Thursday, May 24, 2018

Painting Is Supposed to Be Fun

Somewhere along the way, making art became less about being creative, and more about being afraid of doing it wrong. My fear of failure runs deep. I'm a perfectionist at heart, without many of the skills necessary for that level of expertise.

One thing I've always wanted to be able to do is paint with water colors. Paint brushes and I have been on the outs for decades. My inability to control a brush, and my lack of exposure to painting techniques makes me so nervous.

You know that saying "Do one thing that scares you every day?" For me, taking an art class is very scary. I am so afraid of making a mistake. It's only paper, right? But what if I'm the only one who asks for a second piece of paper? My tolerance for embarrassment is pretty low. 

In an effort to overcome my phobia of failure, I've been trying to expose myself to my fears, little by little. Last fall, I took a stab at a water color class, painting birch trees. And this spring, I took another class, learning to paint violets.

Our teacher's example. I was so worried that her violets only had four petals.
The whole "creative license" thing is wasted on me.

Chuck does not comprehend the depth of my fear. He tries to be encouraging by saying, "An art class should be fun. Don't forget to have fun while you're there. It's not about doing it right; it's about learning and experimenting. Just have fun." Easy for him to say. He has the same attitude about drumming. I get so focused on the rhythm and technique, I honestly forget to have fun doing something I love to do.

Our local library sponsors seasonal art classes, and there is no charge to residents. The teacher is so supportive, and likable. She really does her best to put the class at ease, saying humorous things like, "It takes two people to make a painting. One to actually paint, and another to tell the painter when to stop."

That's supposed to be funny, but I hear that I better be careful not to overwork my piece, or I'll be sorry. Sigh. 

When she was talking about the art supplies, she said if we buy a tray of water color paints, we should toss the paint brush, and spend a few dollars to get a nice brush with a good pointed tip. "You probably tried painting when you were seven years old, and had such a horrible experience with that cheap paint brush, you decided you were no good at painting, and never tried it again." Yeah, that could be part of my problem. 

My attempt, after finding a suitable five-petaled model on the internet.

I took this photo with my phone yesterday
so I could study a violet, up close and personal. 

Armed with the teacher's suggestions, and one practice painting of violets under my belt, I decided to try to have fun with painting today. I used a photo I had taken the day before, limiting myself to one simple flower. I was pretty happy with my beginner's attempt at a violet. 

My breathing almost returned to normal after I signed my name. One day, I hope to be comfortable enough to get out my painting supplies without feeling nervous, and just have fun.  My next challenge will be a little harder. I just need to keep a sense of humor when I attempt this one. Painting is supposed to be fun. I may have a new mantra to learn. 


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Add a Little Zest!

My basic scone recipe produces a nice, moist scone, featuring a sweet glaze, but it is sooo much better when it has a boost of citrus flavor. Add some freshly squeezed juice, and a little grated zest from the skin of the fruit, and the scones go from good to amazing. Whether I've used lemons, limes, oranges, or grapefruit, I've never been disappointed. The zest makes an incredible difference.

It is so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day living. Our lives start to feel basic and boring. Sometimes we forget to do the little things that make our days feel special. Our lives are like that scone recipe; adding a little zest can take things to the next level.

For me, there are some things that give me a keen sense of enjoyment. 

Lighting a scented candle.

Reading poetry or a good book.

Practicing yoga.

Walking outside.

Listening to country music or old Motown hits.

Taking pictures.

Talking to my husband or a friend.


Holding a baby, or talking to a child.


Creating something, like a collage or a memory book or a card.

Soaking in the bath tub.

Baking something special for someone.

Learning something new.

Taking a class. Today I went to a watercolor painting class at the library. 

What is one thing you could do right now that would add a little zest to your day? This afternoon, I have a new recipe I'm going to go try, Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. We're trying to find low-carb sides that will appeal to Chuck that will help with his diabetes, so if you have any suggestions, send them our way! While I'm in the kitchen, I'm going to crank up some Marvin Gaye and the Commodores. 

If you would like to try the scone recipe, you can find it HERE. This version has lime AND coconut, but you can substitute any citrus flavor that is your favorite!

Monday, May 21, 2018

X-tra! X-tra! Meme All About It!

We had a reeeally long winter, and while I enjoy a good snow day as much as the next person, even I had had enough of the white stuff my mid-April. What's a gal to do when she's not cleaning muddy puppy paws after they've played in the thawing muck? Make memes!

These are some of the more recent Velvet Hippo and Labradorable Sami memes. If you enjoy this sort of thing, you can follow me on Instagram at RANDOMOCITY BLOG

For my kiddos. Counting down the sleeps until I see them again. 45 today...

Friday, May 18, 2018


Wow. Are we sliding toward June already? It seemed like I'd been saying, "I haven't been feeling that great these last few weeks" for longer than a few weeks. 

Instead of giving in to that feeling, I wanted to rise above it. I've used the excuse of not feeling great for all of my less-than-stellar behavior; you know, sleeping in, taking naps (yes, plural, on any given day), binge-watching Gilmore Girls, and binge-eating whatever happened to be available.

Before you think I'm judging anyone's sleeping, TV, and snack habits, stop right there. My concern is that for me, my activities have been excessive in response to my feeling crummy. I can blame my meds, or depression/anxiety, or whatever I want, but it was time for me to figure out what I could control. Guilt had been my constant companion of late. I wanted a break from those feelings, and I knew if I stepped up my game, I would get the relief I sought. I wanted to triumph over feeling out of control. 

Here we are and it's Friday. I feel GOOD. This week has been nothing short of phenomenal for me, which is so welcome after the suckiness of late. I'm feeling slightly victorious; like I'm the conqueror of the blah and meh days that have been kicking my butt. 

So what's different? For one thing, I no longer have those crummy meds coursing through my system that kept me awake longer, made me sleep harder, and made me wake up groggy, and made me feel like I needed at least two more naps to get through the day. Although it took me a few weeks to get used to my new medication, I think I've finally found one that works for me. 

Another thing that is helping is doing some things that make me happy. I've slept through the night. Wow. Okay, that was huge. One day I did yoga. A couple days, I walked the dogs. I've been reading poetry by Mary Oliver, and visiting with friends. Whenever I invite people over, I feel obligated to tidy the house, and that makes me feel better, too.

Here it is Friday, and I can still say I am feeling fine. 

Deep breath in; slow breath out. Feeling so much gratitude.

This day has been full of good things. I ate low-carb zucchini enchiladas for breakfast, after editing hundreds of pictures of beautiful children from the youth theater where Chuck and volunteer as photographers. Then I played in the dirt, digging up dandelions, and planting my geraniums and a spike. Our house has instant curb appeal now that my signature porch plant is in place. After I buy some more dirt, I will plant my tomatoes; a Beefsteak and an Early Girl. 

When I came back inside, I sipped on an iced crème brulée decaf coffee and read my friend Donna Amburgey's book, Tears, Fears and Arrowheads. The first paragraph lured me in, and her descriptive prose kept my nose in the book while I iced my back. 

Listen to this:

"The generations blurred into each other as young girls first bloomed and then softened into the pudgy contours of their mothers." 

Isn't that great?

Country music has been blaring from the speakers all day. Can I get an A-MEN? (Okay, I know this cheese may be standing alone in The Farmer in the Dell game, but I have a lot of friends back home in Utah and Virginia who would stand with me.)

Our sweet little neighbor Evie is celebrating her birthday tomorrow, and I promised to make her "those cinnamon things" she likes so much. Yes, Miss Denise would do just about anything to hear Evelyn squeal and give her a hug. 

I need to go frost the cinnamon rolls, and then visit Chuck's mom. I promised to bring her some fresh-baked goodies when we go water her flower bed today. 

A day that requires an apron is usually a pretty good day in my book. And one that involves reading a good book? And editing photos? And dirt under my nails? And an iced coffee? And puppy snugs? And a walk with my husband? The only thing that could make this day better is if it ended with us in Utah with my kids tonight. I'm counting down the days until baby boy's wedding in July. This mama can hardly wait. 

I hope you can do something that brings you joy today. I feel like I'm trying to make up for so much lost time. If, like me, you have found yourself lost in a blur of too many blah days strung together on a raveling piece of baling twine, take this moment to take a deep breath. Look out your window. Think of something that makes you happy. 

Be a victor of this moment. It will feel so good; I promise. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Pssst...Anti-aging Secret Revealed (Wrinkles, Be Gone!)

You're not going to believe this! I have found the CURE for wrinkles, age spots, and yes, even stray chin hairs. I know what you're thinking, "Shut up, and take my money."

I'm willing to share my secret with you, and it won't cost you a dime. There are no hidden fees, and no multi-level marketing to recruit 100 of your closest friends to create your downline. 

This is crazy; I know that's what you're thinking, but I am even going to share my before and after photos. 

Let me tell you how I stumbled upon this miracle worker.

My crows' feet and wrinkles had been a concern for years. Chuck has helped alleviate some of my worries because he actually seems to appreciate that my face is aging with laugh lines. You can see for yourself; a picture is worth a thousand words.

Not that long ago, I remember looking in the mirror, and thinking there just wasn't a foundation thick enough to cover the crop of age spots on my face. I would be horrified at times when I was in public, and felt my fingers brush against a thick chin whisker, wondering how I had missed it in my last tweezing session. 

Time has been marching right along, and one day I realized that, you know what, my age spots were actually fading, my wrinkles were less pronounced, and those pesky stray hairs along my jaw and chin seemed to be less of a problem. It was nothing short of a miracle. 

Want to guess what my new regimen includes? I almost hate to tell you because it is so simple. One day, I don't care how old you are right now, it will happen for you, too. 

My secret is ---DRUMROLL, PLEASE---

PATIENCE. Now if I could just package PATIENCE, I'd be mega-rich. 

You may wonder how patience factors in to this equation. 

Basically, the older we get and the longer we wait, the worse our vision is. You see, if you can just be patient, eventually, you won't even notice all of your imperfections. 

Folks, I'm not looking any younger. My age spots and wrinkles and stray hairs are all still there. The signs of aging aren't going away; my vision is! When I look in the mirror these days, mercifully, my eyesight has softened enough that I no longer have critical eyes that catch every flaw. Old Eagle Eye has been replaced by Old Granny Eyes, and just like grandmas, they are much kinder.

What a gift, on one hand, to no longer be able to see ourselves spiral down toward decay. Of course, it does explain why we see so many of the elderly smiling with poorly applied lipstick and sporting scraggly mustaches, and I'm not talking about the men. 

Put away your money, and spend it on your grandkids or furbabies. I'm not making any money on this little secret; I'm sharing it with you from the goodness of my heart. 

As promised, the AFTER shot.

You may think it's cruel that we either have to surrender to the way things are, or we can rely on others to help us in keeping up with our appearance, but I think I'm going to see it as a blessing. I hope that an added benefit of not being able to see my own flaws is that I will be less critical of others, too, as I continue my journey to become the woman I was meant to be. 

Growing old isn't so bad. It beats the alternative, am I right? 

Yoga for a Rainy Day

Listen,  can you hear that? The rain is softly pelting the roof, the leaves, the grass, and the sidewalk. Thunder rumbles overhead, and the house shudders ever so slightly. I'll open a window so we can hear the gentle symphony of this spring rain. 

The rain cleanses the earth, and I think it cleanses me, too. It helps me clear my thoughts, and refreshes my spirit. The dry, brown grass of winter is a distant memory as I survey all of the lush greenery in our neighborhood. Flowering fruit and ornamental trees line the streets, and all of the bulbs and early flowers are in bloom. 

So when I woke up to a rainy day, I decided to celebrate the rain. I searched on Google for "yoga for a rainy day," and was not disappointed. As I stretched and moved on my bright pink yoga mat, the dogs watched from the couches. 

On Mother's Day, Dylan and Jamie recognized my yoga practice with some fun yoga socks and a necklace featuring a lotus flower and the OM symbol. The necklace was attached to a card that read "Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most." I felt a shift in my energy and motivation as I put the necklace around my neck. I knew I would be getting my yoga mat out soon.

This rainy day was a perfect opportunity to practice yoga. Toward the end of my session, the puppies joined me on the floor, and Sami softly nuzzled my ear, and Bristol gave me enthusiastic kisses. 

There is something so therapeutic about a rainy yoga session that ends with smiles, laughter, and puppy dog kisses. I'm glad for the inspiration given to me by my married kids. Today has been a great day already, and it is just starting.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Cloudy with a Chance of Umbrellas

Thunder is softly rumbling across Chicagoland's grey morning sky. Bristol is snoring quietly on the couch. I've already wiped eight muddy paws earlier this morning, so for now, I can just enjoy the sounds of an incoming storm.

It's Saturday. We love Saturdays around here, but rain messes with most of my plans for Saturdays. 

What would I do in the absence of rain? Oh, wondrous things like walk the dogs at a forest preserve, take pictures of spring flowers, enjoy fresh air and sunshine, and mostly, not have mud tracked in the house every time nature calls out to our furry four-legged friends. 

Rain means having to adjust my sights; lower my expectations; compromise my plans. Of course, the day won't be a complete waste; far from it. There are plenty of ways to enjoy a Saturday, even a rainy one. 

There are books to be read, coffee to be sipped, and soft conversations to be shared. Luckily, we have an indoor photo shoot planned for midday, and we will postpone our outdoor shoot for tomorrow, weather permitting. Right now Chuck is sleeping in the family room, and the dogs are napping on their preferred couches. 

If I can't beat 'em, I might as well join 'em. I'm going to grab a book and a blanket, and hunker down on a couch myself. I've always liked the sound of rain; it is so soothing, and if it lulls me back to sleep, even better. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

This Is Me, in Front of the TV

As you know, I've kind of struggled with illness since the New Year. I was not only physically sick with respiratory ailments and fatigue, but I've struggled emotionally and mentally while my doctor experimented with different medications and dosages, trying to find a combination that would allow me to sleep at night, and feel like myself during the day. I've spent a lot of time on the couch these last few months. 

Occasionally, I found myself watching This Is Us on TV, and by occasionally, I mean, faithfully, every single week, as soon as it was available on I laughed and cried along with Jack and Rebecca as they raised their triplets. 

Then I discovered Parenthood. I devoured all six seasons, devoted to following each episode of the Braverman family's life. As my Parenthood viewing came to a close, I wondered what I could watch next. Never fear; Netflix had the answer for me in my suggestions. "Since you liked Parenthood, you might like Gilmore Girls."

Bridger's fiancée and her mom given Gilmore Girls a rave review, so I thought I'd give it a try, and I'm so glad I did. Lauren Graham co-stars as Lorelai; I had already adored watching her in Parenthood. It was like a reunion with an old friend, and then I met new friends, her daughter Rory and all of the quirky residents of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. 

You guys, I'm on the last season of Gilmore Girls. I'm already starting to feel a sadness as each episode draws to a close, knowing the end is nearer. I just found out there is a three part Gilmore Girls movie that I can watch after I finish the series. Yay!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to find out what Lorelai and Rory are up to next. Will Lorelai and Luke get back together? Will Rory stay with Logan? Will Richard and Emily ever mind their own business?
No spoilers please! I know I'm late to the party, but I don't want to ruin any surprises. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Swedish Death Cleaning

Here's a thought-provoking question: Whose job will it be to sort through your things when you're gone? 

I know we may have in mind who wants to inherit Great-Grandma's tea set, or maybe Grandpa's pocket watch, but seriously, who do we know who's hoping for that collection of National Geographic magazines, or the drawer full of phone chargers? Is it just me, or do all of us have a drawer, a closet, or maybe even an entire basement, devoted to storing junk?

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

The Scandinavians have given us so many wonderful things: cross-country skiing, the coziness of hygge, and... what fresh hell is this? Swedish Death Cleaning? 

Are you curious?

Margareta Magnusson wrote a book about Swedish Death Cleaning. Basically, Magnusson encourages us to get rid of all the stuff we've accumulated we don't need anymore, so that no one else has to do it for us after we pass. 

A nagging thought I've had lately is I don't want to be the one to leave behind a garage and basement stuffed to the gills for my poor children to sort when I get to the end of my life. Yes, I will admit it sounds rather morbid, but the idea of living my life without clutter and chaos appeals to me. 

If I know that at the end of my life, my descendants are going to have to clean up after me, I want to make that burden as light as possible. Rather than buying unnecessary or inferior quality things, I want to make sure I buy only what I need, and that the things I purchase are worth having. I can get rid of the things I no longer use or want with a clear conscience. If there are items of value, whether monetary or sentimental, I know my children could enjoy, why not let them have them now?

For me, I am realizing there is a balance to be achieved between minimalism and hygge. I want to rid my life of clutter, and embrace those things that bring me joy and comfort. I'm not advocating stripping our homes down to a mattress on the floor, and keeping only a table and a minimal number of chairs, but I am suggesting that there is something very liberating about clearing out the things we no longer use or want. 

Each of us will have to determine what that balance will look like. What about you? What are the things you own that bring you joy? What could be pared down, or removed entirely? Are there family heirlooms you are storing just because distant relatives, long dead, thought them special? Are there things you no longer use or want that your family and friends would appreciate now?

Friday, May 4, 2018

Rest and Relaxation

This afternoon was all about rest and relaxation. I just woke up from a yummy nap after a day that fed my senses. 

This morning I woke up feeling better than I have in a long time. After getting my little morning routine done, I took advantage of my little burst of energy, and mopped, vacuumed, and dusted. It felt so good to have the house smelling fresh and clean. 

The sun was shining today when I went see my little friend Elise. And then Susan and I got together for Coffee and Cameras, sans café since it was noon. 

What an amazing photo adventure we had today.  The Flowers on Fargo in Geneva, Illinois are in full bloom. The colorful flowers were a feast for our eyes. 

Maybe you'd like a little R&R yourself. Put your feet up, and enjoy the tulips. Take a moment to stop and smell the flowers.