Monday, January 27, 2014

Homemade Hair De-tangler


My hair is down past my shoulders now, and with the cold, dry weather we've been having I wake up most mornings with a tangled up mess to brush through. Some mornings I shampoo and condition in the shower; other mornings I simply condition. But then there are the days I don't have time for either. As I delve deeper and deeper into a chemical-free lifestyle, I decided to search for a homemade hair de-tangler recipe. I found several; most involved diluting commercial conditioner with water; not exactly what I had in mind. I dug a little deeper. After a bit of experimentation, this is the combination I like best.

HOMEMADE HAIR DE-TANGLER

8 ounces distilled water
1 teaspoon aloe vera gel
10 drops grapefruit seed extract
2 drops glycerin
2 drops lavender oil or other essential oil

Come all ingredients into a spray bottle; spray generously onto wet or dry hair before combing or brushing.

It works great and the light natural scent is delightful.  Recommended!

Friday, January 24, 2014

One Word, Sixty-Five Things

"Own a grand piano." One of the items I checked off my Amazing Life List last year.
Diligence is the mother of good luck.
~ Benjamin Franklin

We're three weeks into the New Year, high time to come up with my One Word and revisit my Amazing Life List.

My word for 2014 is DILIGENCE. My life works best when I apply myself consistently to the things that matter most to me. This includes taking care of my home and health, practicing the piano, writing morning pages and blog posts and fiction, working with my hands. I believe that being faithful in the small things will lead to bigger things; I already have some evidence of that. So I intend to stay the course.

Meanwhile, disappointed in my lack of progress on the Amazing Life List, I decided to up the stakes a little. I added back a few things I had removed due to their seemingly impossible nature AND decided to shorten my deadline. Since I intend to live to be 105, allowing myself fifty years to get through this list seems seems too generous. So here it is, sixty-five things I fully intend to do before I am sixty-five. Heck, if I can swing just eleven per year, I will be done before I am sixty. Then I can make a new list.

TRAVEL:
1. Spend a summer in France.
2. Spend a week in New York City; see the sights; attend a Broadway play.
3. Cruise to Alaska.
4. Visit Hawaii.
5. Go on a walking tour of Ireland.
6. Tour the Mediterranean: Greece, Spain, Italy.
7. See the Great Wall of China.
8. Tour Egypt.
9. Visit Australia and New Zealand.
10. Go to Africa.
11. Go whale watching in Cape Cod.
12. See the Grand Canyon.
13. Set foot in all 50 states.
14. Spend a summer driving across the United States, coast to coast, with no itinerary.
15. Cruise through the Panama Canal.
16. Attend my 40th high school reunion.
WRITING:
17. Finish and revise my first novel.
18. Sign with a literary agent.
19. See my novel traditionally published.
20. Sign my book at an autograph session.
21. Have an article published in a national magazine.
22. Speak at a writing conference.
MUSIC:
23. Master Chopin's Scherzo in B-Flat Minor; perform it in public.
24. Master Mozart's Piano Concert, K. 466; perform it in public.
25. Learn how to play the mandolin.
26. Write a song (piano and lyrics).
27. Learn how to play the hammered dulcimer.
28. Hear the Punch Brothers in concert.
29. Hear Mumford & Sons in concert.
HEALTH/FITNESS:
30. Stop biting my fingernails.
31. Weigh 115 pounds.
32. Overcome water phobia and become a competent swimmer.
HEARTH AND HOME:
33. Sort through/get rid of everything I don't need or love.
34. Plant an Eastern red cedar tree.
35. Own a house at the beach.
36. Make it my dream home.
37. Establish an herb garden.
38. Keep chickens.
HOBBIES:
39. Make divinity.
40. Make a scrapbook photo album for each of my children.
41. Make a scrapbook album Book Of Me.
42. Crochet a granny square afghan.
43. Knit a pair of socks.
44. Knit a sweater.
45. Organize my loose recipes/compile a family cookbook.
46. Make memory quilts for my family.
47. Go to pastry school.
RANDOM & MISCELLANEOUS
48. Do a cartwheel.
49. Go sky diving.
50. Go parasailing.
51. Go snow skiing.
52. Review my French and speak it fluently.
53. Bowl a 200+ game.
54. Speak in front of 1000 people.
55. Fly first class.
56. Serve on a jury.
57. Be an extra in a film.
58. Learn swing dancing.
59. Swim with dolphins.
60. Get a tattoo.
61. Get another ear piercing.
FINANCIAL:
62. Write a will.
63. Pay off my credit cards.
FAIRY TALE:
64. Meet, fall in love with, and become engaged to Mr. Right.
65. Have the wedding of my dreams.

What about you? Do you have a Word for 2014? And what is at the top of your bucket list? Here's to the best New Year ever, for all of us!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Doing My Job


We're just three weeks into the New Year but when I look back on those twenty-one days I am astonished at the number of highs and lows I have experienced already. Happily, things seem to be settling down a bit now. And for the most part the drama hasn't kept me from plugging away at the Things That Make My Life Work. My piano students are nearly ready for their first big event of the year, I am making steady progress on my own piano music, and I have lost five pounds. Unfortunately, writing is the activity that always seems to fall by the wayside when the going gets tough and that has certainly been the case so far in 2014. Somehow I've got to stop making that my default.

What makes me feel like I am doing my job as a writer?

1. Morning pages every day. 
2. Blog posts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 
3. 3000 words a week added to the manuscript. 

The past few days, I haven't just fallen down on the job; I haven't shown up at all. But how to find time to do it all? Get up earlier in the morning? Spend less time on Facebook? Delegate some of the cooking and housework? 

I'm not sure what it's going to take. But I am convinced there are enough hours in the day if I use them wisely. For the next seven days, I am going to take my writerly responsibilities as seriously as I would if there was a million dollars waiting for me at the end of the week. Check back next Wednesday to find out how well I succeed.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Out and About

Today I'm blogging over at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales with a list of ten things I'll never do again. Check it out HERE. And please come back on Wednesday. I promise I'll be here!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup
Have you ever noticed the blog schedule on the sidebar here? I hope not, because if you have noticed it, then you have probably also noticed what a terrible job I do of adhering to it. But for the record, even though at this point it is obviously more of a suggestion to myself than an actual plan, I am going to do my best to post more regularly this year, and I am hoping that, in general, the Monday-Wednesday-Friday rotation will work out.

That said, I missed posting yesterday. I had a big project due for my local music teacher's association, and by eleven o'clock last night, when the last of the paperwork was finished and submitted, all I wanted to do was pour myself a glass of red wine and watch Sunday night's episode of Downton Abbey. Are you a fan? The way last season ended, the series almost lost me. Then over the summer I forgot the pain and joined millions of others for the season premier last Sunday night. But the way things ended on the second episode? I am thinking I should have stuck with my original plan. Poor Anna!

So I'm a day late with this week's installment of Healthy Living, wherein I share my recipe for lentil soup. There is nothing like a steaming hot bowl of soup at the end of a long winter's day and this one is quick, simple and nutritious. Not to mention delicious! Here goes.

LENTIL SOUP

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
2 cups uncooked lentils
8 cups vegetable stock
Balsamic vinegar and freshly ground pepper, optional

In a large soup pot, saute the vegetables in the olive oil until they begin to soften. Add the bay leaves and salt and stir for a minute or two. Then add the lentils and water and cook until the lentils are very soft, about one hour. Makes about 8 cups.

I like to add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a twist of freshly ground pepper after serving. What is your favorite winter soup recipe?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Homemade Eczema Cream


I have had two dry, scaly patches just above my ankle bones for weeks. Having experienced eczema before, I know it when I see it, so while I could have paid for a doctor visit and a prescription, I decided instead to use ingredients I already had on hand and try a homemade remedy. After doing a bit of research, I went with this recipe:

HOMEMADE ECZEMA CREAM

5 ounces Shea butter
3 ounces avocado oil
20 drops lavender essential oil
20 drops tea tree essential oil

Using a double boiler, gently melt the butter, then remove from heat and add the oils. Refrigerate until set, then whip to a spreadable consistency. Spoon into sterilized jars and store at room temperature. Makes about 8 ounces.

The results? After three weeks of twice-daily use, the eczema on my left ankle has completely disappeared; the eczema on my right ankle has changed from an angry, red patch to simple dry skin. I plan to continue twice-daily application on both ankles as a preventive. I am more than pleased with my all-natural, sweet smelling eczema cream!

Check back every Monday (I know it's actually Tuesday now; I missed it by a minute!) for my latest do-it-yourself adventure!

NOTE: The information on this site is for recreational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for his own situation.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Another Auld Lang Syne


Merry Christmas? Happy New Year? For me, the past two weeks were like a long night spent tossing and turning, wandering between euphoric dreams and heart-stopping nightmares. The highs and lows were so extreme it was impossible to keep up any semblance of routine. In the frenzy of decorating and shopping and wrapping and baking and noisenoisenoise, all but the absolutely essential fell to the wayside. Since the middle of November, I haven't added a word to my work-in-progress nor have I spent any serious time at the piano. My last blog post was December 5th and my last journal entry was December 14th. And I am up four pounds from a year ago.

It's time to change all that.

Upon joining Kelly Stone's 90-Day Writing Challenge, I committed to daily morning pages, adding 3000 words per week to my manuscript, and posting to this blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In addition, I have a May piano duo recital to prepare for so I need to get back into a consistent practice routine. And I am tired of carrying around this extra twenty pounds. Eating well and exercising regularly must move to the top of my priority list if I am going to stay healthy and maintain the stamina I need to make my dreams come true.

I hope this doesn't sound like another list of New Year's Resolutions. Because it isn't. These are Things That Make My Life Work. When I am taking care of my body, making music, and plugging away at my writing, everything else goes better. Work is less drudgery and play is more fun. The days fly by. The future looks brighter.

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results? This was a question posed in an article I read recently, Forget Setting Goals, Focus on This Instead. It really resonated with me. I like the idea of truly living in the present moment, not worrying about the outcome of my efforts, knowing that my skills are improving with practice, thereby increasing my odds of success. I have decided that in 2014 that is going to be enough.

How is this New Year shaping up for you?