Teri Brown Books
Teri Brown Books

T.J. BROWN BLOG

On Running, Writing and Recipes

It was a good week in spite of the fact that my love was doing his due diligence at the Powder House. Oh, who am I kidding, dude went to ski at Anthony Lakes with one of our best friends! And ski, he did. Looks absolutely incredible. If I liked skiing. Actually, it just looks cold. But hey, if that what makes him happy.

Even if he’s not painting like I would like him to, he is ridding the house of the mice who’ve decided to move in. With the house empty so much of the time, the rodents thought it was a good place to winter. They thought wrong. He should be home tomorrow for a week or so before heading back to supervise the installation of the new sink and counter tops. I miss it over there, but I’m not much for driving in the snow even if someone else is driving, so I’m fine waiting for a long April weekend.

Back to it being a good week, though. Writing is going so well and I am so grateful. It took six months for me to figure out how to carve time in my day to write regularly, but I have finally found my rhythm. My YA proposal is still making the rounds, my contemporary is on a temporary pause and I am working on a quick turnaround historical. Like I’ve mentioned before, it’s a time period I am not that familiar with so the research is intensive, but I am just loving it. I’ll be diving in this weekend.

I also just finished up week two of the Couch to 5k program. C2K is my go to running restart program. It gets me to where I want to be gradually without injury. I’m a slow runner and I will always be a slow runner. I occasionally do intervals or Tabata training to get my heart rate up for conditioning, but I prefer the meditative rhythm of keeping on keeping on. My favorite distance is four to six miles and I am SUPER excited to get there again.  I’ve been trying to do at home workouts to increase my strength and stamina, but you know, puppy… I managed a yoga session last week and a cardio session this week. With Wyatt’s help, both were painful and hysterical.

It was a nice, easy food week as the hubby was gone. I made elk meatball stroganoff one evening and a big salad the next. Then leftovers and a trip to our local tamale place. Tonight, I’m going to make a sweet and sour sauce, add the meatballs not used in the stroganoff and serve over rice. Tomorrow, I’m making Birria tacos with chili broth and a banana cream pie for hubby’s return and later in the week, I’m making spicy glazed mustard wings and baked joe joes. There’s another recipe in the NYT food section on Korean soy-glazed pork belly that looks really good, but am going to go for Savory Thai noodles with seared brussels sprouts as I’m trying to make two or three vegetarian meals a week now. It’s good for us, the planet and all creatures great and small. And it’s delicious!

I could have added reading and resistance to the title, as I am reading Caste by Isabella Wilkerson and The Art of Possibilities by Rosamund Zander. Both are wonderful and Caste should be required reading. And I resumed my almost daily civic engagement. I can’t really call it resistance now because we’re working for something instead of just doing damage control. Equity across environments, climate change mitigation, the end human suffering, long term voting rights… so much work to do. The day job has been incredibly exciting as well… I have the best team and some of the projects I am working on are so awesome… but that’s for another blog.

So there, you have it in a nutshell… running, writing and recipes. Hope everyone has an amazing weekend!

A Total Weekend Reset

My plan for the weekend was set, but like all plans, it changed when Mother Nature intervened. I took today off in order to have a four-day weekend at the Powder House with my newly retired hubby. We had planned on doing a whole lot of nothing—there is still a pandemic raging after all—except some puttering, a little painting and Al may have hit the slopes. We changed our plans when we heard about the coming storm. Good thing too. Parts of interstate 84 are almost shut down because of crashes and there are white out conditions in some places.

I briefly considered just canceling my day off and working. After all, I am as stuck as I would be any other day and having no meetings scheduled would have been a good opportunity to catch up on some projects. However, in the end I decided not to. Now present Teri is thanking past Teri for her decision to just rest. Or rest the way I like to rest which means writing, cleaning and cooking. So in spite of the weather and having my plans canceled, I’m looking forward to the break.

It’s been a good week. I’m really loving my planner and its emphasis on how I want to feel. It’s forcing me to slow down and integrate in a way that I haven’t before. Like most people who live long term with someone who’s very emotional, I learned to regard feelings with a mistrustful eye… after all, if they’re going to change in five minutes, why bother? But in doing so, I missed out on integrating my own emotions/intuition/intellect and physical body, which I believe is necessary for personal growth and actualization. So the planner is helping me to do that. I was dead on when I decided to put my mental health and emotional well-being first this year. It’s like the rudder on which the direction of the vessel depends.

The past couple of weeks have been kind of a litmus test as I fumble about and discover what is truly necessary for my own wellness. Two things stood out in stark relief—my writing and exercise. I prioritized both, making adjustments to my schedule to make space for those two things and the results have been promising. I am both calmer and more energized, which on the surface doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I’m not questioning it. Devoting time to my craft and movement feels so very right. It’s been a long time, too long, since I have invested in either in any meaningful way.

I bought Scrivner and I am absolutely loving it so far. It’s very intuitive and it’s nice to have a place to keep all my scenes, chapters, character notes, and the oodles of research I’m doing. I’ve decided not to make word count or time goals and am instead making project goals. Start New Scene or Finish GMC’s for Primary Characters are goals that are specific enough to motivate without being stress inducing.

Last spring, I was running regularly after a long hiatus and got up to about two miles without stopping but then I started working on the Powder House, started a new job, etc., and things kind of fell apart. So I am back to C25k again and managed three runs before the snow came. I also did a nice yoga session which will have to do me for the weekend because it’s not going to warm up enough to hit the streets until Sunday afternoon. Yoga with a puppy has its own challenges, though, and it’s difficult to find the time when the puppy is asleep and the humans I live with aren’t in the living room. No ZEN there.

So I’m setting the intention that this weekend will be a nice long recoup… it may not be the weekend I originally envisioned, but it can still be a time for me to do the things I love to do, things that bring me peace and joy.  I wish you the same on this cold, snowy Friday.

It’s Official!

It’s official!

After a six month trial period, I am now a permanent employee of the State of Oregon in a job I absolutely love. I am a Pre-Employment Transition Coordinator for Clatsop, Columbia and Washington Counties and as such, I teach transition age students (typically 16 to 21) things like interview skills, what accommodations they need to be successful at their chosen job, how to write resumes, etc. My manager is positive, forward thinking and committed to supporting her team. My co-workers are compassionate, creative and empathetic. Have I mentioned that I love my job?

In other news, my agent offered me an interesting publishing opportunity so I am working on a proposal that is set in a time period I have never written in before. It feels good to write again on a more regular basis. My critique buddy and best friend, Keri Blaisdell and I are holding one another accountable and I am making real progress–even if it’s a completely new time period.  It’s funny, I started writing in the 20’s, then I went back to the Edwardian era now I am writing in the Georgian era. If I keep going back I’ll end up in the middle ages… which wouldn’t hurt my feelings!

On the home front, I have almost finished turning my office into a place I can be in for almost twenty-four hours a day. For an 8×12 room, it has a lot of functions! First,, I have grandchildren that sleepover so it has to have a bed because the other two bedrooms are occupied. My day job is exclusively in that room until things open back up and I’m allowed back into schools… and even then, half my time will be in the office as I’m on permanent remote work. Also, I write and need a space away from my family… and coffee shops are not an option. And yes, I said almost 24-hours a day because I am still sleeping with Wyatt until he is completely potty trained. Luckily, he is doing fairly well in that regard, so I am hoping to be  back in my own bed within the next month or so. I got rid of the double bed that was in there and bought a day bed with a trundle to stack the grandchildren. I also bought a longish worktable to hold my printer and all the stuff that was on my desk. Because of my job, I have to have a docking station for my laptop, another large monitor, a keyboard and a mouse all on a desk my father made for me when I was fifteen… a desk that was built for pen and paper. I’m not getting rid of it, so adjustments had to be made. The first thing my husband said when he unpacked the daybed was, “Teri? How much do you love me? Because you need to love me a lot.” It took him three hours to put it together and the trundle bed is still in pieces under the day bed!

I told him he was the best husband ever but inside I was like, dude, you’re retired now. Just put the bed together! That’s another big change in my life. My husband retired after 30 years at the same company. Now he’s home all the time. At first, I was all worried, thinking he was going to leave and move permanently to the little retirement home in North Powder that we bought last year. Now, after almost a week of being at home with him, my eighty-four-year old mother and a three month old puppy, I’m wondering when he’s going. HA!

Oh, and I finally bought a new running bra! Mine was way too old and, after a couple years (i.e. 5) of not running regularly, a bit, snug, shall we say? I’m still avoiding stores, so I had to find one online that would fit and last. I asked my friends and my daughter what they wore and finally settle on a Natori Yogi sports bra. What a relief when it came AND IT ACTUALLY FIT. I bought new running shoes last fall, so after dithering for four months, I’m finally ready to run again. You don’t want to rush these things!

Scheduling is still an issue. I get up early enough to get my writing done, but Wyatt and the cats all want to eat. And then Wyatt wants to play. Then Wyatt needs to potty. Then Wyatt wants to lay in my lap and chew on a chewie until he falls asleep. Then we do it all over again. Then I have to get ready for work. By the time work is done, I have to make dinner and and then I’m wiped out. Sometimes it works in the morning and sometimes, if I short my lunch and breaks, I can knock off early and write before dinner. But seriously, that’s a lot of sitting! I’ll figure it out because I didn’t know how much I missed it until I started writing regularly again. Creativity just helps with the anxiety and after last year, I need all the help I can get! Have a great week, people!

 

 

 

This, That and Random Shat

So Wyatt Earp decided that 5 hours was enough sleep and woke me up at 2:00 AM ready to play. Of course, now he’s asleep while I’m wide awake so I figured I’d write a random blog about random stuff. I’m not going to write about the current politics or insurrection because it’s 5:30 in the morning and I am trying to hold the anxiety at bay for as long as possible, so random stuff it is.

I am plowing ahead, trying to encourage my core feelings of intentionality, alignment, freedom, affirmation and accomplishment. Easier said then done given the aforementioned political climate. But…I feel some small, stirrings of hope. A bit of lightness around the spirit that I haven’t felt in quite some time.

My job is a great source of satisfaction and affirmation. I know I am doing good work, that what I do makes a difference. My manager affirms me and I am able to be wildly creative. I’ll hit my six-month mark on the 3rd of February and will be considered a vested employee of the state of Oregon. BOOM! I’m running a lot of student workshops this week and I love interacting with them—even if it is virtually. And I am really happy to be able to support teachers during this time. God bless em… they need the support.

I am also writing on a more regular basis. It is more important than ever that I invest in my creativity before it completely dries up and blows away. I’d hate to finish the Powder House writing studio only to be unable to write! I have a proposal out on submission and am discussing my next moves with my agent. In the meantime, I am working on a novel different than anything I have ever written… it’s not a serious novel, but something completely trite and fun.  It feels good. I have another idea percolating that is far more complex… I think I’ll wait for a bit for that one. I’m thinking fun and frothy is a good choice for this moment in time.

In Teri’s adventures in cooking, I spent the last week making soup or meals that can be made into soup because tis the season. Made a roast chicken the other night with veggies and a side citrus salad with fennel and olives. Plan on turning the chicken into black bean tostada and adding the chicken fat drenched roasted veggies to lentil soup for lunches. I’m getting fatter by the day, but am struggling to care.

Oh! I found a cool APP for those of us obsessed with keeping our house tidy. It’s called TODY and it breaks the house down by rooms and has a preprogrammed list of chores for each one that you can customize. You can also choose how long between dustings, or sweepings, etc. I LOVE it. I know, I’m weird. Cap sun, Virgo rising, so leave me to my lists! 😊

Okay, I need to switch laptops… I want to work early today so I can flex a nap in there sometime. That is, if Wyatt allows it.

On Being Intentional in 2021

I’m doing things different this year…instead of goals, resolutions, manifestations or intentions, I am focusing on my own mental health and emotional growth. Because quite frankly, last year didn’t do it for me. I ended the year, like so many others, an anxiety ridden, news addicted mess who compulsively cleaned, ate and drank, waiting, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t want to spend another year feeling like that.

So how do I want to feel? Once I choose how I want to feel, I can use those emotions as a framework for planning my life to include more activities and habits that support and encourage those feelings. But the brain and what goes on in it must come first because not only is it the origin of all my goals and intentions, but it’s the saboteur of them, as well.

After a long thought process, I came up with five emotions that fit me—individualized emotions that create within me a sense of well-being. They are:

  • Aligned
  • Affirmed
  • Free
  • Accomplished
  • Intentional

I started with a long list, but finally whittled it down to these five. Then I added notes on what these emotions meant to me. Today, I’m exploring intentional, which isn’t really an emotion, is it? What do I mean when I say I want to feel intentional?

From Merriam Webster:
in·ten·tion·al | \ in-ˈtench-nəl , -ˈten(t)-shə-nᵊl \
Definition of intentional
1: done by intention or design : INTENDED
intentional damage
2a: of or relating to epistemological intention
b: having external reference

VOLUNTARY, INTENTIONAL, DELIBERATE, WILLING. Done or brought about of one’s own will. VOLUNTARY implies freedom and spontaneity of choice or action without external compulsion. INTENTIONAL stresses an awareness of an end to be achieved.  DELIBERATE implies full consciousness of the nature of one’s act and its consequences. WILLING implies a readiness and eagerness to accede to or anticipate the wishes of another.

Those are very close to what I came up with during my private brainstorming session.

What does intentional feel like? For me, intentional feels thoughtful-understanding that there are no easy answers. Intentional feels like choosing, deliberating. It feels like the breath or pause before acting or reacting. It feels like awareness of what you are doing, while you are doing it.

Intentional feels like planning ahead or by design. Intentional feels calm. And lord knows I could use some calm.

So yes, I want to be more intentional. I want my choices and plans to be more intentional. I want to feel more intentional in every area of my life.

So how can I do that? I’ve always been a planner and I’m switching back to a paper planner after several years of using an electronic one. I’ll continue to use the outlook calendar for work, but for my personal use, I’m going with a paper planner that’s a combination gratitude journal, to do list, affirmation notebook and yes, daily scheduler. Carving out some time in the morning to plan out my day—work, as well as personal—has always helped me feel more grounded and mindful.

To create a sense of being intentional, I’ll be adding a mental why to my to do list. Whenever I put an item on the list, I’m going to ask myself why it’s there. Nothing big or complicated. It’ll be as simple as asking myself why I’m making banana cake today… because I have spotted nanners and I’m tired of banana bread. Why am I going to clean the garden window in the kitchen… because I can see grease on the glass shelf and I like things to be clean. Why am I going to re-write the third chapter in my manuscript… because it’s a damn mess. Knowing the why makes me feel as if I am being intentional. Why I’m doing that item is a good way to bring awareness to my daily activities.

Keeping a regular meditation schedule has always helped me be mindful. I’ve fallen away from it recently and only hit a few days a week… getting back into the habit of doing it more regularly will help me gain the space and time between a stimulus and an action. A few more moments in which I can act more intentionally and therefore feel more intentional and thoughtful about my behavior.

I have always been struck by the following quote: The unexamined life is not worth living.

I don’t know if the quote is entirely true or not, but it always made pausing to think seem like a worthwhile endeavor to me. And feeling intentional about my life brings me enormous satisfaction and joy. After last year, I need more of both those things.

And Then There Were Two

I’ve blogged about Halie before. Sahalie May was named after a waterfall and she was going to be our adventure dog. She was incredibly easy to train, responsive to the point of having some scary intuition and eager to please. A pibble cross, Halie exceeded our expectations as to what a joy a well-trained dog could be. She and my granddaughter became the best of friends. She’s completely in love with a cat. The only fly in the ointment was that she hates the car. Like it gave her such a sad to ride in it that we avoided taking her places, which was fine with her. She loves being in the woods and loves swimming, but getting her there broke our hearts. After a summer of going back and forth to the Powder House, she was better, but still disgruntled about the whole thing. Our lives were full of canine and cats until all of a sudden, I got the puppy bug.

Enter Wyatt Earp.

 

Wyatt comes from a ranch in Eastern Oregon. I’m a big believer in rescue dogs and Halie came from a shelter as a puppy. But I set eyes on Wyatt and I knew he was supposed to be my dog. We paid the down payment and I impatiently waited until Christmas to pick him up. We left on Christmas day in a rainstorm that soon turned to blizzard conditions in the Columbia River gorge. There wasn’t a lot of traffic but the conditions were treacherous. “We must get the spud!” became our mantra. It took us over six hours to drive 300 miles.

One night in our funny old house on the high desert and Wyatt was ours. Small, fragile, not quite eight weeks. He stole our hearts immediately. But what about our first love? How would she react to a puppy?

I think ambivalent would be the best way to put it. Was it a toy? Prey? A horrible mistake? It couldn’t possibly be a dog, could it? I saw all of these things running through her mind. All the signs of stress were apparent… her expressive eyes were wide, she drooled excessively. By turns she was playful or  terrified.

The next morning was better. She only drooled on occasion and often took the play with me doggy posture—butt up, tail wagging, ears high and alert. Then she’d growl if he came to close to one of her favorite toys. Like a big sister, she was confused, jealous and interested. Here is a picture of my youngest granddaughter meeting her baby brother for the first time. See the look? That’s how Halie looks right now.

Three days in and things are getting better. She wants to play with him, but isn’t sure how. He’s too small and her normal doggy play tactics are far too rough and it’s like she knows it. For his part, Wyatt has no such qualms. He weaves in and out of her legs, nipping at her hocks, leaping for her ears. She is remarkably patient considering.

Training is also going well. I am sleeping with him in the extra bedroom so I can get him up to potty on his pee pad regularly. We are kennel training him, but don’t believe in letting the baby cry it out… we didn’t do that with our children, and don’t do it with dogs. currently, he goes in and out of his kennel at will. We want it to be a safe haven for him and you can’t do that by locking him in. He’s pretty much confined him to the extra bedroom unless I am keeping direct eyes on him. Zac George is one of the best trainers out there and I used his non-dominant methods with Halie. Dogs have been bred for thousands of years to work with humans—it’s just a matter of learning to communicate with them.

I must be doing something right, because Wyatt is well on his way to learning both coming when called and how to fetch. “Look” is going to take more time, but considering that he is just eight weeks old today, I think we are doing very well. Fetch is important because it’s an easy way to wear out the puppy and a tired puppy is a good puppy!

In other news, I managed to get most of Christmas put away—no easy feat with a puppy underfoot. One of the advantages of having a small tree and minimal decorations this year, I suppose. I also cleaned out all the leftovers, made out this week’s menu and grocery list and worked a full eight hours-with a baby cradled in one arm. ! Now if I could just get a shower…

Cakes Not Cookies: A Holiday Switcheroo

What a lovely week and yet…

The news is still shocking and horrifying on the outside while on the inside we are making merry the best we can under the circumstances. Our family holiday was last Sunday. My son and his family, (who have already had covid) came over and my daughter surprised her nieces and nephew by showing up to partake in the festivities… she works from home so we felt fairly safe in her attendance. But honestly, it was all about the grandbabies whom I haven’t seen in months. My son brought eggnog cream brulee, and we had a Christmas ham. The Grande Marnier chocolate cake turned out lovely as did the cream brulee. Highlight of the day was watching my grown children walk like penguins around the kitchen island with the grandchildren. I have no idea why…

Monday was the Solstice which we celebrated with homemade eggnog and Monte Cristos. Mom retired early and hubby and I spent several hours of quiet time reflecting on the year past and what we wanted for the upcoming year. We answered a series of questions and laughed when we answered the very opened ended questions identically. For fun, we counted all the trips made to the Powder House since we bought it in May. All totaled, we made Twenty-two trips either alone or together. That’s a lot of driving!

Tuesday was my birthday and it was spent quietly at home and we had a charcutier dinner with a great bottle of wine. Since it was my birthday, I was in charge of the TV and we binged several episodes of  Escape to the Château… I am obsessed with that series. Renovating my 1910 bungalow is nothing compared to renovating a 45 room French Chateau built in 1886!

Last night, I went all out on the food. My daughter and her boyfriend came to celebrate the season… Chris works with the public so om retired to her room to watch movies and we spent most of the time outside at the firepit. I made a coffee/spice rubbed brisket, mashed potatoes and roasted brussels with prosciutto and cranberries.  The brisket, served with pomegranate and parsley was amazing. For desert, we had an olive oil walnut cake with crème fraiche and spiced orange syrup. So good.  It was cold outside but I decorated the picnic table anyway with greenery and candles. It felt festive, if freezing.

The weird thing this year is no cookies… I haven’t made a single batch. I usually give away a bunch, but I didn’t know if people were doing that during a pandemic, so I switched over to Christmas cakes instead, just for the family. It’s been a fun departure for me and the results have been delicious.

So that is pretty much it. The holidays have been orchestrated from my computer and my kitchen this year. And it’s okay. Happy holidays friends! Be safe, be happy.

The Best Laid Plans

My love and I were slated to go to the Powder House last weekend to tromp through the forest with friends, put up a wee tree and some lights. We weren’t going to go all out because we are only going to be there a couple of days over Christmas and then I probably won’t be going over for a month or so.

Unfortunately, I woke up at two am sick, (reaction to a new reflux medication), and we had to cancel the trip. I basically did nothing on Saturday except make a batch of bourbon balls while my husband ran around doing holiday errands. I felt much better Sunday, whipped up a batch of ginger scones, wrapped about a gazillion gifts, finished the holiday letter and delivered the Christmas books to our nieces and nephews. We also surprised my daughter with coffee and scones for breakfast, which was lovely even if we mostly waved through the door. Along with the rest of America, we don’t get to see family much right now.

Speaking of which, my daughter and I texted a lot about what to do for Christmas. My son and his family have already had Covid. It’s been over 20 days and will be longer by the time they come for Christmas. Everything I have read (CDC and WHO) says the chances of them getting it again and being infectious are extremely low. My daughter and her boyfriend, however have not had it, and that would put us up to 9 people in the house. Neither my daughter or I are comfortable with that—my mom is 84 and has COPD—so we’re going to skip the family event and meet with each family individually. We planned out several different scenarios…meeting at a park for an impromptu happy hour, setting up a canopy outside, meeting inside, but having mom wear a mask or stay in her room.  We’re still plotting.

Yesterday was a blur. I did manage to get in a quick 25 minute walk and a really good meditation session but my zen was ruined by having to stand in line for an hour at the post office. It’s amazing how many people still don’t adhere to the six-foot guidelines. After that, I had to run to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for mom, grab some brussels for a recipe and get the photos from Walgreens for a gift I’m putting together for my grand-daughter.

I got home in time to make an amazing lemony chicken sheet pan dinner that’s definitely a keeper. Mom agreed.

I’ll finish up my holiday baking in the next few days. Not really doing much this year as we aren’t having our usual get-togethers. My husband mentioned that we’ve seen almost all of our favorite holiday shows already and he can’t remember the last time we’ve been able to do that. I told him that’s because we’re not meeting friends for festive happy hours or dinners. We’re not going to the Nutcracker or the Festival of Lights or ugly sweater parties. We’re staying home and watching TV. We even canceled an outdoor bonfire with friend. It’s a Covid Christmas and adjustments are being made to keep the people we love safe. It’s not bad, it’s just very, very different.

Courting the Christmas Spirit

I’ve blogged about my apathy toward the holidays this year—It’s different. It’s different for all of us. So this weekend I made a concerted effort to do the things that usually encourage the Christmas spirit.

No one can say I’m not trying.

In between regular chores and holiday to do’s, we watched several Christmas movies-Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, Rick Steve’s European Christmas Special, Miracle on 34th street and Rudolph. Miracle on 34th Street and Love, Actually are my favorites. I’m saving Love, Actually for Christmas night for when my love and I are alone at the Powder House.

I knew I wanted to get the Christmas decorations out of the attic and put up a tree this weekend, but like everything else in life, certain things had to happen first. In order to put a tree in the back of the truck, we had to go to the yard debris and get the leaves out of the back. But if we were going to do that, we first needed to finish cutting the perennials, pick up the last of the leaves, etc., so we spent two hours doing yard work before heading to the yard debris. We then stopped on the way back to pick up the tree, but the tree lot had no good ones, we only had one mask and the subpar trees were 70.00 bucks. No, thank you.

After a quick lunch, we ran out to the country to find a farm and  discovered one we hadn’t been to before. The trees were fairly unkept, and after much dithering, we found one we both agreed on. Of course, the trunk was buried in mud and in a very Christmas Vacation moment, we borrowed a shovel from the deeply suspicious Christmas tree farmer and dug it out enough so we wouldn’t lose the bottom part of the tree.

We may have scored the tree, but the chores weren’t done because in order to get the decorations down, we had to reorganize the garage. We filled the jeep up with stuff going to the powder house and loaded my car up with stuff earmarked for Goodwill. Only then could we get the Christmas boxes down and since we were doing that, we might as well put the summer stuff away, so up went the fans and the cushions for the patio furniture and various and sundry other items that won’t be used until it’s warm again.

While all this was going on, I cleaned a bunch of veggies and put them out for mom to chop. I was dying to make soup out of the broth I had made. Once everything was down from the attic, I threw the soup together and then helped hubby put the tree up and decorate it. It was enjoyable and sort of sad at the same time. I was very conscious of past Christmases and the people missing from our lives… my dad, both of Alan’s parents, grandparents, etc. I am so honored to have my mom with me still. We put the plastic angel from my childhood on top of the tree, which deeply touched her. I found my children’s Christmas stockings and almost cried because I miss them so much… yes, they’re still alive and well, but I miss the babies they were… we had so much fun with them!

The soup turned out great, but the bone broth wasn’t as deep as I would have liked. I am going to try it again with a slow cooker, so I can leave it in for at least 15 hours.

Sunday was mostly running around. I planned my weekly menu, made my grocery list early and was at the grocery store at 8am to avoid the crush… Crowds during a pandemic seem counterintuitive to me. Then in quick succession, hubby and I finished up the shopping, dropped the stuff off at Goodwill and made a trip to John’s market (a specialty beer and wine shop) to pick up a gift. It was great to see so many people wearing masks and protocols being followed. Made me feel a bit safer, though Oregon’s numbers are still rising.

After returning home, Hubby retired out to organize the garage and I mixed up the dried fruit for the black fruit cake and put them in a jar to soak in rum. I’ll leave them there for a couple of days before mixing the cake later in the week.

Then I made a walnut olive oil cake…admittedly, my baking skills are a mixed bag (See my post about my disastrous pumpkin bread), but this cake turned out spectacularly. The cake is made from equal parts ground walnuts and flour and the extra virgin olive oil makes it super moist and rich. It’s served with a spicy orange syrup, a dollop of crème fraiche and pomegranate. It turned out so lovely that I immediately ran some over to the neighbors.

A really nice capper to a really busy weekend that was lovely and nostalgic and a bit sad. Things are not the same and I am trying to dig deep to court the meaning of the season without sliding into an abject depression about how different everything is. I remind myself that different isn’t necessarily bad. It’s just different. The pandemic is bad. Our political climate is bad. The holidays are just a blip in the bigger picture and that’s how I have to approach them.

Early Saturday Mornings

Weird week. In fact, I don’t even remember it all. What happened Monday? Tuesday? I dunno. Seriously, there is so much news happening so fast that I can’t remember it all, not to mention the banal things I’ve done. I cooked a lot, I know that. Five dinners since Sunday. Some really good recipes. Except I don’t remember them.

Maybe I blog to remind myself what I’ve done.

I do remember completely screwing up at work… after hours of figuring out MS Publisher and putting together my first newsletter for two counties in my region, I finally sent it out… and forgot to remove TEST 1 from the subject line. That was neat.

My insomnia was bad this week and so far, medication hasn’t touched it. I do know that emotionally, I was very up and down and my mood swings are directly related to how much sleep I’ve gotten. On the bright side, I am using my awake time more productively. For instance, I thought a lot about grace this week and started an essay for my Medium channel. Hope to finish it next week. I also remember washing walls and everything hanging on them at 2:00 am last week. Which was really weird. BUT… My house looks so much cleaner. If you don’t think it makes a difference or didn’t know wall washing was a thing, go grab a damp cloth and wash a circle of your wall. Do it right now. I’ll wait. See? You’re welcome. Also, I’m sorry.

Yesterday, I made my first attempt at bone broth, also known as just plain broth. I used four pounds of roasted soup bones, two cups of roasted veggies and a ton of water. Then I let it simmer on the stove for ten hours. Now I have a jar of jellied magic that’s supposed to lift my soups and sauces up to the next level. We’ll see. I made a loaf of buttermilk sandwich bread yesterday, as well… I can’t even describe what my house smelled like. Now THAT’S aroma therapy.

This weekend is going to be busy. We have to finish up the yard, which should only take a couple of hours, get the Christmas stuff down and put away all the summer stuff. I see a run to Goodwill in our near future. We also need to take a truck load of leaves and cuttings to the yard debris and put up our Christmas tree. Holiday cards need to be written out and we need to make some decisions on our schedule the next four weeks. We would like to go to the Powder House next weekend to do some painting and decorating, but I am not sure we are going to have time.

My daughter already decorated her house for the holidays and it looks awesome. Very natural and fresh. Girl has great taste. I’m just not feeling it this year. I usually go all out and throw a series of cocktails for friends and hold a big open house for family, but that’s not happening. My son and his family already had Covid and are coming over on the Sunday before Christmas.  My daughter, who is currently working from home, and her handwashing obsessed boyfriend will also attend, but that’s the extent of our holiday festivities. For someone who loves to throw parties, the whole thing seems a little dismal and more than a little sad. I don’t mean to whine. We’re so incredibly blessed…no one I love has died of the disease and there are so many families who will never spend another Christmas with their loved ones. I know how lucky I have been. So I’ll just shut up now.

We’ll spend Christmas Eve and morning here with Mom and then hubby and I will spend Christmas night alone at the Powder house… we get to pick up Wyatt the next day! I’m really excited and will post pictures as they come in.

I just heard a thud outside, which means that my newspaper has arrived. Happy Saturday, all. Catch you on the flip side!

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