mix-ins

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While the weather outside isn’t quite frightful yet, it’s still on the colder side of chilly and I’m all about finding ways to warm up.  These days, I’m bundled up, tucked in, hat-wearing, soup-eating and warming my hands by the fire whenever possible.

And I’m making time in the morning for a rib-sticking, healthy bowl of warmth too – good old-fashioned oatmeal!

There was a time when I tended towards instant, but these days I’m fascinated with making my own everything from scratch, and cooking up a batch of stove-top oats takes but a few minutes. While it’s simmering, consider what’s in your cupboard for whatever’s on hand for mix-ins. You’ll know what’s in your breakfast because you mixed it yourself!

Oatmeal’s a workhorse of a breakfast, high in fiber and antioxidants. A mix-in like dried cranberries adds even more nutritional value to the bowl … just be careful of added sugar. Speaking of sugar, I remember my mother mixing brown sugar in my oatmeal, and that’s an option I’ve traded for a dollop of honey or a quick pour of pure maple syrup.

Just yesterday morning, I added freshly chopped honeycrisp apples and cranberries to my oatmeal and the combination was delicious. A little sweet, a little tart … and so warm!

Mix and match your mix-ins and roll with whatever you’ve got in your kitchen.

Here’s a few possibilities:

  • flax seed                                              cranberries
  • almonds                                              raisins
  • walnuts                                               apples
  •  honey                                                 peaches
  • maple syrup                                      banana
  • cinnamon                                           pears
  • blueberries

I’ll be eating well and staying warm all winter long!

Any ideas to add to my list?

 

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It Feels So Good … To Be Well

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There’s nothing like a good dose of — I’ve been sick for weeks and I’m not sure what’s wrong with me– to slow, if not stall life on the spot. All the balls in air and mid-juggle, drop to the floor.

The mental rooms I lived in for almost a month felt smaller, more intimate, cleared of superfluous clutter, and I focused only on one thing — getting well. It was a life-shift, honestly. A paring down to the necessary and essential. Rest. Drink. Food. Every day’s decision evaluated by the sole criteria … Is this what’s best for me?

At the time, I found myself wishing for my “old life” back and wanted more than anything to think about something … anything … beyond my symptoms and what caused them. What eased them. What would finally elminate them.

Maybe it takes feeling really, really bad … to decide it’s time to live well.

Because after a week or so back into regular living,  I’ve decided I don’t really want my old life back after all. I want to live a more careful and considered life where the focus question all day, every day is followed by that one and only get-well criteria I lived when I was sick …

Is this what’s best for me?

What choices do I need to make to feel … well?

What should I eat? Drink? When do I need to rest?

Which balls do I pick up? And which do I leave on the floor?

What mental clutter needs clearing?

The very questions that guided me during my illness are guiding me to my wellness too.

And it feels so good … to be well.

 

 

 

 

managing email

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Between the time I logged off my computer at the end of a work day last week and logged back on the next morning, I received 20 emails. Not an alarming number, but quite enough for the overnight. What I receive during the work day varies, but one thing’s for sure: there’s a lot to manage.  Day or night.

More than I have time for.

And I’m really not managing all that well, truth be told. A fly-by read at 10 a.m. is almost always buried by the 3 p.m. inbox viewing, for example. So sometimes, I’ve been misremembering  important dates, directives, deadlines, apppointments, and meetings or worse … not remembering at all. And folks wait … probably much too long … for my responses.

It’s hard to stay on top of the inbox and just as hard to find time to write for the outbox. Read. Act. File. Respond. Unsubscribe. Delete. The verbs of email. Notice “manage” is not among them.

So I scheduled a 45 minute chunk of time to do just that. Manage. In less than 60 minutes, here’s what happened:

  • Over 150 emails deleted
  • 4 emails received responses
  • 13 meetings/dates/deadlines recorded in calendar
  • 2 emails filed in ongoing folders
  • 3 notes taken for future action
  • 2 emails printed for future action

Forty-three emails remain in my inbox, acting at this point as a filing cabinet of sorts. I’ll be needing to do something with those 43, just not today. I don’t want to file them … because out of sight, out of mind… so they’re in an email limbo of sorts, and I’m okay with that.

So here’s the new email plan I’m promising to live by:

I will only check email when I have the time to act on its contents, i.e., Read. Act. File. Respond. Unsubscribe. Delete. And manage.

Up next: personal accounts.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

chow-da

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There’s still corn at the farmer’s market, so chow-da’s on the menu tonight. Partnered with BLTs, it’s one of my husband’s favorites.  As soups go, his preference runs toward a good chowder, and he’ll eat just about anything between two slices of bread.

More and more often, I’m cooking with what’s fresh, what’s in season, what’s whole, and healthy. I consider it our grand good fortune to live in an area with a number of farms nearby.  In Vermont, the source of my new and most favorite cookbook, there’s farms aplenty and a hard-working, home-grown mindset I love.

If you love farm-to-table eating, delicious, do-able recipes, and stunning photography … check out: the Vermont Farm Table Cookbook.

In the meantime, enjoy this Corn Chowder recipe:

Corn Chowder

from Kimball Brook Farm, a certified organic dairy farm in the Champlain Valley

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1 cup diced celery
  •  1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken stock, plus extra as needed
  • 3 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from 6 to 7 ears corn)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped basil – extra for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh choped dill – extra for garnish
  1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Leave the bacon drippings in the pot Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter, onion, and celeter; cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  2. educe the heat o medium-low and sprinkle the flour, celery salt, t teaspoon salt, and white pepper over the vegetables. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, increase the heat to medium-high, add the potatoes and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are almost tender, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the corn kernels, milk, basil, and dill and return to a simmer. Continue cooking until the corn is just tender, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the diced bacon, and extra basil or dill, if desired, and serve.

 

 

 

leaving a trail

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East Inlet, Pittsburg, NH

My husband tells me I leave a trail behind me wherever I go. Bags. Books. Projects. Clothing. The deeper I get in the work week, the longer the trail. Our bedroom gets looking like a locker room, and the kitchen counter’s in piles of disarray.

Life goes on, hence the trail.

Life stacks up too. I could tell you about the laundry pile, the work pile, the bill pile, and the to-be-read pile. I’m sure you have some such versions of your own, so you probably don’t need to hear about mine.

Make no mistake: I’m all about order, but there’s only so many hours in a day (and I probably need to note that I’m none too perky during some of them.) Scheduling life helps. (I wrote about it here.) When push comes to shove, or I’m pulled in one way or pushed in another, order’s a little low on the priority list.

If you think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, however,  I’m pretty knee-deep in self-actualization (achieving one’s full potential, including creativity,) which is a step higher on the pyramid than esteem needs (prestige and feelings of accomplishment.)

So it’s all good. But back to the trail.

Here’s a little trail I’m leaving behind here, so you know what I’ve been up to:

  • exploring in northernmost New Hampshire … all the wilderness a girl could want, and then some.  We stayed here where you have your choice of accomodations from the lodge to your own lakeside log cabin. The food at both the Rainbow Grille and Tavern is just this side of scrumptious with a shot of tranquility all around.
  • shooting photography here, there, and everywhere … according to my husband, I spent 45 minutes taking photographs of frost-covered grass in Pittsburg, but that’s an unsubstantiated claim.  Meanwhile … I’m back at studying my favorite creative outlet at our local evening adult education program.  (See above link to Hierarchy of Needs and Self-Actualization.) I’m also using this book for reference.
  • reading this, this, and this
  • writing about childhood memories with my Nana … picture book?
  • decorating for fall, and eventually Thanksgiving with pumpkins large and small, orange and white, dried Chinese lanterns, gourds, burgundy-colored eucalyptus .. and of course, candles … Did you know Walmart sells these in a 12-pack?

I hope you’re all well and pursuing your own trails! I’ll be around and about as I have time or something to say.

 

a tisket, a task-et … or why I’m done with planning

DSC_0400 (1)One of my favorite pairs of pants has been missing a button since last April.  Every week, I plan to write and exercise for several hours each and never quite get around to either. Hundreds and hundreds of photographs need to be deleted from our computer, and another few hundred need to be organized somehow.

I’ve been cleaning out our basement for months and I haven’t even started on the attic. One of these days, I’ll bake that bread I bought yeast for in June. Several yards of fabric sits washed and ready on my sewing table waiting for me to get around to making placemats and napkins.

A plan from last fall.

Clearly there’s a difference between what I say I want to do – and what I actually do.

Which is why I’m done with planning.

Planning, apparently, doesn’t work for me. It’s too loosey-goosey, too vague, too lacking in structure. Each morning’s get up and go energy and best-laid plans seem forgotten as day evolves into night, and I’m more likely to sit down and take the day off from whatever it was I orignally planned to do.

I’ve tried listing. Gave bullet journaling a whirl. I’ve got a desk calendar, an academic planner, and a lovely, rose-colored week-at-a-glance. Nothing I’ve tried works.

So I’m turning to scheduling.

I’ve always thought scheduling is for doctors, dentists, and hairdressers.  People on a tight – well, schedule. People who account for and detail the minutes and hours of a day. Of course, some parts of my day are accounted for too … but many minutes aren’t. They’re unbooked. I’m free.  Wide open and available.

So what have I been doing with all that unscheduled time? What have I achieved? Finished? Or even started at all?

Truth is, not much.

I think I’ve approached this planning thing all wrong, and I’m ready to follow a whole new format.  Waking to sleeping, what hours and minutes are already spoken for? When I plug in the working hours, the meeting minutes, and weekly appointments – what’s left?

Because that’s the time I’m interested in.

And maybe I need to see it to do something with it.  If my meeting ends at four and I start dinner at six, what’s on the schedule for those two free hours?  Now that I can see it’s open and available, how will I spend it?

It’s a very visual and a whole new way of thinking for me because I’ve always imagined myself to be spontaneous. Turns out, spontaneity works for a quick trip to the beach, but not that book I’ve been meaning to write.

What I’ve really just needed is a wee bit more structure to make time for what I value and what I say is important to me. I need to pencil in equal parts responsibility and possibility.

And schedule time for both.

 

life lessons: the next best thing

DSC_0365 (3)I’ve got plans.  I’ve got daydreams. And as my father used to say, “I’ve got places to go, things to do, and people to see.”

Thing is, sometimes I can’t.  I can’t follow through with the plans. Can’t go, see, or do.

Maybe that’s true for you too?DSC_0375 (2)Factor in time, opportunity, or shifting priorities – and sometimes what we want to do is better left for what we can do.

Otherwise known as the next best thing.

All summer long I planned to visit this farm come September. The farm’s beautiful sunflower field is legendary – literally a New England celebrity – filling the photographic feeds of Instagram on a daily basis. Sunflowers at sunrise. Sunflowers at sunset. And just about every hour in between.DSC_0340 (4)But September’s starting to wane, as are the sunflowers – and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to make it to the famously photogenic sunflower farm.  Not this year.

And it’s okay.

Because I’ve discovered that going and doing the next best thing is just as good.

I grabbed my camera yesterday morning and drove to a sunflower field at a farm about five minutes from home. (Six minutes if there’s turkeys in the road.)  The morning fog framed the flowers softly, and I took my time walking through the tangled path right smack dab in the middle of all that sunflower vibrance.

It was lovely.  DSC_0348 (2)Pretty much just me, my camera, and the sunflowers hanging out in a quiet field on a damp, foggy September morning.

And somewhere out there in the middle of all those towering flowers, I learned the next best thing is good enough.DSC_0347 (3)And sometimes … even better.