it’s february…i’m free!

By In blog — February 11, 2018

Facebook sent me a message that I haven’t posted anything in a while. Talk about pressure!

It’s hard to complain that celebrations have kept you so busy the past two months that you need a break, but…that’s what I’m sayin’. Holidays, birthdays and the odd celebration peppered in are behind me now and I feel so free.

It’s February…I’m free!

So I devised yet another exercise plan. I need adventure so I am now on a kick to walk the five miles it takes to do a loop up near Lake Michigan and back. The first free day I had was about 24 degrees and windy. Wahhhh! It is winter. But I walked an hour of that trip – 30 minutes in and back. It’s a start!

I’m a warrior not a weenie!

Then I did do the 5-mile walk by lake. That is a long walk. I am no stranger to walking, although it has been a few months, but phew! Then…the weather was bitter and windy so no walking. Then I have had sick kids with me so no walking. Now, I finally am getting my snowfall, which took away my walk again. There are no sidewalks and the snow piles are so big that I would need to walk in the road. Not safe, so no walk again.

What do you do if you can’t walk? Eat!

I made “Jill’s Graham Streusel Cake” and boy did we love that. My kids are the world’s pickiest eaters, even with sweets, and they all loved this cake. It’s a great dessert or breakfast treat. Stay tuned for my cookbook…it’s in there.

Then, on a particularly snowy day, I made use of my new oil-less fryer and made homemade french fries.

Nothing like skin-on homemade fries.

I have a few books going on at the moment. Here’s my reading list:

I love reading cookbooks and I love home cooks and their recipes and food ideas, especially from our grandmas.

I also love desserts from a mix.

But I do have some beef with cookbooks.

In this day and age, it is not acceptable to have a cookbook that does not have a picture for each food you share a recipe for. I need a picture with a recipe or I tend to skip by the recipe. And I find it especially unacceptable for a cookbook published by a company that employs people to cook all day, to not have a picture. It’s your job. That’s what your company does. It’s taking me forever but my cookbook will have a photo for each recipe, and sometimes there are a few photos. Vote for me for President.

Then there are the business books. I recently finished one by Joy Mangano, the Miracle Mop inventor. I am now working on this one by Lori Greiner.

I love business books.

Chip Gaines cracks me up. I am in the beginning of his book and he is a lot of fun. I like people who follow the beat of their own drummer.

I absolutely love children’s fiction and have a stash of my own, that has nothing to do with my kids. I have pulled this book out of my daughter’s pile and am getting ready to read it.

Then, there is this…

Chickens.

For some reason, the idea of raising chickens scares me more than the idea of raising kids did. I felt that I needed a primer course, so I am working my way through this book. Currently, I am still opting for raising chickens, but a much more manageable amount than my original carefree “bring it” amount. I think I will start slow.

My “make a moment” suggestion for you is to get out there and enjoy the snow, beyond shoveling. Nighttime is especially wonderful if you can get out at that time. It’s so quiet and peaceful. The breaths that you take into your lungs are so cleansing. If you do not have snow, then I suspect it is for a reason, so get out there and enjoy the fact that you don’t have to live with snow.

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day, my BFF’s! Share some love with the people who mean the world to you – family, friends, neighbors and your BFF’s.

P.S. Did you notice? No sky pics!

 

 

 

 

 

the excitement of january

By In blog — January 13, 2018

It’s January. Wow!

So what have you been doing? Are you busy? Are you relaxing? Are you shivering? Are you shoveling? All of the above? None of the above?

Oh, I have so much to chat about!

I know that is no surprise, but fair warning…this post is a biggie. I keep adding to it.

I love January. It’s such an exciting moment to be at the very beginning of a fresh new year full of possibilities and unknowns. A few years ago, I ditched the New Year’s resolutions and opted for a word or a thought that would guide me through the year. Last year, I chose balance because the prior year had been too busy. It worked. That word guided me all year in various ways and will continue to guide me this year, now that I am back in the habit of living with some semblance of balance, although I will be choosing a new word to guide me this year.

I have not totally decided on the word though.

I started out with “I break for moments” as my guiding thought to ensure that I took the time to pack in a whole mess of moments this year. It’s a transition year since my last wee one will head to kindergarten in the fall, among other changes. It would be a great guiding principle, but it felt a little light on the depth. Sometimes I like deepness. Then I thought about the word “change” because of what this year is calling me to do. But, that’s boring and inevitable. Then, while perusing the inventory in Joann’s Fabrics, the word “create” hit me. I know that sounds obvious and “no”, it wasn’t because it was written on their wall.

I liked it. This is a year for lots of creations of all sorts. And in my mind, it’s a word that is defined by fun, adventure, experimenting and slowing down . In order to keep creating, you need time to do that. Time to get inspired. Time to feel what it is that you need to create. Time to set the wheels in motion. Time to pick your way through the process to create a finished product, whatever that may be. The slowness needed for creating would allow opportunity for many moments to take over my days, as long as I kept my “balance” and did not become so busy creating, which is what happened two years ago. You could be having all the fun in the world but still be too busy to soak it all in.

Yes, I think my word for this year will be “create“.

But then the word “savor” kept popping into my mind as I started out this new year, as if my brain was whispering to me each day to remind me to “break for moments”, but on a much deeper level that is full of appreciation.

Ahhhh….doesn’t the word “savor” make you think of enjoying life and it’s moments to the fullest? This year promises to bring change in many forms so I am feeling the need to savor deeply and with intent.

What a smart little brain you are. I have found that your body has a way of telling you what you need if you are listening.

Oh man, all of that choosing a word for the year is getting stressful. I’m overthinking it. But what if I could have two word themes? Would that mess me up? Would two guides for the year take away from each other like too many cooks in the kitchen? Would it be helpful? If I spend all of my energy savoring everything, will I accomplish anything I need to create or would I still be hanging back in my living room staring at the pine needles left on the floor where the Christmas tree used to be savoring the holidays? I am an accomplisher and need to have something checked off my to-do list. This would be a great year to just dive in and create to my heart’s content and see what kind of pile of creations I would have by the end of the year that I could pick from for my future dreams. Someday, when I finally have my dream country shoppe “plus”, there will be way less time for creating, even though I still want that to be a part of what my shoppe is about.

Hmmmmmm…I need to ponder.

Or wait…should the word be “ponder“? With the promise of change ahead of me this year, I will certainly need to ponder my directions.

Can I ponder, savor and create? Could the world handle that? Have I used too many italics? Are you getting a glimpse of the inner workings of my brain? Are you scared?

I have to ponder that. I’ll let you know what I come up with.

But I’m now leaning toward “savor.” Or maybe I have just been lazy the last few days and that word lets me off the hook. I can pretend I was savoring instead of procrastinating.

What do you do when January comes calling? Do you skip the accessory of guiding your year along with something intentional or do you have a list of plans, goals, hopes and dream? What are your plans for 2018? How will you stay on track? Does it matter if you don’t? Are you open to wandering off in new directions?

Just curious.

I have not been exercising at all. Bed just calls to me early at the end of my busy days. And it won’t let me out from under its snuggly warm blankets in the morning until I absolutely have to get up.

January is a very eventful month for our family. Our wedding anniversary starts us off. Then three of our family’s birthdays are celebrated this month, including mine. My happy #47 is right around the corner and I am not sure how that happened. Wasn’t I just cheerleading and doing my homework, like, last year?

I always enjoy coming up with different treats for celebrating because there would be a lot of cake ingested by the end of the month. I like cake. I don’t love cake. My husband gets cake because his birthday is first and he wants cake. Then I come next and you know I like to be different so it won’t be cake. I’m not sure what I want yet. Last is a wee one’s birthday and there are usually two celebrations because we need a bigger celebration on the weekend and then you absolutely have to celebrate on the actual day too. More opportunities for something different. Yippee!

All this talk about cake has made me hungry and now I want cake.

Okay, maybe I do love cake. Just not all the time.

A cake with just the right ratio of homemade frosting…mmmmmm….and coffee frosting is the best.

Sending thank you notes is on the to-do list this month for all of our wonderful gifts that we received and it is one of my favorite things to do. It takes a while to get through them because as soon as I finish Christmas gifts, our birthdays come and then there are more gifts. It happens, on occasion, that you’ll get thanked for everything all in one card if the birthdays hit and I have not made out your holiday “thank you” card yet. I just love to sit down and handwrite a card. In my mind, I am sending someone a small break for their day and a chance for us to catch up and connect.

Kinda like my long chit chat posts. Doesn’t this feel like a wonderful break in your day?

Finishing my puzzle is also on the to-do list. I remembered my love for puzzles a few years ago and have enjoyed that activity on occasion immensely. Again, the picture has to call to me, it can’t be just any old puzzle scene and I have not moved beyond 300 pieces. My need to accomplish requires that the puzzle not be hanging around for too long. Plus, there is limited space in my home to leave out a puzzle, especially if we want to eat dinner at the table and not off of TV trays for four months.

I recently came up with a new creation (there’s that “creating” word) for my puzzle that just may open doors for me. It’s a “puzzle keeper” country-style that has brought on fantasies of wondering if I could now tackle/handle a 1000-piece puzzle, or at least bumping up to 500-pieces.

I told you that I had a lot to tell you.

I have looked at items for purchase that promise the ability to keep your puzzle intact when you need to store it unfinished but reviews were always iffy on whether any of them would actually work. Before Christmas, I began working on a puzzle with a holiday-themed home and church scene but found that time to sit and do the puzzle was quite scarce. Eventually, I admitted that I was not going to be able to complete the puzzle before Christmas and that we were really going to need the coffee table space that my puzzle was taking up. A spread of snacks and treats is way more important to put on the table than my puzzle. So, I packed it up and enjoyed many snacks and treats.

After Christmas was over, I got out my puzzle again and began to work on it. But with my wee ones home for days and days over a school break, the puzzle was really just in the way. When my youngest fessed up and apologized for knocking some of my puzzle pieces off the table by accident while he was playing, I knew I needed to find a new place for my puzzle. But where? My house has absolutely no free horizontal space anywhere. None.

Lightbulb!

I ran into the garage and cut some cardboard from a large box waiting for recycling. Then I cut an old fabric-lined vinyl tablecloth that my mom had suggested and glued it to my cardboard. When it was dry, I tried out my new creation and it worked!

(Read on to find out what those two reddish fluffy things are…)

I kept two sides of the box connected, so I can fold one side over the top of the puzzle and then slide it under a chair for safe keeping and “out-of-the-wayness”. I discovered that I still needed a way to spread out some of the pieces that I was organizing and sorting through without having to clean them up each time so I got a smaller piece of cardboard with no top attached. Now, I can put pieces on that to work with, then store it on top of the puzzle when I need to put it away. I fold the top of the cardboard over and store it all together. Ta-dah!

The vinyl tablecloth, with the fuzzy-side up, is great for keeping the puzzle from sliding all over but I noticed that I would like to be able to slide the pieces around while I am seeing where they go and they don’t slide on the fuzzy side, plus, it bunches a bit so the puzzle has trouble lying flat at times. For the next puzzle, I will try using the other side of the cardboard with no tablecloth for putting the puzzle together and then cover it with the fabric side to keep it from sliding. If that doesn’t work, I have additional plans in the works. And I just may fall prey to the challenge of a larger-pieced puzzle this year.

Do you have me on speaker-phone now while you mutter the mandatory “oh’s” and “yes’s” as you are roam about your world doing your daily tasks?

I am not the most fun person to buy gifts for because my interests change and I usually have criteria for an item, despite the fact that I believe myself to be so easy-going. To help my gift-givers, like my husband, I start jotting down things that I covet throughout the year so that he has a list to work with. Otherwise, I can’t think of anything I need or want when he asks me at various holiday times.

Updating my stay-at-home momma wardrobe was an impromptu desire this holiday season as I saw fun things offered in the stores and the sales flyers. Winter hats with puff balls was also a new whim, which turned out to be a good thing because I decided to cut my own hair (not uncommon) during my excitement for January and a fresh start. It’s the kind of haircut that gives you the information you need on what does NOT look good on your head. Good to know. So far, I have a long list of what does not look good but cannot find out what does look good. The new puff ball hats are handy for taking the eyes off of my new haircut. There are some sweet-looking puffballs these days.

My stay-at-home “shoe” wardrobe got a lift this year and now I have all sorts of options for my footwear, depending on my stay-at-home wardrobe (usually jammies, but otherwise comfy clothes with big waistbands because of the other gift I received – see below – and the creative cookbook endeavors that I have been working on lately).

Slouchy and oh, so comfy.

Soooooo soft and a bit more refined.

I make selections based on my mood, and that also comes into effect when I am selecting my footwear for the day. The same goes for coffee cups, dish towels, the color of my comfy clothes or jammies and my foods.

Here is my cozy cabin mood.

Ta-da! The two red fluffy things from the pic above are part of my new footwear collection. I’m in a great mood when I wear these. They are whimsical, to say the least. It’s hard not to smile and be happy when you are wearing these ruby slippers. My wee one recently greeted our favorite UPS fella the other day wearing these as he shuffled out to get a package with me and needed something to wear on his feet. (It’s been cooooold out there.) It’s the biggest grin I have ever seen our favorite UPS fella wear.

And every stay-at-home-to-work person needs some bling. Ahhh, I feel so elegant in these, especially when paired with my fluffy socks.

I have been living a bit “award-show-host” style, opting to change my footwear often throughout the day. Ahhh…a life of luxury.

Another highlight gift from under the Christmas tree this year was a hotel-style waffle iron that flips around. The surprise was that it makes two waffles, one on each side. Even better than hotel-style.

On one of our lounge-y mornings, I treated everyone to waffles for breakfast.

Just like at the hotel.

Boy, weren’t they surprised!

Non-stick is not always non-stick.

Then, I received another beautiful gift under the tree. An Oil-Less Fryer.

Chicken wings have long been a favorite of mine. Back when I was a teenager, just a few short years ago, ahem, my dad and I had a standing weekly date to go get wings and fries. Best dates ever.

One of the neat and not-so-neat things about moving to live in different regions is that the food changes. A Midwest chicken wing is not like a Northeast chicken wing. Nor are the homemade French fries. So, a few years ago (while I was still in my teens…) I went on a mission to figure out how to make the wing sauce that I love from back east that I have not found out here. That was the first step necessary for trying to make my own wings. It’s not ketchupy. It’s not sweet. It’s not just Frank’s Hot Sauce on a wing.

I found a few recipes that seemed close to what I like and started fooling around with them. What I came up with is pretty darn close and it makes me happy when I am craving chicken wings. It takes a wee bit of time to conjure up but is so worth it.

Oh, happy day.

I finally was able to create (there’s that word again) my NY-style Buffalo Wings and Homemade French fries, with the skin on and some salt, at home. It’s taken me eleven years. Proof that you must keep trying.

Boy, did I savor that! (There’s the other word.)

The fryer made super crispy wings, which is just how I like them.

And while living out here in the Midwest, I learned that I like Naked wings. The other option often on the menus is Breaded. Who knew?

And because the box says it is an Oil-Less fryer, it is all healthy and non-fat, even if the cooking recipe calls for a little oil. Oil Less or oilless. It’s all good. And still healthy even if the wing sauce has butter in it. Sure. Wow, what a beautiful invention. And the clean-up is a breeze, which is not the case when I have gone the deep-fryer or fry-it-myself route to making my own wings, which ultimately led me to leave it to the professionals and just eat them when I travel back to NY.

I have not spent much time back at my desk drawing or designing but since my coloring book for big people is finished and published, wahoo, I plan to get back to it. Months working on that has left me needing to switch gears and put some energy into my other projects. Plus, the holidays came so there was little time for my personal missions.

Now that January is here, I am excited to be trying out my new ideas and projects, even some new coloring book pictures for the next book, but there is one immediate problem.

I have lost my work space. Twice.

Well, technically I still own my work spaces but other tenants have moved in while I was busy being non-creative. Minecraft Legos have stormed my desk space and are having their own adventures. This is where I do my pen-to-paper writing, drawing and designing and other hand-inspired creative projects. I do still inhabit that small corner space far back by the wall. It’s my “pile”. See it? You might have to squint. Sitting on top of that pile is a small notebook that is a new project I have toyed with for quite a while and decided to just jump in and see what I can do. A daily devotional, Aaryne-style, is a project that has been on my “daunting list”. Since I will need 365 fabulous things to say to you in this devotional, I figured I should get started. It’s a race to see if this or the cookbook will make it to the shelves first!

I have no predictions at this moment, although, you will see as you read on, that after months of not doing much for my cookbook because I put my efforts into my coloring book for big people – available for your next gifting needs at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com (yippee) – I have some new delicious additions to my cookbook.

Underneath that small notebook is my next coloring book project. And underneath that is a mish-mosh of necessities for my other dreams.

I am strategizing on how to relocate the Minecraft World so that we can all co-exist peacefully and happily in our new and reclaimed spaces.

My other work space is where I do my computer related hobby and design work, as well as the daily business for my day and night job as “Head of Domestics and Queen of Caretaking”.

I have a roommate and things are getting claustrophobic.

A while ago, I moved my computer to this new spot because having it on my desk made it too complicated to spread out when I wanted to do my drawing and design type moments. I am a “pile” gal so there is always a pile near my computer of things I need to work on and consider. Then there is another pile for my drawing and design type moments that I need to work on and consider. There was too much shuffling of piles and computer to the floor and back depending on what I was working on. So, I brainstormed and came up with a new spot for my computer that is now located where my wee ones (who are starting to not be so wee- sniff, sniff) do their homework. Perfect.

My lovely cat, Billie, who was adopted two years ago from a cat shelter on Christmas Eve, and is the most well-behaved cat that I have ever shared my life with, has a cat bed below my desk. She has cat beds everywhere.

Whenever I worked at my desk, she would come in and snuggle and knead and purr at my feet while I was busy doing whatever it was that I was doing in there. It was so comforting. And it worked very well. We each had our own space.

When I divided my enterprises into separate rooms to ease my transition into my hobbies without needing to shift piles and a computer first, because I would look at it and decide that it was too much work and go get a snack instead, she came along and sat next to my computer. That was so comforting too.

At first.

We all share a table in a room that no longer is used for its intended purpose – the dining room. There is enough space for all of us and the table is located next to a window so that Miss Billie can look out and take in the neighborhood activity as well as some sunbeams while she lounges out next to me.

Over time, our roommating space has become cramped. Instead of lounging out on the amount of space around me, she sits right next to my computer, often partly on top of it. The warm air from the cooling fan is absorbed right into her soft fluffy white and black belly. My computer and I are a bit suffocated.

We were managing with this new stuffy arrangement until a month or so ago when, like all rooming-together conditions, we started to get more comfortable with each other, which ultimately leads to problems cohabitating.

She now wants to play as I scruff her while I work. It’s distracting and her nails makes me itch. I am allergic to pet hair if I touch my eyes, which I rarely do since I have always had some sort of pet and trained myself not to touch my eyes. I am also allergic to a scratch from a cat. Super itchy. Just the slightest touch from a toenail makes my skin itchy. So even though she is playing nicely, it’s still a scratch and I get itchy. Plus, it is annoying to have one hand attacked as I am typing and thinking. Eventually, we both get our fur up and then we fight. She says she is still playing but I know that she is lying. She gets more aggressive so I get more aggressive. Since I am the grown-up, I start to set limits and then it’s just a matter of time before things are plain not nice.

Her furry fluffy body bits lob over onto my computer so it’s hard to type and focus. I push on those fluffy furry body bits to remove them from my keyboard and she retaliates.

It’s not working.

So, I am back to looking for a new work space.

In other news…

It is now super cold in my Midwest world, but nothing compared to my “home” area of the Northeast. But, still super cold. For some reason, I seem to crave iced coffee on the coldest days and hot coffee in summer.

Awkward.

Matchbox cars have taken over the kitchen table, as you can see. I live in a Toy Story world.

There have been lots of sky moments.

Beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Have you savored any lately?

And adding the lights from our tree to the view is just such a happy thing.

Then, there was that wonderful moon we recently had floating around us.

Add other tree lights to that and there are more happy moments.

I love the moon.

I love sunrises.

I love clouds.

I love it when the just-rising-sun catches the clouds from the bottom and makes them bright pink.

Did you see this sunrise recently? As it was just popping, it was a bright red-orange color. The kind you might see on a hot day at sunset.

I have never seen a sun this color at sunrise. The photo does not show the depth of color. It was super cool, really pretty and a bit strange. I was hoping it would not melt into a big lava pool right before my eyes.

I’m supposed to be cooling my jets this year and enjoying my last moments with my preschooler at home, but I am foaming to get moving with all of my big ideas. It’s not easy being me.

Putting together a few new designs for fabric was something on my to-do list as I am planning to make some more corn bags for gifts, even though I am cooling my jets. My kids love the small size and use them as “boo-boo” bags. We keep them in the freezer for whenever someone feels sick or gets bumped up during the day. (Warning: You need to be super careful if heating them for children because you risk them getting burned.) Someone in my circle of besties recently had a baby so I designed some fabric for this little angel and will make some corn bags for her. I also needed a boy design on some fabric because I am sorely lacking in that department, and will send corn bags for her older children as well. I already have a design with a fairy wand on it that I will use for the other muffin in her home. I am still waiting for my new fabric designs to get to me but here is one new design that came a few days ago…

A Matchbox-type car was a handy size-reference tool for you.

The image of all types of churches lit up at night is such a peaceful image for me, especially this time of year with the long dark cold nights. I am a lover of dish towels so my current “design process” is to look at my oven and ponder what kind of image I would like to see hanging off its handle in the form of a dish towel.

Through the course of last year, I started to recognize a design style of mine that I enjoy and is different than what I see on the store shelves and at Spoonflower, the site that I use to create my fabric. My computer came with a finger paint-style program that I first used when I created my second website because I was low on images of my own and at that point had decided that I would put nothing on my website that I didn’t create or own due to copyright infringement issues. That process has helped me to create some super fun drawings that ended up looking really great on fabric and in the finished project, like a table runner etc. because the lines are strong and the colors are vibrant.

Ooo, I get giddy just talking about it!

In my new coloring book for big people, (nope – I can’t stop saying that) I mention my desire to create a cloud coffee table book as a potential next project. Being obsessed with cloud and sky pictures, it just seemed like it would be a relaxing and fun book to have sitting around when you need a moment to recharge. I started working on it but my original vision just seemed lacking. The project was calling for something more. I pondered it a while (there’s that word again) and came up with an idea to change it from just being a coffee table book to something for personal use and enjoyment. I have to keep it a secret because who knows how long it will take me to finish it and I don’t want my patent-worthy idea used before I get there. I need to print a first draft to see how it looks so I know what direction to head next, but I am stuck on how I want it to look versus the offerings available to me for a finished project.

I love creating.

And drawing. And designing. And cooking. And photography. And putting it all together.

I have also managed to get back to working on my future cookbook and have cooked and taken photos to add to it. It’s a great time of year to cook. And eat. And stay in bed and not exercise. Which is why I need super stretchy waistbands.

I always joke with my kids that I am going to make them a Broccoli Cheese Pie. It’s become the tiresome joke that always comes up whenever there is a question about what will be eaten, but never ceases to amuse me. As I was sorting through some of my family recipes to try, I saw one from my mom’s collection for…you guessed it! Broccoli Cheese Pie. 

Ha ha!

It’s really delicious and comforting and it has a twist. The secret will be revealed in my cookbook so hang onto the edge of your seat…

Plus, I was able to tell my kids that there really is a Broccoli Cheese Pie.

“Yes, Virginia, there really is a Broccoli Cheese Pie.” (Historical Santa Claus reference there…)

Mmmmm…

My kids have been devouring my take on French Toast Sticks (but not the Broccoli Cheese Pie) which are served up with a delicious “dunking dip”. No regular old plain jane boring syrup this time. No siree!

I also made Roasted Cinnamon Pecans because I am still convinced that I can make holiday treat packages for my neighbors. There is never enough time before Christmas to pull it together but I always want to make little boxes of goodies. They just look so comforting and happy and neighborly. Since I use January as an extension of the holiday season for my cooking and baking, I am going to make “winter wishes” packages. The tricky part is that these nuts are so darn delicious that there won’t be any left to give. So, I decided to package some up immediately and tuck them away so we all knew that they were off limits. (I’m not sure why the fonts keep switching because it looks the same to me on my “creation” page. Technology and operator error are not always great partners.)

Good-bye you sweet little nuts. Get ready for your new home! (I’ll say that to my kids too when they get their first apartment.)

And one of my favorite comfort foods is a Country Hamburger.

Pairing it with homemade fries made in my new Oil-Less Fryer is a dream come true.

So, that there is a sneak peek into some deliciousness that will be shared in my cookbook. I’m not sure if you will still have teeth left to eat any of it by the time I ever finish it, but they are doing amazing things with dental work these days. Best bet – brush and floss every day so that you can make and eat all of my goodies no matter how old you are when I finish it.

And here we are at the end of my post. You have probably used up your work day reading it, so clean up your cracker crumbs, pile your work for tomorrow (because piles are the best form of organization) and get ready to turn off the lights. You can get back to the regular old grind tomorrow. I was happy to provide a diversion from the usual work day for you. You are my BFF, after all.

As I wrap this up, I wanted to mention that it has come to my attention that some of My BFF’s were missing me, thank you very much, because my posts were not being sent to my various Facebook accounts. Here’s why…when I lost all of my website content this fall, I stopped posting to all of my Facebook accounts going forward and only posted directly to my Awkward Bird Facebook page. I have no idea how you all get your Awkward Bird fix, so I didn’t realize that it was through sharing on my personal Facebook accounts that you were able to keep abreast of the world that I live in.

I had decided to keep the rebuilding of my site simple and lean until a future time when I will work with a local company on my website, which will require that we have moved to a new home first. My website will be in need of some “next steps” as I take my dreams to the next level so I was gonna hang out as is for a bit.

But, I miss you too as I am hanging in this transitional moment in time on my website, so I will add more to my site, like email sign-up for new posts, a “contact me” form and my Awkward Bird Facebook link so we can stay together. I will also go back to posting on all of my Facebook sites – don’t ask why there are so many – so my scoop can get to you that way too.

This is a wonderful moment at the beginning of a new year. Take some time to dream. Write down your thoughts with no judgement. Pay attention to the things that make your belly full of butterflies and your hips break out into a happy dance. These are passions that you need to build and keep in your life.

I’m off to plan my birthday festivities! I wonder if there will be chicken wings?

Love ya,

Aaryne

it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

By In blog — December 18, 2017

When I first started writing this post to share with you, it was much closer to the beginning of December. Now, it is much closer to the end of December, or at least it will be by the time I finish writing it. So, yes, my title is a little iffy because it should look a lot like Christmas now, but I’m still keeping it.

In my world, we celebrate Christmas. And Christmas needs snow. And coldness. That’s because I have always lived in a northern seasonal part of the world, aside from my first six months of life spent in Kansas. Despite my needs from Mother Nature at Christmas, there are plenty of years where I have had to accept a green Christmas because snow seems to come later in January these days than my youthful memories recall. But a warm Christmas is rare. Very rare.

This year, I was getting worried. It was warm as we headed into December. I’m talking 50 and 60 plus degree weather. Now, I always say there is a positive to every situation, so it was wonderful for decorating outside and for going outside to get our Christmas tree and for finishing up the last bits of yard work that tucked us into our house for the next few months. I could wear a tee shirt. I could wear flip flops. But, it was sooooo odd. It’s not normal to be putting up Christmas decorations in that kind of warm weather.

I’ve mentioned that I love tradition but I do not like doing the same things year after year. That can create a bit of a pickle but I make those two opposite desires work together at Christmastime by combining old and new. I realize that is not a difficult concept. It seems brilliant to me.

Because of the warmer temps, I could not bring myself to use some of the snowy, frosty, wintry type decorations that often find their way around my house this time of year. Nor, the heavy red and green super loud Christmas colors and decorations that I usually love. I was stumped and wanted to enjoy the process, so I took some time to see what Christmas felt like this year. It really felt like seashells and pastels but I do not have any of those tidbits in my decorating bin and was not going to buy any. I did manage to decorate our outside with candy canes and lighted winter trees but when it came to the inside, I wasn’t feeling candy canes and jingle bells. Then, an ah-ha moment came. I would decorate more with lights this year and have a bit of a quieter decorated home. I love ambient lighting and lights at Christmas-time are one of my favorite memories and feel good moments no matter the weather.

It worked! Our home is finally decorated for Christmas and I am enjoying it. And now you have to sit through some pictures of my quieter holiday decorated home…

We do believe. We believe in lots of things.

You just can’t go wrong with little lights.

I love a cozy glow.

And I gotta have my whimsy. I guess a few candy canes inside aren’t so bad.

It also is now seasonably cold and we have had a few snowflakes floating around, so that helps too. Yes, I do miss wearing a tee shirt instead of getting bundled up, but not too much. This time of year needs a coat. I truly love the seasons and the changes that come with each one of them.

And I’m not the only awkward bird, as I heard from other BFF’s that they were out of sorts with our warm weather and needed some seasonal chill for the holidays too.

Okay, now that I am decorated, here are some random thoughts…

I previously mentioned a homemade Advent Calendar that involved more than the usual chocolate, candies or messages. My idea needs some tweaking because it is not a cheap gift. All of my grand ideas for small gifts begin to add up to a pretty penny. Maybe a 12-days of Christmas calendar would be better, and realistically much more practical, since most adults are busy these days and keeping up with a 24-day calendar may just add to the “one more thing” feeling that comes along this time of year. I’ll work on it and share it with you next year, or maybe in my someday to be finished cookbook.

I discovered this snack in my grocery store and it became one of my “token” gifts for the season. I love to find gifts that people can use up to cut down on the “too much stuff” feeling or when I am not familiar with their personal pleasures and interests. These “Woats” come in a few flavors and I ended up going back to the store for more to fill some gifting needs.

And I love love love this scent from Yankee Candle. It’s not too overpowering and sooooo smells like yummy cookies.

“Snowflake Cookie”. Ahhhhhh…..

If you have been with me for a while, you know that this time of year usually brings on the Christmas Crazies for me. (If you are a new BFF, then you won’t know anything about my stories because they all mysteriously disappeared this fall. Every one of them. If you have been with me for a while, then you are tired of hearing me lament my lost blog content. I just needed people to know the basis for this story. Really.)

Every year, no matter how hard I try to avoid them and implement new ideas, the Christmas Crazies find me. I can lock the door and they wear a disguise and find me. I can “unfriend” them and they don’t care. My attempts never work.

The Christmas Crazies are the point in the season where I don’t want to buy one more thing. I don’t want to race around finishing my list that seems to keep growing instead of shrinking. I start to feel that the “to-do’s” and the “buy mores” take over and that takes away the fun of the season. I feel like I am going crazy. Not having fun anymore.

So, I stop. I take a break and get my balance back. Then, I can finish what I need to finish or redo my list and come up with some new plans. Ones that keep me more balanced.

But this year…I have not had them yet. Can it be that they won’t come? Could my year of practicing balance end on a balanced note? Wouldn’t that be something?

Now, to clarify, I am not sitting around in my fluffy slippers eating bon-bons. No, it is still a busy time and there are definitely tired moments. But I have managed to pepper in some downtime and fun moments and have not felt the crazies yet. My secret this year, I think, was that I was 80 percent finished with my holiday to-do list by the end of November and another 10 percent finished by the first week in December so that all I have left to do is the last 10 percent. There’s still a week left, so I do need to keep an eye out for the Christmas Crazies. They may be letting me think I won and then they will pounce on me while I am feeling quite smug and unprepared for them.

We have managed to make cookies, eat cookies, make more cookies, and eat more cookies. Drive around to look a lights. Watch some holiday shows. Sleep under the Christmas tree with the lights on. Eat more at our church holiday breakfast. Reflect on the religious and spiritual parts of the season. Shop for those who need an extra hand. Go caroling in our community.

We watched the movie “Elf” and I chuckled through the whole thing. Will Ferrell cracks me up.

I have not managed to keep up with my loosely labeled exercise routine.

I did manage to fit in some time to make handmade gifts. I do so love corn bags so I made some as gifts.

I have loved corn bags for over twenty years and use them hot and cold. There’s nothing like heating one up then heading off to bed. Tuck it under your neck and you’ll be drifting off in no time. These are not the ones I made as gifts. These are some of mine. I didn’t take pictures of the ones I made as gifts. It never occurred to me.

And these are for my wee ones. We keep them in the freezer as “boo-boo bags” and they solve about 90 percent of our mishaps. It’s a standard question when someone gets hurt to ask, “Do you need a corn bag?” They always do.

I also have fallen hard for designing fabric so I combined those two loves and made corn bags using my own fabric designs as gifts. Swoon! But, as with all good stories, the plot thickens.

I filled my newly sewn fabric bags with corn that I had on hand and they just smelled musty. Even after microwaving them to sanitize them they still stunk. When I pondered the purchase date of my corn, I realized that it had been around for a while since I purchased it last year when I made corn bags for some craft shows. It’s a big bag of corn.

I am not on my someday dream hobby farm with chickens and who knows what else is around to eat up my corn. So, I had to scrap those bags, buy new corn, sew new bags and start over. Ahhh set-backs. How boring life would be without them.

Below is one of my latest fabric designs. Years ago, I stitched up a black crow fabric decoration and I just love that little guy. I have a soft spot for crows because they like shiny things and are a bit “too much”. We’re kindred spirits.

I thought I had taken a picture of it to share with you but I guess I never did. I won’t bother trying to do it now because it will end up being January before I have this post ready if I have to dig it out of the fall decorations box and take pictures.

Before my first child was born, I thought I had another month to go before I would be a new mom, so I stopped at the library and took out an insane amount of books to copy sewing patterns that caught my eye. (I hadn’t sewn anything since high school. Don’t ask what I was thinking. Of course, you may not be surprised at all since I often take on more than I can chew.) I managed to copy the pattern and then my wee one arrived. I had to return all the books to the library immediately. And tuck the pattern away for another day. Or years.

It was a few years later when I managed to make the crow. It still makes me chuckle so I decided to create a fabric in his likeness. I have plans to change the background color and try a smaller size. Now that I have a giant bag of corn that I know will get musty if not used sooner than later, a New Year’s goal is to make more fabric so I can make more corn bags.

I also have a New Year’s goal to dust off this kitchen buddy and spend more time getting to know it. We have had a rocky start to our friendship because the moments we have had together require too much difficulty cleaning, in my recollection. And because we do not get together often, I have to read the instruction book every time to figure out how to use it again. High-maintenance. But, I said that about my kitchen stand mixer and can’t believe I was so lazy. It’s an amazing friend in the kitchen. I also said that about making pie dough and it is not that difficult, as long as you like the rustic look, which I do.

Here is some exciting news and a great gift idea in case you still need something for a gift, but you’d better not wait too long – my “Happy Moments Coloring Book for Big People” is now available on Barnes and Noble.com in addition to Amazon! Happy Dance! Fa-la-la-la-la!

It’s not the same old grown-up coloring book filled with teeny tiny sections to color on every page or geometric shapes. No Sir Ree Bob! There are pictures of a bubble bath, a cozy fireplace with popcorn, your favorite pizza joint and a quiet relaxing spot on the lake. A cozy city apartment has some teeny tiny coloring moments if you like teeny tiny coloring moments. There are hot air balloons over a field. It’s a coloring book for big people that I designed to be full of my happy places, my happy thoughts and my happy moments.

Plus…for each picture, I share a way to make a moment that matters. I also share the story of how I came to create a coloring book for big people in the first place.

Dare I say spell-binding?

For a coloring book like you have never seen before, you can now find it in two places…

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/happy-moments-coloring-book-aaryne-miller-mcevoy/1127583582?ean=9780997737400

Amazon: https: https://www.amazon.com/Happy-Moments-Coloring-Book-Because/dp/0997737409/ref=sr_1_25?ie=UTF8&qid=1513569885&sr=8-25&keywords=happy+moments

And before I leave you, let’s put our heads in the clouds for a moment…

I have taken the time to appreciate the sunsets.

And the sunrises.

And the amazing cloud formations that fill the sky.

And the sun when it actually arrives from the East.

I will wish you a happy holiday, however your celebrate your holidays and send you winter wishes, if you do not celebrate a holiday. We have our first official “family shindig” for Christmas this year since my mom and another set of relatives are heading out to be with us. Normally, we have just one set of guests at a time. So my free moments will be spent getting ready for the upcoming hoopla. You may hear from me post-Christmas, but it’s more likely that we will be back in touch after the New Year.

Make lots of moments that matter and I’ll see ya on the flip side!

Happy New Year!

Aaryne

the turkey club predicament

By In blog — December 02, 2017

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We’re still eating some delicious leftovers and I found myself in a turkey club predicament today.

Now that my “Happy Moments” coloring book for big people is published and for sale on Amazon, to start, (my happy plug), I can turn my attention back to creating my cookbook. One of the ideas I am currently working on sharing in my cookbook is for Turkey Day leftovers because I wouldn’t dream of messing with your Turkey Day meal traditions.

Here’s my predicament…

A few weeks ago I had some dental work performed. Nothing with me is ever normal. Or maybe normal for me is not normal for everyone else. I had discovered a super sore gum and made an appointment to have it looked at. Turns out, it was a piece of dead bone that was leftover from a root canal that is over twenty years old. This piece of dead bone finally worked its way to the surface and was causing me problems. Whoever heard of such a thing? And you should see the size of the bill!

I still have a really tender and sore and hurting muscle thingy in my cheek area from where the needle went in to give me anesthesia. It only bothers me when I open my mouth semi-wide to eat. I love to eat so this is a semi-big problem.

Today, I wanted to make a turkey club sandwich and take pictures of it for my cookbook as one of my ideas for Turkey Day leftovers. Most of the time, I need to do my picture taking during the day to take advantage of the best lighting. So, I have to make my foods during the day. Some foods can handle hanging around to be eaten later at dinner or another time but a turkey club needs to be eaten soon after it is created. Otherwise the toasted bread gets soggy and things go downhill fast.

But, I cannot open my mouth wide enough to eat this sandwich because of my sore cheek muscle thingy. And the only person around during the day to eat it is my preschooler and he won’t eat it.

It’s beautiful and it’s calling to me. (I actually took some ibuprofen earlier to prepare for this predicament but it did not totally take away the pain.)

If I were eating this at a diner, I would have waffle fries with it. Or curly fries. Or some kind of french fries. But I used waffle fries in the picture that I took of a hot turkey sandwich for another Turkey Day leftover that I am sharing in my cookbook so I paired this sandwich with carrots. They add a nice color pop.

I ate them already as a warm-up to the sandwich.

So, that is my turkey club predicament.

Now, I will leave you with the hot turkey sandwich pic, and a craving for a turkey sandwich, as I go off to tackle this sandwich with my sore mouth.

Poor me…

 

my “happy moments” coloring book is ready on amazon

By In blog — November 26, 2017

My “Happy Moments” Coloring Book for Big People is now available on Amazon and I am just tickled beyond words.

https://www.amazon.com/Happy-Moments-Coloring-Book-Because/dp/0997737409/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1511712541&sr=8-1&keywords=happy+moments+coloring+book

I won’t ruin the story of how this book came to be (for those who love coloring books for grown-ups and just might add this to their list of needs this year), because I included it in my book, but it has been a project in the making for the last two years. Toward the end of October I realized that I was really close to being finished and if I buckled down, I just might have it ready for your holiday gift-giving moments this season.

It’s no secret that I love looking for unique gifts and that I like things that are not what you see everywhere. I created this coloring book because I was not really all that interested in the images that were in the books currently on the market. The Taste of Home Coloring Books are really the only books I have found that have coloring pages that I like. I love happy pictures that make me feel like I am coloring a moment and food. And I do not like too much detail.

It’s an attention span thing.

So, being the dreamer and all that I am, two years ago I decided to start making drawings that I liked and see where it would take me. And today, I present to you a really fun different style of coloring book for big people that will make a great gift, especially when you add in some pointy new crayons or colored pencils.

If I do say so myself…

It’s currently available on Amazon, but will eventually be available on Barnes and Noble.com. That works out nicely for me because I have free shipping with Barnes and Noble from being a member subscriber. But…as an FYI, I just ordered a few of my own coloring books from Amazon (and I will have to be careful doing that too often!) and there is currently free shipping over $25 dollars. I have already completed most of my holiday shopping for my giftees, but I did need to pick up a few books for my mom, my grandmas and a special friend that this book is dedicated to. His journey started mine and he definitely needs a copy of his very own.

Thanks for being a part of my journey and I would love to hear what you think. A gal needs her BFF’s to give it to her straight ya know!

Aaryne

my thankful moments

By In blog — November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving my favorite people! It’s the eve of Thanksgiving as I start writing this post and I have made all of my foods for tomorrow. It’s just us, which is easy and not easy. We do not have to make a big deal out of getting ready and cleaning. Phew. My mop broke while I was mopping the kitchen floor so it’s a good thing no one is coming and my house does not have to be clean. It would be a bonus, not a requirement for just us. But…if we want to taste all of the tastes that a Thanksgiving dinner promises, I need to make all of those tastes ourselves. I did. And I kept it as easy as possible. And boy will it be delicious.

Now, I am thankful that I am done because I am tired of cooking and cleaning-ish.

Okay, so to amuse myself while I cooked and kinda sorta cleaned, I mentally listed some of my “thankful for” moments. In no particular order…here they are…

The sky. Of course. Sunrises, sunsets and all of the beautiful colors that stop me in my tracks.

Being a dreamer. My current coloring book project for grown-ups needed a bit more revision than I wanted to do, but I added a few extra days to my deadline and am now super-de-duper happy that I did! It required two different cover creations for me to be happy and some additions to the inside that I had wanted to do but didn’t want to take the time to do but my husband said would be a really good idea if I did. I just received my second proof only moments ago, and at first glance, yippee! I will have to spend more time going through it to double-check spelling issues and that dang grammar thingy that people get so worked up about. You know, like when a sentence uses a proposition to end with? Being Thanksgiving Eve and all, I will practice self-control and not do it now. I will get my flashlight out later and hide under my covers to look at it when I am supposed to be sleeping.

Then there are the obvious things not to be over-looked like our health, our home and my husband’s job.

I am also very thankful for butter, sugar and flour.

Home cooks and family recipes. This Taste of Home cookbook is my newest addition and I am only one-fifth of the way through and already almost every page is sticky-noted. After laughing about it, I realized that I love home cooks and their recipes the most. I get so excited about recipes that have been passed down in families and I love to think about our grandma’s and the occasional grandpa cooking for their families.

GIFT IDEA! If you have someone who loves to cook, and especially those who get excited about home cooking, this is a great gift. Make sure you include some sticky note pads!

My family. I am so thankful for my family. A current project of mine to celebrate them is creating real old-fashioned photo albums for us. It’s a biggie. I kept up with it the first few years of my babies’ lives then I was too busy. Then I just had stacks of photos. Then I started at it again and tried to work backward while keeping up with the current year. Then life got busy again. Then, there were no longer even any printed photos. I am in serious project management mode now and am determined to git ‘er done. I am not going to worry about having the photos in super chronological order. The project will never get finished if I do. But, I am making sure that I jot down some notes on the backs of my photos. My great-grandma taught me to do this because at some point I would not remember the details and it was also especially helpful for those who looked through the albums long after I was in Heaven. I can often be found grumbling about it because it is time-consuming but great-grandma told me to do it and I am glad I did. As I started back into this project, I now have three kids who all looked alike as babies. And I am getting old-ish so my memory really did forget some of the details.

I made baby albums for my kids on their last birthdays and they love those albums. They take them on our road trips.

GIFT IDEA! In this day and age of computerized everything, it’s not the same being all curled up around the computer to look at pictures. A real photo album is a great gift. Just make sure you write on the back of the picture like great-grandma said.

I am very thankful for extra frozen dough balls in my freezer. When I took my husband’s rolls out of the oven (yes, he has special rolls because I was mixing up the roll routine this year with some flavors and his Thanksgiving is not to be messed with) I noticed that I baked them with the plastic wrap on. Dadgum. I had just enough frozen dough left to make more rolls. Phew!

See that shiny melted plastic wrap?

And being thankful for butter, sugar and flour makes me thankful for cookies.

And bacon.

I am NOT thankful that I need to get new glasses. That is never a pleasant experience for many reasons. We ran into a store quickly to look at frames and I had to take some selfies to look at and share later. You can tell by the look on my face that this is not fun.

Does my knee look better in these glasses or

in these glasses?

I want big ones this time. And something unusual.

I am thankful for 2 gallon-sized baggies. I can prep my foods in pans and then store them safely. Luxury.

I am also thankful for browned butter. I know it can be over-used these days but I added some and a bit of brown sugar to my sweet potatoes and they are heavenly. It’s not too late – you can still do this!

I am thankful that I put more effort into balancing my days this year, which brought me many more moments to enjoy being present. I know that the Christmas Crazies are still around the corner and they get me every year, despite my best intentions, but this year I am way ahead of the game. I’ll keep you posted!

I am thankful that you will let my grammar issues slide in this post as I wanted to chat with you before our world’s get busy for a few days.

And, my BFF’s, I am very thankful for you. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday if you celebrate it or a wonderful Thursday if you do not. You deserve a moment to chill out and be present. Be with your special people and don’t worry about the details. Pretend your mop broke and that’s why you had to take a break instead of clean or that the rolls were baked with the plastic on and you needed to serve some store-bought rolls to buy yourself some quiet moments. It could happen!

Love ya,

Aaryne

gift ideas, catching up, & selfie struggles

By In blog — November 10, 2017

Hello, my BFF’s.

It’s November. It snowed a bit. It’s hard not to get excited.

I will get right to two gift ideas and one on the way (hopefully) in case I lose you as I start my gift of gab.

I could get swallowed up in a bookstore for days, I just love them. Especially the children’s department. I found this gem there while shopping for a birthday gift and had to pick it up for me. Being a dreamer, I need reminders every so often to keep me going. This is a really fun gift for anyone in your world, not just a child, who spends their time dreaming and planning. Or for someone who should. Even yourself!

Next up, I received this book as a gift from my mom last year and I just love it. It shares a sentiment and some thoughts to go with it for a variety of seasonal offerings. You can read it from beginning to end or pick out a sentiment for that day, based on how you are feeling, and fill your heart with a message that will give you what you need. During the holiday season, I am all over the place with my emotions and whether I crave quiet simple moments or to be right in the middle of the hustle and bustle. This book covers it all!

And then….drum roll…I am awaiting a proof of my grown-up coloring book. It should come any day now, I will make my revisions and if the stars align, it will be ready for you to purchase before Thanksgiving. (Technically, I could make revisions until the cows come home but luckily I have a deadline in place so I will have to approve it quickly.)

Then, you can get some gift shopping done early and have more moments to yourself to enjoy the quiet or the hustle and bustle. Maybe even to color, perhaps??!!

Here is the cover…unless I change it last minute…which I already did while I have been working on this post…

Happy Dance!

I am also having fun dreaming up gift ideas for an Advent calendar type gift that I want to share with you, but so far my ideas for something different than the usual candy etc. are not cheap to put together once I start mentally adding up the price tags. I am not sure if I care about that so I will have to ponder a bit more.

All righty, let’s get ready to talk turkey now. (Get it?)

By now, you must know that I take a million sky pictures – even if you are new to my current site with all of its lost content. So, here we go…

I just love the colors.

And the clouds.

And the ambiance.

We went to a China Light Show, which was super cool, but very crowded.

 

 

The above pic represents all of the animals for the “Year Of the” in The Chinese tradition. I think I am a pig but I was confused by how they listed the years and I had to keep moving because I could not hold up the lines of people trying to get through. I used my manners.

How can you not love the dragons?

We participated in the Farmer’s Market CSA this year so every other week I received a giant basket of delicious locally grown goodies. Our last basket for the season included a zucchini the size of an adult leg. The giant veggies are not always flavorful but this gal is perfect in Zucchini Bread. I have made quite a few already and need to keep plodding along so I can share the wealth with my neighbors as well as my freezer. If you’re in the area, let me know and I will bake you up some!

Really!

Halloween happened since we last spoke.

I loved my creepy spider.

We also had some super duper jack-o-lanterns.

And at night, they were the best we ever had.

For the school parties, I decided to dress up this year. I went as my fave Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Here are my selfies…

And another.

The problem with selfies

is that

they start to get

a bit

silly after a while.

I had so much fun taking on a new role, but my two boys were more than ready for me to shower and wash away the pirate-ness. They wanted “momma” back.

Sigh.

I’ve been typecast.

Yup. More sky.

Up next on my agenda is to get some cookie dough made up and tucked away in the freezer for those moments when you want a home-baked cookie this time of year but are rushing around too much to just “whip some up”. Then I need to finish my last minute shopping because I did most of mine already.

Don’t hate me because I’m early.

Love ya my BFF’s…make some moments these next few weeks. Its gonna get squirrelly!

 

mr. g

By In blog — October 30, 2017

I have been meaning to tell you about Mr. G.

I met Mr. G a year ago when I asked for assistance from the SCORE Business Mentoring Program. I had not intended to start working with them at that point because I was nowhere near ready for my “gift shoppe-country shoppe-cafe-garden nursery-plus more” but I had signed up to do a craft fair. In a normal person’s mind, you would never make the jump for needing business assistance to do a craft fair. But, I am not normal.

For the previous few years, I had been immersed in all sorts of books and learning materials on anything and everything related to starting a business. When the opportunity came to participate in a craft fair, I went with it. I had been stretching my creative side and had some items that were worthy of consumer review. Since I am not normal, I basically created a mini gift shoppe experience for the craft fair, with all products designed and/or created by me. Since I knew I wanted to have a business someday, I wasn’t sure if I should become one sooner for the craft fair. As always, I know too much and not enough.

SCORE paired me up with a local mentor. Their program provides a mentor for newbies to the business world or a new aspect of their business and a retiree from the business world. We set up a date and time to meet at a local diner while my wee one was in preschool. He said I would know him because he would wear his SCORE shirt. I said he would know me because I would wear pink. Or something bright. I can’t really remember but that sounds like me.

Walking into the diner for a 9:30 am meeting was a bit of a deja vu in reverse. Looking for a single-seated person at a diner at 9 am was going to be difficult since at that hour, many people are there by themselves. I knew he would be older since he was retired and guess who visits a diner at 9 am? Older people who are retired or my peeps – moms with kids. No one seemed interested in me so I assumed he wasn’t there yet and took a table by the window. I then found myself wondering if it was him, every time someone older and “single” walked to the diner. It brought back the memory of the rare occasions when I agreed to a blind date.

That made me chuckle.

I had seen the movie, “The Intern” and I knew that I already saw the value in working with someone who had experience, but was he going to “get” me? I’ve mentioned that I am not normal.

My business plan, loosely defined, looks more like an art portfolio. And my dreams and goals are all over the place, but in my mind they connect quite nicely.

Well, Mr. G arrived and I instantly noticed a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. This just might work.

And as we chatted…he “got” me.

We have worked together ever since over this past year and he has been a great support for prodding me along with my cookbook “plus” and the other bubbles on my Business Bubble Map.

It turned out that he also had a book in a semi-finished state that he dusted off and started to delve into again as he helped me along on my book creating and publishing adventure.

He recently beat me to the finish line and published his book. I thought I would share it with you here. It’s a fun read about the adventures of a boy growing up on a farm in Iowa. The boy’s soul chats with God about his life purpose as he sleeps.

“Living on the Edge of Heaven”, by G. Edward can be found here on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Living-Edge-Heaven-Humorous-Exploits/dp/0998836605/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1509376363&sr=8-2&keywords=living+on+the+edge+of+heaven&dpID=51XwBtC8yeL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

and here on Barnes and Noble:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/living-on-the-edge-of-heaven-g-edward/1127099666?ean=9780998836607

Thanks Mr. G for your mentoring and congrats on your new book!

 

where’s your happy place?

By In blog — October 17, 2017

This gal and I take our happy places very seriously. And we have many.

We want to know where your happy places are? (I’ll tell ya why in a minute, so be thinking about it…)

I am almost finished with my drawings for my grownup coloring book. Somehow, I got on a roll and have been creating away. Then I was close enough to finish my self-imposed quota of drawings to think that maybe, just maybe, I could pull it together in time to publish it for this holiday season. Then…I got very excited!

It would make a really fun gift!

My drawings are of happy places and those are the kinds of things I want to color.

But, I have a feeling that creating the pictures will be the least of my troubles. Figuring out the technology and details of getting it “print-worthy” and “by the rules” is where my troubles may begin. Nonetheless, if I am this close, I will give it my all.

I am about one or two drawings away from finished. I start with a pencil draft then I need to go over the pencil marks in black so that they stand out. Then, I need to erase the pencil marks, scan the drawings into Photoshop to do away with any stray marks and save them.

Here is a half-finished drawing from pencil to black ink.

I have discovered that my best tools are a soft lead pencil, a pink eraser, plain copy paper and one of my kid’s paint brushes to brush off the eraser bits. It was a bit disappointing because I got myself set up with some fancy art supplies and I was fully prepared to be a “real artist” only to find that some of those supplies did not perform the way that I wanted them to and the basic stuff did. Ain’t that something.

Ok, so, I want to make one or two more drawings and I have a few ideas in mind, but my creative brain cells have been split between this coloring book and the local newspaper’s holiday cookie contest that is due next week. As of last weekend, I still wasn’t entirely sure if I would participate this year, but I am “all in” for the three cookies that I can submit so my mind is busy testing and creating and my bakery belly is busy eating and judging. And running and walking.

My brain is curious to see where your happy places are. If I can figure out how to draw them, they just might end up in my coloring book.

And to thank you for your ideas, I am sharing one of the coloring pages from my “soon-to-be” grownup coloring book with you so you can print it out and take a moment to veg out and color. The link to the printable is below.

http://www.theawkwardbird.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/color-page-thankful-fireplace-1.pdf

I am still debating if I want to add more to the walls. Part of my attention deficit issue with many of the coloring pages on the market is that they are so detailed that I am not interested in coloring them. If this becomes too busy, it defeats the point of me creating pages with less. My brain and I are still discussing it. But you can feel free to draw in anything that you want to add to the walls.

All righty, me and my studio gal are off to taste test some cookies!

 

chit chat

By In blog — October 09, 2017

As I settle into fall, life is humming right along. I thought I would take a moment to chat with you on all of the things that are a part of my days now. I have finally moved my buns a bit to get some accomplishments on my personal projects and that is exciting. I am finally feeling more at ease with the daily schedule and routine that drives our days again. October is a low-key month so I can enjoy thinking that I am on top of it all, then the holiday season will hit and blow that little bubble world I am living in right now clear out of sight. That’s okay, I’ll take it. It’s a respite. I would be bored if I was on top of it all the time. And I would wonder who was living in my skin!

On the housing front, the undeveloped development we live in is becoming much less “undeveloped”. And as luck would have it, the developing is all around us. As in all four sides of our house. One of my favorite things to do is sit out on my back patio in the early morning with my coffee before I have to start my day. Well, it was my favorite thing to do. Now…there is not only a house going up across the street behind us in the way of my sunrise and field view, but there is also a porta-pot back there for the fellows that are working on this house. They keep the same early hours I do. I was barely handling it when a truck would arrive, back in and then sit there staring at me and my coffee from across the street while they waited for work to start. But then the straw that broke the camel’s back changed everything. They actually use the porta-pot while I am sitting there with my coffee. I am glad that they have a bathroom. Everyone should have access to one.  And I know Mother Nature waits for no one but I don’t want to know about it. I already know way too much about the bathroom habits of the people I live with. I don’t care to know them about strangers and especially when I am preparing for my day in the stillness of the morning. Ugh. Now, another house with a porta-pot is kitty-corner to us. Fabulous.

(See the porta-pot in the lower left-hand corner? That’s my sunrise view.)

All sorts of crazy things are lining up to point us toward a new direction, porta-pots included. I’m not sure where or when and definitely not how, but I can feel that some big changes are in the air. My youngest enters kindergarten next year and that was a milestone timeline for me and my “next steps”. I can’t believe that time is almost upon me. He was one and a half when I first started blogging.

Next, I have discovered that I am obsessed with sky and cloud pics.

See those cool wavy cloud bumps? Fabulous.

In a camera, my backyard sunrise view can crop out the construction house and porta-pot.

Every minute the sky changes.

Look at those colors.

Cotton candy clouds.

And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the cloud and sky pics I have. I will have to make a coffee table book someday. Hmmm…

On the “dreamer” front, I am back on the saddle again (or is it “in the saddle”?) after a long period of inactivity. I finally managed to get a few ideas for how I want the recipe pages to look in my cookbook. My dream was to hand-write them because handwritten recipes are dying out and I so love handwritten recipes for the connection that they give you to the person who wrote them. It’s like they are with you while you cook. But, my handwriting just looked messy so I will have to save that one for another project. But then I became completely stumped on how to proceed. So, I finally got out my stash of cookbooks and went through them to see what I liked and take some notes. That helped, so I was able to put another big push on my cookbook and send it off to be printed. This will be my third draft and I am so excited to see it. Each draft makes it seem like I can make this happen.

You see, periodically, the voices in my head mock me and tell me that I must be crazy to think that I can create a cookbook. But, I plug along anyway because, well, why not? It’s worth a try. Then, a moment comes along that reminds me I may as well go for it. I recently tried some new recipes from cookbooks of extremely credible sources and they did not turn out very well. The tricks that were mentioned to give me a crisp crust on the bottom of my apple pie burned it. First time I have ever burned a pie. And it wasn’t all that tasty of a pie. And the cookies I made were okay, but need some tweaking and definitely no better than any other cookie I make. It reminded me that cooking and baking are very individualized tasks that are based on varied ingredients, ovens, tools, weather, hair styles, and apron selections. Recipes are really more of a guide and the more you cook and bake, the easier it becomes to know how to read a recipe and change things to the ways that you know will work for you and the hair style and apron you are wearing that day. I’m a home cook. That’s gotta count for something, right? So, be gone mocking voices in my head. I can do this.

And then there is my grown-up coloring book. I have a few more pictures to create and then I should be able to see how that looks in print.  I was off in my math so I have more than I thought I did, which was a bit deflating, but there’s nothing else to do but plug along. It’s pretty exciting! It was two years ago this November when I walked into a stationery store near Chicago looking for a special gift and the sales person directed me to the newest arrival – grown-up coloring books. It was being predicted that they would be big. Well, she was right. I remember thinking that I wanted in on that trend because I had a feeling she was right and I love kid coloring books but I was quite bummed because I am not an artist, I am not a publisher and I am not a printer. There was no way I would be able to do anything with that trend except watch it come. I’m not anything that would point me in the direction to get in on that trend. Except for being a dreamer.  When the coloring books hit the shelves, I was disappointed because the pictures in most of them were not anything I was interested in coloring and most of them were so detailed that my limited attention span would never even finish a pic even if I was interested in the drawing. That’s when I decided that I was going to start creating my own, one page at a time. Being a dreamer was all the credentials I needed. Even if it were only just for me someday. Well. I am getting closer and have now learned a thing or two about self-publishing and other fine points, so I am forging ahead with that dream too.

Since then, I have added some other seemingly impossible dreams to the list, but these two are my main focus right now. All of my secret and not-so-secret mentors have started with a desire to give something a try and see where it goes. “Find someone who has what you want and do what they do.” (I’m not sure if Anthony Robbins is the original creator of that quote but he said something similar – just to give credit.)

Me and my bakery belly have been spending time upping the exercise routine. The scale is still talking the same trash but I attribute it to all the muscle that I have gained. Mental manipulation is the key to mental happiness.

I am slowly getting this website to a less pathetic state. But, I am enjoying the moments with my last kid at home before he heads off to kindergarten so thank you for your patience. I am a believer in the energy of the universe, of signs, of God’s mysterious ways so I started to wonder if my missing website meant that I supposed to give up blogging and just go back to loving loads of laundry, feeding picky kids, picking up endless toy clutter and being only a domestic goddess. To just wait until I could start my country shoppe and other tangible dreams in a few years. But I so love chatting with you and sharing our moments together. It may not be the way I want it to be right now, but I know that my missing website is not a sign telling me to give it up. It’s challenging me for some other reason because it is getting to be time for me to take a next step.

That’s all the chit chat I have right now, my BFF’s. Go have a donut so I am not the only one with a bakery belly. Misery loves company ya know!

 

 

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