Saturday favorites

I’ve been collecting a few suggestions…in the spirit of paying it forward these are some things I’d recommend to everyone! ūüôā

Getting ready to do some baking. I never get tired of playing in the kitchen! That’s why I hauled my Kitchen Aid mixer to this little apartment, along with a few other essentials. Here are a mix of my current favorites, both savory and sweet, tools and foods.

  • Parchment paper – what a difference this makes in baking. Easy clean up. I particularly love using parchment paper for baking brownies…leave a generous margin of paper hanging over the sides of the brownie pan and just lift out the brownies when baked. Easier to cut brownies out of the pan. When I first tried parchment paper, I was frugal, using it only for certain things. ¬†Now it comes out almost any time I turn on the oven.
  • Silicone baking pans – I’m only beginning to use these, but what I’ve used so far I like. The added bonus: you can shape all sorts of stuff in these…handmade soap or other crafts. Multi-purpose!
  • Cauliflower “mashed potatoes”¬†– I’ll admit when I make this version of the traditional mash I add a little butter and sometimes sour cream to the mix…the flavor is so good I hardly notice the substitution of cauliflower for potato. Best tip: if you want a little more body to your “mash,” add a small potato or two to the head of cauliflower. You’ll still have a lower carb dish, but it will be a little sturdier…maybe a good step down from the all-potato mash.
  • Big wide shreds of parmesan…I can sometimes find this wide shred in the grocery, usually in the specialty cheese section, but if you can’t find it, buy a gorgeous big hunk of parm and use a vegetable peeler to make your own wide, luxurious shreds to top pasta bakes, salads, or whatever needs a little more cheesy goodness.
  • A new favorite, I’ve only recently been roasting garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas. Delicious and simple. Start with two cans of garbanzo beans, drain and rinse. Spread the beans on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, or any seasoning that strikes your fancy. Bake/roast at 400¬į for approximately 30 minutes. I say “approximately” because you may want them to be more or less crunchy. My advice is to check the beans after the first 30 minutes and decide if they’re done to your taste. They’re like popcorn, only better. Good for snacking, and making salads more interesting.
  • Seattle Bakery Cracked Wheat Sourdough Bread…if you can find this brand, buy it! The sourdough flavor comes through with the crunchy nuttiness of the cracked wheat…delicious toasted with jam, or use for the perfect grilled cheese. This bread comes in a big round loaf. Beautiful.
  • Burrata cheese:¬†If you haven’t tried this, you must do so, asap! It’s wonderful, that’s all.
  • My new favorite way to prepare salmon: searing. I used to bake salmon, if I wasn’t grilling, thinking it was the best way to keep it healthy. But I always have trouble with the timing. It seems like I pull it out too fast, or just past the perfect done-ness. I tried pan searing the fresh salmon we caught last weekend, and it was perfect. Just put a little olive oil or butter (ok, I always choose butter) in your pan, and when the pan is hot, place the salmon and season. I turned the fillet once, and got it just right. Not overdone, and the texture was perfect. Outside got a little color, and the inside was medium rare. Never baking salmon again!
  • Homemade Magic Shell: (this is just fun!)
    • 8 ounces of chocolate (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)
    • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil

    Place coconut oil in double boiler over low heat and melt. Add chocolate chips to double boiler with the oil. Gently blend chocolate into coconut oil until smooth.  Let cool for a few minutes and then drizzle on your favorite anything. Perfect for dipping fruit. Bananas, strawberries, and grapes are my favorites. Made some frozen dipped bananas recently and can verify: highly edible! Also perfect for ice cream.

In the digital world, check these out…well worth exploring.

  • PicMonkey – a fun and easy photo editor…there’s a free version and a paid version, both are great. Good for creating printables or almost anything.¬†Look here.
  • Best way to sell online…I call it a digital garage sale. Check out your local Facebook sale site. The one for Ketchikan is called Ketchikan SaleCycle, it’s a closed group for local residents…an amazing resource if you need something, or if you’re selling. I sold most of my furniture in the move last fall, and a lot of miscellaneous household items…made over $13,000 in just a few weeks. Of course, eventually I’ll have to replace some of those things, but it was a fantastic way to sell without doing a huge one day event that might or might not have gone well. And it’s fun too…actually sort of addicting once you get going. I like it better than Craigslist. I think most communities have a local Facebook sales group. Find the digital garage sales in your area and get ready to clean out!

And finally, some random suggestions:

  • A new favorite exercise…the Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro…It really works!
  • Looking to be inspired to say “No!” more often? I can’t say enough about Greg McKeown’s book¬†Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.¬†I read it a few months ago, and I’m still drawing on it as I consider choices. ¬† ¬†I’m one of those people who finds it difficult to say “no.” Recognizing that saying “no” actually honors the real priorities of my life helps me to be strong in the face of my built-in need to please. Not always easy for this Southern girl/woman to do, but I’m trying to be more thoughtful and deliberate about my answers.
  • RSVP Endurance kitchen products: I love these tools. You can find them on Amazon or in specialty kitchen stores. They’re not too pricey, but all the ones I’ve tried are good. Very good. This is a brand like Oxo…great value for the money, and whatever they make is quality. The tools are a pleasure to use.

And finally, a smile for the day:

Organic Donuts

Enjoy your weekend!   ~ Sheila

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Checkbook surprise

A few months ago I published a little ebook on Kindle, (shameless plug) and then with the house listed and life turned upside down, I largely forgot about it. Not that I wasn’t interested. But I was overwhelmed, and preoccupied…too busy with craziness at the moment to focus on my budding self-publishing career.

So imagine my surprise when I was balancing my checkbook in September and noticed a deposit from Amazon. The first thought that flashed through my mind was that this was a refund for something I had bought from Amazon. But I immediately realized that didn’t make sense…I buy with my credit card, so anything that was refunded would show up on the card activity, not in my checking account.

It actually took me a couple of minutes to realize…this was a payment to me¬†from Amazon! It was a royalty payment for my book sales!

And it was for a grand total of $20.24.

Alright, I’m not making a fortune here. But do you know what that represents?

And yes, I do understand that self-publishing in the digital world is not quite the milestone as say…having a book hit the New York Times best seller list.

But still…I actually made money from something I wrote, and something someone else bought.

And a few days ago, it happened again. This time the deposit was only for $16.74, but it was there.

And it whetted my appetite. If one little book generates two small deposits, maybe there’s opportunity for more.

Haven’t I been looking for ways to move my income stream to the digital world? And isn’t this income?

Well, so far I could do a couple of fast food meals, or a few rounds of morning coffee. It’s a modest beginning.

But it is a beginning.

Do you ever think about the end of the story? You know, the way movies often start…at the end, showing the outcome of the story, then taking you back to see how it all unfolded?

That’s the scene I play in my mind. I’m not forecasting that I’ll become a famous author, or even a wealthy one. I do have a fantasy that I’m self-funded, and looking back to how it all started…little by little, growing into a steady stream of deposits that support more than a coffee habit.

I’m thinking about other titles…what books do I have in me?

I’ve been curious about the Kindle publishing platform for a long time. I buy Kindle books on a regular basis, and I wanted to walk through the process to experience it…see how easy or difficult it was, see what it would be like to have a book on Amazon.

Well, now I know. It actually works!

Not that I was skeptical. I’ve certainly read enough from others who have published via Kindle to know that it is a legitimate publishing venue, to say nothing of having the powerhouse of Amazon behind it.

And let me say, just to be clear, that I am a hearty and staunch supporter of independent bookstores and printed books. But I am a realist, and I believe there is room for both digital and print books, for online retailers and the brick-and-mortar shop as well.

But there’s no doubt that for someone like me, digital publishing offers an opportunity that I would likely never have in the print world, at least not at this point, not with my approach.

So I’m grateful for the incentive that two little deposits in my account have given me.

And I’m doing a little daydreaming about the end of this story.

Here’s the other thing. I’m sharing this to say, if I could do this, so can anyone else. The digital world is amazing…levels the playing field in so many ways, and opens the door to creativity and determination and ambition. Like a little engine that could, I hear myself….I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!

And you can too! See you on the playground!

Hope

From my collection of quotes, declarations of hope:

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.        Robert Fulghum

The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.   Samuel Johnson

Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again.  Sarah Ban Breathnach

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.  Winston Churchill

I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy!           Louise Bogan

Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.    Lin Yutang

If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.         Allan K. Chalmers

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.        Mohandas K. Gandhi

Some people believe that ¬†having an attitude of hope is a way to practice self-deception, to hide from reality. But I disagree. I think hope is what fuels inspiration, strengthens resolve, helps us to hold on when we doubt. Hope is not a mind-numbing drug. It is an affirmation that though our wishes don’t always come true, they often do. Sometimes our own faith in the outcome is what makes the difference. We all have the ability to be self-fulfilling prophecies. I choose to live on the hopeful side of life.

Spring is sometimes called the season of hope. But hope isn’t limited to a time of year, or a time in life. It can flourish at any time.

What are you hoping for?

Unconditional love or approval?

I recently read a book that was amazing. Kitchen Table Wisdom, by Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, was first published in 1996. Somehow I missed it when it came out, all those years ago, and just stumbled across it one Saturday afternoon when I was rambling in a local bookstore. I actually bought a small gift book edition, a condensed version of the full text. I found the writing moving and insightful.

I eventually discovered, when I mentioned the little book to Rob, that he had the full text edition in his books, stored in the basement. I hadn’t even realized I had read an edited version. I dug it out and read the whole thing in a few short sittings.

The book is a combination of personal reflections based on the author’s life and stories of wisdom drawn from her experience and years as a physician and counselor. There are many pearls of insight, but the one that was most meaningful to me is this:

Children can learn early that they are loved for what they do and not simply for who they are. To a perfectionistic parent, what you do never seems as good as what you might do if you just tried a little harder. The life of such children can become a constant striving to earn love. Of course love is never earned, it is a grace we give one another. Anything we need to earn is only approval.

Few perfectionists can tell the difference between love and approval. Perfectionism is so widespread in this culture that we actually have had to invent another word for love. “Unconditional love,” we say. Yet all love is unconditional. Anything else is just approval.

“Anything else is just approval.” That’s a challenging filter to pour my emotions through. Digesting this made me consider all the people in my life that I love. It can be a bit complicated to sort out all the reasons we love, and what feeds that emotion. This is not just an issue for parents and children. The principle applies to spouse, extended family, friends.

Of course the people in our lives may do things that may please us, or not. But the question is really less about what others do and more about how we respond. As a parent of young children, I always encouraged my kids to do their best. But I admit, what I often meant was “I know you can do better than that.” And the reality is that I was probably right when I had those feelings. They probably could have done better. But bottom line, the challenge was to take whatever they did and see the positive in it. Sometimes I got that, sometimes not. I believe, overall, I was able to escape being a perfectionist parent, but not because I completely understood the difference between love and approval. Maybe that was a grace that I was given, and in turn was able to extend.

It’s a fine line we walk….navigating between approval and love. Of course, I believe these two things can exist together, and should. I can choose to love, even when someone in my life is behaving in a way I don’t approve. Maybe the resolution comes when I recognize that although I may be the center of my own little universe, the people in my life are not obligated to behave in a way that I approve. No. They will make their own decisions and choices. As someone who is part of their universe, I may have an opinion about their actions. But it is my choice whether I love, or don’t love. I don’t get a choice when it comes to behavior. That’s their choice.

What about you? Are you loving the people in your life? Or just approving of them? Is there behavior that crosses the line? Spouses divorce. Rifts occur. Family members let go of others, quit speaking. I’m not saying there should be no boundaries, or that loving someone means you become a door mat. But it’s worth thinking about. ¬†I want to be honest with myself. And I want my standard to be love, not just approval. And I hope that I’ll be given the same grace.

Cheerful vs happy

“I’m not happy. I’m cheerful. There’s a difference. A happy woman has no cares at all. A cheerful woman has cares but has learned how to deal with them.”¬† Beverly Sills, American opera singer.

I saw this quote recently and was immediately charmed. By this definition of happiness, could anyone really claim that state? Is there really anyone¬†who has no cares at all? Not in my experience. But I know many people who regularly demonstrate¬†grace under fire, grace under pressure, grace in the face of real life struggles. To some degree, life is all about perspective. If things are generally good, even a small disappointment can take on greater significance. A flat tire or lost cell phone¬†can feel like a small tragedy. I have to acknowledge that most of my life has been blessed with health, children, friends, relationships, love…the kind of life that is easy to take for granted because it is stable.

I am increasingly aware that no life is simple, that even the people around us who look whole and happy have their cares, their own quiet battles. No one escapes some form of life challenge. Sometimes the issues are of our own making, sometimes not. Sometimes the stress is personal, sometimes it is from the heartache of watching a family member or friend struggle, and only being able to stand by and watch.

So what is the answer? Even in times of stress and heartache,¬†life¬†¬†goes on. How is that possible? It’s difficult to rise above grief, above loss, above pain. But the attempt to be¬†cheerful is important. Is this just the “fake it till you make it” attitude? I think this is different. I think the message from this quote is that we acknowledge our troubles, we confront them, we choose life. We continue to embrace life. We look for the good to offset the bad.

I’ve sometimes been accused of being the proverbial ostrich, burying my head in the sand. And anyone who know me knows that I never seek confrontation with others. But I see a subtle difference here. When I have difficulty in my life, my confrontation is less with someone than with the issue itself. What can I do to make a difference? How can I overcome? After all, I can’t change another person,¬†I can only change myself. I can only choose for myself. I can only be cheerful for myself.

I choose cheerfulness. I am not always able to claim happiness. But I can breathe deeply, I can focus on the good in my life, I can enjoy the comforts of the day: now in early December, a warm fire, a cup of hot coffee, twinkling lights, an early Christmas card¬†from a friend. I choose to be a light in the darkness. Doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with this at times: of course I do. But with the help of faith in the power of¬†God, faith in the power of good, faith in the power of hope, I will be cheerful. I will overcome.

It is a very empowering place to be. I’m liking the view from this vantage point.