all of it’s a gift

25 12 2009

Challenge day  23 Web tool. It came into your work flow this year and now you couldn’t live without it. It has simplified or improved your online experience. Be billed in rubles. seriously. AND, it’s legal. So there.

Challenge day 24 Learning experience. What was a lesson you learned this year that changed you? I’m not sure that I’ve actually ever truly learned anything. So having said THAT, Im thinking just that sometimes the act of receiving can be a gift. I’ve always been the giver. The OVER giver. To me that was a one-way street. I’m having to consciously learn that there’s a yin to every yang. (damn, who knew receiving was that damned difficult?)

Challenge Day 25  Gift. What’s a gift you gave yourself this year that has kept on giving? Gave myself??? Time. Patience. Tolerance. Just the mind-set that I can (and should) treat myself as a third-party, is monumental. I struggle with it, sure. But realizing that I am primarily a soul, inhabiting this particular body, instead of a body that happens to be hosting this soul, is crazy big. So there. No more words that.

dang, now I’m jonesin’ for fried chicken

22 12 2009

 Challenge day 19 – Car ride. What did you see? How did it smell? Did you eat anything as you drove there? Who were you with? For having spent an inordinate amount of time in the driver’s seat this year with the multitude of trips back and forth from NC to AR (at 900/mi each leg), I can’t actually recall a “road trip” otherwise. I already posted about the day trip in Belize, but as for the AR trips, for the most part it is a lovely drive, even if your butt is square by the time you get there. Leeloo is a fantastic passenger, and there’s always the chance to grab a little Gus’s Fried Chicken in Memphis on the way, or some Craig’s Barbeque even. Gotta love that.

Challenge day 20 – new person. She came into your life and turned it upside down. He went out of his way to provide incredible customer service. Who is your unsung hero of 2009? There were so very many people that were my unsung heroes this year, but as far as “new”, well, that’s relative. (Wow, and that’s a pun in this case.) “Dr. Cousin”. Hands down. She helped us find our voice in the midst of all the hospital chaos, and for that I’m eternally thankful.

Challenge day 21 – Project. What did you start this year that you’re proud of? Wait, did I start a project? It seems the year has been a project, in and of itself, but starting one on purpose this year, for grins, er… sadly, not so much. I AM absolutely looking forward to getting started on going through the 1000+ pounds of stained glass from mother this coming year though, and seeing what I can make of it.

Challenge day 22 – Startup. What’s a business that you found this year that you love? Who thought it up? What makes it special? Two friends separately each started gettin’ crafty when we weren’t looking. Both of them are re-purposing items into mod and fresh things– recycling at it’s finest. You can see them here and here.

one word is never enough

18 12 2009

Challenge Day 17 Word or phrase. A word that encapsulates your year. “2009 was _____.”

That’s a tough one. If I’m only allowed one word, sans explanation, I suppose  Pivotal is as good a word as any.


Challenge Day 18 Shop. Online or offline, where did you spend most of your mad money this year?

Most years, we squirrel a bit of mad money towards travel– but of course having an upcoming trip means thou-shalt make a pilgrimage to hit REI.  (Then again, any given day ending in y is generally a good day for that.)

tea time

16 12 2009

Challenge day 16 – Tea of the year. I can taste my favorite tea right now. What’s yours?

Ah tea. Lovely lovely tea. OK, for those who know me, I’ve been a tea drinker longer than I can remember. I think it was Grandma Trede (not an actual blood grandmother of mine, but the lady who kept me from infant to age 5, and whose tea cakes are world renown) who must’ve gotten me hooked on the stuff well before I could even crawl. I never could figure out as a kid how she made it super-sweet, southern sweet, until I was older and learned more about molecular structure. (36 c sugar : 1 c water, if there are no impurities. Must have heat to facilitate this of course.)

First, Tea 101 – Quick (relatively anyway) tea primer: white, green, oolong, and black teas are all from the same plant. (While they’re tasty too, rooibos, mate, and other herbal “tea’s” are not actually a TEA, they are each a tisane.) But as for actual tea, it’s how young the leaves picked, and how much those leaves are fermented, that determines the differences between white/green/oolong/black. White teas are picked extremely young– before much of the chlorophyll in the plant has had a chance to take hold even. Green/Oolong/Black teas are picked about the same time as each other, the green is immediately dried (no fermentation), the black is fully fermented before drying, and oolong is partially fermented, then that fermentation is stopped , before drying. (That’s why oolong is kinda fragile, and you want to keep it away from sun/light/moisture moreso than with green/black teas.) There’s also different sizes of leaves, regions, etc, but that’s Tea 102.

Now that you know what tea is, and isn’t, back to the point:

Personally, I’m a purist: my true heart is in black tea. Sans sugar. If it’s brewed right, it doesn’t need it. Frankly, it’s really not all that difficult to brew correctly– the temp is important, but mostly if the only thing you watch is that you don’t OVER steep it, you’re golden. (#1 mistake– steeping too long lets the bitter bits leach out) The other thing is to get a decent brewing contraption. Best thing since sliced bread.

So my answer? Even though my normal go-to tea is some kind of Assam or similar, lately I’ve had two different teas within arm’s reach:

Earl Grey Extra – not only does it have the bergamot oil infused in it (which is what makes this black tea into the ever popular “earl grey”), but it also has pretty little purple flowers in it. I’m sure they have a function other than being pretty, but that’s enough for me.

Lapsang Souchong – a “normal” black tea, but the leaves are dried over a fire, so they’re infused with a wonderful smokiness that comes out when brewed. My work space often smells a wee bit like a campfire.

The folks that empty the trash at the office have got to be wondering how someone with such a girly name always has so much dip/chew/tabacco-whatever-you-call-it in her trashcan every day.

I wonder if we have any tea cakes around?

pining for the underground lair

15 12 2009

December 15 Best packaging. Did your headphones come in a sweet case? See a bottle of tea in another country that stood off the shelves?

I am SUCH a sucker for good design. Whether it’s packaging, or the item itself, or whatever. I always kind of knew it on some level, but being that it’s been pointed out to me many times this current year I didn’t realize how ingrained this *thing* was in my psyche.

I started out with a major in art/graphics/architecture, but when hubby’s mom got sick, I flipped through the catalog and figured out what I could graduate in fastest with what credits I’d banked so far, but even so, my need for a design *fix* is pretty much with me always. LOVE me some Dwell magazine. (Rant: Seriously, why are Americans so stodgy with their housing and furniture designs? Aren’t we supposed to be all hip and modern? Seems like everyone’s afraid if they stray too far from Norman Rockwell type design, that it’ll take a hit on resale value. Sad, so very very sad.)

It’s not about more, it’s about better. And better doesn’t mean the most expensive or elaborate.  Clean lines, modern design, great tactile feel, multi-taskers, elegant (not too busy)– plus great aesthetics are always a winner in my book.

Some examples:

headlamp– not just for spelunking anymore

simple, but elegant, hard-top convertible – plus it won’t completely drain the bank

And of course, Lego’s, Keen’s, butter bell’s, a good bottle openermy favorite wine opener (teflon coated worm, brilliant), fantastic wrap, best yoga pants— the things I see and use daily tend to slowly be replaced by that wonder of where wonderful-use marries brilliantly with design-goodness.

I kinda blame James Bond movies. I couldn’t wait to see the villain’s underground lair– the gadgets were cool and all, but the lair was why I was watching in the first place. (It still is, but don’t tell Lovey that…)


15 12 2009

Challenge day 14 – Rush. When did you get your best rush of the year?

Ah, trampolines and Renaissance Festivals. Glass blowing and mead too.

Generally any day where I’m upside down is a good thing. Having had a trampoline as a kid (best birthday present EVER), I know my way around one of these buggers pretty well. Too bad all the kids now have to be stuck with not only them being ROUND, but also with those wras’lin’ lookin’ cage things around them. (WTF? Is this an outdoor playpen or what?)

What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well lemme enlighten you—

First, round trampolines have a smaller sweet spot, dead center of course, which is far less forgiving than the rectangle ones. I see it as perfectly ironic—one bad bounce on a round one, and it’s time for your superman impression launching across the garden. (And no, tilled earth is not a softer landing than regular earth, plus your mother is likely to fuss at you for squashing her plants, plus okra’s really itchy, trust me on this.)

Second, those cage things around the round trampolines these days scare the snot out of me. Ever caught a foot on the way up on a flip? And unless you’re about 7 years old, that little mosquito netting stuff ain’t gonna stop your superman impression after you miss dead center (see above). But then again, I guess they have to have the cages since the sweet spot is so tricky. Irony? Dunno, you tell me.

Age 7, summer, my older cousin took me to the park for a picnic lunch while the guys set up a rectangular trampoline in the backyard as a surprise birthday present one day earlier than my birthday. If it was over 60 degrees, I was ON it. And if it was under 60 degrees, I was calling time & temperature—Come to think of it, I still remember that phone number.

One safety feature I will concede to: pads on the springs. (Yes, mine had them.) If you’ve ever missed the edge and gone legs-first into the springs, scraping the skin off your legs the whole way until you run out of leg on the north end (boys aren’t the only ones that get racked you know), then you’ll absolutely refuse to jump on a tramp without ‘em. Pads on the springs that is. All things considered, my tramp was da bomb. Although the best ones are the indoor-only, Nissen, white canvas ones, where the canvas was woven (and stitched) like the top of an apple pie—they have the BEST bounce, and a long sweet spot perfect for backhandspring-back’s, over and over and over. That is until your little toe got stuck in one of the wee holes between the weave. (I was little for my age, thank GOD I finally outgrew that before I ran out of toes. But I think it explains my tiny pinky toe toenails.)

I haven’t seen a trampoline like that since the 80’s. Not in person anyway. Although in New Orleans off Veteran’s Blvd there used to be a trampoline place, where you could pay by the hour to come in and jump. They had some crappy numbers, but they did have a couple of good ones interspersed (for us connoisseurs of course). If you played it just right, you could bounce from one to another. Every now and then, we’d head out from Baton Rouge, for no other reason than to hit the trampoline place. Other people were going to Bourbon Street. Me? Yeah, eventually, but lemme get my jump on first.

I guess old gymnasts never die.

(Renaissance Fest 2009. Yeah, I’m the old lady in line with the kids. Every. Year. They only wish they could turn that many flips….)

By the way– dude in the pic is soooo bogarting the bounce. Stand on the frame dude. Yer killin’ me.

a little catching up

13 12 2009

Challenge Day 10 – Album of the year. What’s rocking your world?: OK, I know I was late to the party and I’ve got some catching up to do– so Michael Franti’s still on heavy rotation. (THANKS again Dananandana). That, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd (no, definitely not country despite the middle name).

Challenge Day 11 – The best place. A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?: I yam where I yam. But having had the fortune to do some mat time (that’s yoga to those in need of a decoder ring) under some actual real-live-honest-to-diety-of-choice trees OUTSIDE, both away and here in my own town has been a lovely treat.

Challenge Day 12 – New food. You’re now in love with Lebanese food and you didn’t even know what it was in January of this year.: I have rediscovered beets. You heard me, BEETS. And only later did I find out that Dr Cousin (you know the one: wanna shrink her down and carry her in my pocketbook) swears it’s a genetic thing and I come by it honestly. Go figure.

Challenge Day 13 – What’s the best change you made to the place you live?: We finally got the bonus room into some kind of usable format. When we moved in, it was still plywood floors, no outlet covers (how did THAT pass inspection?) and a big empty hole. Now all we need is a full size disco ball, and we’re set.