Thursday, November 28, 2013

Simply Thankful





Simply thankful…

For my husband and daughter and the many outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, game nights, fun events, shared interests, lighthearted and loving moments we enjoy together.

For the love and community of family, friends and kindred spirits.

For living by the sea and its many “gifts” – its vast beauty, innumerable wonders, its power to uplift or calm, countless treasures along its shores and its healing energy.

For the basics of home, clothing, food and money to cover our needs (and a few wants), never to be taken for granted.

For Franki and Misty (our feline family members) and their entertaining, comforting, cute and affectionate qualities.

For the amazing experiences offered by the arts, both visual and performing.

For nature’s infinite wonders.

For wishes in my “someday file” finally coming into fruition.

For healing art and the powerfully positive and therapeutic impact it has had on my healing journey and personal growth.

For remission.

For my soul feeling incredibly inspired, creatively energized and motivated in this “new and improved” path along which my life is now traveling.

For the newfound passion bursting in my heart for life itself in all its precious, unpredictable, crazy, busy, beautiful, heartwarming glory. 

And for those of you who so kindly take the time to read Paper And Ponder, to comment and connect…my sincere thanks.

Wishing everyone much warmth and joy today on Thanksgiving and each day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Finding Magic

November sky over Monterey Bay
 

Finding magic in the everyday, discovering the extraordinary in an ordinary moment, enjoying small, simple wonders and miracles occurring all around us…this is part of my current quest. 
Magic recently found...
Pausing in my steps to gaze upward at dramatic skyscapes
 



 
Admiring a sculptural cluster of lichen growing on our almond tree (and being reminded of leafy sea dragons at the aquarium!)
 

 
 
Being greeted by this pond's splash of color after a short hike (where surrounding vegetation was heading into its lackluster, dormant phase)
 

 

Appreciating the artistic patina of a rusty scrap of metal, a beachcombing treasure (looking like the sun or moon over ocean waves.)
 

 
Wishing you magic today and every day! 
 

 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Newfound Appreciation





Do you ever find yourself attracted to something to which you hadn’t been drawn in the past?  Some of our interests and tastes change or evolve over time, of course.  We may see something in a new light, gain a different perspective or greater awareness.  I believe as we open our eyes, our minds and hearts widely, we are much more likely to discover and develop a newfound appreciation for many things.

I wrote in a past post about a new affinity arising for soft pastels (formerly my least favorite art medium) as I’ve experimented with them during healing art retreats.  I recently purchased a set of soft pastels, and our daughter and I have enjoyed them here at home when we sit down together for art projects. 

Although I love flowers in general, I hadn’t been particularly fond of roses.  I appreciated their beauty and sometimes their scent, but they didn’t captivate me as other flowers do.  I’ve been visiting our local Monterey Museum of Art’s two locations more frequently this year, and while taking time to stroll through the rose garden at the La Mirada location, I’ve paid closer attention to this lovely flower, its sculptural beauty and the sweet scents its many varieties exude.  I’m seeing roses with new, more appreciative eyes.

 
 


Even my taste buds have been experiencing a newfound appreciation!  I wasn’t much of a chocolate enthusiast.  I could take it or leave it and preferred caramel or fruity sweets.  I’ve jokingly wondered if it was the chemo that may have permanently altered my taste buds as cravings for chocolate have crept up on me this year, something I’d rarely experienced before!  Hot cocoa and Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s (a peppermint sandwich cookie from Trader Joe's) have been recent indulgences feeding my newly developed appreciation and transformed sweet tooth!

What new attractions are you enjoying?   

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Big On Small Indulgences



A favorite childhood game becomes a small indulgence as an adult
 
On most days, it seems as though there is only enough energy, time or money for small rather than large indulgences, but in my quest to live more simply, small indulgences have become quite powerful in calming frayed nerves, renewing a flagging spirit and creating very pleasurable moments. 

A few small, but mighty indulgences in the past week…

Having fun playing Chinese checkers (on a vintage board, the same one I played on as a child!) with our daughter.

Enjoying new additions to our music collection – Blitzen Trapper’s “VII” and Of Monsters And Men’s “My Head Is An Animal.”  The CD player in our car gradually met its demise several months ago, so I've missed being able to balance the annoyance of traffic with music, mellow or lively depending on my mood.  I must find time to refresh the mixes on my iPod!

Reading in bed last Saturday morning, me immersed in “The Language Of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and our daughter beside me, also immersed in her own book, “Into The Wild (Warriors, Book 1)" by Erin Hunter, both of us pajama-clad and relaxed.  Bed + book = bliss!  Ahhh!

Embellishing our salads with colorful and tasty borage blossoms and calendula petals plucked from our garden, adding a little “special occasion” sprinkle to a weeknight meal.

I’m becoming big on small indulgences!  What are some of yours?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Positive Effect Of Bubbles






Another busy stretch in real time alongside another quiet stretch here on my blog…big sigh.  Writing centers me, yet just when I need centering the most, when everything seems to be spinning, our family’s schedule, my sanity, I find it challenging to grab these precious minutes to sit down and focus on writing.  In order to free myself from feeling boxed in by the current state of our home and my mind (both cluttered and disorganized!), I am constantly reminding myself to breathe deeply, to approach tasks and responsibilities step by step, to view the big picture while paying attention to the “little things” that foster joy and gratitude, to allow inspiration and ideas to “bubble up” and percolate.  When I can’t manage enough time or energy to write, I can find other avenues to bring me back to center.

 

No matter how full our calendar may be, sacred “me time” is reserved for at least one day each month when I attend the healing art retreat at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.  Earlier this month, the retreat allowed me the focused time I desired (and needed) to follow through on inspiration that had been floating around in my head for a couple weeks.  For whatever reason, I kept visualizing bubbles!  I thought about creating a bubbly collage or painting here at home, but couldn’t find a long enough stretch of open time to explore this idea.  Serendipitously, the directives during this month’s healing art retreat provided the time and inspirational fuel to “blow some creative bubbles!”  
 


One of the directives was to illustrate our visualization of breathing in and breathing out with awareness.  I illustrated my breath as bubbles, breathing in calm, healing bubbles of air and feeling energy and creativity bubbling up within my mind and body while breathing out.

 

 
 
Another directive involved embellishing a warm-up piece, a liquid watercolor painting.  Instead of embellishing mine, I deconstructed the painting, cutting out bubbles which I collaged on to a background of more bubbles in soft pastel.  I was pleased with the layered effect, and this piece has inspired a new idea with which I hope to experiment soon.
 

 

For a third piece, my inspiration was simply a love bubble! 

 


What surfaced while playing around with this bubbly, lighthearted art was a pleasant surprise, a welcome source of positive energy that slowed my sense of spinning, helped me gather some of my scattered thoughts (not all, but some!) and reach the "outskirts" of center. 
 
May bubbles of inspiration, positivity and centeredness float your way! 
 
 
 

 

   

 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gratitude Is Always Growing In The Garden





Borage blossoms


Often inspired by the garden and having written about gratitude in connection with the garden on several occasions, this thought came to mind…gratitude is ALWAYS growing in the garden!
 



Our daughter enjoyed this single shiny, sweet, (persistent!) strawberry...
and her colorful fingernails from a friend's sleepover birthday party!


On Sunday, as our daughter and I delighted in the first calendula flower blooming in our garden, we also enjoyed other small, but just as delightful signs of persistence and promise.  Although our summer crops are waning or have already faded into memory, and our vegetable garden is on its downswing into winter mode, we can still feel grateful for lingering tomatoes, a bit of basil and a stalwart strawberry or two.  Our borage plant, a transplant from Bobcat Garden, has been blooming (more adornment for salads!), and our seedlings of winter greens (thanks, Dad!) – bok choy, collards, kale, arugula and romaine – have been taking hold and hinting at salads, soups, stews and saut├ęs in the coming weeks.  Despite its sparseness heading into the winter months, I am still grateful for the fresh ingredients our garden provides.


 

 

In any season for that matter, I’m grateful for what our garden provides, the enjoyment of gardening as an activity, harvesting fresh, organic fruits and vegetables and appreciating the plants and blossoms for their beautiful shapes, colors and textures and their creative inspiration.

 
 

How do gardens inspire you and fill you with gratitude?

 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Abundance In A Single Blossom




 


Sometimes it’s merely a single moment, an observation, experience or “little thing” that can fill us with a much greater sense of delight, joy, bliss or comfort.  In past posts, I’ve shared my contemplations about abundance as well as, in contrast, appreciation for the “little things” that pop up in our lives.  Yesterday, a single calendula blossom inspired thoughts on how simple, yet wholehearted gratitude can emerge from something small and seemingly insignificant, one of those “little things,” easily ignored, overlooked or taken for granted.  The pleasant surprise of abundance can often be found in that which, at first glance, may not seem abundant at all!  We just need to become mindful, pay close attention and fully appreciate the true value in something small for that wonderful reward of abundance to emerge.
 

 
 

I’d been keeping a watchful eye on our calendula plants (grown from seed that came from our daughter’s school garden) since noticing buds a few weeks ago, and finally, as I was looking out across our backyard yesterday morning, a colorful spot of orange in our vegetable garden caught my attention.  Our first calendula bloom was cheerfully saying “hello!”  I excitedly made my way to the garden with our daughter to admire this bright, pretty blossom.  I felt inspired to snap a few photos before plucking the blossom, so our daughter could savor its tasty petals.  She slowly nibbled on a couple petals at a time and commented on how much she enjoyed their flavor, then she set the remaining stem on the dining table.  As I picked up and contemplated the stem, I remembered how much we enjoyed scattering petals across our summer salads when we brought blossoms home after volunteering in Bobcat Garden.
 
 

 

I felt a surprisingly deep sense of gratitude for yesterday’s calendula blossom, for the beauty in its details, its flavor, for contributing a little bit of excitement and enjoyment to our morning, for inspiring creativity (in yesterday’s photo opportunities and an idea for a future collaged version of a calendula flower) and eliciting a fond summer memory. I realized there is abundance in the many petals on a single calendula blossom and how they adorn a salad with such a colorful splash.  There is also abundance to anticipate as our plants grow larger and many more buds bloom, and as I recently shared, buds remind me of hope and the promise of something positive ahead. 
 
All this in a single calendula blossom…

 

 
 
How does unexpected gratitude and abundance appear in the "little things" within your life? 

 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Passion For Pumpkin



Pumpkin "procurement" at Earthbound Farms farmstand in Carmel Valley


Originally intended in celebration of Halloween, this post never made it beyond thoughts in my head amidst an overscheduled week that taxed my time and energy (a week filled with many great activities and experiences, but too much happening all at once.)  Thank goodness pumpkins are in season through Thanksgiving, not only so I can still write this post without feeling tardy and inappropriate, but also, so those of us who love pumpkins can continue to enjoy their delightful “personalities” and delicious flavors!


 
 
 
Yes, I am passionate about pumpkins, an enthusiastic fan of these shapely, tasty orbs!  I find inspiration in all shapes and sizes displaying their bright shades of orange, the lovely cream-colored pumpkins, the “warty” varieties and other varieties of winter squash and curvaceous gourds. 
 
 
 
 
Impressive display of jack o'lanterns while trick or treating
(far less impressive snapshot, though...sorry!)
 
 
 
Just as a jack o’lantern is illuminated, pumpkin inspiration has illuminated...
 
 
fall decorations around our house,
 
My favorite Halloween decoration "scored" at a rummage sale years ago

 
 
 
notecards I've been designing,
 
 
My latest Plumeria Papercraft pumpkin designs
 
 
 
a craft project for our daughter’s classroom Halloween party,
 
 

First time I followed through on one of my Pinterest pins!
I simplified a paper pumpkin tutorial from notablenest.blogspot.com
for our daughter's classroom Halloween party craft project.
 
the soup I concocted for a Halloween potluck with friends (I’ve shared in past posts about creativity becoming a more frequent ingredient in my cooking!) and other foods I’m eating and beverages I’m drinking – pumpkin waffles, pumpkin yogurt, pumpkin rooibos tea, pumpkin snacks, pumpkin snickerdoodles, pumpkin ice cream.  I'm craving, but haven't yet savored a pumpkin spice latte.  Mmmm…pumpkin!

Are you a fellow pumpkin lover?  Please share your pumpkin inspirations and indulgences!
 
 
 
 
As for my latest soup recipe, I perused several pumpkin soup recipes online and in our cookbooks here at home for inspiration and guidance on a sense of balance between ingredients, then created my own version based on flavors our family enjoys and those I thought would offer the broadest appeal at the Halloween potluck.

 
 
"A Passion For Pumpkin" Soup
 
4 tbsp butter
1 small to medium onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans of organic pumpkin (I didn't have time to roast my own)
4 cups of chicken broth
2 tsp of brown sugar
Dried thyme to taste
Ground allspice to taste
Ground cinnamon to taste
2-3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cup roasted corn (I used frozen fro Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
Salt 
Pepper
 
Melt butter on medium heat in soup pot.  Saute onion and garlic in butter (with a pinch of salt) until softened.  Add pumpkin and chicken broth, well mixed.  Add brown sugar, thyme, allspice and cinnamon (I used slightly less than 1 tsp of thyme and slightly less than 1/4 tsp each of allspice and cinnamon.)  Simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Add tomato and corn.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Add cream or half and half and gently bring to temperature.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!