Happy Belated…and 7+minutes of Greatness

September 24th, 2010 by Jane

I missed the Boss’ birthday yesterday. So, a quick shout out to Bruce Springsteen for still rockin’ it at 61.

Here ya go-you’re day is about to get waaaaayyyyyy better after you watch these:

Part One

Part Deuce

And if you think that Springsteen’s music isn’t for you, watch and listen to this. In my humble opinion, this is his most romantic song to date. What do you think?

7 Summer Highlights

September 20th, 2010 by Jane

Today is the last day of summer. Officially. Although, here in Central Texas it still feels like summer. Sure, there is a slight drop in the morning temperatures, but by midday it’s summer again.

My family and I are mostly back in the swing of school things and summer vacation is a memory growing more distant. Here are a few of our highlights. How about you?

Stay tuned for some exciting changes for 7OF to be announced soon!

1) Hair
The above photo is of one of my daughter’s heads-I love the golden, red and blonde highlights she gets after spending the summer outside. They each have red and gold in their hair-I hope they keep it when they are adults!

2) Galveston
My husband’s family has a beach house on Galveston Island and this is the first year that we spent some time down at the house without any relatives. Much as we love ‘em, it was a great getaway. We explored The Strand, The Elissa, rode the ferry to look for dolphins and had a great time.

3) Slower Pace
The best thing about summer break is that our family time increases, but at a slower pace. We stayed up late playing games, watching movies, hanging out with neighbors and generally goofing off.

4) Speaking of Movies…
You may recall that last summer became known as the Summer of Jane Austen because my girls and I watched every film or TV version of her books that we could borrow or rent. Inspired by our stay on Galveston Island, this was the summer of Jack Sparrow. We spent the summer watching all three Pirates of the Caribbean movies until we were quoting our favorite lines.  My husband’s favorite: “But you have heard of me!”  Mine: “Hoist the colors!” It’s now my call to arms for the family. Check out Elizabeth Swan’s badass costume. I’d walk around everyday dressed like that if I had an such an outfit! Really-I would.

5) Friends and Family
We spent time with both sides of our extended family as well as some friends that feel like family. Shout outs to the whole Fam Damily, Uncles Malcolm and Gray, The Fabulous Padget Family and the Irrepressible ‘Tine. We had joy, we had fun!

6) San Antonio
My husband had a conference in San Antonio and for the first time we all tagged along on a business trip with him. The girls were wonderful and we had a great time in  the lovely river city. We remembered the Alamo and we rocked the Riverwalk! We enjoyed the shopping, the food, the Tower of the Americas and cable TV in our hotel room! It felt like we were somewhere else besides Texas-really!

7) Seasonal Goodies
I love summer, especially the foods associated with the season: fresh fruit, ice cream, cold drinks (alcoholic and not) and cold salads. The Summer Drink this year was the mojito. Great for a party, but I made some just for myself: a party for one!  Gotta love it.

7 Fried Things

August 18th, 2010 by Jane

Way down here in the Heat Stroke State we are enjoying a heat index of 108ºF today. We Texans use our summer heat as a conversation starter, joke incubator and a badge of honor. Just walk into any public establishment and someone will catch your eye and say, “Hot out there, idn’t it?” Then, of course there are those who try to expand on the classic “It’s hot enough to…” Surviving a Texas August is no easy feat. Physically and psychologically, it’s our version of being snowed in, like those winters in South Dakota. Only with rivers of sweat.

Weathering August in Texas requires a commitment to hydration, the slowing down of your usual routine, and a willingness to use your life savings for your increased cooling bill. Mooching from a friend with a pool doesn’t hurt, either.

This time of year, my mind gets fuzzy and apathy is the general state in which you will find me. The only real relief comes with the first mini-cold snap we get around the last week of September, when the temperature drops down to a positively breezy 89ºF. Until then, I find that salsa and chips help me; something about eating spicy food makes all the sweating worthwhile.  Pair it with a mojito and you’ve got a party. But. You still have to hydrate: water, water, water or you will get sick, sick, sick. Here are seven things that suffered in the heat.

1) My Yard
The above photo is from my garden. My husband, who is handy with a garden hose, didn’t want me to post this because he thinks it reflects badly on him as my yard boy. It doesn’t. In Texas, everyone’s yard looks like this right now. Well, except for Lance Armstrong’s.

2) My Brain
I keep running into people I know while doing back-to-school shopping. We smile and chat.  We ask how everything is going and say good-bye with more smiles and well-wishes. Then I spend the next day-and-a-half trying to remember exactly who those lovely people might be. I look forward to the return of my memory when the weather cools.

3) Chicken
I have not turned on my oven in about 7 weeks. I have been “assembling” dinner, more than cooking it. Tuna salad, fruit plate with ham and cheese, chef’s salad and cold cereal have all been on the menu lately. In my desperation to keep the house cooled and my family fed, I even fried some chicken strips the other day. The kids wanted Happy Meals, so I made Mommy Happy Meals at home. Not to be confused with Mother’s Little Helper, of course.

4) Rice
I’m going to try this recipe for fried rice from Mark Bittman the next time I have leftover rice. Economical, yummy and kid-friendly. Don’t have the veggies listed? Use what you have and it will still turn out well.

5) Our Phone
The base station to our home phone fried in a storm two days ago and I haven’t been able to get a new one yet. They were out of the one with four extensions at the local WalMart, so that means a wait or a trip into Austin to Costco. No my house is not huge, but yes, we need four extensions because when two haven’t been recharged and another is in the bowels of a piece of furniture, then I NEED that fourth extension.

6) Science
Check out the Southern Fried Science blog by some graduate students in North (and South) Carolina. I don’t know half the stuff they’re talking about, but they make it seem fun!

7) Tomatoes
If you’re going to drag out your cast iron skillet to fry something, there is nothing worthier for your efforts than Fried Green Tomatoes. If you can resist eating them straight from the skillet (watch your tongue!) then put them in a sandwich. Mmmmm-mmmmmm!

7 Deal-Breaker Movies…

July 23rd, 2010 by Jane

Over wine some weeks ago, several girlfriends and I were catching up. A few of my friends have children that are older than mine and I pay special attention to their successes and stumbles with their children. I’m taking notes on how to deal with the next stage before my kids get there. I’ll keep you posted on how that works out.

One friend with a teen-aged daughter was talking about watching a family-favorite movie and how relieved they all were when the daughter’s new boyfriend “got” the movie. They use this as a screening tool for who will make the cut or not. Some have failed in recent years.

This inspired a long conversation about movies that we loved and why. It seems everyone has a movie, or five, that are more like family anthems and are a litmus test for how you will relate to others. Kind of like dog people who can’t be married to non-dog lovers. Here are some movies on our collective list. What are some of yours?

1) Monty Python
This one has eliminated several unworthy boys for my friend’s daughter.
Update: my friend said for this test, they use Life of Brian and The Holy Grail. Lately, they have been watching Spinal Tap as a “no fail predictor of longevity.” She would like all of you to take responsibility for choosing your own family movies, as she would not be held liable for any unfortunate pairings. She’s a smart cookie that way.

2) Fargo
My husband and I used to know a poet who took all of her dates to see this movie. If they didn’t like it or didn’t laugh at the appropriate times, she wouldn’t go out with them again. She had seen it seven times at the theater and thought is was the funniest thing she had ever watched. I think only two of five guys made the cut. We lost track of her, so we don’t really know how that worked out. We call this the Fargo Test.

3) St. Ralph
Another friend cited this movie as one that is beloved by her whole family. I haven’t seen it yet. I hope I like it, so I can stay on the roster!

4) Strictly Ballroom
This would be one on our list. My husband and I love this early Baz Luhrman movie. It is funny, sweet and campy with lots of spray tan and glitter. Who doesn’t love that?

5) The Princess Bride
This would make the list, as well. A fairy tale for grown-ups and kids alike.

6) Home for the Holidays
We watch this every November to prepare ourselves for the crazy train that pulls into Dysfunction Junction for the holiday season. Holly Hunter and Robert Downey, Jr. before he turned his life around: hilarious.

7) Love Actually
I have told you before about my love for this movie. I recently found out that a friend of mine doesn’t like it at all and I can barely look at him anymore. I’m working through it as best I can.

7 Questions…

June 20th, 2010 by Jane

Our three girls are very curious, active and clever people. But we’re not biased! We enjoy them so much every day, even when they are pushing the limits of our patience. There is a lot of good stuff we get in return, of course and some days we think we are living the modern version of the TV classic Kids Say the Darndest Things.

One of the twins, Twin A on the sonogram, is especially curious about everything. Her nickname around here is Lois Lane. She always knows what is going on in the house and she comes up with questions that we have a hard time answering most days. Here is a sample.

1) Why do we have chins?
Her dad told her it was so our noses wouldn’t slide off of our faces.

2) What’s the number before infinity?
She understands what infinity is, so this one really blew our minds.

3) Why are eyes different colors?
We consulted our neighbor, who is an eye doctor for this one. She gave Lois Lane a really good explanation about pigment and people’s different coloring.

4) Why do boy lions have fur around their neck?
Best guess: For protection when they fight other boy lions.

5) Follow up question: And why do they have that little bit of fur at the end of their tail?
Anyone got this one?

6)  Why are pirates called pirates?
From Latin and Greek origins meaning to attempt or attack.

7) What’s your favorite, Favorite, FAVORITE thing to do?
Be with you and your sisters and your dad.

7 Things I’ve Been Doing…

May 15th, 2010 by Jane

You thought we’d given it up, didn’t you? No, no, we just got busy doing Spring/End-of-the-school-year stuff. Also, my computer crashed. One new hard drive later and I am up, if not running, per se. No photos for this post because Word and iPhoto are not installed yet!

I spent part of an afternoon cleaning out the nest a rat made in the back of my dryer. Yuck.

How about you? What have you been up to?

Take a gander, or a goose, at this list.

1) Yoga
Most of you know that I teach yoga for my day job and I love it. I’ve been developing a new class that I might offer during the fall, working on a brochure and consulting with a web developer to improve my website. I’ll let you know when it is running again.

Favorite quote from a student this week: “I need a non-compete clause…with myself.”

2) Sweating
I made a promise to myself that I would increase my cardio workouts, so I’ve been to the gym five days a week for months now. I’ll keep you posted on results.

3) Party, Party, Party
The twins turned six this month and we had a party for them last weekend. We have our parties at home with the general theme being: running amok. A bouncy house, some red Kool-Aid and birthday cake equals happy children.

Then our neighbors had a deck party and too much sangria was had by a few, who shall remain unnamed.

Also, we had an impromptu party with two other couples who live on our street because we all share the same wedding anniversary. Weird, huh?

Today we have a swim party for a six year old friend and tonight our neighbors are having an iron chef party where another neighbor will accept challenges form the crowd. We live on a fun street.

4) Friendship, Friendship
I’ve been on call lately with a few friends who have needed a little more support. One found out she was four months pregnant. Yes, you read that right. She is ecstatic and I am thrilled to be along for the ride with her. Another friend is preparing for an international move and is handling all of the stress that comes with that in a beautiful way. I am glad I can help in some small way.

5) Reading Two Perfect Books
This month, I read Lift, by Kelly Corrigan and I cried the entire way through it. Really, if you need some catharsis, this is the book for you. It is a small, easy, powerful read. She wrote is as a letter to her children about the risk and reward of being a parent. I’m still thinking about it.

The second perfect book I read is Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo. No, I didn’t read this children’s book to my children. I read it in one afternoon, for myself. I knew the story because I took the girls to see the movie when it came out a few years ago. We all loved it and we all cried. But the book, oh, the book. The character’s voices are so perfect and rich. There is an economy of words in children’s books that leaves me awestruck. Especially this one.

6) Reading a Book-to-Be
A friend has written a manuscript for a political thriller and he asked me to read it. I’m honored, so I am reading it slowly to give it my full attention. It’s great and I’ll let you know when it comes to a bookstore near you!

7) Making and Baking
The month of May seems to bring endless occasions for which I need to take a dish or a gift or both. The kitchen goodies I have made in the last few weeks include, but are not limited to: four batches of homemade hummus, one devil’s food cake with cream cheese frosting, 48  matching cupcakes and 48 red velvet cupcakes with the same frosting, a vat of sangria, Italian bean dip, homemade tomato soup, ranch dressing (from scratch)  the most decadent flourless chocolate cake with raspberry-champagne coulis and trail mix.

Whenever possible, we try to make a gift for the special people in our lives. So, I have made a few necklaces lately for some friends. I use vintage buttons and mix them with various gemstones and beads for some fun pieces.

So, that’s the short version of what I’ve been up to, how about you? Happy Spring-Almost-Summer!

7 Bright Spots

April 7th, 2010 by Jane

Spring has sprung and the world looks a little brighter, yes? Here are a few more bright spots for you to enjoy!

1) Who is Amy?
No, not our own lovely, Amy K. Brown. I am talking about the equally lovely Amy K. Rosenthal. She is a Chicago-based writer and maker of merriment. Her books are whimsical and touching, her small films are truly inspiring. And in my opinion, The Beckoning of Lovely is brilliant. Her work will be a definite bright spot in your life.

2) Guess What’s Exploding in Central Texas?
See the above photo, shot by our favorite photographer, Amy K. Brown.
We are having an awesome wildflower year here in Central Texas, due to all of the fall rains we had. The state flower of Texas is the bluebonnet and they are showy flowers in any year, but this one is a bluebonnetpalooza! Bring your toddlers on up here to put a heinie print in a field on the side of the highway!

3) Do you know TED?
If you are feeling down about the state of the world, then watch some of these TED conference videos. At the Technology Engineering and Design conference each year, some of the smartest people on the planet share their ideas and plans for making the world a better place. It gives one hope.

4) Got Gratitude?
I have been a fan of MJ Ryan’s books on gratitude for years now, my favorite being A Grateful Heart, but I didn’t know that she is an expert on change and adaptability. Peruse her website and blog and you might become a fan, too.

5) Know Any Young Poets?
Check out New Moon, no not that one. New Moon, the online and print magazine for girls, written by girls.

6) Wanna Get Lucky?
Katherine Center’s new book, Get Lucky is out today. I know what I am reading this weekend!

7) How Do You Eat an Elephant?
One Peace at a Time, a documentary by actor, writer and Austin-resident,Turk Pipkin, is out on DVD this week. If you missed his first film, Nobelity, then run out and get it.  In Nobelity, Pipkin asked Nobel laureates what to do about some of the world’s most pressing problems and their answers are simple and fascinating. A movement grew out of that filming experience and the Pipkin family started an non-profit to help solve some of those problems. Watch both of them back to back; with nine Nobel laureates, great music and Willie Nelson-you won’t be sorry! Or go meet Turk this Friday at the release party at Waterloo Records, if you are in the Austin area!

7 Quotes on Being

March 22nd, 2010 by Jane

1) If you want to be happy, be.  ~Leo Tolstoy

2) I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself. ~Maya Angelou

3) The white light streams down to be broken up by those human prisms into all the colors of the rainbow. ~Charles R. Brown

4) We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have-for their usefulness. ~Thomas Merton.

5) Each of us literally chooses, by his way of attending to things, what sort of universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit. ~William James.

6) We could say that meditation doesn’t have a reason or doesn’t have a purpose. In this respect it’s unlike almost all other things we do except perhaps making music and dancing. When we make music we don’t do it in order to reach a certain point, such as the end of the composition. If that were the purpose of music then obviously the fastest players would be the best. Also, when we are dancing we are not aiming to arrive at a particular place on the floor as in a journey. When we dance, the journey itself is the point, as when we play music the playing itself is the point. And exactly the same thing is true in meditation. Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment. ~Alan Watts

7) You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. ~The Buddha

7 Paragraphs on Worthiness

March 8th, 2010 by Jane

Remember Wayne and Garth, from Wayne’s World on Saturday Night Live? When the lovable rock hards, played by Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey,  would meet their rock heroes they would bow down and wail “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” This was their way of paying homage to people like Alice Cooper and Bruce Springsteen or whomever the musical guests were on SNL. Silly and fun, they still make me laugh.

Worthiness is the topic this week on the blog Ordinary Courage, by the brilliant Brenè Brown. I have mentioned here before, that Brenè is a researcher at the University of Houston who studies shame and authenticity. She has a new DVD of a lecture she gave on the subject of worthiness and as a way to celebrate the release of it, she is hosting a Week of Worthiness. She has asked bloggers to write about worthiness and post to her blog so that readers can join the conversation. She is also giving away several of the DVDs to a few readers, so drop by her site and sign up!

But, back to Wayne and Garth. What makes their unworthiness so humorous is that they say aloud what we are afraid to admit. I’ve yet to meet a person who has never felt “less than” at some point in his or her life. Sometimes, we allow others to make us feel this way and sometimes we don’t need the help, we can make ourselves feel unworthy all by ourselves, thank you very much.

I know several women whose primary job it is to care for small children. As most of us know, this is an all-consuming but virtually invisible job. As long as you keep the children alive and fairly well cared for, no one notices what you have done. Many will see what you haven’t done, like the laundry or cooking, but the thousand little things that make up a day of caretaking go largely unnoticed. These women are relieved when their husbands are traveling because they do not feel they have to justify their existence. Now, not one of these people is married to a Ward Cleaver type, so this may be entirely self-imposed. But there it is, nonetheless.

Last night, America’s Sweetheart, Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her portrayal of a real-life mother in the movie, The Blind Side. In her acceptance speech she said, with head bowed, “Did I really earn this, or did I just wear y’all down?” It seems even beautiful, rich, funny women don’t feel worthy all the time either. Interesting.

As some of you know, I am a yoga teacher, which is not to say it is my day job, but more accurately, it is the way I try to live my life. On the yoga mat and off of it. This is not easy, but it is more authentic to me than any other way I have tried to live. Yoga is not a religion, but you can use it as a spiritual path, if you choose and I do. One of the main tenets of yoga is to peel away the layers of the ego until you reach your essence, the Self. Easy, huh? Some days, yes. On others, I think to myself, “That’s it, today is the day I will be found out for the fraud that I am!” Luckily, yoga teaches patience and I just try to keep my mouth shut until this feeling goes away. On good days, I realize that feelings of unworthiness are part of the ego I am trying to molt from my Higher Self. Breathing great, deep yoga breaths helps.

Considering the state of the world right now, some people are finding it difficult to feel worthy. When you have a safe, warm home, your health and some means, do you have a right to worthiness when there is suffering on a global scale? I do not have the answers, but I do know that making oneself feel less than does not help anyone: not yourself, not your family, not the people in Haiti, Chile or Turkey. Fully realized, healthy, worthy, whole-hearted people can change the world. One breath at a time.

7 Small Happinesses

February 21st, 2010 by Jane

In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.
– Edith Wharton, pictured above

The above quote is my second favorite quote ever. If I had to choose a personal motto it would be the famous quote from Ghandi about being the change you wish to see in the world and this one.

Really, I think about this a lot. My life, as most, is full of irritations that I could let grow from minor to excruciating and to be honest, on some days I do.  But, as a student of yoga, I have learned to be a little more aware of everything and that means the good stuff as well as the squeaky parts. It is extremely easy for me to focus on the squeaky, because there is a genetic disposition for this in my lineage. I’m trying to stop the cycle, but that’s another post.

I really believe that what you think about informs your behavior and your attitude. Amy says that what you do every day becomes your life. So. Today I thought about how I am happy in small ways, and I have shared a few with you below. Let me know what your small happinesses are, if you want to share!

1. The Olympics
I have been a fan of the Olympics since I watched Mark Spitz win his 7 gold medals in 1972, when I was in second grade. I have not missed watching a summer or winter games since. They are a complete source of joy for me. I wrote an exuberant post in tribute to my love for the Olympic Games and I was ready to publish it on the day of the opening ceremonies. But, I just could not post it when I heard about the death of Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili. I hope that his family know that there are many around the world who are heartbroken about his death.

In spite of the tragedy, I have caught myself standing and cheering, grinning ear to ear when the winners cross the finish line, crying with their parents who are jumping up and down in the bleachers and sobbing when the national anthem is played for each athlete. Two weeks of joy and hope, that’s what it is.

2. Magazines
I have posted about my love of magazines before and that has not dimmed, even as the choices of shiny publications continues to diminish. I got to read a few this weekend.

3. Chocolate
Again, you already know about my love for dark chocolate. I have been cutting back on it lately, so I have been making a few chocolate-covered strawberries a few nights a week to get my fix. I don’t use very much chocolate (in the form of 60% cacao chocolate chips) and I melt them in the microwave. Dip strawberries (washed and dried) into the chocolate, put them on some wax paper and place in the fridge. You get fiber, vitamin C, anti-oxidants and a chocolate fix all in one.

4. Lotion
I am out of my favorite lotion and now I cannot find it anymore.  Any one know anything about TeaSpots Lotion? My favorite was the Chai. I kept the bottle for a while, just to smell it occasionally, but that seemed pathetic.

5. Sensory
Can you name something that makes you happy in each of your senses?. Visually, there are certain colors I just want to live in. Literally, I want to move into the color or painting and take my belongings with me.

Singer songwriters with a way with words and a rasp in their voice make my ears and my brain happy: Bruce Springsteen (you knew that, didn’t you?) Kasey Chambers, Bob Schneider, Jon Dee Graham, plus a few others. The happy sounds of my children drifting from another room, the nightly hooting of the owl that lives on our street, cicadas in the summertime, the sound of my husband’s voice when he is teaching one of the girls something; all good sounds to my ears.

The smell of soup simmering on the stove makes my nose happy. So does the chai lotion mentioned above. The scent of my children when they are clean. The scent of my children when they are dirty. Old roses and fresh herbs. The smell of salsa, pretty much any kind. The peculiar scent of lipstick. The scent of welding flux always reminds me of my dad. The overpowering smell of garlic reminds me of my grandmother, who took garlic pills everyday before you could buy the unscented kind.

I have a lot of tastes that make me happy, but I will narrow it down to one for today. A few days ago, I went to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant and I ordered a Soda Chanh. This is a limeade soda, made fresh to order that has lime, soda, sugar, salt and sometimes mint in it. It is sweet, sour, salty, bitter and bubbly at the same time. Yum.

When I am shopping for clothing, bedding or furniture I am attracted to an item first by its color. But before I buy it, I have to touch it. Nothing that is scratchy comes home with me. My husband has some twenty-year old t-shirts that I like to wear. They are just about right.

6. Writing
I love writing. Really.

7. Little Surprises
This morning, our twins woke us up with a puppet show. Their ten-year old sister got in bed with us and the three of us watched the two of them put on a show at the foot of the bed. Good stuff.