Sunday, December 29, 2013

Marathon Training Begins

   Ah, January... you temptress. You flirt.

   Forever seducing me and scandalizing my imagination with possibility, with promise, with high energy and blank-page calendars just begging to be scribbled with lists and fantasies about all the good things I want to accomplish and become.

   But this year, I have a more concrete plan for you.



   As January is every year, this month in 2014 will be replete with new beginnings. Fresh starts. Our gardens will need planning and cleaning; the sparkly holiday decor will get swapped for scrubbed baseboards and fresh pillow covers; and I might even be studying Spanish and attending a series of beekeeping classes. All good, worthwhile stuff. But there is one new start that will require more focus and discipline than all the others put together...

OKC Marathon official site


   On December 30th, I begin serious training for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. After talking about it for several months, the time has finally come to get to work. Quit goofing aroung and start putting in the hours and miles. Following a wildly successful and really fun half marathon last spring, my excitement level for this new challenge is through the roof!


Our west field is not warm and verdant like this right now. But I am dreaming of it hard.


   As this cold new month pries open her sleepy eyes, a mere 117 days remain until the race. One hundred seventeen days to train my body (and more importantly, my mind) to run 26.2 miles safely and smoothly. I will be more or less following the Hal Higdon training program dubbed "Novice 2." You can see this 18-week plan right here.

   If I am reading this plan right, then the coming weeks will accumulate a whopping 397 training miles. EEK. I might need new socks.



   Are you running this winter and spring? Are you training for any particular race? I hope to write weekly or bi-weekly updates on marathon prep in the coming months, so I would be really jazzed if you followed along. I'm a sucker for encouraging words, and if you're local and training too, even better!

   Besides running, what other fresh starts are on your January horizon?

Jogging is very beneficial. It's good for your legs and your feet.
It's also very good for the ground. It makes it feel needed.
~Charles Schulz
XOXOXOXO

Friday, December 27, 2013

Pause to Focus

   It's the day after the day after Christmas. Our tree is still up, as are all of our holiday decorations, and it all will be for at least another week. To me this is comforting, although the great late winter purge and scrub will be comforting too.



   The recent cloak of thick ice is nearly melted, the sun is shining and warm for two more days, a little taste of spring right after the Winter Solstice, and all the animals are thankfully very happy and healthy. Our intermittent power outages have proven to be memory makers more than serious inconveniences, too. So that is nice.

   Handsome and I are carving a path through the holidays one gathering at a time, battling high fevers, terrible coughing fits, and threadbare nerves day by day. Honestly, friends, it has not been an easy Christmas. But our blessings are innumerable and we are choosing to count them and rest in the coziness of love and peace every chance we get.

   We do a lot of maniacal laughing at the Murphy's Law vibe life has been displaying, too. It's funny, but maddening, how difficult planning has been this month. I mean, I should really sit down and record all the lessons we have had to learn about living in the moment. Being present and focused on the here and now rather than always stretching, yearning, preparing for the next event or tomorrow's list. We have barely felt safe planning what to eat for dinner lately! But... these are good lessons to remember. So we bow our heads in either obedience or resignation, depending on the emotion of the moment, and get back to simple things.

   Maybe if I list the things I would like to plan for, I can rest a little and get back to the business of right now.

   Things I am Thinking About 
That Life Keeps Telling Me Are for Later:

  • Painting the Apartment and finishing window dressings there.
  • Shampooing all of our carpets and upholstered furniture.
  • Rethinking the herb and veggie gardens for this spring.
  • Planning a lovely little book release reception for Dee. (I dreamt about this last night.)
  • Beginning serious training for the full OKC Memorial Marathon in a few short months. (I have barely been free to run a few miles here and there lately... Will I be able to turn this around in time to be ready for 26.2?)
  • Switching from blogger to a legit website and getting serious about writing.
  • Attending beekeeping classes and starting with fresh colonies.
  • Spending more time with my parents and my Grandpa.
  • Catching up on reading all these great books in my house.
  • Spending time with our friends. I miss our friends.
   
   Some of what I crave right now is purely selfish, so I try to remedy that by making unselfish choices hour by hour. Take stock of how much I have already received, how much is already working in my favor, and how much I can afford to emotionally and practically give away to others. Plenty. I can certainly afford a more open handed life than what I have been living. A less clenched way of moving about the world. Terribly, it has been with the people closest to me that I have been most clenched. 

   So life is good. It is full of teaching things and celebrating things. It is rich and meaningful and delicious, even with its bitter surprises. 

   How are you holding up?



   


 

 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Lazy W!!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas Day...



Deep peace in your hearts...
Good food on your table...


Even if it is small-town Chinese food take out
because you lost power on Christmas Eve...

Love in your words and in your touch...



Laughter in your rooms...



Because when things go crazy, as they have here recently,
what else can you do but laugh? 
Also... You'd laugh too, if you were playing referee between 
a jealous parrot and a jealous lap dog in a dark room.


Fire in your hearth...
Flexibility when you need it...

and the best of tradition too...



The miracles we need always come right on time.
Trust in the power of Love and in His timing.




Many blessings and thanks for your friendship
from our home to yours!
From Handsome, Marie, 
and the silly menagerie 
at the Lazy W
xoxoxoxoxoxo

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Icy Weekend, Ugly-Beautiful

   We woke before sunrise to the buzz of electronics losing power. An ice storm had moved through Oklahoma while we slept, and eventually the pale dawn revealed a hobby farm thickly encased by glassy, stubborn, frigid ice.


Oklahoma ice storms are beautiful but brutal.


   Our animals are all fine, thankfully. Their extra fat and fur are keeping them all plenty warm, and they also have shelter, high protein food, and forage. The power outage changes life inside the house significantly, though. And on a would-be very busy Saturday filled with holiday plans and tasks, succumbing to frustration would have been easy. But we really didn't. (Not much, at least. wink!)

   Thanks in no small part to Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts, which gently nudges us to see the beauty in challenging situations, and also thanks to just a rich dose of Christmas cheer lately, my heart was light enough today to do just that. To see (mostly) magic in this unexpected Saturday Before Christmas. And you know what? Soon that is all I could see. I can't even see the ugly any more.

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

   I am so thankful for the breathtaking beauty of the gardens right now. These frozen herbs, these bent and frozen zinnias, all of this natural wonder in perfect wintry suspense.

When people say you can freeze your fresh herbs, this is probably not what they mean.

 
   It means we grew amazing things this year, that this little curve of earth is no longer void. It means that another swell of paradise is coming next year.

   I am so thankful for the freedom and ability to buy nice gifts for so many children we love. We do not take this for granted; nor do we take their presence in our life for granted. Handsome and I are very lucky to be called "Uncle" and "Aunt." We cherish it. Have I ever mentioned to you that we have three million nieces and nephews? Well we do.


The Christmas memories you make are far more valuable than any gift you purchase. Please remember this.


  I am also thankful for the warm, pleasant feelings of nostalgia that washed over me all day, remembering so many little-girl Christmas seasons with our own children. This year, bitterly sad for so many new reasons, is oddly the first year I didn't cry the whole time I shopped for gifts. In fact I caught myself giggling over and over, remembering so many fun things Handsome and I have done together over the years, things we did to surprise the girls and give them the best Christmas we could, year after year. Above all, we made memories. Now more than ever, this is clearly the most important part of all the work parents do at the holidays.

   I am so thankful for a messy living room, strewn with wrapping paper, Sonic ketchup packets, pine branches and other kindling, clean laundry, and unread books. I am thankful for the fluffy little dog my Father-in-Law has brought to live with us, because she brings so much new affection to our home. I am thankful for the paper whites blooming, for the pillows and soft blankets that beg us to cuddle, and for the candy canes, popcorn, and hot chocolate we can have for dinner. Because we're grown ups and allowed to do that if we want.


The consolation of a deep, cold winter is a glowing living room.


   All of this means that we have a full life bursting with people we love and activities that truly nourish us. It means we have a home, not a perfect house. It means we work hard enough to relax on the weekend.

   I am so thankful for this small, colorful, happy little kitchen. I am thankful for this wall hook crafted my loving husband, loaded with slightly soiled aprons. I am thankful for that honey bee photo on canvas, a gift from our friend M when she and Hubs went to Alaska recently.



   This room reminds me that we always have plenty to eat. We often are surrounded here by people we love and who love us, and that I have been cooking lately with my youngest daughter, with friends, and by myself, feeding very special people, creating meals and desserts that nourish our bodies and make us priceless memories. 




********************
 
   Difficulties abound, no doubt about it. But so does sweetness. So do opportunities to make really special, one-of-a-kind memories. Love reigns supreme if we allow it to.

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." ~Philippians 4:8


   I hope this finds you making the most of whatever circumstances are thrown your way. I hope your Christmas wish list is longer on "Fun to Have" and "Love to Show" than it is on "Things to Buy." And I hope that, despite the romance of a power outage, you have all the electricity you need!

"He who has not Christmas in his heart
 will never find it under a tree."
 ~Roy L. Smith
XOXOXOXO

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Lonely Polygamist (book review)

   Who recommended this book to me? Was it you, Birthday Girl Julia? Or was it Margi? Or just plain ol' Goodreads, based on who KNOWS what profile criteria? Anyway, someone sent this title my way, and I am so glad. It is yet another relatively new release I might not have tackled without someone's prompting.

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

   The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, The Random House Group, 2010. 
599 pages of pure modern literary blissful torture.

   The experience of reading this book was very much like eating a giant, heavy, extremely tart and juicy, crisp green apple. You know, the kind of apple with a smooth, waxy skin and crunchy green-white flesh that upon being bit causes your right eye to squeeze shut and your neck to tense and you shudder from the tartness, yet the intense sweetness that follows and the juice that runs down your chin are so unmatched that before swallowing that bite you take another? The kind of apple that, though its natural sugars for a while give you that empty-stomach nauseous feeling, you believe may be the perfect antidote to all the junk you've been eating lately? The Lonely Polygamist is not entirely a smooth and easy, succulent, buttery, tempt-me-with-your-cheese-and-chocolate read. But it is all of those things once in a while, when it's not being so tart it's almost painful. And the sweetness that follows its tartness is priceless. That's about the best way I can relay the emotional experience of reading this very believable human story.

   The main character is Golden Richards, a middle-aged polygamist living out in the desert with his expanding patchwork family, which happens to be coming apart at the seams. There is an ostrich. There is a brothel. There is a nuclear test site. There is a Mormon church community, though that is more backdrop to the story than focus (I didn't take this as a religious comment at all). There are tawdry if awkward sex scenes, complicated marital relationships, and absolutely heart wrenching coming-of-age inner narratives. Honestly, the book is so tightly layered and elegantly told that it almost has to be an exact telling of these characters'  real life stories. Or does Brady Udall truly have such a fantastic understanding of the human heart? At several points in the story I was in physical pain worrying about the people. I caught myself praying for one of the wives once and one of the sons several times.

   Are you the least bit curious about polygamy or polyamory? Among so many other surprises, Udall lifts the veil a little to reveal a shining aspect I had never really considered:

At this, she could only smile; he couldn't have given her a more perfect, watertight answer. Because this, after all, was the basic truth they all chose to live by; that love was no finite commodity. That is was not subject to the cruel reckoning of addition and subtraction, that to give to one did not necessarily mean to take from another; that the heart, in its infinite capacity- even the confused and cheating heart of the man in front of her, even the paltry thing now clenched and faltering inside her own chest- could open itself to all who would enter, like a house with windows and doors thrown wide, like the heart of God itself, vast and accommodating and holy, a mansion of rooms without number, full of multitudes without end.

   What do you think?  I have to admit, this is frighteningly parallel to so many things I have been studying lately, just the open, accepting, unselfish, freeing nature of pure Love. And no, I am not thinking about polygamy; I am just thinking about being less clenched in my own chest.

   I hope you will consider reading this book. It's not for the faint of heart, unless you are looking for something to embolden you to your own life and help you find the teeth to take control. It's also not for the  highly opinionated, unless you are in search of something to mellow and stretch out your rigidity. I almost put the book back on my shelf a few times. I had no idea where the story was going, and it worried me. But page after page I was drawn more deeply into the hearts and minds of these characters, and it mattered to me more and more what happened to them. I am so happy to have stuck with Golden and his clan through to the end. Which, it turns out, tastes very much like a weird new beginning. The tartness was followed by so much sweetness, and I am full.

   I gave The Lonely Polygamist 5 stars on Goodreads. Well done Mr. Udall. I will find more of your titles.

"What a gyp!"*
~Rusty Richards, age 11
XOXOXOXO

*This novel is anything but a gyp. But I got such a kick out of one of the son's frequent use of this phrase, I had to share it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Singing Praises for Manure Tea

   As do so many great revelations in my life, it all started with a gift from a friend. This summer, shortly after Dee from Red Dirt Ramblings visited our farm to snap photos for her soon to be released book...


You should totally pre-order Dee's book right here.


...she sent me the most beautiful gift. The package contained several seed packets, including herbs and flowers and greens, also beans, the kind you sprout in wet towels, and... Manure Tea.

   And the heavens parted, and the angels sang! 
My gardening life would be forever improved.


This is one of my favorite outdoor chairs, wrapped in watermelon vines
and loaded down with Dee's generosity. 
I am saving most of this for the upcoming growing season. 
These and lots of other seeds are in a kitchen drawer so I can look at them, 
whisper sweet nothings, and imagine them germinated and growing lushly...

   As this past summer progressed, somewhere along the way Dee introduced me to Annie Haven via social media. Annie owns and operates  Authentic Haven Brand Manure Tea. She is as warm and accessible as anyone you will ever meet. She makes her customers feel like friends, and she connects us to each other by circulating photos of successful growing projects, etc. Just a fun lady! Like my sweet Dee.

   So I began to learn a little here and there about the product, Manure Tea, which is exactly what it sounds like: Dried manure contained in little muslin bags meant for steeping in warm water so you can feed your plants. That's what you thought, right? It's brilliant!

   I have read for a few years about making my own manure tea, but can I just tell you, as the person who does most of the poo-scooping around The Lazy W, that at the end of that chore I would much rather just add it to a compost heap, not dry it on trays and sanitize it and so many other important things. Annie's product is perfectly wonderful, and it is really economical too. Friends, I am a passionate DIY-er but choose to leave this particular business to the experts.

   Okay.

   In a moment I will let the photos speak for themselves, but let me tell you what Manure Tea has done for me and my potted plants:

Surprise Benefits of Using Manure Tea

  • My English Ivy can now, with neither a tutor nor Rosetta Stone, speak fluent French. And she isn't even snobby about it.
  • The plants I keep atop my upright piano have, somehow, grown to such a point of verdant beauty that when I sit down to play my fingers glide effortlessly through Chopin and Jerry Lee Lewis alike.
  • My asparagus fern is actually growing asparagus spears that are already wrapped in delicate prosciutto. I am told this never happens. Beginner's luck?
  • Finally, the paper whites are growing so tall and so quickly that I have been forced to collect estimates from local contractors so we can install a vaulted ceiling. It's expensive, let me tell you. But worth it. Have you ever seen perfect paper whites? It is a sight to behold, especially in the dead of winter.

   Now. Here is a little timeline of how Manure Tea has amplified the growth and beauty of my paper white bulbs which, by the way, are just from a hardware store. I bought them on clearance in a little plastic baggie. They are nothing special from a bulb company in Holland or anything like that. Cheap. Easy. Amazing.

Paper White Timeline Using Manure Tea

  • November 28th: I soaked the seven or eight bulbs in Manure Tea, brewed full strength.
  • Then I accidentally forgot about them over Thanksgiving.
  • December 2nd: Just four days later, the bulbs have zillions of roots and nice, respectable shoots! And they are robust, glossy, scrumptious little orbs just bursting with potential! I then planted them among a collection of mason jars, just using in each a few pebbles, a cup or so of potting soil, and a little more Manure Tea that by this point had been diluted again. Easy. Beautiful. 
  • December 16th: Two weeks later, they have rocketed several inches! More than boasting height, though, the paper whites have thick, fleshy stalks and are straight as arrows. In years past, my forced bulbs have been... A bit flaccid. These fed with Manure Tea need zero support. They almost tremble with virility.
  • December 18th: My first bloom. Speechless. A single pure white, gauzy tissue paper, coin-sized bloom sitting with so much confidence on that tallest stalk! And the other stalks, in just two days, have shown measurable growth too. Based on other gardeners' testimonials, I expect to see successive blooms for quite a while.


Roots & Shoots. Exciting anytime, but especially in winter!
December 2nd.


Look how cute the gift wrapping is! Annie sends it this way.
December 16th

Authentic Haven Brand Manure Tea
December 16th

Paper whites forced in Manure Tea. Three weeks to bloom!
December 18th

   Less than a month, friends! In just a few weeks, more gorgeous paper whites than I have ever before grown. Also, house plants that make me look like I know what I'm doing. I am super excited to find out what spells are cast by Manure Tea in my herb garden this spring. 

   I am so thankful for my friendships with Dee and with Annie and that Dee introduced me to Annie and gifted me this wonderful product. Gardeners make lovely friends. 

   Since the bulbs first sprouted, my excitement led me to order more Manure Tea for myself as well as a large collection of it for a very special gardener in my life. (By the way, Annie offers free shipping and handling! Please visit her website and explore.) Whether you grow a large vegetable plot or are devoted to a shelf of prized houseplants, order some for yourself; you will be so very happy you did.

   Merry Christmas, and Happy Gardening!

In the Garden, More Grows
Than the Sower Sows
~Spanish Proverb
XOXOXOXO



2013 (mini) Farmhouse Christmas Tour

   Hello again! Merry Christmas week from the Lazy W! I am so glad you stopped by, and I wish you could be here in person for hot tea and shortbread while we wrap gifts, brush horses, and watch the paperwhites grow. Instead, will you take a quick tour of our Christmas silliness?



   
   This is our entryway tree. She's a scrappy little Red Cedar beauty which Handsome and his Dad dug up from the Pine Forest while our nephew was visiting recently. It was originally destined for the Apartment, but this spot seemed just perfect. (She was lonely in the Apartment all day.) I wrapped her in burlap, dressed her with some very old, very skinny sparkly tinsel and just a handful of other ornaments, then filled her base with my wedding veil. For some reason, romance is swelling in my heart even more than normal these days. There is no electricity here for a string of lights, but natural sunlight bounces all over this tinsel most of the day. I love it. I will have a really hard time saying goodbye to an entryway tree next month. 




   This is our tree tree. Also real, but not from our own forest. This year I had lots of fun staying with metallic ornaments, raffia, and sewing-pattern tissue poofs for the main she-bang. I personally love this aesthetic. More importantly, there is meaning here. Judy, Handsome's Mom who passed away recently, taught me to sew and in fact gave me my first sewing machine for Christmas the first year her son and I were married. So for me at least, this is a really quiet, pretty way to have her with us at Christmas this year. I will never forget that gift and everything it has opened up to me in life.




   Beneath our main tree sits a wicker "Moses" basket, filling gradually with gifts for a thousand beloved people. For wrapping this year, I decided to just go crazy and not match a single thing. Lots of fabric, lots of mixed papers, lots of hand-gathered poofy corsages instead of foil bows. Buttons. Torn book pages. Twine. Dried zinnias. I can't finger knit yet, but I can finger crochet, and that has been part of the mix as well. If it's fun and pretty, it's gonna be wrapping fodder this year.



   
   Does anyone remember this darling deer? Handsome painted her and three other plastic lawn creatures as a surprise gift for me this summer. I remember loving them all so much I just laughed and laughed!! She is a hollow planter, so I brought her in from the garden, rinsed her out (all over my clean kitchen floor, by the way), and filled her with faux evergreen and a few ornaments. I think her bright blue against all the Chrismtassy stuff is gorgeous. And it's another reminder of love, so there ya go.




   Friends, I am officially part of the antlers craze. This is my contribution: A mounted set of antlers from Handsome's grandpa Eddie, dressed in more faux evergreen, two mink stoles (random estate sale purchases), some tinsel garland, and a single hammered silvery ornament. I don't even know if any visitors have noticed this yet, it hangs so high and out of the way;  but I did text a photo of it to my friend Marci one day, and now I'm showing it to you. So it officially exists.



   
   Our mantle is decked out in a mix of fake evergreen branches and cuttings from my garden and the forest. I added a string of lights, a handful of ornaments, feathers from our yard birds, and two huge sewing paper tissue poofs. The most important part, of course, is the message on the chalkboard:

For unto us a child is born,
unto us a SON is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counselor,
the Mighty God,
the Everlasting Father,
the Prince of Peace.




   Speaking of messages, this sits in our guest bathroom all the time. It's a garage sale oil painting bought forever ago, onto which I glued magazine and newspaper letters to spell out the famous Home on the Range lyrics...

Where Seldom is Heard...
a Discouraging Word...

   We are far from perfect, but we do try to keep this atmosphere in our home all the time. We want very much for the farm to be a place of peace and relaxation, safety, uplifting, laughter, silliness, love, and nourishment. At Christmas especially, this is so important for people. So needed and appreciated.



   
   I mentioned paper whites earlier? They are growing like gangbusters! Check back in later this week for a review of my new favorite garden product. For now, just know that my collection of half a dozen mason jars boasting straight, tall, bright green stalks is a wonderful encouragement to me when I sit in the living room to read, write, or work on something. It's just beautiful.



   I guess that's about it. There's much more Christmas around the house, but the photos didn't all turn out. That's okay. You probably have things to do anyway.

   Every day here is so full. So different. So steeped with love and longing, work and pleasure, reconciliation and miracles. I feel very blessed to say that at the Lazy W we enjoy Christmas all year long, but this week? Things are gonna be magical.

   Thanks for being here! Have a fabulous, magical, love-filled day!

And the Skies 
are Not Cloudy All Day...
XOXOXOXO

Go see all the beautiful, imaginative homes!

Christmas welcome


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Basic Scottish Shortbread

   Introducing the simplest, most versatile, and therefore the most crowd-pleasing cookie recipe you'll ever memorize: Basic Scottish Shortbread.

   It requires just  three common ingredients, a little time, and no complicated methods; and the variation possibilities are endless. I love this stuff. My youngest daughter does, too, as does a lady you all know and love... M. You know M, from that danged forest incident ? M, who recently challenged me about acknowledging my perfect age and gave me the phrase #furioiuslyhappy? M, who blogs at May I Have a Word? Yep, her. She and Jess have so much in common, besides my unending love and a mutual liking for shortbread. But today let's talk about shortbread.

   Shortbread is just plain delicious. Delicious and plain. Soothing. Tender. Almost crunchy, yet buttery, like a blank canvas of pleasure in your mouth. It is really good with a big, steamy cup of tea. It is decadent with toasted chopped pecans and turbinado dressing it up. Oatmeal added in actually makes it a filling snack. Shortbread always makes you feel homespun and British and sugar-conservative. Ladylike, even. Also? This super simple recipe doubles or triples extremely well, and the extra cookies will save in a lidded box for a million years. Assuming you or my daughter or M don't eat them.

   Shall we? Okay.



What You Need:

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
(I'm not kidding you. That is all you need for the basic dough, and the basic dough it wonderful!)

What You Do:
  • Sift together the flour and sugar.
  • Cut-in the butter until the mixture resembles crumbs (just as if you're beginning to make a pie crust, except that you never add a liquid).
  • Form the mixture into a ball and knead till smooth-ish. (This is not going to be silky smooth like pizza dough. It will remain a bit dry or crumbly. That's okay.)
  • Now, you get the choice to either form individual cookies, which is best with flavor variations, or make a classic shortbread disc. 
  • A shortbread disc is easy. Just pat the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet or pan, finger-pressing it into a circle about 8 inches across. It will end up being about 1/4" thick. You can prick it here and there with a fork, in pretty designs, but you don't have to. You should, however, use a sharp knife to perforate the disc like a pizza. Do not separate the wedges. Flute, crimp, or ignore the outer edge however you like. I tend to go with what I call the "French Rustic" appearance with this and all dough-related issues in my life. Which is open for interpretation. (It's quite casual and only pretty to me.)
  • Bake at just 325 degrees, for about 25 minutes. When done, the edges will be slightly brown. 
  • Cut through the perforation lines again, this time separating the wedges. Remove these to a wire rack to cool.

Possible Variations:
  • Add 1/3 cup quick oats to the exact dough above, before baking of course. This is delicious! Possibly my personal favorite.
  • Alternately, add about that much flaked coconut. Also addictively good! You will probably end up adding some form of chocolate to this, out of sheer evolutionary force.
  • Add in some chopped pecans for a "Pecan Sandy" sort of taste, then sprinkle oven-fresh cookies with turbinado. Fancy schmancy! This one reminds me of my Grandma Stubbs.
  • Add 1/2 cup drained & dried maraschino cherries, plus a speck of red food coloring and a half a speck of nutmeg to the dough, then form into balls and flatten slightly before baking.
  • After baking, drizzle any of these variations with skinny little lines of melted chocolate.
  • Oooohhh!! It's Christmas! Add some holiday food coloring, colored sugars, and candies! Scottish Shortbread for Santa! Hint-hint, parents of toddlers: These cookies display individual bite wounds VERY well...  (wink wink)
  • Lemon shortbread! I am working on this variation for M. Maybe that one gets its own post later.

   With shortbread, there will be no rising on your counter top or shape shifting in the oven. There will rarely be trips to the store to buy what you need. Just a quick collection of pantry staples and some very basic cooking of your gorgeously simple ingredients. So, it's like manna. Manna from heaven. Unleavened, simple, nourishing, just sweet enough. Mysterious. Wonderful. My youngest and I even have a song we always used to sing when we made it, and here are the lyrics:

Basic Scottish shortbread, shortbread, shortbread!
Basic Scottish shortbread, shortbread, yum!
Bake it up and eat it, eat it, eat it!
Bake it up and eat it, shortbread, yum!

   We would always sing it with super pretentious fake British accents, with a little falsetto thrown in, because we don't really know what Scottish accents sound like, although it's doubtful we are spot-on with our British choice. You should try this. Also? Dance. Dance your heart out while you bake and nibble. You'll be glad you did.



   Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for stopping in, and go check out the other cookie recipes on Edie's fun link-up. (Click on the caption beneath that gorgeous, colorful photo there!) Here in Oklahoma we are anticipating another bitter winter storm, so a few days of yummy recipes to keep me busy sounds really nice.

I love you Jess!
I love you M!
I miss you both, you Shortbread Girls!
xoxoxoxo




Saturday, December 14, 2013

Quick Christmas Check In

   Just dropping in to say hello! Things are really hopping around the W. Wintertime farm work, Christmas preparations, beloved house guests, and amended holiday traditions. Subbing, sewing, writing, even gardening! Also so much great reading and cooking... I am really having fun lately. Our book club has gathered with such deep love. Our good friend Marci is finally making a positive turn around with her wrist injury and infection. Prayers are being answered left and right, Life is good.



   The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in my heart! Throbbing, glowing, reaching out quite without my pushing. That's because the spirit of Christmas is Love, and Love touches everything and grows and grows with barely the slightest encouragement. Then all the beautiful, indulgent trimmings come along naturally... Decorations, gifts, traditions, music, outings... I love every dazzling, colorful speck.

I am still making hasty entries in my gratitude journal #furiouslyhappy! are you?

   That is really all I have time to say right now. I have a list of seven or eight blog posts in queue for you, ranging from recipes to book reviews and decorating ideas; but at this moment I am between a fun local parade, a round of shopping with my best friend, a Christmas party with neighbors, and possibly some light display viewing.  All complete with gallons and gallons of hot cocoa, of course.

   Hoping this finds you really enjoying the season, however you go about it!

Love is in the Air...
Everywhere You Look Around...
XOXOXOXO

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Christmas Hymn That Stilled My Heart

   A week or so ago I was fortunate enough to spend an entire school day subbing in a middle school classroom, a great portion of which was spent on crowd control during choir practice. Choir practice in December means Christmas carols! Friends, it was magical, and it probably had a lot to do with my heart slipping so deliciously into the Christmas Spirit.

   These happy little twelve and thirteen year old kids, wrapped in their sparkly infinity scarves and bouncing around in their fleece lined boots and football jerseys, pretending to feel much older than their innocent faces confessed, just sang their hearts out! I listened and smiled big and had a hard time suppressing happy giggles. Without children in our farmhouse these past few Christmases, I had almost forgotten about this fun wintertime ritual. (Almost.)

   The final song the choir practiced was Hashivenu, a haunting, lilting traditional Israeli folk song based on the Old Testament scripture Lamentations 5:21. In the midst of cheerful modern songs like Santa Baby and Up On the Rooftop, this particular song, no...this hymn... brought tears right to the front of my eyes and tightened up my substitute teacher throat. It was so... yearning. Sad and hopeful. Trusting.

   It bored through all the indulgent tinsel and fluff of the season and addressed the quiet center of Advent. The Coming. But it focuses on us returning to Him, not just Him arriving on our doorstep. I feel a beautiful distinction here; do you?

Hashivenu, hashivenu Adonai elecha. 
Venashuva venashuva. 
Chadesh, chadesh ye meinu kekedem. 

Turn us around, turn us around. We’ll return to you. 
Turn us around. Turn us around we’ll return to you. 
Turn us around, oh turn us around and we shall return to you. 

Hashivenu, hashivenu Adonai elecha. 
Venashuva venashuva. 
Chadesh, chadesh ye meinu kekedem. 
Chadesh, chadesh ye meinu kekedem. 
Turn us around, turn us around. Hashivenu. 




   Beyond the pretty remarkable fact that such a religious song was being rehearsed at a public school, I was struck by the raw emotion of approaching God. Of asking for His help in returning home.

   I am resisting the urge to over analyze this; it is just so beautiful on its own. Today when I read the scripture and recall the sound of fifty middle schoolers singing the mellow hymn, I can easily imagine God holding my chin and turning it gently to face Him.

   Renew our days as of old. No new ideas or plans. No grander adventures than what a joyful, loving life offers with His guidance and protection. Instead, a return. A homecoming and a safe restoration. We all need it, don't we?

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

   What Christmas songs are inspiring you this year? What speaks to your heart? Why? I would love to know. Music is so powerful, so connected to our emotions.

   I wish you a safe, fulfilling, inspiring Advent season. I wish you a genuine return Home. For me, this feeling is making my December flat out amazing.

Merry Christmastime!
XOXOXOXO

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Senses Inventory: Snowy Frigid Day

Several inches of perfect white snow covering everything all over the farm.
Temperatures in single digits, plus a ferocious wind chill, all week long.
Less than three weeks till Christmas 
and my entire life in suspense, yet perfectly wonderful.
A Senses Inventory is called for.
So I walked out to the lower west pasture, 
past the llamas and to the edge of the pond 
and scribbled in purple ink with unfeeling fingers what I noticed.


See:  Gently sloping hills blanketed in thick, powdery snow. Glowing pale blue, it's so white. Snow criss-crossed with llama tracks. Llama tracks overlapping each other, dissecting the fields into beautiful, quilted hexagon patches. The quilted field merging visually into the quilted sky. Gray and blue, dark white clouds sewn together with irregular silver and gold rivulets of exposed sky. Prairie grasses, dry and golden blonde, standing tall above the snow, waving so gently you might not notice a deer creeping past. Pine Forest to the north, mammoth-tall and stoic, calm, frozen, peaceful. Size and strength masking a deep complexity, secrets beyond the obvious. The tree bark there is all onyx and glossy, flocked and frosted white in crowded little poofs, the sprawling branches piled up generously with this miraculous snow. Soaked. Steady. I glance around and see the llamas watching me, their always fuzzy snouts also flocked like they've been feasting on powdered sugar.

Hear:  Of course the snow mutes everything, hushes it, but it also amplifies small sounds. My moccasin boots crunch gently through the perfect drifts. A bird flies overhead and I can hear its wings flap. I hear the dry gliding sound of one gust of wind delivering snow across my path.

Smell:  Very little. Everything smells so... clean. Scraped clean to the bone. Purified. I can just barely smell pine perfume, and maybe one little trace of a neighbor's fireplace.

Touch:  Cold wind, biting, slicing, frigid. Jeans against my legs now as cold as marble. Tiny oval shaped hay seeds clinging to every side of my knit gloves. Hands beneath them, numb, feeling huge. So weird. My face is glowing with cold. This notebook flaps in the wind, spineless.

Taste:  Remnants of homemade fudge, sweet and rich, dark chocolate wonderfulness. Salty green olive juice still in my mouth, too. Luxurious snow-day food.

Think:  I keep thinking I see a wolf run across my peripheral. I have often seen coyotes here in broad daylight, but a wolf? Do we have those? Thinking about how people lived in this deep winter one hundred years ago. Thinking about the extremes that might drive a person to cannibalism. Wondering what I might cook for dinner. Probably not a person.

Feel:  Peaceful. Calm. Feeling very blessed and protected. Excited for Christmas, however different it is once again. Feeling less nostalgic than I usually do, much more in this beautiful moment. Feeling anxious to get back indoors and drink piping hot black tea and write in my gratitude journal.


Have you paused for an inventory of your senses lately?
I would be so happy to get a little glimpse of your world.
Please share a detail of what you sense around you.

Thanks for stopping in at the W...
XOXOXOXO

Friday, December 6, 2013

Winter Wellness Salad

   Friends. Fellow veggie-lovers. Kindred salad addicts. I have stumbled upon a most wonderful raw food combination that you should try immediately. I'm calling it...

Winter Wellness Salad

   In a season when nearly every day of the week, for many consecutive weeks, we have good reasons to celebrate... and celebrating often means rich, sweet, salty, and otherwise decadent (but not so good for you) food... In a time of year when carbs and sugar are the fashionable thing to both crave and serve... I often end up fed up and in need of a potent dose of fresh, raw, vitamin-heavy nourishment to set my body straight. And I'm no nutritionist, but these particular ingredients are kind of famous for their health benefits: Kale, spinach, carrots, pomegranate, and lemon. It's all kind of a no-brainer, and these items are abundant in wintertime. The fact that they taste downright amazing together is reason enough to eat Winter Wellness Salad several times a week.



Oklahoma is in the throes of our first big winter storm of this season.
It is so very beautiful... and frigid cold!
Just because it's snowy outside doesn't mean your only meal option
is chicken and dumplings followed by homemade fudge.
Although that does sound pretty darn good.

   Okay, here ya go... My Winter Wellness Salad. The basic components are kale, spinach, pomegranate seeds, olive oil, and lemon juice. As with all salads, this is open to interpretation and you can customize it wildly based on what you love, what you grow, or what you find at the store. My favorite extras so far have been raw broccoli, firm fresh pear chunks, tomatoes, hard-cooked egg, and roasted sweet potatoes. Tonight I plan to top the whole thing with a blackened tilapia filet. Yum.

 



  • First, clean and chop about a half a bunch of both fresh kale and fresh spinach. Maybe you want to add romaine lettuce too? Whatever you like. To me, what's special here is the kale. I have fallen so madly in love with kale that I plan to grow it from now on. Look out, basil. I have a new green obsession.
  • Then drizzle the voluminous pile of fresh, raw greens with some yummy olive oil. Massage the oil into everything, the kale especially. The notion here is that it tenderizes the rather stout, somewhat prickly leaves. Sure, this could be a myth, but my food blogging friend Katie got a kick out of the idea! And she knows her stuff. Anyway, I whisper to my kale with a Swedish accent and say sexy, relaxing things to it just in case it really works. Set aside your now supple, agreeable, pliant, lightly oiled leaves. Let them rest.


  • The next step is the only time-consuming part of the whole raw salad wellness party. You quarter your pomegranate and using a fork and your fingers, remove the very juicy,very colorful, delicious, sweet, tart seeds. Just gently pluck and wiggle them out of the white, styrofoam-ish membrane in which they're all encased. It is slightly tedious but completely worth the effort. One pom will last you several days. I think tonight's salad only has less than a fourth of the total seeds in it, and it is QUITE FULL. Pom seeds pack a ton of flavor. Also, one pom should only cost a couple of bucks, so give em a try.
  • At this point I also shred at least one good, bright orange carrot. Right down to the bone. Then eat the carrot bone as a snack.


  • Add any extras you crave and combine all of your gorgeous, raw, bite-sized foods into one bowl. Squeeze half a lemon over the whole operation, glitter it all with sea salt and cracked pepper if you like, and you're done!




   I have been making giant batches of this magical stuff and keeping it successfully in a covered bowl in the fridge for a solid week. Every day, delish. Every day, fresh and flavorful. Energizing. Filling. Crunchy, sweet, tart, oily, salty, even umami... but totally healthful. It might give you magical powers of your own. I am in love with this salad. And I predict if you try it, you will be too. It is the cure for what ails you in the depth of a heavily sugared and breaded-and-fried winter. This, plus lots and lots of water, plus some good, sweaty exercise and time outdoors, no matter the weather. But mostly this salad.

   What do you eat when you've had too much fun food? How do you set your body straight? How's the weather in your corner of paradise?



"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well,
 if one has not dined well."
 ~Virginia Woolf
XOXOXOXO


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Are You in the Spirit Yet?

   Every year, it happens to me suddenly. Unexpectedly. Often at weird times, either too early by some standards or too late by others. I am struck right in the heart with the Christmas Spirit!! It feels like vanilla-scented, snow-wrapped, angel-whispers lightning.

   This year, maybe because emotionally I have needed it so badly, or because the Universe has been offering up so much really nourishing reading material that just naturally aimed my heart at this Miracle, or I-don't-know-the-heck why, I was in the Christmas spirit just shortly after Halloween. In deference to the men in my home, though, I refrained. I tried to keep things pretty turkey-and-harvest centered for as long as possible.

   Now..... We have the tree up and bedecked with a thousand strands of white lights. Every one a counted blessing. The tree is not decorated quite yet, but it will be soon. A few other spots around the house are decorated and transitioning nicely from Autumnal Opulence to Winter at the Farm. It all can be very mesmerizing.

If my home has a theme this year, it is feathers, paper poofs, and white lights!


   I really do love this time of year, no matter how much I love spring and summer (the very most). The anticipation, the sensation of possibility, the closeness, the cuddling, the giving and sharing, loving, decorating, cooking, celebrating...

   There is so dang much celebrating to do.

   And in a grief season when not everyone really feels like celebrating, or perhaps we feel guilty indulging in beautiful moments... The power of Love sets everything straight. It infuses the air we breath with calm. It motivates us to stretch away from self and out into the cold, toward others. If we're lucky, they stretch toward us, too. Love affords us the sparkling brightness of celebration, regardless of circumstance.

   Are you in the Christmas spirit yet? I hope so. I hope sincerely that you can shrug off the frustration of limited purchasing power and trade it for inspiration of how to give of yourself, your unique, pulsing, spirited self. I hope your needs are met so consistently that you can rest daily in the peculiar beauty of winter and even the artificial pretties we bring out.

This magical display is at a local German restaurant, not at the farm. But I love it.


   Read good stuff. Eat good, delicious, healthy food. Drink excellent coffee, hot tea, or cocoa. Cuddle people. Listen to music and watch movies that make you feel good. Uphold your favorite traditions. Resist the weird temptation to dwell on thoughts of not enough or memories of painful Christmases past. Determine that your imagination, your very heart, belongs to all the promises and generous measures of hope that Love offers. Because it is not a myth; Christmas is very real. Love conquers all, and Love is with us.

Grow some paperwhites indoors!!


   Merry Christmas-making! If you're in my very frigid, icy neck of the woods, be safe. To every single one of you, thanks ever so much for visiting.

"My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned 
 or modern, is very simple: loving others.
 Come to think of it, why do we have 
 to wait for Christmas to do that?"
~Bob Hope
XOXOXOXO
 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Random Sunday Evening Blog Update

   Whoa. I haven't written since LAST Sunday? Whew. It has been quite a week here. Lots of normal busyness, a hefty dose of traditional and nontraditional holiday activity, some returning health and vitality (and the attendant long runs outdoors) and some brand new stressful surprises too. You know, totally perfect normal life stuff. How have YOU been?

   As usual I have about three thousand great philosophical things I'd like to sit and talk to you about, as well as some easy, fun stuff:

  • I want to tell you all about two books I read this past week or so: Stitched by Anne Lamott and One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Have you also read them? I really need to talk about them. These titles are similar in message but vastly different in voice. I predict few people will groove them both too hard. But I did.  
  • You should totally make the pretzel-crusted salted-caramel brownies I tried from Ruth over at Living Well Spending Less. But do not overbake them or the caramel might pop out your fillings.
  • From now on when I make pie crust, I shall always and forever use half butter and half shortening or lard, instead of all butter. Still delicious and sooooo much flakier! It makes me want to make every pie recipe in the entire universe.
  • A Pinterest board I am curating with a handful of girlfriends, Gratitude and Joy Seeking, is gradually collecting lots of followers, and I am sitting here weighing different things we could do with that. 

  • I am fully, joyfully invested in Christmas right now. Inwardly I have been for a couple of weeks, but now that Thanksgiving has been fulfilled, beautifully I might add, my house and everything else can catch up to the colors, sparkles, and music in my heart. And especially since the Christmas season is a bit shorter this year, I vote for maxing it out with love and joy every single day!




  • Do you know how powerful giving thanks is? Do you have any inkling of what is at your fingertips when you use your imagination to its fullest positive potential? Beauty, miracles, grace, and new life are around every corner, in every dim circumstance, if we apply faith and allow Love to have Its perfect way.

  • Have you walked around outside at night lately? My gosh. Here in Oklahoma, the night skies will take your breath away. Last night we had a bonfire party with friends and family, and for a while about a third of us went on a star-gazing hike.  It felt wonderful. It makes me deliciously dizzy to gaze up like that in a cold, dark field... Then getting still and cozy again by the fire is just perfect.
  • Our llamas are suddenly spoiled rotten, hand-fed creatures. They are all three still cat-like in their willingness to be held and fully cuddled, but lately a person can hardly walk out to the middle field without being surrounded by three fuzzy, begging little divided noses. It makes the buff a little sad. He feels ever so slightly neglected.

  • You mamas out there will understand this... My heart is made light and airy, strong and bright golden, when I get long, loving text messages from my children. I am so thankful for this right now! What a wonderful week. I have a couple of really fun daughter-related details coming soon... So happy!
  • Hey, can we please talk about what to do in the garden this time of year? I am currently experimenting with manure tea for indoor gardening projects, and it just makes me so dang excited for spring. I know. It's barely winter. CALM DOWN LADY.

  • I am going to work on a required reading list for women like me. Care to contribute ideas?
  • Sewing takes up all of my spare time lately, which is flat out wonderful. If you happen to be in the market for an apron or some such textile-ish item for Christmas gifting, send me a message.
  • It's that time of year when I drink coffee early every morning, work hard around the farm, run a few miles, take a shower, then drink hot tea every afternoon, before the men drive home from work. I am usually reading or writing during these breaks. What is it about the pre-dawn hour and the pre-dinner hour that make my mind work in this hot beverage kind of way? Do you do this?
  • Have you heard the new Macklemore song? What is your favorite new music lately?
  • Foggy mornings at the farm have given me pause to consider the necessarily slow pace of life right now. More on this later, but just take heart that if you are being urged or forced to live one day at a time... You are not alone. Not at all. It's totally ok.

   Life is amazing. Mysterious, surprising, terrifying, but amazing. I hope you are swimming in the deep pools of grace with me, exploring the riches of a life lived with open arms and a grateful heart. It is different in all the best ways.

   Talk to you soon! Wishing you a happy, restorative Sunday evening!

"You weren't born a person of cringe and contraction. 
 You were born as energy, as life, made of the same stuff 
 as stars, blossoms, and breezes."
 ~Anne Lamott
 Stitched
XOXOXOXO
























 

pinnable

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