WPC: Cheeky

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Red, Black and Gray…Cheeky Squirrels! They stole my underwear! They stole my chocolate cupcakes and came begging for more. They try to bury nuts under my windowsill, they spy on my Minecraft designs…and they ate my foam chair cushion.

But I admire their spunk, even on the hottest and coldest days of the year.

More Cheeky photos!

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Sugar Plum Tea

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I have always loved ballet, and as a little girl, I aspired to be a prima ballerina. I dreamed of dancing the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Unfortunately, I lived in a small town with no dance studio, so my endless hours of “practice” in my living room, pirouetting to The Nutcracker on vinyl amounted to naught. I also had to endure the endless ridicule of my big brother, who would prance around the house wearing my Dad’s work boots and singing, “look at me. I’m a ballerina” in a high, singsong voice.

I. Hated. It.

When I was 9, my Mom and Aunt took me to see The Nutcracker. It meant a late night and going into the city on the subway. It was snowing lightly and very cold, but I didn’t feel a thing because I was so excited. I was absolutely spell-bound; the gentle thuds of feet on the stage hardly a distraction. It was the most magical night of my life.

Sugarplum

Every Christmas, I savour at least one cup of Celestial Seasonings “Sugar Plum Spice” tea. This herbal tea is chamomile based with hibiscus, rosehips, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, plum and roasted chicory. While it contains no artificial colour or preservatives, it is not gluten-free. Also of note: this tea company has been working for over 30 years to establish sustainable harvesting and fair wages for tea garden employees. And yes, there are ballerina fairies on the box!

This festive blend is, of course, very similar to other spiced teas, but the plum is the prevailing flavour with a subtle zing from the ginger and other “seasonal” spices. It’s perfect to share with a loved one before nestling snug in bed “while visions of sugar plums” dance in your head.

Happy Monday!

A Faulty Filter

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It seems lately that the older I get, the filter between my brain and my mouth gets stretched thinner, like the waistband of my underwear. (I really should have bought some for me when I bought some for everyone else). Basically –

Shouldn't say

Like last week. As I rushed from the grocery store, a middle-aged couple in a shiny new white BMW pulled into an empty handicapped parking space by the front door. There was no handicap sticker on their vehicle, as required by law, and both appeared to be perfectly physically fit. There were plenty of empty spaces available in the lot, and only a few extra feet away.

I said –

“Oh, I’m sorry for staring but I don’t often get to see people who are so above the law that they can park wherever they please…”Really? What’s my problem? You’re my problem. You don’t have a handicap sticker in your vehicle, and there are plenty of other spaces to choose. You’re taking a space from someone who needs it. I don’t know if you can manage to pay the very expensive fine if you leave your car there, but you certainly look like you can manage those extra steps from that space, right there, to the store.”

– to myself as I climbed in my car, after I rolled my eyes walking past. I ranted all the way home, all the things I wish I had said.

What gives? Sometimes I bite my tongue and I don’t open my mouth, at great risk of personal harm. But other times I’m sneering sarcastically under my breath, or flat out ranting like a lunatic. Whatever the cause, it’s not always a good thing when my brain filter fails and my mouth just assumes it’s ok to say it! It’s awkward, not to mention completely against my upbringing.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

…the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:5-6)

I’m already on fire, thanks to the raging inferno of my dying youth. So while I’m developing a thicker skin (and a muffin top), my “filter” is getting thinner. It’s isn’t fair!

One would think that as one matures, one would develop greater self-control. My self-confidence has grown exponentially; I’m increasingly less concerned with what people think of me (humour me!) but this overconfident, run-off-at-the-mouth-like-a-soup-sandwich-style sarcasm is going to land me in serious trouble one day.

I want to be a nice person. I used to be more like Laura Ingalls Wilder – sweet and wholesome – but lately all I want to do is use my braids to choke the next person who annoys me. Which is everyone. Apparently.

Please consider this a forewarning of what may prove to be a growing, embarrassing problem (right up there with pantyhose hanging out my pant leg and forgetting what I went upstairs to get).

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So, to the people who tolerate me on a regular basis, I’m sorry…you are the real heroes! I hope you have a good weekend!

To everyone else…I’m just going to bite my tongue.

***

*Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

It’s beginning to look a lot…

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This week I’m taking my “summer vacation” (it’s a long story), and while it’s not exactly bikini weather anymore, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Mall Christmas Tree (543x640)

Instead of reading by a pool with iced tea, I’m reading curled on the couch under a fluffy blanket with hot tea. I’m composing a “baking wish list” while watching Holiday Inn. I still have to get Little Guy to school, and cook and clean…but maybe I’ll indulge in a little nap first. And tomorrow, I will tackle the Mall again so I don’t have to do it on the remaining Saturdays with the rest of the walking dead.

Mall 2 (596x640)

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Soon the bells will start, and the thing that will make them ring, is the carol that you sing right within your heart.-Jeff Cook / Mark Herndon / Randy Owen / Teddy Gentry (c) The Bicycle Music Company

Happy Wednesday!

What’s in my Cup: Gingerbread

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Nearly everyone loves gingerbread  from elaborate cookie houses to cookie men sporting gumdrops, to decadent spiced loaves. This year in Colorado, a 12 foot tall and 150 square-foot gingerbread chapel was erected in the Broadmoore Hotel, which took 220 hours and an army of chefs to create. And the hotel lobby bar (a.k.a. Santa’s Tavern) at the JW Marriott in Los Angeles,  is made with 1,300 pounds of gingerbread! This was the best we could do in 2010!

gingerbread house_sm

Gingerbread is considered any baked good typically flavored with ginger, cloves, nutmeg or cinnamon and sweetened with honey, sugar or molasses. In the 15th century, the term gingerbread was used to refer to tasty treats. Though typically associated with Christmas, these hard cookies were served all year, with the shapes changing to reflect the seasons.  Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the idea of decorating cookies. Gingerbread houses, often decorated with gold leaf, were first conceived in Germany during the 16th century. They gained popularity after the Brothers Grimm wrote the well-known story of Hansel and Gretel, with the witch’s house of sweets.

In my cup today is Teavana’s Gingerbread tea, a black looseleaf tea that is low in caffeine, but with the aroma and flavours associated with the Christmas season. This tea is spiced with cinnamon (root and bark), chicory root, candied ginger, apple, cloves, cardamom, red currants, and cocoa-covered popcorn. Yes, popcorn! Many of these spices, like ginger, provide some health benefits, and the popcorn is just plain fun!

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See? Popcorn!!

I found the predominant flavour to be clove and ginger, and I missed the richer flavour of molasses, but in terms of a hot and spicy seasonal cuppa’,  this was certainly a taste of Christmas!

Happy Monday!

For more information on history of gingerbread or for recipes visit PBS’  Tori Avey.

Still, Still, Still

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“The proper, wise balancing of one’s whole life may depend upon the feasibility of a cup of tea at an unusual hour.” – Arnold Bennett, How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

On November 26, 2005, around 2 a.m., my Mom and I sat down to share a pot of tea. She had just braved the 2 ½ hour drive on icy roads because her little girl needed her. It was the second late-night trip that month, but this time…Little Guy was on his way for sure!

Night enveloped us like a warm blanket as the sleet pinged off the windows. Big Guy and Hubby were asleep, as we curled up on the couch together in the stillness of the night.

Still, still, still
One can hear the falling snow
For all is hushed
The world is sleeping – G. Götsch, Still Still Still

Eventually, the pot was empty and our silences grew longer. Mom crawled into bed in the spare room, while I prowled quietly around the house.  She got up again to see us off at 5 with reassuring hugs, and was there to greet Big Guy in the morning, who had no idea she had arrived and we had left.

This wasn’t her first pot of early morning tea while anxiously awaiting the birth of a grandchild. She was with me with Big Guy was born, and had slipped out to share a pot of tea with one of the night nurses while I rested.

My Mom is awesome, and I love her very much. I will always treasure that precious hour we shared together in the still of the night.

Mom

It’s never too early or too late for a cup of tea. Now is always the perfect time.
– jennsmidlifecrisis

 

WPC: Transformation (Empty Nest)

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Transformation can be good. Transformation means maturity, knowledge, beginnings. Transformation can also mean endings. And it’s important to acknowledge both. So here I am – half-way to an empty nest. Big Guy moved out nearly 6 years ago. This weekend, Little Guy turns 12! I wouldn’t change the journey.  Awhile back I reflected on who I am now, and who I’m becoming, and (shockingly) I’m becoming more comfortable in my own skin. My “nest” is becoming empty, but my heart…my heart is full.

Empty Nest on Sill

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Happy Weekend!

To see more Transformations, click here.

WPC: Experimental

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Most people say that it is intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong; it is character. – Albert Einstein

Or is it a really cool Mad Scientist light?

Light Globe 1

For mad scientists who keep brains in jars, here’s a tip: Why not add a slice of lemon to each jar, for freshness. – Jack Handey

To see more Experimental photos, click here.

Lemon Ginger Tea

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Last week I baked a dozen brownies, 2 dozen coconut lime muffins, and an endless pile of Christmas-shaped cookies, with icing and sprinkles, for the volunteers collecting boxes for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child program. I sampled one of each!

Cookies

It’s no surprise that Saturday morning, I felt tired and achy.  A few hours and laundry loads later, I felt even worse. In fact, I felt so crummy I didn’t want my usual cup of tea!

Shock and horror! I must be getting sick!

I rooted in the cupboard for lemon tea. The first sachet I seized upon, in it’s buttered popcorn wrapper, was Stash Lemon Ginger tea.  It wasn’t until I started researching this post that I found out, this was a smart move. In addition to the benefits of Vitamin C on your immune system, lemon ginger tea is good for nausea, headaches and the common cold. Ginger is high in zinc which play a key role in producing and secreting insulin. Combined with anti-oxidants found in lemon ginger tea, this is a good hot beverage for diabetics. It can help with weight loss by balancing sugar levels and cravings for carbs, as well as boosting your metabolism to burn more calories. It’s great for your skin and hair! And, well you can read more at Stylecraze.com.

The colour is a light honey brown and the aroma is slightly perfume-y with a hint of lemon. As for taste, I think Stash’s review of its product is bang on – “an interesting blend of ginger root, lemongrass, lemon flavor, safflower, hibiscus and citric acid…. It combines the puckery taste of lemon with the sharp, lingering bite of ginger, making it a great sipping drink”.

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Oh – and one more benefit! It also reduces heartburn and indigestion when you’ve eaten too many Christmas cookies. Which I did not. This time.

Happy Monday!

Humiliation

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Avoiding humiliation is the core of tragedy and comedy. John Guare

There’s no way around it! Shopping for undergarments is always a humiliating experience. From trying to judge the correct size inconspicuously on the sales floor, to stripping down in those tiny cubicles, to trying to squeeze into said item…and sometimes getting stuck. There’s nothing inspiring about your reflection under the harsh lighting. You look more like a ripe Anju pear with one arm, squatting awkwardly with one the arm flailing aimlessly over your head, your body trapped in a mini dress with a size tag double what you tried on the last time!

 Humiliation!

 So whatever possessed me to try on a “slimming garment”? Was it the sleek lines it promised? The price on the tag? Or the brand name? I think it was mostly the brand name: Marilyn Monroe. And it whispered to me. Marilyn was sexy with real lady curves, and men still have dreams about bringing her home to meet Mom. I instantly flashforwarded to a slimmer, trimmer me in a little black dress, batting my lashes over a cocktail, with a row of men adoring drooling on my feet.

Which is weird.

 When and where would I ever have the occasion to wear a little black dress, much less drink a cocktail!?! As for men, I have one, and quite honestly, one is enough!

 But…I do have a little black dress, and should I ever have the occasion to wear it, like a high school reunion (that I wouldn’t attend anyway), I should be prepared.

 I carefully read the label. Twice. I didn’t want to humiliate myself after all!

 According to the label, based on my bust size and hip size, I should be a size small. Hmmm….Though my rib cage is only 30”, not 36” as listed, I knew I’d take it up…elsewhere! Right? Typically bras under  32” only come in A cups and I’m way, way past the beginning of the alphabet. As for waist size, it was a few inches over where I am so I surmised this was a reasonable estimate.  Can you see where this is going?

 I handed the garment over to the perky 12 year old at the change room counter and blushing, followed her to the back. The curtain scraped, “sheesh”, as I closed it. Even the walls were skeptical, and don’t get me started on the lighting. I stripped down…winter coat, winter boots, sweater, pants.  And I paused, staring at my reflection, with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. There seemed to be more of me staring back than this morning. I’m certain of it.

 Bracing myself, I inhaled the aromas from Cinnabon (conveniently located right outside the store), mixed with stale sweat from past patrons’ efforts to release their overheating bodies from designer brand names (that made unbelievable promises).  And I took the plunge.

 I slipped my feet into the head hole and slid that black stretchy hot number all the way up…to my knees, where is clung to me like a snotty 2 year old! I pulled, I wiggled, I heaved. I pleaded silently. I started sweating profusely and turning red in splotches. But it held on like a vise. It took several efforts to peel it off and I stood there, holding it up in front of me, and I thought:

 “I would like to see the girl who thinks she needs this, who can actually wear it…and I need to feed her”!

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Of course this isn’t me! There’s a reason this post is called “humiliation”! 🙂

Happy Weekend!

‘Struggle’ is just another word for growth. – Elle Sommer