Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Ten Posts of 2011

   I first dipped my badly polished toes into blogging back on May 22 of this year. It was a tentative step, and my swims in these brackish waters have been intermittent compared to the swims of others, but one thing I have finally learned is to do less comparing and more living genuinely. So enough of THAT.

   In these seven short months I have met lots of wonderful people from all over the United States, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and South Africa. These acquaintances have just been electronic so far, though I do have crazy designs to meet some of you in 3-D eventuallyI have learned a little bit more about other religions. My compassion for a myriad of other family configurations has bloomed. I have happily discovered several thriving communities for writers. And I have both unraveled and tightened my mind in ways that only writing can do.

   Thanks to every single person who spends a few minutes reading these unpredictable posts now and then. Thanks even more for your comments, both here, on Facebook, and in private messages. I have deeply treasured the exchanges. Like, for real you guys.

   Of the not quite 200 posts I have written between May and December, following are the top ten, based solely on number of times viewed. 

********************


10. "Wonderfully Disheveled"  This post was prompted by Write on Edge and ending up being about NOT cleaning up after a party. Or at least about how to do it memorably.

9. "Funny Reasons to Break Up With Someone"  Just for kicks. Inspired by real life stories. Not all mine.

8. "Quick Post of Jubilation"  We lead a very blessed life. Any pain or confusion that is ours is far outweighed by joy and wonder, a condition for which we are eternally grateful.

7. "Double Standards"  This was my participation in a Women Living Well link up and had to do with the way our marriage might operate differently from others.

6. "We Had Them for Breakfast"  Not about cannibalism. About Couch Surfers. Which I'm sure are delicious. Not that we would know.

5.  "Sea Monkeys"  Since writing this goofy little post, my book clubbers have graciously anted up very creative names for my herd of sea monkeys. In the coming months I hope to share a Pulitzer worthy series of stories about their antics. The Sea Monkeys, not necessarily the book clubbers. Although that could be interesting.

4.  "Car Show Culture"  Restoring, collecting, and showing cars is kind of a big deal in our life. Handsome and I are part of a groovy community of people who do the same, and this post introduced some of that. This winter he started on a brand new tear-down-build-up project for his '68 Camaro, and I can't wait to share that with you guys.



3.  "Our Fave Chocolate Cake"  The honest to gosh truth is that this post got tons of traffic because I linked it to a deservedly popular website, one of my personal faves in fact, but beyond that, this recipe does deserve lots of attention. It is DELISH and is fun to make too. Try it sometime! Maybe for Valentine's Day, when rich chocolate desserts are almost a cultural requirement.

2.  "Proverbs 31 Overview and Realization" Yikes. I started a 31 day series on one of the most beautiful chapters in the Bible and got derailed by family events. Then I couldn't get my thoughts straight. Derailing happens, but this is a project worthy of attempting again. Maybe as part of Lent this year I can share some of this study.

1.  "Fractals"  I truly enjoyed the thinking through and the writing down of this heavily philosophical post, and I think this is the point where I made some of my most valued bloggy connections too. The ideas discovered around this time have been echoing in my life in the months since. And I am reminded to try and finish The Shack. Eventually.

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   Man, oh man, oh man. We have had an incredible year at the dirt & hooves Lazy W. And I have had a blast creating and sharing the digital Lazy W too. Today, on the threshold between the old year and the new one, I have butterflies in my tummy. Anything is possible. Every day is worth savoring God is good. Life is beautiful. 

Happy New Year to You and Yours!
xoxoxo


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Most Repeated Lines of 2011

   The Lazy W is graced and warmed with friends again this week.  My ten-four good buddy M Half and her Hubs are visiting, helping us make a thousand happy memories to close the year. What a year it has been, by the way!

   Two days ago I enjoyed the singular pleasure of sitting in my favorite chair while each of them read things aloud to me. It was divine. I had no idea I liked this sort of thing so much, but I could really get used to it you guys.

   I mean, really.

   One of Hubs' narrated pieces had to do with the the most overused phrases of 2011. And let me tell you: It. Was. Hilarious. Read it for yourself, and just for kicks, try keeping track of how many of those overused phrases you are guilty of over using. M Half's fave seemed to be the keyboard spitting humor one. Nice choice, lady.

   Mine? Probably "Occupy." I happen to see no real world value to this pseudo political movement and feel protective over Handsome who has had to endure its under-informed and disruptive appearance at his office. But that is almost a spicy little tangent. Basically I really like saying that I occupy the chicken coop and I occupy the pantry and I occupy a brilliant sense of humor, etc, etc. 

   Anyway, it occurred to me that for all its variety and surprise, life at the farm certainly has a way of repeating itself. We do lots of the same things over and over and over and over again. And we say lots of the same things over and over and over again. And again. Care to suffer through our monotony for a moment?

   Here are the Top Eight Over Used Phrases at the Lazy W of 2011

Pacino, that is a NO NO. Shhh... Bobby Pacino, our macaw, is vocal. He is a talker. He is a screamer and a squawker and a shusher. He is a lover and a fighter and an early morning riser. When we're alone Pacino tends to be fairly pleasant and loving, and when we have guests he is sometimes pleasant and loving, but often he chooses these times to throw caution to the wind The indoor wind, may I remind you. He belts out Amazonian operas born of pure joy and then sudden, screeching objections to anyone who is too near to me, his Momma. Or to anyone who is generally NOT doing his random, cryptic bidding. And so our parental scolding happens a lot. Pacino, that is a NO NO is easily the number one overused Lazy W phrase of this past year. No honest person who has ever visited the farm will disagree.

Aww, look at how Chunk is running... Our sweet little buff has about a six part running menu, a delightful but admittedly limited slideshow for us to enjoy. And we do enjoy it every day. But you know those parents who like to highlight every adorable act of their offspring to friends and relatives? Well, Handsome and I may or may not have slipped into the questionable habit of bragging in sugary, cooing voices about every time Chunk runs and bounces or sits majestically, chewing his buffalo cud. The only assurance I have that we have not quite overstepped the bounds of reasonable pride is that at least three people liked yesterday's photos of him running.

Have you shopped hay recently? Hay is expensive this year. Have you heard of the drought and heat wave of the Midwestern states? The extreme growing conditions of the past several months have given hay farmers dangerously limited harvests, driving up the prices even for out of state deliveries, making our regular hay stocking a game of chance and adventure. We have four big, hay loving creatures to feed, so the interval questions we ask each other about hay shopping have everything to do with how much we celebrate rain when it falls.

I miss the girls. Followed closely by his soft, strong words, I know, Babe. Hopefully the days are coming when we trade more happy stories than we do pain, but this past year has been a lonely, empty nest one. No doubt about it. We've fallen into daughter-less routines, sure, and we have had our time apart peppered with several incredibly happy days, but nothing is the same as having them with us, woven into the fabric of our daily life. Trusting God with this and resisting pure rage at Him for letting this happen for so long has been the single most difficult spiritual thing I have every attempted.

I need a vacation. My husband is the smartest, most talented, hardest working, most focused, most over accomplishing person I know. And I know some incredible people. Not only does he stay on task; he genuinely cares about every job he performs and every person with whom he shares those jobs. (To anyone at the Commish who might read this, he does care about you guys. Know that.)  This year has been an exciting, challenging, surprising, and exhausting one for him, and time off, though available, has been unrealistic because he cares so much about what he's leaving behind. So this man needs a vacation. Like, for real.

Do you have any receipts? I have a slightly endearing aggravating habit of shopping to my heart's content and then moving on to other worthy activities before relaying the month's expenses to my guy. Not to buy floor length minks or illegal substances, of course, but I do enjoy treasure hunting, feed store emptying, and excessive grocery hoarding. I like to cook, you guys. And my patient, good looking provider might occasionally grow weary of the surprises. I'll try to do better in 2012.

What did you think of the new recipe? Speaking of surprises, as if the rising cost of food stuffs isn't surprising enough, Handsome has endured more than a few edible experiments this past year. I try to sneak them in without seeming completely dishonest or manipulative, but the fact remains that "he" would rather that "we" did less experimenting and more sticking to the top ten or eleven recipes. He would also prefer that "we" stop reading "PW" for cooking inspiration. Not likely.

I love you. Okay, the truth is we can never say this too much. Those three little words cannot be overused or overly proved by our actions. We do say it a lot around the farm, though, so very much and in so many ways. And I am eternally grateful that we do.

Repeat the Best Stuff as Much as You Want and Remember to Laugh at Yourself.
xoxoxo

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Buffalo Running

   Our sweet little Chunk-Hi is happy doing lots of things in this world. He is just one of those people animals who is easily pleased, easily amused, and easily satisfied. But a few things in life really put him over the top. One of them is running free. 

   He always has free run of his own field, together with our horse of choice, and he employs that liberty with zeal. But when we release Chunk to roam the range, so to speak, he really kicks up his skinny little heels. Following are a few photos of our sweet buff enjoying a little elbow room.











   We're crazy about him. He likes us too, if only because we shower him with graham crackers and allow him running days like this.

Feel the Wind in Your Hair Today
xoxoxo



Monday, December 26, 2011

Stream of Consciousness Because That's All She's Got Cap'n

This is a 15-minute free-writing exercise meant to purge words,
not make a point, inspire, or glamorize anyone.
You have been warned.


   What a wonderful holiday we've enjoyed. Weeks of scattered time with friends and family, including two sorely missed but deeply loved teenage daughters. Beloved guests at the farm (more to arrive tomorrow). Incredible parades of food. Fun, personal gifts both given and received. Only mild sickness this winter so far.

   Apparently the winter solstice has passed now, meaning that the days are now gradually lengthening toward springtime, exactly the news we like to hear when the sun sets around 5:30 each evening and doesn't rise until after 7:00 a.m. And since the birds are locked up we hear precious few rooster crows these days. 

   I am not complaining; the winter has been mild and comfortable so far, most days feeling more like springtime than they really should. But every year, some years with more intensity than others, once the Christmas presents have all been open my mind involuntarily shifts into gardening mode.

   What shrubs are not leafless are mostly dormant, but if I look closely enough I do find plenty evidence of green still. The honeysuckle, the roses, the baby trumpet vine, the pansies of course...

   We visited the Oklahoma City Zoo this afternoon and as usual I was as enamored by the landscaping there as most people (like Handsome) are smitten by the animal life. Our OKC Zoo, in case you didn't know, has a national reputation for awesomeness.

   In years past I tried getting my gardening hands on a byproduct they called, "Zoo Poo" for use in the gardens, but now I suppose we have plenty of my own. 

   We both loved the look and functionality of their raised vegetable beds there, and I have decided to take that plunge this spring. If the winter stays mild, I may be working on those raised beds well before March you guys. This is exciting. So very exciting.

   I've been accumulating horse and chicken manure for many months, turning it only occasionally, so by the time I get out there for a solid day of work and examine the stuff I expect to find some nice, hot, fluffy lazy W zoo poo of my own.

   We watched, on consecutive days this past weekend, both the Swedish and the American versions of the film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Incredible. I had thoroughly enjoyed that book and the second in its trilogy (haven't read the third quite yet), and the movies were both faithful and creative. Loved every minute, especially the opening credits of the American movie. The casting was perfection in that one.

   I need to wash my hair.


word nerd speaks
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Lazy W



Wishing everyone abundant love, joy, and peace as Christmas night winds down. 
May your home be filled with God's presence. 
May miracles be sparked where they are needed most. 
Much love from the Lazies.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Etsy Uno: Champagne Week

   Another fabulous gimmick, this time connected to the hand made marketplace Etsy. What fun!! Bitty Bird has invited other bloggers to join her in a Tuesday morning game of Etsy Uno, whereby players explore the luscious handmade wares of cool-chick type artisans there then do a little light-hearted game of relationships.

   A note on Etsy: It's cool you guys. It's right up my imagination alley. It's so great, even if some people say that by now it's reached the "mainstream" status. I don't care. I'm not quite hip enough to be deliberately ironic, anyway. I just know what I like. 
   You can find a treasure there no matter what your style or price range. You can also find a thousand years' worth of crafty inspiration. So if you're not already a regular haunter of Etsy, please consider scheduling a few vacation days just to look around on there.
   
   Okay.

   This is my first time linking up, so I'll share her instructions here. Thanks Bitty Bird!


This is how you play:
  1. I give you a prompt. This week, the prompt is CHAMPAGNE.
  2. Pick one item on Etsy that relates to the prompt and add the photo to your blog post. You must give photo credit to the Etsy seller by linking back to the item in their shop. The purpose of this game is to show love to the talented artisans behind the Etsy shop and promote their original handmade products! Never, ever take a photo without giving credit where it is due.
  3. The second item must share something in common with the first one, and subsequent choices must share something in common with the item immediately before it-- use your imagination. That's what makes this like the game "Uno"! List 5-10 items and explain or describe how one relates to the other. You never know where you might end up!
  4. If you want to play, copy and paste these instructions to your blog post, and make sure to grab an Etsy Uno button from www.bittybird.net to promote the game: and tell your friends! Link up your Etsy Uno post at the bottom of my post every Tuesday morning, beginning at 5AM CST.
  5. If you have the time, please take an opportunity to send a note to the Etsy sellers you found in order to let them know their product was recognized on your blog.  Remember, the point is to support and encourage the hardworking artisans that inspire us every day!
 1...2...3... GO!



Champagne beige tutu skirt full length for women.

Tutus Chic Boutique is the artist behind this frothy dream.
I need to own this you guys.
Would you look at it? 

I would totally wear this dress while feeding hay to the big animals, 
while collecting eggs from the chickens (assuming they ever lay eggs again),
and while going on afternoon dog walks, all the time reciting French poetry.

I would wear this vintage-feel skirt to harvest sweet basil, clip roses,
observe Oklahoma sunrises, and sniff the wild honeysuckle vines.
I might even clean up now and then and wear it to dinner with Handsome.

It costs $235 plus shipping and I am positive is worth every penny.

Rustic and Country Chic Vintage Inspired Tulle Rose with Burlap Accent Wedding Decor

   Weekend in the Country is the Texas Etsy shop where I found this charming gem. It is a tulle and burlap rosette listed as a wedding favor, and I think it would be just lovely as such. I can also imagine it being used in almost any kind of home decor, because of its natural colors and two different textures, and it's only $5!
   I might have enough left over after buying my every day tulle prairie skirt to scoop up the remains of this supply! Really pretty.

Burlap Table Cover

Paula and Erica from New Jersey are offering this simple but sumptuous table skirt.


I also must own this, you guys.
Not maybe, not "wouldn't that be nice???"
I need this table skirt as soon as possible.

   At $140, this is not unreasonable. And it appears to have a nice deep hem, tight gathers, and is made of a heavy burlap which is not easy to work with at home, so I know they will get many buyers.


Rainbow Party  Ruffle table cloth

Oh, I'm sorry, did that surprise your eyes a little bit? 
After all of the soothing earth tones this is a bit much, eh?

The UNO connection, of course, is the fabulous ruffling.
Not just one tightly gathered skirt like in the burlap creation 
but up to S-I-X colorful tiers of the happy stuff.

   Strut Your Stuff is an Etsy shop belonging to a woman named Morgan from Colorado. As if this rainbow ruffled table skirt isn't enough, she also crafts pieces of "wearable art" for children. Really cute, cheerful little shirts and ruffled pants. If you have a little girl in your life who is fun to dress up, check Morgan's shop! Her prices are more affordable than most boutiques, too.

I have to insert here that this table skirt is the inspiration 
for an apron I'll be working on in January.

Ruffle Apron - Vintage Type - Size Adult

More Than a Memory is selling these striking aprons!


She is from Anchorage, Alaska, 
but I have no idea of her opinion on Sarah Palin.

   The ruffles are always cute and I love her fabric combination, but the hip rosette is what makes it extra sweet to my eyes. I also love that she has serged the edges, not hemmed them. 

********************

   So there we have five handmade items from the Etsy corner of the universe, all connected by different threads. Cheers to every artisan who strikes out to make something tangible out of his or her imagination. You make the world more beautiful!
   And thanks, Bitty Bird, for hostessing such a different sort of link up party! It was fun having an excuse to look around Etsy, and I know that my very important mission led me to different shops than I might normally find.


bitty bird.



Quick Post of Jubilation

   I have a lot to celebrate right now 
but only a few minutes to share it.

  • I traded happy texts with my first born today, for about an hour. It's a really good thing we were texting and not talking on the phone, because I was so happy I couldn't stop crying. My hands were shaking too, but I could steady them enough to type.
  • I am enjoying a lot of success in the sewing room this week. Feeling very blessed with both intrinsic joy and a steady stream of orders.
  • Our animals are particularly healthy, silly acting, and fully entertaining. I mean, sometimes Pacino is a little too loud when we are trying to have a quiet conversation, but that will never really change. The horses are sweet, fat cuddlers. The buffalo is just the gentlest snorting fluffy head you will ever see. And the geese and chickens are getting along this week. Dog walks have been a daily bright spot, too. xoxo
  • My little sister will be staying at the farm starting Christmas Eve, and I could NOT be happier. She is the shiz-nay. She has taken a little slice of Oklahoma with her to Los Angeles, making it a cool place after all. And I hope she knows I intend to blog lots of details about her visit.
  • After that we are hosting M Half and her Hubs, and that will be wonderful for a thousand reasons! I always enjoy our time together!
  • A much anticipated movie is now in theaters, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I thought it opened Thursday and may or may not have been dropping hints to you-know-who. We just found out it is already open, though, so his romantic opening-night surprise intentions are blasted. I still think we'll go. I read the books and loved 'em. Can't wait to see this and then the Swedish film and debate it all. Mostly, though, there's the small matter of Daniel Craig on the big screen.

  • Our Charlie Brown tree hasn't fallen down in almost a week.
  • I looked around myself this week and noticed how much romance plays a part in our happiness. Between the two of us here, in so many of our close friends' relationships, and in a general appetite for living, a way of soaking up the universe, romance is in our daily fabric. And I love it. I feel very lucky to live this way and wish it for so many others, including my two beautiful daughters (but not quite yet, pretty please).
  • The sea monkeys are growing and thriving and in a pretty good mood. They have all been named now, and so a drama series will soon begin.
  • We have a kitchen full of oranges and apples. This is good.
  • I love my new coffee machine,. So much. So very, very much.
  • I have a lunch date on Thursday with two of this world's sweetest, prettiest, funniest, most talented, most loving girls ever created. 
  • I have a Netflix date with Handsome right now. Gotta scoot.
Siiiimply
Haaaaving
a Wonderful Christmastime!
xoxoxo

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Karma Has a Mic and it's Switched On

   This morning we had a pared down Christmas service at church. Lots of family circumstances are different this year, and not just in our little corner of the world. Seems like every household is enduring something difficult that, collectively, has changed the landscape of our church. Without quite enough people to put on our traditional Nativity production, we gathered today for preaching, cookies and juice, and singing. Lots and lots of singing.

   We sang so many songs.

   At the top o' the mornin' my husband was called up to the pulpit to sing some traditional tear-jerkers with his Uncle David, a fellow preacher. This duo was intended to, well, elicit those much anticipated holiday blubberings.  You know, hearing the old songs in reverent, baritone voices,  feeling those decades-old holiday memories swirl around us, and getting all caught up in the salt water magic. Help us purge the pain by candlelight.

   But guess who was not ready to cry Christmas tears? Who was, instead, ready to break it down Elvis style?

   My Handsome. 

   He sauntered up to the microphone and openly referred to his mother, our organist and Pastor's wife, as "Little Lady." He shimmied his voice and curled his upper lip at every opportunity. He cheerfully complained about every key in which she played said organ, completely interrupting the flow of the service. But somehow this festive anarchy drummed up smiles instead of sneers. Tendrils of laughter began to smoke up from the congregation, everyone relaxed, and pretty soon my guy was in full on Christmas Elvis mode.

   For the record, lots of people were laughing. 
Let’s establish that early on.

   But an old friend, Beatrice, who was seated with her fiancee behind me was laughing a lot. Way more than me, just so you know, although I was laughing too.

   Eventually we were kind of laughing with inappropriate volume and energy for a church service. A Christmas church service. A Christmas church service that was supposed to be sad, or at least somber. It was wrong, but I could not stop.

   And you know how a good belly laugh takes on a life of its own? Well, that definitely happened, and on top of that, Handsome’s inner comic totally fed off of our unbridled goofiness. My friend Beatrice and I may or may not have crossed the line from “entertained” to just plain “rude,” but let’s not judge.

   The point is that about halfway through the singing, the Little Lady called Beatrice and me up to the microphone.

   To sing.


   Neither of us is a singer by nature, so we froze like startled fainting goats. We even let out those pitiful little terrified moans before our stiff little goat legs sprang up into the air.

   Unwilling to suffer the consequences of not only interrupting service but then rebelling against the sense of singing teamwork, Beatrice and I righted our goat selves from shock and tiptoed reluctantly to the pulpit. 

   Handsome, the guilty instigator but crowd-approved victim of heckling, was way too happy to thrust microphones into our mortified faces. And he was still Elvissing! S-E-R-I-O-U-S-L-Y.

   My giggling came to a screeching halt and my face was hot like lava. Hot like Elvis. Hot like not heaven. We proceeded to fake like we were singing until we realized nobody else was singing with us, just watching. We were busted lip syncing to nothing, relying on the guys to smooth out our nonexistent tones. 


   Let me just say that if I am wrong here 
and Beatrice was in fact singing, 
she was as quiet as a butterfly. 
A scared, mute, sleeping butterfly.


   We were on the hook for way more than one song and the microphones were not leaving, so verse by verse I tried to muster up a Christmas groove. I probably sounded like a donkey going through prepubescent voice changes, but I pressed out every word. Beatrice gradually sang too but physically retreated inch by inch away from the mic.

   Her backwards scooting became so pronounced that eventually Uncle David exclaimed on it loud and clear, "If you push us back anymore we'll be off the platform!" Laughter exploded at this point, and that might have been the final song. Our punishment was evidently fulfilled.

   I am not sure if there is a clear lesson to be learned here, but the anatomy of karma cannot be overlooked. I will say that the mood was lightened and brightened far past our gloomy expectations for today.

   And for me it was worth it.

Wishing you some MERRY for your Christmas...
And cheers to living with no regrets.
xoxoxo

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fridays are for Cooking

   I have visited two wonderful grocery stores in two days and have finished all of my truly important household chores for the week. I have scoured our calendar and my recipe collections for fabulous ideas and excuses to enjoy them. And tomorrow I have exactly ZERO reasons to leave the farm. To paint the picture a little better, let me say that I have a pantry and refrigerator packed with delicious ingredients and a Friday, in a clean house, all to myself.

   It's almost like Christmas.

   Wait...



   Okay. So, there are at last count nine incredibly tasty dishes on the Lazy W horizon this weekend. 

   Tomorrow Handsome is taking the ole stand-by apple tart to an office food day. The fine ladies up there organize nearly a month of festivity every December, including Dirty Santa games and "Days of Christmas" food days. YUM and FUN. Everyone up there works so hard; no one deserves an extended party more!
  The apple tart is from Edie's Life in Grace blog, which is a beautiful place to land for a thousand reasons.  The only thing I do differently is skip the glaze. We like it on the crispier side of life, and the glaze makes it less crisp. I can make this in my sleep now, Handsome requests it so often. 5 apples, 4 cups flour, 3 sticks butter, 2 cups sugar, spices. Bam.

   Then for a Christmas party we're attending Saturday night I'll make our fave chocolate fudge cake and a big batch of roasted olive dip. Maybe I'll try to nail down that olive dip recipe and a few photos in case anyone's interested. It is purely addictive. Salty, creamy, tangy, garlic-ish, olive-ish, and mouthwatering whether warm or cold. Addictive.

   For dinner Friday night I'm trying a toned-down Lazy W version of Giada's minestrone soup. Naturally this calls for crusty bread and green salad. Please, if we are truly friends, do NOT warn my husband of this menu plan. Let him be surprised. I promise to tone it down. Way, way down. And I promise to have a back up plan like Fettuccine Alfredo. I have a feeling if he balks at the soup, it will be divine enough for me to finish all by myself. I'm a good sport like that.

 Also a batch each of these browned butter cookies and some chocolate-chip walnut biscotti. It seems we are a week away from Christmas and I have lots of shopping still to do, so having cookie dough ready in the freezer will be nice.

   Three quickly deteriorating bananas tell me we'll also have banana bread in the oven tomorrow. And a special young man at church keeps reminding me to bring peanut butter cookies. 
 
   My Grandpa Stubbs once told me over the phone how to make the world's easiest and most delicious peanut butter cookies! You can do this in a snap anytime, and I have the sneaking suspicion that being flour free will tickle some fancies. Here ya go:

Mix together with a wooden spoon 
1 cup of PB, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 egg. 
Scoop up the shiny, grainy dough by about a tablespoon at a time
 and roll each ball in a bowl of sugar. 
Dip a fork in the sugar and criss-cross each ball of dough. 
Bake for about 20 minutes at around 350 degrees. 
Cool on pan for a minute
then on a wire rack completely.
Dunk in milk.

   I will not even need Scentsy tomorrow, you guys. It's gonna smell so good in here. I plan to finish the outdoor chores super early, take a shower, and put on some good music. By lunchtime this place should be aromaticizing. Lilting with fragrance and warmth. 

   If and when you do need Scentsy, though, my gorgeous and dry-witted cousin Jen just started peddling the heavenly stuff! You can order online here and I think if you order by December 19th you can count on Christmas delivery!

   Is it healthy to be this excited about a cooking day? If I finish when I expect to, there will just enough Friday left for me to finish a really special sewing project for an old friend. Then the frivolous, calorie-laden weekend will begin!

Three Cheers for P-90x!
xoxoxo
 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wonderfully Disheveled

   The morning sun gleams through the east window, gilding the remains of last night’s dinner party. Furniture sits in odd places, having been scooted into spontaneous pairings for old friends to whisper secrets and for new friends to get acquainted. The fireplace is void of flames now but overflowing with warm ashes. On the wood floor I notice errant napkins, crumbs, and beautiful smudges from spilled drinks. I walk through the glorious chaos to the kitchen, where the only clean spot is what space has been cleared for morning coffee, which waits for me hot and fragrant and loyal.


   After a party I am always tempted to leave things in diarray for a while, so we can visually soak up the treasured vibrations of friendship and love. Sometimes I am more anxious to get photos of the aftermath than of the event’s set up. I cannot agree that a good party ever leaves a home spotless, whether hosted for children or adults. The mess is a small trophy for me.

   Since daily life goes on, the cleaning must ensure. But I don’t think of it as removing something dirty or righting some wrong done to my home. Instead, while touching each item I try to gently press the good memories into our surroundings. While pacing through the affected rooms, collecting dirty dinner plates and drinking glasses, scooting couches and chairs back to their every day positions, and fluffing up plants, I imprint into our domestic conscience the laughter and energy of every one of our beloved friends and family members. As I wipe clean the smudged tables I am actually polishing them with the smiles we traded the night before.

   We feel so lucky to be surrounded by good friends. They make us wonderfully disheveled.



The writer's prompt this Tuesday 
was to discuss "Cleaning House" in 300 words or less, 
without offering up Heloisian tutorials..
This is what came to mind.
 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Unnecessary Fear

   Earlier today I was working alone in the barn, raking soft, sweet hay into enormous piles for the horses and buffalo to eat. The air was comfortably chilly, and the absence of electronics there made the quiet feel like a safe blanket. My mind had been frayed this morning from a series of sad memories and difficult exchanges, and my concentration was suffering.

   Thankfully, work abounds, and physical activity does wonders for my mental clarity and sense of peace.

   While I raked the hay and sorted out my thoughts, I was happy knowing the animals were all satisfied by their breakfasts of either sweet grain, kibble, fresh eggs, or kitchen scraps, and they milled around their respective pens quietly.  The farm was sunless and still, though low, quilted clouds hinted at weather changes.

   Then, without warning, I heard the loud, rapid drum roll of sleet crashing against the metal roof and siding. Our two barn cats were startled so badly they jumped down from their elevated eating perch and found shelter beneath my pink four wheeler. Admittedly, I was startled too. 

   In that quick moment I thought to myself, How long is this storm going to last? Am I dressed warmly enough to stay in the barn all afternoon, if I get iced in? Should I do something for the geese, who are too stubborn to seek shelter? Do we have any cars parked outside that will suffer hail damage if I don't move them? I wonder if it's icing where Jocelyn & Jessica are, and if I send them hats and gloves, would they wear them?

   So after three or four seconds of jumping to the most dramatic possibilities imaginable, I walked over to the west doors and took a peek outside. Despite the aggressive, unruly noise of ice hitting the barn, all the precipitation I could see in the middle field was finely textured wet glitter. It was dusting Daphne, our black mare, and moistening the field. but it was nowhere near the frozen storm I expected to see. My nervousness settled instantly, and I had to laugh at myself.

   The barn had served to magnify the sound of the ice, and I allowed that sound to scare me. The metal roof and siding could do nothing to magnify the ice itself, nor the danger or inconvenience the ice might pose; it was only my perception of the danger and inconvenience that affected my nerves.

   In light of my frayed state, this was a revelation. 

   The way I feel is not necessarily linked to truth. The way I see things is not necessarily based on facts. "Facts," wherever and however you collect them, can be distorted and can be misleading.

   And while women especially want to be able to trust our feelings and instincts, sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes what's going on in our immediate surroundings can trick us into fearing the worst about what lies beyond us.

Wishing you a warm, dry place to hide in your next storm
and wisdom to correctly understand that storm.
xoxoxo

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Less Pomp than Circumstance

   Our Charlie Brown Christmas tree is now in full regalia, and my heart is overflowing.

   Three days ago I mined through a heap of decorations while smarty pants blogger M Half, in town for a birthday surprise for a mutual friend and staying at the farm, sat in my living room doing professional things on her laptop and reading aloud to me wonderful, witty blog posts and articles. I listened and chattered out my thoughts, she read to me her own carefully crafted responses, and we laughed. I continued decorating Charlie, drank copious amounts of perfect coffee, and sometimes made her yummy things to eat. Together we resisted the melodious urgings of Bobby Pacino, our resident blue and gold macaw. This bird is very seductive. And distracting.

   M and I might have solved a few social crises. At least betwixt us two. We mostly luxuriated in the mellowness of the day. We definitely shared an appreciation for the hopefully mythical flavor of hotdog-water herbal tea. Periphery, did you make that up? 

If you have never had an intelligent friend sit captive in your home 
and read to you mind-nourishing bits and baubles,
please find a way to make it happen. 
It helps if she has a pleasant voice and similar gastric appetite
and can follow your errant trains of thought nimbly. 
You can borrow M Half now and then,
so long as her Hubs agrees.


   As mentioned last week, Handsome and I decided to take a milder path with Christmas decor this winter, starting with our tree. What we did not predict is the friendly debate that would be sparked by the culling of a live tree from our forest. If you missed it, check out the comments on this blog, following my December 6th post and then chime in! I'd love to hear what more people think!

   This is one of the best byproducts of blogging. I am so thankful to have a reader like Nadya who will share her feelings like that, just as I am grateful to have a husband and girlfriend who are both willing to defend me, although I never for one millisecond felt offended. Nadya raised excellent questions which need to be asked and regularly. Namaste. By the way, I'd sure like to learn about Christmas traditions in South Africa! 

   Onward.

   Our chosen tannenbaum, sparse in branches and very slender at his trunk, offered up lots of space for fillers when first we propped him up in the living room. But his branches are on the weak side of strong, so while I craved to wire up pruned boxwood, Bradford pear, and dried oak tree branches, that was simply not possible, The poor little guy would have toppled.



   So I collected from around the house as many dried flowers and ancient rose bouquets as I could find. I also added broken up bits of tumbleweed, dried hydrangeas, crispy golden gladiolus leaves, and feathers from our own birds. You know, lightweight pretty stuff. Things that evoke romance and warmth and life. Things that glow with my favorite colors, too. Plus maybe seventeen store-bought ornaments in only three colors.





   In lieu of an angel or star for the tree topper, this year we're enjoying something we find equally beautiful and equally meaningful. I twined up a bunch of tumbleweed from western Oklahoma (where the Lazy W ranch brand was originally registered by Handsome's great-grandfather) dried sage (a wild herb used by Native Americans in purification ceremonies) and tail feathers from our beloved, recently deceased Tom turkey, Sir Clark Grievous.



   So our Christmas tree is symbolically crowned with family and state heritage, delicate natural beauty, a yearning for purity, reverence for other cultures, and  affectionate nostalgia. Clark's feathers in particular represent all the precious people we continue to love and miss desperately. More importantly, though, his feathers prove that our home is still made beautiful by love even though some of the people we love are not here right now. 

   I am not trying to make you sad. 
We are actually less sad than I expected to be this month. 
We have very strong faith and hope 
that things are as they should be for now 
and that the future is still brimming with miracles.

   Of the eight boxes of tree, mantle, and house decorations I excavated from the attic after Thanksgiving, I have used less than two. The rest is now either back in the attic or waiting at the top of the stairs.

   The restraint feels amazing.

   We are still surrounded in lights and colors and holiday mood; we're just not drowning in it. Instead, we have room to breathe and love. We have room for new memories. And maybe for a few of those longed for miracles.

Hoping your tree is meaningful to you
and that you fill your home with your own beauty.
Merry Christmassing
xoxoxo

Christmas Parade in Cowtown

   Nestled just off the heart of OKC is a part of town called "Historic Stockyards City" or, as lots of locals call it, "Cowtown." For more than a century, ranchers and cattlemen from around our beautiful United States have been delivering their delicious cargo here for distribution to hungry, carnivorous people like me.  
   Oklahoma is, after all, at the crossroads of America. We are where four major interstate highways intersect. And we have a lot of cows. And we are the Horse Show Capitol of the World. And I love parades and anything we can do to reinforce the atmosphere of Christmas frivolity without spending a thousand hundred million dollars. I also really like excuses to cuddle with Handsome in the cold. All of that is the background for today's story. 

   Okay.


I will always have a soft spot in my heart for our state's blue flag.
Learning about the symbols was my favorite part of fourth grade.

   Every December the good people there in Cowtown erect a tall, festive Christmas tree (you can see it in the background in the photo below) and host a really fun, really different sort of parade to kick off the season. Handsome and I have grown attached to this little local tradition, and that is exactly how we spent this beautiful wintry Saturday morning.


   The air was cold enough to keep our toes numb and our cheeks red, but the sun was so bright and the sky so clear that we felt just perfectly comfy. We cuddled together at the front of an elbow in the parade route and soaked up the Christmastime mood. And let me tell you, there was plenty to go around.


   Longhorns also cuddled as they tiptoed through the bricked streets, unrestrained and unconcerned. These gentle behemoths seemed unnaturally calm in the shadow of a well known steakhouse, Cattlemen's


      A little steam-punk style for Christmas, anyone? This costumed cyclist looped around to wish me a Merry Christmas!


   This sweet creature posed for a moment so we could snap a photo of her equine reindeer antlers. It took no more than twenty seconds for me to start formulating horse decorations for back at the Lazy W. The chicken coop is being entered in a Christmas decorating contest, of course, so why not let the big animals join the fun?


   I almost wet my pants laughing when a baker's dozen of llamas, festooned to the hilt in Christmas finery, came strutting past. Seriously? They were all wearing hats and carrying teddy bear passengers. Because that's how llamas roll. I cannot get enough of their skinny little legs and arrogant faces. Awesome. Merry Christmas, Sirs.


   The silly hearted llamas were followed by a very serious pair of saddled up longhorn steer. I have been daydreaming about saddling up our lone buffalo for a while, and after talking it over with Chunk, he is mostly okay with it. 
   This photo above gives me a pretty good mental image. Theoretically. In my imagination. But probably not. Not because I couldn't do it; I just choose not to.


   The General Lee made a surprise appearance, garnering more whooping and hollering than even the Jolly Old Elf himself. If you happened to see my car show post from summertime, this is the same car. Gyoog-gyoog-gyoog!


   Speaking of General Lee, we saw a small Union group too. During the Civil War, of course, Oklahoma was still Indian Territory. Handsome thinks we would have sided with the Confederacy. I am less convinced, given the fierce cultural conflicts with Native Americans at the time. 


   This gentlewoman and her horse were dressed so elegantly, so festively, in their red and silver and holly garland and feathers... that I felt ridiculously under dressed in the same clothes I wore to a hockey game last night!


These blue eyes caught our breathless attention from a far distance.


   Of the many spirited and creative parade entries this year, my onlooker's heart goes out to this little girl. She was dressed in cowgirl pink from head to toe. She waved and smiled at every single person watching. She yelled "Merry Christmas" to me. And she kept tight, gentle control of her horse the entire time. Merry Christmas, sweet nameless girl.


   The very last piece of the parade, of course, was Cowboy Santa. This is me waving frantically to get his attention. 
   Never. Even. Looked. At. Me. In fact, his wagon seemed to speed up a bit as they wheeled around the bed where we stood watching.
   Chances are that wasn't the real Santa, anyway. But it did hurt my feelings a little.

   As the parade wrapped up, we joined the happy crowds walking around the shops in Cowtown and Handsome bought me early Christmas gifts, because that's how he rolls. We talked excitedly about entering next year's parade ourselves, and I relished the feeling of Christmas coming to a rolling boil in my bones.

However you celebrate, 
Whatever your local traditions,
Wishing everyone a mid-month dose of easy fun!
Merry Christmastime!
xoxoxo

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Just One Strand for Charlie Brown

   This year Handsome and I decided to follow a yearning we've both had for years, that is to find and decorate a skimpy, humble, happy little Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. 



   In years past we both I always buckled to the pressure of big and bold, doubtlessly playing silent games of comparison for the girls' comfort and approval.  This is one of the hidden, if slightly treacherous, blessings of having accepted our circumstances for now: We are learning how to feather our nest for ourselves now and then.

Brief Side Note: Can a thing be slightly treacherous? 
Isn't it either treacherous or not? 
Are there in fact varying degrees of treacherousness? 
I don't think so. 
But there are varying extremes of grief. 
And there are many shades of gray in matters of
dealing with grief. 
We're getting stronger, FYI.
xoxoxo

   Soooo... early one recent evening we found our boots and jackets and took a chilly but romantic walk through the Pine Forest next door. We found about a dozen worthy tannenbaum candidates, including some table top babies and more than a few Griswald-style giants. You know what I mean. The kind that inevitably houses rabid squirrels and such. The kind that looks like an appropriate size in the context of a FOREST but is sorta not appropriate in anybody's living room.

   Our voluptuous momma cat Fast Woman accompanied us on the trek. She was fascinated by our path and scratched trees left and right to encourage the search. Two of the horses heard our noises and, possibly thinking we were Sasquatch, came galloping and screaming up to the forest edge. Daphne especially was steaming and panting. What the heck was actually going through her equine mind? I'd love to know.

   After about half an hour we settled on a tree close to seven feet tall, once trimmed, but certainly on the lean side of life. If our tree was bacon it wouldn't be bacon; it would be Sizzle-Lean. It would tell other bacon trees to move over, cause now there's something leaner.



   The trunk is skinny enough for us to wedge into an Ozarka water bottle which I found by chance in the barn. The Ozarka bottle also seems to be the perfect hydration system. And with a few household screws twisted into the base, our tree stands nice and straight. We pretty much feel like geniuses around here. Behold our egos.

   In years past, with our bigger, thicker trees, the Christmas light loading took a while. It required some serious unraveling and a dab of  yoga prowess. It was a job.

   Not so this year.

   We still chose to make the lighting a ceremonious event by making sure we were both there, turning off all the other lights in the room, and generally being in the right spirit. We even watched the Charlie Brown Christmas special. But I think it took about three minutes. No, make that two. 

   We used exactly one strand of white lights, and our tree is simply glorious. 


Glorious to us, you guys.
Glorious to us.

   I know everybody usually shares photos of their trees in fully decorated pomp and circumstance, but we're feeling very peaceful and slow paced around the farm right now. Really soaking up the moments and trying to enjoy the truest joys of the season.

   I might decorate it tomorrow, now that our lights are up. Handsome also traced the front of our house with white lights, which pleases my soul. 

Life is good. 
Christmas is Merry.
I Love Our Tree.
xoxoxoxo

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sea Monkey Conception

   It was Wednesday afternoon. The farm was clean and quiet, and nothing on the schedule threatened interruption. The water tank had been prepared, and the time was right.



   So I lit a few candles and pressed play on my favorite love songs album, thinking Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman singing Come What May from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack would be a good beginning for such a risky venture.

   I ripped open the square paper packet of instant live eggs and tenderly peppered them into the distilled, treated water. Someone in the other room started playing a weepy violin, which is weird because nobody else was here and no one I know plays the violin. Was that an omen?

   The eggs fell like glitter through the water. I covered the little plastic tank with my favorite cotton tea towel, the one with owls on it, thinking maybe the image of a fierce predator will help ensure the Sea Monekys' safety.

   A quiet, trepidatious beginning to be sure. But a beginning nonetheless.

pinnable

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