Sunday, January 22, 2017

Gentle Thoughts vol.01


God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them."  
-St. Augustine

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Roses In Winter


I've never been a big fan of roses... Perhaps just for the sake of being different? I tend to shy away from the overly prosaic as a rule, but like any rule, there is usually an exception.

And my exception is the glorious Bluebird. It's held me under it's enchanting spell since I was a teenager apprenticing in a family-run little flower shop. Building order after order of yellow, pink, white, and multi-hued florabundas without batting an envious eyelash... One too many young starry-eyed boyfriends ordering the overly-cliched red dozen perhaps, had skewed my appreciation for what many consider the mother of all flowers.

But then one day a new shipment appeared on our loading dock that would change the way I would look at roses forever. Out came the boxes full of heady blooms, and straight into the walk-ins they went for safe keeping. The afternoon carried on, and toward closing time one of our chief designers started working on a hand-tie for his wife whose birthday was close on the morrow. He disappeared into the fridge for some fresh materials, and emerged with the most magnificent rose blooms I had ever beheld. Enormous...soft...velvety...luxuriously abundant chalky blue-lavender petals with slightly deeper centers...equal parts vintage and modern. I think I audibly caught my breath.

Turns out they were his wife's very favorite, and it was easy for any casual observer to see why. Every rose ever after would pale in it's shadow. Those many years ago, it was one of the first true lavenders on the market. They were expensive and hard to come by. And I was head over heels.

Each time they would come in by special order, I couldn't get enough...hovering over the work table of whomever was filling the order, burying my nose in their soft fragrance... They quickly became my cultivated soul flower.

Months passed, and I came into work on the morning of my 16th birthday (a little gray-ish feeling to be working that day, truth-be-told) to find waiting on my work table

16 Bluebird Roses
displayed in an arrangement fit for royalty.

I cried.

I had never (and perhaps have never since) received a gift that made me feel so incredibly special. I did not deserve such a gift. From co-workers/a boss no less. I did nothing spectacular. We were not super close friends. Yet the time and thought that went into ordering them (a month or more in advance), the exorbitant cost, the artistic time and love that went into presenting them in such a grand fashion. All of these things that went over and above the usual status-quo effort expended on a gift...it was overwhelming. And for the week or two that they were alive, my heart nearly burst from the purest form of human kindness they exuded. This gift of all gifts.

So what is the purpose of this tome? To educate you on the virtues of the Bluebird? To cram as many superlatives into one blog post as is humanly possible? To simply pass the time on this snowy weekend?

No, dear ones. My purpose in writing is perhaps less obvious, it is to share with you the joy of being known. My co-workers saw the simple delight that these particular roses brought to my life. How they spoke to me, and made my heart sing. - Perhaps that seems strange to some of you - but us romantics often feel rich, deep connections with objects and creatures of the natural world.

And not only did they see it, they remembered, and they chose to go out of their way to make me feel like a million bucks. This insignificant 16 year old apprentice.

Since then, lavender roses have become a dime a dozen on the market...you can easily find them everywhere, and though only a dim whisper of the glory of their forerunners, every time my husband brings me home a dozen, my heart swells again. Because he knows me. And he knows this story. And I love how he reminds me of it each time they grace our home.

As they are this very moment.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Year of The Leap



A New Year has dawned.

And as many of us do, I find myself in a contemplative sort of mood. My best thinking has always been done "on paper" (nowadays oft translated to a keyboard and screen), so I sat down with my thoughts on the morn of this bright and shiny new year and wanted to spend some time clickity-clacking away, trying to record the momentous twelve months that 2016 was.

In the spirit of authenticity, I just wrote and deleted an entire paragraph of realness. The ugly side of realness. This past year has had some record low points to be sure...and many of them are following me unwelcomed into 2017. But something I've learned is that very few people can truly handle your junk. Most don't care, offer unhelpful platitudes, or call you a whiner. - So I'm going to spare you (and myself) a trip to Negative Nellieville, and we'll focus on the definitive highlight of the year in this post. Just know, our life certainly isn't all rainbows and unicorns.

This year was one to remember in our household. It was the year we decided to

LEAP.

There have been stirrings in our hearts for some time now...years really. They started the first time we found ourselves in the European countryside. Because there...nearly five thousand miles away from "home" we truly did find ourselves. Not only that, but we found our kindred. Our people. The way of life that makes us come alive.

My husband and I have never really been at home here in America. The national status quo smothers our very souls and turns our hearts a delicate shade of grayish blue more often than not. We have always had a hard time connecting with people because of it. It's hard, nowadays, to find kindred spirits who value slow living. But we felt stuck...stuck in the rat race...stuck in societies expectations...stuck in the American way.

If you know me, you know that I'm a people pleaser, a planner, sentimental, a homebody, and most definitely NOT a risk taker. But this year shattered all of those things I thought I knew about myself.

This year I decided to stop existing, and start LIVING.

We've been talking, my husband and I, about how to make this European lifestyle we so connect with a reality here across the pond. It seemed (still seems, sometimes?) nearly impossible. I wasn't ready for a big change. Then my husband wasn't ready for a big change. But this year, we both found ourselves there at the same time. Ready. Ready to try anyway. And what is life, if not for following hard after your dreams...even if it may mean failure. To us, it's worth the risk. -

I remember well the moment: sitting in Patty on a camping trip, reading a book together about the Tiny House movement, and in that moment, looking at each other saying, with much fear and trepidation, "Can we really do this??". But we did.

We took the leap.

Up for sale went our beloved Windy Poplars, and after a whirlwind of a season on the market (hello, showings nearly every day for a month), our home of 13 years that we had poured immeasurable blood, sweat, and tears into, was passed to the hands of a new owner at the end of a climactic bidding war. As our realtor said, "Everybody wants to take you to the prom, and you get to choose who you want to go with!" It seemed like a confirmation that a new dawn was just around the bend for us.

Fast forward three months, and we are catching our breath, happily settled into our floft (flat+loft=floft) downtown getting broken in to the next chapter of life that awaits us: living tiny as we continue to search for land. - We have a parcel that we are close to making a move on (prayers appreciated!) which will throw life back into high gear as we prepare for a build.

So what dreams are we chasing? Well, when I say tiny, I really just mean down-sized. We hope for our main living space to be a small cottage less than 1000 sq.ft. and to have separate guest quarters from which to run an Airbnb. We plan to shrink our mortgage, our maintenance load, and our subsequent servitude to both. We hope to be able to focus more on living, on helping to build strong marriages, on mentoring others whose hearts might be pulled in the direction of slow living, on working less and experiencing more, on being a part of a community instead of the isolated rural life we lived for so long, on savoring, on traveling, on truly living.

And we'd love to have you follow along on our journey! It's sure to be an adventure. :-)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"I went to the woods..."


"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, 
to front only the essential facts of life, 
and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, 
and not, when I came to die, discover that I had 
not lived."

Henry David Thoreau

Monday, December 12, 2016

How to Eat Well Through The Holidays



So this past week, my husband and I had a sudden and urgent craving for vegetables. Like a: "GIVEMEALLTHEGREENTHINGSNOWORIWILLDIE!" kind of craving. We all know how the holidays are... Add in the birthday week of a foodie, and there has been a whole lotta yummy junk goin' on up in here.

And we're feelin' it.

Based on the response I got from my recent post on Facebook (if other people found it really difficult to eat well during the holidays), ya'll are "feelin' it" too! Indulging a bit is a part of the whole culture of the holidays, but too much of a good thing can have you feeling tired, irritable, lethargic, and sick.

While there's no magic wand I can wave to make all of the traditional holiday foods healthful foods, here are a few things that we do to make sure it's not all sugared-gravied-buttered-refined-processed-laden fuel (can we even call that fuel?) that we're giving our poor bodies to run off of for the month of December.

-ONE-
Buy plenty of easy-to-eat (no prep required) veggies and have them washed and ready to grab in your fridge or on your counter when the munchies come a-callin'. 
Examples might be: snow peas/snap peas, baby carrots, pre-cut broccoli and cauliflower florets, pre-cut pepper rings. - You may not normally spring for the slightly more expensive variety of these foods, but during the holidays, anything we can do to a) cut our workload and b) make it easy to eat well is worth it's weight in gold!

-TWO-
Be the one to bring a fruit or veggie tray to holiday pot-lucks. 
That way you'll know there will be some healthful options available, and fill your plate with them, so there's only room left for a cookie or two!

-THREE-
Make veggie-filled meals when you eat at home. 
One of the easiest ways to get those veggies in (and their needed fiber), is to make a soup laden with them. Make a huge pot, and then freeze some for later, or eat off it for several days! This week I made some easy chicken/mushroom/kale soup, and some rutabaga/onion/cabbage stew. Both keep well for ages!

-FOUR-
Prepare some healthy sides one afternoon that you can draw from throughout the week. 
This week I made a large batch of lima beans (no salt, no butter), a double batch of rustic ratatouille, and roasted some cauliflower to toss with dried apricots, mustard, curry, and a little evoo. Another fresh idea is making a large kale salad, which will stay fresh for days! One of our favorites is kale/pomegranate/pecans/blue cheese with a simple aged balsamic drizzle. Sides might not seem like a big deal, but often, when we're busy, I'll make a main dish (meat), but not take the extra time to make some vegetables to go with. When I'm too frazzled to even cook, and end up grabbing some BBQ or a burger to bring home, again, I've got some healthful sides all set to accompany. Or for lunch - if I'm grabbing a sandwich, I'll throw some limas and cauli on the plate along with it. Any way we can easily up the daily vegetable intake, is a good way.

-FIVE-
Green smoothies. 
There are some days when I just need something ALIVE! But it's winter. In the mid-Atlantic. And nothing fresh is very tasty right now. - So I'll dive into my stores of frozen fruit and veggies, and whip up a nice green smoothie. *Remember when you add greens to a smoothie, that you should also add a source of fat to the mix (yogurt, milk, or nut butter all work well) to help your body absorb the vitamin K.

-SIX-
Use a food prep service. 
There are two levels of this little gem that I utilize during the busy seasons of life (I now don't know how I'd survive with food sensitivities and the desire to eat clean without them!). One is a subscription delivery service that is essentially a mise en place. You pick your recipes, and a week later the ingredients arrive on your doorstep in perfectly portioned containers complete with step-by-step instructions. Each meal takes only 30-45 minutes to actually cook, and we've been quite pleased with the complex flavors we've found in the well-developed recipes! I have used: Marley Spoon, Blue Apron, Plated, and Hello Fresh - and would recommend them all (Should I do a comparison post on all of these one day?).
For $40 off a 3-meal box from Hello Fresh CLICK HERE (I think that makes your box $20-ish)
If you'd like to try a FREE box from Blue Apron (I only have 2 available - for new customers), send me your e-mail address, and I'll hook you up!

The second level is utilizing local food prep services that have meals already prepared for you(either cooked, or ready-to-cook). Many of these are locally sourced, organic, allergen conscious, and use clean whole ingredients. - A MUCH better option than usual take-out. Two such services in the Roanoke Valley are:

They focus on simple choose-your-protein/choose your starch/choose your vegetable-meals. Well proportioned, and un-sauced, but with pleasant seasoning blends added. While not gourmet, these are straightforward healthful options at a great price. If you like your food simple, and you want to eat healthy (or follow portion control for some of the more popular diets - south beach, 21 day fix, paleo, etc.), this is a fabulous choice for you. Their customer service is top notch. Bonus: they deliver.

We adore Myles and Karen (the "M" and the "K" behind the magic) and the delicious, innovative food they create. Every couple of weeks their menu changes, and is a la carte. They offer a few entree options (with starch/meat/veg), many individual course options (twice baked potatoes, quiches, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed meat, quinoa patties, etc....), soup and salads by weight/size, and desserts that are all to die for. This has been one of the most allergen-friendly places in town since the day they opened, and I love having SO MANY wonderful options as a gluten free customer every time we go there. Disclaimer: this is more in the category of gourmet comfort food, but there are always veggie and lighter options available. Bonus: they deliver too :-).

I hope these tips help you cruise on through the holidays eating well, and come out the other end on January 2nd not feeling desperately like a detox is in order! Do you have more tips for staying on the healthy train during this time of the year? Please share them in the comments!



Monday, December 5, 2016

Birthday Wishes


My birthday was Sunday. Marked by another candle on the cake/cards/calls/texts from family and friends, and the most wonderful weekend of celebration executed to perfection by my husband.

One aspect of birthday merry-making that, while a part of my life for several years now, really gave me pause for reflection and gratitude this year, was the long line of well-wishes from my Facebook friends. So many of those (you) dear people I'm not actively in touch with anymore (the definition of a "Facebook friend" I suppose), but seeing the messages roll in from around the world - every year starting with my sweet Chemistry compadre Rachel now in Cambodia, moving through Europe and the beautiful souls I've had the pleasure of meeting there, then finally to the United States when dawn breaks on the east coast, the parade of wishes this year really seemed to trace a sort of map of my life up to this point. Bringing to mind so many happy memories, activities, trips, jobs, hobbies, and friendships as I scrolled down my wall.

Friends I've known since the day I was born, my first babysitter's son who was like a brother when I was young, dear friends from my quizzing years, fellow bunheads (ballerinas ;-)), my first youth pastor, choir friends, singing school friends, blog friends, blog friends-turned-real-life-friends, piano students, piano student's parents, stamping customers, photography clients, photography peers, fellow creatives I have collaborated with, exercise clients, our old mail lady, the guy we bought our Patty from, and of course many other friends and family of the dear and everyday variety! Each of you have been a piece that makes up the quilt of my life. And I am so grateful for you.

And even more grateful that you took a moment out of your incredibly busy Decembers (ask any December baby, we sure get the short end of the birthday stick!), to write a wish on the wall of someone you knew...maybe a very long time ago, maybe for only a few short months, maybe we've never even met in person, but your notes meant so very much - each and every one - and helped to make my birthday weekend a joy-filled celebration!

Thank you.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Roanoke VA FREE Christmas Musical Events 2016



December 4th | 7:00pm | Cave Spring United Methodist Church
Moravian Love Feast | www.cavespringumc.org

December 9th | 11:00am | Cave Spring UMC
Lunch with Lowe and Friends featuring Ronn Lowe and Julie Hickcox | www.cavespringumc.org

December 11th | 6:00pm | Raleigh Court Presbyterian
Handel's Messiah | www.rcpres.org

December 13th | 7:30pm | St. Andrew's Catholic
St. Lucia Concert | www.standrewsroanoke.org

December 18th | 5:00pm | St. Mark's Lutheran
Carols by Candlelight | www.stmarkslutheran-roanoke.org