Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Essence of Taste - Exploring Our Favorite Foods And Style

In continuing our exploration of the senses, today we move on to the essence of taste.  If you missed the previous posts, you will find them linked at the end.

According to Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book, Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendor, the word taste has a double meaning.

The primary definition of taste is the sensory faculty, which enables us to distinguish dissolved substances as sweet, sour, bitter or salty. It doesn't matter if you're eating in a four star up scale restaurant or the corner diner, every chef has only these four flavors to work with.  I personally tend to prefer the sweet and salty combinations best.  And while I can appreciate some sour flavors,  I don't care for bitter tasting foods at all, or maybe I just haven't found the right ones!

Did you know that we are born with approximately 10,000 taste buds, and that up to age 40, they regenerate every two weeks?  They continue to regenerate after that age, too, but just not as often.  That means that there is a chance that something you taste this week and don't like, may taste completely different to you in just a few weeks, which is whey nutritionists suggest constantly reintroducing foods to young children even if at first they are not favorable. With repetition, and because their tastes buds are constantly changing, they may learn to like broccoli, after all!

The second definition of taste refers to the mental faculty by which we appreciate things for the pleasure they bring us.  Some people may refer to is as their "sense of style", and the media spends billions of dollars trying to convince of what is currently considered, "in good taste", or rather, how we should decorate our houses and adorn our bodies.  And while many people keep up with the trends, for others taste is a very personal matter.

It's taken me a lot of years to finally discern my personal taste and to know what I prefer. Aside from what the media may say, I've stuck with the same style and color palette for several years now.  I think the key to personal taste is knowing what styles and colors you personally prefer and what looks good in your home and on your body. I have been drawn to what was once known as "Country Decorating" and is now more commonly known as "Primitive" for years now, and I love the colors black, red, yellow and green. And while I wouldn't consider my wardrobe to be "primitive", the same color and patterns often carry over into my wardrobe selection as well.

Just for fun, I thought I list some of my favorite sensory tastes, and then my tastes in style and fashion.  In keeping with the previous posts, I've also made up a little printable that you can download for free and explore your own tastes and sense of style.  And so without further delay, here are my personal preferences.

Favorite Tastes (Flavors)
- Vanilla
- Dark Chocolate
- Chocolate and Orange
- Chocolate and Chili
- Ginger
- Cinnamon
- Nutmeg

Favorite Meals
- Just about anything Indian, Thai or Mexican, I like things with a LOT of flavor and a LOT of spice!
- But I also REALLY like a good steak with a loaded baked potato and a Caesar salad.  One of my favorite meals!
- And I LOVE meatloaf, mashed potatoes and field peas!

Personal Taste (Decorating)
- I love primitive decorating primarily in black and red with touches of yellow, but recently I've been kind of transitioning some of that over to green.  Bill prefers green and now that we are back together I'm taking both of our tastes into consideration when decorating.  Thankfully he loves rustic/primitive, too, so I haven't really had to change anything.

Personal Taste (Clothing)
- As with my decorating I wear a lot of black, red and green.  Since I am blessed to be a stay-at-home wife and mother, most of my wardrobe consists of jeans/shorts, t-shirts and in the winter a LOT of flannel shirts!  I have kind of a weakness for flannel.  I much prefer my winter wardrobe to my summer one, but then, I prefer autumn and winter over the warmer months, as well. I've also developed a love for fleece lined black and grey leggings this winter.  They are just so warm and comfortable, but I do wear them with long tops.  I also have a bit of a fetish for socks, and it's hard for me to pass up buying more, especially those cute seasonal socks they have in the dollar section at Target.  It's an illness!  And finally, because my daughter works at Old Navy, I discovered this year just how cheaply you can buy cute clothes when they do mark downs.  The quality may not be quite there, but for a few seasons anyway, I'm good with $4.00 thermals, especially when they are red and black buffalo check!

As I said before, below you will find a printable to help you explore your own sense of "taste", and I'd love to hear from some of you!  What are some of your favorite flavors, meals.  How do you decorate your house, in what style and colors.  And do those colors also tend to show up in your wardrobe, as well!  The cushions on my couch are black and white buffalo check and I also bought a pear of thermals back in December in the same pattern.  So now when I sit on the couch when I am wearing them, I'm almost invisible!  You will find the link to the worksheet under the image below as well as the links to the previous posts in the series where you'll find additional **FREE** printables, as well!

We still have a few more senses to explore in this series, and next up is the essence of touch!

Until then,

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Roasted Beet and Butternut Squash Salad

Hello, my friends!  I'm sorry that it's been so many days since I've been in this space.  These last few weeks of January have been especially busy, with a death in our extended family and another friend who has been battling cancer for over a year now and whose health is quickly failing.  But I do feel the desire, and even the need, honestly, to return to the familiar rhythms of life and to share with you here again.  I want to continue on our series on the senses and move on to the next topic, the sense of taste, and I'll be working on that post this evening.  But before we do, I wanted to share a recipe with you that I made for the first time last week.

The 21st was my husband's birthday, and since he is typically a very healthy eater (much healthier that I am!), when I asked what he wanted for his birthday dinner he requested roasted vegetables.  To be honest, at first I was a little disappointed and couldn't imagine how I was going to pull off a festive, party-type meal featuring roasted vegetables.  But then, it was HIS birthday, so I knew I had to get over myself pretty quickly!

Still, I wanted it to be special and at the very least colorful, and that was when I remembered a recipe I had saved from a magazine awhile back for a beautiful beet and butternut squash salad. I am going to admit to you, however, that even though it looked amazing, I was skeptical. My only experience with beets was from my childhood and my memories were not favorable. Still, my curiosity was peaked and it did seem like the perfect fit, being what he requested, and still making for a lovely presentation. And can I just say, that this recipe met and surpassed my expectations! It was both beautiful and delicious and dispelled all of my previous beliefs about beets! And I also want to add that they are absolutely one of the most beautiful vegetables I have ever worked with, but just as a warning, in case there are others of you out there who haven't tried them, they stain everything they touch! I also wasn't aware that you could eat the greens, and they were beautiful as well, and tasted so good!  This is one that I will definitely be making again, and I think it would make a lovely addition to the table at Christmas, so I'm going to make a note of that and in my files!  The dressing is also equally delicious, and its one that I would make again for other salads as well!

Roasted Beet and Butternut Squash Salad

1 bunch fresh beets, beets peeled and diced into ½" cubes (reserve the greens)
1 diced butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ½" cubes
½ tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon mustard
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper

Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Toss diced beets and butternut squash with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 25 minutes, stirring several times. Mix together salad dressing ingredients.
Cut off stems from beet greens, cut in half lengthwise, and cut into large shreds. Wash and dry.
Allow roasted vegetables to come to room temperature.
Plate beet greens and top with roasted vegetables, goat cheese, and sesame seeds
Dress or serve with salad dressing on the side.

And now I'm going to close and set to work on tomorrow's post!  I hope you'll be sure to come back and join me, and if you do happen to give this recipe a try, I'd love to hear what you thought!

Until then,

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Book of the Year

It may seem strange to still be talking about Christmas, especially now that it's almost a month behind us. Can you even believe that? We are almost in to the last week of January, and in some respects I don't even feel like I've had much of a chance to think about the new year, and all that I want to accomplish.

I was sick from Christmas Eve up until last week with the worst cold and upper respiratory infection I've had in years. Since I've had the flu three times in two calendar years, I'm hoping this was my due service for the season and I don't get it again. But that's really just the excuse I'm using this year, even if it is a legitimate one!

Every year I say I'm going to be more prepared, less rushed, when it comes to the holiday season. I do pretty well up to Thanksgiving, but then it seems the next five weeks are just a blur and I never seem to be able to accomplish the quiet, reflective, meaningful season I dream about. Usually by the time Christmas Day is here, while I always enjoy it, part of me is just ready for it all be done so I can quit being disappointed and start thinking about how to do it better next year.

In addition to that, I've been struggling since Bill and I got back together, which was the highlight and greatest blessing of 2018, to find my rhythm again. Mind you, it's a problem I'm happy to have! But at the same time it's really starting to get to me and I need to figure it out.

In all of this, reflecting upon the whirlwind that was Christmas and trying to find my footing, I came across a poem that I shared on my homeschool resource website, A Considered Childhood.  More than the words, it was the title of the poem that really spoke to me, it is called The Book of The Year, and it reflects upon how life opens up like a book, a chapter and a page at a time. My favorite line says;

"The whole wide world together, turns only a page at a time." 

Something about that just really struck me, and I began to reflect upon my own life as if it were a book, 365 pages long, 12 chapters, and four divisions, yet lived out one page at a time. My desire is to write a beautiful story upon those pages, to savor every season, look forward to every chapter, and slowly, ever so slowly, to turn each page. I don't like to rush through books when I read, and if my life were a book I would want to linger with it for awhile, too.

I think that deep down I'm also a little unsettled. I have a couple of friends, one quite a bit younger than me, and another close to my age who are at the end of their life right now. It's hard for me to imagine dying at my age. I used to think my 50's would feel old, but now that I'm here I'm beginning to wonder when it is exactly that you feel "old"? Times have changed so much, and I don't even look as old as my mother or my grandmother did when they were my age. And while I'm grateful for that, when I do see elderly people out in public it causes me to wonder exactly how old are they, and when am I going to look like that? It's kind of humorous, actually.

Anyway, I feel like I'm beginning to ramble, maybe even being a little whiny. But I think at the heart of the reason for this post is that I want to live out however many years I have left here on this earth much like the poem says, one page at a time. I want to live intentionally, slowly, simply, and with a purpose every day. Watching people you know pass from life really causes you to think about your own mortality. We can't turn the page to see how much time we have left, so the best that we can do is to live our best life today! The last line of the poem reads,

"I cannot begin to tell you, of the lovely things to be 
in the wonderful year book waiting, a gift for you and me."  

So here's to the gift of life, my friends, to each chapter and every page! May we all write beautiful stories!

Until then,

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Spicy Texas Collard Greens

I mentioned in my post yesterday that I had been meaning to share my recipe for collard greens for awhile now. Eating collard greens is a New Year's tradition in the south, but to be honest, I love this recipe so much I make them a little more often than that. Still, along with ham, black eyed peas and cornbread, this is my go-to menu every New Year's day!

At lot of people don't care for collards, and I'll be honest, I didn't for a long time either. But that was before a friend passed on this recipe to me and now they are one of my favorite side dishes. I will admit to not caring much for the smell of them, but the taste definitely makes up for it!  If you are not a fan of collards I would encourage you to give this recipe a try!  If you're like me, you'll soon change your mind!


2 pounds collard greens, rinsed (I buy them in a 2 lb bag already cut up)
4-6 slices think bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste


If you're not using the pre-cut bags, use a knife to cut on either side of the large rib (just the thickest part) running up each collard green leaf. Remove and discard it. If the leaves are smaller, just remove the stem. Stack 4 to 5 leaves on top of each other, roll them up and then cut into 1/2-inch strips. Repeat with remaining leaves.

Cook bacon in a large pot over medium heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.

Add onion to bacon fat and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened.

Add broth, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, and tabasco sauce to pot. Stir to combine.

Add collard greens and use tongs to turn and mix them. Don't worry about the size or the amount, it will look like a lot, but they will reduce quickly.

Cover, turn heat to low and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

 Sprinkle bacon on top and season to taste with salt and pepper, serve and enjoy!

Until then,

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Winged Messenger of Devotion

A few scenes from our icy hike yesterday.

Of all the senses, scent it the most frequently associated with God. In fact, the power of scent was so sacred to God, that He commanded Moses to build an alter of fragrance and burn sweet incense before he prayed. From the smoldering resins of frankincense and myrrh often used in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox rituals, to the sabbath blessing of light and fragrance in Jewish homes, scent is the winged messenger carrying our devotions to God and bringing in return a whiff of heaven on earth.

In her book, Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendor, author Sarah Ban Breathnach writes;

"The nuances of how scent works are mysterious and more subtle than those of our other senses. At the front of your brain, two olfactory bulbs dangle nerves down to the top of your nose, where they will receive aroma molecules triggering either a memory message to the brain or one of arousal. However, while the two aspects of the sense of smell - memory and desire - are past and future tense prompts, the soul of scent is only truly discovered when we delight in its myriad pleasures every day. Scent is at its heady best, like life in the present moment."

When you walk into your home what do immediately smell? Hopefully it's not your cat's litter box or the green cloud of fog that is now hovering around your overflowing laundry hamper. But hey, even if that's the case, you'll find only grace here! Scent is and always has been a very important part of my life. I've kept candles and warmers with scented wax melts in my home for years now, and just love walking in from outside and taking in all the lovely fragrances!

Back in the 80's when country decorating was all the rage, you couldn't step into one of those little boutiques without leaving with you and everything you purchased smelling like a cinnamon stick. As a young wife and mother I vowed then and there to make sure my house smelled exactly the same, and I've been pretty successful. I'm naturally drawn to spicy smells like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, just to name a few. And every year when Michael's comes out with their autumn scented candles, especially once they run that ridiculous sale of 4 for $10.00, I stock up. And while we're on the subject of cheap candles. For a long time I was growing really frustrated because very often the wick would end up melting into the wax and didn't burn the candle all the way down. So here's what I've discovered. If you clip the tip of the wick each time before you light it and keep it kind of short, you'll get a better more even burn. Also, don't put your candles where there may be a draft, like close to a vent, and you'll get more life out of them as well. But sadly, this may actually be my last year of buying cheap candles, as I've read numerous articles about them being toxic. Beeswax is expensive though, so I'm not really sure what route I'll be going.

But there are other scents that immediately take me back in time, just like we discussed in my previous post. One of them is pine sol, because I think my grandmother spray washed her entire house with it, and all I  have to do is open a bottle, or walk into a room where someone has been cleaning with it, and I'm immediately taken back. Another is freshly cut grass, which always takes me back to Texas and waking up on summer mornings to the sound of my dad mowing the lawn. And even though these scents are not associated with memories, some of my favorite scents are the smell of rain, the smell in the air just before it snows, and the smell of just about anything cooking, except maybe collards, which taste great, but smell nasty when you cook them! And that reminds me, I need to share my recipe, because it's the best!

So before I close, and because I did so with the other senses we've explored in this series, I've made up another quick printable. Just a little guide to get you thinking and help you explore your sense of smell and your favorite scents! You'll find the link to it below.

The Essence of Scent Worksheet

Next up, one of my favorites, the essence of taste!  And now I'm off, to make something that is equally as wonderful in both scent and taste and that is to make meatloaf and mashed potatoes for our dinner tonight!  What's on your menu?

Until then,

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Monday, January 14, 2019

A Life of Attentive Listening

A few more images from our snowy winter hike this past weekend.

I'm anxious to move on to our next phase in what I suppose is becoming a bit of a series, and explore our sense of smell. If you missed the first two posts where I discussed sight and sound, you will find them here and here. But as if often the case when the Holy Spirit is trying to get my attention, the subjects of seeing and listening are on repeated refrain in my life right now, indicating to me that I may need to camp out here for awhile and do some soul searching.

I started yet another book this weekend. As one of my goals for the new year was to read a book a week and it's now the 14th, it seems necessary at this point. When I set that goal I wasn't accounting for the massive headache that accompanied the never-ending-cold I had been battling since Christmas Eve. Thus the reason for what may well now be a bit of a read-a-thon, if I am to reach that goal. But I may allow grace to intervene and relieve me of the stress entirely. I don't typically like to rush through books, but to read them slowly and truly savor them, and all three of these titles merit that.

Along with Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller (a re-read I felt was needed), I am also reading Sacred Space - Turning Your Home Into A Sanctuary by Jill Angelo, and then yesterday I picked up The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up To God's Goodness Around You, by Shannan Martin. On the latter, I simply could not pull myself away from it, and I want to share some quotes and insights I gained from it with you here today.

Have you ever been reading and come across a phrase or passage that gave you a little stick? You know the feeling. Like when you leave a piece of the plastic fastener from a price tag in a sweater, or a pair of socks? It's not painful, just uncomfortable, and enough to get your attention. That has been happening a lot to me lately in my reading, and then yesterday when I came across this;

"It’s impossible to engage in healthy, productive listening 
while simultaneously building a competing argument."

- Shannan Martin
The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up To God's Goodness Around You

Well, let's just say that was more like the prick you feel when they stick your finger to draw blood, and it really made me think. Because, confession, I think I may be the world's worst at doing this very thing. I can recall so many conversations in the past nineteen years of our marriage when Bill has said, "You're not hearing what I'm saying." And do you know what? He's actually wrong. I do hear him, but because I'm so busy thinking of how I'm going to respond and building my argument, I'm not really listening. And at this point I'm going to quote Shannan word for word when I admit that "I am often more concerned with what I’m about to say than I am with what was just said to me. More often than I’d like to admit, I’m more interested in the sound of my own voice." Ouch! That was painful!

I also touched on this in my previous post on listening, but I'm also bad about being engaged too often with a screen while simultaneously trying to carry on a conversation, which especially for Bill, sends the message that I view him as being less important than whatever it is I am engaged in.

Later in the chapter she writes,"God created our five senses as a way for us to understand our world—and Jesus referred to them often—but, as it turns out, talking is not one of them."

Can you believe that for a moment there I questioned her on that one? Sad. But as it turns out seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching.  Nope, talking is NOT one of them.

"Only as we engage in the hidden practice of listening (I LOVE THIS!) do we learn about the struggles of others, gaining empathy where we once cast judgment. Jesus admonished us to. . .

“Pay close attention to what you hear. 
The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given” 
- Mark 4:24 

I was rocked by the simple clarity of his words. There’s no room for interpretation here. He warned us to listen closely to his voice while actively demonstrating a life of attentively listening to those around him. This is the heart of relationship, though it grows more old-fashioned with every passing digitized day.

If Shannan is right, and listening is at the heart of relationship, then I've got work to do! We should never take the people we love, both family and friends, for granted. Every day we spend with them is a gift, and we could just as easily awake tomorrow to find that one of them is no longer with us. But most likely our phones, our laptops, our televisions, whatever it is that is constantly vying for our attention will be. Cherish the ones you love, my friends, and join me in engaging in the practice of attentive listening.

Until then,

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 When you click through and make a purchase, 
 we receive a small monetary compensation. 
 We appreciate your support. 
 Thank you!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Winter Country

"But under the hard and bitter rind of winter, there is much loveliness. The white mystery of snow is a splendid thing. All the landscape is muted to deep silver laced with blue shadows. The meadow is a sea of pearl with scattered dark masts of brier riding the foam. The cool, cool smell of snow is in the air, a special fragrance known only to winter country."

- Gladys Taber, Stillmeadow Seasons

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Imploring Heaven For The Gift Of Listening

"I like to listen.  I have learned a great deal from listening.
Most people never listen."

~ Ernest Hemingway

In my post I wrote earlier this week, I discussed a passage I had read in Sarah Ban Breathnach's, Romancing The Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendor. In it, Sarah suggests that there are two aspects for each of our senses, and in my previous post I discussed the difference between looking and seeing.

I actually began reading another book last night, Sacred Space: Turning Your Home Into A Sanctuary by Jill Angelo, and once again the subject of importance of seeing came up. In this book, the author discusses the focal point of the rooms in your home, the first place your eyes are naturally drawn to, and why that is important. I'm actually going to go back and re-read that chapter because my brain was in a little bit of a fog from this awful head cold I've had for going on three weeks now. But I found it interesting how the same subject has come up twice in two days. That typically means the Holy Spirit is trying to get my attention, so I'll be sure to share more about that here another time!

But moving back to Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendor.  In today's reading, Sarah focused on to the essence of sound, and the difference between simply hearing and truly listening. She writes; "Just as with looking, hearing is a navigational tool, an interior sonar device enabling your brain to distinguish between the soft purring of a cat and the shrill shriek of the alarm clock. However, listening is Spirit's (God's, emphasis mine), accomplice in the romantic seduction of our souls. When Shakespeare asked to have his sense of hearing made passionate, he was imploring heaven for the gift of being able to "listen". She encourages that "each day offers us an invisible path to pleasure laid out in notes, measures, tempo and tones", and instructs that there are three ways in which we listen, perceptive listening, emotional listening and sensuous listening.

Perceptive listening is when we deliberately move from hearing to listening. This is when we consciously and intentionally shut out other distractions to focus our complete attention on something. Can I just say that I believe perceptive listening has taken a huge hit in the past several years? I believe that now more than ever we have things vying for our attention and that keep us from truly hearing each other.

I know that for my husband, having my phone out on the table and even occasionally looking over at it communicates to him that I am not fully engaged with him. And by that I don't mean on a day to day, moment by moment basis. There are plenty of times that we are together and both busy with our devices.  But if we are out on a date, or some times when we are traveling, he likes to know that I am fully engaged in the conversation and that he has my full attention.

That was hard for me when we first got back together, because for two years my almost constant companion was my teenage daughter who was glued to her phone.  She thought nothing of having our phones out when we were enjoying time together. There were times when we made it a point not to, and if she really needed my full attention she was good at communicating that. So I guess because of that I got a little lax and too attached to my phone, which I seriously despise admitting. At any rate, I think we all can agree that technology has not fostered the art of perceptive listening.

Then there is emotional listening, when we suddenly hear a sound that transports us to another dimension of time and space. For a lot of people, such memories are found in music. I have a lot of fond memories of songs from my childhood. I had one of those little kiddie record players when I was young, and music has been a huge part of my life from a very early age. Along with the kiddie record players, I had plenty of the little kiddie records that came with a story book. I used to love to listen to them! One of my earliest memories is a song called Katie the Kangaroo, which I actually found a few years ago on You Tube! From the moment I hear the first chords of the introduction it immediately sweeps me back to my little bedroom, in a little house in Texas when I was probably four or five years old. I'm not even sure that children these days would be delighted by such a song, but when I was a little girl, my little records and record player brought me hours of enjoyment.  And did you know that there are websites where you can listen to a number of these gems for free? Kiddie Records Weekly is my favorite. But you can find others at Children's Records: Old Vinyl For Children Of All Ages, which is a blog dedicated to kiddie records, and you can also learn a lot about the history at Kiddie Record King, although this site appears to only sell audio files now.

Another sound that always takes me back is the sound of a lawn mower in the spring and summer.  My dad loved working in the yard, which you have to do early in Texas to avoid the torrential heat! I have many memories of waking to the sound of him puttering away in the yard, and the smell of fresh cut grass evokes the same memories.

And finally, there is what Sarah refers to as, sensuous listening, which is listening with our senses.  You might tap your feet to a favorite tune, or love the sound of a gentle rain that lulls you to sleep.  I think Christmas, especially, does this for me. I was just thinking the other day that it's sad that the rest of the year doesn't have music that is specifically devoted to it. I mean, there is Auld Lang Syne for New Year's, and I'm sure you could pick out almost any romantic song and call it Valentine's.  Even Easter has a few, but there is nothing like Christmas music to set a mood and speak to my senses.

The English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge believed that "no sound is dissonant which tells of life."  It's so easy to allow what Sarah refers to as "life's major and minor chords of contentment" to be drowned out by all the noise. I want to follow Shakespeare's example and "implore heaven for the gift of listening." As before, I've made up a little worksheet, should you care to download it, to help us reflect upon some of our most memorable and favorite sounds, as well as determine whether we are good listeners.  Just follow the link below!

I hope that you are enjoying this series.  I know that it has personally been good for me to be reminded to be more intentional in seeing the beauty that surrounds me and at giving those I love my full attention!  Next up is the essence of scent, which is a big thing in my life!  I have a very heightened sense of smell, so I'm sensitive to things of that nature!  So be sure to come back and join me, won't you?

Until then,

This post contains affiliate links. 
When you click through and make a purchase, 
we receive a small monetary compensation. 
We appreciate your support. 

 Thank you!

p.s. The link to Sacred Space, is the Kindle edition, which is only $4.99,
but if you want a paperback or hardcover copy, you might search or wait for a better price. :)

Friday, January 11, 2019

Predictions For A Wintry Weekend

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure 
as long as life lasts.  There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature
 - the assurance that dawn comes after every night, and spring after winter."

~ Rachel Carson

I came across a copy of The Old Farmer's Almanac for 2019 at the market this week.  I was surprised to find it there, as I typically find this particular chain's magazine offerings a bit dismal.  But since I realized I hadn't purchased a copy this year and to save myself the trouble of making a trip to Barnes & Noble, into the cart it went.

Along with her bible, a copy of the almanac was ever at the ready on my grandmother's coffee table. I've been flipping through the pages of this annual publication for years, probably even more than I can recall. I think I buy it in part for the nostalgia, but in all honesty, it includes a wealth of information. Since I am naturally drawn to seasonal living, The Old Farmer's Almanac is a handy resource, and over the years I've found their website to be even more informative.

The front part of the publication contains mostly articles and advertisements.  But in skimming through it, I've already noted a few I want to take a look at, including The 2018 Orange Recipe Contest Winners, where I saw two recipes I want to try,  Cran-Orange Couscous Salad, which won first prize, and Orange and Bacon Brussels Sprouts, which took third. Brussels Sprouts is a vegetable I remember enjoying as a child, though I have no idea how my mother prepared them.  But in my adult years, I've become less of a fan. Still, I'm determined to find a recipe makes them palatable, and I hope to add them to my menu rotation. And speaking of, menu planning and seasonal menus is something I have on my agenda for the coming year, so if that's something that interests you, please be sure to check back!  And now back to the almanac, I also noticed an intriguing article on the zodiac system, Adventures in the Zodiac Zone, and since the night sky is something I am particularly fond of observing, I am looking forward to reading it.
But most people, including me, enjoy the almanac for the wealth of information that is included in the back of the publication, including the general weather report and forecast for the upcoming year, the dates that eclipses will occur, when you can view the brightest stars and meteor showers over the next twelve months, when the planets will be visible, as well as the ever popular calendar of the heavens for 2019, which is pictured to the left, above. The calendar lists, among other things, the times the sun and the moon rise and sets on each day of the month, what day of the year a particular date is, and a wealth of other information that is too lengthy to list.  It includes a guide at the beginning of the calendar with instructions for how to use it.  I typically refer to it at the beginning of each month and jot down a few notes of interest, and I like keeping track of the sunrise and sunset each day, as well.                                                                            

In addition to the printed publication,  at their website you can get information regarding the weather customized to your location. Just go to this page and type in your zip code, and it will give you the long range forecast for your area, which I've always found to be amazingly accurate, and my grandmother swore by it, too.  Here's what the almanac says about the upcoming weather for our region.

And then here is the forecast from our local weather station.

And as you can see, they are indeed calling for snow in our area this weekend.  Right now they are predicting somewhere in the 5-10" range for accumulation totals, but as with the storm we had just before Christmas, those totals could shift depending on how the storm tracks. Where we are located is also about mid way between Roanoke and Lynchburg, and the predictions for Roanoke are bit higher, in the 5-14" inch range, so our actual totals could vary. At any rate, the chances that we will see snow with some accumulation over the weekend is pretty much a given at this point. I also noted that the almanac predicts that we will be getting more snow towards the end of the month, around the 26th, so it will be interesting to see how those predictions play out.

I enjoy using the almanac for a number of things, including the phases of the moon.  My dear friend Dawn has begun keeping a phenology wheel this year and has inspired me to keep one as well.  Although I'm about a week late to the game, I figured I could just go back and fill in the information for the earlier dates. You can learn more about the phenology wheel, here.  And if you should decide you want to keep your own, you can find a template for one here.  I am pretty sure this is the template that Dawn is using, and I am using this one as well. If you do decide to keep one, I hope you'll share some pictures of yours. You can either post a picture in the comments here, or if you'd like,  join us at my Facebook group, or you can follow me on Instagram.  I'll be posting pictures of mine from time to time at both of these locations, if that happens to be something that interests you! And whatever the weather looks like where you are this weekend, I pray you will be filled with warmth!

Until then,

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Seeing Each Ordinary Moment

"The gift of vision was so important that when the world was created,
the first command was for their to be light."

~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendor

In her book, Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendor, Sarah Ban Breathnach states that there are two aspects for each of the seven senses.  She goes on to explain that the two aspects of sight are;




"One is practical, the other passionate. One aspect is used for navigation, the other for connection. One eye makes an instant judgement the other eye contemplates", and she invites us to experience each ordinary moment as if we were seeing it for the very first time.

When I read that I realized that this is one of the things I love best about photography.  Because in focusing the lens I can bring the details of an object into a sharper and clearer focus.

Up until now I've just been using my iPhone, because the camera is pretty good and I like the convenience.  But my daughter gave me her old Canon when she got a new one last year for Christmas, and I'm thinking about dusting it off and seeing what I can come up with.  I'm not sure I like the idea of lugging it around and I have no idea how to upload pictures, but thankfully she does.  Now if I can just get her to stay home long enough to show me how. :)

I've also recently developed an interest in sketching and in painting with water colors.  I haven't tried my hand at either, but I did purchase some supplies, so if my attempts are not too ghastly and embarrassing, I might share a few of them here and there.

In thinking along those lines, I made up a little printable that you will find and can download for yourself, if you wish.  I have some nice individual sheets of sturdy paper, not card stock really, they look and feel rather like the pages in my sketch book, but for simple sketching card stock might work just as well.  I thought I might print out a few of these and try my hand at some simple sketches and then work on adding more details, looking vs seeing, as Sarah instructed.

The world is so full of beauty, and while I am blessed that I have always been a "dawdler,  as my mother often referred to my knack for lagging slowly behind in "dream land", I've always been inclined to notice beauty and the finer details of life.  But even I could do with spending a bit of time refreshing my senses, and training my eyes to see rather than just look. And I would encourage you, my readers, the next time you are out, to take a few moments to slow your place and really just take in all the beauty you can find.  Open your eyes to truly see the loveliness of this glorious world, as if it was for the very first time!

Until then,

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Remembering Grandpa

My paternal grandfather, Charles Milton "Bill" Hutsell, was born on this day in 1902.  He was named after his father, though I'm not sure how he acquired the nick name of "Bill", since it is neither short for Charles or Milton.  I believe he served in the navy during World War I, and he married my grandmother on November 11, 1922, when they were both twenty years old.  I was born on their anniversary thirty nine years later.

I was never very close to my paternal grandparents, which is something I now regret. They were both nearing sixty by the time I was born, and though I loved them and have many fond memories of being in their home, I never developed the bond with them that I shared with my maternal grandparents.

Remembering my loved ones who have already passed and making small memorials is something I have decided to make a part of our lives this year, using birthdays rather than the date of their passing to mark each remembrance.

I read somewhere that when you see a cardinal that it means that a loved one who has passed is near. And while I don't believe that the spirits of the dead are still among us, I do think it is nice to reflect upon those we love at each occurrence of seeing one. That is why I found it fitting to keep this lovely cardinal ornament out this year and make it part of our little memorials. After today I will place this picture back on the shelf where it is kept along with the cardinal, until the next remembrance which will be for my husband's mother on February 2.

This is the first memorial I've set up, and I'm already enjoying it. I have it out on the coffee table and I've been working nearby today. Each time as I look up at the little candle I've lit and and at his picture, I am washed in memories. I am looking forward to each remembrance that will come throughout the year, and to the fond memories each one will bring.

Until then,