Sunday, February 7, 2016

Finding My Voice and Strength Through Change (and a new blog direction)

Time is ridiculously cruel. How dare spring think she can rear her head up! It's only February for goodness' sake! Now here I am post-seven-years-of-solitude, and everything around me seems to be moving at lightening speed.

 I loved every minute of my time alone. Well, I wasn't exactly "alone" in the sense that I sat in my hovel worrying away every minute of the day in my own head--there were the dogs, my husband, our garden, the woods, books, my cooking, running, knitting. 
Every day had its ebb and flow. 

Mornings were set aside for morning stuff, like coffee (lots), reading, knitting, walking the dogs and running. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Taming the Introvert Anxiety with LOTS of Knitting (new career, more gray hair: I Want to Believe!)

Well, week one went off without a hitch. I arrived, I met, I chatted, I learned. In the evenings I crawled into my shell and collapsed into bed for very hard, long sleeps. I got up the next day and hit repeat. 
Suddenly our whole world has been turned on its head by the arrival of my new career/J-O-B. 
I am in the book business now. Books and people, how bad can it be you ask? Not bad at all. . . so far.
I love books. I love people who love books. I love reading. (Truth be told, not much of that going on now that I'm the working girl again--though I sneak in as much as I can in the wee hours of the mornings or late evenings right before bed.) The working girl in me says, "calm down, this is the chaos part", this is the remembering what it's like to be surrounded by noise, people, and strangers all day. The introvert in me climbs out of her shell (yes the one who has spent the last seven years and mostly every day surrounded by canines, plants, food and my own quiet pace and rhythm)--and crawls into the depths of business/work. It's going to be a long road to my fully grasping every little detail of my new role.

Monday, January 4, 2016

It's Organized Chaos

I have spent the better part of these last few days "tidying up". The stories of people in my community losing everything to raging flood waters sparked something in my heart that said, "if that were me, how would I manage." Every year around this time, I go through and try to purge from life those items and things collected that might have worn out their welcome and need a new home. It's a long process of self inventory as well as physical inventory of what we have, what we need and what can simply go. For me, doing so is a luxury, for others right now, it is a forced experience brought on by the floods.
I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like.

This is a year of change for our household. My blog will serve as my "outlet" for navigating around this coming year and all it brings. I'll continue to highlight vegan eats as much as possible and toss in those sometimes "snarky" observations of life here and there. 

The year ended on a sad note for us with the loss of Annie. We spent a lot of time during the holiday reflecting on our life as a family of "many dogs" and how each dog we've shared our life with has shaped us, changed us and made us better people. 
We cannot ever imagine our lives without the dogs. 

Then the floods hit and we once again, reflected on life
How can you not when you see neighbors suffering through one of the worst disasters to hit this area since the floods of '93. 

People impacted by the flooding still need help and I read in this morning's paper the Red Cross  provided shelter to over five hundred families at the height of the disaster. The Salvation Army is also assisting families. Donations of items to the displaced are now being sorted and will be distributed. 
It is still beyond comprehension the loss.

Soon I was considering the "things" we have and hold on to. I function best with very little clutter, straight lines and organization. Simple is better. That little best selling book on the matter of "tidying up" is my manifesto when it comes to dealing with life as I have dealt with it over these fifty-some decades. Does it give me joy, no? Out it goes.
Well. . . not so fast: Hello, YARN! 
All yarn gives joy, does it not? 
And cookbooks and books in general, they give joy, too. Right?
According to me, the answer is YES. 

So my tidying up began in earnest with my yarn. Oh. The. Places. I. Thought. I'd. Go. (with my yarn). And the places I still think I'll go to with my yarn: brioche knitting (loved it, then hated it, then NO). Cabled pullover sweater, maybe. Tons of shawls I never wear, YES! Why so many shawls? Mostly because they are fun to knit, to manipulate, to look at in admiration as I: YO, p1 and skpsso.
Knitting works to calm my mind. 
One of the last things I do every night before bed is to knit. 
So the yarn stays.
All one full closet of it and dresser drawer.
It all stays. 
Saroyan Shawl I am knitting (has a beautiful leaf pattern along the side. Pretty!). 

On the wardrobe front, I pulled every single piece of clothing I owned out from my closet and placed them in piles: keep, donate, business, casual, long sleeve, short sleeve, workout, light-to-dark color--one thing became clear: I am someone for whom the color spectrum of black bell tolls. My closet consists of black (mostly), grey (second mostly), purple (third place), and a very few teals have come to be my staples. No yellows, blues, greens, whites or any funky horizontal stripes or polka dots either. 
I hate stripes and when they began to appear in fashion I thought the world had gone mad! 
Stripes should be banished from fashion forever.

My life already feels lighter.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

How to Help Flood Victims in My Community: Arnold, Missouri (Red Cross of Greater St. Louis, Missouri)

For nearly all of my life, I've lived along great bodies of water: Lake Michigan as a child, the rest of my adult life along the Great Mississippi River and its tributaries. We have logged hundreds of miles both walking and (me) running along the trails of the Meramec River. It is by far one of the most beautiful rivers in Missouri and home to many parks I hold dear, visiting one nearly every weekend with our dogs in tow. 
The many parks and trails surrounding the river are a testament to its glory.  
However right now, there is not a trail in sight. And there won't be for months to come.
The Meramec River is causing historical flooding in my community. 
Rivers are a way of life for us in the Midwest--they are both beautiful and devastating all in one. The Meramec River feeds directly into the Mississippi River. With the latest rounds of rain (nearly twelve inches in three days) the Mississippi is no longer able to do her part to help carry the Meramec's excess away. As a result hundreds of families are being displaced by this unprecedented storm's fallout. It is beyond comprehension. 
On the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this morning is a heartbreaking yet telling photo of two women carrying belongings from their home as the water behind them covers the street. It broke my heart. I feel helpless and searched frantically this morning for ways to offer assistance in this emergency so that a donation would go to my community and directly support the effort to help the displaced families in our neighborhood. 
Here are ways you can help:
The Red Cross of Greater St. Louis is on site offering support, food and shelter assistance. 
The Humane Society of Missouri is offering shelter for animals for owners unable to take their pets with them.  

We watched the evening news all night in disbelief as our community was swallowed by the quickly rising waters. 
The encroaching water is only the first part of the disaster, the second part of the disaster will occur after the water recedes and people's lives are forever changed--some not having a home to return to, only left with the belongings they could carry with them in the short window they had to evacuate. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Godspeed Annie (rescue lessons learned: a dog from the streets to our home. . . we were never the same again)

When we brought Annie home, or I should say, when I brought Annie home, it was during a time when I was knee-deep into "rescuing" dogs, doing volunteer work with a couple of local animal organizations. We had more than a few rescues at home already. But some well-intended person I had met within the "dog rescue world" mentioned they had a lab mix that had been returned twice for "behavior issues". I don't know why this statement fell on deaf ears. It broke my heart. At the time, I had absolutely zero tolerance for such humans and their intolerance of dogs. I was shocked, "She's not an ill-fitting coat for crying out loud!" She came home with me joining our already growing family of canines. That was fourteen years and many traumatic encounters ago. I have to be honest with you, Annie was a wonderful dog, but also a very flawed dog owing to some obviously flawed humans. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Vegan Apple Streusel Pie Cookie Bars (and the "parking lot" incident)

This looks like apple pie. It tastes like apple pie. The topping is streusel. The middle is, of course,  filled with a staggering amount of sliced granny smith apples and a whole lot of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and what have you. And it was heavenly. The trick is to "chill" the finished pie. This requires planning as you may want to make it the day before you are planning to serve.
As the pie bakes, the apples shrink, the streusel topping gets crackly and yummy. With the thick pie dough to hold the pie up, once the dough is chilled, you slice the pie and serve on a plate as 
apple-pie-cookie bars. No fork required. One solid slice that stays stacked and solid after sliced. Skinny slices work--not your "normal pie thick" slices--to really get the true cookie experience.
(*Note: As you can see, I baked my pie in a pie shell, however, to get the true "bar cookie" effect, you may swap out the round shell for a square 8" pan.)
The parking lot incident is told after the recipe so as not waste anyone's time.
Here's how the "pie-became-cookie" recipe happened. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My Mother's Stuffing Recipe: Gratitude Entry Number 328

Today, I went for a run while DH hiked. We each had a dog in hand. 
Nary a soul on the trail. 
It was heaven. 
Cool day, crisp breeze off the Mississippi River. 
I logged three and a half miles. Frankie lead the whole way. 
She's now sixteen months old. 
Such a big girl. 


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