Sunday Currently, vol. 45

Currently…

Reading…a lot of introspective posts on life, the universe, and the state of blogging. A lot of folks are talking about taking things back to basics, and getting personal amidst a lot of impersonal. It’s a movement that comes cyclicly, I think, as we figure out new ways to use technology to at first push ideas, then share ideas, and eventually bring it back to personal and have a conversation.

Watching…no TV this week, but we watched The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. There was ugly crying involved, too. I grew up reading the series and I love how the films brought the stories to life, even if it means losing some characters I grew attached to.

Listening…to morning quiet. Everyone’s up and getting about their morning routine, but the lake outside my in-laws’ place is still frozen and lovely, and the world just feels still and peaceful.

Smelling…Harry and David Moose Munch Coffee. It is a thing of beauty.

Wishing…for peace on earth and good will toward all. I know that’s not a thing attained by wishing, but I wish for it anyway.

Loving…getting this recharge time with family. It’s become a creative recharge time as well. My mother-in-law is a crazily creative and energetic person, and she’s got me thinking about a dozen new projects that I can’t wait to start when I get home.

Wanting…the patience to figure out my direction before I go charging off after any of these projects, new courses through life, goals, and the rest. I’m really good at diving headfirst into a project, but I’m learning that sometimes I don’t always do the best job of looking at that project or its repercussions.

Feeling…happy, relaxed, energized, conflicted, and all in all, a little crazed right now. It’s good, because it’s what happens when you’re faced with a lot of possibilities, but I could do without the stress that comes along with so many emotions crammed into one brain at once.

Pictures from This Week

From top left:

  1. New boots, fresh snow, and sunshine greeted us our first morning in Denver.
  2. Thanks to the timehop app, I found some pictures I was looking for – my sister talking to Louis Zamperini when we were out for lunch at a favorite restaurant in LA, about five years ago. We can’t wait to see “Unbroken” – he was such a humble, sweet, yet amazingly strong man.
  3. Showing off an El Cholo’s menu from that same trip. I was visiting my family for the holidays, en route to Virginia from Hawaii, and totally craving good Mexican food, so we stopped in.
  4. Sunrise over the frozen lake near my in-laws’ house in Denver.
  5. The downtown Littleton tree was all ablaze and glittering in the cold.
  6. My father-in-law, husband, and niece getting into the Christmas spirit.
  7. I love hanging out with this munchkin mini-me.
  8. My sister-in-law rocking her bass – we were able to catch her band’s last performance before everyone takes off for the holidays.
  9. Keeping warm with my favorite guy.

Read Up

Weekly Reads…

Posts from this week…

  • Mom’s Lemon Squares – this week was the round-up for all Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014 recipes, and I offered up my mom’s delicious lemon squares for this year’s exchange!
  • Love Languages - we don’t always understand when the people we love are demonstrating it. Sometimes, we just aren’t speaking the same languages. I tried taking the Love Languages test and it opened up a whole new world of communication.
  • You Can Do Anything {But Not Everything} – for an organized person with goals and to-do lists, I’ve still left a lot of things undone. But that’s okay. Sometimes you just can’t do it all.

That’s a wrap for this week! I might pop up with an item or two next week, but we’ll see what happens! In the meantime, here’s cheers for a lovely holiday!

k.c.s.

 

You Can Do Anything {But Not Everything}

When I woke up this morning, it was to a sense of frenzied disbelief. I checked the date and time on my phone, certain that I’d missed something, that it couldn’t possibly be Wednesday already, that it couldn’t be only eight days until Christmas, and it couldn’t be my last day of work before Scott and I head off on holiday.

I had plans! I had meticulously gone through all of my to-do lists, starting at the beginning of the month. Cards, gifts, work projects, house projects. Everything was on the list, meticulously planned. And yet…

As I looked the date and time in the face, as my alarm blinked off, I faced the sad realization that I’ve only sent out about half of the cards and gifts I wanted to, that I could probably take care of a number of work projects but I’d have to defer some things, some of them important, until the new year, and that all the great and wonderful things I’d planned to do with the house just hadn’t gotten done. But with all of my planning, how could I be this disorganized? How did only half of the cookies get baked, the house half decorated, the cards half sent…how did I get to the point where I ended up half-assing my life?

The truth is, life happens.

Things happen that you just can’t plan for. Sometimes days turn out Pinterest perfect. Sometimes life happens in fully filtered Instagram glory. And sometimes it just doesn’t. Sometimes you end up sitting there, staring at the mess in front of you, wondering if it’s worth it to cobble some lessons learned together and write a funny post about it, or just trash it all, pour a glass of wine, Netflix something cathartic, and try again another day.

I lost the majority of a week and weekend because I was hard at work, helping to plan and coordinate a potentially critical humanitarian response effort. I’m grateful that we didn’t need that effort, that the storm we were prepared to respond to didn’t happen the way it was supposed to, but even though the effort went unneeded, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I love and believe in what I do. Even if sometimes it makes the rest of my life splatter in every direction.

It means that I’ll have to play catch-up on some things. I’m prepared for that. I have my list of addresses and I’m prepared to write Christmas cards on the plane and mail them when we land. I am becoming a master of clever, creative, and personalized online Christmas shopping. I have gift cards ready to go. And I’m ready to review and edit papers, update websites, and anything else work-related that I might need to do on the fly.

And it means I’ll have to let some things go. I had a bunch of clever gift guide and entertaining posts in the works that just aren’t going to get finished. The house is as decorated as it’s going to get, and the house projects are going to have to wait until next year.

The truth is, sometimes you just can’t do it all.

I keep telling myself that maybe one day, I’ll be Martha Stewart organized and get it all done. But then reality sets in. I’m not going to be Martha organized until I have Martha Stewart’s resources and team of type-A professionals who scurry in, tie together perfect centerpieces out of piano wire, spray paint, and leaves they found in her front yard, and scurry out in time for Martha to take a glamorous picture.

Martha works it like it is her job because it is her job. She can make it a priority. My priorities lie in different places, so it’s probably not smart to compare her first-string priorities with what’s probably my fourth or fifth-string these days.

And not doing it all…is okay.

I’m taking care of the things that are a priority for me. My husband. My job. My family. Travel. Sure, I love having a pretty house and sending out beautiful gifts and making handmade things, but if I have to leave a house with stuff all over the place, order things online instead of selecting them personally or making them, and sending my long-suffering husband around with baggies of cookies instead of the pretty plates I planned on making in order to take care of the things that are a bigger priority, that’s okay by me.

We’re all capable of doing some pretty amazing things in this life. But sooner or later, we realize we just can’t do all of them. We realize which ones are important, and maybe which ones we can do with a little less of in our lives.

k.c.s.

Love Languages

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For the longest time, I resisted anything having to do with the Five Love Languages. I can’t say exactly why. Words like “touchy-feely” ran through my head when I thought about it, perhaps. Or I figured it was the kind of thing you wouldn’t need unless things were problematic and you needed therapy.

But time is a precious, precious thing. If you haven’t noticed, we’re insanely busy around here lately. Work. Travel. Projects. Family visits, here and there. More travel. More work. Throw an extra dose of work in there. Even though a lot of that is really fun {or else I wouldn’t be doing it!} it makes prioritizing things super important.

Translation: it means that the time I spend with my husband definitely should count! If I only have a little time to spend with him, shouldn’t I be spending it in ways that make both of us happy?

So I took the Five Love Languages quiz, just to see what would happen. This is what it told me:

  • Quality Time: 9
  • Acts of Service: 8
  • Physical Touch: 7
  • Words of Affirmation: 4
  • Receiving Gifts: 2

This both was and wasn’t a surprise for me. I’m really not too surprised that receiving gifts isn’t high for me, but it’s a shame – my husband is the best at picking out thoughtful and meaningful gifts. I love it when he brings flowers home from the market and comes up with surprises, but I’m normally just not a things person. I’m an experiences person.

That shows up in the “Quality Time” language. In that, attention is the key currency. “Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.” Definitely me. “Quality time also means sharing quality conversation and quality activities.” Also very much me. Spending time with my husband is very important to me, and when I’m trying to show him he’s important, I try to give him my full attention.

And “Acts of Service” is very much me as well. “Anything you can do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an ‘Acts of Service’ person will speak volumes.” No one wants to feel like they’re carrying the whole load, and anything that can be done to help is appreciated. “Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language that their feelings don’t matter.” Definitely me. While I love cooking for and taking care of my husband, it drives me nuts when he doesn’t pick up his stuff and leaves things on the counter for me to clean up.

And “Physical Touch?” Foot rubs. Gets me every time.

So am I a believer in the Five Love Languages now? That remains to be seen. I think it’s a fairly accurate assessment of how I feel about things, and now that my husband has taken his test, too, I’ve learned he’s a pretty even split between “Quality Time” and “Physical Touch,” with everything else lagging pretty far behind. This is a key signal to me that we both need to put down the iPhones, turn off the TV, and spend some quality time together. And there should be foot rubs all around.

Have you taken the love language profile quiz? What’s your love language? Is it what you expected?

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Mom’s Lemon Squares

Today is an absolutely fabulous day. I know that’s odd to say on a Monday, but you’ll believe me when I tell you that today is all about cookies and good causes. And not just any cookies – fabulous, decadent, delicious cookies created by some pretty awesome food bloggers. And not just any cause – we’re cooking for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, an organization dedicated to raising funds to support research for pediatric cancer by doing a lot of grassroots fundraising, including bake sales and outreach like this.

This? It’s the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap for 2014!

While I’m always excited for this, I’m always a little nervous, too. Who wouldn’t be when you’re about to share your favorite recipes with a bunch of savvy food bloggers? So I always try to find something both a little different and guaranteed to be tasty. It only fits that both of the recipes I’ve shared – my dad’s gingerbread cookies last year and this one – have been recipes that come from family.

My mom started me on what’s become a tradition in my house – baking plates of cookies to take to neighbors, friends, and co-workers. She’s made dozens of different unique cookies over the years, but the ones that have always been my favorite – and favorites of my aunts and grandmother, too – are her lemon squares. They’re a delicious, tangy combination of shortbread, lemony filling, and crispy powdered-sugar-infused topping that’s absolutely irresistible.

So if you’re overloaded with chocolate and frosting or if you’re just looking for something a little different for the holidays, try these babies on for size!

Mom’s Lemon Squares

Makes one 9×9 pan or 9 squares. Double the recipe for a larger pan.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice

How to make it:

1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Then use a pastry cutter to combine the butter, flour, and powdered sugar in a medium sized bowl until the mixture is slightly pebbly.

2. Take the pebbly mixture and press it into the bottom of a 9×9 square pan. Bake the pan for about 20 minutes to set the shortbread.

3. Mix the eggs, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon juice together in another medium-sized bowl. Pour the mixture onto the pre-baked shortbread crust, and bake again for another 20 minutes.

4. Remove the bars from the heat and sift powdered sugar over the tops. Let cool and serve.

Just a warning – you’ll probably need to make extra of these just for the amount of snitching that goes on. I could blame my husband, who loves to come into our tiny kitchen and make off with bits of whatever I’m cooking, but I’m just as guilty. You know, when you’re cutting cookie bars out of pans, there are always those corner pieces that just aren’t pretty enough to give away, and sometimes they get broken in the process…

Hope you enjoy these tasty treats, and swing through the GFBCS 2014 link-up hosted by Love + Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen for more great cookie recipes!

Signature

Sunday Currently, vol. 44

Currently…

Reading…my stash of cookie recipes! I planned to start the cookie plates I give out during the holidays to friends and neighbors last weekend, but we were in the office, preparing for possible typhoon response {thankfully, this one wasn’t nearly on the scale of Typhoon Yolanda last year, and all we needed to do was send supplies}. So this weekend has been all about that bake. … Wocka-wocka.

Watching…NCIS New Orleans. Best opening sequence so far, but I’m still lukewarm not the characters. Scott Bakula has aged well, but he’s no Gibbs. And there can be only one Abby. We’ve also started getting our nerd on with the Librarians, and so far, I’m a fan!

Listening…to B.B.King. I can only go so long without some good blues guitar in my life. It also makes me think back to Charlottesville days, where you could always hear some up-and-comer start with a classic King or Clapton track and then riff it into something unexpected and amazing.

Smelling…rain and wet earth. We had a nice storm last night and it’s still lingering in the ground right now. I’m torn between hoping it dries off, because I have some shelves I want to make, and hoping it lingers just so I can enjoy the cool air.

Wishing…for a couple extra days of weekend. I haven’t even thought about packing and we need to go dig some serious cold weather gear out of our storage unit before we head to Denver this week – brrrr! On top of that, I still have gifts to finish and wrap, cookies to bake, cards to send, a few recipes to finalize, and some maintenance work to do on this blog before we go. Yikes!

Loving…my husband for putting up with me. I hit what I can only call holiday melt-down yesterday, and he knew exactly when to just be there, when to give me a push in the right direction toward fixing things, and when to give me space to melt-down without harming anyone in the blast radius. I wish I were a tenth as good at reading people as he is.

Wanting…to win the lottery. Right around this time of year, it would be lots of fun. And then I could give the gifts I want to give, the donations I want to make, the pay-it-forwards I love to do at Starbucks, actually take some time off to spend with family, and not feel guilty because we only have 18 months to finish and sell this house.

Feeling…frazzled, but lucky all at the same time. Life is crazy, but it’s good. Really good. I’ve purposely stuck stickers on my mirror and monitor to remind myself of that, because the things I have to complain about? They’re not that much in the grand scheme of things.

Pictures from This Week

From top left:

  1. Caught a gorgeous sunset when we were heading out on our evening run. Scott’s been my running buddy the past couple weeks, and now that he’s gotten the hang of it, he’s really pushing me!
  2. Date night with my husband at Tiki’s Bar and Grill.
  3. Sunrise. It’s always some kind of beautiful around here.
  4. A full arch rainbow with the moon in it and a bright blue sky. Only in Hawaii.
  5. The Xterra Half-Marathon takes off into Kualoa Ranch.
  6. Finished the Xterra 10K. This race is all hills and no joke!
  7. Sunrise over the mountains at Kualoa Ranch.
  8. I think someone’s trying to mail himself to cooler climates. He doesn’t like the heat at all!
  9. Runners, take your marks! Another shot from the Xterra.

Read Up…

Weekly Reads…

  • I might as well call this batch of weekly reads the gift guide edition, because that’s where I’ve been focused this week! But if anyone’s shopping for me, the Travelettes’ list of cool Christmas gifts for travelers, including foodie travelers, is awesome!
  • Speaking of foodies, White On Rice Couple, along with all their beautiful photographs, has a great gift list for cooks – and eaters, too!
  • The fine folks at La Crema have some great ideas for gifting wine if you’ve got an oenophile on your list this holiday season {that’s your five dollar word for the day, kids}!
  • If coffee is more your thing – and for those of us of Scandinavian ancestry, it’s more like a way of life – there’s a great gift list to surprise and delight coffee addicts over on The Kitchn.
  • If you’re looking for something more personal and handmade, Emily has a set of thirteen pretty handmade gifts from small shop owners that anyone would love to receive!
  • If you’re worried about the impact of consumerism and commercialism, Amy has some great thoughts on responsible gifting, along with some gift ideas from socially and environmentally responsible brands.
  • Finally, ’tis the season for giving, and not just stuff. There are lots of people in need in this world. If you’re trying to figure out the best way to give this holiday season, Charity Navigator has some great giving tips and a search engine that will let you research the charities you give to, including how much of the proceeds actually go to charity.

Posts This Week…

  • Pearl Harbor – we are in a very different place at the 73rd anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack than we were years before, leaving me somewhat conflicted over the memory. But there are reasons we remember Pearl Harbor that have little to do with Pearl Harbor.
  • Creamy Carrot Soup – you guys, you will believe how good this soup is. Better than that, it’s criminally easy.
  • December Goals – rolling up my goals from last month and setting some new ones for this month. I did great last month, but I’m calling it a fluke – we’ll see how December goes, holiday insanity included!
  • The Truth About Love and Travel – marriage changes many things in your life, including travel, but if you’ve got a good travel partner, I’ve discovered it has a lot of unexpected benefits when it comes to getting out there and seeing the world.

This week, it’s all about wrapping up projects and presents and getting on a plane – the holidays are just around the corner! But before I head out, I’ll be sharing my Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap recipe {check out the link-up tomorrow!}, a few tips for what to pack if you’re going to run while on the road, a look back at how my 101 in 1001 list went this year, and some thoughts on setting reasonable goals through the holiday period!

What’s on your mind, currently?

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