Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Virtual Friendships In The Real World

I decided to borrow this topic from my wonderful friend and fellow blogger, Sheena. Thank you in advance, dear lady!

I joined Facebook back in 2009 after another old friend urged me to give it a try. I didn't know at that time how much I would enjoy a silly place where people play at farming and chasing jewels and fight Mafia wars. Although I don't take part in any of the games myself, I've seen it is a big part of others' Facebook experience. I like it for the social networking it provides.

I am not the most social person. My world revolves around my home and family. I like to cook, work in the yard, handcraft soap and I love to travel. Even in my younger years, I never had a huge circle of friends. I'm not really a loner or a snob, nor do I particularly care to be alone most of the time. I've just never been a "socializer" and that's just who I am. Especially at my age, it is difficult to find those with similar interests whose schedules jive enough with mine to make socializing possible.

My first "friends" on Facebook were folks that I knew in high school. The big 30 year reunion was being planned and it was so exciting to see all the faces from the past and hear of the arrangements being made to visit. Although I was unable to attend, I almost felt as if I was there with all the sharing of experiences and photos by my old classmates. Interestingly, some of the people who I now call friends were really no more than casual acquaintances in high school. I've found as I have gotten to know them that we really weren't that different after all. Or maybe it's just that with the angst-ridden and awkward years of high school past us that we now just seem more similar. The insecurity of thinking I wasn't "good enough" is long past and I don't posses the shy nature I had back then either. Really, were we not much more than children in adult bodies during those high school years? I didn't feel truly "grown up" until I reached the ripe old age of thirty!!

My sons actually seemed okay with being "friends" with me on Facebook and several of their friends and acquaintances have also "friended" me. It's pretty neat seeing how they interact and I hope they see me as a pretty cool Mom.

Well.....maybe not the coolest, but cool nonetheless...

I've become friends with other Moms, too, and we can keep track of what's going on in every one's lives. I've also reconnected with dear cousins. In the past we were just far enough apart in age to not have many common interests. Now I feel a real connection to my family.

I've "liked" and joined pages of interest in a myriad of areas. Travel destinations, restaurants, recipe sites, TV shows....the list goes on and on. I've even joined fan pages of bands and musicians and actors and athletes and artists and writers and radio and TV personalities. It's fun believing that these folks actually take time to make posts for their fans/friends to see. I feel like I have a knack for being able to tell the famous ones who update their own pages and the ones who just have their "people" make the posts. A lot of them are plain old folks, just like the rest of us. I've forged friendships with other folks from those same pages, too. I've been informed of events and even attended some that I would not have known about otherwise. Once, after reading a post of a last-minute reservation cancellation on a cabin at a state park here in Oklahoma, I hauled off and grabbed that cabin for the weekend and headed out with my son and our dog. It was a wonderful time!

Happily, I've not had too many negative interactions on Facebook. There have been a few that I quietly unfriended or ignored due to content I viewed as offensive or for just being plain annoying. But generally I've enjoyed my Facebook experience so far. I don't take part in the "Chat" portion as I have learned from past experience that that can be a real time waster for me. I still feel like I probably spend more time on Facebook than I should, but I don't feel like it interferes with my life too much.

So, I suppose...if I really think about it....Facebook has enriched my "real" life in more ways that just the occasional comment or wisecrack I so enjoy posting. It truly has made me a more social person in that I've done things I would normally have not done. I've learned a lot about others' politics and beliefs and lifestyles and, even if they don't exactly match my own beliefs, I'm more accepting of these ideas than I ever was in the past. It sure has been a ride and I'm looking forward to forging more friendships and learning a lot more about the world outside my small sphere I call home.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Don't Look Back??

"Don't mourn bad decisions-overcome them with good ones." Joyce Meyer

The quote above caught my attention today as I perused Facebook. Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to past mistakes and bad decisions in my life that I am not proud to own. Some of those events are very painful and frightening for me.

Just last week as I was driving out to spend some time with Bobby, I was riding along listening to music and was just thanking God for all the joy and good things in my life. Sometimes my heart just overflows with happiness when I realize all the blessings I have.

I don't have a fancy car or a palatial home, but I have what really matters. I have love in my life....my wonderful sons, my devoted fiance' and a little dog who worships the ground I walk on. I have a warm, safe home...even if it is slightly crooked....I think it has character! I have relatively good health even as my body winds its way toward the big five-o. I am able to provide my family with good food and we don't go hungry. I have heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. We all have clothes to wear and shoes to help us walk through life.

The next day I heard the song, "Don't Look Back", by the band Boston. It reminded me of the times when regretful thoughts and reminders of past mistakes sneak into taunt me. Sometimes it can be so painful to realize how foolish I was in the past. One dark memory leads to another and before I know it, I'm wondering if I really am the good person I believe myself to be. It can be a dark spiral into a terrible place if I let it. But being a believer in God helps me to turn to Him at those times. I ask Him to remove the thoughts from my mind. I am also reminded that I have been forgiven of those mistakes; sins, if you are a believer. According to God, they never happened because I asked His forgiveness at some point in my life. What a comfort to know that He isn't dwelling on those things in my past, even if I tend to let them creep in to try to chip away at my happiness. As I write this, reminders of bad decisions still try to flood my mind.

We've all made bad decisions in our lives. It's part of being human. We can't do anything about them and dwelling on them will only bring us down. We move on and make better decisions as we go along in life. We cannot change our past, but we surely and thankfully can learn from those past bad decisions.

Life is not easy, it was never promised to be. But I can be thankful that I have more love and good things in my life than I do regrets. So look back. Learn from the past. But then, for goodness sake, look ahead....to all the possibilities the future holds. Look forward!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Delightful Herbs

What is paradise? But a garden, an orchard of trees and herbs, full of pleasure, and nothing there but delights.

William Lawson, 1618
I love herbs. Only within the last few years have I started growing my own in pots and have yet to venture into the more exotic offerings. But I have so enjoyed the rosemary, thyme and mint that have thrived under my not-so-watchful care. They are forgiving when briefly forgotten in the sweltering days of August and sometimes continue to grow even after Jack Frost has visited our yard. If a sunny window was available, they could thrive all through the winter inside a warm home.
As much as I enjoy growing herbs, I LOVE using them in my cooking! If you have never used fresh herbs, let me suggest that, if you try them, you will wonder why you never did it before. The flavor is so different than that given from dried herbs. And the aroma...it just cannot be described sufficiently here. I love chopping up fresh herbs then, if I have walked away for some reason and returned to the kitchen, smelling the wonderful green aroma they give. Don't get me wrong, dried herbs have their place in certain recipes, but fresh can be substituted and will give wonderful results.
Here's a tip for using fresh herbs: When substituting fresh herbs for dried, use twice as much (Example: 1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary would be substituted with 1 teaspoon.) Drying of herbs concentrates the flavors and they are much stronger than when fresh. Of course this means that when substituting dried herbs for fresh, that you would use half as much in your recipe.
Purchasing fresh herbs at the market or grocery store can really put a dent in your budget. By purchasing one or two plants in the spring, potting them up and caring for them, one can save a ton of money and enjoy fresh herbs almost year-round.
Here's another tip: When frost threatens, herbs can be taken in for use all winter long. Just cut the stems of the herbs and rinse, leaving the leaves on the stems. Once dry, put them in zippered freezer storage bags. When they are frozen, rub the storage bag so the leaves fall from the stems. The leaves can then be collected and stored in glass jars or similar containers in the freezer. I also keep the stems that have not given up their leaves and use them whole for baking chicken, fish, etc. Although the herbs don't appear as brightly colored as when collected, their flavor and aroma is as close to fresh as you can get. Measure as for fresh herbs when using in recipes. (Although I have not tried, this method may work if store-bought herbs are leftover and would otherwise go to waste. I can't say how it would work for leaves such as basil. But would be worth a try to keep from wasting good, expensive herbs.)
There are some herbs that I routinely purchase at the market and are relatively inexpensive. Parsley and cilantro are almost staples in my kitchen. I attempted to grow cilantro years ago and had terrible luck so have not tried since. I admit I have not tried to grow parsley, but that may just be something I add this spring. I always have leftovers when using either or both and have found a wonderful way to keep them from going to waste.
Tip: Finely chop the parsley and/or cilantro and keep them in a container in the fridge (with a dry paper towel to absorb moisture so they don't go soggy too quickly). I add them to my salad greens and they give an earthy and different flavor to my salads. A little variety goes a long way when green salads are a big part of your diet.
What are your favorite herbs and how do love using them? I would love to read some new ideas!
Here is a very simple, yet delicious method I use and am glad to share with my friends and readers:
Herbed Chicken
Preheat gas oven to 350 degrees (electric, 325 degrees).
Place several sprigs of rosemary and thyme in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay boneless, skinless chicken breasts on top of the herbs. Drizzle chicken lightly with good olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake, uncovered for 30 minutes or until juices run clear. When removing from dish, remove the sprigs.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Other Man

It is time to face the facts. There is another man in my life and this must be addressed. I have kept this secret in my heart and the weight of the guilt must be lifted.

I met this man when I was just blooming into womanhood. He leaves me for a while, but always returns and my heart swells each time. I have struggled to live without him and I can go for months without a single thought of him entering my mind. Then like an old familiar flame, he enters my life once again.

This man is Stephen King, the author. I adore his storytelling. I just finished his most recent work, 11/22/63. I was given the book as a Christmas gift from my son and I had to read it in small doses so I could savor it as long as possible. Although he is most well-known for his horror tales, Mr. King also writes "normal" stories, too. The thing that always strikes me as I read his works, even with the horror stories, is this: No matter how absurd-sounding or fantastical the tale, his words make it so that you can actually imagine the story happening in real life. This is his gift, but also my curse. Once I begin, I cannot stop reading until I am finished. When I do finish, I feel as if I've lost an old flame again until his next offering appears. And I wait.

Books and stories have always been an important part of my life, but I am not able to devote as much time to them as I would like. What have you read lately and who is the other man, or woman, in your life?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Name Change...

Greetings readers! I just wanted to note that my name on here has changed. I edited it for privacy reasons, but it's still lil ole me!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Scent From The Past

Just a quick blib to make you smile. I've recently discovered a new hobby, melt-and-pour soap crafting. I am having a wonderful time with this and plan to make more posts about that topic in the future. I recently placed an order for some supplies for my new hobby and received them in the mail today. Nestled in my parcel of goodies was a new scent, Violet.

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite dolls was a tiny little girl in a purple dress. She was scented and I had never been able to identify or locate that wonderful, sweet aroma. I once purchased a book published by Penhaligon's, the famous English fragrance company, and it was scented similarly.

My new scent, Violet, is almost a perfect memory to me of my little girlhood doll. When I opened the bottle and smelled it, I literally got tears in my eyes.

Scents are such a powerful part of our lives. They can instantly takes us to places and times of our lives with just one little whiff. I was once walking behind a woman who wore the same perfume my Mother loved and it brought such sadness, yet was comforting in a way as well.

I think that is one reason I am enjoying the soap crafting. I can use lovely scents of my own choosing and create beautiful things with them.

What are some of your favorite scents, my friends and readers?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Tools

I love to cook. Within the last several years I have finally discovered my love of chopping and mixing and making fresh, homemade foods for my family. I wish I had perfected my techniques before my children were born. Maybe that way they would not have had endure childhoods filled with Hamburger Helper, boxed mac-and-cheese and the like. I did make some homemade things, but nothing like what I have been able to produce since I started concentrating on learning. At the time, the quick and easy ways were all I thought I was capable of or had time for. Anyhoo, I can't change that now and am glad I can provide them with better tasting offerings now. Don't get me wrong, I still use some pre-fab ingredients and meals from time to time, but am also able to make all kinds of wonderful, from-scratch dishes that I am proud to serve.

All this to show you a picture of my latest acquisition of cooking-related items. I have learned a lot from watching instructional programs on The Food Network. One of the best tips I've gathered is the idea of "mise en place." A fancy term to describe having "all your ingredients prepared and ready to go before you start cooking", (reluctantgourmet.com). Anne Burrell uses this term quite a bit. Some of the recipes I use move really quickly when adding ingredients, especially when making sauces and such. I've wanted to get some little containers to use as prep cups so I could have the ingredients ready to go, just like they do on some of the cooking shows.

So without further ado....I give you....my new prep cups!!

These little jewels can be found in the kitchen section of Wal Mart and cost all of 88 cents each. I've already broken them in while prepping the ingredients for my non-Miss-Grumpypants supper tonight. They did the trick!!

I hope to share recipes and more cooking tips in the future. Stay tuned!

So He Wouldn't Have To Deal With A Grump

Bobby needed to go do a chore this afternoon. Me going would not have really helped. I had the option of staying home to enjoy a quiet afternoon. I could have gone and been a perfect grump for the rest of the day. I went with my heart and decided to stay home instead of going and not enjoying the trip and possibly transferring my grumpiness to all involved.

I'm thankful for a man who is so easygoing. His chore involves wrapping up some loose ends of a friend who died a while back and I just swell with pride to know I am marrying such a good man. He'd give you the shirt off of his back, literally, if that is what you needed.

So Miss Grumpypants will not make an appearance today and for that we can all be grateful. Bobby will receive a nice home cooked meal tonight from a smiling partner.

I just didn't want to go.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Edited to add...

....It was pointed out to me that when speaking of my little dog in my first blog post that I gave the impression that you would not like owning a Miniature Dachshund. Let me say my comment was intended to say that you would never want another breed of dog because the Miniature Dachshund is the sweetest breed there is. I feel the wrong is now righted. Thank you to my editor and proofreader, Bobby.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

...and away we go!

Not sure where to start, but here it is. I'll share a bit about myself this time. I am  a 49-year-old mother of two teenage sons. Ian is a sophomore in college and Ben is in the 8th grade. I am now the "shortie" of the family, that is if you don't count Tootsie. She is my constant. My little 13-year-old angel and pet miniature Dachshund. Take a tip from me and NEVER get one. You will never want another dog. Consider yourself warned.

I'm so proud of how my young men have turned out. I've been told it was because I was a good mother (thanks, Bobby). I think they are just good people. Ian is a smart, talented man with a golden future ahead of him. He is pursuing a degree in Music Production at the ACM@UCO in Oklahoma City. I was honored to hear his first production effort earlier this year and was as pleased and proud as a mother could possibly be. He is a gentle giant and has a huge heart. I still see the little boy in him even as he grows into a man before my eyes.

Ben. My baby. He is smart and talented and calm and quiet. He has such a beautiful smile and gives the best hugs. If you met him you would think, "What a shy young man." This is part of his charm as he has a wicked sense of humor and surprised us all when he performed stand-up comedy in his school's talent show this fall. He killed! My hairdresser even told me of 3 people who told her how funny his act had been. The talk of our town.

I live in a teeny tiny house with a not-so-teeny-tiny mortgage. I bought it last year and plan to stay here at least until Ben has graduated. I don't want to move him away from his school and family even though I plan to be married within the year to a wonderful man. My sweet Bobby. He lives about 40 miles away on 10 acres in the country where we plan to build our dream home within a couple of years. That undertaking will probably be a blog in itself. Anyway, I will split my time between here and there and Bobby will do the same. I thank God for finding such an understanding man for me to share my life with. We are committed to each other and, even living apart, we make a great team.

If you have read this far, I hope you will stay tuned. There are so many things I want to share here. I'll tell you about things I love, things I don't love, frustrations and joys, new things and old things. I hope to share recipes and other things from my life that I enjoy. I'm open for suggestions.

Stick with me, old friends and new. Maybe you'll learn something or just be entertained.