Thursday, January 29, 2015

Facing Some Fears- I've Joined a Gym

Today I faced some fears, set them aside and then I joined a Fitness Planet Gym. It is scary because I am afraid that I will fail. I have tried to lose weight a number of times, and I failed at it every time. I am afraid that I will look stupid and out of place. However, I am going to try to put that aside. I've gathered some work out clothes and I think I will have to get new shoes, but I am going to go for it.

Here's a little motivation for myself and others who are struggling with similar issues.
"This Girl Can!"

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Girl Comes Home to Find a Surprise Waiting For Her

Last night was a late one. Ellie, Kohlton and Brandon came home from their trip to San Diego at around 11:30 p.m. Larr drove out to get them. The dog and I tried to snooze on the couches until they arrived. Remmie had no idea why we were snoozing on the couches since I could not tell him, but oh my, was he ever so happy once his girl came back home. He has a singular love in his furry, doggy heart for her. This weekend he was missing her terribly and cried for a while. Then he thought that perhaps she was hiding in a closet, so he had me open every single one in the house for him to be sure that she was not home.

Ellie and I love to surprise each other, and so I had a surprise for her when she came home. I cleaned her room and I decorated it for Valentine's Day. She loves holiday decorations and was especially appreciative of my efforts. It was all very exciting. However, Kohlton was going to decorate her room for her for Valentine's Day or their upcoming 3rd anniversary, so I might have ruined that possibility. I feel a bit bad about that. I told him that he could still carry out his plan since my stuff would have been up for 2+ weeks by then. We'll have to wait and see what actually happens.

I had admired a set of decorations at the craft store, but did not want to pay the asking price. Then on Sunday they had a special 1 day sale where all of the Valentine's Day stuff was at a huge discount, so I grabbed the set with the paper fans, flowers, hearts, etc. first. Then I found a banner kit to make. I choose 14 pictures of Ellie and Kohlton from their activities in 2014 and hung them up. Larr helped with the tall stuff.

I was also inspired by a project that Heidi Swapp did for a friend's daughter and so I did something similar for Ellie.

I loved making the marquee letter, but the glitter tape was difficult to use, so I would recommend using glue and glitter instead of the tape if you want to make one, too. I also purchased 4 plain clipboards, painted the front of them white and embellished them with some of the glitter paper and tape that I used on the "E" so that they would all coordinate. I thought it would be fun to swap out what is on each clipboard as the season and/or holiday changes. I found the subway art here and the other free printables here. I also used another free printable and some paint chip samples to make a special calendar. I am already trying to come up with fun new images to put on the clipboards in a few weeks.
Meanwhile, Ethan is still having a wonderful time rock climbing in Railay, Thailand. He spent many of the evenings with a girl from Russia. She has gone home now and she invited him to visit some time. He also met some climbers from Germany and Sweden who have issued similar invitations. It will be interesting to see if he takes any of the up on the offers. They will leave Railay soon and are considering where they should travel to next. They were considering Cambodia, but there are funky things about travel visas that may prevent that. Same goes for Malaysia. They are also thinking about going to Laos.

Yesterday as I passed the bandroom on my way to a staff meeting, I heard the jazz band working on perfecting, "Birdland." The tune got stuck in my head and I "heard" it for much of the evening. It through me back, in a pleasant way, to the joyous times when Larr and I were in college. We literally wore out a tape of Manhattan Transfer or two. I love to sing along to songs and their music is always fun. Here's a few songs for you to enjoy, too:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

One Little Word: ART

I've been reading Ali Edward's blog for many years and for most, if not all of those years, she has offered her "One Little Word" class. It is a set of monthly journaling prompts and activities that are centered around a word you choose to focus on, or rather, a word that represents a kind of resolution you hold on to so that you can maintain focus on something positive. This year I decided to join the class. I choose "art" as my word.

Here's the text of the main page:
One Little Word (OLW)- 2015 - Art

I’ve spent a good bit of time thinking about how my life is about to change, due to the kids both becoming adults and my father-in-law passing away. I am really in the midst of these changes as various aspects of them have been occurring for the last couple of years.

At first, the changes were a bit shocking. How I defined myself, how I spent my time, where my priorities were and how I expected to interact with my family members changed dramatically; I don’t think I was very graceful about those changes. I spent a lot of time worrying, being sad, feeling left behind and off kilter since many of the things I had been focused on shifted.

Those attitudes were not helpful to me or anyone else. I decided that I needed to shift my perspective and look at them differently. I decided that I needed to shift from feeling bad, feeling a little sorry for myself, feeling empty or forgotten or useless in some ways, to feeling thankful for the opportunities that I still have, and especially for the new ones that are beginning to come my way. I am trying to shift from worrying to feeling gratitude. I am shifting my perspective.

As part of making that shift in a conscious manner, I am taking part in the “One Little Word” project this year. It is a spin on the idea of a resolution. However, instead of the resolution being some specific action(s), it is a focus on “one little word” and the implications of that word for you in your life.

After much deliberation, I am choosing “art” as my “one little word. I chose it for a variety of reasons. I am using it in a mostly non-literal way. To me, art is mostly about noticing the little details and their relationship to each other. Art is about taking a bunch of small things that may seem insignificant on their own, combining them, and coming up with something much more substantial. “Art” in this usage is about the “art” of looking, noticing and reframing. Making art is a central element in my life. It is part of who I am, how I recenter myself, part of how I find value in myself and how I have something to offer to others. Choosing “art” as my word is also about choosing to find time to be artful and make art more of a priority, a way to make myself more central in my own life. Art, in this sense, is about finding a better perspective, it is about noticing how things fit together in a bigger picture, it is about making time to make art and have art be a way that I recenter how I approach life.


The prompts suggested including what you are letting go of, what you are inviting, a definition of the word and a quote. She also strongly recommended that there be some images of yourself in your OLW entries.

The photos above show both sides of one page. This is important only in that I used an altered version of the photo on the back of the page (another copy of it at least) as the journaling card on the front. I made color copies of some images that evoked the feelings I was feeling when I was thinking about those prompts. I placed the image, ink side down, onto the journaling card, saturated the paper with fingernail polish and then I rubbed to transfer the ink. The result is a very nice, grungy image. I then used a white paint dabber to tone down the colors so that I could add text. I also added distressed stamp ink and alcohol inks to the edges, as well as a few small bits of rub-on numbers for texture. It was a fun way to create some color and indulge in making art.

I also included photos of myself with each of our children.

I found that I was inspired by a few artists. The background on the page where I explain why I picked, "Art" as my word, is from Tony Saladino. If you look closely, you will also find that I have an image by Mae Chevrette, a mixed media artist whose work is super exciting to me. I love her work and the fact that she shares her process and progress on her blog. I knew that I wanted all of my pages to have a similar feel and I was worried that once I wrote on the lovely cards that I made that I might mess up and ruin them so I scanned them into my computer. Next, I imported them into Photoshop and played with them, shifting around colors, enlarging some parts, laying others, etc. That is how I created the background paper for the title page. It is an electronically altered version of the "Letting Go" card. I flipped around some of the texture, "erased" some of the rub-on text and changed the colors using the "exclusion" filter. I am very happy with the end result.

I had time to do this because we are a childless couple this weekend. Ethan is in Thailand and Ellie is in San Diego. I enjoyed having a chance to make art, but I still missed them. When Larr was not home I listed to music he does not like and I sang along. This included the entire, "Mamma Mia" soundtrack. This song made me miss Ellie even more.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tonsai or Maybe Railay - A Peak into Ethan's Trip to Thialand + Roller Disco Music Videos

Here's the funny thing. As I was trying to log into this blog, I was listening to a brand new Rollerskating Playlist (full of songs I used to rollerskate to when I was in junior high in the 1970's) and I was listening to "Le Freak" by Chic, trying to type in tune with the music and dancing in my chair. It turns out that I can't make that work. My dance wiggle caused me to hit the CAPS button and the wrong letters. It was a little bit of a bummer that I had to stop groovin' out in order to log in. (I've shared a fun bit of disco music with you below. It was a good time for polyester and colorful costumes. I hope you enjoy it.)

Ethan has been in Thailand for a week now. Larr just dropped Ellie, Kohlton and Brandon off at the airport this morning for a quick trip to California. It will be strange being kidless this weekend.

Ethan, Emily and Alec started out in Bankok. While they were there they visited the Grand Palace. Ethan says that it is amazing, beautiful and full of cats that are well cared for, at least in terms of wild cats. He says that Thailand is the most beautiful place that he has ever visited. His favorite part of the trip so far is the topography and the land.

To get to Tonsai (and then Railay, I think) they took a 10 hour train ride, a crowded bus ride, then transferred to a pick up truck and then waded out in waist high water (holding all of their belongings above their head) to get into a long tail boat to get to their destination. The long tail boat is long, thin and propelled by a diesel engine.
That alone sounds like an adventure to me.

Monkeys are everywhere. They are cute, pesky and they will take whatever you have in your hands. Ethan says that if you are not careful, they will take your phone. Most of the people in Thailand speak enough English that Ethan is not having any difficulty communicating. He even spent part of a day on the beach with friendly locals who included him in their conversations and activities.

Most of the tourists seem to be young folk, like Ethan, who are their to rock climb and boulder. This makes sense since they are staying in a place famous for such activities. They are renting a few rooms for $15 a night. The walls are so thin that sunlight shines through in the morning. There are cracks in the floor of the bungaloo that is his room. It took Ethan a few nights before he figured out how to use the bug net so that he was not a bug buffet while he slept.

In addition to rock climbing and bouldering, they have enjoyed going on hikes.

All of the bars are outside and they have slacklines for people to use. (Slacklines are thin nylon webbing that is suspended, like a tightrope, that people walk across for fun and to improve his/her balance.) The food is good and very affordable. He has been ordering Pad Thai and curry dishes.

Ethan reports that it is hot and humid all of the time. He mostly wears the linen pants that I made for him before he left. It is nice to know that what I made for him is useful.

When I was Ethan's age, it did not even occur to me that a young person could go off and have such adventures. Even had I known about it, I am not sure that I would have been brave enough to do it. I am glad that he is more brave than I am. I think Ellie is braver, too.


A little roller disco music for your enjoyment:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Of Bike Rides, Tonsai and Paddington - the movie

Sunday was a pretty wonderful day. I got a bit of work done in the morning while Ellie, Kohlton and Remmie went for a hike over on Green Mountain.
It was a warm and beautiful day. Just the kind for enjoying being outside. (I felt a bit bad about missing the lovely weather.) Then they came home, changed and went for a bike ride. By then, Remmie was tired because he is not used to going on a 5-6 mile walk and a good bit of playing at the dog park. The kids road over to Anderson Park. They had planned to go farther, but the weather turned cold and windy. Still, they were stylin'.
I picked them up. Larr came home from working on stuff at Don's house, and we all went to see the "Paddington" movie, which several of us had been wanting to see for a while.

It was a great movie. I loved the story and the color styling was amazing. I loved the whole look of the movie and I especially loved Mrs. Brown. I am going to have to buy that movie once it comes out on DVD.
The movie made me think about when the kids were little, it made me think of Eleanor. It made me miss Ethan. It made me think that I need to learn how to mark marmalade since Ethan recently announced that it is one of his new favorite things. Mrs. Brown's character made me feel like I need to make myself some new skirts. Ellie says that she likes Mrs. Brown and that I am a bit like her. I also loved the strength and character of the old aunt that lives with them. I would recommend seeing the movie. I've linked up some trailers for your enjoyment

Tonsia Bay Resort

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Vignettes of My Day, My Daughter, the Talented Baker + Tender White Cake and Buttercream Frosting

My dear friend Natalie and her husband are celebrating their 21st wedding anniversary today. Natalie planned a big day. Their family will have dinner at The Briarwood (one of my favorite restaurants), then back home for a special dessert (the cake made by my talented daughter) and then a night at the Golden Hotel.

She made the roses out of fondant. They are orange since it is the official color for the 21st anniversary. It was the first white cake with white frosting that she has created. It was a bit more challenging than cakes with colored frosting. I think it is really beautiful. She is so talented!

Our day started pretty early. I had plans to sleep in after such an intense week, but I was woken by the sound of texts coming in from Ethan who was on a train. He landed in Bankok, Thailand yesterday, meeting Emily and Alec. They took a boat ride, saw a temple and then called from the train that they are taking to the Phuket where they will stay in a dorm and go rock climbing. The sky had just a hint of the approaching dawn. Moxy was situated on the edge of the bed purring. He was there being my official kitty alarm clock. I laid back, petting Moxy with one hand, my other hand holding Larr's as he reads me the texts from Ethan and typing our responses back. It was such a nice way to start the day.

Ellie and I watched, "Music and Lyrics" together. It is a chick flick with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant. It was cheesy, predictable and fun. I started a new hat for Ethan. It features super chunky brown yarn. I worry that Ethan might look like he is wearing a wig when he wears it. We'll see how it turns out.

For dinner we had rib-eye steak that I grilled in the oven, roasted fingerling potatoes with garlic, basil, rosemary and Parmesan cheese. We also had pickled beets and a white cake I made, similar to the one Ellie made, but not decorated. She was sure that it would be a real treat for Kohlton.


Tender White Cake
via: King Arthur Flour Blog

2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend
1 2/3 cups sugar; superfine sugar is best
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs whites plus 1 whole large egg
1 cup full-fat vanilla yogurt or 1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two 8" x 2" or 9" x 2" round pans; a 9" x 13" pan; or 2 standard cupcake pans (20 to 24 cupcakes) by greasing and flouring; or lining with parchment, then greasing the parchment. Note: Make sure your 8" round pans are at least 2" deep; if they're not, use one of the other pan options.

2) Mix all of the dry ingredients on slow speed to blend. Add the soft butter and mix until evenly crumbly, like fine damp sand. It may form a paste, depending on the temperature of the butter, how much it's mixed, and granulation of the sugar used.

3) Add the egg whites one at a time, then the whole egg, beating well after each addition to begin building the structure of the cake. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition.

4) In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt (or milk) with the vanilla and almond extracts. Add this mixture, 1/3 at a time, to the batter. Beat 1 to 2 minutes after each addition, until fluffy. Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

5) Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes for 8" or 9" rounds; 23 to 26 minutes for a 9" x 13" x 2" sheet cake; or 20 minutes for cupcakes. A toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean when done. Remove from the oven, remove from the pan, if desired (not advisable for a 9" x 13" sheet cake), cool on a rack, and frost.

Yield: Two 8" or 9" round layers; one 9"x 13" x 2" sheet cake, or 20 to 24 cupcakes.

Notes from King Arthur Flour:

* To make the raspberry cake pictured above, ice with your favorite butter cream, fill with raspberry jam, and arrange one pint of raspberries on top. You can find complete photos and instructions at our Bakers' Banter blog.
* To make a classic yellow cake, use 3 whole eggs and 2 egg whites instead of 4 egg whites and one large egg. Delicious with rich chocolate icing!
* This cake is very tender. We advise handling layers with care when turning them out of the pans; and if you've made a 9" x 13" sheet cake, it's best served straight from the pan, to avoid crumbling.

* They have an excellent blog posting on Flourish. It is worth your time to check it out if you are planning on making this cake.

* “Do I really have to mix the dry ingredients for 2 minutes?” Simple answer, yes. Light and tender cakes are based on incorporation of air. No air = flat heavy cakes. So turn the mixer on, and imagine yourself on the beach, or relive your first kiss for 2 minutes. Next, add the softened butter.


Quick Buttercream Frosting
via: King Arthur Flour

You may use all butter in this quick buttercream, but using vegetable shortening makes a frosting that will be a little firmer in warmer temperatures. Also, using the optional meringue powder, while not necessary, will help your frosting holds its shape. This amount of frosting is fine to frost the top of a 9" x 13" cake. If you're frosting a layer cake, double the recipe to have enough frosting to pipe decorations.

1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter or non-transfat vegetable shortening (we used 1/4 cup of each)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon meringue powder, optional, for "holding power"
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 to 3 cups (10 to 12 ounces) confectioners' sugar or glazing sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons (1 to 2 ounces) milk

Cream the butter and/or shortening until fluffy. Beat in the salt, meringue powder, and the vanilla. Add the confectioners' or glazing sugar, 2 tablespoons of the milk, and beat well.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Adjust the consistency of the frosting as needed by adding more confectioners' sugar or milk. If you're not going to use the frosting right away, keep it at room temperature, covered, to prevent it from developing a dry crust. Yield: 2 1/2 cups.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Family and Best Friend Threw a 50th Birthday Surprise Party for Me! (I am so honored!)

Yesterday was an amazing and wonderful day. I hope that you are lucky enough to have such a day in your life, too.

It started out as just a regular. I was doing individual speaking tests with my students and so I got out of work early. I spent the afternoon with Ethan (which I will write about later in this entry) and then we returned home to a totally unexpected 50th Birthday Surprise party. Earlier Ethan and I had cleaned the house a bit. I thought this was so that we could have a nice family dinner and that Ellie would be happier since the house would be clean. Little did I know why we were actually cleaning so much. I also thought there might be some sort of nice food since Ellie and Kohlton had banned me from entering certain parts of the house for a few days.

Here's what they were working on. They made everything from scratch. Ellie made the big, fancy flowers and some of the small flowers. Kohlton made a ton of the small flowers. Each one was painted by hand using small brushes, water and food coloring paste. (A friend tells us that it is better to use Vodka than water to do this job.) Don't you think the flowers are amazing?! I think the cake is reminiscent of Monet's Impressionism and the first Willy Wonka film.

The cake was so amazing that we almost did not feel like eating it, but we also knew it would not keep, so we enjoyed it with great gusto. I did remove the bigger flowers. I am hoping that I can figure out a way to save them. They are made of gumpaste, so I am not sure if I will be successful.

She also made a lovely banner. I love the mix of colors and textures. Ellie's are is usually much more pure and clean than my style and so I was impressed that she could put that aside to make decorations that are so much my style.

Ellie also decorated my little silver tree that Natalie had given me. The funny thing is that I was planning on redecorating it and now it is perfect.

Kohlton cleaned my stove - which I love.

Natalie went to my favorite restaurant for food. We had sesame chicken, Mongolian beef, pot stickers, egg rolls, chow mien and two kinds of rice. It was super tasty.
Ellie also made fancy tassles and decorated the cabinets.

Lots of our friends were there and we had a grand time visiting, eating and opening presents. (I am sorry that there are not any photos of people. Other people were taking those photos, so I will get them soon.)

Earlier in the day I also had a grand time with Ethan. He needed to go to Boulder and we wanted to spend some quality time together so I went with him. Remmie joined us, too.

We had lunch at Sherpa's, one of the places where I love to have a meal when I am in Boulder.
They have a silly fortune telling machine. I thought it was fun, but I did not put any money into the machine.
We went to REI to pick up a new backpack that Ethan needs as he is leaving for Thailand on Thursday. While we were there I picked up a new pair of socks and I was trying on a cute sweater, which Ethan purchased as a gift for me for my birthday. We also made a stop at Two Hand Paperie where I got a glass heart and two Field Notes notebooks for Ethan. He collects them and these are from the newest set that has gold gilding on the edges.

On our way home we stopped by the dog park to give Remmie a chance to get some exercise. Ethan ran around with him, so he got exercise, too.

During all of this driving we talked about a ton of different things and rocked out to fun music. We talked about his upcoming trip. We talked about the dogs. We discussed music and life. It was an awesome afternoon. I was impressed that Ethan was able to keep from hinting at the party that was gathering at the house.

Here is a sampling of the soundtrack of my day: