Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Keeping it Real

My younger daughter features posts on goals and gratitude regularly on her blog, The Good Things Comin. I think they are some of my favorite posts that she writes. 

The Good Things Comin
I know many people make resolutions for the upcoming year at New Year's. 

I don't. 

I have, in the past. When I was much younger. 

They never worked out. 

There are no magical properties to New Year's Eve that is going to make you stick to a goal, just because you announce it at midnight. 

That's silly. 

However, there are things I'd like to do in 2016 to improve my life. Many of them are things I had hoped to improve in my life in 2015, but ironically life got in the way. 

I feel like I have only so much space in my head. If I have a lot of craziness going on in my life I can only focus on the craziness and nothing additional. Unfortunately sometimes that means letting some things slip into the cracks while I focus on whatever is most pressing at the moment. 

In the start of 2015 that was very much packing, hoping, dreaming, planning. And more packing. 

Did I mention packing?

In Spring and Summer my focus was moving, unpacking, settling, and nesting. 

And gardening. Always gardening. 

Priorities, you know. 

In fall I was still gardening and nesting and dreaming of the holidays in my new home. And I finally finished unpacking and settling in and felt like I had a minute to breathe and actually enjoy my new home. 

And now we are at the close of the year and I'm thinking forward to 2016 and starting a new year in my new home. 

With no packing or unpacking to do.

May I just say.....YAYYYYYYYYYY!!!

Now I can focus on me again for a little while and get back on track. 

It's been wonderful settling into my new home and one of the big ways I 'nest' is by cooking. I love to cook, and I love food. 

Deconstructed Lasagna
But sometimes I have to back it down a notch when I start gaining a few pounds. 

I'm at that point now so in the new year I need to get back on track. A few more greens, more salads. 

A little less cheese. A smidgen less chocolate. 

I'm a big fan of Weight Watchers and whenever I need to lose a few pounds I always go back to my WW. They have a new program now that Oprah's involved that focuses more on being healthy and making the right choices in your life rather than on a number on the scale. 

Weight Watchers - Beyond the Scale
That's really what I want. A healthier me. 

I know the old adage is true - whatever you put into your body is what you get out of your body. In summertime it's very easy - I shop at the local farmer's market and in the veggie garden. That's where all meal planning begins - what's in season? What's ripe and ready? What needs to be used now?


In winter it's tougher - as the holidays approach it's easy to 'fall off the wagon' and enjoy more treats and comfort foods. 

I believe in "everything in moderation" and the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the time I make healthy choices and 20% of the time I allow myself a splurge. 

I just need to get back to that point. I'm comfortable at that point. 

What goes hand in hand with that "better me" goal? Incorporating more movement into my days. I'm great on the weekends, I'm constantly on the go. I easily get my 10,000 steps. But during the week I'm sitting at my desk and plugging away at work and there are days I don't get up from my desk for hours. 

I used to have a wonderful, dear friend who worked with me, in the office upstairs. We spent a lot of time together in the short time she worked here and lived in the area. One of the ways we incorporated more exercise into our day was to set an alarm on the phone and every hour meet up to "walk the building." We would go up a flight of stairs at the west end of the building, walk to the east end of the building, up another flight of stairs, to the other end, etc....The building is only 4 stories high but quite long so it wasn't overwhelming, just took a few minutes each hour, and we felt better. And I easily got my steps in every day. 

I need to bring it back. Too bad I'll be doing it alone. 

I miss my dear friend. And not just for our walks. 

Another area in my life that needs help is being more organized with paperwork. I have always, ALWAYS been a disaster with paperwork. I absolutely hate it. I deal with it all day at work and the very last thing I want to do when I come home is deal with paperwork at home. 

It's not the bill paying that's a problem - I do that online, automatically. Easy peasy. 

I like easy peasy. 

It's the sorting and then filing. I hate it. Despise it. Detest it. 

Currently I have a ginormous stack of papers that need to be sorted and filed. 

And a tiny itty bitty office area that does not inspire me in one way to spend any time sitting there sorting papers. 


Yeah, see? What exactly about this space would EVER make you want to spend any time there? 

And this is an improvement over the way it was when I bought the house. It just isn't finished yet. 

So improving the office is on the list. Making it somewhere I wouldn't mind sitting for an hour here and there to stay on top of the filing. 

Once the office is done? I'll get to work filing the mountain of papers. 

I'm getting nauseous just thinking about it. 

Those are the things that are on the top of my goals for 2016. Not too much to handle, and my life will feel 'smoother' when I get them under control. 

There are, of course, a million other items I could list that need to be improved in my home, office, life....but let's not get crazy here. 

One thing at a time. 

Let's keep it easy peasy. 
















Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Snow, at Last...and a Nightmare

Well, it's a little too late for a White Christmas but we finally got a couple of inches of snow last night - just enough to make it finally feel like Winter around here!


It's not the nice white fluffy stuff but rather a wet, heavy snow with an icy crust on top. 



The kind that's just killer to shovel. 


And not so much fun to drive in. 

Remind me again why I was so anxious for snow?

Oh yeah, because it's WINTER and I live in the mountains in upstate NY! By choice, I might add - I like my four seasons!


I woke early this morning to the awful sound of my alarm - beep beep beep beep beep - isn't that just the worst noise? I was grateful for the wake-up, however, as I was in the throes of a terrible nightmare. 

In my dream I was back in NYC in a skyscraper, up on the 46th floor, and we were in the midst of a tornado. The building was swaying in the storm and for some reason we thought we'd be safe up there, in this strong brick building that had stood for a hundred years.  

We were watching the storm rage outside the windows and while it was terrifying, we were all together and safe indoors. 

Suddenly the bricks started popping off the walls and I could see the wall imploding. I screamed and threw myself to the floor, over my little dog, Daisy, in an attempt to protect her from the bricks. And the wall collapsed inward, showering us in debris, right before the building started to collapse. 

I was scrambling around frantically, trying to locate all the members of my family and gather everyone to safety....and then I woke up. 

It was a terrifying dream and it has stayed with me all day. 

I know that awful dream came about for two reasons - the first being that we were watching news footage last night before dinner of the terrible tornadoes and severe weather in Texas and the Midwest. 

My heart goes out to all those families - I can't imagine the terror they felt as the tornadoes approached their neighborhood and they tried their best to outrun the storm. 

The other reason I believe had to do with the strong winds that were whipping the trees around outside my bedroom this morning. Nothing like the tornadoes in Texas but pretty intense none the less. There was sleet hitting the windows as well, making for quite the little winter storm raging away outside. 

The wind was blowing some of the lighter snow around so at times it looked like a blizzard out the kitchen window. The thermometer was reading about 20 degrees. 


First thing I do in the mornings is start up the Keurig and brew a cup of coffee. Then I go out to the garage and get the feeders out for the little birds. 

This morning that involved a long down coat I put on over my fuzzy bathrobe and my winter snow shoes with the heavy duty treads. My sweetie bought those shoes for me a couple of years back so I wouldn't fall while feeding the birds - he calls them "snow tires for my feet." What a honey he is, always looking out for me. He's right, they helped tremendously. 

I must say, I looked a bit like a homeless ragamuffin in that hodge-podge of an ensemble this morning, though! Glad my sweetie wasn't around to see that!

I wonder if it's safe to leave the feeders out now? Can I risk it? Do we think Mr Bear may be sleeping for the winter now? I'm a little worried since winter has only been around for a day or two now....he may be still up and about, looking for poor innocent bird feeders to rip to shreds. 

Meanwhile, I had my coffee in my leather chair next to the toasty warm fire this morning and I said a little prayer for all those folks who weren't so lucky. 


Look around you and count your blessings today. 

I will be doing the same. 

And counting you among my blessings, sweet readers. 

Stay safe and warm, wherever you are. 







Monday, December 28, 2015

Happy 100th Post To Me!

I remember back last winter when I was waiting to close on my new house - it was a long, long 5 months that seemed to go on forever. 

And ever. 


Via
In those long, cold months I dreamed and planned and did little projects and shopped the sales. 

I browsed around online trying to get ideas for how I was going to decorate my new home. 

I was so excited. 

Couldn't wait. 

My own home, not a rental. No more landlords. 



I could paint my new home any color I wanted. 

I could knock down walls, take off cabinet doors, re-do floors, replace windows. 

I could invest in good furniture that would last and last....because I was not moving again. 

Ever. 



I could plant roses and clematis and blueberry bushes and spring bulbs and lilies. 

I would watch my garden grow year after year. 

My daughters will take wedding photos in the garden. 

My future grandchildren will play in the garden and learn to love the flowers and plants like I do. 

During this long, long winter while I was browsing around online do you know what I discovered?

A bunch of home blogs out there with writers that had similar tastes, dreams, and ideas....as ME. 

It was like discovering a whole bunch of new friends that I never knew I had!

The idea started growing that perhaps I could write my own blog and become a true part of this amazing community. 

Perhaps?

Or was it crazy?


Via
The long, long winter finally ended and I moved into my new house in April and I was busy as a bee unpacking and gardening and cleaning and nesting. 

And I didn't have time to write anything. 

But the idea stayed with me. 

Then August came and I finally had a minute to breathe. And I mentioned my idea to my daughters and do you know what they did?

No, they didn't throw their heads back and laugh hysterically. 

They completely and totally encouraged me and supported me. 


They gave me the courage to write that very first post. 


I didn't share it with anyone but my two girls. 

And the world, of course. But I wasn't really thinking anyone but my daughters would ever read it. 

My daughters loved it. So I wrote another post. 

And another one. 

At some point some other wonderful folks started reading my little blog. 

And for some strange reason they also liked it. 

Brenda from Cozy Little House visited my little blog and reached out with some incredible help and guidance and support and encouragement

And I kept snapping pictures and writing posts and now we're up to #100!

I can hardly believe it....100 posts written already and I still have so much I want to share with you! So much I want to cook and plant and create and write about!

I want to thank you all for believing in me. And for your amazingly sweet comments that keep me writing. Your comments keep me motivated to keep on sharing my little mountain top life with the world. 

And I can't wait for the future. 

So I can share it with you. 

Cheers to the next 100!


~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sharing at
Our Home Away From Home














Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Garden at Christmas


I never thought I'd be writing a post about my garden at Christmas but who would have ever anticipated this bizarre weather we've had? 


It's 60 degrees with a misty rain right now, and the clouds are sitting on the mountain peaks all around giving everything a very ethereal look. 

I'm glad to have the day off to putter around my little house taking care of some chores before heading back to work tomorrow. 

It was a lovely holiday!

And tomorrow is back to reality. And winter shall truly arrive. 

Our little reprieve is over. 

This warmer weather meant I could spend a little time in my garden this weekend, which was terrific - what a bonus! I have to say, even though we just got finished with Christmas and yet to have our first real snowfall I've already got spring fever. 

That's not good. There's a long winter ahead of us. 

Looking at the garden from a distance there's not much to see. But when you are a true gardener you notice the smallest little buds - everything is more significant. 


Like the new growth on the roses by the veggie garden - I feel terrible that these tender baby shoots are going to be frozen in another 24 hours. 


The Parsley is still going strong - I should probably harvest this today.  Last chance for fresh herbs right out of the garden this season, I believe!


Another week of this weather and I would have been able to harvest fresh Chives as well. 


I'm still concerned about what is going to happen with my Garlic. The shoots are so big now, this green growth is surely going to be killed within a few days....what will happen to the bulbs below?


The Strawberry plants continue to send out new growth. Since I have them in pots I will stash them away for the winter in the garden cottage and hope for the best. 


The Violas continue to amaze me - they have bloomed continuously since April - 8 months of straight bloom. That's unheard of up here on the mountain top!


I'm not complaining, that's for sure. It's been nice to have something bright and colorful to look at since we have no snow sparkling on the branches. 


Even the Dandelions are blooming in the grass - and I have to say they look pretty cheerful, like a little spot of sunshine in the December garden!


I doubt we'll see any more flowers for the season - the snow is due to start tomorrow, along with a half inch of ice. 

I'm glad I had this last weekend to play in the dirt. 

It smelled like Spring. 







Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Calm After.....

A Belated Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my lovely readers out there!!  


I have been missing in action for a couple of days....hard to avoid when I've been up to my eyeballs with last minute Christmas preparations. 

And it was all worth it. 

A good time was had by all.....


....except these poor little colorful stuffed critters that met their demise within minutes!


Christmas is a busy, busy time in my little mountaintop home as it is for many - cooking a big feast for my whole extended family always keeps me hopping on the big day. 

Potatoes were peeled out on the garden swing on this 60 degree Christmas. No complaints there!

Prime Rib was smothered in minced garlic from the garden and roasted to perfection. 

Tummies were happy, cocktails were flowing, and there was laughter throughout my new home. 

Just as it should be on such a glorious day. 



When all is said and done I find such peace at the end of the evening when the kitchen is tidied, the dishwasher running, and the house is calm and somewhat clean again. 


And I can take a seat at the end of a long day and just spend time with my sister, catching up on what's going on in her life. That's what the holidays are truly about, after all. 


After a much needed sleep I awoke to a beautiful sky and much colder temps than yesterday. The forecast finally calls for some snow on Monday evening....we'll see what happens but I'm hoping!

The local ski resorts are really suffering this season and need some cold temps in order to blow snow - although some natural snow at this point would be even better. 

We didn't have our White Christmas but perhaps a White New Year's is coming our way?

Fingers crossed. 

Meanwhile, I'm heading to the garden to do a few more chores in preparation for the coming winter. 

After all, it has to come sometime. 















Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Cocktails

Our weather forecast here in the mountains of Upstate NY says we will reach a high of 67 degrees tomorrow....on Christmas Eve. 

Are you kidding me?

Where's my white Christmas?

I think in light of the weather our Christmas Eve Cocktails will be by the outside firepit on the deck. 

Because, hello? SIXTY SEVEN DEGREES!

On Christmas Eve. 

I just can't. 

So, instead of a hot beverage on Christmas Eve, we're going to switch things up this year. 


A nice frosty Tuscan Pear Cocktail with ginger sounds heavenly!


As does this Pomegranate Vodka Gimlet  with fresh lime. 


Sweet Paul created this White Russian with Toasted Marshmallow Garnish which sounds like such a treat - dessert in a glass, anyone?


Sweet Paul keeps the party going with this Norwegian Forest Cocktail  - mmmmm those berries, rosemary, and lime sound refreshing on a HOT winter's day! Ahem. 


If you have some more berries leftover how about some Jingle Jangle Punch? 


 Or mix yourself up a Merry Maple Margarita for a twist on a summer classic. 


This Caramel Apple Sangria would be fabulous for a crowd...if you feel like sharing. 


And for a non-alcoholic crowd pleaser how about this Cranberry Cider Punch from How Sweet Eats. 


For 20 more holiday cocktail ideas why don't you head over to Swanky Recipes - there are some terrific ideas on that site I might just have to work my way through over the holiday period!

Sounds like a plan. 

It's tough work but somebody's got to do it!

Cheers!










Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dealing with Holiday Stress

My daughter wrote an amazing post that came out today on Be Your Own Muse that talks about mental health. Her post really got me thinking about all the stress we go through during the holidays. 

I shared a little about how I was feeling totally overwhelmed last week here and how I caught up a bit here.  

I know, for me, I start feeling overwhelmed when there are a million things I feel I need to do and not enough hours in the day...or energy....to get them all done. 

I really, really like things very organized and tidy in my house. When they get messy or disorganized that brings on feelings of stress for me, and my heart starts racing a little. I don't know if this happens to other people, but I do know it happens to me. And it makes me cranky. I know this about myself. 

One of the things I try to do to keep that in check is take time each and every morning before work to accomplish at least one chore. By that, I mean one chore in addition to the normal daily morning routine of unloading the dishwasher, showering, making the bed, making my lunch, etc. If I take 15 minutes each morning to accomplish one additional thing it helps keep the chores from piling up and keeps me on track. Less stress = less crankiness. 

Via
I also know that I require quiet time. Regular bouts of quality quiet time. I am not one of those people who can just go, go, go and never take a second to breathe. That would flat out drive me over the edge - you'd find me sitting on the floor in a corner of my walk in closet whimpering and talking to myself. 

I make sure not to take on more than I can handle. If we have too many invites pouring in I do not feel one bit guilty turning some down - I know my own self and there's no way I can be out more than a few nights per week at social engagements. Our social calendar is quite full as it is and sometimes I just have to put the brakes on so I can have a peaceful night at home. There's nothing wrong with that. 


One of my happiest places in my home is my kitchen. I love preparing a nice meal with the music playing in the background and the candles burning while I'm sipping on a glass of wine. That's a good place to be and it tends to calm my soul. Making sure I have a few nights each week just like that keeps me grounded and sane. Relatively speaking, of course!


I also love to read. There's nothing like a good book to take me out of my own mind and shut off all the daily turmoil inside my head. Right now I'm reading a fabulous book by Debbie Macomber called Starry Night


I just started it on Sunday and I read over half the book that night - I just couldn't put it down. Don't you just love a great book like that? I've been making a point to read Christmas books all month which helps me keep the holiday spirit alive in my heart. 


One of the other things that really relaxes me is having a nice hot bath with some aromatic bath salts and a couple of candles flickering nearby. I love the mineral bath salts from Aura Cacia - they have wonderful naturally derived fragrances that really release their scent with the steam and the mineral salts help with sore, aching muscles. Win, win!! 

I'm a big fan of aromatherapy and always have been. In addition to the routines I practice to keep my stress in check I will often have a candle burning in the house when I'm puttering around. The scent will change with the seasons or my mood but either way, having something fragrant burning in the house just calms me. If not a candle there may be a stick of incense or some scented oils. 


I also use cleaning products during my daily routines that have wonderful scents like lavender, orange clove, or natural pine - I truly believe it makes the daily chores just a little bit easier when there's a bit of aromatherapy involved. 

Add some peaceful music and the pups dozing by the fire and all's right in my world. 

These are things that help me in my daily world. You have to find your own sweet spot, your own things that help you calm your soul. 

And when you find those things, make sure to take the time daily to give your soul what it needs. 

It's as important as breathing. 




















Monday, December 21, 2015

Catching Up on Christmas

Whew, it  was a busy, busy weekend in my little mountain house!  

Last week I posted about feeling a bit stressed and not ready for Christmas - I was definitely feeling overwhelmed and I don't like that one bit! I got so many wonderful comments from my blogland friends out there and the majority said, and I paraphrase here,  Just let it be. Let it happen. Whatever you get to, you get to. And what you don't? Oh well!

You know what? I like that attitude!! I'm going to try to adopt that mentality to more of my busy life!

We started the weekend Friday evening with some sweetness from my favorite reindeer. 


That little face always makes any day brighter!  Of course, she doesn't look too thrilled with her new accessory but she's always a good sport.

And a cookie bribe helps. 

Saturday morning dawned bright and SNOWY - just what I needed to put the pep in my step!!


It wasn't much but just that little dusting of snow made it feel so much more like the holidays!


Some good snow squalls throughout the day made me feel all warm and cozy inside while wrapping gifts. 

It was a marathon wrapping session for sure! But, I can cross that task off my holiday to-do list so I'm a happy girl. 


My little treats for my staff are all ready to hand out on Christmas eve. 


It's certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas around the tree!

Sunday brought more cold weather although no snow. I don't think we have a hope of a white Christmas this year which is sad. 

The holiday grocery shopping was done with some help from my girls and after a quick pizza break the baking began. 


Tell me why I bothered to clean the kitchen before we started baking? Not my wisest moment!


Butter cookies three ways, chocolate chunk cookies, and Carol's absolutely amazing sugar cookies - (get the recipe here at the Red Painted Cottage) -  and the cookie marathon was done!

A quick kitchen cleanup and then my daughters and I gathered in the living room by the fire to watch It's a Wonderful Life. 

Obviously all the action this weekend wore my poor old Lily girl out. 


However, I guarantee that as soon as she hears the sound of the cookie jars opening she'll bounce up looking for a treat!


All in all it was a great weekend, albeit a busy one. Not much time for R&R but perhaps after the holidays I might catch up on a little quiet time. 

I hope your weekend was a happy one, friends!








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