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My Mini Think Week

I have yearned for an escape for a while. The thought of being in the middle of nature, alone with my books and thoughts, sounded heavenly. And I finally did it. I found some cabins at Lake of the Ozarks State Park for $50 a night (with air con!), okayed the vacation time with my boss, booked the rooms, and did it!

I took a work revision project, A Confederacy of Dunces, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and my journal. My adventure started Monday morning and ended Wednesday morning, about 48 hours total. These little Outpost Cabins were exactly what I wanted: privacy, surrounded by nature, but including some of the creature comforts I didn’t really want to derive myself of (did I mention the air conditioning and the already stifling Missouri heat?). Continue reading

“When one teaches, two learn.”

How To Learn Something New Every Day (And Actually Do Something With It). This blog post on Productivityist reminded me that I am a lifetime student (something I’ve long said as part of my answer to “So! Tell me about yourself”) and finally connected that trait with the fact that I’m also a teacher. 

Duh. Why am I not creating curriculum for myself and learning every day, which I would love?!

I am not going to start making worksheets for myself, but I love the idea of choosing a topic that I want to learn about, selecting a medium to learn it in, creating a curriculum, spending time every day learning, and then sharing what I’ve learned? Continue reading

How to Keep Your Soul Alive

To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to keep your soul alive. -Robert Louis Stevenson quoted in Simple Abundance, January 28

“How to Be Amazing at Anything”

I found a book entitled How to Be Amazing at Anything.” It had only a single page inside and was just one word long: “PRACTICE.” @writergram

How to Be Amazing at Anytyhing

How to Be Amazing at Anytyhing

Let the Steam Escape: Tending the Stove of Creativity

Do you have an item that seemed just an okay gift when you received it, but once you started using it, you realized it was a game-changer? For me, that item is a book called Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach.

I developed a close relationship with my senior high counselor, Jodie Miller, because Beth and I spent hours in her office talking colleges, scholarships, applications, and life. After my parents’ marriage ended the day before my senior prom, I spent even more hours in her office talking through that. She became a very special woman in my life, and as a graduation gift of sorts, she presented me with a copy of Simple Abundance. I loved it then, because I liked the meaning of the gift and the philosophy of the book. But I wasn’t really ready for it until this year.

Simple Abundance is a daily devotional, at least that is the best category for it, I believe. Each month has a theme–simplicity, gratitude, order–and each day, you explore different aspects of that theme. Over the course of a year, the book will, I presume (as I have not yet stuck with it for 365 days) guide you through a transformation if you let it, a transformation that orients you to nurturing your Authentic Self.

As part of my FlyLady before-bed routine, I read Simple Abundance, a book that has collected dust on my nightstand for many well-intentioned years. FlyLady and Simple Abundance are strikingly similar, even though Simple Abundance isn’t focused on de-cluttering your home. Both are all about Finally Loving Yourself, about creating margins in your life during which time you can be your Self. They encourage you to put first things first, to finally realized that you deserve to be surrounded by comfortable cleanliness, by lovely treasures, by nurturing practices.

I just had to write about Simple Abundance today because yesterday’s reading confirmed my feelings about Coffee, Crafties, & Besties, that crocheting, writing, even cooking, all allow for necessary self expression so that you don’t explode from the stress of bottling it up. Here’s the quote from American expressionist painter Lilla Cabot Perry that inspired this post.

Lilla admitted her passion for self-expression reminded her of a “cooking stove which has too much coal in it and it has to have one of the holes open to keep it from becoming red-hot. It did not matter if it was the poetry hole or the painting hole, but the lid had to come off.

I love writing poetry, but it’s a form of self-expression that requires a certain frame of mind that I cannot force, and I haven’t been in that frame of mind for a while. Instead, I seem to be in the middle of a crafting, writing (of the blogging and journaling sort) cycle right now. I have been dumping on myself for not working on my poems, but I realized that it’s okay, as long as I am expressing myself.

What hole have you opened in your creativity stove right now? Or is your stove tightly closed because you are “too busy”? All parts of You are dependant on and affected by the others, so make time. Relieve that stress.

Soulcaring: No More Working Lunches


An omelet with sautéed onions, a handful of real bacon bits, and cheese. My favorite coffee in my cute owly mug. A NOOK book in front of me, but no cell phone. Birds twittering or cicadas chirping. Wind gently swaying the trees. And, oh, the fresh air!

One of the most soulcaring activities of mine is enjoying a book on the deck with a meal–breakfast, lunch, or dinner–and I’ve been making it a priority lately.

Working from home is ideal for many reasons, but it presents its own set of challenges too. In the past, I’d grab my meal and head back to my office, a working lunch, if you will. I’d “work” all the time, but suffer from lack of focus and burn out, all while accomplishing less than I believed I should have in the amount of time I put in.

But the combined influences of FlyLady and Simple Abundance have made me respond to the impulse to slow down and eat outside. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes, this ritual refreshes me almost as much as the food energizes me. I tend to choose food that makes me feel good about eating too. Why indulge my authentic self while trashing my body? That doesn’t make any sense.

Sometimes, I do allow myself to take some reading-intensive work outside for these stress-relieving meals, and you know what? I focus better and have higher productivity from the change of scenery and digital disconnectedness–no more phone chiming incessantly or email/Facebook notifications breaking my concentration.

How can you build peace into your life? How are you already loving yourself enough to pamper yourself daily?

Healthy Obsessions: FlyLady

Sarah introduced me to FlyLady back in June, and I took a while to warm up to the (admittedly awful) webpage, but when I did, all I found was solid content.

I’ve learned in some marketing workshops that features don’t sell but benefits do, so I am going to give you some FlyLady benefits.

You can declutter your house in 15-minute chunks. Are you like me and, for whatever reason, never learned to keep house? FlyLady will teach you, and she’ll do it lovingly, practically, and fun-spirited.
Busy busy busy? Aren’t we all. You can find 15 minutes to declutter each day. Your spirit and your family’s spirit need you to.

Feel overwhelmed about the clutter? FlyLady turns that feeling into hope.
You will find out just how much you can really accomplish in 15 minutes and slay the engorging excuses that challenge you and create the ironing pile that’s seen three seasons or the rooms you haven’t really looked in in years. Me, I found out that what I was sure would take me all night–the ironing I’ve been neglecting since Christmas–really only takes about 20 minutes total. Easy peasy.

And the best benefit by far??

A shiny sink; clear, clutter-free surfaces; and the huge weight of clutter and chaos lifted off your soul. Well, what are you waiting for?! FlyLady.net

Zurück bleiben bitte!, or Public Transportation Captured in 8 Minutes

Cucalorus Film Festival started today. Don’t know what that is? Yeah, I didn’t either until Nathan Maulorico of Unknown Films* announced that his film—by far my favorite indie film**—is going to be screened there. I’ll tell you a little about Cucalous, but I can’t wait to tell you about This… is the Orange Line.

Cucalorus is a non-competitive film festival held in Wilmington, North Carolina. I sort of like their philosophy: “competition sucks. It often takes hundreds of people to make a film, so why does one guy get the little statue?” Cucalorus isn’t about who a mysterious academy determines is the best it’s about the film as art.

This… is the Orange Line is art. It is “an experimental documentary film about the shapes and movement of the Chicago Orange Line L Train from day to night.” It is, for me about the emotions evoked by public transportation.

I grew up in Kansas City, Neosho, and Springfield. Three towns with nothing that resembles the public transportation even Giessen, a town the size of Joplin that we lived in for two years in Germany. But I love public transportation, and trains are the best (and I’ve written about that before).

This… is the Orange Line captures everything I love about riding on trains. Each station has its own personality. Riding trains gives you a view of your city that isn’t normally seen. You see the back of buildings, back yards, graffiti on those buildings, an overhead view of streets you walk on every day. You see all sorts of people on the train doing all sorts of things. You hear some really great musicians—buskers—in the stations or even on the trains.

Not only does Nathan’s artistic eye capture those images well, but the music he chose incorporates the emotions that using public transportation creates in me. The score is Edward Elgar’s “Cello Concerto in E Minor.” It captures the pace of the trains so well and so perfectly supports the melancholy joy that I feel when I’m traveling***. You’re surrounded by people, but you don’t interact with them; people sleep (or pretend to) to avoid interaction, and they’re really good at finding a spot to stare at. You’re moving stress-free–no “I hope I can find a parking place” or “What? An accident? My boss is going to be pissed that I’m late!”–but not on your own schedule. You spend most of your time underground (at least in Berlin and many other big cities), but the stations are usually painted in bright colors to hide the sewer-like feel of pipe-shaped hallways that lead you to your train or the surface. You see ads for fancy language courses or DeBeers jewelry or West End musicals, but those ads will be—sooner or later—covered by a different kind of art, street art.

Paired with the images Nathan selected of the L, this short film feels like a verbalization of all that I love and feel about riding trains.


Support Nathan, Unknown Films, and indie films in general:

This… is the Orange Line trailer on Facebook :: This… is the Orange Line on IndieGoGo


* A super cool dude with a lovely wife, who I met through the Springfield Bloggers Association last year.

** I haven’t seen many indie films, but I have a feeling that this one will top the list for a very very long time.

*** And I’m not the only one who thinks that this is a perfect pairing of music and film: The Elgar Birthplace Museum will archive This… is the Orange Line because it is”a beautiful and moving use of Elgar’s music.” Read more about this honor here.

4 Fun Flea Market Finds

If fifteen people share this post on Twitter, I will post two recipes, one from each book, for you all to enjoy. You’ll really get more than that, because I want to share the three pages of biscuit recipes from America’s Cook Book. I’ll share Cheese Nippies (eat like popcorn!) from The Big Spread. If you share the post, use the hashtag #LAMcooking or include @xgravity23 so I can count how many times it has been shared.

Oooh, did I have fun today! Sarah and I were downtown hanging out / working at MudHouse with Nigel and Nigel (they’re married—read their story here and here). Then we went to Red Velvet Art because I love love love Elsie‘s art and inspiration and wanted to finally see it in person. What a treat! We got all inspired and decided to spend some time seeing what we could find at a flea market.

I found two World War II / early Cold War cookbooks. I picked up America’s Cook Book (with washable cover!) because it’s old, from 1945, and presents recipes along with3 or 4, sometimes 10 or 12, modifications, like a basic biscuit recipe, then mods for nut biscuits, orange tea biscuits, or cheese biscuits (p 114).

Plus, the introduction to this third wartime edition is an excellent little piece of writing. Here is the first paragraph and part of the second.

Introduction to the Third Edition by Mrs. William Brown Meloney

The kitchens of America have gone to War. Today every homemaker is drafted and the kitchen apron is her uniform. In small towns, in big cities and on farms, American women are standing up to daily battles as momentous as those on the military fronts–the battle of supply and demand, of food values against food shortage, of flavor versus monotony. And, like our boys in blue and brown, housewives must expect much hardship and little glory. Yet on their smallest decisions hang tremendous results. The struggle in the kitchen will decide not only the health and morale of the home front but the conservation of our nation’s food supply. Women are hastening or retarding our final Victory. The hand the cuts the ration coupon may win the War.

Fortunately the American housewife has many friendly allies. In no other country has the art of cookery and the science of food values been so carefully studied and so clearly explained to the public as in America.

How could I not pick this up?

The Big Spread: The Encyclopedia of Hors D’Oeuvers and Canapes, from 1953, is small—3×5 index card size—with a comb binding and tabs denoting the fun section titles, like Decorative Edibles and Spear-Its.

I love the unique format, love the graphics, love the sans-serif font. Check out this classy 1950s guy nomming on a delectable Spear-It.

I can’t wait to make some of these tasty-sounding dishes!

If fifteen people share this post on Twitter, I will post two recipes, one from each book, for all of you to enjoy. You’ll really get more than that, because I am going to share the three pages of biscuit recipes from America’s Cook Book. I’ll share Cheese Nippies (eat like popcorn!) from The Big Spread. If you share the post, use the hashtag #LAMcooking or include @xgravity23 so I can count how many times it has been shared.

I love playing cards, and I collect unique Bicycle desk, so when I saw a red and green Bicycle Christmas tin filled with a red and green deck, I had to pick it up. I don’t think these are vintage—my guess is that they are from some time in the 1990s or early 2000s—but both decks have all 52 cards plus jokers, and the back of the cards and the tin liner has a festive star print.

My last fun find is a wooden owl napkin / salt and pepper shakers holder. I fell in love with cute, stylized owls because of Hootsuite, my Twitter client of choice and all of their cute owl graphics like El Hoot-o, Link Bandito, which I just found today, and their main Hootsuite owl. WhenI found this cute and functional trivet owl at Grandma and Poppy’s, and Poppy gave it to me, we decided that we would decorate our kitchen with owls. The owl trivet has nested above our stove, where it is in reach when I need it.

Today, Sarah spotted this wooden owl napkin holder at the flea market. It has round hollows on each end for what I am sure were originally adorable matching salt and pepper shakers, long lost now unfortunately. In the Mueller household, this napkin holder will corral important mail before it gets filed, reducing countertop clutter.

Have an adorable Saturday, and don’t forget to tweet a link to this post (use #lamcooking or @xgravity23 in your tweet).

Tuesdays with Linden’s Favorite Links: Top 10 Posts from 2008 | 20 Jan 2009

Note: This post was accidentally published for a short time on Friday before it was finished. Those of you subscribed via email or RSS received a draft and received it prematurely. This version, however, is the full version.

Last Tuesday, I wrote about my favorite posts to write and re-read and your favorite Linden’s Pensieve posts, but today I’m going to tell you about 10 posts from my blogging friends that really touched, inspired, and motivated me.

  1. Four Surefire Ways to Write Magnetic Web Content: One of Sarah‘s guest posts at Search Engine Journal (see the other one here), this post is a must-read for any blogger or writer.
  2. This Love of Mine: Kevin at 5ks and Cabernets really bares his soul in this touching post that shows a non-traditional family configuration that is trying to succeed for the benefit of the child, and peacefully.
  3. Race Report: Kilauea Volcano Marathon: Frayed Laces set out to do 10 miles and ended up running 26.2, a full marathon. And she took 3rd place out of the women. I cannot tell you how much I admire Frayed Laces’s abilities.
  4. Searching for Meaning and Believing in the Midst of Glorious Moments: Olympic Marathoner Zuzana Tomas reaches out to the friends and family reading her blog and shares her most intimate fears about her upcoming marathon. This blog post is exceptional because not only is the post an amazing vantage point into an elite athletes insecurities (they have fears like we do?!), but also because the comments are just as inspiring as the post.
  5. Four Post-Run Activities You Shouldn’t Do (And Four You Should): An excellent post by Sarah. I would like to pose the following questions, though: If you are a runner, and a fat, overweight middle-aged serial killer begins chasing you, wouldn’t you be a disgrace to your kind not to run? Are you going to just stand there and take it?
  6. Sister Dreams in Color: I don’t want to say too much about this photopost, other than I am touched by the idea of photographing a beggar and by her response to it.
  7. Photography, and the Tolerance for Courageous Sucking: As I begin my more public foray into amateur photography, reading this post from another amateur photographer really confirmed that I am on the right track, doing the right things to develop my craft.
  8. Bone Chapel and Beyond: Capturing Kutná Hora: I could easily fill this top 10 list with every single one of James and Beth’s posts about their European adventures (which were often our European adventures), but that wouldn’t be fair (you can see a list of all their posts here). This is the post I’ve selected for my top 10 list because I loved the day we spent in Kutná Hora. The Bone Chapel was so unique, but so was lunch in the park outside a church, the fountains, and the cathedral?! Mmm, amazing.
  9. Katy vs. Wednesday: I don’t even know the author of this blog–she’s a friend of a friend–but this post cracked me up! And it inspired a similar battle, Sarah vs. Monday, that was equally as funny.
  10. And to Think I Saw It on My Long Run: Dr. Seuss and a running log combined–Oh, that Vanilla’s creativity cannot be confined. It’s exciting, it’s funny, it’s all about running, a tale of exaggeration; what cunning.

What blog posts would you add to this list?