One of my favorite quotes is by J.R.R. Tolkien: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." Here I'm giving glimpses of all I am deciding in the time that is given to me. Enjoy! All pictures and posts are mine, thank you! Please ask permission for photo use.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

out of nowhere

Last year my mother's side of the family had a reunion in the Black Hills of South Dakota. If you've never been to that part of the country, I highly recommend it. I've been out there several times with family, and it feels...holy. Ever watch Dances with Wolves and just get goosebumps from the landscapes? Imagine that in real life. It's breathtaking, honestly.

Above: that goofy grin signals that I'm super happy to be back in South Dakota and also terrified that a buffalo is going to sneak up behind me while I'm not looking.

Above: the Badlands

Above: art in Rapid City, SD

Above: look at that sky and tell me you don't want to go tearing across the field on Cisco, with Two Socks running by your side and Wind in His Hair riding next to you. Are you lost? Go watch Dances with Wolves and ask yourself why you haven't seen this movie before now.

Last summer my sister and I traveled together to the Black Hills, and we shared a room at Sylvan Lake Lodge. Sylvan Lake is situated within Custer State Park, and the place is gorgeous! There are spectacular views, wonderful hiking trails, and abundant wildlife all around.

Above: my sister, Heather, walking on the Sylvan Lake trail.

Above: sunset view from Sylvan Lake Lodge.

Above: greetings from a friend on the Sunday Gulch trail.

Above: photo taken by my sister, Heather, while we were on the Custer State Park wildlife loop. Stunning!

Somehow I got sidetracked--blame it on the photos and fond memories. The real point of this post was to tell you about an artist that was visiting Sylvan Lake Lodge during our stay. Her name is Teri McTighe, and not only is she super talented and extremely friendly, her art was so inspiring and moving that I couldn't help but purchase several pieces. She has a website and is also on Etsy, and she calls her line of artwork Out of Nowhere. I am just now getting around to ordering frames for my pieces (they have yet to be delivered), and I looking at art again lifted my spirits so much that I just had to tell you about her and show you her amazing artwork.

Above: I bought small cards and arranged them on my desk at home for inspiration.

Above: "Dash at Dawn"

Above: "Night Watchman"

Sunday, February 17, 2013

vegan battle plan and the continued fight against winter

You may recall from an earlier post that I'm going vegan for Lent this year. Yesterday, I volunteered for several hours in the cold and the physical nature of the work left my stomach grumbling only halfway through my shift. Someone had brought candy to share, and I ate three Andes mints to boost my blood sugar and hold me over until lunch.

Three Andes mints aren't a huge deal, and while they aren't a vegan candy, I'm not beating myself up over "cheating." My body needed a boost, and the candy was my only option. Lesson learned: be more prepared! Since going vegan, I notice that I get hungrier more often but am full more quickly (I don't need to eat as much, but I need to eat more often). My plan is to take snacks with me so that I can combat the hunger and even avoid temptation during the next few weeks.

Today at the grocery store, I also decided that it was high time I got some vegan desserts to keep on hand. My have an awful sweet tooth, but if I know that I have something else to look forward to I can say no to junk and wait for the better treat. Maybe I went a little bit overboard at the grocery store...

Still, at least this way I have ammunition for the battle against non-vegan sweets!

I'm working my way through recipes from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet and Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Kitchen (I was doing this before I went totally vegan, and it really helped my transition). Today's recipe is from The Kind Diet, and I am telling you that while you cook it your house will smell incredible! I'm cooking Sweet Potato-Lentil Stew (recipe available online here) and I'm already excited to try it once it's done doing it's stew thing on the stove.

Above: some of the spices used in the Sweet Potato-Lentil Stew, which not only look pretty but will fill your house with an irresistible spicy-sweet aroma.

The other things still sweetening the air in my home are the Valentine's lilies I blogged about yesterday. And in addition to the lilies adding a non-winter touch to my home, we've installed our humidifier! FINALLY!

Steam, glorious steam!

I can't tell you how sore my throat has been when I wake up in the mornings, how my nose is all stopped up, and how dry my skin has been (the coconut oil I use soaks right in and my skin still begs for more). Unfortunately we can only afford to buy one humidifier right now (I'd love to have multiple units spread around the condo!), but I've been putting it in different rooms to boost the humidity levels all over (our condo really isn't that big--if it were a full-blown house, I think this would be a major waste of time and water). Just because it's freezing cold and frosty outside doesn't mean my home needs to feel like winter, too! All I know is I can't wait to sleep in my bedroom tonight where the air won't be so doggone dry.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Valentine's lilies

I received these lilies on Tuesday from my Valentine. Four days later, they are still opening and still have many more unopened flowers. I volunteered this morning for more than three hours in very cold weather, and when I got home it started snowing. The lilies were the perfect pretend tropical escape on this frigid February day.

Happy Saturday! What's your escape this weekend?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

40 days a vegan

This year I'm observing Lent by eating completely vegan. I'm already a vegetarian and I don't eat seafood, but this means I'll banish all forms of dairy and eggs from my diet.

My diet is already mostly vegan, but I definitely need an extra push to go all the way. I was vegan in college, and I know determination, yummy recipes, and some vegan treats when I'm tempted can help me do it again.

Last night I got a head start: I made, from scratch, molasses cornmeal muffins and an acorn squash and mung bean stew. Everything was organic and the food was incredible! My non-vegan, non-vegetarian boyfriend was eating everything up and exclaiming how satisfied his taste buds were. This was the first time I've used the Japanese condiment mirin, a sweet rice cooking wine, and I swear it made the stew taste magical!

I'm a slacker when it comes to consistently writing in my journal, so I'm also trying to bring focus and attention to writing in my journal more frequently.

Are you doing anything for the next 40 days for religious or other purposes? Is there some habit you're trying to form or break?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

the princess and the dysfunctional family

Heather and Maren, this post is lovingly dedicated to you. 

Readers, you're in for a treat.

I used to write stories when I was younger--plays, small novels, short stories, etc. I loved writing and I loved fashioning stories out of my head or revisiting ones that others have told. For select family member audiences, my sisters and I performed an original play about Christopher Columbus, and we even included alternate endings (this was way before DVDs and alternate endings for movies--we were totally ahead of the game). According to us, Christopher Columbus was either killed by natives on an island, died from consuming poisonous berries, or was run down and gored by a wild boar. Recheck your history books, people.

I loved writing so much that I entered a little novel into a competition in 5th grade, and I scored a day trip to a Young Writer's Conference at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I even illustrated the cover of that book (called Parker, about a farm boy and his cat)...yeah, I was ready for my big break.

I have a lot of writing samples from my younger days, but recently came across one that was hidden in the depths of some old papers, long forgotten. I seriously don't even remember writing this, but as I read it I found myself laughing out loud. It's not very good at all, but it's fun. I think I was going for an All That type of sketch while writing, but I can't be sure. I was probably only about 9 or 10 years old when I wrote it.

For your Sunday afternoon reading pleasure, here is my, as I titled it, "Shorter Version of The Princess and the Pea." Please note that I typed it so that you are actually able to read it, rather than forcing you to try and decipher my sloppy, childish handwriting.


Natalie’s Shorter Version of
The Princess and the Pea

(Queen enters with king)
Queen: I just don’t know what to do!
King: About what?
Queen: Our son!
King: Oh man! He needs help like anything!
Queen: (confused) He’s not that ugly.
King: Oh…that… Right—of course.
Queen: What were you talking about?
King: Nothing.
(Prince enters)
Prince: I heard someone say ugly.
King: Wasn’t me.
Prince: Mum?
Queen: Achoo!
King: That wasn’t a real sneeze! You—
Prince: Quiet, dad!
Queen: Achoo!
King: What did you say?!
Prince: I said—
(Queen coughs loudly)
King: Dirty faker!
Prince: Something smells like—
(Queen has sneezing, coughing, and choking attack while kicking, punching, and slapping King.)
Prince: I say, what is that—
King: I—OW!! She bit me on my—
Queen: Long live the queen!
King: My ear! I’m bleeding!
Prince: I’ll live longer than you, you hag!
Queen: You’re grounded!
King: I told you she was faking!
(Doorbell rings and everyone is silent. King opens door.)
King: King’s residence.
Queen: It’s MY residence, you blockhead!
Prince: Quiet!! We have a guest! What is your name?
Princess: Princess Katrina.
Queen: Finally!!
King: A girl for our son!
Prince: (embarrassed) Mom! Dad!!
Princess: Where’s the bathroom?
Queen: Down that hall and to the left (pointing).
King: Watch out! My son here knows how to leave a scent!
Prince: (beaming) That’s right, in fact—hey, wait! DAD! (punches King)
(Lights go down)

Princess: (enters with everyone) I need somewhere to sleep tonight. My dad will come in the morning.
Queen: Okay.
Prince: We didn’t invite you!
King: Son! You can marry her if she’s really a princess.
Prince: How will we know?
King: (whispering) She’ll sleep on twenty mattresses with a pea below them. If she can’t sleep because of the pea, she’s a princess.
Prince: Well, okay.
Queen: (to Princess): I’ll show you your room.
(All exit)

Queen: (enters with King) What a nice, bright, beautiful morning!
King: It’s dull and ugly, like you!
Queen: Like our son. (Both laugh)
(Prince enters)
Prince: Someone said ugly.
Queen: Wasn’t me.
King: Achoo!
Queen: That wasn’t a real sneeze!
Prince: There’s the princess! (Princess enters)
Queen: How did you sleep?
Princess: Fine.
King: You didn’t have trouble?
Princess: Nope. What’s for breakfast?
Prince: You’re not a real princess!
(Deep voice sounds) What is the meaning of this?! (Big, bulky man enters)
Princess: Daddy!
King: King Daniel!
King Daniel: (to Prince) My daughter is a princess!
(Prince and Queen run to bedroom, come back)
Prince: (pointing wide-eyed at Princess): You squashed the pea!
King Daniel: A bee? You mean a bumblebee?
King: Buzzzzz!
Queen: A pea!
King Daniel: A vegetable?
Princess: Oh it’s true!
Prince: You squashed the pea!
Princess: I’m a fat, blubbery whale! I don’t deserve to eat! (runs out)
King Daniel: Later! I’ve got to put in nine holes of golf. (exits)
Prince: She squashed the pea!!
King: The big meatloaf.

The End

fat little birdy

Check out this little guy.

It snowed last night, and there is a light dusting of snow all around, lining the tree branches, resting on cars and rooftops, and blanketing the grass. 

I haven't stepped outside yet, but it looks chilly, and judging by the fat little birdie's fluffy plumage, I'm willing to venture that it's still cold yet.

Even without a cold winter morning, I can carry a fat little birdie with me during any season.

I saw and admired this necklace in a vendor's stall at DC's Eastern Market, and later found out that my honey had purchased it for me and he surprised me with it for my birthday. It's simple and sweet and I love it!

Stay warm, little birdie!

Friday, February 1, 2013


Tonight I took the second kundalini yoga class in my life, and it was just as rewarding as the first. Kundalini yoga employs unique postures, mantras, and challenging breath work. If I focus too much on what I might look like or sound like to an outsider, I feel slightly embarrassed and increasingly self-conscious. I usually close my eyes to help me maintain focus on my movement and breath work, and it helps me escape into the practice. It's when I fully let go and immerse myself into the yoga that I reap the most benefits.

Kundalini is actually a difficult class for me, and I've been taking yoga for years. A lot of heat is created in the body, and movements are repeated at rapid paces for several minutes, leaving my muscles fatigued and shaking after a set. Thankfully the teacher is encouraging and motivating throughout, but it takes even mental strength to keep going and push through the weariness I sometimes feel. There's also a meditation component of the class, and by the end, I've experienced a huge emotional and physical catharsis.

The very first time I tried kundalini, I was in Colorado with my twin sister, Heather, visiting our friend, Sarah. We wanted to try it, and PrAna in downtown Boulder was offering a free class. Heather and I explored wonderful, beautiful Boulder while Sarah was at work, and then Sarah met us at PrAna later in the afternoon for the lesson. All of us were kundalini newbies, and thankfully we all were game to try it; even if we felt at all weird during the class, we kept going without hesitation and ended up enjoying a powerful experience together. I'll never forget my physical and mental exhaustion--but in a good way, like a runner's high. We meditated while looking at and thinking about our hands during one part of the class, and I remember being so moved--either my chakras were opening or else it was the, um, feminine hormones that were extra present that particular week--I was so moved by my personal study of my hands, these hard-working appendages of mine that have done so much for others and for myself, I felt my eyes welling with tears that stemmed from profound gratitude and affection for my little hands.

If I had been too focused on how foreign the mantras sound coming out of my mouth, if I had been too self-conscious about my execution of the difficult moves, or if I had given in to the shaky muscles and sweat forming on my brow, I never would have received such benefits from the class. Tonight, I felt as if I had created a healing fire inside that burned away all sorts of nasty things, accumulated and lodged in both my physical body and in my thoughts.

I have to quote Wikipedia on this, because it rings true for my personal experience: "It is reported that kundalini awakening results in deep meditation, enlightenment and bliss. In practical terms, one of the most commonly reported Kundalini experiences is the feeling of an electric current running along the spine. [5][6] [7]." Tonight, at one point while I was lying on my stomach, I felt as if I were floating above the ground, and a gentle current of water underneath me was swaying me back and forth. It. felt. glorious.

I have a friend who is about to experience great change in her life, change that is exciting and scary and needed. I hope she is able to let herself go, to immerse herself in the change without holding back anything to be able to embrace it and come out enlightened and stronger than ever. Tonight, as we closed our practice with the following song, I thought of her, and I'm singing it out to you too:

May the long time sun
Shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light
within you
Guide your way on