Monday, October 27, 2014

Thoughts At the Kitchen Sink

If you could spend a day in my body
You would believe.

I have aches and pains
Every day.
I push through it most of the time.

If you could spend a day in my body
You would see.

Beauty is everywhere
You need only look.
My eyes are my greatest gift.

If you could spend a day in my body
You might be surprised.

My inner thoughts are true.
My personality is real.
I am genuine.

If you could spend a day in my body
You would know.

I know I am judged by the way I look
Not what is inside, to some.

What is inside is so much more
Than what you see on the surface.

If you could spend a day in my body
Then I could spend a day in yours.

Then there would be complete and total understanding.

Monday, October 20, 2014

COMBO! Personal Week and a Few of My Favorite Things

Today is my sister's birthday!
Happy birthday to her!

She's my only sister and I couldn't have asked for a better one (and I did ask for a sister)!
I thought today I would pay tribute to the awesomeness that is her!
I love making slide shows with photos! I found a bunch from the past and put them together into this grand slide show!

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Random Thoughts: Why Do We Complicate Life?

It's officially autumn now:
Colder weather, bright colors, less daylight.
I love this time of year (accept the daylight part).
The crisp air smells so amazing.
There are festivals, and harvests that are always fun.
The leaves are a glorious blaze in their final moments.

Final moments.

Some people associate autumn with death. The leaves, plants and flowers dying off before winter.
I never see it that way. All of these things do what they do in order to survive the cold brutality of the coming months. They slumber, waiting for their turn to come back.
It looks deathly: dried leaves and stalks of things that were lush and green only a few weeks earlier. It can feel a bit daunting.
It reminds us that everything comes to an end.
A bit depressing, because that means that we, too, come to an end.
Sometime, it's out there, waiting for us. We don't know how or when, but we know it is inevitable.

Or do we?

I can't help wonder what all the busy-making of life is about? Why do we busy ourselves with the daily chaos of life?
Do we really have to sign our kids up for lessons of all sorts?
Do we have to play a sport, or use a musical instrument?
Do we ever use what we learn in school?
Do we have to keep up with and own all the latest technology?
Must we be seen in all the latest fashions and fads?
Why, when I see so many people complain about the daily things in life, do we do those things in the first place?
Why do we complicate life?

Now I'm not saying that everything we do is rubbish. I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't do anything. I know that a lot of the things we do is for the pure enjoyment of them, or to learn and grow, to push ourselves further than we've ever been before.
I wonder about when it bogs us down, when it overwhelms us, when we wonder why we're doing it in the first place. When we are forcing our children to practice playing their instrument for the forty-sixth time, or to do their homework as soon as they get home, or to push themselves harder during their soccer game. Despite their constant desire not to do those things.
When we don't enjoy it. When it becomes a chore or job, not recreation or happiness. Why do we complicate life?

Life can be so simple. Many of us are so lucky to live in an environment where our survival is so secure, we are allowed to think of and do other things. Recreation in any form is just that. It's a distraction we have the time for because our survival is all set. It is entertainment. Sports, music, learning something new for the hell of it, experiments, philosophizing, religion. These are only some of the things humans have come up with in addition to surviving.
We are a fun bunch. We like to play. With our bodies, with our minds, with our souls.
So, why do we complicate life?

Why did we also have to come up with things like currency, government, taxes, wars? (My children have asked me this question frequently.) With the good came the bad. It's human nature. We are all living with both every day in some form. We work hard to make enough money to pay our bills and taxes then still have enough leftover to play. Always to play, we love it.

Do we raise our children to only survive, or to be good, contributing members of society? Do we force them to learn things they don't like or want to learn or will never use? How does this impact a child?
Everyone is born with strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has their own, unique combination of the two. It's kind of beautiful.
I want to help discover my children's strengths, and help them develop them to be the best they can be and also contributing members of society. Sometimes the chaos of life gets in the way. I have to tell my children that they must to this thing or that thing because it has to be done. They argue with me, or whine at me about it, because they don't understand the reason in it.
Sometimes I wonder what children would do if we didn't ask them to do anything? I know, Lord of the Flies. I watch it happen in my backyard when they play with friends. So they need guidance, obviously. How much is the right amount? Do we push them to do all the things we want them to do? Or do we let them pick and choose, guiding them along the way? I try to understand my children. Encouraging their strengths and giving them tools to help with their weaknesses. I see my job as a parent, not as a dictator, but as a guide and teacher.
Why do we complicate life again?
I think it might be the fear of death. (I know, I sound like the mom in Moonstruck.) It's distraction from the inevitable. Maybe that's just me, although I prefer to live a simple life.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes In a Tree

My niece/Goddaughter had a birthday recently. Every year I get the privilege of making her cake (or cakes). This year, she requested chocolate chip cupcakes with a Magic Tree House theme. I was up for the challenge!

I took a vanilla cake recipe that I like, and tweaked it a bit to resemble a chocolate chip cookie in cupcake form. They turned out great, so I wanted to share the recipe!

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

     3/4 cup unsalted butter                   2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
     3/4 cup white sugar                        1 teaspoon baking powder
     3/4 cup dark brown sugar               1 teaspoon baking soda
     3 eggs, lightly beaten                      3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup yogurt: regular, low-fat or non-fat, plain or vanilla
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 10 ounce bag mini chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)

Bring butter, eggs and yogurt to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place cupcake liners of your choice into muffin tin.
Beat the butter in a large mixing bowl until light. Gradually add the sugars and continue to beat for 5 minutes.
Beat in the eggs, beating all the while and beat until light colored.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
Mix the vanilla and yogurt together.
Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl, alternately with the yogurt and vanilla mixture. Begin and end with the flour mixture. Stop beating before mixture is blended. Add the mini chocolate chips, and mix just until blended.
Bake @ 350° for 20-25 minutes (ovens vary, so check them at the earliest suggested time, and see if they might need longer).
Yield: 3 to 3 1/2 dozen

I used my favorite butter cream frosting to decorate them. You can use your favorite, or if you don't have one, use the recipe on the back of any confectioner's sugar package.
First, I gave the cupcakes a base coat of frosting, to give them rounder tops.

After the base coat, I used green frosting with a leaf tip to make leafy patterns all over the top. On some of the cupcakes, I did a toad stool look instead in red and white.

Thanks to my hubby for building the cutest display ever! He made it out of wood we had in the yard. Men and their chain saws, they go so well together.
These cupcakes were a big hit with the kids!

I hope you enjoy them too!