The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up

Perhaps your first reaction is like Brynne’s: “A New York Times Best Seller? It’s a book about cleaning!”

Ah yes, my young padawans, we are not yet Jedis. There is much to learn…

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Marie Kondo is a tidy-Jedi. I love this book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Now quite famous in Japan, this method is called the “Kon-Mari method.” Very Jedi-like.

The word “tidying” does not refer to organizing. Rather, this book is about ridding our life of everything unnecessary. In the process, we find joy.

It’s not really about organizing and cleaning. It does not speak of The Container Store, buying more bins, or storage units. In fact, Kondo has something to say about that:

Storage Experts Are Hoarders.

Woah! Hold on to your boot straps, missy, we are going for a ride!

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Kon-Mari is really funny. She was born wanting to organize. Even in kindergarten, she didn’t like to play. She liked to put things away. In middle school she rushed home so she could organize the house. OCD? Uh, yeah. But let’s just say, this girl is using her organizing super powers to change the world!

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What prompted me to pick up this book? I am on a serious quest to feel less crazy, less busy, less frazzled. I’m craving simplicity. So often, I just feel like I’m moving stuff around the house. This book was quite a serendipitous find.unnamed-4

Section One. I ask you, WHY CANT I KEEP MY HOUSE IN ORDER?

I have kids! I swear that’s the reason. I’m pretty sure our Jedi master, Kon-Mari, doesn’t have kids. Just saying. That’s my only criticism. I could be wrong. Maybe she has 12. But she lives in Japan, so probably not.

Anyway, I acknowledge this is an excuse. Once I got past “it’s all the kid’s fault,” I dug deep, read, and examined my habits and flaws.

There are five basic sections of the book:

1. Why Can’t I Keep My House in Order?

2. Finish Discarding First

3. Tidying by Category Works Like Magic

4. Storing Your Things to Make  Your Life Shine

5. The Magic of Tidying Dramatically Transforms Your Life

Kondo takes you by the hand and gently says, “Its not your fault you’re a slob. You just haven’t been taught how.” For instance, her clients are most often women in their 50s.

Some Highlights: Did you know you’ve been insulting your socks?unnamed-3

Say what?

“Never ball up socks…look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. They’ve worked hard for you. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?”

Ha! This is for real! Oh, I love it.

Did you know your real life begins when home gets put in order?

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“Tidy a little everyday and you’ll be tidying forever.”unnamed-5

“If you’re mad at your family, your room may be the cause.” unnamed-8

Do you have stacks and stacks of unread books collecting dust and cluttering your house? Uh-oh. Outer order contributes to inner calm!unnamed-9

As you can see, I did  A LOT of folding down of pages:unnamed-10

If books have voices, this one spoke to me.

Kondo states that storing stuff just hides the problems, conceals things we don’t need under a lid. Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.

This is why tidying must start with discarding.

In the last month I have gotten rid of at least ten bags of stuff. It feels so good.

But there is much left to do. How? Work in categories, not by room: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous (CDs, skincare products, makeup, household equipment….), sentimental.

Clothes. You are to handle each item. Hold it up and ask, “Does this spark joy?” If not, give it away. Immediately.

It’s all about feeling. It’s our rational brain that gets in the way. I might use it. I might need it. It was expensive. It was a gift.

How do you get rid of something that doesn’t spark joy? “Express your appreciation for their contribution to your life. Tell them, ‘Thank you for the boost you gave me when I bought you,’ or ‘Thank you for getting me a little more fit.'” and then say good-bye.”

I laughed out loud several times, but then I actually tried it. It works! Mentally, it helped me get say let go. It has also sparked appreciation. Imagine if we got rid of everything except the essentials. Wouldn’t we be more grateful for those few possessions?

“Say good-bye joyfully with words, like ‘Thank your for finding me’ or ‘Have a good journey. See you again soon!'”

I tried this out on The Professor.

Me: “Okay, honey, does this bring you joy?” (old t-shirt)

“I guess not.”

Me: “Okay, thank it for its service in your life and then say good-bye.”

“No, I’m not doing that.”

Obviously, some of us have a hard time getting in touch with our feelings. Whatever. But it worked for me!

It was much easier for me to let go if I said thank you. I could imagine my old clothes saying, Free at last, I am free at last not stuck under Amy’s bed!

What about the rebound effect? Kondo says this over and over: “Rebound occurs because people mistakenly believe they have tidied thoroughly, which in fact they have only sorted and stored things halfway. If you put your house in order properly, you’ll be able to keep your room tidy, even if you are lazy or sloppy by nature” (which she says she is).

People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.

There’s so much wisdom in this book I want to reread it all over again.

I highly recommend it!

You want the space you live in to be graced only with those things that speak to your heart and bring joy. 

“Tidying is our opportunity to express our appreciation to our home for all it does for us.”

Amen to that. And now, back to tidying.

 

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All a Mother Needs: Remember Me

Every Mother’s Day, following the tradition of my own mother, we take a photo. This year we looked particularly photogenic. FullSizeRenderThis picture makes me laugh and pretty much sums up Mother’s Day: We tried.

Let’s walk down memory lane, shall we? And enjoy the Mother’s Days passed.

mothersday1 2014. Better?

mothersday2 2012. The lighting was really…uh, terrific. There’s a child missing and a child bawling. And her mother’s laughing at her. How mean am I? Anyway, this picture is a favorite. Little B was so sad because we took separate cars to church and she couldn’t go with me. Oh, when I was so adored! Btw, Cope is wearing my green cardigan and that white one has mysteriously gone missing from my closet. They claim innocence.

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2011. I remember I hated my hair. I also wore running shoes to church due to plantar fasciitis. It was a lovely look. My Copey is wearing my old skirt. Brynne is wearing Cope’s baptism dress. They look so little…and so grown up!

mothersday2011 2010. Pre-braces. We liked the couch on this Mother’s Day. So many glorious naps on the red couch. I miss the couch. This was a fun age, when every time I entered the house, the children squealed with delight and Paige cried because she missed me every second.

mothersday2010 2009. Bonus points – Tenny boy was in the picture on Mother’s Day! I mean, he’s basically another child. We really liked the red couch.

mothersday20092008. Our new house. Cope is wearing the dress Brynne is wearing in 2011. And now Paige wears it. Paige says, “You look so young, mom.” Yeah.

I became a mom in 1999, but I wasn’t doing digital prints then. Be assured, there are pictures. I love those pictures. What may have once seemed “imperfect,” is a treasure.

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Here’s my own mother, so many years ago when she basically had triplets. She would say, “look at my ratty hair,” but I adore it. I adore her familiar smile. And the way my father’s elbow rests on hers. We are wearing homemade matching dresses with matching home haircuts. I particularly like my twin’s homemade plaid pants.

Ah, Mother’s Day. I’d like to tip-toe into the subject and then I shall tip-toe right back out. I wish Mother’s Day was happier for more women. I wish we wouldn’t set ourselves up to be so disappointed. Too often, idealism robs rather than motivates. It’s mythical. Children (and spouses) need positive reinforcement; that’s motivating.

Are we setting the bar a bit too high? It’s as if our imperfect family will suddenly be our “ideal” and when those impossible expectations aren’t met, we’re crushed.

Like when Gregor threw up that one year. It was like he was throwing up at me.

I took the barf very personally.

This past Mother’s Day I decided I would not be disappointed by anything. Not even if my husband had to work all weekend (he did) or if the cherubs were crabby (never!)

I decided to appreciate the fact that I have a pretty awesome life. I have a mother here and a mother there. We GET to be mothers. So really, we may as well enjoy it. Every effort, no matter how small or imperfect is a sign that we are remembered, even if we have to ask someone to make dinner, set the table, and make a card (yes, I voice my needs :)

When I called my mom and visited my mother-in-law on Mother’s Day they were so grateful, so appreciative. “Thank you for remembering,” they said. I understand this. Mothers don’t need a lot on Mother’s Day, but we need a pause. We need to be remembered. Jewelry is just a bonus :)

I heard quite a few sentiments on Mother’s Day that ranged from, “It was a terrible day. My children were wretched. I feel like such a terrible mother” to “Just another day in paradise.” I like this one. Motherhood is much more enjoyable if we bring a sense of humor with us.

So when we’re given a dandelion bouquet, the imperfect drawing that makes us look like a herd of elephants and brought burnt toast for breakfast, say thank you. Don’t forget: Someone remembered you.

It’s the thought that counts.

Unless they’re throwing the burnt toast at you.

Mother’s Day was not created for mothers to feel more guilt. It’s just a day to be remembered. Which you are. Which I do. I’m sending you my wishes and kisses. I adore you women, each and every one.

xo.

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Omelette + Panini = Panomelette!

This, my friends, is something you must try. When Lynne B. put this on my lap, it was almost too charming to eat! It looked like an omelette, but had the tell-tale signs of a panini grill. I thought it brilliant (and delicious!) Thus, the panomelette was born.1531495The finished panomelette is just so perty, no?

DSC_0005 How to make such a masterpiece? You’ll begin with the omelette basics: eggs, milk, and cheese. Aren’t you glad we have cows?DSC_0008 Bacon is always a nice touch. Aren’t you glad we have pigs? Omelettes are wonderfully diverse. My husband would add onions and peppers. My kids would pick them out. I’d like hash browns. You see, add anything you’d like.

DSC_0011 If I didn’t mention, you need a panini grill. Want to borrow? Make sure it’s nice and hot. Spray with something nicely organic and chemical-free like olive or coconut Oil. panomelette You’ll pour that omelette on the panini machine nice and slow. It will drip down into the gutter (probably gutter is a no-no word in the world of cooking enticements). Have a little bowl to catch eggies. You can pour it right back on the panini grill. Ta-da! Out of the gutter.panomelette2It only takes a moment to cook before you have a fabulous panomelette. Exciting, no?

Is this not exactly what you’d like to eat in bed this Sunday for Mother’s Day breakfast surprise? I have a feeling more women are reading this post. No matter – forward this post to the man! Subtle hints are highly underrated.

So, when the panomelette is done, cut with a pizza cutter. I did three strips.

1531497Then I rolled that panomelette up, sprinkled with cheese, and topped with tomatoes. And everyone ate it and cooed at its loveliness.

Omelette + Panini = the Scrumptious Panomelette.

For complete story details, including ingredients (uh, eggs, milk, cheese, and bacon), click here. (and then go make it :)

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Best of April

It might not be #royalbaby news, but here’s our April “best of.” We’re staying busy on this speeding train called #lifewithkids unnamed-32My boy turned 14. It’s staggering. Cause yesterday he looked like this:unnamed-38And now he’s going to high school orientation. Good thing he knows Edna, the cookie queen. I’ve many spies employed.unnamed-16 unnamed-7 The highlight of my boy’s life was getting a post card from soccer hero Clint Dempsey. Like, best day EVER! He’s been waiting since last November and had all but given up hope. If I ever get fan mail, I shall be prompt :)

The boy is such a good sport:unnamed-10Cake courtesy of Grandma Heather, a boy’s dream: #meatandpotatoes and surrounded by girls, girls, and more girls. At least he has his dad and his dog. And the pink bunny ears.

Another highlight: the passports came. Because we’ve been at Hogwarts for so long, my husband’s summer sabbatical arrived! #Europe! I could write a whole post on the complexities and headaches of getting passports for six. Never mind. #exciting!unnamed-6

In my quest for greater inner calm, I read this fabulous book:unnamed-12 Brynne said, “A New York Times Bestseller? It’s about CLEANING!” Oh, it’s a gem. Post coming.

unnamed-1 In my quest for greater organization, I procured this free filing cabinet and spray painted it “farm equipment yellow.” The professor does not understand my choices.

I then used a label maker for the first time. #hooked.unnamed-2 unnamed-14 Anna, my 84-year-old friend passed down these hand-blown hand-painted bunny eggs made in her home country, Germany.  #donttouch

Easter was filled with lots of cousins, TWO grandmas, and General Conference #loveunnamed-24 And this #peep cakeunnamed-8 Good thing I’m still drinking my smoothies every morning. #nirvanaunnamed-17#whoopsy

unnamed-33Paige begged and begged for this green bok choy. Thrilled, I congratulated myself on being such a nutritiously-minded mother who has raised her children well. “You’re sure you’ll eat it?” Actually no. “I want it because It’s such a cool fan!” I didn’t buy it.

unnamed-11 My wonderful Ma came to visit. She cleans, tells stories, and pushes my cart.unnamed-28 And plays with apps.unnamed-15 Did you know YouTube has the most amazing hair tutorials?unnamed-26 Here’s my Anatomy & Physiology class. We are studying the reproductive system. Nothing like the real thing right in front of you! My panel of experts were awesome – and hopefully my teens will not have sex :) Just saying’.

I love this Instagram account, Humansofny. This one, oh this one:unnamed-23 unnamed-22

I follow this one too. Breaks my heart:unnamed-4 unnamed-27The news breaking story: snow is actually melting in New Hampshire. Paige “snow” #thenamethatshallnotbenamedpuddle bootsWe can say “puddles.”

unnamed-13 And yellow and orange-flowered pantsunnamed-19 And running shoes! We are back outside in the dark o’clock wee hours of the morning. With Asics. #happyunnamed-18 My running buddy ran the Boston Marathon this year. And makes me want to run something big again. Very inspiring.

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Brother Glenn ran the London Marathon and sends me texts. Do I want to commit to a marathon? #indecisiveunnamed-31 My Brynnie-boo ran in her first track meet. The heart can hardly take it.unnamed-30 The 5th grade 4×4 relay!unnamed-29 My boy handing off the baton. #love

unnamed-21 Good weather brings out the pioneer clothes and outdoor eating. What? You don’t do that?unnamed-20 unnamed-3 The Sky Guy can get a bit show-offy sometimes.unnamed-9 Tenny contemplates the vastness of the universe

This isn’t really happening: #collegeplanningunnamed-5

But this is acceptable:_DSC0911-L Going all #ham :) (no mom, you can’t say that.)unnamed-36 She scored (and I got there a minute later) #sigh

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How was your month? Did you write is all down, too?

#HappyMay!

 

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Honey Whole Wheat Bread (delish!)

Here it is, my go-to homemade bread recipe passed down from the ancestors of old to me and now to you! Delicious, nutritious, easy to make, this bread winner is especially dreamy just out of the oven with a pat of melted butter…bread3The finished product may remind you of the good earth.

yeastYou’ll begin with hot water, honey or maple syrup, and a dab of shortening. (Brown sugar works well too, but we’re veering toward more natural products.) Next, using the same measuring cup used for the honey/maple syrup, you’ll add warm water and yeast. This way the yeast flirts with the sugar on the bottom of the measuring cup to make the magic happen.

risingAdd more water, a bit of salt, and white whole wheat flour and that’s it. The party has started.

bread2 The dough will rise twice for two super loaves. I like to bake bread on our baking stones, with a little corn meal laid down underneath. After the second coming rising, the dough looks like this beauty.

bread3 Bake at 400 for about 24-30 minutes. I mean, is that beauteous or what?

DSC_0041 If you prefer more traditional loaves, you can plunk dough in bread pans. Could even sprinkle some oatmeal on top. Let rise until double in size like so:DSC_0043We are now ready for the oven!

Time? Yes, homemade bread takes time. It requires a morning, afternoon, or evening at home so bread can rise. The anticipation is part of the joy of baking, adding one ingredient at a time, letting dough rise, the smell of flour and gluten rising in the air and then baked bread filling the kitchen while children jump at your feet (drooling. always drooling.)

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Honey Whole Wheat Bread

1/2 cup hot water

1/2 cup honey or pure maple syrup

3 tablespoons shortening

1/2 cup warm water

3 teaspoons yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water

2 teaspoon salt

6 cups whole wheat white flour (OR 3 cups white flour and 3 cups whole wheat white)

Directions:

1. Combine first three ingredients: 1/2 cup hot water, 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup, 3 tablespoons shortening. Mix until dissolved. (I use a kitchen aid mixer with dough attachment but this is optional – bread can be made completely by hand).

2. Combine *next two ingredients: 1/2 cup warm water and 3 teaspoons yeast. Let stand about 5-10 minutes until frothy/bubbly. *(Use the 1-cup measuring cup you used for the honey/maple so the yeast will rise in the water.)

3. Pour yeast mixture into mixer/bowl where the first three ingredients are waiting.

4. Add 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 teaspoons salt, and 3 cups of the flour. Beat vigorously to make a sponge. Mix in remaining 3 cups flour (and 1/2 cup wheat germ or cracked wheat if you like). Knead or mix, adding more flour as needed. You want to be able to knead or mix until it no longer sticks to your hands.

5. Leave in mixer bowl and cover with a damp towel or saran wrap, preferably in a warm place. Let rise until double in bulk (45 min-1hour.) Punch down. Form into two loaves. Put on prepared pizza stones (sprinkled with corn meal) or in bread pans (with a non-stick spray). Let rise double in bulk again (30-45 min).

6. Bake on 400 for 24-30 minutes until the bread is toasty brown.

yumAnd then you may eat.

Happy Weekend, bread fans!

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she wanted to be his passion

Still Alice is haunting me. Other than frequently losing my mind, there is another theme that resonated. I don’t like it. It comes from this passage:

“I wish we’d spend more time together,” she said.

“What do you mean? We just spent the whole summer together.”

“No, not the summer, our whole lives. I’ve been thinking about it, and I wish we’d spent more time together.”

“Ali, we live together, we work at the same place, we’ve spent our whole lives together.”

In the beginning, they did. They lived their lives together, with each other. But over the years, it had changed. They had allowed it to change. She thought about the sabbaticals apart, the division of labor over the kids, the travel, their singular dedication to work. They’d been living next to each other for a long time.

“I think we left each other alone for too long.”

“I don’t feel left alone, Ali. I like our lives, I think it’s been a good balance between an independence to pursue our own passions and a life together.”

She thought about his pursuit of his passion, his research, always more extreme than hers. Even when the experiments failed him, when the data weren’t consistent, when the hypotheses turned out to be wrong, his love for his passion never wavered. However flawed, even when it kept him up all night tearing his hair out, he loved it. The time, care, attention, and energy he gave to it had always inspired her to work harder at her own research. And she did.

“You’re not left alone, Ali. I’m right here with you.”

He looked at his watch, then downed the rest of his coffee.

“I’ve got to run to class.”

He picked up his bag, tossed his cup in the trash, and went over to her. He bent down, held her head of curly black hair in his hands, and kissed her gently. She looked up at him and pressed her lips into a thin smile, holding back her tears just long enough for him to leave her office.

She wished she’d been his passion.

wedding

Oh my, I adore this couple. (and people say I look just the same – ha!) This couple is so young, now changed, but better too. I think so. I hope so.

When I read the Alice passage, my heart beat abnormally fast. I felt a cold flash of fear.

It happens so easily and innocently, doesn’t it? The separating is so slow and natural that it’s hardly even noticeable. “Separate” is a necessary, normal, and healthy part a marriage. But there’s this passion thing I can’t stop thinking about.

Alice’s neurons are literally dying and she knows she’s going to lose even the memory of knowing her husband. It is the end of their life as it was. There’s that word: regret.

Alice’s husband loves her, but he’s not facing THE END. Maybe that’s the difference. Or maybe he likes their life and their space. Maybe his other passions are enough.

When we were first married I went everywhere with Gregor. In the beginning, they did. They lived their lives together, with each other. We always found each other. Everything was so new and exciting – I mean, I was living with A MAN! We taught and coached and then I’d come to his soccer field and we would shoot on the net. Then we would shower and go eat at the dining hall. I pitied those couples who entered and left the dining hall without each other, who were too busy to coordinate dinner together, who sat separately. I felt secure, that our love was strong and impenetrable, that we must like each other more than others. How lucky we were!

When we had our first babies, our love was even stronger. Children made us a family and we loved them more than we loved our own lives. There came a need for a division of labor. I wanted to be home with baby, and I was nursing. So I was the one getting up at night so he could work the next day. I still went to all his basketball games, even the away ones, even when they were in Roxbury Massachusetts and I drove for six hours trying to find that stupid gym.

But over the years, it had changed. They had allowed it to change…Then we had more babies and our older children started school. What a wonderful unit we were! And as was necessary as responsibilities were bigger. The “divide and conquer” method was needed for home, work, church, hobbies, and volunteer work.

They’d been living next to each other for a long time. 

Then came all those lessons of one kind and another: soccer, baseball, swimming, basketball, cross-country, dance, scouts, camp-outs. Our children made friends and went to their houses. And the mall! One of us was (is) always driving in the car, picking someone up and dropping someone off while the other was (is) at home doing bedtime, teeth-brushing, and homework.

And the work became even more important. I sometimes worry about this, all this time spent apart. But we make efforts. It’s been good. It’s been enough. We’re happy.

Aren’t we?

Nothing says passion like the wolverine beard...right?

Nothing says passion like the wolverine beard…right?

But this past fall, our friends: the “perfect couple” with the “perfect family,” with four children the same ages as our own, quietly divorced. It was shocking. Obviously, “the perfect” was not. I cried, got angry, asked really personal questions, and felt a sad soul-sucking hopelessness.

It happens all the time. And it scares me. Couples “drift.” We “grow apart.” Over time, the little things become “irreconcilable differences.” Most couples who divorce probably wouldn’t say it was one big thing. They say, “we were too young,” “I don’t know what happened.” “He just wasn’t there for me.”

Or are those just things we tell ourselves?

So I’ve been thinking. This is what passion looks like to me:

  • find one another when you come through the door after being away
  • say good-bye with a kiss
  • date nights. and often.
  • get-aways. just the two of you.
  • small, considerate acts of kindness. (he scrubbed the carpet this morning. WIN.)
  • “I love you.” every day.
  • pray together. every day.
  • his interests are my interests – not because I like electronic stores, but because I love him.
  • when we speak to one another, it’s always with respect.

Nothing on this list is big. Everything is very small. And critical to a marriage. It’s this couple. It’s Exercising our Kindness Muscles. It’s the small things that keep the passion, not just the grand overtures, diamond rings, and over-the-top birthday parties (I mean, honey, those are nice too!)

I guess I don’t want it to take tragedy or feel a great regret that we could have done it better. I want to say he was the love of my life, because I chose him and he chose me. That we loved each other on purpose. While the neurons are still alive.

She wished she’d been his passion.

The heartbreaking thing here is, too much time had passed and Alice couldn’t do anything about it.

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Book Recommendations (and more!)

Here we go with some book recommendations that will surely thrill your heart and stir the soul. I tell you what, a good book is what gets me through February and March in New Hampshire.

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.  Young Adult. Tragic, page-turner, very tight writing. John Green says,”Thrilling, beautiful, and blisteringly smart, We Were Liars is utterly unforgettable.” I liked this, didn’t love it, but it’s a great book to study for sparse but powerful language, the ending is what Cope calls, “cray-cray.” Interpretation: crazy. I didn’t see it coming!

Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell. Young Adult. I thought this could have been 100 pages shorter :) but it was really funny, the dialogue was fabulous, and I thought Rainbow (great name!) did freshman sexuality well. A few too many swears for my taste, but Ms. Rowell (Eleanor and Park) is a superb storyteller.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Loved this! Baker tells a forgotten chapter of American history, (at least I didn’t know about it) the part where hundreds of thousands of orphans would get on a train and travel across the country, hoping a family would adopt them. Babies, toddlers, teens. Love the structure of this novel, how it switches back and forth between present and past. Big take away: the human spirit is incredibly resilient. I shall never complain again.

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Arming Your Children With the Gospel by R. Wayne and Leslee S. Boss: I try to always be reading something enlightening and spiritually beneficial for my family. This is great. Told with real life stories and great quotes, this book is very applicable to modern culture. I dog-eared many many pages. Chapters I particularly liked: Why Teach the Gospel in the home (no one can do it better than you), The Good Neighbor Policy (sometimes we treat neighbors better than our family), Teaching Children Obedience (obedience is the first principle of family life; all interactions and behavior flow from it), and Developing a Love for the Scriptures (it’s not a burden, rather a marvelous opportunity.)

Helen Keller, a Photographic Story of a Life by Leslie Garrett I love autobiographies. Helen Keller is astoundingly smart, but who I admire even more is Anne Sullivan. She had a very difficult life; was exhausted, nearly-blind herself, and orphaned. This teacher is my hero.

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Einstein’s Beach House by Jacob M Appel I’ve long-admired Mr. Appel’s ability to have a full-time career as a doctor AND write hundreds of short stories. He’s won the Writer’s Digest Competition a few times. I received this for free (by emailing him after a webinar!). I have to say, this collection is brilliant story-telling. Didn’t love all the swears in a few stories, but wow, this guy can write!

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly Saw the movie many years ago, but never read the book. Love lawyer conundrums with page-turning story telling. And all I could see was Matthew McConaughey on every page. Need I say more?

Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Just finished this yesterday! This is my kind of book. Told from the perspective of a brilliant Harvard professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s (she’s only 50), this is a book everyone should read. Loved all the medical jargon, human interactions, and the thoughts of a mother who knows she will forget her children. Heartbreakingly good. Now I need to see the movie…Julianne Moore won the Oscar! Also, if you’re a writer, Ms. Genova has some fantastic advice. For instance, this was originally a self-published book. Her advice: don’t get stuck in that holding pattern of not writing and waiting for the literary agent to pick you. Act! Pick yourself. Um, hello Amy.

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. Middle grade read my 5th-grader loved. Mia Winchell has synesthesia, the mingling of perceptions whereby a person can see sounds, smell colors, or taste shapes. A coming-of-age book. I thought it just okay.

What I’ve started: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families. So good, so much information.

Other Entertainment News in Television:

1. We did it. In one year, averaging one show a night, we finished all eight seasons of 24. (I’m so proud). Jack Bauer, we love you. No, really. LOVE.

2. We did it. In 6-7 years, we watched the last episode of Parenthood. Best series of real life on t.v. Loved this show. I cried during the season finale…dare you not to.

3. Downton Abbey! The girls and I looked forward to this bonding Downton night every week. The season finale? Carson and Mrs. Hughes! So amazing. And who is this dashing man with a too-fast car? I have high hopes for Mary. Oh, and Edith and her baby! There’s never enough!

4. Chicago PD. A little obsessed with Sophia Bush. I want to be her. Love this show.

The two movies we saw in the last year were recent:

1. McFarland. This is a post by itself so I’ll just say: FANTASTIC! I LOVED it. A must-see for more reasons than running shoes, a coach seeking redemption, and rooting for the under-dog.

2. Cinderella. This movie sparked quite the debate in the house. I loved it. Not everyone did :) Casting was terrific. Cate Blanchett as wicked stepmother? Perfect. And Lily James from Downton? Maybe I was just obsessed with her hair. Her hair. Did you see her hair?

Well, that’s how I got through winter. How did you do it? Did it involve books or shows? I’d love to hear.

xoxo!

 

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Simple Homemade Tomato Soup

Yesterday morning we had another school delay, due to 3-5 inches of SNOW getting dumped on New Hampshire. These are the times that try the souls of men. And mothers. The kids need to be outside romping! Dear Mother Nature, it’s time to move on to a different season. How do we cope? We make the ultimate comfort food: soup.DSC_0059 I owe the deliciousness to Curt, my dear brother-in-law, who prepared this classic tomato soup one year ago when I was in Utah, preparing to run the Salt Lake City Marathon. They don’t eat much meat in their family due to my sister’s stomach issues.

My mouth dropped open as his children devoured this tomato soup, asked for more, and ate it as leftovers the next day. I mean, I had to elbow my way in for a slurp; a soup is filled with vegetables. And the kids were loving it! It’s filling, delicious, and gut-friendly (and believe me, before and after a marathon your gut needs friends).

IMG_6991Let me introduce you to the leek. I’d never cooked with leeks before. What a beautiful food.

garlicFresh garlic was a Christmas gift. Priceless.

leeks1 Leeks, celery, onion, garlic will be your base, sautéed in butter.

DSC_0065 Topped with fresh cilantro. Are your salivary glands working?

DSC_0068 No fresh tomatoes? No matter. Canned work well in the middle of winter.

DSC_0063 Light, fresh, and packed with whole foods, you’re going to make your body happy with this dish.

Easy Buttermilk Biscuits
Easy Buttermilk Biscuits There are times when I like chunks in my soup. Adding vegetables adds nutrition and substance. Using an immersion blender makes this soup is classically smooth – and the kids are much more likely to eat it.. Paired with the easy buttermilk drop biscuits, this is one beautiful night at home. Does nothing spell love for the man like warm soup on a cold night? DSC_0064Homemade Tomato Soup

Homemade Tomato Soup

2 Tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

2 Leeks, chopped

1 Onion

1 Stalk Celery, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 20 ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 Cup Water

2 Cubes Chicken Boullion

1 32 ounce Plain Tomato Juice

1 dash Nutmeg

1 dash cayenne pepper (depending on spice factor

1 Tablespoon Honey

Cilantro

Directions:

1. Saute butter, garlic, leeks, onion, and celery until soft.

2. Add lemon juice, crushed tomatoes, water, bullion, and tomato juice.

3. Add dash of nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and honey.

4. Bring to simmer so all the ingredients can meld into deliciousness.

5. Use an immersion blender (love this) or blender to puree soup. Add cilantro as a tasty garnish if you like.

And that, my friends, is all there is to it. May you eat soup, live long, and prosper.

xo.

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