Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Traditions

Merry Christmas Eve! I hope you are having a wonderful day as you get ready for Christmas. Personally, I love Christmas Eve! More than I like Christmas, even. I also love Christmas Eve Eve, which was yesterday. I don't know. There's just something about the anticipation that gets me all giddy.

My stepson, now 15-years-old, often counts the days down. I still remember a few years ago when it was "only two days ‘til Christmas," for about a week. Wishful thinking?

I can’t help but share his enthusiasm. I love Christmas. I love the lights, the bustle of people (okay, maybe not the bustle of people), and wrapping gifts in cheerful paper.

Inevitably at some point today, he will ask, "but when are we going to read the little book?" The first time he asked (a few years ago) my heart filled with joy.

You see, "the little book" is one of my Christmas ornaments. It is a 2x2" red leather bound copy of The Night Before Christmas. It has crisp aged white pages with gold edges and an inscription in my mother’s perfect cursive: "To Sherri: With love from Mommy & Daddy. Dec. 1979." I was two years old when my parents gave that to me and it has hung on the Christmas tree every year since.

The first Christmas I spent with my husband (then boyfriend) and stepson, I suggested we read it before going to bed on Christmas Eve. We all piled together under a blanket and took turns reading. We have continued to read it before bed on Christmas Eve every Christmas since.

Though it's always in my plans, what has really surprised me is that my stepson asks for it. In fact, last year when he asked what we were doing for Christmas Eve and I mentioned visits with family and friends and tying up loose ends, he immediately asked, "But we're going to read the little book, right?"

As parents we want to know that we are making a difference. As a stepmom I often wonder if I'm having any positive impact. That one question of his, the way he looks forward to a silly little thing that I also look forward to... that is magic. A little activity that I started five Christmases ago has become a tradition that would be missed if we didn’t do it. Christmas really does bring people together.

Happy holidays to you and yours! May you cherish your family traditions, big and small.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Anyone else feeling a little frantic today?

Red jingle bells

Winter solstice is here. It is the shortest day of sunlight for the year. After today each day will get a tiny bit more light as we work our way back to long summer days. Eventually.

Today is also the day the Mayan calendar ends. I saw one weather report for the week showing clouds and cold temperatures all week long with today's forecast showing firey meteors hurtling down and a high temperature of 1250 degrees. Saturday's weather was blank.

No meteors here. Let me know if you see anything suspicious.

More pressing, though, (more pressing than the potential end of life as we know it?) is Christmas is coming. In just four short days, we must be ready for family, gift exchanges, and trying to remember what Christmas is really about in the middle of all that family time and gifting.

Fortunately we aren't hosting Christmas. That means I don't have to cook- yay! There is still plenty to do and I'm feeling a bit frantic today about it all.

I'm running my washing machine pretty much non-stop thanks to the mountain of clothes that has developed while I was doing other things. I have presents to wrap plus more presents I hope will be delivered soon so I can wrap them.

We had a painter at our house earlier this week painting our two-story foyer that we've never figured out how to reach. While he was here he repainted our kitchen and living room after I tried to touch up paint and this happened:

Patchy walls

Not so good. More on that debacle some other day.

Anyhow, we couldn't put our Christmas decorations up until the painters were finished, so Wednesday night at approximately 11:00 p.m. we brought our decorations out of the attic. We assembled the pre-lit Christmas tree and hung the stockings on the mantle (with care, of course).

Yesterday I added a few miscellaneous decorations around the house and put some lights on the bushes outside (I don't have a good excuse for why that wasn't done yet. It just wasn't, okay?) Last night we decorated the tree.

So now, 4 days before Christmas, it's beginning to feel a little like Christmas.

Which brings me back around to the presents that need to be wrapped and the family visits. For which I'm accomplishing nothing because I'm doing all that laundry and cleaning the house. And blogging. Right.

Sometimes I just have to write. It can be grounding. Grounding is good.

You know what else is good? Christmas lights.

Christmas lights

And now that I have some to look at, my inner child is beaming.

I guess my whole point here is that I suspect I'm not alone in feeling frantic today. If you're feeling frantic, too, feel free to vent in the comments. As aforementioned, writing can be grounding.

And if you're in tip-top shape, totally calm and prepared for the holidays... yay for you! Maybe we can follow in your footsteps next year.

In the meantime, here's wishing all of you a weekend that is loving, productive, and dare I say calm? Yes, calm.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Interview: Sara McClellan

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

Today's interviewee is one of my closest friends and author of the new book The World Needs Hope, Sara McClellan. (The very same book I've been mentioning here recently because it also includes my first print credit.)

Sara is a writer with nearly 20 years of creative communications experience. She chose to transform personal loss into a mission of positive change. Sara dedicates her voice to awakening the world to the inspiring presence and power of hope.

What have you been wonderstruck by recently?

SaraMcClellan

Just a blink ago, I was wonderstruck by the emphatic sound of an escaped cockatoo traversing the neighborhood. After trying to woo it over to my patio with an ├╝ber-healthy breakfast cereal—to no avail, I might add—my bright white friend, instead, opted to serenade me from the vent to my attic on the second story. I use serenade here because I hopefully assume that it was not speaking poorly of my inability to offer sanctuary. At least, being in Arizona, the temperature was not a ghastly threat to its well-being. The most fun for me is to ponder what message nature has for me in all this, “Sara, welcome others graciously . . . shape perseverance through surprise challenges . . . marvel at the beauty of quirky little moments . . . or, work on your communication skills.”

What part of your day are you grateful for?

Every moment. That was easy. Ah, but I suspect my dear friend and owner of this splendid blog would appreciate a pinch of expansion. Well, I am grateful to wake up in a comfortable bed with shelter overhead (the rhyme makes me giggle, as it sounds Seussian). I am profoundly grateful for my shower, which I augmented with a chlorine-filtering showerhead (best. purchase. ever). I am grateful for the traffic, yes the traffic, as it helps me pause to lose my mind in strategic thought or playful whimsy. I am grateful for the supportive texts, wall posts, tweets and calls from friends all over the world—they always find me at exactly the right moment; what a blessing. I am grateful for every face and for having the privilege of seeing how a simple smile can light someone else’s day. I am grateful for learning compassion through service to others, from holding a door to pausing to empathetically hear about how another soul is feeling, not just doing. I am grateful for a wellspring of unending hope, in every beautifully revealed form.

What part of the day is tough? How do you move through it?

Depending on the day, every moment can be tough. To be an optimist, a hopeful messenger and a soulful human, it is necessary to recognize, face and overcome the tough moments. Through the climb from shadow to light, we appreciate the sweet, the comforting and the enriching moments that teach us to realize our potential and treat others with more care. My greatest ally is hope, as perspective guides our actions and our reactions.

What do you wish you were more conscious of?

I consistently challenge myself to be more conscious of the words, the foods and the images that feed and influence my overall state of health. We nourish ourselves through all of our senses—every pore, every sight and every interaction. I believe that how we respect and nurture “self” is how we reflect hope and love to the world.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

Like all creatives, I enjoy thinking, composing and dreaming in the same instant. Mostly, I surrender to the frenzy. However, in the instances where a task or goal must be accomplished (like this charming interview), I imagine that I am speaking to a friend or demonstrating a process to a child. By humanizing it, I find I naturally focus and invest the best of myself. It helps prioritize my efforts and more fluidly proceed. Of course, my failsafe is a cup of tea. It centers me, washing over my whirring mind like a wave of clarity. Current favorite: high mountain oolong.

More About Sara McClellan:

I am honored to share the launch of my first book, “The World Needs Hope.” It expresses, in real terms, how to recognize, create and share hope in our modern world. You will find succinct, meaningful statements that enable you to pace your read to fit your busy lifestyle and explore chapters in the order you need them, as creative examples from 20 contributing artists bring hope into focus in your life.

The book is available for sale on Amazon and it is listed on Goodreads. May “The World Needs Hope” inspire you to see the hope that is all around you.

Follow Sara and her message of hope here:

Facebook: Facebook.com/worldneedshope
Twitter: @worldneedshope
Pinterest: Pinterest.com/worldneedshope
Instagram: Instagram.com/worldneedshope

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pinterest Recipe Review: Blackberry Cider

Each week in December I've been reviewing recipes that I found on Pinterest. It seemed about time to actually try some of those things I kept pinning, so I thought I'd share the results in case you were looking for something new to try for the holidays.

I've already reviewed Cherry Pie Poppers, Apple Cider Sangria, and Cookie Dough Balls. Next up: Blackberry Cider.

Here is the pin: Blackberry Cider on Pinterest

... which leads to this recipe on the Driscoll's website.

Check out the photo through either link. I forgot to take pictures.

I won't repeat the recipe here. You can get that from the links above. I'll just let you know how it went for me.

Stellar! And here's why... my husband made it. Anything I don't have to make is okay by me.

While I was busy working on Thanksgiving side dishes, my husband took it upon himself to take my printout of this recipe and get to work. I love him.

The basic idea is to simmer apple cider with blackberries, oranges, cinnamon and star anise. Garnish with a few blackberries, an orange slice and a cinnamon stick.

There isn't any alcohol in this recipe, so it's perfectly kid-friendly. For those of you with an eye for mixing your own concoction, I'm sure you could kick this up for the adults. Share your ideas in the comments.

We deviated from the recipe a bit. We left out the cinnamon sticks (because I didn't remember to get them at the store) and star anise (because I don't really know what that is. Hey, I'm a basic home cook, not a culinary expert).

Anyhow, my husband threw all the ingredients in a large pot on the stove and let it simmer. He's not big on garnishing drinks, so he didn't reserve any blackberries or oranges- he put them all in the pot.

The cooking process took longer than we expected. Be sure to get a head start on this recipe.

When it was finished cooking, we poured it into a large glass drink dispenser (the kind with the little twist spout on the front). You can serve the recipe warm or chilled. We chose to serve ours over ice.

This drink was a hit with the family! We did have some leftover because we had doubled the recipe. We poured the leftover blackberry cider back into the jug the apple cider had come in. For the next few days we enjoyed blackberry cider right out of the refrigerator.

Verdict: Make again. It was easy and delicious- crisp enough to be refreshing, yet rich enough to feel like a special holiday drink.

Do you have any ideas for tweaking this recipe?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Interview: Ellen Gregory

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

Today's interviewee is fantasy fiction writer Ellen Gregory.

What have you been wonderstruck by recently?

silvereye chicks

A few weeks ago, when rigorously pruning in my garden, I chopped down a branch that held a birds’ nest (which I initially didn’t realize) and two tiny recently hatched chicks tumbled out. Improvising madly, I got the nest back into the tree and spent the next several days avidly watching the two parent birds (Australian silver eyes) feed their chicks. I watched those little chicks grow stronger and larger, develop feathers — felt amazingly protective, fascinated and definitely wonderstruck by them. Unfortunately they disappeared from the nest when I went away for a few days, so I like to believe they found their wings and flew away.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

I suspect my answer here will not be unique — I just can’t go past my first coffee of the morning! Sometimes I want to weep when it ends. My preference is to drink it at my dayjob desk, and the best mornings are when my coffee has been delivered just before I arrive at the office. I’m not really human until the first sip of that coffee — a skim milk cafe latte — and only once I have it in hand am I ready to function. Weekends are similar, only I get to enjoy that coffee in one of my favourite cafes instead.

What part of the day is tough? How do you move through it?

Sigh. Getting out of bed in the morning. I need two alarms going in tandem on the other side of the room and sometimes that doesn’t even work. The only way I can get through the first part of the morning is by having a set routine. Activities. Tick boxes. Timeframes. Not a physical list, but a mental one. I’m generally in a zombie state until my first coffee (see answer to previous question).

What do you wish you were more conscious of?

I’m finding this a tricky question, but my mind keeps bouncing back to ‘other people’s feelings’. I think I wish I was better able to read people, to understand how differently they might be perceiving a situation compared with how I perceive it. I tend to take people at face value, and that of course is often naive.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

There are two answers to this question. When I want to do or experience something and I’m feeling confident, then nothing will stop me. I can stay very focused and driven so long as I have that self-belief. I am rather prone to taking on challenges, such as NaNoWriMo this year (writing) or the Oxfam Trailwalker (an endurance charity event) I completed a few years ago. I make lists, I set schedules, I blog about them, I hold myself accountable. But it’s possible to lose that self-belief and confidence from time to time (like when I decide I’ll never make it as an author!) and those are the times I have to dig deep. There’s a lot of self talk, eating of chocolate, and small achievable goals set. I’m then able to inch forward, one step at a time, until I can rediscover that self-belief.

Ellen Gregory

About Ellen Gregory:

Ellen Gregory lives with her devilcat in Melbourne, Australia. She mainly writes fantasy fiction and is currently working on a novel. One day she would love to publish her work. Her vices include ye olde favourites of coffee, red wine and chocolate — but she is also fond of carnivorous plants and mismatched furniture.

Website: http://ellenvgregory.com/
Twitter: @ellenvgreg

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pinterest Recipe Review: Cookie Dough Balls

Each week this month I am reviewing one recipe I found on Pinterest. After collecting a number of scrumptious looking foods on my Cooking board, I realized I should probably start actually making them. Novel concept, I know.

I've already reviewed Cherry Pie Poppers and Apple Cider Sangria. This week: Cookie Dough Balls.

Here is the Pinterest pin: Cookie Dough Balls

...which leads to this recipe: Cookie Dough Balls on Love and Olive Oil site

I won't reprint the recipe here. You can get that from the links above. Basically, you make egg-free cookie dough, roll it into balls, freeze on a cookie sheet, then dip in chocolate and refrigerate.

I'm going to say right off the bat, I had some ups and downs with this recipe.

Mixing the cookie dough was easy. Rolling the dough, also easy. At a friend's recommendation (who had previously made the same thing with a different recipe), I rolled the balls a bit smaller than the recipe called for. My friend had used a melon baller and thought they were a bit big and would have preferred something more bite sized.



So, I rolled mine to the size of.. I don't know, a small radish? On the "how big is my unborn baby" scale, they'd be about week 9 - a large olive.

Anyhow, this seemed about the right size for popping one in your mouth and avoiding the whole melting chocolate on fingers dilemma. At worst, they were two bites.

I lined them up on a cookie sheet with walls and, when one layer was full, put down a sheet of waxed paper and filled a second layer.

Now, as most people probably would, I tasted the cookie dough at this point. It was very sweet, sweeter than the dough I make for chocolate chip cookies, which had me worried about the finished product. But once the dark chocolate went on, the bitterness from that balanced out the sweetness of the dough. The finished cookie dough ball was better than the dough alone.

Speaking of the chocolate coating, I sucked at it. This was the most frustrating part of the process for me. You should know that I'm not overly culinary. I can follow a recipe and even jazz things up a bit, but my technique is fairly poor. I say this so you know that this could be an easy process for someone else. You might even be a pro at coating. For me, it was tricky.

The recipe suggested using a fork to dip the balls into the chocolate. When I did that, I had trouble getting the ball off the fork after dipping and I'd end up smudging the chocolate off while finagling it off the fork.

Then I tried to keep the cookie dough a little looser on the fork, sort of barely sticking it with one tine. With this method the cookie dough fell off into the chocolate and I had to fish it out resulting in a really thick and messy chocolate coating that slowly oozed off and made a flat chocolate disk under the cookie dough ball.

I tried toothpicks and spoons and, ultimately, returned to the fork and just struggled through. I had two full cookie sheets worth of balls, so this was a long process during which I had to keep reheating the chocolate as it cooled. And the more i reheated the chocolate, the harder it was to work with.

So yeah, coating was tedious.



When all is said and done, the cookie dough balls are quite tasty. We served them alongside the Cherry Pie Poppers and a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. They weren't as big of a hit as I thought they would be and, because there were so many, I had quite a few left over even though half of them were eaten.

Verdict: Good. Maybe make again if I can figure out a better way to coat. Or maybe find a way to make the dough a tad less sweet and leave them uncoated. (I originally wrote "leave them naked," but then I was laughing like a 12-year-old boy at the notion of "naked balls." You're welcome.)

I'll hang on to this recipe, but it won't be one of my "go to" desserts because the chocolate coating makes it a bit too time intensive, particularly when I have an active toddler running around.

What do you think? Have you made something like this? Do you have tips for coating?

Find me on Pinterest at pinterest.com/smhutchinswrite.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Book is Here! (And also, a quick poll)



It's here! It's here!

The book with my name and my creative work in it arrived on my doorstep on Monday! The World Needs Hope is an inspirational book written by my good friend, Sara McClellan.

I copyedited this book. It's my first print credit. :)

Even better, I contributed art. A photograph and short passage of text, both by me, appear at the end of Chapter 2: Comfort. (Yes, I'm smiling as I type this. It's so freakin' exciting!)

Holding this book in my hands, flipping through the pages... I can't describe the feeling. It's amazing. This is a beautiful project and I feel so lucky to be a part of it.


Please Answer a Poll Question


In other creative news, I've been working behind the scenes on this blog and I could use your help.

There is a poll at the top of my Facebook page right now asking whether you read this blog on a computer or your phone, on the Live Wonderstruck site or in a reader. I'm still tweaking design and I want to make sure I'm delivering content in a way that is easy for you to read.

Will you please take a minute and answer the poll question? Thank you!

P.S. If you haven't already, click that little "Like" button while you're there. I'd love to meet my goal of growing to 100 Likes by the end of the year.

Wishing you all a wonderstruck weekend!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Interview: Siri Paulson

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

Today's interviewee is science fiction and fantasy writer Siri Paulson.



What have you been wonderstruck by recently?

Sunsets. I used to live in Alberta, which has the most glorious sunsets. Then I moved to downtown Toronto, to an apartment in a cluster of high-rises, and could barely see the western sky. I thought Toronto just didn't have nice sunsets. But this spring I bought a house, and my new writing space has a good western view...and boy, is it spectacular some evenings. If I'm at home at the right time of day, I try to remember to look.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

Any part I get to spend with my husband. Our schedules aren't meshing that well right now, in part because we're both so busy, so the time that we do get to spend together is precious. We often come home from work together on the streetcar, and even on days when we don't talk much during that ride, it's nice to have him beside me.

What part of the day is tough? How do you move through it?

Mornings. (That seems to be a common thread in these interviews!) I'm a night owl, always trying to squeeze a little more out of my evenings, so mornings are tough. I get through them by thinking of the book I'm going to read on the streetcar and the coffee I'm going to have when I get to work.

What do you wish you were more conscious of?

I have a terrible tendency to get eaten by the Internet. I wish I were more aware of when it starts happening and better able to shut it down quickly.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

To be honest, I'm struggling with that right now. Writing is what I live for, but I haven't been writing much lately. I went through some positive but monumental life changes this year (buying a house was one of them!) and they sucked up all my time and energy. I'm still working on finding a balance again.

About Siri Paulson:

Siri is a science fiction and fantasy writer and an editor at Turtleduck Press (http://www.turtleduckpress.com). In her spare time (when she has any) she dances, knits, and dissects movies.

Her work can be found in the new Turtleduck Press anthology Seasons Eternal. Four writers have taken the idea of a world where the seasons have stopped changing, and each has found a different angle to explore. Seasons Eternal is available at: http://www.turtleduckpress.com/toybox/index.php/turtleduck-works/43-longworks/221-seasons-eternal

Blog: http://siripaulson.wordpress.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/siri_paulson

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pinterest Recipe Review: Apple Cider Sangria



A few weeks ago, I was looking at my Pinterest boards at all sorts of ideas I've collected since joining.

That's when my husband came up and saw my "Cooking" pin board and asked, "How come you never make any of these? That looks good and... ooooh, that one... and this one, this, this, and... get on it, woman!" (He says these things in happy love, not like a drill sargeant.)

So, I've been trying some out.

From now until Christmas, I'm reviewing one recipe found on Pinterest each week. Last week was Cherry Pie Poppers (yum!). This week, Apple Cider Sangria (also yum!).

Here is the Pinterest pin: Apple Cider Sangria

...which leads to this recipe: Apple Cider Sangria on How Sweet It Is (www.howsweeteats.com)

Be sure to visit that link for the beautiful photography. Your mouth will water! (Aside from which, I didn't take any pictures.)

I won't rewrite the recipe here. You can get that through the above links. The basic idea is to mix white wine, apple cider, club soda, and brandy. Garnish with apples and pears.

I made this for our first ever Halloween party. It's perfect for fall because of the apple cider, but I think it can carry you right through the holidays.

This sangria is really easy to make (which is important to me since I'm not overly culinary).

Once mixed, the color isn't as appealing as other sangrias. After all, this recipe calls for apple cider so you end up with kind of a blah brown concoction.

Garnishing helps with presentation quite a bit. I didn't have pears, so I only used apples. I'm wondering if perhaps a couple blackberries might also be a nice touch.

I doubled the recipe (except for the brandy - I had only the amount the recipe originally called for) and served it in a large glass drink dispenser with a little on/off spout. This way guests could serve themselves and I was free to attend to other hostess duties.

So, how did it turn out?

DELICIOUS! It was both refreshing and comforting (in that comfort food kind of way). It was quite a hit with the adults at the party.

Verdict: Definitely make again. It would be great for a small dinner party or an evening with my girlfriends. It works great for parties. For the holidays, try garnishing with cranberries or cinnamon sticks in individual glasses.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Hope, Comfort and My First Print Credit!



Wow, oh wow. What a week!

One of my very best friends, Sara McClellan, published a beautiful, inspiring book called The World Needs Hope (available on Amazon.com).

And as excited as I am for Sara, I'm equally excited for me because...

  1. I know her. She's an amazing person and I am so proud of her for accomplishing a dream.

  2. I am credited in print. Yes, sirree! "S.M. Hutchins" appears as Copyeditor and Contributor within the book. It is my first ever print credit!

  3. I am on Amazon?!?! Sara was gracious enough to name me as editor on the book entry, so my name is right there on Amazon. (Hint: If you followed my Facebook page, you got the scoop on this a few days ago. If you don't, run on over and "Like" it now for future scoops!) I had to scramble to set up an Author Central page which you can find at amazon.com/author/smhutchins.


About The World Needs Hope


This book is filled with carefully chosen words to remind readers where hope is present in our lives. It shows us where hope is when we may not be able to see it.

In 20 chapters, Sara walks through what hope is, like Hope is Laughter, Hope is Perseverence, Hope is Acceptance.

Each chapter includes artwork from a different person. You'll find mine in Chapter 2: Hope is Comfort.

That's right. I said mine. I submitted a short passage of text and a photograph to the chapter about Comfort. I chose that chapter because Comfort is one of my core values- to be comfortable in life. Not as in riches galore (though money is always appreciated), rather warmth, family, food. Basic creature comforts.

Check it out at Amazon. (Hint #2: It will be a great Christmas present for those special people on your list!)

Also, find more inspiration on Facebook at facebook.com/worldNeedsHope.

On another topic... Hurricane Recovery


The hurricane may have passed a while ago, but families are still cleaning and rebuilding homes. I made another trip out to the shore last night with more cleaning supplies, non-perishable foods, and a Home Depot gift card.

I stopped at a friend's house where we loaded up the minivan with all sorts of supplies and delivered them to a benefit event. Items collected last night will be given to Lunch Break, a wonderful organization that supplies needy community members with "hot meals, groceries, clothes, and comfort."

Comfort. There's that word again. It's so important.

End of Week Inspiration


I'll leave you with a few passages from The World Needs Hope:

[HOPE] is a peaceful blanket of stars wishing grace down upon you.

It is reaching for a bashful first kiss . . . or a final brush of hair from an aged forehead.

To see the visions of hope all around you is to know the wondrous in the everyday, the unique in the common place.

This weekend, look for how hope and comfort are present in your life. Share what you find here in the comments.

Have a wonderstruck weekend!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Interview: Prudence MacLeod

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

Today's interviewee is Prudence MacLeod, a spiritual seeker, dog trainer, official Reiki Master and Interior designer, and personal trainer who has turned her hand to writing.



What have you been wonderstruck by recently?

Actually, I am often wonderstruck by the very machine I am using to answer these questions. As a child I learned to write with pen and paper. Over the long years I advanced to a manual typewriter, to an electric typewriter, etc. until I arrived at the current computer. Through this machine I can write ten times faster than I could with pen and paper although I am now in my sixties. Pretty darn cool, isn’t it? I think it is amazing.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

First thing. As soon as I stir the dogs start to poke at me with their muzzles. I try to rise, but my partner always pulls me back for another cuddle. I start my day snugged in a warm bed being cuddled by a beautiful woman and nuzzled by four tail wagging dogs. It doesn’t get better than that.

What part of the day is tough? How do you move through it?

Once I’m up my morning kicks into high gear. By 11:00a.m. I have done the housework, made and cleaned up from breakfast, driven K to work, and walked the dogs. Only then do I get my second cup of coffee and sit to the computer to write. The only way to do it is to smile and power through it. If I slow down or stall I get less writing time.

What do you wish you were more conscious of?

People for certain. I have so many wonderful friends and I love hanging out with them. The problem is I get so caught up in writing and trying to promote, social media, etc. that sometimes my people get neglected. I know they don’t disturb me because I’m working, but I do wish they would sometimes. I’d love for some of them to come through the door and drag me away from the computer for a chat.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

Each morning I ask myself two questions. First I look at my partner and ask how I managed to get so lucky as to be chosen by her. Then I ask what I can do today to make this day a better experience for me and the people I come into contact with. These two questions keep me focused on the important stuff.

About Prudence MacLeod:

I am an avid chess player, not a great one, but an avid one. I build, I bake, I knit, and I tell stories. I have roamed far and wide for over sixty years in this realm, and I have seen much; some I wish I had not, and a great deal that I would love to see again. Some days I feel like Bilbo Baggins, for I have been there and come back again. No, I haven't written a book about my wanderings, but much that I have experienced, observed, learned, surmised, or imagined, is woven into the tales I have written. I do hope you enjoy them.

I actually have several novels on the go right now, three sci-fi and three romances. The one getting the main focus is the sequel to Novan Witch. I’m trying to finish the sequel for NaNoWriMo. You can download about 40K words of the first draft here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/252723

It’s free so if anyone wants to read it and give me some feedback, I’d love that.

Find Prudence here:

Website: http://www.prudencemacleod.com/
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Witchhazel
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Monday, November 26, 2012

Cherry Pie Poppers: a Pinterest recipe review

Oh, Pinterest. A place where I get tons of ideas and put very few to use. Not anymore!

In recent weeks I've tried out some recipes I previously pinned and I've decided that from now until Christmas I will review one recipe per week, in case you're looking for ideas for the holidays.

Please know as you read this review that I am by no means a culinary expert. Most recipes take me at least twice as long to prepare as the time it says it will take. I haven't spent my whole life in a kitchen. I am, however, pretty good at following instructions on the sides of packages and will make my own judgment call on ingredients lists (which may or may not turn out good).

All that to say, if I can do it, you probably can, too.

Okay, on with the recipe review...

Cherry Pie Poppers


Here is the Pinterest pin: Cherry Pie Poppers

...which leads to this recipe: Hershey Kiss Cutie Pies and Cherry Pie Poppers (I didn't try the Hershey Kiss pies, but they sound good, too!)

I'm not going to repeat the recipe here because you can get it through Pinterest. I'll just let you know how it went for me.

This is a great recipe because you get to use pre-made ingredients, which is awesome if you're not so savvy at baking (I'm not). Just grab a package of pre-made pie crust and a can of cherry pie filling (or another flavor if cherry isn't your thing).

The basic idea is you cut a circular piece of pie crust and place it in a mini muffin pan, add pie filling, then top with a smaller circular piece of pie crust. Cut the top, brush with egg, and bake.

I didn't have circle cutters (as you might use for cookies or biscuits), so I used parts from an Avent baby bottle. The cap for the bottle worked great as the bottom pie crust - the part you slide into the muffin tin to make the bowl.

For the top of the pie, the recipe calls for a smaller circle, so I used the blue and white leak guard ring that comes with the bottles. If you're not familiar with Avent bottles, you're probably confused right now. Here's a picture:



The size of these items worked perfectly for the size of my mini muffin pan. If you don't have "proper" circle cutters either, look around the house. Maybe the lid from a wide-mouth drink might work, or a small drinking glass or jelly jar. Or just tear out circles with your hands. It will add to the homemade appeal.

Also, when you run out of room to cut circles, be sure to squish the dough back into a ball and roll it out flat again to get more out of it. Just make sure that you keep an even number of big bottom circles vs. little top circles, otherwise you may end up with open-faced pies. (And if you do, call them "tartlets." People will think you did it on purpose.)

Anyhow, I sprayed the muffin pan with a non-stick spray (which I don't actually have, but I made this at a friend's house and she did). My muffin pan claims to be non-stick, but I figured it couldn't hurt to make sure.

Filling them looked something like this...



I made sure to get one cherry and some sauce into each little pie. Then I put the caps on...



Now, remember when I said I'm not a culinary expert? Right. Well, the recipe called for brushing the tops with egg. I even brought eggs and a brush with me to do just that.

Then I forgot.

These things happen. I've forgotten a lot worse (like the time I forgot to put water in the rice cooker... or the time I forgot to turn the oven on... or...).

I'm pretty sure the point of the egg is to make the tops brown as they bake.

Mine didn't brown, so they look a little naked, but I assure you they were fully cooked.



I should also mention that when I first pulled them out of the oven, they had kind of exploded. I was certain the whole thing was a bust. Cherry filling was oozing up and out everywhere while little pie hats teetered on top.

As they cooled, however, the cherry filling settled back down into the cups (mostly) and the little pie hats came back down like lids.

Maybe mushing the top and bottom dough pieces together would help? (I say that with a question mark because I have no idea- it's just a theory.)

In the end, they were quite delicious! I'm not a huge fan of pie. That being said, if I'm going to eat pie, I prefer cherry pie or something with berries. These little pies are perfect for me because I get two bites of delicious cherry pie and if I want more I can grab a second. It's not a long-term pie commitment.

Verdict: Yum! Make again. Remember the egg wash. Maybe add a dash of sugar on top to counteract the inherent tartness of pies. Try with different pie fillings like blackberry or raspberry, or mix them together!

Follow me on Pinterest here: http://pinterest.com/smhutchinswrite/

 

 

Friday, November 23, 2012

That Thanksgiving Feeling

Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving. My in-laws joined us for a feast and we went around the table saying what we were thankful for.

Now Thanksgiving is over, it's Black Friday, and people are gearing up for Christmas. It's important, though, to remember to give thanks even after the holiday is over. Being thankful isn't a once a year thing. It should be an everyday thing.

Here's a little inspiration to help us all remember to be thankful:

From Henry David Thoreau...
"I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual…O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment."

From Kiggundu Wilson...
“Promise yourself to wake up every morning with a thankful,
heart as though each day was thanksgiving day.”

From W.T. Purkiser...
"Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving."

From Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are...
“Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle.”


What will you give thanks for today?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Home



My home perpetually feels like it's in shambles. There are always projects partway done, items left out on every flat surface, and even if I just swept the floor, it will have debris on it when I come back from putting the broom away. Is it procreating or something?

Sometimes the level of chaos is tolerable. Sometimes it isn't.

This weekend it wasn't. And so began some work: fixing the leaky toilet, putting the wall trim back on (which we hadn't done since finishing the wood floors a few months ago), making room in the kitchen cabinets to take stuff off the counters, throwing out random crap. You know, the lingering kind of projects.

It's just that when enough things get out of control, home starts to feel stifling, hostile even. It's hard to live harmoniously and peacefully in a house that is in disarray.

Today I still feel tense and unfocused.

There is still so much to be fixed, cleaned, and cleared. I just wish I could walk around the house crossing my arms and blinking I-Dream-of-Jeannie style and make it all better. (Don't we all?)

But I know it will get better. We are making progress. For now my plan is to continue focusing on what I can do right now that will make the most impact on my sanity, like moving that stack of boxes out of the corner.

The funny thing is, you might think I was worried about Thanksgiving guests seeing my house. I'm not. We only have a few guests coming, all family, and they see my house on a regular basis. I'm not worried about making any kind of impression on them.

It's just that I'm feeling uncomfortable in my own home. I hate that. I believe home should have a sense of calm. A sense of "sit here and rest for a bit." (Okay, moms definitely have trouble in this area, but let's make it happen, people!)

What do you think? Does the state of your home impact your mood?

Friday, November 16, 2012

End of Week Inspiration Plus How You Can Help Hurricane Victims



You may have noticed some changes this week here at Live Wonderstruck. A new design has taken over. What do you think? Can you feel the energy?

You'll notice changes in many of my online hangouts including Facebook (you have liked the page, right?) and Twitter.

You may see some more tweaks here and there in the coming weeks. Please bear with me as I work to make this space match my vision.

Let me know what you think by commenting here or on my Facebook page.

What else is going on this week?


Mother Nature is still messing with us it seems. Two weeks ago: hurricane. Last week: snow. Last weekend: warm, sunny, 68 degrees. This week: cold, rainy, 46 degrees. I never know how to dress myself or the toddler each morning.

None of that has stopped me from making another trip out to the shore this week, this time to load up the minivan with donations that needed to move from one mission to another. Who knew that simply having a minivan would be helpful to hurricane relief? Awesome. I'm so excited to be able to do something rather than watching helplessly from afar.

You can help hurricane victims!


Do you want to help, too? No matter where you are, you can. The super-nice woman coordinating donations in Lake Como, New Jersey said that they still need cleaning supplies and now need tools and supplies for rebuilding homes.

If you would like to donate supplies, money, or a Home Depot gift card, email me at smhutchinswriter at gmail dot com or message me on Facebook. I will help you make sure your donation gets directly to the people affected by the hurricane. You can send it to me and I will pass it on in your name or I can put you in touch with the coordinator.

Tell your friends and family. Spread the word. Thank you!

Worth reading


There are so many great blogs out there. Here are a few posts I liked this week:

Just In Case by Glennon of Momastery

Glennon is going through a difficult time personally and manages to turn it into profound statements like this...
"And while my life, lower case l, trods along, unpredictable, twisty, turny, scary – Life – capital L - goes on, too. All around me. Same as it ever was."

And also this...
"But we each have a different path – we each have our own lower case l life – different chutes, different ladders. And every chute and each ladder we hit in our lives is an opportunity to practice what we believe about LIFE."

More Than Just Trying to Cope by Kristin Noelle of Trust Tending

Something about Kristin's writing makes me picture a soft-spoken woman who makes you want to be extra quiet to hear the important words she says.
"I believe small steps, taken over time – whether we’re writing a book, or starting a business, or raising children, or learning to move our bodies again – add up. They transform us."

"And learning to do more than 'just cope', learning to trust life DEEPLY, is no exception."

Parenting Teenagers Rule #1: Let Your Fingers Do the Talking - Guest post by Liv Rancourt on Sara Walpert Foster's blog

I'm a fan of both Liv and Sara, so having them together in one post is like a bonus. Liv counts texts with her teenage children as conversations, which is actually a smart way to look at it. She had me laughing from lines like these:
"...like the time I forgot to fill out the back of a permission slip and FROM SCHOOL he texted me a photo of the blank document with the subject: This is a disgrace."

As always...


Be on the lookout for wonderstruck moments today and throughout your weekend. You never know when a simple family breakfast will become a cherished moment. Or maybe a pile of leaves will add color to your day.


 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Interview: Laird Sapir

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

Today's interviewee is website designer and writer Laird Sapir.

[caption id="attachment_692" align="alignleft" width="225"] Laird's Little Man[/caption]What have you been wonderstruck by recently?

A couple of weeks ago I was at a family dinner with my kids, my parents, and miscellaneous other relatives. My dad asked my four year old if he would like to say grace and my little guy nodded and we all joined hands. When little man was done reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, my entire family said "Amen."

I thought it was really funny that little man said the Pledge in place of a prayer, but I was totally wonderstruck by the fact that he knew the entire Pledge of Allegiance. Wowsa. (Also, kind of awesome that my entire family went with it and no one corrected him.)

What part of your day are you grateful for?

Any part of it that is quiet! When the little man is at school and his sister is napping, and I can spend a few minutes in a quiet house, with no interruptions...heaven.

What part of the day is tough? How do you move through it?

Waking up. I am always amazed at people who seem to spring out of bed ready to tackle the day. I am not one of those people. So I bribe myself with coffee. That usually works.

What do you wish you were more conscious of?

I wish I were more conscious of ... gosh, lots of things. I don't even know where to begin!

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

Honestly? It is a daily challenge. I make lots and lots of lists. Lots. of. Lists.

About Laird:

I'm a website designer, writer, and collector of odd facts and random trivia. I have an office supply addiction, a 24 pound cat, and a love of really bad movies.

I'm about to have a serious chat with myself about whipping my own blog into shape, which you can read at lairdsapir.com.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Helping After the Hurricane

Sometimes you just want to help. Many times you don't know how. At least that's how it is for me.

We see these big, life changing natural disasters on the news and think, "wow." We want to help, but it's far away. We aren't sure what to do, so we go about living our own lives.

Except this time the natural disaster was here. This time the hurricane devastated towns that are a 30 minute drive from me.

I had the same thoughts of, "oh, I want to do something," but no excuses this time because it was here.

I kept my eye on Jersey Shore Hurricane News' Facebook page as people posted what was needed (or not needed) where. The need for clothes was fulfilled quickly. I didn't feel I could appropriately help with gutting homes because I have a toddler in tow at all times.

Then a friend posted on Facebook some needs for her local township: baby supplies, cleaning supplies, new socks and underwear.

A specific need with a specific location and I could follow up with her for details.

A few days later another friend and I packed our kiddos in the minivan and made a trip. We stopped at Walmart to stock up.



We had diapers in four sizes, wipes, bleach, ammonia, spray bottles, sponges, rags, paper towels, trash bags, toilet paper, water, socks, feminine supplies, pain reliever, children's pain reliever, and lip balm.

Such simple things that some people don't have anymore.



We loaded up the trunk of the van and we were on our way to Lake Como Borough Hall where individuals and fire/first aid companies have been showing up for supplies. When we arrived, they had just given out their last roll of paper towels.

Surreal.

I used that word last week and I'm using it again because it's the only thing I keep thinking about this whole thing.

Before we left for home, we drove around Lake Como and neighboring Belmar to see how things looked.

Lined up on the shore were piles of debris like these. The ocean is in the background. Somewhere.



 



 



In front of the homes a few blocks in-land, the results of their clean up efforts line the streets.



 



It's hard to see the destruction, yet inspiring to see the work that has already been done.

I'm headed back to Belmar and Lake Como tomorrow, this time to help redistribute supplies to other shelters.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Basic Comforts



What a week. Ever since our power came back on Sunday (along with running water), I've been taking advantage: laundry, washing dishes, baths, showers, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Sleeping with heat. Such luxuries.

Just as things were beginning to feel normal again we were slammed with a snow storm on Wednesday.



The power flickered. It went out. It came back. Flickered a few times, went out. I sat in a bathtub in pitch black nothingness. Breathe.

The lights popped on. Power again. Thankfully.

The next morning I woke to power still on and about 8 inches of snow on the ground. Wasn't it just last week we had a hurricane? Now snow? What is going on here? Well played, Mother Nature. Well played.

No worries. At least we still had power which was more than some people in our town could say.

Until we didn't. Because that morning it went out. Again.

We spent the day with temperatures dropping indoors. We pulled out my in-laws' generator which we hadn't yet returned. I thought about the clothes I had washed first thing that morning and hadn't yet moved to the dryer. That would not be a pretty smell later.

Fortunately the power came back on that evening. I wasn't looking forward to sleeping in the cold again.

All this to say, I'm feeling a little weird. I'm on guard. I'm worried about when and for how long we will lose power next. I'd like to feel comfortable again.

Then I think about the families who have suffered worse from Hurricane Sandy. Like my friend in Long Island who had serious flooding and is now trying to get her car replaced, find a new place to live, and replace kids' toys.

Like the families whose meals are coming from shelters and kind businesses offering free food.

Like the people who are shoveling sand, debris, and water out of their homes to see what can be salvaged.

I am so very lucky.

Today I'm headed to the shore with baby supplies, cleaning supplies, and clothing, where another friend has been volunteering time in a town hall to help victims get the basic things they need.

No one should have to be without clean underwear and socks. They just shouldn't. So, that's what I'm taking, along with diapers, baby wash, soap, sponges.

Because everyone should be so lucky.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Kid Interview: Samantha

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

Today is going to be fun because this is a Wonderstruck Interview: Kid Edition. Yay! Samantha is 10 years old and in the 5th grade in Virginia. She is a competitive gymnast and refers to me as her Fairy Godmother. (Yes, that is the best title I could ever, ever hold. Ever!)

What have you been wonderstruck by recently?

There is a new girl on my gymnastics team and the first time I saw her vault, I was amazed at how perfect it was. It makes me wish I could vault like her. I love watching her.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

The part of the day I am grateful for is when I'm in school and I get to learn so much from my teacher and I love her lessons and when she teaches me.

What part of the day is tough? How do you move through it?

The toughest part of my day is when this kid in my class is bothering me. He makes it hard to focus on my work and he sometimes hurts my feelings. I move through it by working harder to focus on my teacher and pretend he's not there.

What do you wish you were more conscious of?

I wish I was more aware of the way I speak to other people. Some of my friends think my voice can be bossy, so I need to make sure my voice is nicer and softer.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

All I have to do is think of my family and that's how I stay focused on what's truly important to me, in school and in gymnastics.

About Samantha:

I practice gymnastics 4 days a week for a total of 14 hours. My favorite meal is red beans and rice. My favorite dessert is ice cream and cookies. My favorite musician is Taylor Swift, and my favorite song is You Belong with Me. My favorite TV show is NCIS. My favorite movies are Hocus Pocus and Tin Man.

Is this kid wonderstruck or what? Show her some love by leaving her some comments.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Facebook Updates

As you may have heard already, Facebook has made some changes to their site that mean you may not be seeing updates from pages you have "liked" in your newsfeed.

To be sure you see updates from me, please go to my Facebook page and click on the "Like" button. A drop-down menu will come up. Click "Add to Interests list... ." This should get you back in the wonderstruck goodness loop.

And if you weren't already following me on Facebook, why not start today? :)

See you around the interwebs!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

Happy Halloween! What? It’s not Halloween where you are? Well... this is awkward.

You see, here in New Jersey, it’s Halloween. Because everyone was (and is) still trying to recover from Hurricane Sandy (with most everyone out of power at that point), the Governor postponed Halloween celebrations.

So, tonight while you and your loved ones talk about the day’s work and shuffle kids through homework, we will be shuffling our kids through the neighborhood to trick-or-treat. No sense for sweet tooths to suffer (or is it sweet teeth?).

When Sandy sees all the merriment, maybe her heart will grow two sizes and she’ll return the Christmas trees. Wait... I think I’m getting confused. I’m also pretty sure we’re not getting any of our trees back.



Anyhow, let’s talk about the hurricane a little.

My town was affected most by power outages, downed trees and, therefore, road closures. So many trees fell on my street that the neighborhood actually looks like a whole new place. We lost 4 trees in my yard. Someone said they counted 60 trees down along our formerly tree-lined streets.

Power went out Monday afternoon as Hurricane Sandy started rolling in. We pulled out a big generator we bought after last year’s storm and hooked it up. That supplied us with power for almost 3 hours before it stopped working.

We called the company who makes it the next day who informed us we would have to take it to be repaired (not easy considering all the road closures) and gave us the number of a semi-nearby shop. That shop was flooded and had a tree fall through it’s building so the owner said he wouldn’t be open for a while, but even if he were he’d have to order parts from Ohio. Basically, we were kind of screwed as far as getting that generator working again.

My in-laws, who mercifully didn’t lose power at all, brought us their generator. It was smaller than ours so we had to pick and choose what to run. Usually that meant heat for one floor, the refrigerator, and a few lights.

Because we have a well, we were also without running water for the week. Oh, yes. Good times. We were flushing our toilets with buckets of water from the bathtub which we had filled before Sandy’s arrival.

On Thursday we managed to get the generator to run our well pump (by turning absolutely everything else off) long enough to take short showers.

We didn’t run the generator at night, so it got quite cold at night. After waking one morning to find my toddler with blue lips, blue feet, and coughing, I took him down to Maryland for a couple nights at the end of the week. My dad had both heat and running water. Talk about luxury!

Our power was finally restored yesterday morning. I have never been so excited to do laundry and wash dishes. Living without power and water is a nuisance.

That’s all, though. It’s just a nuisance. While I’ve griped about not being able to clean, many people have lost their homes to floods and fires. Houses are in the water and boats are on land. One house floated to the middle of a major road. A train ended up on the turnpike. A roller coaster sits in the ocean. Gas leakages have led to fires. The images are almost surreal.

There are people, particularly whose homes were on the shore, who haven’t even been able to get back yet to find out what’s left, if anything. I can’t imagine what that feels like.

Food and water shelters have been setup for people who can’t get these basic resources. Some people are in need of clothing and warm blankets.

Getting gas has proven problematic for anyone trying to fill up their car or a gas can to keep a generator running. Many gas stations are still without power and closed. The ones that are open have lines out to the street. Often they only accept cash, which means you also have to find a working ATM before you even get to the gas station.

As of this weekend, gas is being rationed in most of New Jersey. On odd dates, cars with license plates ending in odd numbers can get gas. On even dates, license plates ending in even numbers can.

Even as I type that, it sounds too ridiculous to be true. Yet, here we are.

Bad things are happening. There have been fist fights over gas. On my own street, someone tried to steal a generator and break into a house that they thought was unoccupied. They were wrong and apparently ran off after the owner turned on her flashlight and her dogs starting lunging at the windows.

How much desperation one must feel to try to steal a generator.

And still, there is so much generosity. As other people around me regained power, I’ve had multiple invitations to go warm up, charge my phone, do laundry, and shower.

In Hoboken, people who weren’t affected by flooding and got power back quickly set up charging stations in their front yards for neighbors to plug in their phone- extension cords run through the front yard and maybe even a few patio chairs to rest in.

In my small town, one business offered free chain saw sharpening this weekend. As I mentioned, a lot of trees are down all around here, so this makes clean up a little easier.

The local clothing screening company created “Jersey Strong” t-shirts with all proceeds going to relief efforts.

In another town someone loaded up firewood in front of their house and offered it free to anyone who needed it to stay warm.

In a store where people waited to buy generators, the last person who had a ticket to do so gave his ticket away to someone else who was housing families displaced by the flood. Because of that person gave up their generator, a house temporarily holding 14 people had power that night.

Utility workers from our state have worked long hours in the cold to restore power. Utility workers have even come in from other states to help.

There is still so much good in this world.

So that’s what’s been happening here. There is still a long road ahead for many. I ask that you pray, if so inclined, for all of the families affected.

If you are in New Jersey or want to know what is happening with relief efforts here, follow Jersey Shore Hurricane News on Facebook. This is an incredible resource that gives updates on the devastation, where people can find shelter and resources, time tables for power restoration, and how you can help.

Here are links to some of the images, in case you've missed them:

If you want to help, check the Jersey Shore Hurricane News Facebook page I mentioned earlier to see what people are requesting and where. If you are local and can provide shelter, power, or supplies to someone in need, please do so. The White House also has a page on their website with lots of ways to help: How to Help Survivors of Hurricane Sandy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blame Sandy for the Lack of Post

No post today. That's a weird thing to say in what is technically a post. Nonetheless, that's what I'm here to say.

We are still without power after Hurricane Sandy. I'm typing this from my cell phone. Rest assured my family is safe. But for the power outage, consequent lack of running water, and a few lost trees, our home is in tact.

There are still plenty of people here in New Jersey with bigger problems than mine. Please keep those families in your thoughts and prayers.

Live Wonderstruck will return to regular posting when my power has been restored.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Waiting for the Storm

Here in New Jersey (northeast United States for those readers in other countries), we are bracing for Hurricane Sandy. The media has tossed around terms like "a storm for the history books."

Stores were packed as early as Friday morning as people tried to load up on water, batteries, bread, and other supplies. For some reason people also seem to go for milk and eggs which doesn't make much sense to me because (at least at my house) we often lose power, so anything that requires refrigeration isn't going to survive anyway.

We moved our patio furniture to the shed and strapped our grill down. We've placed all the flashlights, candles, and lighters where we can easily find them. We have non-perishable food and water. We are as ready as we are going to be.

Waiting for the storm is a weird feeling. Last night we sat around the house looking out the window every so often. The rain was supposed to start at 4:00 p.m. yesterday, yet there wasn't a single drop of rain before we went to bed.

It's weird the things you think about while waiting for a storm. Like...

  • Why hasn't the rain started yet? It's too calm.

  • Can I get to the flashlight if I have to feel my way through the dark?

  • What will I do with the whole family at home and no power?

  • Should the kids sleep in our room?

  • Should I wear a bra to bed in case we have to leave suddenly? (Does anyone else worry about this?)

  • Good thing we have food leftover from the Halloween party.


The schools announced they would be closed Monday and Tuesday, as did the municipality and many businesses. If they were preemptively doing closing, we figured things would get bad before morning. In fact, looking at The Weather Channel app on the iPad this morning, you would have thought we were already in serious trouble:



"Terrifying Megastorm Cripples East Coast." Yikes! Did I miss something? I looked out my window. There was a slight breeze and drizzle falling slowly from the sky.



Yucky, maybe. Crippling, no.

I texted my friend in Virginia. Surely with a headline like that, she was in trouble. Her reply? "We have some strong winds and decent rain." Then she said she was out running an errand.

Hmmm.

As I've written this, gusts have picked up to a level I can comfortably call wind. According to the radar, Sandy is still out over the ocean. It's coming.

So, we wait.

If you are in Sandy's path, too, my thoughts are with you. Stay safe and dry!

 

 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Interview: Alina Weldon

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

Today is a treat for me because I got to interview my best friend of... ahem... well... as she told me earlier this year, "our friendship is now old enough to drink." Phew. That's a lot of years. We've been friends since high school despite living miles and states apart. Meet Alina Weldon: a defense contractor in Washington, D.C., mother to a fierce (in the awesome way) daughter, and a heck of a dancer.

Oh, and for the record, I chose this photograph because I love the pure happiness that shows all over her face when she laughs. So much joy!

What have you been wonderstruck by recently?

My Wonderstruck moment recently was during a morning walk. I had to kill about an hour before I could pick up my loaner laptop. I was given the gift of having a quiet moment to walk along and watch people running around. Rarely am I able to step out of my hustle bustle life and to be an observer, was a gift. I strolled, listened to music, looked at all the colors, stopped to chat with a lady and her dog, and most of all find that rare stillness inside of myself.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

The part of my day I am most grateful for are the quiet moments with my daughter, Samantha. Chatting about her day, the issues of the 10 year old world. Her gymnastics, school, hopes, no boys - luckily. Time moves so quickly that moments like that are what helps me see her at each stage of her life, and not blur. It's a hard juggle to shape and guide her to be a well rounded person with still really listening to what she is saying and wants. Those quiet moments help her words become clearer.

What part of the day is tough? How do you move through it?

The toughest part of my day is having to drop Samantha off at her Before School Care so early, 6:15am, in order to make it to work on time. We start so early and end so late. I would love to work closer to home to allow the day to start a little later.

What do you wish you were more conscious of?

I would love to be more aware of my moods. I know how they affect others around me. I can pull into myself easily and I see, once it's too late, how Samantha is mimicking my moods. It also changes how others at my work interact with me. In order to make positive changes is to start within myself.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

Staying focused on what's important is an easy one for me. When I'm feeling that work "burn out" and I start feeling like hiding, all I have to do is look at my Samantha and my focus comes back. She gets up so early, handles the rough waters of school and tween girls, gets her homework done in time to go to gymnastics practice for 3 hours at night - all while maintaining all A's and B's. Maybe her room isn't as clean as I'd like, but then neither is mine. There is always room for improvement!!

About Alina:

I am a mother with an amazing daughter. I am writing my future story everyday, hoping to find out who I am, and becoming.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bobby McFerrin Shows the Beauty in Working Together

A few years ago I took my husband and stepson to see Bobby McFerrin in concert. I had a feeling it would be a fun show even if I didn't know fully what to expect. Their only familiarity with McFerrin was as the "Don't Worry, Be Happy" guy, so they knew even less about what to expect.

What transpired was a mesmerizing exhibit of vocals as McFerrin performed a one man show using only his voice, the tapping of his feet, and patting his hand on his chest to create fully developed music.

Things got really fun as he started encouraging audience participation. At one point, he slid his chair to the side of the stage and invited anyone who wanted to join him on stage and dance. One at a time, audience members and McFerrin did some improv together- them through dance, he through sound.

Later he invited audience members up to sing with him. They would sing any song they wanted and he would embellish it with his own personal style.

At other times he got the entire audience involved, including during a haunting rendition of Ave Maria. I found a video of him doing just such a performance at another venue and thought I'd share it here.

Bobby McFerrin's vision and ability to be a true leader are inspiring. It restored my faith that people have so much good in them and can work together if only they take a chance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgvJg7D6Qck

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Interview: Janice Heck

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

This week's interviewee is Janice Heck. Jan is a retired educator who enjoys blogging about travel, food, writing, grammar, cats, and events in her current home state, New Jersey.

What have you been wonderstruck by recently?

Over the past few months, I have been impressed by the vast numbers of committed volunteers who contribute their time, energy, and money to church events, community events, and special fundraising events for catastrophes or major illnesses. Whatever their causes, volunteers log many hours of work, and in the process, they touch many lives. It is humbling to be involved with these caring people.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

Evenings. The day has calmed down and all the distractions have fluttered away. I finally have time to think and write. I am a night owl, and I get my second wind during these late hours.

What part of the day is tough? How do you move through it?

The toughest part of my day is the early morning. (You can’t be an early bird and a night owl at the same time!) But I am retired, so sleeping a little later is my reward. Once I am up in the morning, I am ready to go.

What do you wish you were more conscious of?

Some people seem to have a knack for keeping track of friends and neighbors and their current personal problems, health issues, or other struggles. I sometimes get so involved in my own doings, that I lose track of other people and their needs. Several friends are very good at encouraging others, and I admire this quality. I want to make a more conscious effort to do the same.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

Even though I am retired, I still find myself pulled in many directions: church activities, community activities, family responsibilities, health issues, and more. I honestly don’t know how I managed to get everything done when I worked full time. I keep my calendar handy and my notebook front and center on my desk to help to keep me organized and focused. Taking time to write every day is an important goal. Even as a senior citizen, I still have things I want to accomplish.

Find Janice Heck here:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Going For It

I applied for a job this morning. A blogging job. How cool is that?

It's nothing major - 3 posts per week (okay, that could get major) - but it intrigued me, so I went for it.

The chances of me getting this job are probably slim. While I meet the qualifications, I'm sure the competition is great, and I met none of the "preference given to..." bonus points. Wrong locale, new reader of their blog. Strike and strike.

I could have stopped reading and let it go, but something about their request resonated with me. It inspired me. It spurred a slew of writing ideas and a new perspective. I feel confident I can bring a good, and somewhat unique, perspective to their readers.

It's now in their hands to decide if we're a good match. Maybe they'll agree, maybe they won't.

Here's the thing... if they don't choose me, I'll be in exactly the same place I am now. There is nothing to lose by going for it. In fact, I may be able to use those sample posts I wrote here. Even more, the application made me think about my writing in a new way. It's hard to see a downside (aside from rejection which is always painful).

Of course, I'm hoping they'll pick me. Fingers crossed!

Have you taken a shot at something even if you weren't sure it would work out? What happened in the end? Did you learn something about yourself in the process?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wonderstruck Fall

The leaves started turning this week where I live. Greens are giving way to golds and reds in a beautiful display of nature's wonder. So, how about a little Fall inspiration as you seek wonderstruckness right where you are today...


“Autumn...the year's last, loveliest smile.”
― William Cullen Bryant


“Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.”
― Chad Sugg


“That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.”
― William Shakespeare, excerpt from Shakespeare's Sonnets

How is Fall showing itself where you live?

Be sure to join the wonderstruck conversation on my Facebook page. Click the "like" button if you... um... like it. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Interview: You - What About Fall Has You Wonderstruck?



There is no wonderstruck interview today. Instead, I'm breaking from routine this week to interview you.

Yes, you.

Don't worry. This will be painless. There is only one question.

What about Fall has you wonderstruck?


Is it the crisp air? Colorful leaves? Apple cider? Pumpkin picking? Something else?

Share your answer in the comments, then come back and see what others are saying. Maybe you'll find more things to be wonderstruck about.

Have you visited my Facebook page yet? If not, you’re missing out on wonderstruck inspiration throughout the week. Come check it out and click the “Like” button.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Frustrated to Wonderstruck... You Can Make the Shift

It's the third time this week he hasn't napped and yet he stayed up as late tonight as he normally would. You put him in his crib and he plays quietly until drifting to sleep. Peace is yours.

You can work on that thing- that project you've been meaning to work on. You're making progress. Finally.

Then he cries.

It's been less than an hour since you put him down. Now he's crying.

You wait because maybe he'll go back to sleep. Then you wait just one more minute to be sure.

Yes, he needs you.

You go to him slightly agitated because you can't seem to get a break today. You remind yourself he doesn't mean to mess up your day. He needs... something. Maybe to know it's okay.

So you hold him. Rock him back and forth, back and forth. Sing "lullaby and goodnight, in the sky stars are bright."

You think about this time where you could be finishing your project. You could be doing any one of the hundred things on your to do list. There are so many things to be done.

Then you realize this is the important stuff. All that other stuff... you can do that later. You can't do this later. You can't get this back.

You breathe in deep. Relax your grip while holding him snug. You sing quieter, closer to his face.

You trace the back curve of his ear, so soft that, like a flower petal, you can barely feel it at all.

These days it's so rare you get to hold him while he's sleeps. Remember what it was like. Remember what it is like. Right now.

You get to have this moment. Drink it in. Because some day he'll be too big, too smart, too independent for this.

But right now he is calm and so are you.

This is living wonderstruck. Soaking up the present. Moving from frustration to contentment. Having the power to choose how you feel. Choosing to be present, fully present in the glory and grace of this moment.

What moment will you transform today?

 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Smiles Aplenty

Today is World Smile Day! Did you know there was such a thing? I didn't until just last week, but here it is, World Smile Day 2012.

It started in 1999 as a day to spread smiles and kind acts to one another. Certainly every day is a good day to do that, but maybe today we can pay special attention to share kindness.

The basic idea is this:
On this day we call upon people around the globe to be thoughtful of others and use the power of smile and a kind act to make a small difference in the world in which we live.

That's direct from worldsmileday.com.

What kind act will you do for someone else today? Helping with a task? Lightening a load? Listening?

How about picking up the phone to tell someone you are happy they are in your life. Channel Stevie Wonder... call to say, "I love you."

Give smiles and see how many smiles come right back to you.

Because it's World Smile Day, it also seems appropriate to let you, my fabulous wonderstruck readers, know how happy you make me. I love that you show up, comment, participate in interviews, and share links to my posts. Thank you so much!

Every kind word shared here or on my Facebook page brings a huge smile to my face. I read those words on days when I have trouble remembering why I'm doing this (because some days are like that).

I like this blog. It feels important. I sometimes feel like I'm not doing very well sharing the Live Wonderstruck message. Then one of you swoops in with a note to say you appreciate my posts. It warms my heart.

Maybe you could share that love with another blogger you like today as one of your kind acts.

While we are on the topic, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Elaine Smothers and Joules from Pocketful of Joules. These wonderful women recently bestowed upon me some beautiful blog awards.

Elaine gave me the One Lovely Blog award and Joules presented me with the Sunshine Award (as well as the One Lovely Blog award).

Thank you, Elaine and Joules! I so appreciate you thinking of me and this blog.

Now these awards come with some rules.

  1. I am to publicly thank the people who gave them to me. (Done!)

  2. I am to share some information about myself (coming in a few sentences)

  3. I am to nominate some of my favorite blogs (toward the end of this post)

  4. I am to comment on their blogs to let them know I've awarded them (I'll do this later today)


The One Lovely Blog award asks me to share 7 facts about myself while the Sunshine Award has some specific questions for me to answer. I have decided that the Sunshine Award questions will effectively cover the 7 facts about me, so here we go...

  • Favorite color: I love colors! Lots of colors. I like different colors on different days. But I suppose the color that most sticks is purple (hence the Live Wonderstruck header).

  • Favorite animal: Really? Hmm... I'm not sure. I like elephants because they are so stinking big and wrinkly with goofy ears and a silly nose, yet somehow they are beautiful and graceful. There's a lesson there somewhere.

  • Favorite number: 6

  • Favorite drink: I drink ice water all day. Boring, but water really is refreshing. On the rare occasion I get to go out I generally won't turn down a glass of wine or a coconut rum with pineapple juice.

  • Facebook or Twitter: I'm on both, but I'm more active on Facebook. I feel like it's easier to follow conversations there. (Please take this opportunity to follow me if you haven't already: facebook.com/smhutchinswriter and twitter.com/smhutchins.)

  • Good book or good movie: Good book. Definitely.

  • Giving or getting gifts: The politically correct thing here would be to say giving, but let's be honest, both giving and getting is fun. I love giving gifts, especially when I feel like I've found something perfect for that person. Getting a gift is always nice, too, even something as simple as a smile. (See how I brought World Smile Day back around?)

  • My passion: Ugh. I hate this question. I know some people can answer in a nanosecond, but I don't think I have one passion. I certainly feel strongly about living a wonderstruck life, whether I'm being attentive to my family, spending time outside, or having lunch with a friend.

  • Favorite day: I'm not sure whether this means "...of the week," "...of the year," or "...EVER!" I'm much more fond of Mondays now that I've left corporate America.

  • Favorite flower: Peach roses and pink Gerber daisies.


Now to spread some blog award love. I present each of the following bloggers with both the One Lovely Blog award and the Sunshine Award for inspiring me with wonderstruck moments. In no particular order...

  1. Jenn Gibson at Roots of She

  2. Diana Lesire Brandmeyer

  3. Brandi Reynolds

  4. Warm Sunshine Blog

  5. Sara Walpert Foster

  6. Kristin Noelle of Trust Tending

  7. Tami Clayton

  8. Cora Ramos

  9. Kate Conner

  10. Mike Schulenberg


I wish you all a wonderstruck day as you share abundant smiles and small acts of kindness!