Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

"Divine Love sustains you, surrounds you, enfolds you, protects you...
Ask for help, supply, guidance, grace... Ask, ask, ask...

Surrender suffering, sorrow, pain. Surrender expectations. Ask to be surprised by joy.

Give thanks. Wait. Watch what happens. Get excited. Open your arms as wide as you can to receive all the miracles with your name on them.

Never forget that all you have is all you need...

Love will not fail you.

Believe. Believe in yourself. Believe in the One who believes in you. All things are possible to she who believes.

Blessings on your courage.

The Soul's awakening is Gratitude. The Soul's essence is Simplicity. The Soul's serenity is Order. The Soul's serenity is Harmony. The Soul's passion is Beauty. The Soul's purpose is Joy...

Through the parting mists where doubt and faith meet, you will see the authentic self is the Soul made visible.

--Simple Abundance

A few last inspiring phrases from my year in "A Simple Abundance."

Happy New Year!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A safe drive to Milwaukee.
2. My yearly egg nog shake at McDonald's.
3. My sister-in-law, Kerry, got engaged!
4. Time with my old roommate, Renee! So good to see her!
5. The little old man who wanted to talk to me at the bookstore. So cute.
6. Playing and talking with the niece and nephews!
7. Opening gifts on New Year's Eve - a fun way to spend the evening. (The poor dog got a Snuggie...)8. Playing games and eating cookies.
9. Everyone, including the little kids, making it til midnight to welcome in the New Year!
10. A New Year's kiss.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pep Talk

I read this out of Simple Abundance today - and I laughed out loud! I'm recording it here for those days when I want to give up and walk away... Those days when I don't think I'll ever be good enough to make my dreams come true... Those days when I simply need a wake up call. Here it is:

"As the season of Believing seems to wind down for the rest of the world, please let me gently make something very clear. Many dreams still wait in the wings. Many aspirations are just within our grasp if we keep stretching. Many hungers need nourishment. Many yearnings must be acknowledged, so that they can be fulfilled. Many authentic sparks must be fanned before Passion performs her perfect work in you. Throw another log on the fire.

This is not the day you quit.
This is not the day you cry.

This is the day you stare down every naysayer in your life who doesn't get it yet. Because YOU do. Finally. And now you know that FAITH is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

This is the day you shout, 'I Believe!' Keep on shouting it until you're hoarse. No more muttering under your breath...

...So keep on believing that you have the passion, intelligence, brilliance, creativity, wisdom, clarity, depth, and savvy to find the quiet center of solace, serenity, and strength necessary to create and sustain an authentic life. Every day is the prayer. An authentic life is the most personal form of worship. When you start believing, you'll discover that all things are really possible."
--Simple Abundance

Thank you Sarah Ban Breathnach!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. My year-long journey through "A Simple Abundance."
2. A year of following where the Spirit has led me.
3. A year of noticing all I have to be thankful for.
4. A year of new experiences.
5. A year of new responsiblities.
6. A year of acknowledging dreams - and beginning to walk towards them.
7. A year of laughter and love with the hubby.
8. A year of new friendships.
9. A year of new adventures.
10. A year of having enough and being enough. A good year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Two Lives

"We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
--Joseph Campbell

What a great quote as we approach the beginning of a New Year!

How many times have we planned out every step, every moment, every path, and every breath - to get to where we think we should be?

And how many times do we allow ourselves to be led - by fate, by the Spirit, or by dreams we aren't even aware of having?
In this New Year... as I seek Simplicity in my daily life, I'm going to ask for guidance and wisdom from the Spirit... I'm going to be open to what life has in store for me - things I may never have dreamed of! And I'm going to experience the life that is waiting for me!

Things I am thankful for today:

. A leisurely morning with Amanda, before she had to leave...
2. A productive day at work.
3. Coming home early.
4. Enjoying a quiet night at home, before we leave for Milwaukee tomorrow.
5. Watching the "Kennedy Centers Honors" program - so good!
6. A performance involving Ben Harper, Eddie Veder, and Sting. Be still my heart.
7. Leftover soup. A healthy respite before our holiday eating continues.
8. Watching the dog try to curl up in her new dog bed. So funny.
9. Being packed and ready to go.
10. The hubby.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Year of Simplicity

"Tis the gift to be simple. tis the gift to be free, tis the gift to come down where you ought to be, and when we find ourselves in the place just right, twill be in the valley of love and delight." --Elder Joseph Brackett

I'm beginning to think about the New Year and what it means for me this year. I've never been much into resolutions... But I like the idea of striving for some kind of improvement in my daily life. This past year, I've strived for a daily moment of reading and concentrating on gratefulness - which I will surely continue, as it has given my life a whole new outlook and beauty!

I think this coming year, 2010, I will continue to strive for simplicity. There is a freedom and joy in a simple way of living, I think. So, I've bought two new devotionals books to begin reading in daily to help me focus on this goal. And I'm really looking forward to it! I hope you'll join me on the journey!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Eggs, bacon and toast for breakfast!
2. Girl talk.
3. Staying in my pjs til 3pm.
4. Going out with Amanda and Emily - so fun!
5. A burger at Bryant Lake Bowl - delish!
6. Our yearly music "swap" - always fun to get new music!
7. Free parking downtown.
8. Appetizer leftovers for lunch... We just don't quit.
9. People returning their cookie tins for a refill next year!
10. Friends. Gotta love them.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Sunday After.

"Behind every joyful Christmas season are busy hands and loving hands that make the memories, then pack it all up for next year, when once again they'll have the joy of unpacking the memories again."
--Sandy Lynam Clough

Church today was very quiet and very few people... But so nice to be there. After all of the celebrations, food, parties, gifts, and festivities, to return to where the celebration began. To be reminded one last time of the true reason for the season. To once again wish our faithful friends a "Merry Christmas."

I always have a hard time realizing Christmas is over... You build up to it for so long, that when the last gift is unwrapped, the last morsel of leftovers consumed, and the naps begin... It makes me sad...

Although... We will be leaving out Christmas decorations up for a week past New Year's this year for a small dinner party... And I guarantee that I will be listening to Christmas music for a little bit longer... I need to ease out of the Holiday mindset!

I hope you're enjoying this Sabbath day of rest. Re-couping from the festivities and reflecting on the joy and blessings! I know I am!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Church. It's a home for me.
2. The "Unwanted Gift Exchange" at church - so funny.
3. A nice long nap.
4. Making a warm, yummy, healthy soup to round out the holiday gluttony!
5. Amanda gets here tonight!
6. Talking til 1:30am by the fire with an old girlfriend.
7. A gift of red stars for my house! (The hubby says 'no more red, and no more stars.' Gotta love a girlfriend's gifts!)
8. Funny responses on Facebook to the post about our neighbors cutting the wires on our Christmas lights. At least we can laugh about it!
9. The hubby helping to get the house ready for company.
10. Groceries. It's been awhile!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Photo Hunt: Twelve

I won't link up to the Photo Hunt today, because I am posting this late... But I still wanted to do it! This is our Nativity scene - with it's new additions, the three Wise Men. With the three, there are 12 pieces now! This is one of my favorite Christmas decorations in our house. Simple and beautiful.

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Coming home to our own house.
2. The hubby going snowboarding all day. (Helps to make up a little for not getting to his family's home this weekend...)
3. Getting everything put away from my family's get together.
4. A light, fresh, homemade pizza for dinner.
5. Chatting with the cashier at Trader Joe's about my Angel perfume. So funny.
6. Getting 3 hours to sit on the couch a read a book - JUST FOR FUN! Merry Christmas to me!
7. Setting up my new bookshelf! Woo-hoo! (A Christmas present from the hubby.) Apparently, the dog thought this was a new jungle-gym, and Daddy was playing!)
8. The dog being happy to be in her own home, too.
9. The cookie stash is dwindling - I'm almost back to my normal kitchen!
10. The hubby made it home from 8 hours of snowboarding with no injuries. Ha ha ha.

Happy Birthday, Kayla!

Today is my baby sister's 18th birthday! Goodness, gracious. When my parents announced they were having a baby 18 years ago... All I could think of was that I would be 30 when she got her driving permit - and how OLD that was! And now she's 18. Which makes me oldER than 30! Ha ha ha.

Here's 10 things I'm thankful for about Kayla:

1. She was a great surprise to our family - brought life and laughter to our house.
2. Her excitement about what's ahead and enthusiasm for school.
3. Swapping music with her!
4. Doing fun stuff with her - like trips to Aveda, concerts, and musicals!
5. Watching her learn to cook - and telling me about her recipes (she's FAR ahead of where my other sister and I were at her age!)
6. Her creativity - art work, singing, drama, speech, photography...
7. Her belly laugh. Gotta love it.
8. Her hugs.
9. Her confidence and assertiveness.
10. Her honesty.

I love you, Kay!

Friday, December 25, 2009


"If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of a child as did Mary? For each of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life."
--Author Unknown, found in A Simple Abundance

Merry Christmas - and 'God bless us, every one"!!!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Another snowy day to stay with family.
2. Deciding not to travel today - but take a longer weekend next weekend.
3. Mom's yummy baked french toast!
4. Stocking stuffers - always fun and silly.
5. A game of "May I."
6. Taste-testing yummy candy bars.
7. Watching the dogs play in the snow.
8. Munching on leftovers. (A favorite new treat - Bourbon Balls. Yum!)
9. Talking to my sister in Alaska. Ha ha ha. Em, you knew you wouldn't get through Christmas without being reminded of this ornamant, right?
10. Trying yummy Alaskan meats (in jerky or sausage form)- caribou, ox, reindeer, moose, salmon... Crazy! Thanks, Em!
11. My Santa. This was an art project I did in 10th grade - I dedicated and gave it to my dad, since he was my Santa. This year they gave him back, now that I have a house of my own to hang it in. I love it. A great gift!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


"Write it down, when I have perished:
Here is everything I've cherished;
That these walls should glow with beauty
Spurred my lagging soul to duty;
That there should be gladness here
Kept me toiling, year by year...
Every thought and every act
Were to keep this home intact."
--Edgar A. Guest

Eve. Quite possibly the best night of the year - still.

It's interesting how things change as you get older... At one time, I just couldn't wait to open presents! Now, I can't wait for church. I couldn't wait to stay up as late as I could! Now, I can't wait for my whole family to be busily preparing their food in the kitchen, together. I used to think the bigger or more expensive the gift, the better. Now, it's the thoughtful gifts that bring joy! And it's when family members can't be with you, that you realize how deeply loved and missed they are...

We will light the candle in honor of my sister tonight (who is far away in Alaska with her family). We will put on our favorite Christmas music. We will go to church (my church, this year - that's a first!) and laugh with the children, hear that familiar story once again, and end with a candle-lit "Silent Night." We will eat our favorite appetizers and open gifts one-by-one. We will ooo and aaaaahh, laugh and tease. The fire will be lit in the fireplace, and the soft glow of candles will make the night seem magical. We will take delight in seeing each other's reactions to our gifts, and some of us will end up doing a crazy scavenger hunt to get a gift!

...And we will sneak off to bed, with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads. The snow will continue to fall with big, heavy, flakes - blanketing the quiet night with beauty.... The best night of the year.

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Being safe and warm during a snow storm.
2. The beauty of the snow.
3. Having all my gifts wrapped and under the tree.
4. My family going to church with me.
5. My church - it feels like home to me.
6. Our favorite Christmas Eve appetizers - those once a year treats!
7. Delight at fun, thoughtful gifts.
8. A scavenger hunt - tricky tricky!
9. New, Christmas pjs!
10. Skyping with my sister's family - so fun!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yummy Wednesday - Marshmallow Treats

Mmmmm... A family favorite! Every time I put these in a cookie tin - the first question is, "What is THAT?!" The second question, after they take a bite, is "Can I have that recipe?"

So here it is, folks! An easy, yummy, holiday - or anytime - treat!
Marshmallow Treats

1 14oz bag of caramels
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 stick of margarine
1 bag of large marshmallows
A box of Rice Krispies

Melt the caramels, milk, and margarine in a double boiler. Mixing until it is a smooth, caramel-y, consistency.

Using a fork or a skewer, dip a large marshmallow in the warm caramel, make sure it's coated well - then dip it in the rice krispies til covered, and place on wax paper. Repeat until you're out of marshmallows or caramel!

Makes about 40-50.

It's a little on the messy side - but so
worth it! Enjoy!

Polar Express

"Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see."

"This bell is a wonderful symbol of the spirit of Christmas - as am I [Santa]. Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart."Last night, the hubby had plans after work... So I indulged in an evening to myself. A plate of sushi, a glass of wine, my jammies and slippers, a cuddly soft blanket... and the movie "Polar Express." I'm a dork, I know. But it was an incredibly relaxing and uplifting evening!

I love this movie and it's message of belief, of Christmas being in your heart, of the simplest gifts meaning the most. I have a "Polar Express" sleighbell that sits on my dresser throughout the holiday season - and every once in a while I ring it... Just to make sure!
If you haven't seen the movie yet - please do. It's beautiful visually and in story - and exciting and funny, too!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Christmas movies!
2. Over sleeping... bad idea, but much needed.
3. A surprise from the hubby in my fridge! (Grilled cheese fondue from the Herkimer!)
4. A few moments last night to read one of my favorite books.
5. Finding a recipe to make a special treat for my dad for Christmas Eve...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


"Be Glad. Be Good. Be Brave."
--Eleanor Hodgman Porter

"Pollyanna did not pretend that everything was good," her creator Eleanor Hodgman Porter, insists. "Instead she represented a cheery, courageous acceptance of the facts. She understood that unpleasant things are always with us, but she believed in mitigating them by looking for whatever good there is in what is."
--Simple Abundance

In these last few days leading up to Christmas, it's so easy to let the stress of menus, house-cleaning, gifts, and busy-ness get us down-right crabby!

But... there's so much fun and joy in these days too!

Finding that perfect gift...
Wrapping it just right - with a giant bow on top!
Watching the fluffy, glittery snow fall.
Tasting that first cup of egg nog or hot cider with a cinnamon stick...
Driving around and looking at Christmas lights with the Christmas music on - singing along!
Yes... I've been called a Pollyanna many times throughout my life... But goshdarnit. Life is too short to dwell on the unpleasant when there are so MANY good things to enjoy!

I hope this week is full of merriment for you!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A hubby who likes my "Pollyanna" ways!
2. Families who use their Christmas lights to draw crowds - and collect toys for tots!
3. Looking forward to Amanda coming!
4. Christmas flannel sheets.
5. 2 nights at home before the festivities begin!
6. Plum jelly on my toast.
7. Surprising my co-workers with their cookie tins!
8. A day in the office, mostly, to myself.
9. Being able to stay calm and patient at the grocery store.
10. Being DONE with errands!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Simple Woman's Daybook - December 21st Edition

For Today...

Outside my window... snowy white on the ground, and soft gray in the sky. Kind of "blah" really...
I am thankful... for all the fun things I was able to do over the weekend! Theatre, dinner out, time with friends and family, church, sledding, cooking, games, etc etc. So fun!
From the kitchen... leftovers - chicken and morels, chimichangas, pumpkin pie. It'll be a good week!
I am wearing... my Christmas pjs. Red and green plaid flannel pants and a red henley shirt.
I am creating... memories. Lots of fun memories.
I am going... to get a few last goodies for Christmas today - and then I'm ready!
I am reading... "A Beautiful Mess" by Rick McKinley.
I am hoping... for a snowy Christmas!
I am hearing... the hum of the computer and the snoring of the dog...
Some plans for the week... work and Christmas! That's it. We'll have Christmas Eve at my parents, then head to Milwaukee Christmas Day (REALLY early) and come home on Sunday.
One of my favorite things... the kids at our church... Their Christmas program was yesterday - so fun and cute! I loved it!
A picture thought I am sharing: My favorite picture from the program - just look at all the little things going on! So funny.
(We've got a little 'Ninja-shepherd on the bottom left - who was adorable and couldn't stand still! The littlest angel, next to him, was constantly falling off the step and loosing her halo. The two beautiful girls behind her were continuously helping her up and plopping the halo back on her head. Our lovely Mary, who's currently reading, had to keep sharing her baby Jesus with an adorable little shepherd who just wanted to cuddle Jesus so bad! Our older shepherds, in the back, went back and forth between looking bored out of their minds, and proud as can be! Our cute little angels, behind Mary, did their best to stay still despite crooked halos and wings - and static-y gowns! Their fidgeting made me giggle. And our Wise People were stoic and true to their role... especially in those glamorous robes! I love Christmas programs...)

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A quiet, no-stress day.
2. A clean house.
3. Gift wrapping is done.
4. Cookie tins are ready to go!Cookie tins are ready to go!
5. A fun excursion for those last little gifts.
6. A back-ordered gift arrives before Christmas . Woo-hoo!
7. Driving around town, looking at Christmas lights!
8. A stop at Axel's for a pint of Guiness!
9. Cuddling up by the fire.
10. Christmas Eve is almost here!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Fun Day

Whoa - lots to do, people to see, fun to be had! Today was a great Sunday!

I started out this morning at church (of course). The Children had their Christmas program today - too cute, as always! Here are some of my favorite pictures:
Then, some of the youth and their parents, and the hubby and I, went out to lunch and sledding. So fun! (I grew up hating sledding, snow, and being cold and wet... so I'm pretty sure I hadn't been sledding since elementary school!) And I LOVED it! I only went down a few times - getting the hang of it again - and screaming all the way... But I laughed a lot, too! I told the hubby we could get some sleds... I'm ready to fully commit to living in Minnesota (after living here off and on for 20 years!) Although... I'm still not taking up skiiing or snowboarding... Maybe I shoud re-think my last statement...
Then, we came home, took naps, and made dinner for my parents and little sis. It was a nice evening hanging out with the family and chatting over good food! (Dad wanted a little "primer" for Christmas Eve - we were eager to oblige!)

A fun day!

Today I am thankful for:

1. Little kids.
2. Christmas music.
3. Proud parents.
4. Teresa's Mexican Restaurant. Yum.
5. Getting to know other families better - fun new friends!
6. The generosity of our faith community.
7. Sledding! (Did I just say that?!)
8. Cozy, warm sweats and socks to warm up in!
9. The recipe for "Chicken and Morels" by the Barefoot Contessa - yum.
10. A fun day with the hubby.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Photo Hunt: Fast

It was fun to look through some older pictures for this one! I settled on this picture of my dog, Bailey, running with her frisbee. All of our neighbors comment how "fast" she is when she runs to get that disc - It's her favorite thing in the world! Things I am thankful for today:

1. Sleeping in.
2. A less-than-chaoic visit to the Mall of America!
3. Finding a certain present for our nephew.
4. Lunch at Johnny Rockets - the hubby and I love to split a burger and malt.
5. Trying new things - an onion ring on our burger. It was yummy!
6. Emily and Jeremy coming over for dinner - so fun!
7. The game, "Loaded Questions."
8. Grilling in the winter.
9. The smell of the grill.
10. Roses from the hubby... So nice!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Fave Five - December 18th

Wow - another week has flown by! The challenge? List five of your favorite parts of the week -if you'd like to share them, head on over to Susanne's blog!

1. My church - we have such a fun congregation! This week I got to have dinner and watch a movie with a fun group. We had a great choral service on Sunday with a "cookie" brunch afterwards - so fun! Went to my book group with some fabulous women. Had a fancy Christmas lunch with another group of fabulous women. Experienced the peace and comfort of having the sanctuary lit with candles for prayer. And, went caroling with about 20 people! And that's not to mention all the interesting conversations in the office throughout the week...
(Can you guess which movie we watched?)

2. Going to my little sister's Madrigal Dinner on Saturday. It was the last one that someone from our family will participate in. The end of an era! So fun to remember all the songs and hear how great the choirs still are at my old high school. My former choir director was even still there - and hadn't changed a bit! Sometimes, it's comforting to see that some things haven't changed...
3. The cookies are DONE! This year, I made 15 kinds of cookies and treats... Dozens of each kind. Phew! It's a lot of work - but so fun to see people's faces when they get their cookie tins!
(So after several days of baking... This mess... became...

4. Open Sanctuary was beautiful last night. The sanctuary was dimly lit, the candle flames were dancing... Poinsettias decorate the altar and choir loft... To sit in that space alone is a feeling unlike any other. And then... the carolers started warming up in the other room. You could faintly hear "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World" coming through the walls. It was a surreal moment - straight out of a movie! Beautiful. (Several people stopped by last night for a moment of peace in this busy week - what an honor to be able to provide that moment for them! I love this part of my ministry.)
5. Today is going to be one of my fave fives, too. I have the day to myself... I think there are a lot of possibilities! I love that!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A day off.
2. Friendly clerks at stores.
3. Close parking spaces.
4. A quick stop at the drive-through bank teller.
5. Great sales.
6. The hubby's honest opinion.
7. Going to the Guthrie Theatre for "A Christmas Carol" - so fun!
8. The little kids sitting behind us, asking their mom all kinds of questions about the play.
9. Dinner at Spoonriver - yum!
10. An exciting stop at the Guthrie bar after the show - and sitting next to "Carlos" from "Desperate Housewives" at the bar! Kind of fun!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Christmas Random Dozen

I'm not really feeling terribly "inspired" today... So let's have a little fun, instead!
Please join us at Linda's for a Christmasy Random Dozen. 1. Gingerbread: For or against? Discuss. Hmmm... I enjoy a bite or two throughout the holiday season... But mostly, I am against. Unless - it's the flavoring in my latte!

2. Is it important to you to always stay (live) close to family? It's nice to live close to family... But it's also entirely possible to be close and live far away... Does that make sense? Life takes us on many journeys... But it's nice to know you can always come home.

3. Which holiday pretend character do you wish really existed? Anybody who knows me, knows I would be best friends with Buddy Elf. Ha ha ha. (The mounds of cookies in my house right now would go perfectly with some maple syrup!)

4. Which holiday movie best represents how you feel about Christmas or life? Miracle on 34th Street - the original, black and white version. I think whole-heartedly believing can bring magic to your life! (And I loved the twinkle in Kris Kringle's eye!)

5. Is there a particular Christmas song that you're enjoying now? Any that you're tired of? Oh... I love Christmas music in general. I start listening the weekend before Thanksgiving - and keep going til New Years! I just re-discovered my old Kenny Rogers CD... I LOVE his version of "Mary Did You Know?" And I love my Peter, Paul, and Mary Holiday CD... I don't like a lot of the stuff they play on the radio stations - WHAM and other '80s recordings. They're dull and repetitive...

6. What is your favorite way to remember those less fortunate at Christmastime? We donate food and money to Neighbor's, Inc - our local outreach center; we just did the Walk to End Hunger and raised about $900 to donate, and we give some donations in people's names as gifts.

7. Does it upset you to see "Xmas" instead of Christmas? How about "Happy Holidays" etc., instead of "Merry Christmas?" I have no problem with either. It's all about intent... "Xmas" doesn't bother me at all - in fact, I've been known to use it. And "Happy Holidays" is just more inclusive language - celebrating all faiths. I'm all for it!

8. How many Christmas programs are you attending this month? Well... I'll say three. My sister's Madrigal Dinner; the church's adult choir performance; and this week is the church's children's performance.

9. Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Any chance of that dream becoming a reality? I don't think I'll have to dream! It's here - and I believe it's staying!

. Tell me about a Christmas present you received as a child. Pics are always nice. Here's a funny story I always remember when I put gifts under the tree - a little close to the fireplace... When we lived in Ohio, I was maybe 7 years old? We always had a fire in the fireplace on Christmas Eve, and we always put the Christmas tree right by it. There was one present... Situated awfully close to the fireplace - and when I opened it, it was one of those cool crayon carousels LOADED with new crayons! And they were all MELTING!!! Ha ha ha. We had to put it out on the front porch so the crayons could harden up again. So funny.

. How many Christmas parties are you attending this month? One party, and a few dinners with friends, then Christmas Eve with my family, and another day with the hubby's family. Mostly low-key - just the way we like it!

12. How do you keep yourself centered on the significance of Christmas? Working at a church helps! It's my job to help others stay focused... So it's hard to forget! I do have readings I do everyday... and I'm at church every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Warm clothes!
2. Flat-rate shipping boxes (to get presents to Alaska!).
3. Lunch with some church ladies today (at the Pool and Yacht Club - ooo la la!).
4. Caroling tonight... Fun but cold!
5. Open Sanctuary - a place to feel at peace during the busy-ness of the season.
6. Peter Mayer's Christmas CD - Midwinter.
7. Looking forward to a day off tomorrow!
8. My sisters.
9. Still no TV in the mornings - I'm doing good!
10. Point Beer in the fridge... Ahhh... The college memories....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Yummy Wednesday - Mac and Cheese

I love a good mac and cheese and Pioneer Woman’s Cookbook wins again! This has become one of Mike’s specialities - great when I need a little TLC!
4 cups Dried Macaroni
¼ cups (½ Stick Or 4 Tablespoons) Butter
¼ cups All-purpose Flour
2½ cups Whole Milk
2 teaspoons (heaping) Dry Mustard, More If Desired
1 whole Egg Beaten
1 pound Cheese, Grated
½ teaspoons Salt, More To Taste
½ teaspoons Seasoned Salt, More To Taste
½ teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
Optional Spices: Cayenne Pepper, Paprika, Thyme
We like it with bacon mixed in... Mmmmm...

Cook macaroni until very firm. Macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain.
In a small bowl, beat egg.
In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn.
Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.
Take ¼ cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth.
Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.
Add in cheese and stir to melt.
Add salts and pepper. Taste sauce and add more salt and seasoned salt as needed! DO NOT UNDERSALT.
Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.
Serve immediately (very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

Yields: about 6-8 small servings

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Eggs and bacon for breakfast (running out of milk and bread isn't so bad!)
Warm, colorful scarves.
3. A nice thank you note from friend.
4. Christmas cards!
5. Chatting with Bill G. at church today. He reminds me of my grandpa. I love it.
6. A free dinner!
7. Meeting the hubby's boss, co-worker and wives. Such nice people (and nice to finally put names with faces!).
8. So MANY Christmas lights this year!
9. My town has a new Goodwill Store. I went for my first visit tonight... Some cool stuff.
10. Curling up with a blanket and watching "Happy Feet."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain."
--Louisa May Alcott

"Books do turn us. Turn us onto our passions and to pursuing our passions. Turn us into authentic women. When a sentence in a book resonates within, it is the voice of your authentic self. Listen to what she's trying to tell you. Spirit is constantly communicating with us."
--Simple Abundance

An appropriate passage on Book Group day! But so true!

My group has been so fun to be a part of, to look forward to each week, and to continue to grow in connections and depth. The ladies are spunky, smart, beautiful women - with all kinds of different stories in their own lives. We all come from different backgrounds, different places in our current lives, different ages, economic statuses, and life experiences - and that's what makes it fun to get to know each other!

They've been there for each other when someone needs a good cry. We all look forward to group on our crabby days - because we know we'll get to laugh! And all the days in between - we enjoy each other's company.

Oh! And the books are good, too. We've read quite the array in the year and a half we've been meeting. Everything from novels to (what seemed like) textbooks, from challenging our beliefs to being "right on" with our current journey. We've learned about other faiths, about ways to live out our faith in our daily lives, about people with passion for helping others, and stories about historical events that none of us knew had happened...

The Spirit has spoken to me many times through these books and this group of women... and for that, I am thankful!

Things I am thankful for:

1. A working furnace.
2. Heavy blankets and comforters.
3. A sunny day.
4. Books.
5. Book group.
6. Soduko.
7. Toast with cinnamon sugar.
8. Christmas mugs.
9. My home.
10. My "spice market" candle.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Simple Woman's Daybook - December 14th Edition

For Today...

Outside my window... a new layer of fluffy, white, snow with glittery flurries blowing in the breeze!
am thankful... for old and new friends. My schedule is filled for the next couple of weeks with time together with friends and family. What joy!
From the kitchen... cold pizza, cookies, and more cookies... Time to plan some actual meals!
I am wearing... my Christmas pjs. Red and green plaid flannel pants and a red henley shirt.
I am creating... hmmm... I think I'm done creating for a few days. I'll get back to you!
I am going... nowhere today! The joys of having a day to work at home!
I am reading... "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World" by Joanna Weaver. And starting, "A Beautiful Mess" by Rick McKinley.
I am hoping... to get lots done today, so I can begin to relax!
I am hearing... silence. Well, the refrigerator humming...
Some plans for the week... work, book group, dinner with the hubby's co-workers, Open Sanctuary, Christmas caroling, going to "The Christmas Carol" at the Guthrie, having friends over for dinner, and having my family over for dinner! Phew!
One of my favorite things... wrapped presents under the tree. It just looks so pretty! (And I can't wait to give people their gifts!)
A picture thought I am sharing: another favorite ornament - from my friend, Cheryl... I miss you!
Things I am thankful for today:

1. A day at home.
2. The holidays.
3. Cookies are DONE.
4. Leftover pizza.
5. The hubby cleaning the bathrooms.
6. Going for a walk in the snow. (It was COLD!)
7. Our dog being SO interested in wrapping presents!
8. Crawling into sheets straight out of the dryer!
9. Being excited about so many fun things this week!
10. A good night's sleep.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yes, Virginia

"Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be [grown-ups] or children's are little.

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

"Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! ...The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor [grown-ups] can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there.

"You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest [grown-up]... that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view... the beauty and glory beyond. Is it real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else so real and abiding.

"No Santa Claus! Thank, God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."
--Francis P. Church, 1897

"Christmas allows the child slumbering in each of our souls the chance to be reborn every year, awakening a sense of joy and wonder that even eleven months of doubt, derision, or discouragement can't snuff out. All that is required of us is that we believe."
--Simple Abundance

Things that I am thankful for today:

1. The ability to just be a participant at church today!
2. Hot tea in a Christmas mug.
3. Sandy playing the harp and singing, "Mary, Did You Know?"
4. Peter's "Holy Night" solo.
5. The Sunday School class building a Nativity Scene out of Legos!
6. Cookie baking is almost done! Woo-hoo!
7. The hubby wrapped some presents and decorated cookies!
8. Pizza for dinner. (And I'm not sick! Wow...)
9. A full-fledged under the cover nap!
10. Fresh snow falling!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Poem

Today, I was going to do another Photo Hunt... with the theme "Undesirable." Til I realized my camera battery was dead.

That was undesirable!

So I give you a poem instead!

"On the first day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of my Undivided Attention.
On the second day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Enthusiasm.
On the third day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Creative Energy,
On the fourth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Simple Seasonal Pleasures.
On the fifth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Tenderness.
On the sixth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Good Cheer.
On the seventh day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Beauty.
On the eighth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Communication.
On the nineth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Surprise.
On the tenth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Wonder.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Peaceful Surroundings.
On the twelth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Joy.

"'Be ready at all times for the gifts of God, and always for new ones,' Meister Eckhart urges us in this season of giving. Be ready at all times to give those you love the simply abundant gifts of Spirit. If you do, they'll give you Christmas gifts you'll never forget: happy smiles and contented hearts. And you won't want to exchange them."
--Simple Abundance

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Our Dinner and a Movie Night last night - new friends, yummy food, and a cozy evening in front of a Christmas movie. Very nice.
2. Not getting out of bed until 10am this morning. Woo-hoo!
3. Got 3 more kinds of cookies done today.
4. Smoked Alaskan Halibut for lunch. Yum-a-roo. Thanks Dylan and Tonya!
5. Started wrapping gifts today... I love pretty wrapping paper!
6. My poinsettia is still alive and well!
7. My African violet is getting a new bloom.
8. My youngest sister, Kayla's, Madrigal Dinner! So fun!
9. Dad's excitement about planning Christmas Eve.
10. A new Christmas tree for our loft - so cute and pretty!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Fave Five - December 11th

It's that time again! Time to link up to Susanne's blog and share your favorite five things about the week! Here are mine:

1. Last Friday was my 6-month check up at the doctor. No - that's not my favorite... But I got the results today - and all is well! (I had a scare 18 months ago - and am still doing follow-ups. So I get a little nervous each time I have to go again...)

2. Last Sunday, my youngest sister Kayla surprised me by inviting me to go see the musical "In the Heights" with her - at the last minute! What a fun way to spend the afternoon -great performance, great seats, great company!

3. This is Cookie Extravaganza week! A few years ago, I started making LOADS of cookies and making cookie tins to give to friends, family, co-workers, etc... and the tradition is continuing! I've made 8 kinds of treats so far (2 batches a night)... another 6 to go. My kitchen is consumed by flour, sugar and butter - but it's so fun to see people's reactions when they get them!

4. Wednesday's snow storm allowed me to work from home - cuddled up on the couch in my pjs by the fire most of the day. Splendid! I needed that!

5. Tonight I'm meeting up with friends at church for a potluck dinner and a Christmas movie! A fun way to end the week - good food, good friends, and a fun movie!

And now... things I am thankful for today:

1. A cozy office on these super cold days.
2. A voice mail from my almost 2 year old niece - "Hi Annie May" (That's Hi, Auntie Meg!)
3. Trying a new sweet recipe - and loving them! Check out Pioneer Woman's chocolate truffles with sea salt. Yum!
4. Going to see one of my youth group kids perform with his choir at Mall of America this morning. So fun!
5. Coming home to take an hour long nap!
6. The nice man at the gas station that helped me pump my gas when the pump was broken!
7. Having a vender at Mall of America tell me I was beautiful - I know it was all a ploy to get my business... But it still feels nice...
8. A warm car.
9. Lotion. Goodness - you can tell it's winter!
10. The movie, "Polar Express." I love it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ladies of Grace - December 10th

"Oh, yes. Christmas is all about gifts. Nothing but gifts. But such gifts! Gifts tied with heart strings. Gifts that surprise and delight. Gifts that transform the mundane into the miraculous. Gifts that nurture the souls of both the giver and the given. Perfect gifts. Authentic gifts. The gifts of the Spirit, a frightened teenage girl, her bewildered sweetheart, the Child, the angels, the shepeherd boy, the inn-keeper's wife. The gifts of the Magi.

"Unconditional love. Selflessness. Trust. Faith. Forgiveness. Wholeness. Second Chances. Comfort. Joy. Peace. Reassurance. Rejoicing. Generosity. Compassion. Charity. Wonder. Acceptance. Courage.

"To give such gifts. To truly open our hearts to receive such gifts gratefully.

"Christmas just won't be Christmas without any presents."
--Simple Abundance

Beautifully put, wasn't it?
I had a "Ladies of Grace" moment this week. I wrote about it on our church blog, here. In a moment of frustration, a phone call reminded me of what was important. I may have given a gift to the woman on the other end... But she gave me a gift as well. A "pause." A reminder that God uses us where we are. A gift of Spirit. I've been thinking of her and praying for her this week... I hope you'll join me in my prayers!

Today I am thankful for:

1. Reminders.
2. Gifts of Spirit - in whatever form they may come!
3. A sunny, snow-covered morning.
4. Arriving safely to my destinations yesterday!
5. New cookie recipes!
6. The hubby making dinner last night!
7. The movie, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."
8. Prayers.
9. Norman Rockwell Santa paintings...
10. Mittens.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Yummy Wednesday - Chicken Tortilla Soup

Mmmm... Mmm... Mmm... This has become one of my favorite soups! Spicy, smokey, meaty, with a touch of lime! Yum.I admit it's not that pretty to look at... But trust me on this one - the taste is fabulous!

It's yet another recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks - Trim and Terrific by Holly Clegg. Delish!

You'll need:
1 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped red or green bell pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1 (4oz) can chopped green chilies, drained
8 cups fat-free canned chicken broth
2 cups chopped cooked skinless chicken breast (turkey leftovers work great!)
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, optional
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder (we use chipotle powder - it adds smokiness)
4 (6-8 inch) flour tortillas, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1 cup shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese

Makes 4-6 servings.

In a large, heavy pot coated with nonstick cooking spray, saute the onion, bell pepper, and garlic over medium heat until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the chilies, chicken broth, chicken, corn, cilantro, lime juice, cumin, and chili powder. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tortilla strips on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until crisp. Spoon the soup into bowls; top with tortilla strips and cheese.


Things I am thankful for today:

1. Another 2 batches of cookies done! Don't these look scrumptious?!
2. Being able to pray for someone over the phone, when they randomly called our church yesterday.
3. Having a lot of fun getting to know our new music director.
4. Coming home early on a snowy day!
5. Watching "A Year Without a Santa Claus" while making cookies!
6. Our friends, Andy and Gail, had their baby - Christopher Ryan, yesterday!
7. My sister's pictures of their first house! So cute!
8. Relaxing and chatting with the hubby by the fire last night.
9. Some of the Christmas presents I ordered came yesterday - and they turned out great!
10. Egg nog. Yep. I said it. I LIKE egg nog!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Touch of Eternity

"Choose to let only what you love about the holidays remain. Cross out two more 'musts.' Now there's time for gazing out the window at the gently falling snow, delighting in the sounds of bells and joyful music, savoring the sweet aromas of hot cider, roast turkey, and gingerbread, sipping hot chocolate and homemade eggnog, reading a holiday story each night at dusk, basking in a fire crackling in the hearth and re-creating cherished customs that care for your soul as well as the souls of those you love. 'I do hope your Christmas has...a little touch of Eternity in among the rush and pitter patter and all,' mystic Evelyn Underhill recommends. 'It always seems such a mixing of this world and the next - but that, after all, is the idea!'"
--Simple Abundance

A mixing of this world and the next... I love that!

We're supposed to get a lot of snow tonight! I'm hoping to look out the window tonight and feel like I'm in another world, too! I've never been so excited for snow - the peacefulness, the beauty, the crunch under my feet, snowflakes on my eyelashes... Taking the dog for a walk and watching her play in the snow! (The only thing I don't like, is driving in it!)

Things I am thankful for today:

1. 2 batches of cookies down - only 12 to go!
2. Only a couple of presents left to buy!
3. Finding a fun present for the hubby yesterday... Now, where to hide it?
4. Going for a nice long walk with the hubby and the dog yesterday.
5. Nice notes from bloggin friends!
6. I have 20 followers! Woo-hoo!
7. Book group tonight - as long as the snow doesn't come too early...
8. A great find at the craft store yesterday.
9. Aveda's Rosemary Mint shampoo... Mmmm...
10. Taking a car load to Goodwill.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Simple Woman's Daybook - December 7th Edition

For Today...

Outside my window... a beautiful sunny morning with blue skies and whispy white clouds!
I am thankful... for the abundance in my life! Friends, family, warmth, comfort - and a counter full of cookie baking supplies, ready to be created into yummy cookies and shared with those we love!
From the kitchen... turkey tortilla soup. And cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.
I am wearing... grey sweat pants, a lavender tank top, a grey zip-up hoodie, and my ugg boots. It's chilly in the house today - can you tell?
I am creating... gift ideas, the cookie plan-of-attack, and some more decorating ideas for our home....
I am going... to my youngest sister's final Madrigal Dinner on Saturday! She graduates this year... Whoa. Oh! And she's the Queen of the Madrigal! How fun!
I am reading... "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World" by Joanna Weaver.
I am hoping... for some snow.... I'm ready. That would make it seem even more Christmas-y!
I am hearing... silence. It's nice. (Oh - and the dog snoring...)
Some plans for the week... work, book group, a training, meetings, Open Sanctuary, dinner and a movie night at church, and the Madrigal Dinner - oh! and baking, lots of baking.
One of my favorite things... mint chocolate M&Ms. I can't stop eating them!
A picture thought I am sharing: actually a few... More funny pictures from Thanksgiving!

Kayla stole my camera and decided to photograph her dog, Hershey. Too funny.
Then, Mom posed for the camera, chugging wine while she slaves away in the kitchen! (The funny part, is Mom hardly EVER drinks! ) Too funny.Lastly, trying to get a pic of Mom, Kay, and I... and ending up with a creeper pic of my hubby in the background! Ha ha ha. Way too funny!
Today I am thankful for:

. Warm, soft, cozy clothes.
2. A fire in the fireplace.
3. Wrapping presents.
4. Family recipes.
5. Pictures to remember funny moments.
6. Stories to remember loved ones. Thanks for yours, Andrea!
7. Seasonal candies... like mint M&Ms.
8. Choices.
9. Skype - I got to SEE my sister, bro-in-law, and niece on Saturday - from Anchorage, Alaska!10. No tv this weekend except to watch "The Holiday" (a fun movie), and "Brothers and Sisters." It feels good not to plant myself on the couch, in front of the tv!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


"What you think you want, what you will to believe, what you think you can afford, what you decide to love, what you regard yourself as bound to."
--Joseph Campbell's definition of "ego"

--Simple Abundance

My year through the book, "Simple Abundance" by Sarah Ban Breathnach, is almost over! I can't believe it! It's the first time in my life, I've truly stuck to an (almost) daily reading schedule and (almost) daily wrote about my thoughts and feelings about what I read and how it connected to me... I've only got a couple of weeks left in this book - and I'm already missing it! (I hope I find a really cool new one for next year! I'm taking suggestions...)

But in the end, this one really boiled down to: everyday is a choice. Like Joseph Campbell said - it's what you choose to believe, to think, to afford, to love, and to be bound to... It's choices that make up who I am. And in the past year, I've made choices to be grateful EVERYDAY - and it's changed me. I've made choices to simplify areas of my life - to carefully decide what to pick up and what to put down, what to say "yes" to and what to say "no" to. I've found new ways to seek order in my life - through organization, schedules, and trying to live out my beliefs. I've made the choice to seek harmony; and I've made choices everyday to acknowledge beauty and joy!

Do I have bad days? Yep. Do I get frustrated? Yep. But there's always something to make me smile, someone to put their arms around me, a dog to give me kisses and cuddles. And I've seen for myself that even in those dull, gray days... God is with me, if I choose to look!

Choices. My choices. What gets simpler than that?

Things I am thankful for today:
1. A surprise phone call early this morning.
2. A fun confirmation class with the boys.
3. PEZ dispensers.
4. The honor of serving communion.
5. A new cookie recipe!
6. Going to see the musical "In the Heights" with my youngest sister, Kayla. Thanks, Kay!
7. Dinner and chatting with Kay. Good times.
8. Cookies are ready to be made - everything is bought and ready to go!
9. A day at home tomorrow.
10. Snow is in the forecast - finally!
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