The conventional and unconventional sides of my life.

New Blog!

Well, I have my own website and while the website itself isn’t complete, I spent several hours today setting up my WordPress blog on it. I found a free theme that I really like (I tried several) and just finished tweaking it to my satisfaction (at least for now). If you subscribe to my RSS feed or via email, you will need to go to my new blog and subscribe there. I’ll see you over at my new blog!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving!

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I hope that my fellow friends in the US had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day yesterday! I haven’t blogged until now because I have been so busy prepping for Thanksgiving. Our family had a wonderful day with our “crazy ass family”. :) My husband mentioned that everyone at Thanksgiving dinner either lives with us or has lived with us at some point in our seven years here. My dad was not able to make it down here this year due to finances. While he was missed I kept focused on all the wonderful people in my life that were there to celebrate with us.

I have many many things to me thankful for and I truly do think about all the things that I am thankful  and grateful for nearly daily. You never know when life is going to throw you a twist to change those things. When we all went around the table to say what we were thankful for, I did proclaim that I am thankful for my “crazy ass family”. We had seven people at dinner: myself, my husband, my other partner, my brother, my step-daughter, and my ex-boyfriend’s mom & son. That is a crazy group of people! And what is so awesome about it is how well everyone gets along and how low key the family actually is. There isn’t much drama around here and I am so grateful for the eclectic mix of people I get to celebrate with each year.

While the mix of people at the table is anything but traditional, we do a pretty traditional Thanksgiving feast around here: roasted turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls with butter and “stuffing” (we cook it separately and don’t actually stuff our turkey with it). Dessert was pumpkin pie with whipped cream and apple crisp with vanilla ice cream. 

IMAG0181Yes that is my bottle of Mt Dew at the table. We’re a bit laid back around here :)

This year was the second consecutive year that Micah and I cooked Thanksgiving dinner.  We are both pretty good cooks and we often cook dinners together. It is so wonderful to have a fellow cook in the kitchen (especially one you work so well with) on Thanksgiving day. Although Jim doesn’t do much cooking, he helped immensely with Thanksgiving preparations. He did a lot of housework including miraculously getting our living room carpet cleaned (our sweet little dog is now diapered), dusting the foyer chandelier that is WAY up high and doing a lot of the last minute clean up/vacuuming the day of). To have two wonderful, wonderful men to assist me on Thanksgiving day (and every other day of the year) is such an incredible blessing.

I was stressed in the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Even with the help of the entire household there was a lot of house and food prep to be done. In retrospect, the stress I was feeling was probably a little disproportionate – we did so much prep leading up to the day that while we were bust the day of, Thanksgiving day flowed very smoothly and everything turned out wonderful! In fact, it went so well that Micah and I decided that next year we will do the same dinner but add another “experimental” dish. Maybe a different type of side or a different stuffing or perhaps another dessert. I love all of the dishes we make now so rather than replace an item, we are going to add a dish with an unusual twist (that way if it is a flop or not to everyone’s taste, all the classics are still there).CIMG2427

Now it is the day after Thanksgiving and I am thankful that I have today to clean up and recover and then I still have an entire weekend before going back to work. Since I started stressing and prepping two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, I stopped working in my studio. Here’s what my worktable looks like after the two week hiatus.  Now it is time to raid the fridge for leftovers and then it is time to clear off my worktable and get back to creating art!

Yes I am an artist!

Since April, I have been meeting with a great group of women bi-monthly at our women’s circle. I love our women’s circle. Ir provides the eight of us with a safe place to express our feelings and check in with each other. We also do various things like meditation, movement, EFT, breath work etc. This past week I was saying something about my chakra paintings or studio and one of the women excitedly said, “Are you an ARTIST?!” I started fumbling/stuttering. All of these thoughts were going through my head and I was trying to say things to minimize it like “oh I just…” or “Kind of…” and as I fumbled for a moment trying to minimize it, I realized what I was doing and took a breath and just said “Yes!” Everyone busted out laughing and started clapping for me. I was so glad I realized that I was trying to minimize it instead of just proudly saying, “Yes, I am an artist!” and it felt so wonderful to do just that.

A few days later, I bought the book Creative is a Verb: if you’re alive, you’re creative by Patti Digh. I recently became aware of Patti, her books, and her blog, 37 days through an small (online) creative community I belong to, Creative Coconuts. When I saw Creative is a Verb at my local Barnes & Noble the other day, I just had to get it! I started reading the introduction and I immediately connected with what Patti had to say! It reminded me so much of my own struggles to proclaim “I am an artist!” In the introduction, Patti shares a story about a time she had minimized herself as a writer. Patti’s business partner, David, asked her why, when people ask what she does, she doesn’t say that she is a writer. The next day Patti and David were out and an acquaintance asked Patti what she did. She answered, “I’m a writer” (Yay!) But when asked what she writes, she answered, “Oh, nothing, really. I just write these little essays every Monday.” The rest of the introduction talks about how we minimize ourselves in so many ways, diminish our  SHINE, and deflect away from our accomplishments. Indeed it is time for us to let our lights shine, to be fully present and fully ourselves!   Except when surrounded by those closest to me, I still struggle with being me and not minimizing who I am. It is something I am mindful of and working to change. There is freedom in sharing who you are rather than trying to diminish who you are. What areas of your life have you been minimizing?

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Organized is not a word I would use to describe myself – neither is “Type A”. However, a few years ago when I was preparing to host my first ever holiday meal, Thanksgiving dinner for 9 people, I became very organized and “Type A”-ish in my planning and preparation. I knew from past experiences that I can easily get overwhelmed and if I didn’t have a well thought out plan, I and my eight guests would either be eating Thanksgiving dinner at 7 PM or not at all.

I learned a great deal about the many benefits of planning ahead that first Thanksgiving and I’ve put what I’ve learned to good use every Thanksgiving since then.

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is now less than three weeks away. Now is the time to get planning in order to have a fabulous, minimally stressful Thanksgiving dinner. Here are my top five tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving.

  1. Make room in your pantry and fridge now – I use this time of year to go through items in my pantry and fridge and toss out things like opened 1/2 boxes of stale crackers, old spices and expired condiments in the fridge. I enjoy this yearly clear out. Not only am I making room for the onslaught of food that accompanies Thanksgiving but I know that I don’t have relish, mustard, etc. that are years old in my fridge.
  2. Delegate – You should not have to, nor be expected to, cook the entire feast. Delegate appetizers and desserts to friends and family members. I have a brother in his mid-twenties who lives alone. Even with his minimal cooking skills and sparsely equipped kitchen I found a dish to delegate to him – pumpkin pie! I gave him the Eagle Brand Perfect Pumpkin Pie recipe which is a very simple recipe that even a bachelor in his twenties can handle!Also, on the day of Thanksgiving, if anyone stayed in my kitchen for more than 45 seconds, they were immediately given a job to do (refill the ice bucket, bring these chairs into the dining room, set this on the table, take out the garbage, etc. etc.). It worked great to keep people from hovering and being in my way and things were getting accomplished too. I highly recommend this method.
  3. Use your slow cooker– Better yet, use two of them! There are plenty of recipes out there that can be made in a slow cooker on Thanksgiving. This saves valuable stovetop and oven space. If you don’t have a Crockpot or slow cook (or two) then borrow one from a friend or family member.  Every year I make Sweet Potato Casserole in the slow cooker (and I always double the topping listed in the recipe). I’ve also made this Slow Cooker Stuffing recipe in the past and it turned out very well.
  4. Make items ahead of time – Not everything needs to be made the day of Thanksgiving. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, make some of your dishes ahead of time. If you are unable to make a dish ahead of time, at least do some of the prep work such as chopping and measuring ahead of time.

    If you didn’t delegate your pumpkin pies to your bachelor brother then you can make the pies a couple of days before Thanksgiving (if your household is anything like mine, you may find you have to threaten bodily harm to anyone that dares eat them before the big day!). Here is a great mashed potato recipe that you can make several days in advance. One reviewer of this recipe wrote that she made these mashed potatoes the Monday before Thanksgiving and reheated them in a slow cooker Thanksgiving day. I think I am going to try that this year! Last year I tried a new stuffing recipe (Sausage, Dried Cranberry and Apple Stuffing) that can be made two days ahead. It turned out very well! Both my dad and grandfather are picky eaters. My dad was watching me make the stuffing and he wasn’t so sure he’d like it but he didn’t say anything at the time. It turned out so delicious that both he and my grandfather had second helpings!

  5. Have a detailed schedule for the day – This is where I become “Type A”-ish. Three years ago, I found a great “Holiday Dinner Timeline” from http://foodieview.com. I adjusted the timeline to break everything down into 15 minute intervals and by oven, Crockpot #1, Crockpot #2, Stovetop Burner #1, and Stovetop Burner #2. Yes it is extremely detailed but it helps me avoid having a meltdown the day of. Here is my timeline from last year: Thanksgiving Day Timeline

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Thanks to The Graphics Fairy for the image used at the beginning of this post!

As I mentioned in my previous post, September and October have been crazy months for me. I’ve been catching up on projects in my studio. Below are my submissions for the Dress Up Link Up that Margaret is hosting this year over at Alice and Camilla.

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Around here school starts in August but I grew up in Upstate New York where school starts the Tuesday or Wednesday after Labor Day. Because of that, I still associate school with September.

I hope you will check out the other wonderful October Dress Up submissions as well!

I am the type of person that gets both distracted and overwhelmed easily. I rarely finish a book or a project because I usually move onto something else new and shiny before said book/project is finished. Organized is not a word I would use to describe myself. Cluttered is much more accurate.

In late August I decided that it was time to be more organized and actually establish routines so that I can accomplish what I want to accomplish in life rather than always being 1 1/2 steps ahead of chaos. I started the Fly Lady system and was over a week into it going strong when several things happened that had me derailed. First, my dad visited for 8 out of 11 days (there was a 3 day reprieve between visits), the following week I had jury duty, the week after that I had a bad cold, the week after that I thought my dog was dying (He is very old and has chronic renal failure. I thought it was the end for him but he actually bounced back and I think he will be with us for several more weeks and possibly months). And then there was last week when my husband was hospitalized with heart problems (he had angioplasty back in May with a stent put in. It turns out the stent closed up which happens about 10% of the time and had to be reopened. He’s been home for 5 days and is feeling much better).

Somewhere in the middle of all of that I was telling Micah how I was doing well with establishing routines and then things went to s&#t. I said that I just wanted a normal week so I could get back to it and he mentioned something about the universe letting me know there is no such thing as a normal week and that is the reasons for routine, to help you through rough weeks. I’m pretty sure I gave him my “crinkly nose face” because it wasn’t what I wanted to hear and I kept waiting for a normal week.

A couple of days before Jim went into the hospital, I decided to go back to using a paper planner so I went to DIY Planner to print some calendar pages and other forms that I wanted to use in my planner. I had printed out everything but had not yet decided how to set up my planner when Jim went into the hospital. By now I realized that what Micah said was true and I had to work on organization/routines despite how my days/weeks are going. I was able to get my planner set up while spending time with Jim in the hospital.

My intent this past Sunday was to do things that would make me less stressed for the week ahead. This involved stuff like doing laundry and meal planning complete with grocery shopping (yes this is stuff that I regularly put off and it does lead to a lot of chaos during the week). On Sunday evening I looked at my various project lists and came up with a game plan for the week. There are so many things I want to get done that usually I just spin my wheels and accomplish very little. By focusing on what I felt could realistically get done and also by not adding too many things to the week (because I can always add more if I get through what I’ve planned) I now have something to assist me with staying on track.

I feel like I am back to establishing routines/being more organized and I went back to it while my world was upside down rather than waiting for a “normal week”. My advice is to not put off something for a “normal week” otherwise the universe may decide to not give you a normal week for several weeks!

Wine Birdhouse

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CIMG0026 This week I decorated this adorable 5” high birdhouse with a wine themed decorative napkin, tissue paper colored with alcohol inks, and some embellishments.

When I started the process, I wasn’t sure how it would look but I love how it all came together. I will be launching a shop on Etsy this month and this birdhouse is going into the shop. I can’t wait to make other themed birdhouses and see how they turn out! I am linking up to the Creative Spirit Challenge on Cindy’s blog and also to Hodgepodge Friday.

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