t the same principle work for potato soup?

Turns out, it does.

This recipe isn’t my own, but was adapted from this one from Gina at skinnytaste.com.  I left out the bacon, and added broccoli to the available condiments, used 2% milk instead of 1% (because it’s what I happened to have) and made a double recipe.  I’m glad I did too, because this soup was definitely a crowd-pleaser.  Even the manliest man in the group couldn’t tell that there was a whole head of cauliflower in the dish and I only used about 4 smallish potatoes for a huge pot of soup!

The best thing about this soup is that you can make it in under an hour.  Seriously.  It’s thick and creamy and rich and healthy, and I’m all over this.  Yum!!!

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

Rampant Consumerism, Or Why I Love Fall

It’s that time again.

No, not fall, although it is that time too.  I’m talking about Pumpkin Spice Latte Time!

It’s absolutely criminal to pay $4 for a cup of coffee, but I fall in line and do it because I just can’t help myself.  It’s delicious!!!

As we gear up for the holidays (I know it’s October, but I’ve been a COMPLETE slacker about blogging, so I’m going to start planning now and hopefully I’ll get something done before the new year) I’ll be posting some of my favorite holiday traditions, tips, tricks, and ideas but I would LOVE to hear from you.  What is your favorite holiday tradition, trick, or organizing tip?  Do you have an amazing recipe for hot buttered rum, or a stellar trick for doing all your Christmas shopping in a single afternoon?  I want to hear them.  I’ll compile my favorites for a post later in the season.  Send your ideas to me through the Contact Me! page.

I can’t wait to hear from you!!!!

The most wonderful time of the year…

I like Christmas, I really do.  But for me, the most wonderful time of the year is Fall.  Hands down.

With the air getting crisper and the leaves getting crisper it seems only obvious that my food should get crisper too.

…Right?  Whatever.

I love roasting vegetables.  They get deliciously crispy on the outside and stay soft on the inside. They taste and smell exactly like Fall should and I love them.  I love them!!

And they couldn’t be easier.  Cut your veg into bite-sized pieces, toss in salt, pepper and olive oil on a sheet pan and throw in the oven at 400-425 degrees for about a half hour, turning once, until crispy and cooked through.  This works for almost any produce, but I like it best with dense, seasonal root vegetables like potatoes, squash and parsnips (the albino cousin of the carrot).  You can also roast fruit and berries, but not for quite as long.  Easy, killer.

The result?

Delicious Fall-ness! It makes a great side to almost any dish and bring warm heartiness to your table.  Love!

Happy Tuesday!