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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Let's Get Hygge

So have you heard about the latest concept, hygge (hue-guh).  If not, it may be because you haven't opened a paper or been in a bookstore lately.  For me, that would be, well..crazy.  But since I have been reading about it, I am also going to share some thoughts about it with you.

Hygge, the Danish concept of being cozy, has become the latest thing.  People search for it when looking for a good restaurant.  They try to achieve it in their homes.  They walk for hours, looking for just the right spot to have drinks.  Hygge is as Danish to Denmark as freedom is to Americans.  It is attributed to the highest rate of contentment and happiness in the world, found in Denmark.

I think I became intrigued with hygge as my life has hit some milestones, and life has taken on a personality of it's own.   In recent months, my husband and I were in the Black Hills.  We didn't have plans but we did start out our day going to some of our favorite places.  We leisurely traveled from one site to another, laughing, remembering, and just enjoying what we were doing and each other's company.  We stayed in each spot as long as we wanted, and when we had our fill, we were ready for the next thing.  We didn't watch the clock, but when we did notice the time, we were filled with awe at how slowly the day was going an amazingly good way.

As the day wore on, we wondered at just what it was about that day that allowed it to last, to linger, to develop slowly instead of rushing by in the normal blur.  We decided that it was a combination of a few things.  The first thing was that we had nothing over our heads, no places to be, nothing we had to do.  When you aren't living with time constraints, there is freedom to not be distracted by the passage of time.  How often, in our busy lives, does that happen?  In mine, not often, but I realized I really love it when it does.

The second thing we recognized was that we were surrounded by our favorite things and places.  We were in the Black Hills, a place that holds a great deal of magic for both of us, peace, and contentment.  That is why we bought our cabin there.  The restaurants and the pubs we haunt are familiar and comforting and peaceful.

The third thing, and probably one of the best things was our company.  I am so blessed with a partner in crime that I enjoy being with.  He is my best travel partner and my best friend.  He gets me, the good and the bad.  We laugh at the same things, dream the same dreams, and have cultivated a path that works for us.  Sitting in a winery near the fire, with a glass of wine and a charcuterie plater in front of us, talking or not, laughing, teasing, and feeling all hygge, we decided to dub this kind of day "Black Hills Days"  Since then, and before hearing about hygge, we would often say, this was another "Black Hills Day" whether or not we are in the hills.  When I started hearing about and reading up on hygge, our realized our Black Hills days and hygge weren't so far removed.

The thing that has struck me recently is that happiness, the state of being happy, is a choice we make.  It is developed in the small things we do, say, and our attitude.  Abraham Lincoln once said "I have found that most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be".  Some of us wait for things to happen that make us happy, and as a result, aren't very consistently happy.  Others decide to be happy, right now, right here, in this moment.  I am going to be one of the second variety.  God only gives us one chance on this earth, and I want mine to be to cultivate happiness in those around me and in my sphere of influence.

So, as I embark on my own state of hygge in my home and life, you may see me pairing down things. Simplifying my environment.  You may see me shopping for large quantities of candles.  You may see me engage with my friends socially more often.  And you will know I am on a mission of happiness.  I hope you catch it too.  If you don't believe me, read "The Little Book of Hygge:  Danish Secrets to Happy Living" by Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Denmark.

Friday, August 28, 2015

She-Shed Dreams

I am a collector of ideas.  That is fun and unfortunate at the same time.  Many times those ideas are just in the form of torn out magazine pages that I sort and save for eternity, safely buried in the piles of years past.  But some of those ideas get in my head and never quite leave.  I remember them, nurture them, and eventually, much to my husband's dismay, I begin to actually work on bringing them to life.  He is a project person just like me, so he understands my nature, but of course his interests are completely different, so my ideas don't seem as appealing or necessary.  However, when I remind my avid hunter husband that I too, don't always see things as necessary (big game animal hunts and trophies, etc.) he quickly remembers to be supportive.  :-)  Really he is supportive all of the time.

Years ago, I saw a picture of a beautiful shed made all of up-cycled windows.  It was a sort of green house but was made into a garden room,  made beautiful with furniture and chandeliers and a little stone patio out front.  I loved it, but in Nebraska, with our lovely wind and hail storms, that isn't so practical.  However, I never have gotten the idea of a little extension of our house, a room that was just mine, out of my head.  I like pretty.  I like unique.  I like a challenge.  And I  need projects.

This year has been spent working on our little cabin in Custer, South Dakota.  It is a tiny house for sure, at 450 square feet.  But it is so darn cute and the outdoor living space is awesome, Laughing Water Creek runs through our yard.  I love it, but I have this need to create some private, multipurpose space there in our big yard.  We have a huge garage, bigger than the house, so storage isn't the issue.  We have a great deck, so it isn't that we need more space for lounging around or entertaining.  It has more to do with my need to create....and this long time idea that's been stuck in my head.

So last night, I ran across this story on the "She-Shed", this trend that encompasses those ideas.  I began searching and studying all of the kinds of cute sheds that might be utilized as guest quarters and an extension of our house.  There are all kinds of ideas out there.  It will be awhile before my little dream becomes a reality, but here are some ideas for inspiration. Mine will be created from a pre-made garden shed, although I don't know what style yet.  I want to keep the work load down and having a structure to start with means much less work.
 Do you have any ideas you think would be awesome in a little tiny retreat?

Savvy Non-Shopper

Over the years I have become a bit of a recluse.  I don't like going shopping at Christmas time with the crowds and commercialization.  I don't like being in crowds period.  I enjoy peace and quiet and serene environments.  This interesting phenomenon with me is going to probably turn into a couple of posts, because it affects all areas of  my life.  But today, I am focused on non-shopping.  I like nice things, and I like to shop as long as it is not when I am in a hurry (which never happens) and when there aren't crowds.  I do not, however, like taking the time to try on clothes, or wander around malls aimlessly.  So sites like Amazon, Zulily, Joss and Main, Wayfair, all intrigue me like  nobody's business.  Try the World, which is the little cultural food box I wrote about last time, was one of those great discoveries that is a gift in the mail every other month, and the subscription service idea harkens back to the days of the music clubs or book clubs when those items arrived monthly after you had made a selection.  

Yesterday, at work, one of my friends had on an adorable outfit and I asked her where she was shopping.  She said with a grin, "Stitch Fix".  By the look on my face, she knew I had no idea what she was talking about, so she told me about this fun, personal stylist subscription service to a clothing company that styles you and sends out five items at scheduled times.  You can try them on and keep them or return unwanted items for free.  Because, as you already know, I love the idea of the surprise in the mail, and because it seems I am to busy to get anywhere and shop for things I like, this sounded like a great idea.  

I got online last night, filled out my profile and a special event coming up.  And am anxiously awaiting my September 24th delivery.  I think it will be like Christmas once a month, and who can beat that?  Pictures will be forthcoming!  

Monday, May 4, 2015


As just an update to my "Try the World" fun, we had a taste of Morocco  in rural Nebraska last week. We made a variation on the recipe below, from "I Breathe, I'm Hungry" website.  The original recipe is for Moroccan Spiced Lamb Shanks.  Instead, I rounded up some lamb chops, grilled them with a kefta rub from "Try The World" until they were medium well.  In the mean time, I made a sauce of 1/2 cup onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp. ground ginger, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. coriander, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, a tsp. paprika, 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 2 cups chicken broth, 2 tbsp. sweetener, salt and pepper to taste.  I sautéed the onions in a tablespoon of olive oil, and then added the spices, tomatoes, and broth and heated it on low for about an hour.  This was served over the chops when they came off the grill.  These could not have been any better!

I was leary of cooking lamb, as sometimes it is a little strong for me.  But when my husband said that they were great and that he would eat them again, well, I knew we had found a new great main dish.  I wish you could have experienced the aroma wafting out of this kitchen.  We paired our lamb chops with a Cotes Du Rohne and we were pleasantly surprised at how nice that was.

Today, my "Try the World" fun arrived from Paris.  Ever heard of French salt from the salt flats in the south of France?  Well, I have my very own jar!

This culinary experience is as much fun to plan as it is to participate in.  This week, in session three of the wine course, we are comparing two French wines, Chablis and Chardonnay.  We are having sea scallops with a balsamic reduction appetizer, crab stuffed tilapia, and some undetermined vegetable.   At this rate, I think it will be my new favorite thing...roasted radishes.  Cut into bite size pieces, tossed in olive oil and salted with...yes, you guessed it..French salt and then baked at 350 until they are soft and slightly brown,  you have this amazing little side dish that tastes better than potatoes, and better for you too!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Armchair Traveler..Well, Sometimes

At my job, we participated in a "Discovering Your Strengths" workshop from Gallup.  I wasn't surprised to find that my top five were intellection, strategic, empathy, input, and connectedness.  They all feel very accurate to me, but the two that jump out the most are empathy and intellection.  I spent over 15 years in the profession of counseling, a field where empathy is essential. What I did find interesting was intellection.  A collector of ideas.  A collector period.  That is very much a part of who I am, and it is who I have been my whole life.  I've saved boxes of ideas for all kinds of things, but some of my worst obsessions revolve around recipes, travel ideas, and books.  No surprise about the books either, considering that I am currently working as a school librarian.  But you should see the piles of recipes, recipe books, and travel books I've collected.  I've never really understood it until now...and I guess now it makes sense.

I recently purchased three home courses from "Great Courses" and they were "The Old Testament" , "The New Testament", and a wine course.  Along those same lines, I purchased a book about understanding wine and wine pairings.  And to even further the obsession, enrolled in something I find thrilling, which is called "Try the World".  The name grabbed my attention and I had to explore it.  If you haven't heard of it, but you love new experiences, travel, bringing the food and experiences home, and food well..this is for you.  I read about it on the internet, and decided to try it. 

Try the World is a company that provides a box from a particular region or country every other month.  Inside of the beautiful box you find local foods and information about that country, and links to music as well.  This month my box arrived and it was inspired by Morocco. In my box are things like Argan oil, couscous, a couscous sauce that has onions and raisins in it, a traditional Moroccan spice, kefka, and some moroccan cookies.  What fun! What excitement!  

My friend and I decided to start a weekly wine tasting using the course I purchased.  And we decided to cook together.  Now we are also going to cook foods that are from the regions in our "Try the World" box.  We are so excited to start our cultural adventure.  More information will be forthcoming as the weeks progress.  

My goal now is to share our recipes and wine tasting experiences with you.  I am so excited.  I have never traveled to any location where I didn't buy a local cookbook, and now I get to expand even more.  I have cookbooks from England, South Africa, Hawaii, Seattle, Boston, The Czech Republic, Italy, Germany...well you get the idea.  My hope now is to travel to some of these places that we are enjoying through cooking...I wonder when I will get to Morocco?  :-)  

Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Celebrate, Celebrate....

Now really, who buckles down and starts focusing on eating healthy ONE WEEK before any holiday?  What was I thinking?  Well, my hope was I'd be able to control myself and I did pretty well, if I do say so myself.  I wasn't perfect on this low carb venture, but I was excellent at planning ahead and even eating out selections (with a few minor focus glitches which you will understand in a minute).  

I tried that Cheeseburger Salad mentioned in my previous post and let me just say, YUMMO!  My husband (who doesn't need to diet and who doesn't appreciate being fed diet food even though I patiently explain lifestyle change versus diet to him) loved it!  It was filling, flavorful, and I felt a little guilty eating it because nothing that good can be low carb, right?  

We spent the weekend at our little cabin in Custer, South Dakota and we ate really well/low carb the whole time, with a few exceptions.  The first was Hill City's fault.  Have you been there?  It is such a cute little town with some really great little restaurants and shops.  We went into a wine shop there in town that has reopened.  I wish I could remember the name, but it has escaped me.  The great thing though, is that they have THE best 25 year old aged balsamic vinegar and garlic olive oil I've ever tasted.  I bought a jar each of this stuff, and then tucked it away at the cabin for next time.   

But I digress.  As we were returning to our vehicle after the purchase, I said to my husband, let's go to the Alpine Inn.  I've always heard they had good food, it is always packed, and for all of our years of wandering around there, we've never eaten at the Alpine Inn  

If you are a fan of the Black Hills, and if you  like traditional German/European food, then this is the place for you!  I highly recommend it.  Great service, great food, and great prices.  The desserts were my downfall, as we had a apple cinnamon Napoleon with ice cream.  That is not low carb folks.  The good news is my husband and I shared it, right?   I can't believe we waited all of these years, and we will definitely be back sometime very soon!!   

The other place that was my downfall was this place:  

It is a small restaurant in Custer called Bitter Esters Brewhouse.  Every time we go, I have to stop in  and order the mussels.  We did that again, and the mussels are amazing, but they are better with the crusty bread served on the side and the Magner's Pear Cider served on tap.  Again, not low carb my friends, but I did it anyway!  

Well, after my confessions about favorite places in the southern Black Hills, you might think I blew my diet altogether.  But the good news is, after a weekend of mostly being good but when I was bad, being really bad, I was actually down..drum roll please.......4.5 pounds for the week! How's that for motivation to get serious about getting healthy!

One could say I am off track, but I am home  again, focused for the week, and packing my lunches.  Breakfast was fruit, lunch was salad, and Chili Rellenos Casserole  for tonights dinner from Shae Pendleton at her blog "Hello Homebody"    I'll report in on the result next time.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Low Carbing It Up

I think for me, maybe more than anyone I know, food is what I do.  I mean that in a very sincere, non-sarcastic manner.  As the oldest of four children, growing up on a large working ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska, I started cooking at an early age to help lighten my mother's pretty large load.  Man did she do it all.  Haying, raising sheep, helping take care of the cattle, cook for all of us and any hired help, canning, etc.  She was and still is an amazing lady.  I took an interest in cooking and it didn't take her long to capitalize on that and  have me help with that chore.  Since I liked it, and since I had kind of an aptitude for it, she pretty  much let me make whatever my heart desired (as long as it wasn't too out there and as long as we had the ingredients).

Some of my favorite recipes come from those days, like Chicken Asparagus Stacks or Sweet and Sour Beef Stew Served over Noodles. And since those days, my recipe collection of favorites has expanded into an online cookbook of my own creation called "Every Day Favorites".  One of these days it will go to print, but I am never quite ready it seems.

I learned early on that the way to my husband's heart was through his stomach.  It wasn't a cliche in this case, just the plain truth.  Fortunately for me, he is willing to try almost anything...and be honest about the result.  That of course, encouraged me to cook more, try more, and expand my every day options.  The beauty of it all is we also own a grocery store, so I have access to a pretty large pantry!

When my children came along, I was blessed with not so picky eaters.  That is probably more the result of not catering to their pickiness, because over time, they developed a taste for almost anything I make.  And some things I don't/won't:  like liver and onions.  My daughter's favorite food at age 10 was sushi.  That was and continues to be pretty unbelievable in a land locked central United States state like Nebraska.

So why the title, Low Carbing it Up?  The thing is, I like to cook, but I also like to eat.  Sort of a hazard of the hobby I guess.  I cook pretty healthy as well, most of the time, but you know, after awhile, and with a little age, it sort of catches up to you.  I started low carbing last year and lost about 15 pounds, which was just denting my goal.  Family crisis, in particular my dad's nearly fatal motorcycle accident in July of last summer, derailed me.  He is still recovering, but I have let that circumstance be my excuse to not eat better and stay focused.

So as of this week folks, I am back on the wagon.  I started my week well, and as of today, am going strong.  Have lost 1/2 pound, and hope to loose a lot more by the weekend.  My goals to keep me line:  To continue to cook foods I love and that my family loves, but just low carb it up;  to make sure I use My Fitness Pal to log those foods I eat daily for keeping me honest, to do some loose meal planning weekly so I stay focused,  to make up healthy salads and ahead of time so I have them on hand when I get hungry, to pack my lunches daily for work, to freeze some low carb soups ahead for easy meals when I am in a hurry, and lastly, to figure out an exercise plan, a minimum of three times per week.

Would you like a sneak peak of one of the meals I plan to make this weekend?  Hop on over to the blog Can You Stay for Dinner and check out the cheeseburger salad with big mac dressing.  It is a little high in carbs for one meal, but if you plan to stay around 20 carbs, this would be the big carb meal for the day.  Stick with soup for your other meal, eggs for breakfast, and cheese or pickles or sugar free jello for snacks and you should be good.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How Do You Nurture?

I have never read the book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary D Chapman but many of my friends have.  It is on my list of future reads.  When visiting with my daughter Ashley about it, we were categorizing how we show love and how people show us love.  The love languages are listed below. 
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch
So I realized that my way of showing love is "acts of service" particular, cooking for my family or helping them with things/projects.  It is interesting to me that how we show love is often how we need love.  In other words, what speaks to me from people who love me is what they do, more than what they say or what they give.

The conundrum of course, occurs when the people around you have a different love language.  It's hard to always stay in the moment, thinking an action through and how it impacts (or doesn't impact) another person.  And it is also hard to remember that what you want/need and what you get are not always the same thing and that doesn't have to mean we are not loved and appreciated.  The trick, though, is remembering what I am and what someone is, that they are two different things, and attempting to change a person is not an option.  We have control of ourselves, so we must focus on our own actions and reactions.

It is always interesting to me that in the middle of our busy lives, we sometimes loose a little focus.  We forget to take the time to practice another person's love language.  We get angry when someone doesn't practice ours.  This short little entry is simply a reminder to take the time to remember each other, and love on your families and friends the way they need loved on.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Crazy Cabin Upcycle Any Tiny House Enthusiast Can Appreciate

It's been ages since I posted.  Life has a way of getting out of control.  My dad was in a very serious motorcycle accident last July 1 and went home for the first time last Tuesday after 8.5 months of recovery and more to go.  The blessing is he is still with us to recover and we thank God for that every day.

Priorities of course, get rearranged, and I haven't been doing much of any kind of project until this spring.  And my husband and I took on a major upcycle.  Not furniture, not a car, but a house.  And not one house, but two!  We bought a cabin in Custer South Dakota and ended up with a cabin, garage, and a house.  The garage and cabin we are keeping.  The house is up for sale.

So in preparing the house for resale, we have put in trim, painted, fixed flooring, cleaned, taken down trees, repaired outside things.  That has been our focus. But this past weekend we were there, and we took out a wall in the cabin to make it a "studio" cabin.  It looks so much better.  And made so much more space.   This itty bitty 450 square foot cabin is our dream (well maybe not exactly, but still).  It is in Custer.  It was affordable.  It has a nice deck, great outdoor space, and creek running through the back yard-"Laughing Water".  It is not perfect but it is ours and we love it.  Take a look at the before pictures:

And after tearing out walls, painting, and some furniture...more to come.  

So this is our in between fix.  We tore down the itty bitty bedroom wall with the weird peek through window.  It was sheetrock, lath, and plaster and let me tell you...heavy heavy heavy.  We got it all pulled out, my husband patched the wall holes with 1 x 6, and we painted.  Now we have a place we can use until we do our final remodel, which will be to tear out the walls and ceilings at the front of the cabin and vault the ceiling, putting two windows up high above the door in the peek, and wood siding the whole front living room.  With some kind of new flooring, wood vinyl, slate, or wood.  It is a 1930 cabin, and the floors are VERY uneven, so whatever we do will be what works, and what minimizes the uneven floor.  But this is w hat we are living with for now, and we couldn't be more happy with the results. 

What's next.  Well, you will see by the pictures below that the cabin needs repainted and some outdoor work done on the front.  We intend to put in some kind of new front walk, clean up the landscaping, and probably do some painting to bide us some time until we are ready for the exterior make over, which will include some kind of wood exterior with a green roof..true cabin appeal.  That is down the road a ways, so for now, be watching for the temporary solutions we come up with.  

And my favorite down the road project is the bed.  We have an old bead board cabinet my husband is going to use to make a murphy bed for me.  I can't wait!  

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Little Surprise

I don't have pictures to share yet, but I do have a new project, my best yet in fact, on the table.  More on that later.  My husband and I will be married for 25 years this summer, on June 9th.  Since we were first married we have loved going to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Coming from Nebraska extremes and flatlands, there is nothing better than the warmer winters (yes warmer) and cooler summers that Custer South Dakota claims.  Every time we have ever gone there, we pick up the real estate books and start looking at property, dreaming over it, wishing for our little piece of paradise. And yet, timing has never been right.  We were too young.  Everything was two expensive.  Etc., etc.

This winter, on a fluke, we went up to look at some property, and immediately realized it wasn't for us.  But in the mean time, the realtor did show us a property that was coming up for auction in two days.  It was a bigger house (806 square feet on the main level) and a little cottage with a neighboring awesome garage.  The little cottage needed work, had some issues, but the outdoor space was fantastic.  A deck, two blocks from down town.  A creek, "Laughing Water", running through it.  It had potential. And more importantly to my husband was this great big finished garage that was only 6 years old.  Heaven, right?   So, we came home Sunday night (a five hour drive).  We worked Monday.  And we turned around and went back to Custer Monday night for the Tuesday auction.

Well, needless to say, the auction went well.  We bought the house and cabin.  That was NOT part of the plan.  We are working on the house as we speak, to flip it. We are also changing lot lines to improve both properties.  In the mean time, we are dreaming about South Dakota nightly, and our little studio cabin that will be converted to something fabulous over time.  Little.  But Fabulous.

My husband doesn't allow me to use the term "tiny house" but in fact, that is what it is at 450 square feet.  It has a newly remodeled bathroom and kitchen, so it is just waiting for us to knock out some walls at the front part of the house and bring it up to standard too, and recreate our little bit of paradise.

Our next trip up is over my spring break, and after a few touch ups painting in the "big" house, I'm going to town on my little one.  And I can't wait.  But you will have to.  For pictures and progress. :-)