Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day 24: November 24, 2013

Chex Mix

I know for many this popular snack is a tradition for the holiday season, but I don't believe I have ever made the original recipe before.  My mom did when I was little, circa 1968 and even at that time I knew I loved it because of the butter and salt and not necessarily because of the crunchy cereal. 

This afternoon I most definitely had a craving for butter and worscestershire, with a splash of hot sauce, and the Chex provided the perfect vehicle to curb that craving.  I added a few almonds,  so I could pretend there was something healthy included in this dinner substitute, and then proceeded to eat a bowl of the delicious decadence.

Perhaps we will add this to the ever-growing list of Totoro traditional holiday foods...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Day 23: November 23, 2013

Scrapbook Retreat

The weekend was planned two months in advance.  A full weekend of scrapbooking commencing at 5:00pm on Friday and ending at 10:00pm on Saturday.  The Creative Cottage was rented and the meal plans were in order.  Everyone was excited to get together and scrapbook, fellowship and just have fun.

And they did... without me.

I was simply too sick to go last night, and while I managed to stop by for a brief visit today, I did little more than tag a few pictures in Lightroom while those around me were decorating gorgeous pages and completing entire albums.

But I had fun while there, and I know that there will be another event planned soon.  I will most definitely be there... with bells on!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Day 22: November 22, 2013

Still Sick...

On the one hand, I know there is never a convenient time to be sick.  And I am quite fortunate that I am rarely under the weather (the last time I remember being ill for more than a day was in 1999...)  Honestly, if I had to choose a time to be sick, I would much rather be sick this week than next... I do not want to miss out on any of the fun family festivities that Thanksgiving always brings.

However, I am a bit weary of sniffling and coughing and being relatively unproductive.  I need to be writing - I need to be baking - I want to be enjoying the pre-holiday season.

But today I didn't do much of anything except to sit on the couch in front of the fire, watching mindless television.  Fortunately I had my trusty side-kick Feeny to keep me company.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Day 21: November 21, 2013

Sugar Cookies

My youngest loves to bake... in fact, she has started her own business, Totoro Treats using social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that only this generation can do.

We decided that this year we would try to be smart in our holiday baking plans.  We would bake the cookies one day - and then decorate them another.

Mandy made the dough at home and then brought it to my house to roll, cut, and bake.  I have countless cookie cutters, obtained throughout the years and from my mom's own stash, and we used about ten of them to make well over four dozen cookies.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving we plan to decorate the house for the holidays (fortunately we have a few younger men to help bring decorations down from the attic, perhaps put a few lights on the outside of the house, and assemble the tree).  However before those festivities, the Totoro girls will get together around noon for a cookie decorating party complete with colored icing, decorator bags, and lots of sprinkles and silver balls.  Pictures to follow...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Day 20: November 20, 2013

Holiday Groceries

I was feeling a bit better today and decided to take advantage of the low crowds and get a head start on holiday purchases.

I had planned to take a picture of all the items in the grocery cart (it would have made for a more dramatic image, don't you think?) but I was so anxious to get out of the store, that I completely forgot.

Alas, here is what $300+ worth of groceries looks like (minus turkey or produce or any meat for that matter...)  We do, however, have enough supplies for the essentials, like M&M cookies, Bishop's Bread, and sausage balls.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day 19: November 19, 2013


I woke up this morning with a sore throat, highly unusual for me.  But in half an hour it was gone and I figured I must have slept with my mouth open ... nothing more.

However, by 10:00am - and the start of teaching my second class of the day, the left side of my face hurt from my teeth, through to my ear, around my eyes and up to the top of my head.  I was in agony. 

Now what you must understand is that I loathe taking pills - or medicine of any kind.  And fortunately for me, I am rarely sick.  But once I finished teaching for the day I went immediately to the closest drug store, purchased sinus medication and a bottle of apple juice, and proceeded to take two pills in the parking lot before driving home.

I took a two hour nap and felt a bit better.  However, I decided to go to bed before 9:00pm and had not taken my photo of the day.  This was all I could muster...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Day 18: November 18, 2013


I am beyond blessed.  I not only have found a vocation that I truly enjoy, but this year, I am only teaching my two favorite favorite classes:  Brit Lit and English Comp.  My schedule is a dream as I only teach Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the last class ending at 12:20pm.  All the students are delightful with not a single behavioral issue.  Some days I have to pinch myself to be sure that this is real.

While I enjoy teaching the literature side, and hearing the students analysis of classic works, my real passion is to teach writing.  And of all the writing I teach, I absolutely adore creative writing.  In this case I think the adage is true, in that, those who can't do... teach.  I am more an academic writer than a writer of fiction, but I LOVE engaging young minds to write out of their imaginations.  It is invigorating and inspiring to me.

But alas, as much as I love teaching writing - and as much as I love reading their creative masterpieces - I absolutely abhor grading them.  I feel such pressure and responsibility to quantify the final draft with a letter grade.  Writing is subjective - and as much as I try to be objective by using rubrics and such, it is impossible to be completely unbiased.  And so, I stress.

On this day I finished grading Brit Lit's Knightly Tales that they wrote in conjunction with reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  We discussed the ten characteristics of a knight, which means that a true knight is not only a manly man wearing a suit of armor. In fact, it can be argued that Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz is a knight.  And students were asked to develop their own knight and write a story that involves a quest where their knight either succeeds, or dies trying.  It is amazing to me the creativity these students hold... and their willingness to share it, when encouraged.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Day 17: November 17, 2013

Craft Day

The Princess came to visit this evening.  We had our usual Sunday pizza dinner and then she took me upstairs to my nook to watch a movie.  I'm afraid the only movies I had available were instant viewing on Netflix, which did not hold her attention, although we did watch the first few minutes of several Christmas specials.

One of her favorite activities in this room, however, is to stamp.  Pink, as you can tell, is her favorite color, and I have reserved some special stamps just for her:  a heart, a flower, and a butterfly.  We took turns stamping, letting it dry, and re-stamping.

I see lots of crafting days in our future - and I am very much looking forward to that.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Day 16: November 16, 2013

**  I apologize for the delay in posting (and therefore the number of posts in rapid succession now) but I had a huge issue with blogger that took some time to iron out (come to find out, my safari update does not communicate well with blogger... and I had to switch to FireFox as my web browser).  Hopefully all is resolved and I will do a better job of offering daily posts.

Daily Devotional Message

For the past 200+ days I have maintained a daily routine of writing my morning pages (as per Julia Cameron's suggestion in the Artist's Way) and I have also read two Christian devotionals and journaled my response.  Typically I read the Biblical scripture in both the NIV and The Message, and journal my thoughts regarding the verses before reading the author's message.

Today I felt as though the Lord had written the scripture especially for me.  It is found in 2 Corinthians 3:5 and the way The Message translated this verse took my breath away:
...that you, written by Christ himself for God, are our letter of recommendation... Only God can write such a letter....
 Now, I have read that Christ is the vine and we are the branches... or that Christ is the good shepherd and we are the sheep... and I understand that analogy to a certain extent... BUT... Christ is the author and I am his manuscript?!  That is my language!

I think since this is November and I am working intently on my NaNoWriMo piece, this scripture became so real to me.  For I know the pain and care I am giving to the creation of my own story.  I know the time it takes to develop a cohesive plot with no holes; I know what it is like to try to develop a well-rounded complex character; I know what it is like to develop a central theme that is evident throughout the piece.  And none of this is easy - and most certainly not conceivable in a first draft.

But that is not the only skill involved in writing such a piece.  There is the craft of language, and selecting just the perfect word to convey the thought.  There is attention that needs to be paid to pacing so that not too much time is spent on the insignificant and enough time is spent developing the important scenes.  And I know that proper grammar and punctuation is needed to help the reader remain engaged.

And I know that sometimes the characters want to try to usurp their own power and take control of the story, and that it is necessary to remain true to the character but to also maintain control of the overall piece.  Only the author knows the beginning, middle and end before it is written.

And that is exactly as it is with our relationship with Christ.  We need to allow Him to write our story in life... for He is the ultimate creator.  He will not write us into a corner; He will always keep us consistent with our purpose; He will be sure to develop the main purpose until the very last chapter.

It was a beautiful morning... and I am so very grateful that the Lord is patient with me and that He is willing to speak language that I understand.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Day 15: November 15, 2013

Young and Carefree

I took my granddaughter to her gymnastics lesson today and I thought there might be an opportunity for photos.  I was right.  I took about 200 pictures (she was the only one in the class, so that was helpful)... deleted 110... and found about 20 worth editing.  While this is not the best photo of the bunch, it is the most significant.

We can learn a lot about life by watching a 2.5 year old.  Every day is an adventure and Brynn can find joy everywhere she looks:  while driving in the car she carries on a conversation with sun, Hi sun... it's me, Brynn!  She listens intently for any sound, whether it be a bird in a tree, a plane in the air, or a baby crying in the restaurant.   And she never tires of reading the same books or watching the same movies.

Toddlers have not yet learned to be jaded or cynical.  They are trusting and trustworthy.  They may have fears, but they do not allow fears to dominate their life.  Watching Brynn go through the various routines I couldn't help but think that she has no care how she looks to anyone else... she just wants to have fun.  She isn't concerned if she is doing it perfectly, and what others might think or say behind her back... she just tries.  And she hasn't learned to compare herself to others - wondering if she is good enough or if she just doesn't quite measure up.  She is only concerned with her own performance.  She doesn't chastise herself for making a mistake, and she doesn't quit if she is having a bad day.  In fact, Brynn does not know the concept of a bad day.  All days are good.

And so I chose this picture because to me it symbolizes all that can be learned from a two year old.  She confidently walked up to the bar, which was nearly as tall as she, pulled herself up, flipped over - and with a smile on her face said, Olly, I see you! and completed the turn.  She was not concerned if she might fall.  She was not concerned with a less than perfect score.  She didn't care if she looked a little silly with her hair out of place.  She just lived in the moment.

I desire to add a bit more carefree to my everyday life and constantly be aware of the joy all around.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 14: November 14, 2013

Writing in Scrivener

This was the lazy way out... I confess.  But today has been so busy and quite frankly this screen capture represents my life better than anything I could have actually photographed today.

I am in the middle of NaNoWriMo - which I described in yesterday's photo of the day.  The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.  But you know what?  Life happens in November just as it does any other month of the year, and that goal is falling behind.  I am currently just shy of 21,000 words and I should be at 25,000.  And the chapters I have outlined will only support about 40,000 words (at my current rate).  So... I have a lot of work to do if I am going to succeed.

The writing program I am using is called Scrivener, a product of Literature and Latte.   The company allows NaNoWriMo users a free version of the program during the month of November and if you succeed in writing your novel, you receive a coupon code to purchase the software at half price.  It is quite a deal and since I managed to "win" my first time (in 2010) I took advantage of the offer.

It is a great program with many features that I have just begun to learn.  However my favorite part of the program is the ability to view the draft in three distinct ways:  an outline form, that shows you a quick synopsis of each chapter including word count; a draft document where you actually write the manuscript; and this wonderful cork board feature that allows you to view the chapters (or scenes or whatever portion you wish) on index cards.  You can rearrange the index cards in any order that suits you, and the corresponding draft documents are rearranged as well.

So anyway... this is the view of my computer screen which I am staring at each and every day this month.  Wish my luck as I continue to plug away...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Day 13: November 13, 2013

Mr. NaNoWriMo - Chris Baty

For those who may not be familiar with the acronym, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, the brainchild of this man, Chris Baty.  Tonight I had the privilege to hear him at our local library and he was fantastic!  He is personal, professional, energetic, encouraging, and such a joy to listen to.

The basic premise of NaNoWriMo is that many people claim that they are going to write a novel "some day" and this event helps those would-be writers to stop procrastinating and just do it.  For the month of November participants pledge to write 50,000 words (the unofficial count of the least number of words to qualify as a novel), which translates to approximately 1,667 words a day.

The event began in 1999 with 21 participants and today it is celebrating its 15th Anniversary with approximately 300,000 participants all over the world.  There is something inspiring and rather magical about that many introverted writers connecting with one another for a common goal.

He had many wonderful words of encouragement and tips to share, which I will document on my personal blog .... but here is my favorite quote:
The reason so many people fail at completing their novel is NOT that they lack the talent, NOR that they lack discipline.  The problem is that they lack a deadline.
Such truth in those words.  I am currently at 19,125 words.  I have a ways to go, but I am encouraged to stay strong and finish the race. It is not about quality at this point... it is about completion.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 12: November 12, 2013

First Fire of the Season

I am grateful to live in an area where I can experience all four seasons.  Now sometimes I am not thrilled to experience all of them within a 24-hour period (which is possible here in the Midwest)... but I do enjoy the change every three months:  the budding of trees in the spring, bringing hope in the form of rebirth; the warmth of the summer that lends itself to some much needed R&R; the color-filled autumn seen not only in nature but in the our cozy clothing; and finally the snowy winter months that magically transform a bleak landscape to one of sparkling purity.

Yesterday morning we awoke to temperatures in the mid-50s and a gusty breeze.  This morning, the official thermometer read 17 degrees with a wind chill of 7!  Now if it is going to be that cold, I would love to have a  few flakes floating in the air, but I know that is coming.

In the meantime, I will light a fire, snuggle with the puppies, and sip a hot beverage.  This won't last long... it is supposed to be 60 degrees by the weekend ... *sigh*

Monday, November 11, 2013

Day 11: November 11, 2013

Snowy Leaves:

While cleaning around the kitchen sink I happened to glance out the window to discover, much to my surprise, that it was snowing ---- leaves!  The sky was filled with yellow, orange and brown leaf-flakes  swirling in the air as they gently fell to the ground.  It was a  a beautiful sight.  Unfortunately, my photography skills could not adequately capture the magic.  I experimented with shutter speed and ISO and by the time I found a decent combination, the wind had subsided and the snow effect had disappeared.

Alas, this was the best image of the bunch - but I have hope that my skills will improve over time, and I am proud of myself for slowing down enough today that I did not miss nature's magical moment.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day 10: November 10, 2013

Sweet Aromas

Perhaps some might question whether this is a blessing, but bear with me….

For many years I lived my life in a vacuum - focused on work and not making time for the joy-filled aspects of life.  My head was either staring straight ahead at a computer screen - or the traffic in front of me.  I did not look up nor sideways.  I did not pay attention to the other sensory details around me, like sounds or smells.  I rarely listened to music - preferring the silence to help me focus - and I never considered lighting a candle.  Enticing those other senses seemed so silly - such a waste of time and money.

There is a saying "All work and no play makes Molly a very dull girl" and it is truth.  I was one-dimensional and very close to burn out.  I have a good friend who burns candles all the time - all over her house.  I love going there - I love the pleasant aroma that transforms an ordinary house into a welcoming home.  So...I began to buy fragrant candles, but never seemed to light them.  I have no idea why.  Was I victim of scarce mentality - if I lit them and used them up I would have no more candles?  Or was I afraid I might forget to blow them out before bed and burn down the house?  I have no idea… but candles were not for me.

But this summer I was introduced to tartlets and electric warmers.  The scent is strong and wafts through the entire house; there is no flame, so the danger of an accidental fire is greatly reduced.  And since the tarts last about ten hours, I can easily change fragrances with my mood, rather than having to wait to use an entire candle before trying a new scent.

Today the Yankee Candle store had a half price sale on these lovely tarts, and I took full advantage.  I purchased tarts that will remind me of fall and Thanksgiving, as well as those that will carry me through the Christmas season and winter months.  I even treated myself to this new holiday warmer.

I now breathe slower and deeper.  I allow the soft sounds of music, whether classical, jazz or Mumford and Sons, penetrate my thoughts and enrich my focused attention.  I light a tart and recognize the faint smell of cinnamon or peppermint or hazelnut which allows me to enjoy the mood rather than ignore its existence.  I am learning that life is made full and complete as we engage all of our senses… and I desire to make even the most mundane task enjoyable by adding a few simple pleasures to life.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Day 9: November 9, 2013

My Puppies

All who know me are fully aware that I am grateful for my puppies.  They are my constant companions and I talk about them as I talk about my children.

We currently have three:  two yellow labs and the bassett.  Ralf was outside at the time, keeping my husband company on the patio, but Jude and Feeny were more than willing to try to pose for treats.  I obviously have a long ways to go in my pet photography skills (for example, they need to be closer…) but this photo does capture their personalities.

Jude is sweet, kind, and the constant cuddlier.  He thinks he is a lap dog, and would be, if he did not weigh as much I do.  He was one of the puppies in the our last litter (we had a total of three litters) and is Ralf's son.

We inherited Feeny; he is actually our "grand dog" and while he is also sweet and kind, he is still very much a puppy and a bit rambunctious.  Bassets have entirely different personalities than labs.  Labs are pleasers, and if they detect any negative intonation in your voice, or even a furrowed eyebrow, they will immediately try to rectify the problem.  Bassets, on the hand, are oblivious to these subtle clues.  They are of the opinion that any attention is good, and will continue with the inappropriate behavior just to get the reaction.  Feeny is learning how to properly behave, however, and I simply cannot resist those adorable eyes, floppy ears, and knobby little legs.

I have said for several years now that I am going to someday write a book about the lessons in unconditional love I have learned from my dogs.  They are quick to forgive and never hold a grudge.  I could leave the house for five minutes and they will greet me when I return as if I left days before.  We may not speak the same language, but we definitely communicate with one another - not just simple commands like "sit" or "kennel" … but they can sense when I have had a difficult day and seem willing to give a snuggle, or I can sense when they are anxious to go outside and chase the squirrels.

There are times when having three dogs can be a tad inconvenient … like daylight savings time and they don't realize we can sleep an extra hour, or when we travel for longer than a couple of days and need to secure doggie day care… but mostly they are terrific companions, a vital part of the family, and indeed, our best friends.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Day 8: November 8, 2013

The Nook:
I am truly grateful for my nook - I do believe my favorite place in the house, and perhaps the world.

Do any of you remember the Rodger and Hammerstein's version of Cinderella?  In one of the first scenes of the  musical Cinderella sings:
In my own little corner,
In my own little chair,
I can be whatever
I want to be…
That is exactly how I feel when sitting on the love seat in this dormer room of the house, surrounded by my books and scrapbooking supplies.  I can dream of future creative projects, pretend to be a writer, and be alone with my thoughts.  It is an introvert's paradise.

When my son moved to Nashville to study audio engineering in 2007, I decided to adopt his room as my library.  I left his original color scheme:  red walls and black accents, and just moved my bookshelves and love seat into the space.  It was a great place to retreat and read.

But that Christmas my husband surprised me with a greater vision:  rather than limit the room to books, why not include all my favorite things:  scrapbooking, greeting cards, books, and writing space.  It was truly the best Christmas gift I have ever received!  I retreat to this private space on a daily basis - either to read a favorite novel, create a special card for a dear friend, listen to Pandora tunes while uploading and editing a current photo shoot, or focusing on a writing project.

It is a small room, and some might say confining, but I enjoy the intimate space.  Because it is the dormer room, it is often quite warm in the summer, too uncomfortable for most, but perfect for me (as long as I have the oscillating fan creating a relatively cool breeze).

About a year after the initial renovation, I discovered an artist online who creates unique watercolor paintings of beloved pets.  I immediately sent her photos and I am now surrounded by my precious labs.  What you see in this picture is a painting of Ralf and Mia - the husband and wife who produced three litters for a total of 20 puppies!  On the other wall, there is a similar painting that captures the first litter of five.  I cannot help but smile every time I look at these works of art.

This room is definitely not a showcase, and I am sure those with a decorator's eye would cringe… bu I love every aspect and do not plan to change a single thing!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Day 7: November 7, 2013

Teaching Career:
To continue the theme of gratefulness… I am blessed to teach at a small private school, led by a compassionate and supportive administration.  In 2004 they were willing to hire me, despite my lack of certification or proper education in my content area (I am a French and Political Science major teaching English literature and composition…. but that is a subject for another post).  We have shared stressful trials and joyous triumphs and through it all I have always been encouraged, supported, and accepted.  

I have taught as many as nine classes a year (that is… nine different classes with nine different preps) and as few as two.  I have taught all grade levels - from 3rd grade grammar to English Comp for college credit.  And while the majority of the classes have been in the English department,  I have also taught Computer Applications, Creative Writing, and even French.  I have been privileged to lead two different groups of students on an overseas trip to London, and I even began working towards a Master's degree.  The last decade has been consumed with this "part time" teaching job, and I would not have it any other way.

This year I requested, and was granted, the opportunity to scale back my workload.  I currently teach three classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  These are the classes I enjoy most, and the schedule is perfect.  I have been afforded the freedom to pursue other personal interests and have taken full advantage of each and every moment.  There are times that I want to pinch myself to see if in fact I am dreaming….

This is a photo of the church next door … not the church where I teach.  But the sun illuminated the trees in such a way as to showcase the fall foliage, and the clear blue sky contrasted with the gleaming white steeple in such a way that I could not help but feel blessed beyond measure:  I not only have a job, but one that I love; I have friends and family; I have health; and I am free to worship without fear of persecution.  There is nothing more I need, and quite frankly, little else that I want.  I am fortunate to live such a contented life.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day 6: November 6, 2013

Cup of Tea on a Dreary Day

In keeping with the Grateful theme I established yesterday, I thought I would give thanks for a cup of tea on a rather bleak day, which warms me to my toes and relaxes my mind.

I have just recently started to sample the wide variety of teas available.  I grew up in a home where there were two choices:  Lipton regular or decaf.  But today there are not only several brand names from which to choose, but different tea leaves and a host of subtle flavorings.  I still use the convenient tea bags as opposed to loose tea and a diffuser, and I most definitely have not mastered the art of brewing the perfect cup of tea.  But in these cold winter months, I find nothing more comforting that sipping a hot cup while reading a good book.  (I anticipate the first fire of the season to soon initiate the fireplace, and that will be the subject of another grateful post)

I am currently drinking leftover Christmas Eve from Stash Tea Company.  The herbal tea has a delicate mint flavor which is enhanced by a touch of sweetness.  I am most anxious to try their new holiday tea, however, Christmas in Paris which they describe as:  a unique herbal tea which blends chocolate flavor with aromatic lavender and cool peppermint for a sophisticated cup.  Does that not sound heavenly?  And who could resist the Parisian influence?

This photo also represents another blessing in my life:  the students I teach and their wonderfully supportive parents.  One particular family gave me this tea pot/cup set several years ago as a Christmas gift.  It is absolutely perfect for me:  not too large, holding just enough for two adequate cups; a delicate cup design, which I imagine the likes of Jane Austen using in her time; and a literary theme that will always remind me of my favorite class, British Literature.  I use this set almost exclusively when I fix an afternoon or evening tea, and I am always reminded of not only this special family, but all the families I have had the privilege of serving these several years.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 5: November 5, 2013

I am thankful for:  Family

Today was incredibly busy.  I left the house at 7:15am and aside from two brief returns to let out the dogs, I did not arrive back home for good until  9:15pm.  It was a good day - a productive day - a fun day, but exhausting.

So taking a picture was not high on the priority list.  And by the time I was home to stay, it was dark outside which limited my pool of possibilities.  Fortunately, however, I had given some thought to this project while driving to school and had an idea for a theme series of pictures in December (we'll see how that pans out!) … but that developed into other theme ideas throughout the year.

There is a popular meme on Facebook right now that asks participants to post each day in November one thing for which they are thankful.  So I thought… why not take a picture-a-day for that which I am thankful - or grateful - or consider dear to my heart.  I am not sure that I will do this each day, but I would like to use this month to meditate on the blessings in my life, and document those for years to come.

Today's picture is significant for two reasons.  I am most definitely grateful for family.  We are a nucleus of five, but are becoming richer over time.  In 2006 we added a son-in-law - in 2011 we added a granddaughter - and this past June we added a daughter-in-law.  We definitely have our own personalities, each following his own passion, and sometimes those difference create friction.  But we are loyal, we are supportive, and we stand up for one another no matter what.

While the people are the most important, I must confess that I am grateful for the family name.  There is great heritage in this name:  100% Italian.  My maiden name was Coleman - which is a fine name, but I always considered myself a "mutt"  I never really knew my heritage or extended genealogy.  The most I knew I about my family was we came from Texas.  But the Totoro's can trace their lineage to the Calabria and Foggia regions of Italy -- and one day we are going to take a pilgrimage to the homeland and embrace our rich roots.

And lastly, this picture represents a period of time that deeply blesses me.  It was a difficult time in our family - and yet through it all we remained strong and supportive.  One weekend my children decided that our out-dated kitchen was in desperate need of a facelift and they volunteered their time and talent to strip the wallpaper, refurbish the cabinets, and transform the old 70s paint into a sunny Tuscany cottage.  I love everything about this room now:  the rich buttery yellow; the soft indirect lighting; and the european accents that create a warm, inviting atmosphere.

Yes, I am blessed beyond measure - and the top item on my grateful list is family.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Day 4: November 4, 2013

Black Bob Road

The weather here in the midwest has been anything but typical.  We had snow in May… severe drought in the spring… and lately, torrential rain for days on end.

Normally our fall leaves are colorful, but this year, they are spectacular!  Bright scarlet, orange, and yellow adorn the trees rather than our typical subdued variety that quickly turn brown.

There is one major street in our hometown that is lined with mature trees.  I travel this road at least twice a day and in the spring I am always amazed how quickly the view transforms from stark brown to budding green.  It signals to me the beginning of warmer temperatures, which means the winter coats, sweaters and scarves can be packed away.

In the fall, the street is my barometer that winter is coming.  Again, the trees seem to magically transform from full branches of dark green to thinning tops of vibrant color.  It literally takes my breath away each time I drive the ten blocks.  For me, this is the start of the holiday season.  Nature's beauty gives way to a day of thanksgiving and then the festive light displays of the holiday season.  It is indeed the most wonderful time of the year!

Playing Catch-Up (November 1-3, 2013)

As I noted in the welcome post… it took a while to discover a proper photography/blogging routine for this 365 project.  After numerous unsuccessful attempts, I finally decided to start this new blog devoted exclusively to my camera adventures.

Rather than write a post for each of the three missed days, I thought I would write this one summary entry and then begin with daily posts this evening.

Day 1:  November 1, 2013
I wrote in detail about this photograph on my personal blog, but here is the abbreviated version.  November 1st not only signified the beginning of this photography project, but it also kicked-off the crazy writers' event, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  Writing is my passion, and since I am not sure whether my interest lies more in fiction or non-fiction, I am experimenting with both.

I have had an idea for a middle-grade historical fiction story (with a bit of time travel) for over three years.  I have done extensive research into the lives of Impressionist artists and the Parisian culture in which they lived.  The three pink moleskins at the top of the heap hold these research notes.

The remaining books in this stack represent similar fiction stories currently in the marketplace that I have read in order to help me develop an appropriate writing voice for this age-group.  In addition, I am also reading two "how to" books to help me hone my writing skills to meet the expectations of these readers.

Day 2:  November 2, 2013
I had great plans to take a picture of the row of autumn trees lining the side of one of our city streets.  However, the day got away from me and when I finally had time to photograph, the light had faded in the west.  Oh well, I have hopes of securing that photo later this week.

Instead I decided to capture what will probably be the last grilled meal of the season.  The chill in the air, coupled with the brisk midwest wind, makes outdoor cooking unpleasant in these latter months.  My husband is a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy, so I found some nice looking Kansas City strip steaks and served oven roasted fingerling potatoes, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes as a side dish.  A nice  glass of buttery Chardonnay provided the perfect beverage after a day of raking leaves.

Day 3:  November 3, 2013
Our family adores the holidays, and for some beloved members, the season begins once Trick-or-Treating is complete.  One of the first events of the season is a popular culinary celebration sponsored by a local grocery store and held at the city's convention center.  My daughters have attended the previous two years, but this was my first time to join the fun.

Food vendors from all over, whether locally owned companies or international corporations, set up booths with tasty treats and holiday decorating ideas.  We sampled everything from croissants for breakfast to a mini Thanksgiving meal of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, to delicious pumpkin, pecan and apple pies for dessert.  Cheese samples were abundant as well as snack chips and special edition soft drinks.  We made sure to arrive hungry and we left with our bellies full.

One local farmer set up a station where we could make our own beeswax candles and lip balm.  The girls had just finished the dipping process and were holding the wax sheets before going to the next station to add the wick and roll them into a candle.

The event was a lot of fun and I am sure will continue to be a girls' day out tradition for years to come.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


I am glad to see you here….

To commemorate the start of a new 365 Project (thank you, Courtney, of Click-it-up-a-Notch) I have decided to develop a new blog dedicated solely to posting the daily pictures I take over the next year (and perhaps beyond).

I tried to find a way to incorporate this project on my personal blog, Emerging from the Cocoon, but Blogger is not conducive to posting entries on pages other than the homepage, and I did not want this project to dominate my posts there.  Photography is but one facet of my life … not my entire life.

So after several attempts to create menu tabs and forwarding pages (?!) I decided it would be far less complicated and frustrating if I would just design a new blog all together.

The title of this blog actually came from an idea I have for a possible ebook project that has been brewing in the back of my mind for a few months now.  The working title of that book is:  Finding Joy in the Moment:  Spiritual Lessons learned through Photography.  I am by no means a professional photographer, in fact, I would be hard-pressed to classify myself as a serious hobbyist, but the connection I have with photography is deep, and one I wish to explore further.  This book would help me marry my passion for writing with my love of photography in a way that fully expresses who I am and what I believe.  Perhaps a few of those lessons will be shared here as well.

For now, however, I welcome you.  Please know that the photos posted are not meant to be viewed as serious art, but rather as an insight into my life, my passions, and my perspective of this great world in which we live.