Side Effects of Looking for Inspiration

I recently signed up for a foodie type newsletter on the Washington Post. The idea is to focus on a different cookery book each week and highlight 2 recipes for readers to try.

First up: Nigella Lawson. Now, I came across Nigella during a binge watch of Mary Berry shows. You might remember Mary from the Great British Baking Show. Over in the U.K. they refer to her as the British Julia Child. Ms. Mary is an Institution. She embodies the beloved Gran, Mom, Auntie cooks we have known to bring common sense and seriously good food to the table. Nigella is from a similar frame of mind; she loves to eat and isn’t a Chef, she is a cook. Her food is luscious, simple to put together and scrumptious.

And, as if you haven’t already guessed, neither of these ladies is a calorie hawk. Yum!

This came along as I was working on the July Newsletter’s Pantry Magic attachment. Pantry Magic is a focus on a recipe or theme where I provide ideas, recipes insights into how to make some magic in your kitchen using what is stored in your pantry. July’s theme is “Summer Salads”.

Putting the piece together was a lot of fun, but it also created a lot of serious Hungry. LOL!

Over on YouTube, several of my regular crafters are working on projects with new materials. The Stampin Up folks just had a new catalog launch and they have some luscious papers, not to mention beautiful new In Colors, to try. Maymay’s focus for June has been creating stamps and projects with a more masculine feel. All of this has led me back to my craft room where I’ve been going through supplies and trying new techniques.

Mr Carrington has been continuing his around the house projects. I think I’m in love with his roof garden. I can honestly say that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my deck and garden area now.

To add to the garden issue, Hermione Chantal has done a major clear up of her back garden and it is beautiful!

Thanks to some neighbors, my little garden/lawn area was mowed, raked and cleared up. It is such a nice change after rains, mud, leaves and what-all.

For those who are wondering, yes I still have a couple of Accuquilt dies sitting on my desk waiting for my attention. I see them every time I sit down. To my left is my fabric stash. Between the two I am bombarded daily with potentials and possibilities and such.

To top all of this off, June is the traditional time crafters start getting ready for [ insert drum roll ] Christmas.

Yikes!

No, I’m not ready for that, either.

I did order some stamps from the Post Office and am preparing to send out a card or two as I get them done. This is something I’ve been thinking about since Maymay brought it up a while back. Just a little “thinking of you” card in someone’s mailbox.

As you might surmise, the act of looking for inspiration often provides more than we expect. Then again, we often encounter it even when we aren’t looking for it.

Here’s hoping you find a bit of inspiration for a project you’ve been thinking about tackling.

Maymay’s Small Business Showcase

I wanted to share this with you today, rather than wait for my regular posting, because I think (a) the opportunity to see these amazing small businesses and their offering is fantastic and (b) Maymay has done a great service by offering to showcase them on her channel.

Times are difficult at the moment and when you have an opportunity to help out, and are able to do so, it is a double blessing when you can.

Check out the video, read the information provided and, if you enjoy what you’ve seen, drop a comment to Maymay. If you are interested in the various businesses, don’t hesitate to check out their sites.

I know I’ll be doing just that today!

Give Yourself Permission

A few weeks ago I came across an article about the need for some to be given permission to do pretty much anything. Around the same time, in a conversation with friends, the topic came up again and the general consensus was that for people younger than ourselves, there seemed to be a need to get an okay from someone to try new things.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…

Dr. Seuss, Oh! The Places You’ll Go…

It may sound strange, but as I thought about it, it occurred to me that my generation was one of the last to just jump in and try things. We were the kids who watched the first space flights, the first moon walk, the first reaches beyond what we already knew. We were raised with the idea that anything is possible. What followed us was a group that seemed to be raised with the idea that maybe anything was possible, but the world was a dangerous and unpredictable place. Better safe than sorry.

Now, I understand – and to a degree agree with – the idea of the danger, but I think that perhaps we might have taken it a bit too far.

I’ve talked to folks who commented that thanks to inspiration from watching some YouTubers, they were inspired to get out and explore the world a bit. Starting with their own towns. Still others found themselves trying new things that some would consider hobbies, but for others are simply ways to get by. Cooking, cleaning, gardening, for example.

There is a lot in the world to be inspired by and to do. Travel, even limited, can lead to a broader knowledge of or, experience with, the history and people of an area. Culture in its many forms ties directly into our own individual histories.

We often don’t think about our favorite meals – the ones we had at Grandmother’s table – but those foods and flavors came from somewhere, right? When we start to dig into where the foods came from, often we discover other things about the people as well.

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

George Bernard Shaw

I submit to you that the idea “You can!” is real. It doesn’t really matter what “it” is, if you want to do it at least try. You may, or may not, succeed, but you won’t know for certain until you put in the effort. Should you decide that you don’t like it after all, fine.

As for the idea of “success”, I submit to you that your definition of success can, and probably should, be different from someone else’s definition of the term. It could be something as simple as a home cooked meal or a clean home or a garden that is bursting with color. It does not have to be winning a Nobel Prize if you are not interested in that.

My point is that you will never know what possibilities, what adventures, what you are capable of until you try – and the trying is up to you.

So, give yourself permission to explore, experiment, attempt, play, and all the other things that you have secretly wanted to do but were afraid to.

Let the adventures begin … now!

Green Thumb Quandaries

I must confess; I’m not a ‘gardener’ per se. I put things into soil, water them, nurture them, and basically hope they stay around long enough to be pretty, smell good and keep me company.

I’m one of those people who whisper to the plant as we are on the way to the check out stand, “Say your prayers.”

Sad, but true.

I enjoy flowering plants on my deck. I’ve even attempted planting a tomato or two. My basil plant went great guns until it didn’t. I’ve had houseplants that have stuck around for years (!!!) only to decide one day that, thanks, but that’s enough…

I’ve known Gardeners. Those folks who diligently search out Just The Right Plant. Put it in Just The Right Space and give it Excellent Care.

Me? I can’t get down on the ground. My balance is not what it once was and I don’t particularly care to be outside in the Weather.

All this being said, I do enjoy plants. I strive to have a few in the house – and I’ve gone so far as to put a reminder on my computer to Water The Plants. I also have one that reminds me to Take The Trash Out…

Over the years I’ve contemplated hydroponic gardens and thought, “Maybe”. This is important when I consider the idea of fresh (!) tomatoes that actually have flavor. Salad greens that are young, crisp and handy. Herbs – Fresh Herbs! – and then I realize that if the thing actually works and the plants grow and I get a decent harvest, I could be up to my (!!!!!!!!) in produce.

Not exactly a bad thing, but

Ah, ‘but’.

I know it is way too late this year to be contemplating anything closely resembling a ‘garden’. How do I know this? I ventured over to the website of a reliable nursery and saw how many items were ‘out of stock’. But the idea is still there, the possibilities are still there, the potential is still viable.

And I have at least 6 months to contemplate, dream, ponder and pontificate, right?

Need a Refresher?

Focus on the household chores.

Yep, chores. Those things we don’t want to do but need to be done. The boring stuff.

The irony is that while you are doing the boring stuff, your brain can be working on the Next Big Project. You know, that quilt you want to make, the scrapbook pages you want to develop, the fancy dinner you want to make. Or, you could be working out the mystery of the book you are reading. Contemplating the meaning behind that plot device on that show you have been watching.

β€œThe best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”

Agatha Christie

Clearly, one of the most accomplished writers of our time did the dishes. But more than that, she found opportunity in the task. Find opportunity in your tasks today.

One of the side benefits of household chores is that you actually burn calories (aka: exercise) while you are doing them. Another is the satisfaction and pleasure you get when they are done. So, you’ve worked on your physical as well as your mental health simply by doing the dishes, sweeping the floors and dusting.

How’s that for a Win/Win?

Tired of The View?

Many of us have spent more time in our homes during the past few months than we have since we moved in.

Homes, like clothes, are a reflection of the person occupying the space.

Some folks are instinctive about style, color, placement and all the other bits and bobs that are part and parcel to the project. They simply “know” how to put things together.

Others approach the process, be it homes or clothing, by copying the latest looks and fads and feeling not quite at home in either the homes or the clothes. Why wouldn’t they? The ‘style’ chosen isn’t really theirs, after all.

Still other people tip toe into the arena armed with ideas, but not sure about how to implement them.

My mother was one to rearrange furniture every 6 months. For many years she made do with second hand and out of date furniture. Her solution was to reorganize the rooms to change the layout, update the look and change perspective. It worked.

Not sure? Give it a try. Switching things around will give you a clear(er) idea of how the room flows, where the light patterns change and if function is improved.

I have a seven foot sofa in a room that can easily accommodate it, but not side tables. It also has dual aspect – windows on east and west side of the room. Placing a television can be tricky because the light can flow over the screen making it unwatchable at two separate times during the day. Needless to say, the TV did not remain in That Spot for very long.

Speaking of light, pay attention not only to where your windows are placed, but where your lamps reside. Light can be functional or an impediment depending upon the source and location.

So, if my TV lives in a certain spot, I can move the sofa about to change the way I use it to watch television. That change can affect the way I move about the room and how I use the rest of the room.

Unsure about the reshuffle? Consider that you aren’t bolting it to the floor, so if you don’t like it, you have the opportunity to put it back where it was. πŸ™‚

Tired of the “look”? Slipcovers can be a great option, not to mention a lot less expensive than buying a replacement piece of furniture. But what if you aren’t really sure of color? Why not take a look through your linen closet and pull out a comforter, blanket, bedspread or even a flat sheet and drape it over the offending piece?

Voila! Change of color and you didn’t spent a penny!

Speaking of flat sheets, if you have a couple twin sized flat sheets you aren’t using on beds, you can use them as window dressing. I know it might sound strange, but consider that sheets can be quite colorful, not to mention easily found in second hand shops, and often less expensive than regular curtains or drapes.

These simple changes can be made whenever the mood strikes. They are not permanent and can be altered if you aren’t happy with the result. They also provide you with a way of re-energizing your home. Best of all, most of them already reside in your home.

In a pinch, worth considering.

Putting It All Together

There is something extremely satisfying about taking bits and pieces and putting them together to make something new. Something wonderful. Something unexpected.

It’s not what happens to you, but how you handle it. If Life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If the lemons are rotten, take out the seeds and plant them in order to grow new lemons.

Louise Hay

One thing I, like millions of other folks, have discovered is that while the Rest of the World may be chaotic, focus on simple things, simple steps can restore peace and order.

Quilters take big pieces of fabric, cut it unto small pieces and the sew it to other small pieces to make a big piece once again.

Cooks and bakers combine ingredients to make things that not only feed your body, but your soul.

Musicians take sounds, combine them with other sounds and magic happens.

For some, this process is a new and potentially scary endeavor. For others the process is not only a necessary way of basic survival, but a trusted ally in good and bad times.

Sending you warm thoughts and virtual hugs.

Playing, er, Experimenting in the Kitchen

I’ve been cooking since I was 11 or 12. My mom started me off with simple foods and eased me into the magic of the kitchen one meal at a time. Before I knew it, I was responsible for dinner every night. And, yes, doing the dishes, too.

As a result, I was one of those kids who knew more than the rest of the class when I took my one and only Home Economics class. (Wasn’t into sewing, but loved the cookery stuff!) The advantage of the class was discovering foods and techniques that we didn’t have at home.

Over the years I’ve been fascinated by all sorts of cookery shows, books, magazines, you name it. When I discovered that other folks read cookbooks like I read science fiction, my mind was blown. Truly.

The upside of that curiosity is the willingness to try new things. Now, I won’t say that I have no limits, because I do, but I will say that those limits are few and far between.

Things I’ve Discovered Along The Way

Seasoning can be more than just Salt and Pepper. If you are like me, you have a spice collection (large or small) that might be overlooked more often than not. I encourage you to dive into that collection and try those tasty gems on different things than what you bought them for.

I love curry powder! I have a very old and very rarely used recipe for chicken curry that requires not only curry powder but powdered ginger. A couple of weeks ago I was preparing my favorite breaded chicken breasts and pulled out the curry powder instead of the poultry seasoning.

Heaven!

Speaking of that poultry seasoning. I know it tends to reside in cupboards only for the rare occasion you make stuffing at Thanksgiving, but did you know a touch on beef can be an amazing experience?

I discovered this many years ago when I stopped by a local burger shop to try their fare. They had a reputation for flavorful, beautifully cooked burgers. All true, but the real star of the show was the poultry seasoning that was used when the burgers were mixed.

Onion and garlic powders make everyday cooking easier. I don’t do enough cooking anymore to rely on chopping fresh. Too often things go bad before I can use them. Since I hate waste, the alternative was the powdered versions. Note: I don’t use the ones with salt added as I like to control that one on my own.

Dried mustard is another unsung hero. Yes, it is used in bar-b-que sauce, but have you tried a touch in eggs? You can add it to the filling for deviled eggs, but try a touch added to beaten eggs along with the salt and pepper before you scramble them. When I first saw that ingredient in a recipe for scrambled eggs I was dubious, but I tried it and it became a favorite.

I keep small jars of dried rosemary and sage in my collection, too. They are wonderful when roasting chicken or pork.

I also keep a small(ish) bottle of coarse ground black pepper. I prefer the flavor to a fine grind, but don’t have the desire for a mill. Oh, and white pepper has a different flavor that can be quite tasty used in the correct dish.

One thing to keep in mind if you are contemplating a collection of dried herbs and spices – store in a cool, dark place.

Don’t be afraid to play a bit. Think of it this way, if you have it, and use it, you must already like it. Try a small amount in a new way and see what you think. You might be on the way to a New Family Favorite.

Rediscovering

What to do when you’ve done it all. More than once.

By now some of us have baked far too much, cooked more than we thought we were capable of, cleaned until we can’t clean any more and have become bored by what we normally look forward to watching.

There is something special about rediscovering things you used to do, but for reasons no one remembers, you stopped doing.

Me? I pulled out my CD collection, turned on the DVD player and started rediscovering my music collection.

Streaming is a great option, but as many have discovered not everything is available to download or tuck into a playlist. My CD and DVD collections fill the gap left when what is available just isn’t interesting at the moment.

I have to admit, I do forget that my ancient DVD player has the capability to do more than play video. It is a nice surprise because not only does it allow me to play my music, it plays it through my TV which has pretty amazing speakers. Win/Win!

So far, I’ve pulled relaxing works to listen to. I may move into some soundtracks or rock and roll or <shrug> who knows?

What I do know is that there is something to occupy that space in my head that isn’t overwhelmed by all the outside noise. Not that the Outside Noise isn’t sometimes necessary, it is just a bit too much.

So, if you are feeling a bit lost and in need of Something Different, why not dig into your stash and see what treasures you can find to replace the Outside Noise and restore some joy?

Around The House

Or, How to Freak Out The Cat Without Trying

Today was a Finish Up Project Day. Why? I have no idea other than I just needed a change. πŸ™‚

I finished clearing out the laundry area. This was done after steam cleaning the floors, putting shelving back into place and stocking it with a better organized group of Things I need To Have Handy But Don’t Need Every Day.

This project has been going on long enough Bella Cat discovered the Interesting Hidey Spot Beside and Behind the Dryer. It no longer exists as the shelving resides next to it and the steamer has a new home behind it. πŸ™‚

As I mentioned floors have been steam cleaned, or vacuumed, depending upon location. Trash taken out. Dishes done. Laundry done – and (miracle!) out of the dryer.

Bella had been lounging on the bed when I started steaming the floors. Sadly, it was at that same moment she decided to see what I was up to. Picture: Cat stuck in doorway, terrified of The Thing in Mom’s hands. I finished what I was doing and she flew past me to come to a screeching stop in the Living Room and wonder what had happened to all the Stuff.

This cat Really Does Not Like Change and the afternoon was full of it. Smells were different. Spaces were no longer there. (!!!) Spaces were once again there. (!!!!) Windows were opened and fans on. That funny thing that made some noise but lots of funny air. And, let us not forget, the vacuum was out and about. Yikes!

Bella has once again discovered the Library window and has been enjoying every second possible watching Outside and napping while Mom Works.

She has also discovered the front door and has been seen stretching out to luxuriate in the sunshine.

I’m willing to think she has recovered from her stressful day. Me? I could use a nice glass of wine, a hot shower and a nap. πŸ™‚