End of the Year Survey 2010

My annual end of the year survey.

1. What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?
I purged stuff in the kitchen.  It was probably the only room I the house that i had never gone through before, and it is so much nicer after four rounds of decluttering.  Not only are the tops of the cabinets empty, but so is the top of the fridge... AND I even have a whole shelf in one of the cabinets that is completely empty.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Last year I said I was going to eat less sweets, and I totally forgot all about that.  But I've actually been giving it some thought this time so this year I have more things to work on:
-empty out our storage unit.
-finish reading the music dictionary
-be able to touch my toes (when stretching)

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, a couple of my friends from mom's group.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No.  I just wish I could say the same for some of my friends.

5. What countries did you visit?
Again, just the U.S. I haven't been out of the country in a very very long time.  But we visited a new city... Pittsburg.  Not super exciting and we were only there for one night, but it definitely had a unique look.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
I don't think I really lacked anything this year, but we have plans to make some home improvements in the upcoming months, I'm looking forward to that.

7. What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
December 8th, for the Jeff Tweedy show.  Dylan's birthday, our small family Thanksgiving

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Finally having the guts to get my wisdom teeth taken out.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not sticking with my plan to read the music dictionary.  I plan on fixing that next year though.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Not really.  I wound up with a dry socket after getting my wisdom teeth out which hurt like HELL for a good 18 hours.  But since I got the flu shot this year I've managed to stay fairly healthy.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
It was bought for me-- my iPad!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
So many people:
Matt for doing so well in chess this year
Sarah for doing so well with all her school work (and still managing to babysit for us occasionally)
Mom for all the weight she's still losing, and all the exercising she's doing
Dad for all the running he does
My bro-in-law for graduating
I could go on...

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

14. Where did most of your money go?
House, cars, Food, Dylan, vacations

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
 seeing Jeff Tweedy in concert earlier this month (so amazing!)

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?
I'm really struggling to answer this because there are so many to choose from.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or Sadder?: happier
ii. Thinner or Fatter than last year?: thinner
iii. Richer or Poorer?: richer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Play piano, though I played considerably more this year than I have in the past.  Also, I wish I had done more running

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Watch useless TV

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
We spent it with our families.  Dylan finally understands holidays, so it was a fun day for him, and we enjoyed watching his reactions throughout the day.

22. Did you fall in love in 2010?
Stayed in love

23. How many one-night stands?

24. What was your favorite TV program?
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, HIMYM, and General Hospital

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

26. What was the best book you read?
The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Avett Brothers.  I learned about them on an episode of Ace of Cakes of all places.  But I love their music, and I'm going to see them in DC in Feb.  I've heard they put on a really great live show.

28. What did you want and get?
Front row seats to Jeff Tweedy, and at the very end of the year, a new washing machine.

29. What did you want and not get?
A new winter coat, I've been putting off buying one for the last 3 or 4 years.  Eventually I'm going to have to break down and get one.  Maybe next year.  Also, an iPod playing system for my car, unfortunately it's not cheap, so i don't think I'll be getting it anytime soon.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 29.  In addition to a minor freak out, i went out to dinner with dylan and Matt.  And then had arroz con pollo for dinner with my family a few days later.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Hmmm...  I think I had a pretty good year.  If anything, I guess I wish that I had done a better job keeping in touch with some friends.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
I minimized my wardrobe.  I like having fewer clothes, but unfortunately I'm not totally in love with the clothes I do have, so I think I'll gradually work at replacing them with better selections.  One day... when I'm not afraid of fashion.

34. What kept you sane?
Matt, music, and yoga

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
No one particular stands out

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
I'm not super political, but I'm interested to see how the repeal of DADT works out, and also what is going to happen with the tax cuts.

37. Who did you miss?
Just wish that I could have spent more time with good friends

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Oh man, i was so focused on making a musical discovery and reading a good book that i forgot that i need to meet people too so I don't look like such a loser on this survey.  Maybe next year...

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010?
To keep life simple so that I can enjoy and appreciate it better.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I crossed many states just to stand here now, my face all hot with tears
I crossed city, and valley, desert, and stream, to bring my body here
My history and future blaze bright in me and all my joy and pain
Go through my head on our mountain bed where I smell your hair again.

All this day long I linger here and on in through the night
My greeds, desires, my cravings, hopes, my dreams inside me fight:
My loneliness healed, my emptiness filled, I walk above all pain
Back to the breast of my woman and child to scatter my seeds again

(okay, so maybe not so much that last line, but I felt obligated to leave it in to keep the stanza complete)
Remember the Mountain Bed,* lyrics by Woody Guthrie music by Wilco

*I searched for a YouTube video of this song... Turns out we were actually at this performance, Philadelphia in 2008, I was super pregnant then.


My Winter Top 10

I recently made a short winter playlist that I thought I'd share in case anyone out there is dying to know what music I'm listening to these days (doubt it).  I don't make playlists often because i usually like to listen to one group/musician at a time.  But this list includes some of my current favorite songs... whenever they happen to come on I find myself hitting the repeat button-- a few times.  At least I know where Dylan gets that from; we had to listen to Christmas Eve in Sarajevo nonstop on the way home from my parent's house today.

I've had this blog for quite a long time now, so I may be repeating myself, so I apologize in advance if that is the case.  I tend to listen to certain types of music in different seasons.  In winter I prefer mellower, more subdued music, so if this list seems to be lacking in energy, that's why.

1.  Remember the Mountain Bed, lyrics by Woodie Guthry music by Wilco and Billy Bragg
2.  Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead
3.  Sunken Treasure by Wilco
4.  Laminted Cat (Not for the Season) by Loose Fur
5.  All These Things That I've Done by The Killers
6.  Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promises by Avett Brothers
7.  Temezcal by Monsters of Folk
8.  Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos    
9.  First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes  
10.  I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet) by The White Stripes


To Santa or Not to Santa...

Consider this fair warning for anyone with little kids who come into contact with Dylan in the future...  We are not planning on leading Dylan to believe that Santa is real.  I realize this is not the norm, but this was something that we agreed on long before we had a kid.  We decided that we want to be completely honest with Dylan when it comes to Santa, I also don't want to get caught up in the trap of "you need to be good or Santa won't come." I've felt pretty strongly for a while that being good and doing good are things that should happen simply because they are good... not in order to get something out of it for yourself (though the episode of Friends where Joey tells Phoebe that no good deed goes without self satisfaction comes to mind every time think that.)

So how are we handling Christmas now that Dylan is old enough to kind of know what's going on?  Well, at this point it's not so much about us sitting down with him and explaining the myth of Santa or anything like that, I think what I've found this year is that a lot more about how we will treat the Santa topic is by what we are NOT saying.  We're not telling him that Santa is going to bring him presents, we're not telling him that Santa is going to come down our non existent fire place, or that he is watching to see if Dylan is being a good boy.  So he has no expectations for any of that. Instead we're enjoying the Christmas decorations, the snow, and Christmas stories, music, and movies.  I'm pretty sure that at this point Dylan has no idea that gifts are even a part of this season.  I'm not interested in depriving him of the Christmas experience, he's still loving this season. And we still read books about Santa, I pointed him out at the mall (though we didn't sit on his lap, mostly because those pictures are super expensive), etc.  At this point Santa is another character in his toddler world, much like Mickey Mouse or Rocket from Little Einsteins.  And that's perfectly fine.  I think in the future when he starts learning more about what's real and what's imaginary we'll just be sure to lump Santa in with those characters.  Doesn't mean he won't enjoy them anymore, or that he'll stop loving Elmo, just that he'll know whats what.

So I think we've got this year figured out, and I think we've even figured out how to proceed in the future, the only thing I'm concerned about is how to keep him from spoiling other kids fun. I think we still have a little time to figure that out though.


My First Recipe!

Okay, so I don't typically follow recipes to a T when I make savory meals, but I do usually use them as guidelines.  They help give me an idea of flavors that work together, as well as ratios of ingredients so that one ingredient doesn't overwhelm the whole meal.  But this is one of the first recipes I kinda made up all on my own.  Not entirely though, I watched an episode of Jamie Oliver the other day and he made a soup similar to this that used coconut milk, so i got the idea there, but I didn't look anything up when I started this I just threw it all together myself.  And it was delicious!  So here is what I would consider to be my first recipe. 
There maybe something else like this out there somewhere... But I want to write down my version here in case I ever decide to make it again.  Measurements aren't exact because I don't measure, I just go by look and taste.

Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut milk

1 container of pre-cut butternut squash, further cut down to 1 inch size pieces (for faster cooking)
1 tbsp of olive oil
2 small yellow onions sliced thin
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne powder
A few cups of vegetable stock
1/2 - 1 cup of coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime

Saute the onion in the olive oil until they are soft and translucent.  Add garlic and sauté for another minute or so.  Add spices, including a little salt and black pepper, cook for 2 minutes. Then add the butternut squash.  Stir to coat the squash with the seasonings, cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the vegetable stock.  Simmer over medium heat until the squash is fork tender.  Purée mixture to desired thickness (I left a few squash chunks in mine).  Return to stove over low heat.  Add coconut milk and lime juice.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

It was really good!  The coconut milk definitely enhanced the sweetness of the squash, but the curry and  cayenne pepper kept it savory with a little kick.  I've seen coconut and lime paired together a lot so I added the lime juice at the very end, kind of on a whim and it made all the difference.  Matt said it reminded him of the taste of indian food, which I took his word for because my experience with indian food is extremely limited (though what I have had I love.) this was also my first time ever using coconut milk, I'd say it was a success :) 


Jeff Tweedy Concert

On Wednesday, Matt and I made a relatively quick trip down to Charlottesville for a very special concert... We saw Jeff Tweedy! I have wanted to see him on a solo tour for a few years now (really ever since we started listening to Wilco and I happened to come across an amazing review of one of his solo concerts.) Matt also got a DVD of one of his tours from a few years ago and this quickly became one of my favorites. In one of the backstage clips Tweedy says that this is the type of concert you drink a warm glass of milk and put on slippers to get ready for, and that sums it up fairly well. I remember watching it many many times at 2:00 am when I was pregnant with Dylan and having a hard time sleeping. I'd pour myself a small glass of milk (for the heart burn) and sit on the couch and watch it until I felt better and could sleep again. I think it has the same kind of calming effect on me that Agnes Martin paintings do.

So while we have seen Wilco several times, I was still hoping to catch a Tweedy solo show at some point in my life, though I really wasn't expecting it to happen anytime soon. When I saw tour dates were announced (all four of them) a few months ago, I nearly peed my pants out of excitement. And then I managed to get my hands on a pair of front row seats for the Charlottesville show… how perfect. I had high expectations going into this show, and I was not at all disappointed. It was incredible! I enjoyed every single minute of the show, starting with the first song “Sunken Treasure,*” which is one of the better songs I’ve seen performed live and finally ending with his cover of John Lennon’s “God” (in honor of the 30 year anniversary of John Lennon’s shooting).

*Here's a video of it on YouTube, though the person who edited seemed to be a little antsy, lots of quick cuts. Still a great song though.

Definitely a memorable night. And just to help me keep the memory, I’m adding the setlist to the end of my post… again, this is more for my sake than anyone else's.

Jeff Tweedy @ The Paramount Theater, Charlottesville, VA 12/8/10

Sunken Treasure, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, One Wing, Muzzle of Bees, Via Chicago, I’m Always in Love, Solitaire, Cars Can’t Escape, Hesitating Beauty, The Ruling Class, You Are Not Alone, Hummingbird, Jesus, Etc., Gun, New Madrid, I’m the Man Who Loves You, Shot in the Arm, Dreamer in my Dreams (performed without the PA)

At My Window, Sad and Lonely#, California Stars$, Passenger Side$, Give Me Back the Key to My Heart$, God%

Notes: # w/ Pat Sansone & John Stirratt, $ w/ The Autumn Defense, % John Lennon cover w/The Autumn Defense


Thanksgiving menu

Thanksgiving Dinner

I'm documenting our Thanksgiving dinner that we had at the Restaurant at Patowmack Farm.  They actually sent us home with personalized menus, rolled up and tied with a bow, and a small part of me was super excited to add that to my paper mementos collection...  But then i remembered that I'm no longer keeping a paper mementos collection, so instead I'm going to copy the menu onto my blog, and recycle the paper.  This is more for my sake than anything else, but i have had some people ask about the menu, so here it is.

Amuse Bouche:  consisted of a trio of pickled vegetables...  Dill green beans, beets, and turnips with tomatoes and olives.  Dylan ate Matt's olives.

Peppercorn pear soup with celery cream, button mushrooms and frisee

Acquerello organic rice with turkey gumbo, kusshi oysters, and leek fries.  This turkey in this was super delicious, the oysters were weird.  Good on their own, but they definitely stood out as a random ocean taste in this part of the meal.

Intermezzo:  pear sorbet

Briars Farmstead turkey breast: a traditional stuffing with garden herbs and celery, turkey sausage gravy, baked potato purée

Pumpkin beignet, cranberry jelly, champagne glaze, and the best mascarpone cheese I've ever tasted.

Friandise:  a teeny tiny honey meringue after we paid the bill. 

It was a great dinner.  Very peaceful and enjoyable for the three of us (Dylan didn't eat much aside from the pumpkin bread they served us though, but he behaved himself while we were there).  A unique thanksgiving experience for sure :)  


Hoarding and Collections

Despite all my claims of being a Purger and striving for a more minimalist lifestyle, I recently learned that I am guilty of both of the above. Hoarding and a collection. How did that happen, and why wasn't I aware of it until recently? Well, here's the story...

When I was in high school and middle school I started saving all kinds of paper mementos, cards from friends, notes passed around in class, ticket stubs from movies, paper place mats from restaurants, etc. if it was paper and smallish, it was fair game for being saved. This habit continued on into college and beyond. I managed to keep all these trinkets in a series of shoe boxes stored at the top of our closet, so they really didn't look like clutter at all. And for the most part I had completely forgotten all about them until I cleaned out my closet a few weeks ago. When I came across all these boxes I initially thought "oh, here are my memories, I can't let go of this stuff." but then I realized that in the 7 years we have lived in this house (a record for me) I've never once looked through any of it. I may have added from time to time, but it's not like I have been using these things to reminisce over anything. So I thought, maybe I can just finally let go of this stuff... of my past... and really focus on moving forward. But I felt like that was asking a lot, and I wasn't sure I wanted to part with the scraps of paper just yet. So I waited, and every time I went into my closet I thought about them... Do I really need to save this stuff? What am I saving it for? My initial answer was that it might be good to reread things when Dylan hits his teen years, maybe I can go back through my stuff and see what I was feeling at that age, and then maybe that will help me relate better to what he will go through at that point in his life. But I eventually realized that saving all this crap just so that I can better relate to my child wasn't worth it. First of all, when Dylan is going through the teen years I can always just listen to him and empathize with his emotions and events, instead of trying to project my own teen experiences on him. And second, there's no guarantee that I'd even want to reread that stuff then anyway. Those years were pretty awkward. So this week I decided to finally get rid of those boxes. I opened them all up and pulled out what I wanted to save... I kept a few things, the prayer book my grandmother used on her wedding day and then gave me to use on mine, the pearl necklace my other grandmother gave me for the same reason, and a picture I found of me with my sisters. The rest is gone. And I feel so much better for it. No more hoarding of every scrap of paper that comes into my life :)

So there's my hoarding story... Here's my collection story.

While reading all these minimalist lifestyle websites I've come across several people who have tried to whittle down their personal possessions to just 100 things, or maybe 50 or some small number. Which seems crazy, I mean I have more than 100 things in my silverware drawer for sure. But then I found out that a lot of them don't count things like that since everyone in the household uses them, or they don't count things like bed sheets, they count collections of items as one 1 thing. This doesn't seem very minimal to me. If you say you have 100 things, have 100 things, either that or change the number to reflect a more realistic representation of your things, even if that number is a lot higher like 2,599. Who cares? Anyway, I was telling Matt about this one day and I made a comment about how I don't think people claiming to be minimalist should even have collections. I mean, I had some as a kid, but I've outgrown all of those, and I don't collect anything as an adult... Do I? Matt very quickly said, "yes you do, but yours only comes out once a year."

He was referring to my snow globe collection. Busted. But in my defense, it is a very small collection. Every year, on Black Friday, I meet up with my mom and sisters at the Dulles Mall. JCPenny gives away a small Disney themed snow globe away to anyone who just walks through the door (no purchase necessary). I have one for every year that Matt and I have been married. They're small, like 2-3 inches tall, free, and only come out during the Christmas holiday. If I'm going to collect anything, this seems like a good one to stick with.... So the snow globes stay. On a side note, the only reason I even bother with Black Friday is to get my snow globe. I enjoy the occasion though too, getting some warm Christmas coffee at Starbucks, walking around and seeing all the Christmas decorations, spending time with my sisters and mom. I don't do it for the shopping, but this year we only grabbed a couple books and a small game for Dylan since we were out. But the snow globe kicks off the start of Christmas time for me, so I wouldn't miss out on that. Plus this year we went back to my parents house after shopping for some Belgian waffles and bacon. Yum yum, it was a great day :)


Great Food

So in honor of our Thanksgiving Day dinner at Pawtomack Farm this year, i was intending to write a blog post about some of the best meals Matt and I have had at various restaurants over the years.  While we were at dinner I asked Matt for his input on the list and it didn't take very long to realize that this post wasn't going to go the way I wanted it to.. Why not?  Well, i think the first 5 or 6 things we mentioned were all dishes we got from the same restaurant.  The restaurant--  Morimoto in Philadelphia.  For Food Network junkies, yes, that is Morimoto of Iron Chef fame.  I don't know what they do to their food, but it is exceptional.  Matt and i have been 3 times, and each time we've made the trip up to Phillie specifically for this restaurant.  That's how good it is.  I know I've blogged about some of the food before (here), so I won't rehash it again, but I will list our favorites real quick:  definitely the best thing I've ever eaten in my life, the steamed scallops with Ginger. I compare all scallops to these, and nothing comes close, then there was the cold chicken with sesame appetizer, the whitetail tartar, poached pear dessert, and the wasabi tiramisu all stand out.  When we went for our honeymoon they even gave us a complimentary glass of champagne that had some blood orange in it as well as a scoop of citrus sorbet, it was wonderful, and the champagne they used is still my champagne of choice these days (Veuve Cliquot).

Morimoto's. mmmmm....

Some other stand out meals:
-Tagliatelle alla Bolognese at Palio in Leesburg. I can't resist homemade pasta and this was exceptional, but the bolognese is what really got to me, i now aspire to make my sauce taste like this, but i have no idea how to begin doing that. The only thing I've figured out so far is that i can't do it with store bought canned tomatoes.
- Ahi tuna steak, pretty much anywhere, best places I've had it though are Evo in Atlantic City and Black Salt in Georgetown. If this is an option on the menu, i will be ordering it. I also love it sliced in salads.
Hmmm... I think that covers it for now. Not that I haven't harlots of good food in other places, but these are just a few that really stand out in my mind.


Thanksgiving 2010

This year we are breaking from tradition.  Instead of spending the holiday with our extended family, we decided to do something, just the three of us.  Don't get me wrong, i love our big family thanksgivings.  I love cooking with my mom and sisters and chatting at the table with everyone.  But Matt, Dylan, and I haven't had a holiday dedicated to just the three of us yet, so we are carving out a little time to do just that this year.  I think it's going to be a great day.  Dylan and i just made chocolate chip pancakes with cranberry syrup for breakfast, which is as much cooking as i plan on doing today.  We're now just chilling out waiting for the parade to start.  In a little while we're all going to decorate some ceramic ornaments i picked up at Michaels for gifts this year.  Then Dylan will go down for a nap while Matt watches the football game and i do some reading.  And when Dylan wakes up we're heading to the Restaurant at Patowmack Farm in Lovettseville for an indulgent  Thanksgiving Day dinner.  I'm really looking forward to dinner, I've wanted to try out this restaurant for at least a year now, but I was waiting for a special reason since it's pretty pricey...  I figured Thanksgiving was an appropriate occasion.  And fortunately, they have a children's menu, so Dylan is covered.  

This year i am thankful for my perfect little family, and the perfect little day we'll be spending together.


Rice Leftovers


Leftover white rice
A small pat of butter
a teaspoon or two of curry powder
half a teaspoon (or so) of low sodium soy sauce


Add the pat of butter to a saute pan. Turn on to medium heat. As butter melts, add leftover rice. Break up rice with a wooden spoon. As rice warms sprinkle on curry powder. Cook for a few minutes, stirring rice occasionally, but not too often so you get some crispy rice spots. Just before turning off the heat, add a bit of soy sauce and stir. Pour into bowl, eat as lunch.

This is my favorite leftovers recipe. I eat it all the time. I came up with the concoction while in high school. We grew up sprinkling curry powder or soy sauce on our white rice at dinner, so it seemed a natural combination to me, even though it probably isn't. I made it for Matt for the first time the other night and he said it was good, so I feel brave enough to share it with the rest of the world (or at least the 3 people who read my blog). I'm not going to make any grand claims like "you will love this recipe and have to try it right away" but I will say that I LOVE this recipe and eat it for lunch as often as we have leftover rice... which is quite often since I like to make sure we have leftover rice just for this reason. yum :)


My Inspiration

While going through a lot of our possessions lately, I'll occasionally come across something of value that we had forgotten about. For example, while cleaning out our closet, I found our fire extinguisher... still in the box and buried in the back of the hall closet, not really helpful in that condition. But I took it out of the box and put it in a more accessible location... something very valuable to have, should I ever catch the kitchen on fire. Next on the the list, a supplemental health care card that Matt had totally forgotten about, but which we need to spend very soon... prescription sunglasses are coming both our ways in the next few weeks. Another valuable item I came across are some books that I really like but had put away, mostly so Dylan wouldn't destroy them. These include my Agnes Martin books.

Agnes Martin is my favorite artist. I was first introduced to her artwork while in a college English class. When I first saw her work I was really struck by how simple it was... yet it did evoke a lot within myself... beauty, tranquility, quiet contemplation. It really spoke to me. And thus I fell in love with simplicity. Several years ago I set out in search of some books about her artwork. A lot of the books were way more expensive than I wanted to spend (as is often the case with rare out of print art books). But I managed to find 2 that were reasonable (this and this). About a year or so later, Agnes Martin died. Man am I glad I got those books when did. I recently went on Amazon to see if some of the other books were available, and what I considered to be not affordable a few years ago, is now just flat out ridiculous... for just books, I'm not even talking about her actual artwork! Anyway, the 2 books I do have are a little more valuable in terms of $$, but I've also realized that the content in them is valuable enough to me that I'd like to get them back out in regular viewing space. This has given me a new opportunity to look through them and be inspired by her work all over again. So I thought I'd share some of what I love about Agnes Martin.

(Taken from biographies on a few websites)... Agnes Martin, American, b. Macklin, Canada, 1912–2004: Gorgeously quiet in color and composition, Agnes Martin’s paintings have a distinctive grace that sets them apart from those of the Abstract Expressionists of her day and the Minimalist artists she inspired. While Martin has often been grouped with Minimalist artists such as Sol LeWitt and Donald Judd, who emerged in the 1960s in the wake of the dramatic, expressive work of Abstract Expressionists such as Willem de Kooning, she has distanced herself from that association, citing a distinction between Minimalism’s dispassionate formalism and the subtle pitch of emotion and experience with which she imbues her abstract canvases. By 1958 her paintings were based on ordered precisely geometric shapes. She gradually began to work on paintings and drawings that consisted of horizontal and vertical lines within a measured grid format. Martin's use of the grid and her austere, geometric style led critics to associate her with minimalist artists such as Sol LeWitt and Frank Stella. However, Martin's goals were distinctly different. By drawing fragile, tremulous lines across expanses of lightly applied, delicate, atmospheric color, her work seemed to become light and air. Art for Martin was a spiritual pursuit, and in her geometric format she found a way to embody both atmosphere and expression.

When I first saw her work I was really struck by how simple it was... yet it did evoke a lot within myself... beauty, tranquility, quiet contemplation. It really spoke to me. And thus I fell in love with simplicity.

Here are some links so you can see for yourself if you'd like... though it's very hard to capture all the subtleties via computer images.


And an interview:


Speed Culling

On Saturday I had a bridal shower in the early afternoon. My morning was wide open though, so I decided to make the most of it and get started on cleaning out the hall closet and turning it into more of a hobby closet for us (arts and crafts, as well as games and wii stuff). I figured I'd start off by getting everything out of the closet in the morning, and then when I got home from the shower, I would have to put it all away... And then a mere 1 hour later, it was all done. All of it. I emptied out the closet, moved stuff that we wanted to keep to other parts of the house, emptied a bookshelf from the basement to move into the hall closet, reorganized all that was left and put it all back. For some reason, i had it in my head that this process could take a few days, and it only took an hour! So with that great success behind me, I decided to spend a little extra time getting ready for my shower by curling the ends of my hair to look a little extra special. :). Oh and Dylan was all about helping me through the process, especially once I handed him a flashlight... he showed me everywhere I was going to make sure I didn't trip on anything.

Then yesterday I decided to clean our windows. I think we spent a total of 20 minutes doing that. Easy-peasy. It's making me realize that these things don't take as long as I thought they would. Which really helps me feel motivated to tackle more of my projects. On my list for today-- laundry. Nothing glamorous about that, but it has to get done.


Knowing When to Stop

I just cleaned out the kitchen for the fourth time this year (third in less than a month.). I'm down to a few pots, a few pans, and only the mixing and tupperware type items that are used on a regular basis. It's nice to have so much space in my drawers and cabinets, especially since i have no plan on filling them up with anything else. The only thing I feel a need to aquire in the future is a cake pedestal. I actually have needed to use one quite a few times in the past year, but I just dont know if I want to buy more kitchen stuff right now. Perhaps I'll try to make space for it before I get one. But I had to stop myself today when I got a strong urge to ditch the microwave. Even as I type this I keep telling myself that I could get by without it. That may be true, but I think Dylan and Matt would have a different opinion. I don't want to take this too far, the idea behind this decluttering craze is to make our lives simpler by only having that which we need, use, and love, and as much as I say I hate using a microwave, the truth of the matter is that we do use it, at least for now. So I think I need to leave the kitchen alone for a little while and focus on some other areas.

Other recent clear outs: my living room bookshelf (including *gasp* my piano books-- I mean really?, am I ever going to teach myself the complete works of Czerny?? Let's be realistic here), night stand drawers, under the bathroom sinks, medicine cabinets, the coats in our coat closet, and office desk drawers.

Coming soon: dylan's toys, the rest of the stff in our coat closet (i want to put a bookshelf in there for Dylan's art stuff and board games), the rest of the books in the house, and the office.

I'm really excited for the final results!

Continual State of Becoming

Several years ago, 2005 to be exact, I started this blog.  I had recently graduated from college, was starting my teaching career, had gotten married, moved out of my parent's home (for good).  It was at a time when I felt like my adult life was really beginning.  I was figuring out the working world, running a business, being a wife, taking care of a household, and attempting to stay in touch with the academic world that I loved so much.  So I started blogging about it.  When I first opened my blogger account I had to come up with a title for my blog...  I haven't ever changed it, it has always been "Continual State of Becoming." I took the name from a passage in the Aaron Copland book I was reading at the time "Music and Imagination." This is a very loose adaptation of what he was saying, but basically he talked about how music is a very transient thing...  You listen to it in a moment of time and you can't take in the whole work at once (like you can with a painting for instance), instead you hear one bit after another bit and so on... And while it goes on the overall effect develops... Therefore he says that music is always in a continual state of becoming.  At the time I just thought that was a cool idea about music, so would make a great title for me since I love music.  But now I really appreciate how that idea relates not only to my biggest passion, but also my life in general.  I am in a continual state of becoming.  Since I've started this blog I've gone from new wife, new piano teacher, to church musician, to grad student and librarian, to new mother and now mother of a little boy.  I've explored the mundane (how much I hate grocery shopping) to the slightly more important (art and music) and plenty in between.  And the whole time never really being just one of those things, but a development of all of them.  I'm really glad my nerdiness allowed me to stumble across Copland's idea, because I think it really does sum up the journey I go through in life...  It reminds me that I'm never done developing, I'm always changing, exploring different things, always becoming.     


Praise for the iPad

I already mentioned that Matt and Dylan got me an iPad for my birthday this year. I was really surprised by this, since I had been telling Matt that i didn't think I wanted one. And I even thought about returning it for a split second, but considering how crappy my little net book was, I decided to keep the iPad in hopes that it would at least be better than that (we have since sold the net book). I knew that it was a cute little gadget, but I never really expected it to be as amazing as it is. In fact I feel like it was the catalyst to some major changes I've been making lately.

First of all, i have completely organized my life on my iPad. I got this AMAZING app called Things that is basically a sophisticated version of my old notebook To-Do list. I can schedule things for certain days and they will appear when they are due (or a few days before if I need a reminder ahead of time). I can organize my lists into projects, keep track of a variety of areas that need work, keep track of what i have done, search tasks by special tags (I've chosen to use location based tags like "desktop" "phone" "errands" so that i can see all my computer tasks when I'm sitting at my desk), etc. It's so much better than my notebook because I can change and rearrange things without have to scratch out/rip out/rewrite the entire list. And since my iPad is so portable, I always have my to-do list at my fingertips. It's so satisfying to just check things off as i go. I completed a lot of lingering tasks last month... I couldn't believe how productive I was. I use this app many, many times a day, and at this point I have so much information on it, I'd be kind of lost if something happened to it.

My next favorite app is iNotes. It's basically a notebook app. But I can group pages into files, which I like. I've kind of used this app as a catch-all for my thoughts and anything I want to remember later. Plus, I tend to remember things better if I've written them down (even if I don't refer to them again later). It's another daily app for me.

And now that I finally have a computer device I enjoy using, I've started using it quite a bit. Since getting the iPad I have come across some interesting blogs that I check on a regular basis. I'm not really sure how I got started into them, but a lot of them seem to deal with minimalist lifestyles, simplifying, and cleaning. And let me tell you, that has had some big implications around here (see my previous post). I have been purging like a maniac lately. My goal is to go through every square inch of our home and get rid of all unused, unloved, unnecessary items. And I've made tremendous progress so far. In fact, just yesterday I achieved something I never thought possible... I cleared all the stuff off the top of the fridge. There's nothing up there anymore, and that's how it's going to stay! I've also put myself on a cleaning schedule. There are things I do every day (shine my sink! It makes such a difference), pick up everything as we go through the day (my new mantra is "don't put it down, put it away"). And then there are weekly tasks. For example, today is Office Day, so I'll tackle any office related projects, take care of computer tasks, and try to organize some in that room. Tomorrow is Floor Day, probably my least favorite day, but definitely a necessity with all the shedding going on right now as Eve's winter coat grows in. And of course I keep track of all of these tasks with my various Apps just to make sure it all gets done. But the house over all has been SO much cleaner, things are getting done, and best of all... I feel much more relaxed!

A side benefit of all of this, and the reason I've managed to stick with my new routines, is that I've been amazed by how much it has reduced my stress. I don't have to worry about laundry piling up all the time because I know that on Monday it will all get washed... instead I can just focus on whatever task is at hand. And the cleaning part of the day doesn't take that much time, so when I'm not in the middle of that, I can really focus on just having fun with Dylan, instead of constantly thinking about all the things I need to be doing instead of building the 100th block tower of the day. This lack of stress has greatly impacted my mood, my energy levels, and my outlook on the day. I feel tons better all around.

And all because of the iPad ;)


Early Morning Thought

I'm always on the lookout for ways to improve our quality of life.  It's easy to just get stuck and continue to do things just because you've always done them.  But by going through this whole minimalize process I'm really learning about the things that improve my life and my happiness, and the things that stand in the way of it.  It's amazing how much better i feel when i learn to let go.  


Embracing my Inner Minimalist

I have been a purger for as long as I can remember, at least in my adult life. I'm not really sure what started it, maybe moving so often growing up, but I have realized that I prefer having less things around me. When I live in clutter, I almost feel claustrophobic. I've been pretty good about getting rid of things over the yar, especially clothes (since I use the seasonal closet method). In all honesty though, I've always held back a little because I felt this unexplained obligation to have certain things. But this year for whatever reason (I have my theories), I've started taking things to a whole new level... and I'm loving it. Once I started purging this spring, I just couldn't stop. And now that I'm in Fall Cleaning mode I find myself wanting to get rid of even more... a lot more. So much so, that I've decided to finally embrace my minimalist nature. I was a little hesitant at first, but I've found all these encouraging blogs and websites of people discussing their journey into simplifying, decluttering, turning minimalist. And these aren't crazy people living on the fringe of society... they're "normal" people with marriages, children (one guy has 6 kids!!), people with lifestyles I can relate to. It's just helped me think, if they can do it, so can I, after all, I'm already a minimalist at heart.

And so the process begins. And it is a process. I went through my closet, Dylan's room, and the kitchen last week. We got rid of a lot of stuff (including my Kitchen Aid stand mixer... there's something i never thought I'd part with... but thanks to a hand mixer I have, I rarely ever use it), but I can still think of more things I can part with. Not to mention that I still want to go through every other part of the house... rooms, closets, drawers, forgotten hiding places. I don't expect to be done this week, or even in the next year... but I just plan to keep working on it. And I'm sure I'll be posting about it from time to time.

I dont have the before pictures for comparison, but here are some of the "after" pictures... I really hope things stay this way for a while :)

The kitchen. I finally managed to clear everything off the top of the cabinets (not pictured). The rose on the ledge is from Matt and Dylan, they brought me flowers for all the cleaning I did :)

Proof of how much was cleared out of the kitchen this year. This under-sink cabinet used to be crammed full of stuff, now it's nearly empty. I have no idea what used to be there, I dont miss it at all, but it's nice being able to easily find the dishwasher soap now.

The smaller pantry. I moved a lot of stuff to this cabinet so that the larger pantry would be more functional.

Tupperware and mixing bowls. I think this will change soon because I'm planning on replacing the tupperware bowl sets with a set of stainless steel bowls. I can't tell you how nice it is to be able to open this cabinet up and not have to take out 40 things to find the one dish I need to put leftovers in. I cleaned this out in April and it's stayed this way ever since. :)

Likewise, my pots and pans. Part of my motivation for the kitchen purge was that I wanted to be able to fit my new Le Crueset pans into a cabinet without stacking them (since they are insanely heavy). Now they all have their own spot.... I'm just trying to figure out a way to make room for a 6 qt dutch oven someday. That make take a while though.

The closet. It's really hard to get a picture of it because while it's a walk in, it's super narrow. So this is the best I could do. Shortly after Dylan was born we had California Closet redo our master closet... mostly to make use of the storage we could have with 14 foot ceilings in the closet. One of the best things we've ever done (house-wise). In the over 2 years we've had the new closet it has NEVER once gotten messy. Everything has a place and it is easy to put it there. I LOVE it :)


Why I feel old

My 10 year high school reunion was this past weekend. I didn't go, but just knowing it happened makes me realize how long age high school was.

I wont have any more birthdays in my 20s

I remember my parents when they were this age, which makes me realize that i am as old as they were, and everyone thinks their parents are old (even though mine are quite young). It's a perception thing.

I don't listen to the radio anymore for several reasons: i can't keep up with all the new music, i think all the bands sounds alike, and i think they're all crap nowadays. What happened to good music?

One of my aunts told me (when i was in high school) that when you get older you start listing to country music or more mellow music. And while i definitely have started listening to music with some "alt country" influences (Wilco, Avett Brothers, Monsters of Folk) i still dislike country music... And i still listen to some of my old punk rock music. Am I trying to resist getting older? No, i don't think so. But it does make me happy to know that the country music thing probably wont come true for me... Because i really don't like it at all.

I can't keep up with the new technology crazes... I think I've sent a grand total of 10 texts in my life, and I hated every single one.

On the plus side i had someone tell me the other day that i look about 23, so that made me happy.

New Word

So earlier this night I was driving in the car by myself, which i thoroughly enjoy since i don't get to do very often anymore with Dylan usually in the back seat. But i was on my own, and i was driving the Jetta, which is even better because it has the iPod connector, which means that i was able to listen to whatever music I wanted, at whatever volume I felt necessary. It was great. I fully savor those moments when i get them. I don't know why it's so different than when I'm driving with Dylan because he thankfully hasn't started demanding kids music in the car yet... we conveniently don't own much kids music... I figure he can just learn to appreciate real music from the get go-I'm sure one day he'll pick up on kids music from someone else, but I'm In no hurry to get there any time soon if I don't have to. Besides, he likes plenty of the music we like. in fact there are a few songs he will even request, and as much as I love Wilco, after hearing Hummingbird seven times in a row, I'm about ready to scream. Imagine how i would feel if he were asking for Old MacDonald for an 8th time, i just might lose it. But even with being able to listen to pretty much whatever i want, its not quite the same when he's with me because I'm usually more focused on him than anything else (aside from the road of course), and i try to keep the volume at a decent level. Plus my car plays CDs only and i just couldn't be bothered to change them out that often, so I usually end up listening to the same 6 CDs for a good 6 months.

But when I'm by myself in Matt's car it's a different story. I can listen to any of the music on my iPod, at whatever volume i want, and i can sing along (badly) without someone from the backseat yelling "mommy, don't do that.". So tonight i was listening to the first Raconteurs album, which I haven't listened to in a while when the line: "are you part of this kakistocracy" came on And i decided that "kakistocracy" is probably one of the best words I've heard in a while. Of course it sounds very similar to one of my other favorite words of all time: cacophony. So that was my thought today while driving alone in the car. I just looked up the meaning of the word, because I wasn't even sure it was real, but apparently it has something to do with the worst kind of government. What a cool word.


Thoughts on a finance article


I found this article very interesting for a few reasons. Not so much because they pick this guy apart for not recognizing how rich he is, but for some of the other points made.

1. The brouhaha is ripe with psychological lessons. First, Henderson is a classic example of the hedonic treadmill at work. First articulated by psychologists in the late 1960s, the hedonic treadmill speaks to the phenomenon of human adaptation. We buy something new, we're thrilled with it, then we get used to it, then we want something bigger and better and we're unhappy when we don't get it (or, in Henderson's case, we end up feeling "poor.")
I certainly see this with Dylan. It's the main reason I don't buy him a lot of toys. He's far more interests in the novelty than actually having more stuff. It just makes more sense to bring him to a friend's house and let him play with "new" toys there... And return the favor for other friends.
I also use this for myself quite a lot. It's easy for me to confuse the idea of "want" and "need.". A great example is my new iPad. I really didn't need it even though I really wanted one for the last year or so they've been out. I never would have bought it for myself, but was really happy that Matt was willing to spoil me a little on my birthday. He told me when he gave it to me "I knew you'd never buy it for yourself.". But usually I'll have this conversation with myself when considering a new purchase -do I really need it or do I have something else at home already that fulfills this same function. -is the money I'm going to spend on this worthwhile? -can I wait a little longer before making this purchase? By the time I think through all of that I usually decide I can skip it, at least for now. And then the next time I get the urge to buy it I repeat these questions... Which more often tan not results in another postponement. It's fairly effective.

2. He is time affluent. The minimal commute, the nanny and the lawn service all buy him more time to do what he wants outside the workplace. Numerous studies have shown people who are time affluent are happier than those who are materially affluent.
I am sure I wasn't the first one to say it, but I certainly have been saying for a long time "time is the new money.". I didn't realize until now that this only applies if you have enough disposable income to pay for things that you probably could do on your own.
For a few years we had a cleaning service. It was the greatest thing ever. It really was. I love having a clean house, but it is so hard to find the time to have a clean house all at once. I can have a clean kitchen, or a clean basement, but everything perfectly cleaned all in one day, its just not feasible for me, i'd have to clean from sun up to sun down. And then I'd be REALLY frustrated when the next day things would get messy again. However, now that I'm a stay at home mom I really had a hard time justifying the expense. I mean aren't my 2 priorities as a SAHM to teak care of Dylan and the house. Surely that must mean that I should be capable of staying on top of chores. But it's not easy. And I have to get used to the house only being clean in phases again. Plus I feel like all my cleaning time goes to the "basics" like vacuuming, dusting, laundry, bathrooms, that I never have ti e for the nitty gritty stuff like cleaning the baseboards, the inside of the oven, etc. I keep considering getting a new cleaning service, but then I go back to the questions posed above and decide that, no, I don't really NEED it, as much as I want it. Maybe when I go back to work that will change.

3. This is the 2nd article I've read in 2 days that refers to Cziskzentmilhalyi. I read a few of his books in college and found them really interesting, maybe one day I'll go back and reread them.

4. If anything, I appreciated Henderson's honesty. It inspired me to revisit my definition of "rich," and come away with a deeper appreciation for my family, friends, neighbors, good health and the wildly underappreciated wealth of living in a free nation.
I completely agree. It's so easy to constantly look up at what you don't have and feel like you are lacking. I'm really trying instead to look at what I do have and really how truly full my life is.


I'm 29...

and planning to enjoy every day of the last year I get to spend in my 20s.



We've had a super productive week: cleaned out the garage, the piano was tuned, Eve was groomed, air ducts were cleaned, and went through all the stuff in Dylan's room (took down the changing table pad and diaper station since those are no longer necessary). Wahoo! I feel so productive and accomplished. There's still plenty to do around the house, but isn't that always true?

I also finished the C's! I never thought I would get through them. It was a very large chunk of the dictionary, and I'm pretty much convinced that everything you ever wanted to learn about classical music can be found in this "chapter." In my last post I mentioned a bunch of the major concepts covered and here are a few more, just to prove my point: chromaticism, church music, clavichord, classical, clef, composition, concert, concerto, consonance and dissonance, counterpoint, country and western, and criticism. Counterpoint wins for 2nd longest article so far (6 pages) which wasn't surprising. A few things that were surprising...

-You could play vibrato on a clavichord.
- Bach wrote a cantata titled "Schwiegt stille, plaudert night" (be quiet, don't prattle) which "relates the predicament of a burgher's daughter whose coffee habit her father wishes to break." I'm not sure what a "burgher" is, and I'm not even sure what "prattle" means, but I think it's pretty cool that Bach wrote a cantata about a girl with a caffiene problem. I was under the impression he only wrote music with very lofty intentions.
-Because of the Copyright act of 1976 establishments with a jukebox supposedly pay $8 a year to performing rights organizations (like ASCAP who in turn reimburse the owners of the song when it is performed)
-Many composers over time have left hidden "messages" in their music... I already mentioned the B.A.C.H. example, referred to as musical cryptography. Perhaps Dan Brown can include some of this in his next book.
-Counterpoint notes: Counterpoint has distinguished western music from all other cultures for nine centuries. I also saw a very familiar definition of appoggiatura in this section, as in a non-harmonic tone, or non-chordal... I forget which term the dictionary prefers.

A couple direct quotes I liked

"The essential quality of dissonance is its sense of movement and not, as it is sometimes erroneously assumed, its degree of unpleasantness to the ear." which is actually a quote in the dictionary, here's the source (Piston, 1978, p. 7) There are very few quotes that aren't lyrics, so I guess the editors really liked this as well.

"Even the most rigorous analysis derives its authority only from the extent to which its readers agree, at least tacitly, on the criteria for significance that it brings to bear on what it observes." (p. 213) This has far reaching applications, not just musical.

Now on to the D's!! (actually I'm a good way through them already, I'm just a little behind in my blogging)


Rainy Day Thoughts

It's been in the high 90s and low 100s nearly everyday this summer. Which has made me slightly miserable. I'm not a huge fan of summer to begin with, so going through an even hotter summer is not fun at all. We finally have a break in the hot humid weather, which I'm happy about. Yesterday was a beautiful day, in the 70s for the most part. Today it's even cooler out. Dylan and I are both wearing pants with no sweating in sight. I should be really really excited. Except this is one of the rare days that I had outdoor plans, so I'm kinda bummed. But on this rainy, dreary day I figured I'd take a moment to jot down some of my random thoughts...

First of all I think I need to admit that I have absolutely no ability to be spontaneous. In fact, the idea of not having every detail planned out way in advanced causes me to panic quite a bit. Today, for instance, I was ready to start calling my friends at like 7am to come up with a Plan B since it looked like our outdoor concert was going to be rained out. But then I had to keep reminding myself that it was early, and not to stress out about it, I'm sure we'll figure something out. But the real truth is that I've been kind of freaking out about it since yesterday morning when I first saw the weather report. I just forced myself to repress it. Luckily by 9am plans had been made, so I now feel much better. Other ways I'm not spontaneous... I plan out our dinners 2 weeks in advanced. I actually get a lot of comments on this since I leave the menus on the fridge. And I have to say that it really helps dinner time run more smoothly since I know well in advanced what food to buy at the grocery store and what meat to take out of the freezer in time to thaw. I also keep a very detailed calendar for every mundane thing we do, but I think a lot of people do that. I also start nearly every conversation with Matt on the weekend with "What's the plan for today?" Mostly to hear what he has going on, but also to set up a schedule in my mind for how we will get through the day. Here's my big confession, Matt is a spontaneous person. And it's a good thing that he is, because if we were both meticulous planners I have a feeling that our lives would be very boring and very routine. So he manages to throw some curve balls every once and a while, that give me minor panic attacks in the moment, but also have taught me to relax, let go, and enjoy the moment. I have tried to be spontaneous like him, but here's what usually happens... I think "how can I be spontaneous this weekend?" then I research lots of little things until I find an activity that sounds interesting. I get all the details for the activity and make sure it wont conflict with anything else we're doing. In my mind the plan is set.... I just don't mention it until the time gets closer, so that it seems more spur of the moment than it is. That's the best I've been able to do. But I think I am getting better with Dylan since flexibility is required of parents.

Next, I think I can finally publicly admit that Dylan is completely potty trained. Not that we don't have an occasional small accident here and there, but for the most part, he's good. He even goes without a diaper at nap time and has done great with that. We've tackled public restrooms and other people's houses all with great success. So diapers are pretty much a thing of the past for us, with the small (and normal) exception of night time. Wahoo!

Dylan is also becoming quite the little boy. He's starting to use his imagination a lot more. He'll point out the window and tell me there's a helicopter in the sky (there's not), or make a train sound and tell me it's coming down the hallway (it's not). He also has started more pretend play. He's really attached himself to this huge, ugly, robot Godzilla toy that used to belong to Matt. He treats it like a baby doll. This morning I had to give Godzilla a hug and a kiss and then Dylan did the same. He also had Godzilla pretend eat from Eve's food bowl (until I got Godzilla his own bowl of food). It's the ugliest doll, but he is really cute with it.

Some of his favorite phrases right now "What's that sound like?" "What are you doing there?" and "very careful." I know he picked up the last one from me. I must tell him to be very careful a lot because he says it ALL the time. When he closes a door he'll say "very careful, don't pinch fingers" when he walks on the bathroom floor it's "very careful it's slippery" etc. But his favorite way of saying it is when he's doing something while not being careful. Maybe he thinks that by saying "very careful" he'll avoid hurting himself. We'll see if that works.

Lastly... I'm still working on the music dictionary. The Cs are very very long. I think it's because there are a lot of important concepts that begin with C, so far: canon, chaconne, chanson, cadence, cadenza, cantus firmus, cantata, choir, chorus, chorale, oh yeah and even Canada. Ok not really Canada. The biggest boast about music from Canada was for their national anthem "O Canada" and I hardly think that's had a major impact on the musical world. No mention of Brian Adams though, oh well. Now back to reading.