Saturday, September 20, 2014

It's the Weekend - Any Travel Plans?

My friend Lana, who blogs over at Two Teens and Their Mama, is one of the hosts for the Lifestyle Sistas weekly link-up series. This week, the topic is “5 Places I Want to See Before I Die.” 

Lana published a fun and informative post yesterday about some exciting spots she would like to visit. Click here to read her post and others on this topic, and learn more about the link-up.

Five Places on My Bucket List

So - Which five places would I want to go? Hmmmm.  

I have traveled a lot of the globe, but there are so many places I would still like to see - or return to for another visit.  My list can grow quite long, but here is what first came to my mind, as I thought about this today.

1. Argentina
I remember studying Argentina in ninth grade and thinking it was a place I would really enjoy.  I have not yet been there - but I still hope to.  It seems like it might have a lot of similarities to Montana - perhaps that is why I think I would like it so much!

Oh - how I would love to see all the animal species that live on these volcanic islands!  

3. Australia.  
Kangaroos and koala bears. Just seeing them in their native habitat would be worth the trip!  I would want to hop over to New Zealand, as well.  (I just cheated and added an extra place to my list of five, but I think it sounds so beautiful, I just had to include New Zealand as well!)  

4. Nepal and Tibet.  
I have no interest in climbing to the summit of Everest, but I would enjoy the scenery, meeting the people, and learning more about the culture of this region.

5. The Seychelles.  
These beautiful islands in the Indian Ocean are my idea of paradise.  Beautiful beaches, warm waters to swim in, giant tortoises and inland jungle.  I have never been to this chain of islands, but I am pretty sure it is a place where I could really relax!  But Lana mentioned Bora Bora - I could just as easily be happy there! 

There are beautiful beaches all over the world. This is one I visited in Jamaica. 

How about you? What 5 places are on your bucket list? 
If you are a blogger, write a post about your choices, and link it up at Lana's blog today

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Out Living Life

I had a post planned for today, but it did not get written. Instead, I had an impromptu date with my husband last night! 

We drove 130 miles yesterday afternoon to watch my son's high school soccer game. Before heading home after the match, my husband and I decided to go out for dinner.  The soccer teams traveled by bus, so my son actually got home before we did. 

An action setting on a camera is a wonderful feature when photographing sporting events!
I have read that bloggers sometimes need to step away from blogging, and live life, so they have something to blog about! I agree. 

Yesterday was a good day of “living life.”  I spent a warm and sunny afternoon watching an exciting soccer game. (Our team won, so my son and his friends were happy.) My husband and I spent some quality time together, and we enjoyed a delicious meal. In fact, the food was so good that perhaps I will even write about the restaurant in a future blog post!

My husband and I, after a wonderful meal of international flavors!
The post I had planned to write for today will just have to wait - until this afternoon, or even next week. 

If ever you visit this blog, and I haven't published new content as consistently as I usually do - rest assured that I haven't stopped writing. I am just out living life - and coming up with more topics to write about.

Montana is a big state! How far do you usually travel to attend your kid's sporting events?

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Apple Crisp Jars: A Perfect Fall Gift!

Apple Crisp - easier to make than a pie, and so cute served in these little jars
Yesterday I told you about how I am not always good at living in the moment.  Helping my daughter get ready to return to college was no exception.

In addition to helping my daughter pack, I had some rather ambitious ideas of things I wanted to bake during her last week at home. My daughter had mentioned a couple of desserts she would enjoy; Hershey Pie and Apple Crisp. Additionally, I wanted to make some cookies for my son's lunches - and I thought it would be nice to bake something for my daughter's new roommates. At first this all seemed feasible, but as the departure date approached, I became busy with other tasks. Also, I wanted to focus on enjoying the limited time left with my daughter, while she was still home.

If you have been reading my blog this week, you will know that I did manage to make a Chocolate Marshmallow Pie, and shared the recipe last Thursday.  I baked a big batch of Chocolate Chip Pan cookies - some of which I set aside for my son, and the rest I wrapped up for my daughter to take with her. But, it felt like I would be really rushed if I took the time to make an apple crisp.

Suddenly - I thought of an easy option, which would enable me to complete my goals without becoming too stressed.  I could make cute little jars of apple crisp as gifts, for my daughter and her roommates!

About a week before, I had come across a recipe for Mason Jar Apple Crisp on the blog New House New Home New Life. The recipe suggested that individual servings of apple crisp could be assembled, baked, and served in small, wide-mouthed mason jars.  I did not have wide-mouthed jars, but I decided my 8-oz jelly jars would work. 

Last fall, neighbors had kindly given me a bunch of apples from their trees. Using them, I had prepared a number of containers of cooked, sweetened apple filling; which I froze to be later used for pies or crisps.  There were still two of these containers left in my freezer - just enough to fill four-to-six small mason jars! Perfect!
We received this huge batch of apples from my generous neighbor just this week.  I will let you know what I do with them this year!
I quickly made up the topping for my apple crisps, as suggested in the recipe. (I only made half the amount, as I planned to fill only half as many jars as suggested in the recipe.) I put this crumbly mixture into a sealed plastic bag, and then I decorated my jars.

Using the metal insert piece from a jar lid as a template, I cut circles of construction paper.  In my best handwriting, I wrote the first initial from each girl’s name on each one, and then fit the paper circles between the metal insert and the screw ring for the lid.  Then I cut lengths of ribbon, long enough to tie around each jar.

Just before we left home, I popped the containers of frozen apple filling and the bag of topping for the crisps into a cooler.  When we unpacked our car at my daughters college ten hours later, the topping was still cool, and the apple filling was only partially unthawed.

Once the filling had thawed, in my daughter's new kitchen I spooned equal amounts of it into the jars, leaving enough room to place a generous amount of the butter-crumb mixture on top. It was important to keep the contents below the level of the jar, so the lid still fit after it was baked.

After tasting these, I bet the girls won't mind that I was the first person to use the oven in their new kitchen!
Once filled, I put the jars (uncovered) in a baking dish, and covered the bottom of this dish with water. (I'm not sure this step was necessary, but I was a little nervous about the safety of putting the glass jars in a hot oven, and this seemed to work!)  I baked them according to the directions, 350 degrees F. for about 30 - 40 minutes, until bubbly and the topping was lightly browned.  I allowed the jars to cool, covered them with their lids, tied them with ribbons - and placed them in the fridge. (Like most crisps, these would taste best warm, but could easily be heated in the oven or microwave.)

To make these cute little apple crisps, either use your own recipes for filling and topping - or use the ones in the Mason Jar Apple Crisp link provided above.  I had more filling and topping than would fit in four jars, so I baked the remainder in a small pie pan.  I sampled this, and it was delicious!

The only thing I would do differently would be to use wide-mouthed short mason jars, instead of the narrow jelly jars that I had, as the crisp topping would be spread out over more surface area.

These apple crisp jars are a cute gift, even if the ribbons were rather hastily tied!
Such a quick and easy project! Now all that had to be done, was for my daughter to wait for her roommates to arrive, and to buy some vanilla ice cream!

Have you ever baked a dessert in a mason jar? 

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Stop and Smell the Roses (or the Chrysanthemums!)

Roses (in June) and “False Sunflowers” (currently still blooming in my garden)
About a month ago I read a post that made a lot of sense. I would like to share it with you today.

This post, by Wilma Jones, has the catchy title, Live in the Dang Moment, Please and you can read it on the blog, Happily Ever After.  The author encourages women to “stop and smell the roses” - or in her words, “take a moment to just live in the moment with yourself.” She says women are too often caught up in day-to-day tasks and planning for the future - - instead of enjoying the beauty around us, and each moment for what it is.

I am unfortunately frequently guilty of not living in the moment.  Just ask my husband.  He often scolds me for seeing every event as a “photo or video opportunity” - and he reminds me to put down the camera and just “enjoy the moment.” (However - he is always happy when we have the photos/videos to look at later!)

When we entertain guests, I often find myself so caught-up in the preparations and implementation of a party, that I forget to relax and participate fully in the event. While I derive a large degree of satisfaction from feeding my guests well and making sure they are comfortable - I need to remind myself that the main purpose of the event is for us to enjoy visiting with our company.

I am a list maker.  Sometimes I set pretty lofty goals, and then feel committed to carrying them out - even when I am the only person expecting me to do so.  This happens a lot when we are preparing to go on a vacation.  I usually have a long list of things that I want to accomplish before I leave. Trying to finish it all often leaves me stressed and exhausted, and that is not a good way to start a vacation!  It would be better if I would “live in the dang moment” and just do what is necessary, instead of tackling projects that are not necessary or can wait until we get back.

One of the advantages to living in Montana, is that my surroundings frequently remind me to enjoy life as it presents itself. When I look out my window I might see a bull elk on the hill behind my house, or sunshine making the snow on the mountains sparkle, or a red-tailed hawk circling overhead. I cannot help but pay attention to these gifts of nature when I see them, and remember to “live in the moment.”

Of course there are times when we must be task-oriented and put our own needs and comforts aside.  But perhaps we should all identify some triggers to remind us to slow down. Some things we can recognize as a reminder to enjoy life as it presents itself, not as it will be in the future.  All of the things I just described help me to do so.

Take time to “smell the roses” - or chrysanthemums - or poinsettias - or whatever flower is in season. Life is too short to miss out on the joy of it, while we are attempting to live it.

In other words, remember to make the most - of every moment!
I have good memories of “taking time to smell the flowers” and enjoy my family, when we visited this pumpkin patch.

What are some things that remind you to “stop and smell the roses?”

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Six Months of Blogging

Yesterday was the six-month anniversary of this blog

I feel like I should have a party! Thanks to everyone who reads, comments on, and follows this blog!

To celebrate this mini-milestone, today I am sharing the very first article I ever had published - well before I ever thought of writing a blog. 


Why Write? 

How I Decided to Pursue My Passion for Writing
I am a nurse, wife, and mother, who - until a decade ago - never gave being an author even a thought. I was content with my days full of work, volunteering, and family. I never even acknowledged that writing was a skill I was proficient at and enjoyed. Recently though, I have spent time wondering if I should commit more effort to writing. But why? 
Why do I want to write? 
I never really have written much. I excelled in my English classes and always did well on written assignments. I enjoy the process of writing, but I am not the type of person who keeps a daily journal, or even writes with any regularity. In fact, I have always found much more pleasure in reading than writing. For years, the most writing I have done has been our family holiday letter. Whenever I do write, however, I always feel fulfilled.

Why now?
A few years ago, I had an idea for a plot and considered writing a novel. That led me to wonder if I have the ability and talent to be a writer. Self doubt and other obligations stood in the way, but my ambitions grew and now I am ready to devote a serious amount of time to the craft of writing.

What are the Reasons People Choose to Write? What are mine? 
I have been a stay-at-home mom for long enough that I have no real desire to go back to my old career. Is writing really an avenue I could pursue? Am I talented enough? Could I try to make money writing, or should I just write as a hobby? What type of writing is it that I want to do? 

People write for many reasons:
  • To communicate an idea.
  • To express their creativity.
  • For the therapeutic benefits it provides.
  • To tell a story.
  • To change something.
  • To create a legacy (thoughts in writing can outlive the writer).
  • For themselves or an audience (so others may read what they write, or in fear that someone will!)
  • To generate income.
  • Because they want to - some even say because they "have to."
Every writer has a unique set of reasons as to why they write. Many writers would simply ask: "Why not?"
 I question myself:
  • Is it the actual writing process that I desire?
  • The glamour of having the reputation of being an author?
  • The appeal of creating income from my home, on my own time, being my own boss?

I deliberate as to whether my motives are justifiable reasons to channel my time and energy into writing? What is the best way to begin?
 Should I become a writer? 

There is only one way to find out. I have begun to write.
(A version of this article was previously published by Yahoo Contributor Network)

One of these days I will probably resume writing that novel I mentioned.  I plan to still be blogging here at least six months from now, however - and hopefully long after that! 

I am looking forward to the most - - of every moment continuing to improve and grow. There will be some changes in the near future, that I am hopeful you will really like.

What are the types of articles that you have enjoyed reading most on this blog?

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!

Monday, September 15, 2014

When Friends and Family Feel Far Away ...

The moon looked even closer when seen through our windshield than it does in this photo.
While still in Montana, but driving towards to the western coast of the United States last week, I was browsing through Facebook. My friend Sandra, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada had posted a gorgeous picture of the night sky. She had taken it the evening before. Her caption was "Oh, Super Duper Harvest Moon, you rock."

Her post made me smile. It was not quite yet dawn, and I had just looked down from the view through our windshield - of a huge, white moon. It seemed suspended low enough in the sky that we might almost be able to reach it, as soon as we crossed an upcoming mountain pass. 

It was, of course, the same moon my friend had photographed from where she lives, so many miles from our car. Suddenly Earth seemed much smaller, and far-away friends and family much less distant.

I wrote on my friend's Facebook wall: "We have had a beautiful view of it in Montana! Great photo! It is gorgeous at dawn this morning as well!" She responded, "I was up at 6, but if it was out it was behind some clouds, or more trees. Glad we could all share the same moon!"

Such a beautiful moon!
We all share the same moon. A comforting thought, knowing that my family was soon to be separated by hundreds of miles once again. Taking my oldest child to her second year of college was easier than the trip twelve months before, but I was still feeling the pangs of separation. Thanks Sandra, for a well-timed post.

If your friends and family feel far away - it may be helpful to remember that we all share the same moon.  Our moon, sun, and stars (though viewed in different locations in the sky) are something that we all can see.

My children and I will always look at the same moon every night, no matter how far they live from me.

Has the moon ever been a source of comfort to you?
This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

My Weekend Project: Buy a New Dog Bed?

Our dog is in her "golden years." Her joints seem sore and she naps a lot more than in the past.  Last week, when we were all downstairs watching a movie, she curled up and fell asleep on a bean bag chair. She barely fit on it - but she must have thought it was more comfortable than her own bed.

A 50 pound dog is pretty big for a bean bag chair!

Even in this awkward position, our dog is pretty cute, don't you agree?

I think maybe it is time for us to buy a new dog bed!  

Whatever your plans, I hope you have a happy - and comfortable - weekend!

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!

Link WIthin

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