Yoga Challenge Woes

I have committed to a yoga challenge that lasts about six weeks. It is only the end of the second week and I’m already feeling doubtful that I’ll make it to the end. Despite my doubts, I have still scheduled time everyday for this, I have been enthusiastic to try and push further, and I have enjoyed the community of others in the challenge with me. There are plenty of positives here even if I happen to come short of my goal.

“Yoga is about working with what you’ve got on that day. Some days you may find certain positions easier to get into than others. It’s not about comparing yourself or judging yourself, it’s about being in that moment and doing your best.”

~Jayne Middlemiss

yoga water

I will take each day at a time. As my favorite yoga teacher always says…

“Yoga is personal. Every body is different. Two words. Every. Body”

~Barbara Burgess

 

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This day is for ‘me’ things. 

Today there was yoga, puppy cuddles, and tea.


Then, recording in the studio with our band Lights of the North. We are recording our first single and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Soon I will be heading home from the studio and the evening will be spent with friends grilling on our deck.

I wanted to share all this with you because I have had a bit of a stressful week. I have been trying to remind myself that when things get the best of me or when the world seems crazy and out of control, stop and count your blessings. Look at the simple things, the important things and breathe.

On a final note, here is a picture of my puppy…

Summer Cucumber Salsa

Last year, my honey read an article from an unknown source that went into detail about how pigs were released on cucumber fields to poo all over them. Since then, he refuses to eat cucumbers unless they are “organic” because those cucumbers are “safe”. 

I thought about how he didn’t bat an eye when I explained that I only eat snacks in pairs so that I can chew one on each side of my mouth. So, I smiled and promised to only buy organic cucumbers. 

Lucky for me, a coworker brought a trove of cucumbers in from her garden the other day. They were all shapes and sizes! I remembered how I made a delicious cucumber salsa a couple years ago and gladly took a curly cucumber and a bowling pin shaped one. 

When I got home, I couldn’t find my recipe anywhere. I decided to do what I could from memory. 

SUMMER CUCUMBER SALSA

  • 2 cups seeded, diced cucumber
  • 1/2 cup diced tomato 
  • Diced onion and jalapeño if you wanna get fancy
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • Juice from half a lime
  • Juice from half a lemon*
  • 1/4 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/4 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 minced garlic clove


Please don’t judge my chopping skills. Ha!

First I chopped my veggies and then I combined all the other ingredients in my measuring cup. 


*Honestly, when I do this recipe again, I will leave out the lemon juice. It was a bit too citrusy for me. 

Then, combine it all and dip away!


In the end, I added a bit more cumin and salt. I also wish I would have only done half the amount of cilantro. 

Sometimes that’s how it goes when you forget to write down your recipes. I’ll remember to save it this time but it is nice to have a lower calorie snack on the house. 

A True Story of Forgiveness

The headline in the Paintsville Herald for April 5, 1928 read, “Killing at White House: Jasper Lemaster Charged with Killing Alec Adams Surrenders to Officers.”  

Alec Adams was my great grandfather.  There are different accounts of what happened depending on which newspaper articles you read.  Here, I will share with you the story from what I’ve learned through research and family lore.  

It was the beginning of the Great Depression and Alec was a miner with a wife and small children, one of which was my grandmother, Garnet.  

There was no food left in the house and Alec could see the hunger in his children’s silent faces.  Alec went down to the general store of the miners’ camp, walked in, grabbed a small sack, and selected a few items:  a loaf of bread, corned beef, beans.

Jasper Lemaster owned the store and was working that day.  As Alec approached the counter, he asked for the groceries to be put on his tab.  Lemaster refused to extend the credit, there was an argument, and Alec turned to leave with the food anyway.  Suddenly, a gun shot boomed vibrating the rickety shelves of the shop.   Alec Adams lay there dead.  Shot and killed over a sack of groceries.

Now, I’m not hear to argue any point of this tragedy.  Stealing is stealing and murder is murder.  The story continues, as it always does.

Alec’s widow got remarried and had more children.  My grandmother Garnet met my grandfather and married.  Grandpa was a minister for the Church of God after his time in the army, and in 1971, they moved to Northern Ohio with their eight children to start a new church.

They raised their children in the faith.   They instilled good values and strong work ethics in all of them.  My father became a minister of music in the church and would often visit gospel singings and revivals in the area.

One summer, Dad took my grandmother to such an event in town.  They arrived early and started visiting with the other folks around them anxious to hear some good old gospel music.  At the front of the church, Dad recognized the guest speaker as a classmate from school.

The two men began catching up on the years that had passed and Dad introduced him to my grandmother.  It so happens that his last name was Lemaster.  

Now, my grandmother never really shared many details of her father’s death.  Her children knew he died but they knew her step-father as their grandpa.  So, the name Lemaster would have meant nothing to my father before this night.

She commented on how she used to know some Lemaster’s back in Kentucky where she grew up near White House.  Shocked, my father’s school mate says that’s where his family was originally from.  His mother happened to be visiting for the gospel singing and he offered to introduce them.

After a quick introduction, the two women sat down to visit.  It wasn’t long before my Grandmother shared that her maiden name was Adams.  The look on the other woman’s face was filled with so much emotion as she quietly listened and tears filled her eyes.  My grandmother continued, “It was a Lemaster who shot my father.”  She began to tear up herself.  The other woman took her hand and said, “That was my father.”  Grandma squeezed her hand.  There was a powerful silence for a moment before both woman hugged each other tightly.

My grandmother was 54 when she had this experience, fifty years after her father was murdered.  She shared something with my dad that night.  Her whole life, she felt she would never have any closure from loosing her father, but the moment of that hug, she felt like such a weight was lifted from her soul.  The emotion of coming face to face with her past and the eagerness to show forgiveness was overwhelming.

Both of the women in this situation could have easily allowed hatred and bitterness to grow inside them throughout their lives.  Instead, they chose to live a life of goodness and love.  Believe what you will, but I am sure their paths were guided to meet that night.

Forgiveness is so healing and powerful.  Forgiveness toward ourselves, our family, and those who may only touch our lives for a moment.

Begin each day with optimism and end each day with forgiveness. Happiness in life begins and end within your heart. 

~Doe Zantamata

Change Your Perspective

Today, I went for a drive.

The leaves are changing here in the Philadelphia area and it’s my favorite time of year.  Despite Autumn often being a symbol of things ending, I can’t help but feel rejuvenated at the smell of bonfires and site of leaves dancing on the breeze.  As I drove around, I had my GPS turned off and the soft music down low in my car.

orchard

My goal was to look around, enjoy my quiet time, and think.  I realized there were some thoughts I’d like to share.

Those who know me understand how music is at the center of most things I do.  It always has been.  As a kid, my family would travel and sing at churches.  My parents even went on the road for years after they were married before I was even a twinkle in their eyes.  Music is totally an “it’s in my blood” sort of thing.

annette-jaw

At the end of this summer, I found myself battling a second major vocal injury.  Back in 2009, I suffered from vocal nodules and was afraid they had returned.  On one hand, I was lucky and they hadn’t.  On the other, well, there was a new problem to deal with.  My doctor discovered that I have a vocal paresis and, on top of that, was developing Esophageal Acid Reflux.  At least, I now knew the cause of my vocal pain and loss but, the methods to recovery were annoying and long.  I have been on medication and taking vocal therapy for the last couple months and have really seen improvement.  However, it is still frustrating and there have been moments when I wonder if I can continue singing full time.

This brings me to the jewel of what I wanted to share with you.  During those moments of questioning, I turned more to writing as a creative outlet.

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Over the last few months, I have written a short story that I have submitted to an anthology of published works, finished a first draft of a children’s book which I intend to turn into a trilogy, and started to outline and write a couple chapters of a longer work of fiction.  Does this mean I am setting the music aside?  Of course not.  I even have a new project in the works musically as well.  The point is, I don’t have to feel that my only viable form of creativity is the music.  There are so many little muses swirling around us everyday and those of us who can tap into that creative flow are really lucky.

I encourage you to always be on the lookout for inspiration.  Always be curious.  You never know when you may have to take a detour from your normal creative practices.

The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

‘Tis the season for seeing eggs everywhere!  The plastic ones, the candy ones, and, in our house, the hard boiled ones.  Many folks this time of year color hard boiled eggs but, for us, hard boiled eggs are a staple during the Lent season.  We keep a few in the fridge for snacking but we love egg salad sandwiches for lunch on Fridays.  My honey’s favorite is a simple egg and onion.  I prefer to spice it up and add cayenne pepper or Coleman’s mustard to my light mayo.

I happen to have the house to myself this week and came to a realization.  He is always the one to boil the eggs.  He has it down to a science.  I know it seems silly but, I do not.  However, I decided that while he is away, I will practice.  So, I have perfected my boiled egg method and have decided to share it with you.

The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

I did some research and found there are actually quite a few different ways to achieve a hard boiled egg.  There is even a method where you put them in a muffin tin and bake them!  The best way for me was the following:

  1.  Place the eggs in a sauce pan and fill with cold water until the eggs are covered by a couple inches.
  2. Turn heat on high.  Once a boil begins, remove from heat and place a tight lid on the pan.
  3. Let sit for exactly thirteen minutes.  IMG_5313
  4. Move the eggs to an ice bath and wait five minutes.IMG_5314
  5. Now, crack and peel dipping into the ice water as needed.IMG_5317

I couldn’t believe how easy it was to peel them!  I almost hated to chop up the beautiful eggs for my egg salad.IMG_5318  Since I was practicing my egg skills, I decided to create a new recipe.  I had been craving Chicken Curry and, to satisfy that craving, made my own version with the egg salad.

  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (I wanted to try apple cider vinegar but was out)
  • One small Granny Smith apple cubed (Maybe I thought this was a good idea because I didn’t have the desired vinegar.  Ha!  I couldn’t taste it too much but added a fun crunch.)
  • Salt and Pepper as desired

Mix it up and eat it!  I had it on crackers instead of a sandwich this time.  I think that if I try it again, I’ll use more traditional curry type ingredients.  With that being said, it was tasty and totally satisfied my craving.

I hope that my hard boiled egg tips help if you are having trouble getting that perfect hard boiled egg.

Crockpot Turkey Balls for Days!

The other day I realized that I’ve been working so much lately that I haven’t kept up on my cooking adventures for a while now!  So, having a day off, I attempted to go about things a little differently this time around. Usually, I find a recipe and make a grocery list. Instead, this time, I just made a basic list for the house (doubling up on milk and eggs since we have some serious snow on the way).  I wanted to see what was on sale at the grocery and let that inspire me. Lucky for me, ground turkey was a featured manager special. I have a recipe in my repertoire for beef meatballs but I really wanted to use different spices for a turkey recipe. PLUS, I wanted to use my slow cooker this time.

So, I bought a little over two pounds of ground turkey because I knew I could freeze some once they were made. I wanted to make them with whatever I had at the house.

Here is the recipe I threw together.

TURKEY MEATBALLS

2 lb ground turkey meat

(I had 99% fat free but I could see where a fattier percentage could work for meatballs, too)

1 Lg egg

2/3 c bread crumbs

1/4 c Parmesan Romano cheese

3 TBSP Olive oil

2 TSP dried oregano

2 TSP dried basil

3 Garlic cloves, minced

1 Lg onion, sliced

1 TSP salt

1/2 TSP black pepper

2 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes

Combine turkey, egg, crumbs, 2 TBSP Olive Oil, cheese, garlic, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. I mixed in a large bowl.


No need to mix it to death, just evenly. Then, I rolled them all into balls and set them on a baking sheet. Mostly just because the baking sheet was large enough. I decided to do smaller balls this time, about an inch in diameter. Next, pour a tablespoon of oil into a large pan and sear each side.


It takes about a minute depending on how hot your pan is. You basically just want a nice brown so that your turkey balls don’t fall apart in the crockpot and have a little crunch on the outside.


In the bottom of your crockpot, have your sliced onion cover the bottom. Empty one can of crushed tomato on top of the onion.  

Next, dump all of your seared turkey balls into the pot. I know, there are a lot! Then, the last can of crushed tomatoes.


I originally planned on letting it cook on low for around six hours but when I went in to check on the noisy pot, I realized I had it on high by mistake. So, let’s try three hours.


Ok, so, super moist. Although, I do wish the sauce was a bit thicker. But, the flavor is really great! I love how I made them smaller. I can’t wait to have turkey meatball sandwiches, pasta, and even just by themselves or with veg!  I would love to hear your reviews on these little guys. Share with all your buddies and let me know your results! Gobble gobble!

Imagination, Creativity, & Inspiration

I was always an imaginative child.  Then again, I suppose most children are.  I should elaborate.  I was kind of a weird kid.  One of my most vivid memories is dancing around our huge Blue Spruce tree in the springtime, pulling the sticky ends off the baby pine cones, and powdery buds, combining them in a frisbee pretending to make magic potions.  As I got a little older and started reading, one of my favorite places to go was uptown to the library.  Living in a smaller town, we often walked the five or so blocks to the opposite side of the town for lunch meat from the grocery, stamps at the post office, or whatever else was needed.  However, I cherished having the extra time to slip into the small three room library on the corner.


It was so magical seeing so many books in one place!  The smell of all the paper and sight of all the different prints and fonts were enough to transport you to somewhere magical.  It was as if the library was the Union Station for all these different adventures!  Although there were a whole three rooms to explore, everything I needed I found on that first shelf as I walked in the door.


One of the first series that I read and became so passionate about was the Oz series by L. Frank Baum.  Of course the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was the first in the series, written in 1900, but few people realize that there are thirteen more that Baum wrote over the next twenty years.  The library’s set of Oz books were the 1965 white edition where all the original artwork by John R. Neill was used.  Seeing as how the books were originally published between 1900 and 1920, you get a beautiful, fantasy Art Nouveau feel to the illustrations.  Looking back, I’m sure this is where my love for Art Nouveau was born.

As I got older, I read less, unless I had to for school or a random book here and there but, I always remember my love for those Oz books.  Even now, when I find myself in an old bookstore or a flea market, I rummage through the stacks of books hoping to find those familiar titles and images.  A couple times now, I have had success and proudly slide the tattered dirty white covers next to each other on my bookshelf. It makes me smile to see them there.  

Recently, I went to see a musician friend play at a local coffee house here in Philly where they also sold prints from old books.  Much to my surprise, I turn and the Wizard is there with Dorothy in the Garden of Mangaboos.  It was an image from “Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz.”  I gladly handed over the few dollars, brought the print home, and framed it.

Finding the print that night, I was transported back to seeing those books on the library shelf.  Catching a glimpse of that feeling I had as a kid was thrilling and it also inspired me to come home and read a little of one of those many books on my bookshelf that just tend to collect dust.  It also made me appreciate how we can find inspiration in the most unexpected places.  It’s important to always be looking for the magic little moments.  That’s where our imagination, inspiration, and creativity meet.  So, go out today and see what magic moments and surprise memories you can find.

Experiments in Basil Pesto

I do not have the greenest thumb.

As a matter of fact, there are only four plants that have thrived for me this summer.  One of which has been my basil plant.
basil copy
With so much basil on my hands, I decided it would be fun to try my hand at some pesto.  After reading about twenty different pesto recipes, I felt safe enough to raid my cabinets for random ingredients and go for it. The basics to any pesto recipe is an herb, nut, and olive oil. The other ingredients seemed to vary with all the recipes I came across. So, I decided to go with the standard additions of garlic, salt, and pepper but why not add a little nutmeg as well?

Here’s the run down:

2 cups of loosely packed basil
1/2 cup of dry roasted almonds
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon of both pepper and salt
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
FullSizeRender-1

First, I clipped all the basil leaves off the stems and threw them in a colander. I drizzled cold water on them and gently swished them around then set them aside to air dry. If you use warm water, it could wilt them. You could also pat them dry with a paper towel if you wish. Another thing I was thinking about doing was toasting the almonds in the oven first but, when I saw that my almonds were already dry roasted, I figured that would do. I added the basil and nuts to the food processor and chopped it all up.
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I then added the Parmesan and garlic. I would have rather used a couple garlic cloves but, as I said, this was a ‘raid-the-cabinets’ pesto.
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After that, I added the olive oil and nutmeg pulsing to combine. You can really add the salt and pepper to taste. I found that the Parmesan was actually salty enough that I could have done without the salt. Also, I had to stop and use a spatula to pull the pesto off the walls of the processor and pulse a few more times to get a good mix.
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When I tasted it, I felt like it was really oily even though I used less olive oil than some of the other recipes called for. So, I added about 1/4 cup of water. It was on the thicker side anyway. It actually turned out pretty good for my first pesto, however, I still feel it was a bit oily. I read later that if you chop up your nuts and herbs before throwing them in the processor, it can help with this problem. In the future, I’ll probably try that as well as a little less olive oil and a few less almonds.
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When you finish your pesto, be sure to keep it in an air tight container so it doesn’t oxidize and keeps that bright, fresh green color. Have any pesto tips? Share below and create more things!

Reimagined Copper Top Side Table

I was recently a recipient of some ‘treasures’. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, our long time neighbors moved away and were going to throw these little end tables in the trash. Immediately my little creative wheels start turning on how I can morph them into some fun side tables for our deck.

table before

I decided I would start by just working on one and see how it turned out.  I was super excited to use my new power tool!  I recently bought the Dremel MM30.  This thing sands, cuts, and even cuts grout.  I’ll just be using it for sanding this time around.

dremel

First, I sanded the top of the table.  It didn’t take quite as long as I thought it would with the tool but, you do have to be sure to put a little muscle into it as it’s sanding.

sand table

Then, I attached plastic bags with tape around the edges.  My goal was to only paint the top and not have over spray onto the legs.

tape table

When I have bought spray paint in the past, I have purchased the primer/paint combo in a can.  This time, I forgot to check for that but it didn’t seem to matter too much.  I wanted to go for a copper top table look and found this Rust-Oleum Hammered Copper paint.

paint table

When done correctly, you will get a hammered look on the flat surface similar to this.

hammered copy

I was really liking how it turned out but I must have been doing something wrong because I only seemed to get the hammered look in a couple places on the edges.  I painted my table outside to counter the fumes but would let it stay out between coats.  This was a mistake.  A little fuzzy bit of hair or threads blew onto my wet paint.

table knick

I brought it in and let it fully dry for a couple days.  Then, I went in with some fine sand paper and buffed the fuzz out.  I tried to gently add coats to blend in our blemish spot and it turned out okay.  Now, for the details.  I wanted to put an Irish Trinity knot in the center of my table but didn’t really trust my hand to be steady enough to hand paint it.  I was lucky enough to find a large stencil online and it came in just a day!  I placed the stencil down and taped the edges adding paper to extend over the stencil to the end of the table.

knot stencil

I evenly did multiple coats of black matte spray paint.

black stenc

I learned a tough lesson here, too.  I should have taped the smaller parts of the stencil down as well, because we got some hazy lines and over spray in spots.

mess up knot

I did some touch up by spraying the copper spray paint into some cardboard and hand painting the edges.  I also taped over the knot and tried to do light coats of copper around the edges of table.  These little mistakes made it a little less neat but in the end it turned out pretty nice.  As a last touch, I sanded some distress marks on the corners of the legs and table edges to make it feel a bit more rustic.  Finally, I took spray clear coat over the whole thing to protect it.  Now I just have to do the second one to match.  What a great little addition to our deck!

final table copy