Anybody else see shades of gray?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

No, I'm not talking about Fifty Shades of . . . 

I'm talking about being able to see various points of view. Being open to understanding different sides. Perhaps even being confused (a lot) over what is the "right" answer, or even if there is always a "right" answer.

There are very few things I see in black and white. The basics of my Christian faith. My pro-life stance. Kindness. Moral integrity. The importance of Beauty and Truth and Goodness.

But there are so many things that are not so clear-cut to me.

There's all the questions and confusion around taking care of my health.

Taking statins.

Getting a flu shot.

Mammograms.

So much controversy over some of these things; so many people with very strong opinions about them. Sometimes I wish I was as sure of myself as those who think they have all the answers.  It would be a lot easier.

Traditional versus natural approaches to health? 
So I get a mammogram, but kind of stretch them out, and wonder if I'm doing the right thing. I just recently (the past three years) starting getting a flu shot, although some of my friends think that's tantamount to poisoning myself. I have the same doubts about taking the statins that have been prescribed to me. This past year I've taken them for a few months, then listened to friends who told me they were awful, stopped taking them, then starting taking them again. Argh . . . I feel so wishy-washy, but the truth is I just don't know what the truth is here. I do the best I can with the information I have. 

And then there's all the confusion on the political scene. 

People are lining up on the extremes on either side. Social media upsets me; people on Facebook have been vicious. I have lost sleep worrying about the divisions I see, people who I love taking polar opposite opinions, dissing and mocking each other.

I wish sometimes I were more opinionated. Could see things in black and white. It would make things a lot easier. But instead I feel pulled first this way, then the other way as I read and listen to all the debate.

But maybe it's the black and white people who need to slow down a bit.

I like to think of myself as a thoughtful person who can consider both sides of a debate and try to understand another's opinion. I think many of the issues we face -- immigration, for example -- are complicated. It distresses me no end to see the ugly rhetoric from both sides, the fear and anger, and the name-calling.

 Can we be kind and reasoned and fair? Can we listen to each other? Can we come up with a balanced approach?

There aren't quick and easy answers for many of the things in life. The problem is is that it's just so much work to look at all sides and fairly consider an issue. And maybe we'd never get anything done. It is true that at some point decisions have to be made, based on the best intel at the time. They will rarely be perfect solutions. Not everyone will be happy.

Anyway, right now I do the best I can.

 I'm taking statins (for now). But I'm definitely open to natural solutions, and I'm taking homemade elderberry syrup as an immune booster. I'm looking into scheduling a breast thermography instead of a mammogram this time around. I try to read various sources of news, and think as carefully as I can about the issues. I'm trying to limit my social media because frankly I need to sleep.

Oh, it's a crazy world.

I really wish it could just be tea parties and loveliness all the time, don't you?

Curing the January slump

Sunday, January 22, 2017

This past week I found myself in a kind of slump. A little down, a little tired, a little depressed. Nothing serious. I think I could mostly attribute it to normal post-holiday, gray and rainy January doldrums.

Although I wouldn't qualify it as a real depressive mood, I did think about my post a while back on coping with depression, and thought I'd take some of my own advice.

Distract and divert. 

I gave myself permission to take a little vacay from my normal duties, and spent a couple days just reading some lovely books and perusing beautiful blogs and websites.

It is said that beauty is healing, and I truly believe it. 

I enjoyed visiting a number of beautiful places on the web, gathering inspiration. So many, many lovely pictures on Pinterest and Instagram and in blog land. Like my old Victoria magazines, they can lift my spirits with glimpses of beauty.

I did a little retail therapy.

Valentine's Day is coming up, as some of the fashion and style bloggers reminded me. We don't usually go out on Valentine's Day because it is so overcrowded and overpriced, but maybe I'll just dress up for a special dinner at home. Or we'll go out another night.

http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/topshop-dolman-sleeve-wrap-dress/4569594?cm_mmc=email_tran-_-012017-_-order_confirm-_-proddescr1
 I can't help it. I love pink and girly things. Last summer I actually bought myself a pink tulle skirt. I loved it, and had great fun twirling around in it in my foyer. Sadly, I sent it back, feeling I probably would have felt ridiculous in it out in public. But you know, I should have kept it just to wear for myself because it made me so happy.

But I did find this skirt last week, which may be a little more age appropriate.

http://www.chichiclothing.com/products/Chi-Chi-Jazmyn-Skirt.html
I can see myself wearing this with a striped or graphic tee with ankle boots, or with a cropped sweater and pretty heels, as in this picture (except I will cover my midriff!).

Speaking of pink, I found these glasses at Target. I don't think I've blogged about these, just posted them on Instagram. They were in the dollar section ($3 each). I expected them to be plastic but they are real glass. I went to four Targets buying up all they had. I've been drinking my water from them every day since. I've discovered the secret to staying hydrated -- drink out of a pretty, fun glass.


Maybe it's just all the pink that lifted my mood!

I got a comment a few weeks ago from a new blog follower who read my "About Me" section on my blog. I wrote that more than three years ago, and can't even remember what I wrote, but she said she loved how I said I periodically re-read the Anne of Green Gables books. Oh. Good idea. 

So I've been reading them. Such a lovely escape to a beautiful world.  

My favorite place ever -- in front of the fire with a good book.
{I have also been listening to In the Garden of Beasts for my book club. Good, but not exactly a lovely, escapist read. It's about the U.S. ambassador to Germany and his family in the years leading up to WWII. Scary to see how few people realized how evil Hitler really was. Tom Hanks will star in the movie to be released in March.}

Another thing I remembered this week is that how you dress really affects your mood. One day I was wearing stretchy knit pants and a loose sweater. No makeup, didn't do my hair. Felt kind of frumpy. The next day I did my hair, put on makeup, and put on a cute dress. Wow, what a difference that can make.

 I've not shown any pics of my new kitchen. I'll just show a few of my favorite part . . . 






The pink cups are conveniently located on the bottom shelf for easy access!

I also have a cabinet in the butler's pantry for china. It stores our wedding china and my mother-in-law's stemware, and an ancient tea set brought from Scotland over a hundred years ago. I think I need to find a way to add some more color to this cabinet.




So my advice for the winter doldrums? Figure out what you love, and spend some time with it. Whether it's a good book, binge-watching a series on Netflix, visiting your favorite bloggers . . . take a little time and soak in some beauty.

And thank our good Lord that there's always something beautiful to be found. 

Especially if it's pink.

Is gluten-free really a thing?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I have to admit, I've been very skeptical of the whole gluten-free business from the get-go.

I tended to agree with my allergist, who said the only people who truly need to be gluten free are those with celiac disease. The rest of these people, he averred, are middle-aged privileged women with nothing else to do but buy into the latest food fad.

This was a few years ago, before gluten free became as big as it is now, but even then I was a little shocked at his blatant dismissal of a whole group of people, especially since I could be considered one of its members!

But still, I tended to secretly agree with his assessment. I, myself, have got on too many bandwagons to count over the years, eagerly following the latest health trend, only to discover that it would soon be replaced by the next "life-saving and -enhancing" miracle supplement or food. 

But no, not now. I am older and wiser.


Except when I'm not.

You know, I think I really have found there's something to this gluten-free thing.

Several years ago, beautifully baked nice crusty French baguettes were a regular feature on our dinner table. Like three nights a week. There's nothing I liked better than biting into that crispy outer shell and the soft bread underneath. Slathered with real butter of course.

But then I decided I had to lose some weight. And to do that I gave up the white flour and white sugar. 

The first thing I noticed was that my joints didn't hurt anymore. (This was long before I lost all 30 pounds, so it wasn't the extra weight.) My fingers and elbows had been achy and arthritic-feeling, and all of a sudden, they were fine.

Hmmm . . . I thought, but then kind of forgot.

So fast forward to this past holiday season. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas I ate a lot of white sugar and white flour, more than I have for a long time.

I had totally forgotten about my achy joints as they hadn't bothered me in more than a year and a half.

And what do you know? My fingers became swollen and achy. It was a real "aha" moment.

Now I don't think I need to be one of those persons who scrupulously avoids every form of white sugar and flour forever. But I certainly have my eyes opened to the real experience of inflammation resulting from white flour. And I'm going to reduce my consumption of it to a very occasional thing. (I almost typed "treat," but I don't want to think of it as a treat I'm depriving myself of. It's all in the mindset, isn't it?)

And you know, the culprit could be the sugar. That causes inflammation, too.

In any case, these two, white flour and white sugar, are bad actors. And I have the evidence for myself now.

So I am no longer secretly rolling my eyes at my gluten-free friends. Sorry, people.

*******

 So what say you? Are you gluten-free? Where do you weigh in on this? Do you think it's a fad, or a real issue? What other side effects, if any, have you noticed from gluten?

Romantic bridal shower tea

Friday, January 6, 2017


Instead of putting away all my Christmas decorations last week, I saved out the pink and silver and white baubles, and re-decorated for a bridal shower I hosted this week with the help of my amazing book club friends.

The same friends who gave my daughter such a beautiful shower this past June.

This time, the shower was in honor of another book club member's daughter. 

What a perfect opportunity to use all my favorite china and linens. A lot of pink was featured.

This Royal Albert teacup in Cheeky Pink was a Christmas gift from my daughter and son-in-law. It made its debut.




This blue teapot is new to me from eBay. I love the color and shape. The blue and pink teacup was a gift from a dear friend.

In fact, every teacup I own has its own special story.




This tree was so fun to do. I'm thinking I may keep it up for awhile.


 I had fun bling-ing up the chandy, too.


And changing out the Christmas wreath on the front door for a wintry and feminine one.


Oh, I adore this retro pink and gold-starred teacup. And these linens are probably 100 years old. Soft with age and sturdy still.



I usually complain when the next up-and-coming holiday is rushed in before the current one is even over. But I was happy this year to find Valentine's Day decor already in the stores. 

I found this cute little sign at Target. Perfect for a bridal shower.


And this one, too.


And little heart-shaped cinnamon candies. I put these in some cranberry hobnail dishes I also found at Target. (I loved the matching glasses so much I went to four Target stores and bought up all the ones they had!)


Another sweet find -- glittery pink candles. I've displayed them on my grandmother's red transferware plates.



I put together little favors for the guests in keeping with our tea party theme. Little muslin bags I found on etsy filled with four different teas and tied with a sweet pink ribbon and a little tag.


"The Perfect Blend" . . . with the bride and groom's names and wedding date.


I also found these beautiful laser-cut paper wraps on etsy. They go around paper muffin liners, and are perfect for little treats for guests. Again, I was happy to be able to find pink Valentine's Day M & Ms already available in the stores. Along with some salted cashews and almonds, they made a pretty table decoration, too.



I didn't get any food photos, as I took all the pictures before anyone arrived, and my friends brought all the food. Except for the scones. I made lemon poppyseed and cherry pecan scones.


I also made clotted cream. I had never made this before. I guess I always thought clotted cream was really just whipped cream. But I decided at the last minute I better look up a recipe just in case. Oh. It's not whipped cream at all. 

You take heavy whipping cream, not ultra-pasteurized. I had to go to a second store to find some cream that was only pasteurized. You pour it into a shallow glass dish and put in a 180 F oven for 12 hours. Skim the cream off the top, and that's your clotted cream. (Save the thinner liquid underneath for biscuits or pancakes or another recipe).

So, by the time I figured this out and went to the store, it was afternoon. I got it in the oven, but because I had to let it cook for 12 hours, I had to get up at 2:30 a.m. to take the stuff out of the oven!

Wow, was it worth it, though. Delicious!


This is one of the serving stations set up in front of my dollhouse. My book club friends brought chicken salad croissants, tiny cucumber and egg salad and salmon sandwiches, bite-sized quiches, and an array of desserts.


And a pink sherbet-y punch.






The guest of honor was seated in a specially decorated chair.


I also redecorated this little Christmas tree with some Twinings Winter Spice tea bags and some silver beads and bulbs.


And how cute is this little elephant teapot and her little creamer and sugar babies?




One of my favorite china patterns is Royal Albert's Lady Carlyle.






 I love to bring out all my lovely old things, many of them heirlooms, others gifts from special friends, and others found on trips to the antique store or found during happy etsy or eBay searches. It seems sad to let them languish in the cupboards. 

Hosting a tea party/bridal shower using all linens and china and silver and flatware is definitely more work than going the paper plate and napkin route, but it adds such a special touch of elegance to an event. I think it says to the guests and the guest of honor "you're special and deserve the very best. We love you and want to honor you."

But thank goodness for a china cycle on my dishwasher! And friends who stayed to do the hand washables. 


*****

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post about foundation. Some of you had some great tips. I don't think I'll be giving it up anytime soon. Love playing with makeup almost as much as playing with my teacups!
Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs