Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Monday

Monday mornings aren't usually my favorite. As I stood in the shower this morning the usual refrain began in my head. Ugh, Monday again...I'm so can the weekend already be can I be so tired... That's just my brain on autopilot on a typical Monday morning. And then something clicked, shifted, pivoted, changed. For some reason I stopped the usual refrain mid-whine and actually checked in with myself. How does my body feel right now, in this moment? What's actually going on in my thoughts. And it turns out my usual refrain was dead wrong. I actually felt pretty darn refreshed. Energized. Clear-headed and focused. Well-rested. Content. Ready to start my week. It kind of caught me off guard.

This last week was a wonderful week, and it was capped off by a wonderful weekend. I wish I'd taken more pictures, but I didn't. So here's a quick summary in list form instead.

Planted: Three nandinas, two camellias, one azalea, several new clumps of monkey grass, one maybe-gardenia (? we're still not sure).

Waiting to plant: Lots of seed packets for our herb garden (cilantro, mint, parsley, thyme, etc...), several clumps of daisies and black-eyed susans, and four gorgeous peonies (two pink, two white).

Friday night: Friends over for dinner, chicken and white bean enchiladas with green chile sauce, spanish rice, fresh guacamole, great conversation.

Saturday: Brunch at the Green Onion in Norfolk (French-pressed coffee, eggs benedict, biscuits and gravy), followed by Wicked (the tickets were my birthday present from Keith), followed  by an amazing dinner at Byrd and Baldwin downtown (rib-eye steak, crispy salmon on creamy risotto, lobster mac and blue cheese, chocolate sin cake with vanilla gelato), followed by a trip to Trader Joe's, followed by a group of friend hanging out on an awesome porch enjoying a lovely evening.

Sunday: Some friends had a bunch of us over for brats and burgers in the backyard, followed by badminton (alliteration purely coincidental), spent the rest of the day resting and preparing for the week, ate cherry pie a la mode for dinner.

And today, I finally did something I was absolutely longing to do all last week. I carted my laptop outside and have set up shop to work from the patio table all day. My hair was already wrecked from walking Keith to school in the morning mist and there may not be many days that I can really do this, so I figure I should take advantage while the opportunity is at hand. It feels good.

Wishing you all a happy Monday and a gorgeous week. Do something you really want to do today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Spring has sprung. Everywhere I look. all around me, all around town, leaves are budding and stretching, flowers are blooming, grass is greening, things are changing. New life, fresh life is everywhere. Every day is a discovery, especially in our own yard.

It's been fascinating the last couple weeks to discover what's actually growing in our yard. That's one of the things about moving. This was someone else's house, someone else's garden, before it was ours, and we're not always sure what's been planted here. North Carolina is home to some familiar plants and trees and shrubs (nandinas, crepe myrtles, magnolias, gardenias), and a host of new things I've never experienced before (azaleas, camellias, dogwoods).

A few weeks ago we discovered the bare stems of a few daffodils just beginning to emerge from the ground. They're now in full bloom. We learned that some of the bushes along our property line are azaleas. We discovered even more azaleas under a tangle of vine. We have what appears to be a gardenia by the back door. What appears to be hydrangea around the side. Several more things that we can't identify yet. We're just waiting for them to introduce themselves properly.

It it Keith's spring break this week and he's spent most of it weeding and trimming and digging and planting. He's such an amazing man! As we get more acquainted with our little piece of earth, we're also beginning to make it just a little more our own. It is really beautiful and I'm amazed once again at all the good things that can grow from the earth.

Monday, March 12, 2012

There's Always a Bright Side

I know everyone's on about Daylight Saving Time today. I know Spring Forward isn't the most popular day of the year. I know you're all pinning things and blogging things and tweeting things, hilarious things, about the giant cups of coffee required to make it through your day and the need for more winter hibernation and how stupid and painful everything is today.



It's nearly seven o' clock in the evening. I've been off work for nearly an hour. And I've been able to enjoy some actual sun on my face. I've taken a walk and puttered in the yard and enjoyed the remnants of an absolutely delicious day. A day that's been spent mostly inside, because that's life when you have a full day's work to complete. For the last four months, I've ended my workday in the dark. And tonight the sun is still shining. I love it. I've never been so excited about Springing Forward. And I never expected to be. 

I sympathize, I really do. No one's ever accused me of jumping out of bed too early (except my brother every Christmas morning). I'll grant it can bring a little havoc to our otherwise well-grooved routines. So I don't blame you for hating. I've just been reminded that there's always a bright side. And sometimes it is truly gloruious. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Buffalo Stampede

Sometime in the past year I've become kind of a fanatic about buffalo chicken recipes. Which is weird, because I've never really liked buffalo wings. They're too messy to eat and they involve too many bones. I never really saw the point of them. But I do love me some Frank's hot sauce. And I love the cool, tarty tang of blue cheese crumbles.

It started with this twist on a classic. Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Blue Cheese. Oh so delicious. Comfort food with a kick, gussied up, made exciting.

Then I moved on to Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. Which, again, is a classic comfort food from a new angle.

And then it was Skinny Buffalo Chicken Dip. Perhaps my favorite of all. Equally delicious with chips or sliced veggies. Red bell pepper is a particularly fitting complement to the creamy, sharp flavors. Are we seeing a pattern here? Apparently I can no longer resist any recipe that's a take on buffalo chicken.

Case in point, our dinner last night: Buffalo Chicken Soup. When I discovered the recipe I wondered if I might be taking things a little too far. Could it possibly be delicious? Or just one of those novelty things, more interesting than tasty? One way or the other, I just had to find out. And oh my goodness, can I just say you should get to the grocery store right now and get all the ingredients so you can make yourself a big old pot of this soup without wasting any more time. Seriously, it's that good.

This soup is creamy and rich and oh, so flavorful. It tastes like a more complex version of the chicken noodle soup you crave when you're sick with just the right kick and zing and I love it! I lightened it up a tiny bit by subbing reduced fat for regular cheese and using a little less cheese than was called for. I also cut the Frank's to 1/2 cup instead of 2/3 and it still had plenty of kick. When I make it again (I will definitely make it again) I'll probably double the yellow onion and carrot and add a couple ribs of celery too, because I would have enjoyed more veggies in it. Do with that what you will, the soup is so good I don't really think you can go wrong.

Click any of the recipe names above for links back to the originals. Enjoy!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lenten Lessons

I'm enjoying this Lenten season almost as much as I expected to. I find that I'm learning good lessons from this time. I'm learning the joy of limiting excess. I'm learning the peace of consecrated moments. I'm also learning to choose a handful of things I love- things that make every one of my days more livable, purposeful, magical -and make them an unexceptionable priority. 

I'm cooking somewhat elaborate meals every night with my favorite sous chef. I'm taking smaller bites of only the most delicious foods. I'm chewing slowly to really savor every nuance of texture and flavor. I'm leaving room for big smiles between almost every single bite.

I'm taking walks almost every day. Long walks. And short ones. I'm paying closer attention to the landscapes I pass. I'm using the time for phone dates with friends and family.

I'm setting aside extra time in the mornings for essential non-essentials. Lingering over a third cup of coffee. Reading really good books. Writing in a big, beautiful journal with a favorite pen.

I'm drinking mug after mug of hot tea on chilly afternoons. I'm cranking up the space heater under my desk. I'm working in cute, comfy clothes and warm, soft slippers.

I'm enjoying myself and feeling more peaceful about my days. I'm breathing deeper and feeling stronger. I'm trusting. And I'm content.

It's pretty nice. And I'm deeply grateful.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Simple Pleasures

This has been making me extremely happy this week. There's just something about a pretty little china cup, white and pristine, sitting in a dainty little china saucer. Filled to the brim with steaming goodness, sweetened with just a drop of honey. On a sunny afternoon.

I've been craving tea more ever since the last visit to Texas. Many thanks to Grant and Jenn for sharing several cups while allowing me to stay with you! It was amazing. And it appears you're rubbing off on me.