Friday, April 24, 2015

Mercy Hunting: Talk to the Trees

Hello Hello!  How was your week? 

Ours was wet and rainy, but it started out sunny with a hint of summer.  The Rockwall Hilton is about 30 minutes from home but it feels like a whole other world.  I've written about this hotel/resort before }here{ ... it's fast becoming one of my happy places :o)  LtDan and I went for a little getaway, but we invited the kids to come hang out by the gorgeous pool Sunday afternoon.  Does your idea of a perfect afternoon look anything like this?

Last year, shopping for prom was nearly my undoing.  This year it's been slow and easy because we learned our lesson and got the dress ordered in plenty of time, which allowed us to focus on shoe shopping.  Shopping isn't my favorite thing, even shoe shopping, but I think I could get into it with some practice.  I focused on finding shoes that will look right with her dress and fit in our budget, while Abbie focused on whether or not she'd be able to dance in them.

Ruby and I walked and walked this week, in spite of the rain.  By my calculation, walking in boots through mud should add at least 150 extra calories burned, even though MapMyWalk makes no allowance for it.  I walk and look for the mercies that God pours out new each and every morning ... but I'll be honest, it's also my exercise regimen.  For the last  five years  ten years ... okay, for most of my life, I've given no real thought to my personal responsibility to care for my body, nor have I considered what neglecting it will look like in my golden years.  So here I am, trying to play catch up in a body that's forgotten how to burn calories.  This week I experimented with interval training, where you alternate walking at top speed with a much slower pace every few minutes.  As I walked and thought about interval training, I thought the word 'training' with air quotes around it.  The wise woman who lives in my head and occasionally gets to have her say strongly objected.  "What do you mean, air quoting the word training?" she says to me.  "If you think you're just taking a walk, then your results will be leisurely.  If you want serious results from all this walking, you better call it what it is.  You're either taking a nice little walk here, or you're training your body to be healthier."  It was a game changing moment with implications reaching into every realm of my life.  Much of the time I am doing a thing, but thinking about another thing (usually many other things).  In placing my thoughts elsewhere, sometimes the purpose and meaning of what I'm doing in the moment is diluted, and the effectiveness is watered down to nearly nothing.  Calling it 'training' as opposed to 'going for a walk' has an entirely different implication.  I consider ... what other areas of my life do I so casually mislabel and thus de-purpose?

While I'm telling you about conversations I have with the people in my head, I may as well tell you I also talk to trees.  I step up on a big stone out there in the woods that's become my Proclaiming Place, and I tell the trees the most important things I am going to do today.  Sometimes I also tell them what I am not going to do today, like eat the cookies I bought for the kids at the grocery store last night.  This is SO WEIRD, I know, but it actually works for me.  I don't even think about what I've said there among the trees until I'm out there again the next day, but somehow, declaring it out loud - yes, to the trees -  makes a difference.   It's like a rural support group.  Try it ... maybe it'll work for you, too :o)

With all the rain, the creek is once again rushing along.  Remember in On the Banks of Plum Creek when Laura Ingalls Wilder woke up one morning to a loud roaring outside the dugout and she couldn't wait to explore it?  That was me this morning when I opened the front door.  

The morning glories I planted by the creek and in the log in the woods are loving the rain and are growing growing growing!  I checked on the ones in the woods and disturbed a lizard with a stripe down his side that was like a streak of neon blue lightening.  When I walked by again, I tried to sneak a peak at him, and I could just see his little head peaking around the edge of the log.  Maybe he'll do some weeding for me this summer.  I also see the rollie pollies plan to make a feast of the flowers if I don't do something about it.

Most of the time Ruby is the only wildlife I see, unless you count butterflies and lady bugs and birds.  But I can usually tell when something has been walking my trail, too - probably a wild hog.  They bend the grass down looking for things to eat, I guess.  It's kind of nice, because then the tall grass doesn't get my sweats so wet.  I'm looking forward to mowing my trail as soon as it stops raining and dries out a bit.

Hey ... if, just in case you live in the Dallas area and are longing to live in the country, that's exactly where we were 13 years ago.  And if, just in case, you're thinking it's time to make good on what your heart tells you, that you really want a life in the country ... take a look at this property just listed by my sister.  There are 12 acres, tilled pastures, outbuildings, and a three bedroom 2 bath house to love.  Maybe we could be neighbors and talk to the trees together :o)

Click the picture or click }here{ to go to the real estate listing for more information.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Adding a Freestanding Kitchen Island

There's so much you think you know - but you don't really know - when you set out to build a house.  I knew I wanted a wide open kitchen, and I thought I didn't want a kitchen island.  Of course now: I wish we'd built that island.  If I had it to do over again, it would be the big wide open kitchen, with a square island including shelving and storage underneath, with a small sink.

There's no do-over with the build, but there are many great options for kitchen islands if you consider a piece of free standing furniture.  After a great deal of online shopping and reading every single review on every item that looked interesting, we ordered this island from

The assembly instructions were simple to follow and it took about 2 hours to put together.  It's 36 inches tall, and the top measures 42" x 24".  We're so happy to have another work surface, particularly one that doesn't have cabinets above it.  

I love that it has both open and closed shelving.  I pulled all my favorite stoneware into it, which freed up cabinet space, always a good thing!  The island has doors on both sides, so everything is accessible from either side of the kitchen.  The drawer also pulls all the way through to either side.

In the kitchen reorg that happened after the island came, I moved my pots and pans to an upper cabinet.  It felt like breaking some long standing kitchen law, but when my son Ben made a passing comment that the pots and pans would be so much easier to access in an upper cabinet, I tried to think why they must be housed down below.  I love how young people think outside the box ... why not put pans in the upper cabinet?  Ben was right, it works so much better!  If you'd like to see how I organized the pots and pans, click } here { - it's super easy!

Moving things around also gave me a chance to better organize the casserole dishes.  It probably makes me happier than it should that they're all in their own place and not stacked all up inside each other.  

I love everything about this piece of furniture!  It's a great focal point, and it's fun to have shelves to accessorize.  Another positive, pointed out by my mother-in-law, is that it forces a traffic pattern in the kitchen.  We were all milling around aimlessly in there ... now there's a flow!

Here's a with and without pic for you (the color of the cabinets looks different, but it's just the lighting).  
The wide open space still appeals to me, but functionally, having a dedicated work surface is fantastic.

The one downside is that the island woodtop scratches fairly easily - which I was prepared for, thanks to detailed reviews and suggestions from other buyers on Amazon.  

We have a solution for that coming any day now and I'm SO EXCITED about it ... can't wait to share it!

Most people are pretty opinionated when it comes to whether or not a kitchen island is the best thing since sliced bread.  What's your opinion?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Mercy Hunting : Wild Flower Edition

This week there were spring flowers to be found with each morning's Mercy Hunting.  There were so many things I didn't know before life in the country, the lifespan of wildflowers being one.  I thought they bloomed in the spring and kept on until fall.  That's not how it works here in Texas - the wild flowers are here for a relatively short time and then they're gone, mostly because of the unrelenting summer heat, I'm sure.  The lesson is to enjoy them thoroughly while they're here.  And to avoid things like poison ivy while you're reaping that wild flower joy.

I also thought all the flowers came all at once, but that's not true either; they kind of come in waves.  Right now there are mostly white and yellows and I'm still waiting for three of my favorites: the orange and red blanket flowers, and two different blue varieties.  There was a sweet little bed of blue flowers that kept me company all summer long last year, but I can't remember what they looked like.  I keep looking in the little cove where I found them ... I'll be so happy when they arrive.    

With water in the creek, I have to reacquaint myself to the sound of it.  All along the way there are little waterfalls that tease you to come close enough to the creek bank to see them.  By midsummer, the water will be completely dried up and the creek will be quiet again.

While I'm walking, I'm listening to the book Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.  Gretchen is a convincing proponent of habits: when you create and follow a habit, you don't have to put forth the energy to make decisions surrounding that behavior, and it makes life   so.  much.  easier.  Not that I've mastered the art of maintaining habits, but I do happen to agree.  You don't have to decide whether or not to brush your teeth, you just do it because it's a habit.  Applying this strategy to more of life is brilliant.  Gretchen explains how our personalities impact the way we form habits, and best of all, the book is packed with practical ideas and tactics to help you create and maintain the habits you want to keep.  I highly recommend this book - Gretchen is warm and funny and her book will fire you up to make life easier through the power of habit.  Click} here { to read more about Better Than Before at Gretchen's website.  

 } This {  blog list of "9 Rules for Being Friends with an Introvert" was everywhere last week, and I found it amusing and insightful.  That post brought to light for me how completely I adore my extrovert friends :o)   Extrovert?  Introvert?  Which are you?  I like the definition that includes what refuels your energy.  If you're energized by being with people, it's likely you're an extrovert.  If you need time alone to refuel, you're probably an introvert.  That makes me straight up introvert, no question about it.  I'm the kind of introvert that loves to throw parties, finds the world thrilling and is sometimes the last to leave because she hasn't talked to everyone yet. One of the nice things about getting older is figuring out how you tick and not being so thrown by it.  If you think you're an introvert, read the list - it might help make some things about yourself make sense.  Knowing yourself and not questioning (so much) why you aren't like everyone else is a relief.  As you age, a softening, mellowing, seasoning process happens.  You feel more comfortable in your own soul.  It's a lovely upside to getting older.  

I planted seeds from last year's morning glories willy nilly at the culvert where our driveway crosses the creek and they're growing!  Taking that as a green thumb go ahead, I also threw some seeds into a fallen log in the woods - I hope I can make it brim over with flowers.  Morning glories are so easy.  If I can get them to grow, anyone can.

How about you?  What new mercies did you run across this week?