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

a penny for your thoughts...