Saturday, September 29, 2018

Musings - September 2018

Good-bye September! You were a pretty good month.

Books: It was a good month for reading, due in part to a business trip to Nashville. (Which also means an airport bookstore. We know this is my Kryptonite. I used moderation. Only 3 new books. Amazing!) It is also the month my Quotle app died, so I'll start including any quotes I like in On The Shelf area of the blog. Enjoy!

I did manage to finish handful of books over the month:
- The Mermaid by Christina Henry - this was a good read. Nice for a beach!
- What She Ate by Laura Shapiro - this was a lovely series of short stories. Recommend! (And already passed to a friend to share.)
- The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett which was a bit boring for a grown up. I read it to check if 11 might like - I suspect she would not. 

Gratitude: Machines, specifically dish and wash. (Seriously.) Love notes left on doors. Guy and what appears to be his never-ending patience. Kittens, purr-monsters who like to cuddle at night. (And fight with each other). Breakfast with friends.

Listening: Dave Ramsey podcasts. All the podcasts. Chalene Johnson's podcast. And I've finally trained Pandora to only play things I love - Halsey, Carly, Sting, etc. To keep this from being a rut, I've created a new Pandora channel with only music with the word BLUE in it - song title, band name, etc. Results are ...interesting.

Perfume: Sing a small sad song. Finally managed to finish off that rather large bottle Paper Flowers from Love + Toast. Happy dance as I opened something new - Diptyque's Ofresia. It's supposed to reminiscent of a garden, so it's a nice transition into fall (for me) because I miss the dwindling flowers in fall. And apparently, based on this and Les Perfumes de Rosine Majalis, I like French perfume.

Recipes: Nothing adventurously new this month for creation. I made a bit of this, a bit of that and a few cakes. It was kind of like a Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade kind of month:
- Due to being bored, I finally created a cake the boy (13) would eat! 1 box King Arthur's gluten free yellow cake (plus a touch of vanilla), into which I threw about 1.5 cups of frozen blueberries before baking as directed. I didn't have frosting - that was the turning point for the boy, who does not like frosting (too sweet, he says, like that is really a thing). I used the juice of 1 lemon and 2 cups of confectioners sugar to create a lemon glaze. The kidlets said it was like a cake donut. Delicious!
- Due to a birthday, I made what I like to call a "boxes and cans" cake. Box of Betty Crocker pound cake, can of raspberry pastry filling (cut the cake and put in layers), can of vanilla frosting, and a box of fresh raspberries on top. It's 11's favorite, and she requested it for her special occasion.
- Due to the garden being crazy abundant, I made zucchini patties. Which were surprisingly delicious! Equal parts zucchini and King Arthur's gluten free flour - about 2 cups of each in this case.(Grate the zucchini and let it sit on paper towels for 5 minutes with salt to get moisture out.) A bit of salt, pepper, grated onion, a pinch of baking powder and  double pinch of baking soda. I used 3 eggs to keep make it mix. Fry in a bit of oil (olive) flipping often. I served them with spicy ketchup and with curried Indian sauce. Both delicious!

Self-Care: Last month I mentioned my slight soap obsession (hello, Villainess Soaps). Well, I opened up the full sizes - starting with Pearl Diver (pictured). It was a lovely, creamy lather and I loved the bits of Irish Moss + Kelp. While the generous sample packet they sent made me feel pretty happy in my purchase, now I feel very much justified in the extravagant soap purchase!

And this month I decided to try face oils on a schedule. (I tend to just try whatever I feel like that day.) Specific oils for evening and morning. Every day. For the month. I grouped them in the photo above:
- Physician's Formula oil + TonyMoly Green Tea Lotion (both grocery store bargains)
- Little Barn Apothecary oil + a bargain bought Lumene Vitamin C night cream

I think my skin looks better - eye crinkles a bit less, the couple of dark spots on my forehead and darker skin around the mouth lighter.  But no one raved about seeing a big difference. (No one who knows me. I did have a dermatologist that I just met in a social setting be shocked at my age.) So as I keep trying things, that will be the "yard stick" - if people who know me notice the skin in a positive way. (Yes, I'm still a serial sharer.)

Apparently September is National Self Care month - so don't forget to take care of you. And if you need a kick- start your self-care, click here to check out my ebook on doing just that.

Things 11 said:
Me - You can't count on being cute to get what you want. Someday you won't be cute.
11 - But that day is NOT today.

One Sunday, she also make an Kitten Inn. Please note, it has a 5 star rating - probably due to the grooming salon. 

This month is her birthday. Henceforth, she will be known as 12!

Watching: Agent Carter. Yep, I do themes. I rolled on from last month's Agent X to Agent Carter. Then onto the next season of The Blacklist. And now on to The 100, at 11's request. 

Random: I need to get the dog re-trained. He has taken to pottying on the floor, specific location.  At first in protest of kittens. Then they got ginormous (both 7 lbs now!) and stopped being in that space. But now, he seems to think that is okay. It is so not....

I was almost famous in Nashville. I stayed where Reba McEntire lunched a few months ago and where - apparently - Drake was staying.  I danced at Blake Sheldon's bar - and just missed seeing him leave his car (rest of my group noticed him, I spaced.) 

As we head into the holidays, I'm going to take some time to talk with someone because "family" time like that can be stressful for those of us with less than loving families of origin. (As I've written, I do that to help keep my perspective.) This month, I've had a few family run-ins that mean the next few months will be trying. 

Take-away - Never forget to count your blessings. Remembering them will keep you from falling into the trap of thinking your life has "lack".

Original musings posts you may enjoy:

All photos by moi! And you can tell...

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

To My Girls - Part 1

I wasn't blessed with a daughter. Instead, I got something else. I got beautiful nieces; amazing cousins young enough to be my daughters; and then in mid-adulthood when I'd stopped dreaming of a daughter, three wonderful #NotMyDaughters. Most of "my girls" are grown or close to it.  (Except the youngest, not pictured due to age.) 

My girls, it wasn't always possible for me to be a daily part of your lives, but I did what I could from wherever I was (picking you up at school, having you  overnight  - 529 accounts for some, helping some get into and succeed at higher education, and the care and feeding of all of you whenever possible.) I promise I was always there with my heart open, whether you realized it or not. As you blossom into amazing women, I know you have less even need to me. But, I am here at Bunny Haven Manor when you do need me. You have my number, and my home is open to you, as it has always been. I'm here when you need me. That's what #NotTheMommas are for.

When you go out in the world, I always want you to remember to be 3 things above everything else:
- Be smart
- Be kind
- Be brave

However important those 3 things are, they are not everything you might need to be or know in this world. Sometimes I worry that time or distance may mean that you will need something and I won't be there to help or you won't think to turn to me. The best thing I can think to do is to "arm" you with knowledge to succeed on your own terms. So, I'm going to do a few posts on what I consider basic life knowledge you should have. You spent enough time with me that you were not raised by wolves - however, there may be subtleties of life knowledge still to explore.

We'll start with 11 rules for being and staying prettyNot because it's the most important, but, because in many ways it is the easiest. There will be other parts where we'll tackle finances, cooking, and cleaning - possibly more. (And you all know I have my own life rules. ) But we will start here, with being and staying pretty.

Some of what I'll tell you is common sense. Some of it science will prove wrong. It's okay, later science will prove it right again. 

1) Pretty is as pretty does. In the end, how people will remember you has less to do with how you look than how you treat them. And ugly shows through. Practice being gracious. 

2) Sunscreen. Every burn and tan ages your skin. Especially areas that don't have much natural protection - like your neck and chest and the top of your hands. Every day. Hats when you can. Sunglasses. The sun is changing. It will not be kind to us at any time soon.

3) Don't contaminate your skin. What you put on your skin is absorbed into your body. Synthetic fragrances can disrupt your hormones (and more importantly, potentially your children's). Have care in what you buy with fragrance - perfume, make-up, skin care.

There are so many options for natural perfumes! Sometimes I wear them and you tell me you like that scent. Lucy B, Margot Elena (Library of Flowers, Toykomilk, Love + Toast, Lollia, The Cottage Greenhouse), Tsi-La, In Fiore, Strange Invisible Perfumes, and many more every day.

From point 2, look at natural options for lotions, soaps, and sunscreens as well. Zum, Mrs Meyers, Jason, Alba, Kiss My Face are fantastic options. 

Many of the colors in cheap make-up have toxic elements. No reason to use those when you live in what is the golden era of natural makeup! Au Natural Cosmetics, IT Cosmetics, Iila, Bare Minerals, Tarte, Laura Mercier, 100% Pure, Juice Beauty, French Girl - and those are just a few I've tried! (You can order a good number direct and others via Ulta. Some, like Burt's Bees are mostly natural and available from the drug store.) There will be more. The world is awakening to how to use the gifts we've been given on this planet. (Yes, darlings, I know about Vapour Beauty. Their customer service is rude and the product has issues with tubes. Nope.)

You can buy expensive Lush masks or wasteful single use sheets. Or you can buy good quality clay + matcha dry and add a few things.... honey for moisture and anti-bacterial; strawberries for moisture, antioxidant and mildly astringent; yogurt (plain) for moisturizing and skin brightening; egg white for skin tightening; maple syrup (organic) for anti-aging; a simple addition of rose water to add scent to a dry mask.  Dry masks (a mix of clay, etc.) are economical and last a good bit. Then you just mix them up when you want them.

4) Wash your faceCoco Chanel once said something to the effect of "A woman without perfume is a woman without a future." She didn't just mean scent. She meant self-care. Even if you didn't wear make up, wash your face at the end of every day to take the day off (sweat, dead skin, dirt, etc.) This small act of self-care means something. (And you don't have to wash your face 2x a day, especially if your skin is dry - just a simple splash of water and a swipe of witch hazel prep your skin for moisturizer.)

Keep point 3 in mind when you pick what to wash with. And make sure you have something to delicately remove your eye makeup because of point 5.

5) Your skin is not infinitely elastic. You will find that out in your 40s that you should've done, so start doing them now:

     - Use your ring finger to pat creams and lotions into your eye area. 
      - Remove your eye makeup gently. Without rubbing and pulling.
     - Whatever cream or lotion you put on your face, put on your neck as well.
     - Use an upward motion to put on creams, lotions, oils or make-up.
     - Frownies are a fairly awesome way to help keep between brow lines down
   - Sleep on your back. Side sleepers will get wrinkles on that side first (uneven wrinkling, weird - and let's not talk about what it does to the chest area.) Stomach sleepers will age/wrinkle even faster.

6) Your hair needs good care. Quality shampoo and conditioner is required. Cheap hair care can give you issues with color and breakage. (Reminder - dry shampoo only goes on the roots for oil, unless you need texture.) Have a light hand with the amount of extra heat (drying, curling, straightening) and chemicals you use.

7) Lasers and tweezers are your friend. (Also good light and a strong mirror. Make sure you have those.) Threading is also good. Wax can be weird, especially if you have wavy hair. (But NADS are good in an upper lip emergency.) Shaving - and don't be fooled by micro-dermabrasion facials, it's a razor - is a last resort. And never the chemical options - see point 3 if you have forgotten. (I'm not telling you this to make you attractive to men - or women - I'm telling you this because some of us just don't like dark hair on light skin. And I've tried nearly every option on the planet.) The faster you get it permanently handled, the faster you can get to quick showers and faster prep time. Life enhancing!

8) Drink water. Preferably without fake crap in it like flavors and artificial sugar. (Also stop with the diet soda! Gallstones. Gout. Cancer. Use sugar or stevia or honey.) And if you drink tea - drink organic, as it doesn't get rinsed off of pesticides before being made into tea. (You don't want to drink hot pesticide water.) Eat fruit, but not too much, and plenty of veggies. Yes, this is a beauty tip. You can eat crap in your teens and twenties. But by your thirties, they start to show up as extra weight and wrinkles. The easiest beauty tip is to eat better things and better quality younger.

9) You are prettier than you realize. Stop using filters. Just take your picture. Someday you will realize you are beautiful. 

10) Don't spend too much time on trends like those strange overdone, painted in eyebrows. They aren't flattering and don't look natural. And my glory - the upkeep! There are better ways to spend your time.

11) Always do something you love. If you can't make a living with it, then give yourself time to do it. That happiness will show on the outside!

Please remember 3 things, my darlings: I believe in you. I love you. And, I am proud of you. Always.

Pictures are via Instagram, Gingertown photography

And for 100% transparency, I think I'm supposed to mention that:
1) I do own stock in Hain Celestial - which creates the Jason and Alba lines. I own that stock because I like the products. That's how I invest and also why I share.
2) I do get an affiliate link benefit from this link Skin Care by Juice Beauty 

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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Musings - August 2018

There is something luscious about the close of a month, and the start of a fresh new page. Let's recap August, shall we?

Books:  Digital books are my new jam. Especially with the Kindle Unlimited! I did the maths and figured out I need to read 2 digital books from Kindle a month to hit my "break-even" on the monthly fee being "worth it".  So I started the month by actively looking for 2 and realized I'd not read the latest Alpha and Omega book from Patricia Briggs - I actually tried to buy it and Amazon said "You already own that."! Quelle surprise!  Burn Bright was a very good afternoon of reading! 

Then, I devoured just a few of Shannon Mayer's Elemental series books (Recurve, Breakwater, Firestorm, Windburn, Peta, Rootbound, Ash, and Destroyer ) over a late month weekend as I tried to hit that Kindle Unlimited break-even. I actually ended up reading a total of 10 digital books this month! After I found a hardback sale copy of Patricia Brigg's Fire Touched -  which I thought I'd already read it based on title, the summary revealed I'd not and explained the knowledge gap when I'd originally read Silence Fallen - I then had to re-read my digital copy of Silence Fallen just to make sure I was solid on my knowledge of Mercy's world.

And, people - I FINISHED THAT ECONOMICS BOOK!!!! (Local Dollars, Local Sense - that I started back in February. Oyi. Dense reading that one.) I've passed it on to a friend in economic development because I think she will get a good bit more use out of it than I did.

Little Free Library check in - If you are wondering if I ever return books  I borrow to the Little Free Libraries (July post), yes I do! I usually flip them from the one I got them to the other one as to help move the variety around. (Beach to town, town to beach.) Plus I've passed over 9 of the physical books (so far this year)  I've read to the LFLs (plus an additional dozen books or so I had around the house since I'm trying to minimize). I've also passed 4 others books directly to friends.  

So far, I've read about 41 books this year. The goal was not a book a week but that's about what it is averaging. Except, I'm basically binge reading and not reading weekly. 

Gratitude: Space - mental and emotional. The ability create and share that the internet gives us - AMAZING! People who reach out for reasons, other than to ask for a favor! (Love those emotional connections.) And homemade pie on an average Friday.

Listening: The Art of Manufacturing podcast. The Art of Charm podcast. I have to say AoC is very "Guy Talk". I'm not sure women could get away with doing some of what they say. (Apparently one of the hosts is a famous rock star? I'm not interested enough to check but okay.) And SO MUCH Dave Ramsey. Sometimes you just got to hit the refresh button on what you know to get yourself back in the mindset. That was a definite theme to the month.

Perfume: Finished out Hard-Core Happy! Still working through that ginormous bottle of Love + Toast's Paper Flowers, but I'm on the dregs.  And I added a new purse perfume from Lily B, Peony Rose & Mandarin Musk. Looking forward to opening up something new next month!

Recipes: Sometimes I don't even make recipes. I just go out to the garden and gather things, chop them, put them in bowls and serve them.  That's what has been happening lately with fresh garden tomatoes and garden pineapple sage plus onions, salt, pepper (+ avocado if we have it). Jericho (18) and I call it NotGuacamole  and she claims it's better than the real thing! We devour it with chips.

Honestly, I think any garden cut-up will do with chips! I've also done fresh garden tomatoes, onions, garden green pepper, garden jalapeƱos, and left-over black beans with a bit of chili powder and lime. Perfect over chips or dipped with chips.

The garden is a fantastic snack source!

I also made faux Indian from our garden. Sauteed fresh tomatoes from our garden with some onions and a bit of garlic. (EVOO.) Once the tomatoes popped, I added a can of Lite coconut milk (because that's what was in the cupboard. A can of drained chickpeas. Fresh curry (helichrysum ) plant minced and fresh basil - both from the garden. Served over rice. (Guy added some cooked pork to his.)

Self-Care: Hot summer days call for a refreshing toner spritz. I found one at the local farmer's market which is hand-crafted and perfect. (Witch hazel, aloe, and a touch of tea tree and lavender.) I had it in the picture for the June Musings. And I have a few others, like the one pictured in this month from Garnier. When it's humid, that it is a lovely refresher in the afternoon or evening.

My love affair with the oils continues. I've added a treatment oil from Juice Beauty to my mornings.

Also - ALL THE SOAPS! I may have gone a little soap nutty. And they did not help me since they sent me samples!(Picture is giant so you can see how sumptuous the package was.)

Here's the story....I found this awesome place called the BathHouse Soapery in Arkansas on Instagram. And they are so cute! I want to visit their shop in the absolute worst way. (I also want to visit the Red Twig Farm in Ohio next May but I digress...) And then I found BathHouse's "step-sister" - Villainess Soaps in a post. OMG. Such luscious scents! I suspect they aren't essential oils or naturally based but are synthetic so I can't recommend this as a green choice. They aren't as creamy as ZumBars. But ohhhhhhh they smell so pretty and look just beautiful + the packaging is amazing. And they didn't just send 1 sample or 2 samples. They send 3 soap sliver samples (I ordered 3 soaps - Pearl Diver, Krakatoa, and Strychnine.) 3 tiny vials of scent to try. And 1 lovely travel sized little jar of skin balm. I'm in awe of how cool this all is and the extras. Retailers take note: little extras mean a lot!

Watching: Citizen X (and my love for Gerald McRaney knows no bounds. That man is a seriously underrated actor. And whomever did Sharon Stone's outfits was brilliant.) And, apparently my NOLA theme continues from last month (Preacher Season 2, and Clock and Dagger) with an early month total binge of Queen Sugar. Maybe I need to visit NOLA again

I've also been catching up on Harlots and Handmaiden's Tale - so that's another theme going on. And yes, I am watching a lot of stuff this month! I had some time free up - and I'm working on a few things....

Random: Sometimes you just gotta step away from the train-wreck. I did that this month with a volunteer thing. It was tough as I'd been part of it for 10 years - it was part of my identity! But, maybe I was holding it back and it will grow into something better without me. Time will tell.

There are points in the year that seem like natural re-set points. January. Spring. Beginning of summer. Start of school. And so I used that seasonal set point to  create something new. A new book for busy women. A bootcamp style 7 day book to help you take back control of your life. Check out this and my other books at this link to Gumroad.

One Sunday this late month, I went to #NotMyDaughter's church.(20, Israel). We have very different faith journeys. Hers is very literally Biblical while I have a much more historical view of the Bible's teachings. Her faith walk is very important to her, so I thought it important to respect it by knowing this part of her world. I was honored that she would share it with me despite our faith differences.

Take-away -  Sometimes we don't notice because life can seem monotonous but our lives are in a continuous state of change, even is small. You can enjoy the changes or fight them. Your choice.

Original musings posts you may enjoy:

All photos by moi! And you can tell...

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Life Bootcamp

So, when you need to work through some things, what do you do? I apparently create books! 

I have been feeling absolutely wrung out lately. Stretched to the max and then some. Like I lost my mojo. I needed to step back and reboot my life on a couple of levels. I did. And you can, too. That's why I wrote this guide. 

Click here to be taken to Gumroad, a secure platform for creatives. You can check out this book or one of the others I've created. (One of them is free, too!)

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Musings - July 2018

Books: I am still making my way through a very dense book on local economics. (Although I did kill off that book on Queen Elizabeth!) And so, to distract myself, I raided both the local Little Free Library (Empire Falls by Richard Russo which was enjoyable but pointless - and I guess that's the point of a beach read) and the beach Little Free Library (And The Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass which was extremely pointless and not enjoyable) plus I hit the bookstore for another from JR Ward's series, Blood Fury. It was fine - just like the rest of the series but they have achieved a boring, formulaic sameness.

Gratitude: Books. Fireworks. Fireflies. Good vets. Kittens. 

Listening: In the car, driving, podcasts are my jam. I probably have 10+ I listen to at least occasionally. But sometimes I binge: Chalene Johnson. Dave Ramsey - this month. At the office there is usually a lot of Pandora happening.

Perfume: I slacked off a bit. There have been so many mosquitoes I did not want to do ANYTHING to draw them!

Recipes: My ex-mother-in-law made the best broccoli-mango salad (from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe). I had occasion to make it for 4th of July as the broccoli in our garden has been very prolific. And it was very well received by adult kidlets, but even 11 said it was "pretty good".

The garden was overflowing with peas and mint and basil. So I did what any sensible person would do. I made pesto!

Garden Pesto:
- Equal parts mint, basil and peas (I used 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup cashews (I had left-over  purchased for the broccoli-mango salad)
- 1/2 cup good Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup good olive oil
And blend....

Jericho (18) doesn't eat peas. but this pesto she ate on crackers until we finished it all.

I also found the easiest Southern Living recipe for quick cobbler ever. Which I modified to be even easier by using frozen berries.

Quick Cobbler:
- 1 stick of butter (melted)
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 tsp of almond or vanilla 
- 1 egg
Mix. It will be thick. You will end up using a spoon to cover the fruit. 

You can use individual cups or you can use a shallow pan. I use a bread pan. And I put in 3 cups of Triple Berry frozen fruit (I almost always have that in my freezer - store brand, nothing fancy). Then I top the fruit with the cobbler topping. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes until golden on top.

This might keep for a few days but I wouldn't know because it doesn't last in my house! We serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And we served it about 3 times this month.

Self-Care: I have been all about skin care. Cleansers. Serums. Oils. Creams. I've hit the age where I don't mind eye crinkles or laugh lines but hate those wrinkles on my forehead. Instead of searching for a magic cure, I should just probably wear my Frownies more often!

But this month I added a Juice Beauty serum and oil to the morning routine. Perhaps that will help.

Things 11 told me:  As she was playing in the beach donut I got her, after I said it was for her, but she wanted me to use it, she said -  "Too bad. Sometimes you have to share."
- "Is this garden fresh?" is now her standard query to any vegetable because obviously the ones from our garden taste best!
- "The secret ingredient is venom." is now her standard answer to any recipe inquiry. That one, I may have started.

Watching: Preacher (Season 2). Cloak and Dagger.

Take-away - Time slithers. In summer it seems endless like you have forever. But there are only so many days in summer and so many summers. Take the time to make the most of them. (Preferably with wine and people you like!)

Original musings posts you may enjoy:

All photos by moi! And you can tell...

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Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Texas Weekend

Austin is GORGEOUS. (As a friend said - the vibe is just indescribable.) I think of Texas as flat and dry - I've visited Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Laredo, Waco and other dry Texas places in the past. I'd forgotten that Austin is in hill country and has rivers. No lakes - although Lady Bird Lake is a piece of the Colorado River. We went in mid-June for a weekend get-away/meeting a few of Guy's friends for a birthday event - Mike's 50th as seen below with Guy and Mike, the birthday boy! (He still looks 47, right?)

And I remembered Austin was hill country after we accidentally walked 9 miles the first day! We are such Midwesterners - it's only 1/2 mile, of course we can walk that! Do that a few times and BOOM! 9 miles just happens. (As do ginormous blisters but that is another story.)

There is art literally everywhere in Austin! They make art of nearly everything - witness the Hope Outdoor Gallery which was once a burgeoning condo development. You can't walk down a sidewalk without seeing art! Improvised spray paint art or gorgeous planned mosaics. There is no end to the creativity you see in Austin!

The food in Austin is out of this world. I did not have a single bad meal! The food was good for me (vegetarian, lactose intolerant, and gluten sensitive freak) and him (just loves good food). The funny thing was - we did no research and picked nothing in advance. We just stumbled upon places as we explored. A few times we used my Happy Cow app to find a place near us, due to ALL the walking blisters. Because I'm a serial sharer... here is my rank ordered list of AMAZING Austin food:
- The Peached Tortilla (Asian/Mexican fusion)
Blue Dahlia (fresh, seasonal- and the menu is the most beautiful blue which they make the dye for in their own kitchen!)
The Clay Pot (date night Indian and very large cocktails)
Koriente (fresh, reasonably priced Asian)
Frank's (gourmet hotdogs and amazing brunch - pictured is my plate of veggie Eggs Benedict)
The Goodall Kitchen (a touch pretentious with a limited menu but the art is absolutely museum worthy)
There were likely a dozen other places we could've easily tried - and might next time!

We stayed at The Pearl Vintage Inn Hotel which is wonderful location. A touch off the beaten path but close to downtown. Magically lit up at night  - like when we arrived - with tiny fairy lights on the trees. Private entrances for many of the rooms. In some ways it felt like a bed and breakfast. It's amazing - comfortable and quiet. We stayed in the Far East room which was Asian elegant and had wonderful furniture, plus included its own outdoor balcony where Guy took his morning coffee. (I sooooo wanted to have a reason to use the lovely outdoor bar on the 1st level.Would've been fun to host something there!) My only complaint was that the owners were obviously not foodie people. The "breakfast" offering was cut-up, store-bought pastries, sad granola, and overripe bananas + grocery store tea. No. But the room was beyond amazing - so win! (I got the fancy $20 bill chocolate at the airport store for a joke.)

During our wandering tour on Saturday, we stumbled into a African-American Writers event at the George Washington Carver Museum, which had the most lovely bathroom I've ever seen in a museum. And got a real sense of Texas history at the Bollock Museum. We also wandered around the capital building being totally tourists and taking pictures of various statues. Hats off the the Austin Parks Department - we found the Old Bakery Emporium which was so cool! Tiny shop (all things made by local artists over 50), a mini art museum, and a small history museum in one location near the capitol building.

I also happened upon the ModCloth Fit Shop in Austin! I'd literally seen a ModCloth dress on Instagram that week which I loved - and while at Sunday brunch at Franks, we spotted the shop on our phone maps within walking distance. Sadly, the dress was not what I expected (way more formal fabric and 3 skirt layers!) but I did find an adorable skirt - with pockets! While you can't walk out of the store with what you love, they will ship it to you for free and because you can try it on - you get the right size every time.

And since it was me traveling, what travel story could I tell that wouldn't include the gorgeous flowers? And a mystery. 

This pink flower was a tree that grew to our balcony and flowered.

This orange and yellow flowering bush was on our walk. I'm not sure what it is but I recognized it. Last year when i was in Tucson on business, there was one of these outside my hotel room which attracted various butterflies.

We passed several of these profusions of orange flowers on our walks. 

This blue flower looks like Phlox - but not quite - to my eye.

Last, but not least is this weird tangle of twig or vines is my mystery flora. I saw them in a number of trees - clustered like flowers. (This one had fallen - that's how I got the close-up.) When I first spotted them, I thought birds nests! But in looking at the fallen one, nope. Something else. Still not sure what as I wasn't sure what to search to find them and my flower identifying app has fritzed out. (If you know a good app for flower identification - please let me know!)

And that, my friends, is a 4 day weekend to remember. Time together, time to explore, time with friends, time to relax/recharge. What else could you ask for?

Take-away - Take time. Make memories. They are what lasts in relationships.

All photos by moi! And you can tell...

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Musings - June 2018

Books: There was a pleasure trip, so I got to read a good bit - after what may be my prerequisite airport book binge. The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne which is a very good book set in Michigan - is one of those airport buys. It's not a mystery but more of a survival guide with a point of view. It was a very enjoyable plane read! Lab Girl by Hope Jahren was boring on the "human" parts and utterly amazing in the pieces about plants. Powered through the my Kindle Unlimited edition of Pamela by Shannon Meyer while waiting at the DMV. Brotherhood in Death by JD Robb. (Not quite sure how we are up to like 20 in this series but they are all a good read.) Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz which is a good beach read -  and cults seem to be a persistent theme....

And if you got to this blog from a note you picked up at a Little Free Library - hi! I tend to share!

Gratitude: Steam cleaners. Book kittens. Evening mist across the fields. Beach. Family hula hoop contests. Tiny harvests. Pretty to-do lists.

Listening: Susan Hyatt. Christy Wright's Business Boutique. Sting. And so much Pandora.

Perfume: I'm all about wearing out my upstairs perfume (Paper Flower by Love and Toast). And when I forget it - which happens several times a week - then Hardcore Happy by Pacifica. 

Recipes:  I have been absolutely gorging on Southern Living magazine. I have about 3 years of backlog going. Kind of ridiculous as it used to be my favorite source for recipes and design inspiration! This month in a summer issue, I spotted a Strawberry Rhubarb Pretzel Pie. And the season is right for all these ingredients! Several of the kidlets liked it, and we decided it could easily be made with other fruits. (Spoiler alert - the crust smells AMAZING as you cook it.)  

I also made up a quick salad based on what was in the pantry and the garden. I have a returning fennel bulb that's just kicking up stalks like crazy - and it may have split to 2 bulbs - we'll find out. Plus I had lentils just hanging out in my pantry and some diced tomatoes.....

Lentil Fennel Salad

- 6 cups of water
- 2 cups of dry lentils 
- 3 long stalks of fennel, sliced thin
- 1 small yellow onion, slice thin 
- 1 can of diced tomatoes with jalapenos
- 1 lemon
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar or coconut vinegar

Cook lentils with water according to package directions. (I used brown, green would probably taste even better.) Broil fennel and onions for 12 - 15 minutes (a little olive oil, salt, pepper on them.) When everything is done. Mix in a large bowl with the can of diced tomatoes. 

Juice the lemon, mix with oil and vinegar to taste + salt and pepper. Dress the salad with the mixture.

This takes about 25 minutes to make - and not all of it hands on. Plus while this is good right off, it's better if it sits overnight.

Accompaniments: A touch of feta cheese. A bit of fresh mint.

And life tip... keep a bag of mixed, triple berries in your freezer. Quick pie! Saved Father's Day dessert since the place we selected did not have dessert. (What?!? But really, no dessert at Silver Beach Pizza. Just awesome pizza.)

Self-Care: I'm continuing to love the 100% Pure line. In addition to the Blood Orange Cleansing Balm (which as mentioned last month is the bomb), 100% Pure offers a night lotion that has CoQ10. This is the thing my skin loves to help fight off wrinkles.  I used Avalon Organics Wrinkle Therapy for a good number of years. (I've abandoned it due continuing issues with the pump across multiple purchases. Ease of use is a thing. If I can't use it easily, I'm done.)

Sunscreen. An absolute must in southern climates. My favorite is from Alba. (pictured.)

Things 11 told me:

- She was doing a project with her sister and when I told her she was covered in glitter, she replied, "And now I glitter like the stars!" - and when I said she'd made the kittens glittery, she replied, "I made them fancy for the vet."
- She was in a splash fight with her brother at the lake. As he was losing, he claimed handicap. (She was also fighting one armed as he has an arm in a cast.) Her answer to him quitting? "No quitting! You chose this war."

Watching: I finished out Devious Maids and that is a super fun show! Total mind candy. Frivolous. A mystery. And fun. Also rocked out Season 2 of Wynona Earp; it has the best soundtrack ever. Now I'm currently watching Empire.

Random: Austin, Texas is GORGEOUS. There is art literally everywhere! You can't walk down a sidewalk without seeing art! The food was fantastic, too. We took a long weekend and went to see friends. It was so nice to take a break from all the things.

And... 18 graduated! She also won several scholarships for college. We did the required pix with dad and with siblings. I was touched when I asked if she needed any other shots and she replied, "Yes, one of you and Dad with me." (I had on the wrong make-up for photos but whatever! )

Take-away - Take time off. Go somewhere new to you. Have an adventure. It will change your perspective.

PS - FYI, I do invest in the parent company (Hain Celestial) of the Alba sunscreen pictured. Because I believe if you love and use it, so might other people! That's literally my 401k investing philosophy. And I'm sharing with you that the sunscreen is awesome because I love to share.

Original musings posts you may enjoy:

All photos by moi! And you can tell...

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