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Monday, January 30, 2012

California Redwoods in Middle Earth


I've always wanted to see the giant California Redwood trees. I just never thought I'd get that chance in Rotorua, New Zealand instead of - you know - California.



















Since this grove is still relatively young, the trees aren't exactly giants yet,
I mean as far as California Redwoods go.






Interspersed with some funky New Zealand tree-ferns
whose proper name I can't remember.




Having grown up in a desert, I'm always a little fascinated
with green things. We sure don't have moss like this where I live.




Someday, a loooong time from now, the Rotorua grove will look like
the one in this video. The trees may not be giants yet (relatively speaking),
but it was still pretty neat to witness the beginnings of something so great.



Growing is Forever from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

Remember to check back Wednesday for our first February Challenge of the Month post
from Russo. We decided to try our hand at some Valentine's Day-themed short fiction.
Numerous paranormal love triangles to follow. Or not.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Live in the moment, Nastia Liukin

Nastia Liukin, Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics, once said in Vogue Magazine, "When you're out there, you're not thinking about the big picture. You just have to live in the moment and enjoy it."

My friends, we are chasing a dream and the pursuit can be exhausting. Not just on our minds but also on our bodies. I am starting to think the way to really flourish is to learn from Miss Liukin-live in the moment.

Enjoy the ups but even more than that, cherish the downs. Yes, the moments of victory make the process seem worthwhile but the hard times are what strengthens our resolve. Enjoy the moment because something beautiful awaits you.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Spin Around the Shire

In New Zealand last fall, I got to visit Mt. Victoria, which stood in for parts of the outer Shire in the Lord of the Rings, specifically when the hobbits are chased by the Ringwraiths:




Stand back, Nazgul. I got this.



"Get off the road!" Frodo knows something's up.


I wasn't as worried as Frodo. More amused, maybe. It's hard not to look stoked when you're in New Zealand!


Time to duck and cover . . .


Except the actual tree is gone now, and there was nothing scarier than a spectral jogger on the road.


After all that excitement, I had to stop for a rest in the Frodo tree.


Yep, the very same tree.


What's this? Just a shortcut to some mushrooms.



View from Mt. Victoria. Would you believe Wellington is really just a stone's throw from Middle Earth?


Next stop: the Gardens of Isengard (really Harcourt Park)




I looked everywhere, but there were no wizards to be found! Maybe they were hiding.


My guide Wendell kept a stash of wizard's staffs for tour groups in the bushes nearby. So here I am in the Gardens of Isengard with my very own wizard's staff. Oh yeah. I'm totally legit.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter Tree and Granola. My Friday Gift To You.

It's been a lonnnngggg week. Weeks. I need peace. Do you? Ah, I thought you might. Here is my peace offering to you: a tour of my winter decorations! Yes, yes I know. Just what you've always wanted. Well, you are WELCOME.


Thank you for bearing with me. I might need therapy, and you are far less expensive than Dr. Forehead. And nicer. I am seriously pushing the Christmas line with my decor, but I don't care. In a winter of no snow, which totally stinks, I have the right to push Christmas out as far as I want. And so do you. Except I'm not. I'm pushing snowmen. And icicles. And greenery. And lights. And forest trees. Forest, not Christmas. And I'm also pushing granola. My favorite recipe for which follows the pictures.


And just to be a nice guy, and to prove I'm only pushing the peace of winter, I shall also include a wonderful non-Christmas song that you can play as you browse the pictures and read through the recipe. I hope you can sit back, close your eyes (except when you're looking at my post), and just float away for a while. Peace to you all, my friends.
(This song is in Irish. Then English. It's from my trip to Ireland. Which was massively peaceful.)




The fireplace: de-Santa'ed, de-Nutcracker'ed, de-Stockinged. Icicles on the Stocking hangers. Red glass tree to represent St. Valentine (don't say anything).  And a happy little forest tree. And forest candles. And forest lights. *sigh*

My husband's old skates. From when he was twelve. He used to flood the horse pasture between his house and his grandparent's in the winter. It could get down to 60-below at times, so it didn't take long to make an ice rink. He'd skate it on these. 

We once had freezing rains in Germany that robed everything in 3-4 inches of ice. I had white skates just like these, except, you know, white. My brother and I skated around the block, over and over again. The Germans watched us crazy Americans from their windows. Which were frozen shut. *double sigh*

My snowmen. People have given these to me over the years. Including that snowman runner. It's a collection I never actually started. I love it. It reminds me of lovely people.

A picture from my sister-in-law. I love lights in winter and put them everywhere. You may have noticed. The Presidents noticed. Look at them up there smiling. We love our country. We also love poor starving artists who go door to door hawking their paintings so they can pay for their new baby. And we hang what we purchase on our wall so we don't forget to send good vibes to the artist and his family.

The glitter tree! Yay! I love this the most. My family hates it because they all have inner-ear issues and can't not get caught on the tree whenever they walk by. I don't have this problem. There is plenty of room. My family claims the tree grabs them. This year I put the tree on the coffee table. If my kids get caught on it this time it means they've flung themselves at it and I am taking them for therapy with Dr. Forehead.

Glitter tree on table with lights (surprise!) and hubby-skates. Fireplace to right. Snowless yard to left.

Glitter-tree again because I love it. It was supposed to cost $125. I had been looking everywhere for a glitter tree--which I'd never heard of and totally made up in my head--so when I found it I thought it was a sign from God that I needed a glitter tree. But I didn't have no $125. Then the lady in the store noticed this particular tree had a severe lean (obvious in picture above this one). So she gave it to me for $23. Yep. Twenty-three smackers.
It was meant to be.

And now, Toasty Oasty Granola. A la my lovely friend Alyce
Mix together:
1 cup slivered (or chopped) almonds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup coconut
3 cups oatmeal (old fashioned)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup agave (or 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 cup brown sugar)
1 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tsp vanilla

--Bake 300-325 (fahrenheit) for 20 minutes on cookie sheet. Can stir half way through. I do. Let set on a sheet. Will be moist. If you like your granola crunchy cook it 5-10 minutes longer, stirring in half way through. If you want craisins in it (I do), throw them in after it has baked. After. If you bake the craisins they will morph into nasty bitter little erasers and you will be traumatized.

This is FABulous stirred into yogurt. Especially Greek honey yogurt.
Yummm.
Sigh.

Happy Friday!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Laurie Anne Gibson & fighting for your dream

Lemme be honest, 2012 has not gone my way yet. For the past three weeks, I have been in a NyQuil induced haze. Yep, being sick is no fun at all but resting does have its advantages when chasing a dream.

It allows you some time to regroup and refocus. After battling sickness, you see things more clearly, like what is important and what needs to go. You cherish your health, you fight for it.
And that fighting spirit is your most important tool when chasing a dream.

Laurie Anne Gibson, former choreographer for Lady Gaga said it best, "To me, dance is a fight. It's about passion, heart and the ability to find hope in the smallest crack. The freedom to be who you born to be."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Got Fear? Break Out the Sling-Shot.

You know that saying, "If you love something, set it free. If it comes back its yours. If not, it never was"? Yeah, it's lovely. And probably true. But flip it around and make the thing you're releasing Fear, and see if it still ain't isn't true: "If you fear something, set it free. If it comes back its yours (to deal with). If not, it never was (so stop freaking out about it)." 


Russo's post yesterday about fear got me thinking. I've been struggling with this a LOT lately. And fear does pretty much stop you in your tracks, just as Russ said. Which totally stinks. Because if it gets out of control--i.e., gets you in a half-nelson--it wrecks all the things you love doing, not just the things you don't.


But I wonder how much of what I fear is actually real? And if I were able to set it free instead of holding onto it like a life-preserver, would the stuff that stops me just float away? I kind of think so.


Lately, this has been me, writing my book:
And I'm so, SO tired of it. I've rewritten the front end of my book over and over again for almost 4 years, thinking that I've got to get it perfect, or I can't write the rest of the story.

Then a dear friend of mine *cough*Robin*cough* asked if I might be in perpetual opening-chapters-rewrite because I'm terrified to write the rest of the book. WELL, Miss SmartyKeyboard! I think I know more about my writing psyche than you do. You live clear across the country from me. What do you think you have, objectivity or something? I can write this book! I can write it any time I want. I just don't feel like it right now, a'ight? I just need . . . I just . . . I . . . er . . . 

Yeah. That was it. I was hanging on to my front-end for dear life. (Is it just me, or did that sound wrong?) And it was symbolic of a whole lot of other things I live with too.

So, I decided that enough was enough. I had one nerve left, and fear was getting on it. So here's what I did. (Hope it sticks) I asked myself what I thought was going to happen if I started writing the rest of the book and found out I couldn't do it. And I answered,

-Well, I'd be a failure.
-Then I said, trying not to roll my eyes, really? A failure because you tried something and it didn't work out?
-Well, I answered, no-ooo. I guess not. I'd be more of a failure if I never tried at all.
-Very good, I said in reply. Then I asked myself, What if you write the rest of the book and it stinketh? Like the proverbial Limburger?
-After I uncurled myself from the fetal position I replied, People would think I was really pathetic.
-Which People, I asked myself.
-Oh, you know, People. I said, and got myself a drink because this fear thing is really thirsty-making. 

-So, I said, not actual people then. Just People you imagine are out there judging you.
-Yep, I said, with just a touch of defiance.
-"Self." I said to myself. "Has it ever occurred to you that most People are scared of the same thing, and even if they do judge you, you're not going to fall into a hole in the earth and everyone who actually does love you isn't going to shovel the dirt in after you? They'll still be there. They'll still love you. And they'll admire you for trying."

-Oh. I see. 

-Then I added for good measure, "Also, you need to throw the fears up in the air and run away, instead of trying to stamp them down and keep them in control. Stamping them down means they are still under your feet, which means they can still tap you on the ankle and harass you. Slingshot them up to the sky or the universe or whatever, and walk away. They won't come back. So they won't be yours anymore."

I'm trying this. So far its working. I'm not writing my book for the mysterious People anymore. I'm writing it to see if I can do it. And also for my nieces who have been nagging me for two years to get it done so they can finish reading it. Bless their fuzzy hearts. :)

Now all that's left for me to do is find a therapist and see what I can do about this talking to myself-thing. It's starting to freak us out.

-Like totally.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What to do when fear holds you back

Dominique Moceanu, an American gymnast, once said, "If you feel fear, you will not be able to achieve your best." I dunno know about you but fear hits me at the oddest times. When it comes to my own dream, one minute I am fine and the next, I am a basket of nerves.

My dear friends, we cannot afford to allow fear to squeeze a way into our lives. This dream is yours for a reason. You know what motivates you and you also know what holds you back. The only way you are going to achieve your dream is to hold tight to what drives you forward.

Yes, fear can be ever-present when chasing your hearts desire. Do not fear the unknown. The fact of the matter is-you are stronger than your fear. Never forget that truth.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Dream Big, Baby!

January Challenge: Fantasy Goals for 2012


If I could do anything in the world during 2012 it would be to set and keep goals. I'm like my fellow gnomies: I don't do the whole New Year's Resolution thing. Partly because I know I'll get psychotically ambitious and set three thousand goals, none of which I'll keep. I'm like all those people at the gym who suddenly start exercising at the beginning of the year because the holidays packed it on ("it" being cheesecake, brownies, fudge, toffee, and shortbread. Shortbread should die. It is evil), and they desperately want to pack it off. So they go faithfully for a month, and you can't find a treadmill or an eliptical trainer, or a stair machine or a stationary bike. And then literally at week five, BAM. Everything is free again.


That's me.


I get all fired up and determined, set my alarm for 5:00 a.m. and rush out the door in a flurry of technical clothing and running shoes, and slam into all of my New Year's goals hard and fast. For a month. Then it's over. So I don't do it that way anymore. Now I take things as they rear their heads and I feel much better about it. (Although I'm still trying to hit the gym in the mornings. I got things heading south on my body that need to at least be stopped in their tracks for awhile.)


BUT, if I could make it all happen in 2012? Here's what I'd do:


1.  Qualify for the Boston Marathon by having run the St. George last October (It's a Boston qualifying run. Also, I believe in ex post facto laws when it comes to goals.) Then go to Boston in April and run the thing, taking a victory lap down Boylston Street with thousands of people screaming me on because if an old lady like me can do it, they can do it. And now they're inspired. (Do you see why I don't set goals?)


2.  Spend a month in the British Isles. Have my family join me at week three. Maybe two. They're pretty cool. Then take everyone back at Christmas and have a Dickensian experience. With Wills and Kate.


3.  Be able to pay my bills without having a panic attack.


4. Learn to love running. HAAAAAAhahahahahaha! *sniff* Okay. Learn to like it. HAH! Okay. Learn to do it everyday without stopping every tenth of a mile.


5.  Become so organized and Feng Shui'ed that when someone walks into my house they achieve Nervana.


6.  And one last little goal-lette: Chillax. Seriously. Become a river of peace. That and become famous.


Dreaming is good, right? :) And I think if we're going out there and putting good into the universe, the universe will put some good back into us. So dream big, do good, and be grateful. That's my real mantra for 2012.


Have a lovely year, my friendly peeps!



Wednesday, January 4, 2012

World peace and Ugg boots

January Challenge: Fantasy goals for 2012

I'll be the first to admit, I don't really do New Years resolutions. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my goal in seventh grade was to smooch Tom Cruise and well, that never happened.

Now, before you cringe lemme note that this wasn't the crazy-pants Tom Cruise of our day and age. Do you remember when Mr. Cruise was in Top Gun and he seemed normal and HOTT? I know, 'tis but a distant memory. Anyways, on to my fantasy goal.

For 2012, I would like to become Pippa and Kate Middleton's long lost sister. Yep, wouldn't the Royals gasp when I came dressed to Buckingham Palace in my leather leggings and studded Ugg boots?

I would like the Queen to note my wacked out sense of style and say, "Ugg boots for all."

After a scrumptious supper of pork and cupcakes, Prince William, Prince Harry and I would then go on a massive shopping trip. The goal? Snag the whole world some studded Ugg boots. No one and I mean no one, would be left out.

Ugg boots would be delivered to the likes of evil doers, basketball players, civilians and military personal. And then something strange would happen- the world would become peaceful. All because of a pair of Ugg boots.

Yep, that's my goal for 2012. Make the world peaceful with the help of the Royal family and shoes.

But if I can't bring about world peace, maybe I will take a 6 month hiatus from life and become a Navy Seal. Surrounded by HOTT men, guns and mud. I'm so there.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Devil, Thy Name is New Year's Resolution

January Challenge: Fantasy Goals for 2012

It's traditional to start off a new year with "resolutions." You know, that thing where you make a goal you're going to accomplish sometime before the next Dec. 31st. It tends to be something big and lofty and you start off feeling all hopeful and motivated and stuff. Then sometime in March you realize, "Eh. I tried, but I have other things to worry about, like catching up on all those Downton Abbey episodes."

Well, forget that. How many people actually keep their New Year's resolutions? Is it really that many? And am I starting to sound bitter? I'm starting to sound bitter. But that's only because I don't believe in making resolutions since I never keep them. (Or do I never keep them because I don't believe in making them? Tricky, that.)

Don't get me wrong. If you're one of those people who makes resolutions and manages to keep them every year, I bow in your general direction. Personally, I lean more towards the Do Your Best Each Day and Worry About Tomorrow When It Gets Here school of thought.

That said, my Gnomies and I thought it would be fun to make a list of "Fantasy Resolutions," awesome stuff that could maybe come to pass this year. But if not, that's cool too. It's not the end of the world or anything. So here's what I came up with, the things I'd accomplish this year if I had an infinite supply of time/funds/patience/motivation/discipline/chocolate:

1. Learn to cook (HAHAHAHAHA! *Sniff* Oh my, we are off to a rocky start, aren't we?)

2. Go back to New Zealand, except this time, I'd catch an actual Hobbit. Or an elf. No, a RANGER! Yeah, that's it. I'd catch a Ranger for sure.

3. Finish the first draft of my book. You know, that book that won't leave me alone until I finish it.

4. Attend a live taping of my new favorite show, The Big Bang Theory. You know what? Scratch that. These are fantasy goals, after all. I don't want to be in the studio audience, I want to be on the show! I'm pretty nerdy. I took physics against my will in college. I'd fit right in with those guys.

5. Take up gardening (i.e. not kill every plant I ever try to take care of).

What are your goals for this year, fantasy or otherwise?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Maegan, Janiel and I hope every one of you have a thrilling New Year. 2012, baby!

Something beautiful awaits you this year, can you see it? Your dream is just on the horizon and it's waiting for you.