2016 Goals

I’ve been pinning writing prompts like a crazy lady for the past few days. One of my goals is to rekindle my love affair with writing and refresh my skills using writing assignments conjured up by someone else. My favorites are the journaling prompts.Odd, random questions to stimulate the brain cells to dig deep and excavate opinions I didn’t even know I had!

I’ve always loved writing prompts for that very reason. So you can imagine my annoyance when I excitedly scrolled through my Pinterest Writing board to find the list of January journaling prompts anticipating today’s assignment…

“What is your number one goal this year?”

Really?

That’s the best you could do on a journaling prompt to get the new year off to a glorious start?

Bah, humbug. I abhor unoriginality.

BUT since that was my assignment, I’m going to be cliche and write my goals for the year.

The short list:

Write more.
Tidy more.
Enjoy my life more.

I am not going to start my year off with the goal of losing 30 lbs this year or exercising every single day or waking up every morning with a smile. Nope. I’m done with impossible and unrealistic resolutions for the new year. Everyone knows that the majority of people never make it past the first two weeks anyway.

Then there is the plain and simple fact that I am a mom. Not only am I a mom, I’m a mom times four. There is literally no way of knowing what kind of day I’m going to wake up to until I’m halfway through it. So setting specific goals of exercising for an hour every single day, is about as effective as giving my three-year-old the task of washing and folding all the laundry.

Simply not gonna happen.

So I’m being realistic with my goals this year. I’ve been on a very slow journey for the past year of simplifying my life. In fact, it’s so slow that probably no one but myself has even noticed. At this point, it’s been mostly mental. A shifting mindset interspersed with tirades of decluttering an unused drawer or shelf.

Baby steps.

I crave a simpler life. One that gives me time for the things I love. But life is not simple. Life is complicated and messy and cluttered. There are no extra hours that will magically appear at the end of my day if I’ve gotten everything else crossed off my list. I have to choose what I do with the hours that I have. So I am choosing this year to reclaim some of those hours for myself and the things that I love. The things that make me ME.

Laundry and dishes are not some of those things.

I will write.
I will continue my slow crawl of decluttering my home.
I will be more organized with the daily craziness of life since I’m assuming I can’t just ignore the laundry and dishes, right?

I will not be such a perfectionist about this blog. Sometimes things will make sense and sometimes they won’t. I am merely here to hone my wordsmithing.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Summer Diary – Entry #3

I closed my eyes and splashed warm water on my face, breathing in the subtle scent of honey as I washed away the dust and busyness of the day. Several hours in the small kitchen cooking pancakes, blending a smoothie, assembling supper in the crock pot, and scrambling a big lunch together in between a trip to the bustling Farmers’ Market and executing an afternoon excursion had stolen every last bit of energy I had left. I simply wanted to curl up in bed and decompress.

My ears picked up a familiar pattering outside the window.

Probably just my imagination.

I splashed my face one last time luxuriating in a soft towel before stepping across the bathroom to the window.

My ears were not playing tricks on me.

A familiar sound for me, but a displaced sound in this dry California valley: the soft pattering of raindrops!

We’d watched thin clouds float in all day, faintly gray and hinting of hope, though nowhere near as promising as the monster thunderheads that pile up at home before a spring storm. I was skeptical, especially when the forecast only predicted a forty percent chance of falling water.

My two oldest children were still awake, waiting for their piano music on Pandora to lull them to sleep. We’d never seen rain in California before, so I motioned them out of bed to witness the historic phenomenon outside their window. After all, it would probably only last a few minutes, and those precious drops would drizzle away to faint memories.

I tip-toed back to my room, terrifying the cat in the process. I’m sure we confused her, these strangers who invaded her fortress every summer and kept unpredictable hours.

As I pulled the warm duvet over my shoulders, I noticed the gentle dripping was already gone. Only the soothing trickle of the neighbor’s deck fountain remained to keep me company. Just as I had predicted, it was merely a cruel taste of the elusive rain that California is so parched for.

A few hours later the drumming of a downpour on the roof broke through my dreams. My eyes flew open to stare out the window into the semi-darkness. There it was, the glint of a thousand raindrops against a streetlamp. A low rumble of Thunder rolled across the sky.

I love sleeping to the sound of a distant thunderstorm and smiled in the darkness. Bitty Girl was sprawled next to me where she’d settled herself after waking up chilly an hour before. I tucked her back in and relaxed in the rain-washed breeze.

Crash! The sky lit up, and thunder boomed like a roaring giant awakened from hibernation. The rain fell harder and louder. Sensing the inevitable, I slipped out of bed and tip-toed back to my kids’ room. My oldest son whimpered from under his duvet, “I’m scared.”

“Scoop up your blanket and pillow and go crash on the floor in my room.”

He wasted no time and was curled up on my bedroom floor before I finished checking on Missy. She was still sleeping soundly. I decided to leave her as long as she was oblivious.

Just as I drifted back to sleep, another flash of lightening and clap of thunder jolted me awake. I knew that proximity to lightning.

The electricity was doomed.

A second flash confirmed my prediction. The fan fell silent and the world was plunged into blackness.

Through the cracked bedroom door, I watched a dim glow appear, fade, then grow brighter.

The overly-imaginative little girl that lives inside of my brain jumped to the forefront and screeched silently, “someone’s coming in!”

My mommy-brain told her to shush, grabbed my phone and fumbled for the flashlight app as I leaped out of bed to confront whatever horrifying creature was entering my bedroom.

The door slowly opened emitting a soft gust of air.

I shook my head impatiently at my stupidity and calmly stepped into the living room and shined my light around. I smiled at the sight of my father-in-law holding a candle and my mother-in-law right behind him with a handful more.

“Would you like a candle?” He offered me a tiny glowing dish with a cheery smile.

“Sure! Thank you.” There is always something warm and comforting about that little dancing flame.

I carried it to the bathroom counter where it cast a cozy glow that extended into the bedroom.

I traversed the darkness again to check on Missy and smiled to see her peaceful face, eyes still closed in oblivion. I was tempted to wake her up and carry her into the bedroom so I could avoid another trip through the dark house (how many times had I tripped across the Lego bucket in the living room in a single night?), but she showed no signs of being disturbed.

Back in the big bedroom, one son was smoothing his pallet, and the other was nowhere to be seen. Bitty’s faint snores floated from the big bed. I crawled onto Bug’s bed and found his feet, then his head, sprawled width-wise across the mattress with the duvet pulled up over his head. I pulled the cover back, and two big dark eyes stared right into mine. He giggled and sat up.

Both boys were wide awake from the booming thunder, so we curled up on my bed and conversed in hushed tones about the storm. I reminisced about living in a metal-roofed trailer when I was ten and described to my own boys the noise that would ensue every time we’d have a thunderstorm, which happened on a regular basis in southwest Missouri.

They asked about flash floods, and we discussed dams and man-made lakes until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. The noise of the thunder was moving away, and I shooed the boys back to bed to finish out the night.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My eyes opened lazily in the dim morning light. I could still hear the steady drumming and dripping of rain on the roof and trees and rushing through gutters.

Pans rattled and spoons clanked in the kitchen. Tea time, only this morning it had to be done the old-fashioned way: boiling water on the stove. Thank goodness for a gas cooktop on mornings when the electric kettle is deprived of power.

Now I’m sitting cross-legged in the middle of the floor with my computer perched on my lap and a steaming mug of Chai tea, my fingers keeping time with the dripping rain outside the open window. The light bulbs are all asleep, and the appliances are eerily silent. I anticipate a day of books, games, and tea as the gadgets hibernate, and the rain gauge and creeks fill.

rainyday

I have been writing…

What’s that? You don’t believe me? Well, I guess you wouldn’t, not being privy to my hard drive. Seriously, I have half a dozen essays (or whatever you want to call them) waiting to be published.

But in the midst of shoveling moats on the beach, scrubbing sand out of my pores, painting everyone’s houses (yes, for real! That’s what one does on vacation, right? Paint? …hmmm… Well, I do…), and trying to keep everyone’s insatiable hunger satisfied, I have had zero brain cells left for the techie side of writing. Namely, publishing it for you to read.

Really, it’s not the writing part or even the copy-and-paste process of transferring my scribblings to my blog; it’s that pressure to make it look beautiful while I’m at it. I crave stunning pictures to bring life and color to my words, but my photo-editing skills don’t sync up with the image in my mind of what a published blog post should look like.

I’m not even talking editing colors and adjusting saturation and lighting. I’m talking elementary tasks like cropping an image to blog-friendly size and adding an unimpressive watermark in one corner.

I know how to do those things, but they don’t come naturally to me. So I procrastinate. It’s a bad habit.

I know I shouldn’t let a lack of photo-editing skills prohibit my writing. After all, good writing doesn’t need pictures. Not that I’m claiming to be that great of a writer! I’m just reminding myself that I need to strive for words and descriptions that don’t require photography to make my blog appealing.

But somehow I can never quite grasp the words to describe the emotions of watching waves crash against rocks like a living creature, or capture the joyous shrieks of my children when they time a wave just right and surf to shore on a boogie board.

Some things simply require a picture.

I’ve about exceeded walls to paint in this tiny cottage, so maybe I’ll sift through the hundreds of pictures on my phone and computer. It does seem silly to take as many pictures as I do yet never find the time to share them with anyone. It’s always so easy to snap that shutter button…

Summer Diary – Entry #2

Bitty Girl is humming to herself, the never-ending soundtrack to her little life. Sometimes she throws in a phrase or two when it’s pertinent to her activity, but mostly she hums as deliberately stabs her little pink-handled shovel into the soft gravel. She watches as the smooth rocks cascade to the ground.
Small waves crash a few yards away, casting salty spray against a massive rock that has captivated my husband and three eldest children. I watch them scramble to the top and dash about far too close to the edge for my comfort. I wonder how many mothers have lain right where I am, warmed by the sun above and the soft rocks below, as their progeny stretch their wings on this rocky beach.
Everything about this beach oozes of history.The caverns carved by crashing waves, the rock island in the middle of the cove with time-worn paths made by curious explorers climbing its sides, and the blanket of rocks worn smooth from centuries of tides.
Even the name, Spooners Cove, sparks an imaginative tale of adventure and mystery. How many pirate ships put in here to bury their treasure? Who were they hiding from? What wealth and stories were buried in those heavy chests? Did the Pirates ever return to dig it up, or did someone else find it first? Or better yet, is it still buried somewhere underneath me?
Bitty Girl has graduated to a larger shovel and is peacefully scooping away at the pool her Daddy dug out earlier. Perhaps she’ll uncover a treasure eventually…

Summer Diary

July 5, 2015
A cool breeze rushed in the open van windows as we pulled into the gravel driveway of the cottage. I smiled at the Redwoods whispering in the breeze and the distant cracking and whizzing of fireworks.
A brisk voice floated from the house, “They’re here!”
I collected as many loose items as I could carry, pushed the van door open, and stepped out. Kids eagerly removed headphones and struggled to free themselves from seat belts.

Two days on the road isn’t easy. They were more than happy to pile out and stretch their legs.

“You made it!” A balding man opened the wooden gate and emerged from a tiny backyard to greet us with a smile. I’m sure he had been counting the seconds until his grandchildren would arrive. He had meticulously outfitted the deck with flags that fluttered gallantly in the evening breeze to celebrate our arrival.
Grandma was waiting inside with hugs and laughs to greet each of us as we hauled our belongings through the tiny laundry room entrance.
Not much had changed since last summer. A few pieces of artwork swapped around, and a new coat of white paint in the hallway were the only evidence that any time had passed.
To my overloaded mind, it didn’t seem like a whole year should have passed already. Surely it wasn’t quite time to be back at our summer home. Yet here we were. Another summer adventure waiting to draw us into its grip.

A Promise to Myself

I made myself a promise this summer.

I often make myself grand promises that never come to pass, usually because I make the promise then remember I’m a mom and will never actually have the time to exercise for an hour every day or spend a full weekend in the sewing studio creating something beautiful. Nope. Moms don’t have the luxury of leisure time, not even while on an extended vacation to the coast.

At least I haven’t.

Yet.

But this year I made a promise to myself. A promise to make time for something that used to be second-nature to me.

I promised to spend time, if not daily, at least four times a week, writing.

I was born a writer. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a notebook with me for jotting down ideas and making up silly stories. My high-school years were filled with long journaling sessions and hours spent lying in the sun on our trampoline scribbling story ideas. I would save my creative writing lessons for the end of my school day so I didn’t have to put a limit on the time. Being educated at home, that was my prerogative ; )

I still have the stacks of journals and recently discovered my old notebook of story ideas on a bookshelf. As I flipped through the hand-written pages, I realized I haven’t kept a consistent diary in over ten years. That kind of writing is reserved for the rare times when I need to vent a hurt or passion that no one else wants to be privy to.

Nor have I written a story in over a dozen years. Well, not unless I count the long narratives of my life that I e-mail to my mom or sisters.

No, my teenage dream of being a novelist flew out the window when I became a wife and mom and let my time be monopolized by the things that NEED to be done: cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, and running errands. That’s what moms are supposed to do, right? Sacrifice everything for the sake of wifehood and motherhood?

That was the message I heard all of my growing-up years. It was an honor and privilege to give everything up to care for a husband and raise the next generation. To a teen, that sounds like a great calling, worthy of sacrificing every talent and skill to fulfill. Now that I’m on the other side and am living that self-sacrificing life, raising the next generation is significantly less glamorous.

I love my place as a wife and my role as a mother. I wouldn’t exchange it for the world. However, something has been missing from my life. I haven’t been able to put my finger on it for a long time. It has been a simple feeling of unhappiness, dissatisfaction with myself.

I’m a decent wife and a good caregiver to my children, but something has been lacking. I’ve been so sucked into the self-sacrificing-mom mentality that I’ve forgotten that I am a unique individual too, and that motherhood is only a short season of my life. Who will I be when the kids are grown and no longer need four meals a day and can take care of their own laundry? I’ll be so far gone from that girl who dreamed of the fascinating things she was going to be when she grew up.

As an idealistic teen, I could wax poetic for hours on the importance of honing my God-given skills and using them to change the world. As an adult, still idealistic yet saturated with reality, I’ve forgotten that God made me who I am, with skills and passions unique to me, and to ignore that is wasting the life He has given me.

Now, as I’m sitting on the patio soaking up the California sun and listening to the birds singing and the wind rustling the canvas canopy overhead, I hear my children’s voices drifting from the open windows. They are completely engrossed in their play, oblivious to me. They don’t need me right now and probably aren’t even aware that I’m not in the house. I’ve noticed I have random moments such as these more often now that I no longer have a nursing baby or a potty-training toddler.

What should I do in those fleeting moments?

When I’m at home, those moments allow me to fold laundry or get the next meal started or tackle an organization task. On vacation, though, the laundry is minimal, there are two women to prep meals, and there is only so much organizing and purging I can do when I’m in someone else’s house! So while my progeny are lost in a make-believe world built of Legos, I can snatch some quiet moments to re-discover myself and revive long-lost skills that were once second-nature.

I promise to write this summer.

I don’t know what I’ll write about. Maybe it’ll be heartfelt journaling or adventurous narratives, or perhaps I’ll delve into my creative side that once conjured up stories inspired by places and times I wished I could experience.

But I will write.

Crystal

My First Pedicure

Am I the only 34-year-old who has never ever in her whole entire life had a pedicure?! I know, shocking, right? Have I missed out on some important rite of passage into womanhood? I sure hope not because the idea of sitting in a nail salon getting high on formaldehyde isn’t exactly on my to-do list anytime soon ; )

It has never struck me as weird before, but lately I’ve felt a little backwards as everyone around me seems focused on their nails (the explosion of Jamberry, perhaps?), and even my very casualest and DIYer friends take the time to go to the nail salon on occasion.

Growing up, I didn’t even own nail polish until I was in my teens, and then it was only because my mom bought a single bottle to do her nails for her high-school reunion, and I stole the bottle from her ; ) She probably doesn’t even remember…

From that point on, I nearly always had nail polish on my toenails. Call me weird, but I think toes and feet in general aren’t the most attractive appendages, and with my propensity for wearing flip-flops and being barefoot on the beach, I like to dress my piggies up just a tad. But I still have never been to a salon or even let anyone else touch my feet to do my nails.

Have I also mentioned I don’t like people touching my feet? Yeah… Major hindrance.

Well, today I took the first step toward a real pedicure…

Pedicure
I survived, and the girls had a blast. I blogged to distract my brain the fact that my feet were being touched.

But really, Missy was very gentle and only touched my toes. As I sit here admiring my somewhere messy pedicure, it has occurred to me that I just got a new color on my toenails without a single bit of effort on my part, and I kinda like it! Typically, I’ll let my nails go until they look beyond shabby simply because I’m too lazy busy to clean the old polish off and repaint multiple coats.

I think I may have just found the solution to great-looking toes all summer! Now if they could just get the hang of applying Jamberries…

Coconut Milk Ice-Cream

I’ve been promising this post to my sister for a long time! So this is for you, Amb!

My body hates dairy. My appetite hates my body for hating dairy. And I just plain hate the whole debacle! I LOVE cheese and sour cream and ICE-CREAM! I’ve ignored all the signs for years because I simply was not ready to say goodbye. I couldn’t. I mean, when you’re married to the Frenchman who introduced you to Camembert, how on earth are you supposed to casually step away forever? Let me assure you, when you’ve tasted that king of cheese you’ve gone way past the point of no return.

Alas, I’ve tried elimination diets and cleanses and gut-healing diets for over three years. All for naught. I’ve cried many tears over it (yes, literally!) and experienced many break-ups and reunions with the wonderful creamy world of dairy only to be heartbroken yet again. I am simply not meant to consume baby-cow food in any shape, consistency, or texture.

But I still eat ice-cream as recklessly as I like!

coconut-milk-ice-cream

I formulated this recipe after taste-testing nearly every dairy-free option in the freezer section of the grocery store. Most dairy-free ice-cream falls far short of the real stuff in the creaminess department since it’s made from half-water (how do you think almond and rice milks are made? Almonds blended with water…). Store-bought coconut milk ice-cream is a step up but still lacking in richness according to my taste buds. Still too much water in the recipe. Not to mention you have to wait forever for it to be soft enough to scoop!

My coconut milk ice-cream has every single bit of the cold creaminess and sweetness we all expect from ice-cream but without the side effects for me. It’s also incredibly simple to make out of ingredients that most dairy-avoiders already have in their kitchen!

Ingredients, Assemble!!! …Sorry, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to throw in some Marvel humor. That’s what happens when you’re the mom of a ten-year-old boy who can play Avengers all day long!

coconut-milk-ice-cream-ingredients
Homemade Coconut Milk Ice-Cream:

1 can full-fat coconut milk (I use Native Forest brand for the BPA-free can, but any full-fat coconut milk from a can will work)
3-4 egg yolks (I use organic and as fresh as possible for this recipe)
1/4-1/3 cup sweetener (I regularly use honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and even Xylitol, all with delicious results)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean pod (optional, but super yummy to have those flecks of real vanilla bean. Slice the pod open and scrape the goop out)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use raw, organic because the flavor is simply heavenly)

Now, the instructions can sound a little complicated, so pay close attention and read everything…

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.

That’s it! I told you to pay close attention ; )

How easy was that?! (yes, I’ve also watched too much Barefoot Contessa and picked up her kitchen-lingo).

coconut-milk-ice-cream-blend

Note: if your eggs are not super-fresh and you’re worried about salmonella, you can mix this in a small saucepan on low heat just until it starts simmering. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, turn off the heat, and cool in the refrigerator. I’ve never had any problems with using raw, fresh, organic egg yolks in this recipe, but when in doubt, heat it first. Just let it cool to room temperature before pouring into your ice-cream freezer.

Freeze in an ice-cream freezer to your favorite ice-cream consistency. If you don’t have an ice-cream freezer, you can put it into a bowl and put it into the freezer, stirring it with a spoon every thirty minutes until you can’t stand it anymore and have to dig in!

I have a super-handy Cuisinart Ice-Cream Freezer that lets me whip up a batch of frozen goodness and have ice-cream for dessert faster than I can have supper made!

coconut-milk-ice-cream-freezer

I picked up this handy container at Home Goods just for fun, so now my ice-cream not only tastes official, but it looks official too…for the few minutes it lasts in the freezer! I like soft-serve consistency, but this recipe will freeze as solid as dairy ice-cream and can be scooped with an ice-cream scoop for a traditional ice-cream look : )

coconut-milk-ice-cream-bowl

Enjoy!

~Crystal

 

Liebster Award Nomination

I doubt anyone knows how many Draft posts I have going… My brain and typing speeds far exceed my technical skills. I HAVE to write. It’s just IN me. Blog formatting, though, is much more of a challenge for me, so I may have ten different posts written and waiting in my Drafts folder while I try to sort out pictures for them.

I’ve heard pictures and photography are integral parts of successful blogging, so rather than subject you, dear readers, to less than spectacular blog posts, I click on “Publish” far less often than I could.

In the meantime, I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award. I’ve never heard of it, but it’s kind of cool to be mentioned on someone else’s blog!

I think Dena made my blog sound far more exciting than it actually is at this point, but I’m very appreciative and will do my best to live up to the ambitious description she gave of my blog : ) Thank you, Dena!

Since I’d never heard of it before, I had to take up the matter with our dear friend Google, who knew right away what I was looking for. Apparently, a Liebster is an internet-only award given by bloggers for other bloggers as a way of introducing and promoting new or lesser-known bloggers to the blogosphere.

I found multiple sets of “rules” at Wording Well (they’re more like guidelines… I’m not intentionally trying to quote the Pirates, but hey, they did say with such memorable flare!). I think I’d be here forever if I tried to incorporate every single rule in this one post, so I’ll stick with the most important which is to keep the award moving forward!

In the spirit of passing along this fine award, I’d like to nominate a few blogs I enjoy.

 AngelaTheTwin – I know Angela personally, and even though she doesn’t claim to be a writer and has very little words on her blog, she truly doesn’t need them. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. She has a passion for capturing the beauty in a split second. Looking at her pictures always forces me to take a minute to focus on the small joys in life.

GivingUpOnPerfect – I very recently discovered Mary’s blog, so I haven’t perused the whole of it yet, but her What Makes You Nerdy post stuck with me and encouraged me to start my own blog. Writing is one of the things that really makes me who I am. Thanks for helping me realize that, Mary! And really, how can I not share a blog with such a great review of one of my favorite TV shows?! Yay, Chuck Bartowski!

ContentedSeamstress – Hannah blogs about everything from her latest outfit to her most recent spiritual challenge. Her sensitive heart and creativity are always inspiring to me.

ModernMrsDarcy – I discovered Modern Mrs. Darcy only a couple weeks ago. She has an emphasis on raising her family with the influence of classical literature. i.e., making sure her kids grow up with Elizabeth Darcy and Anne Shirley as old family friends 🙂 I’ve also been following her on Pinterest and feel as if I must have found my long-lost twin sister; our tastes in books, home decor, and momhood are almost identical.

Some Liebster Award nominees answer questions and/or provide several random bits of info about themselves. In honor of the occasion, and since I may have some new people drop in as a result, I thought I’d share a few facts about myself…

I love style, whether it be in the form of food, beautiful homes or clothing fashions. My current style obsession is minimalism, as I try to bring a little more order and peace to my household of four very active kiddos.

I’ve been called a hippie and a free-spirit for as long as I can remember, usually because I love long, flowy dresses reminiscent of what my mom wore in high-school, but more recently because I don’t always fit in with the social norms. I eat organic foods, cook most of our meals from scratch, and attempt a garden every year because the idea of wandering through my garden to see what’s for dinner is always such a romantic one to me.

I don’t have a favorite color. My daughter is always asking what my favorite color is, but I love so many colors, and I rotate favorite color palettes on a regular basis. Currently, I am in love with indigo blue and pops of coral pink, but I will always have purple somewhere in my house and a wide range of turquoise blues.

My hobbies include (but are far from limited to!) sewing, gardening, Callanetics, yoga, jewelry-making, writing, Pinterest (yes, Pinterest counts as a hobby; don’t judge me!), decorating, and fashion.

To my Liebster nominees, here is my challenge:

Keep the award going by nominating at least three new bloggers who are inspiring to you.

Share a few interesting facts about yourself.

Have fun doing it!

~Crystal