Category Archives: Just for Fun

Ten for Tuesday: Eye Candy and Posts to Ponder

Here are 10 things that captivated me this week. Lots of visual stuff!

1. This guy makes sweaters with designs of different places, then goes to those places and takes a photo while wearing it:

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2. I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s practice of writing down moments of happiness on slips of paper and keeping them in a huge jar when she needs a little boost.

3. Why do I adore improv? Because it’s fun and can change your life. And it can help all kinds of people, including kids with autism.

4. The Impossible Cool is a favorite site, featuring photos and quotes of amazing people. Here’s Keith Haring:

“I am a necessary part of an important search to which there is no end.” Keith Haring.

“I am a necessary part of an important search to which there is no end.”
Keith Haring.

5. Witenry (Adam Hillman) is a must-follow on Instagram, and this one spoke to me. We are the art, and we are the instrument.

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6. Stephen McMennamy does Photoshopped mashups, combining images together in whimsical ways. Check out Colossal for a whole collection. My favorite:

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7. Writer and filmmaker Kevin Smith shared a note he received at age 19 from the mother of an ex-girlfriend. It said, “Kevin Smith will never be a famous writer. He does not have the drive. I do wish luck.” See the note and read his response on Facebook. (Hat tip to Dan Blank, whose weekly emails are a useful boost of mojo for creative professionals.)

8. My friend Janet posted this article last week: You probably know to ask yourself, “What do I want?” Here’s a way better question. And the question is: “What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?” It reminded me of a while back, when I was interviewing for a high profile job that would have meant a quantum leap in responsibilities. I felt I could do it, but was I called to? I ultimately removed my name from consideration, having decided it wasn’t mine to do. When friends asked me about it, I said, “Those weren’t my ulcers.” I’m not sure whether that was original or not, but the article goes down a similar path. For what are you willing to suffer?

9. Cookies! Caroline got the Dorie Greenspan Cookie cookbook for Christmas. It’s gigantic and gorgeous. (OK, I was the one who bought it for her.) We have an unofficial resolution to bake a cookie a week. Last week was chocolate waffle cookies with ice cream and chocolate sauce, which I requested for my birthday. This week was chocolate pecan pie cookie bars:

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A bootleg copy of the recipe is here, but please buy the book if you’re so inclined.

10. (A personal one) Friends. I’ve been sailing aboard the Friend-Ship a lot this week. Had lunch today with the mid-Atlantic contingent of my beloved lectionary group. And this weekend, Robert and I head to Bermuda with a group of running besties and a few of their spouses, to run all of the miles. I’m sticking with the half on Sunday, but there’s a one miler Friday and a 10K Saturday as well.

Ten for Tuesday: Here’s Some Virtual Serotonin!

Happy Tuesday!

Or… maybe not?

We were a little sad to be getting back to the routine after such a nice long break. I had a great birthday yesterday, but it was also the de-decorating day, which happens sometimes with a January 2 birthday. Boo. Plus one of our kitties died last week.

So here’s some stuff that’s making me feel good. Hope it brightens your day as well.

1. In the Moment: Photographs from 2016. Some beautiful shots here from the world of performing and visual arts, from the New York Times.

Misty Copeland and fellow members of American Ballet Theater in “Firebird” in May. Credit Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Misty Copeland and fellow members of American Ballet Theater in “Firebird” in May. Credit Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

2. I love the way this family does Christmas cards. Every year they go looking for street signs corresponding to the new year. They even found a Highway 2016 for last year! (Free registration required to access the article.)

3. I recently wrote a post highlighting books written by friends, and I forgot one! Roy Howard has a book of photos and reflections from the Camino de Santiago. Check out Walking in Love: My Journey Along the Camino de Santiago.

4. Dorothy Oger’s poem I Will Stand for Love is a good rallying cry for the coming year.

I shall stand for love,
for the world is wounded.
Not just my little piece of land,
where I am mostly safe,
where I am mostly well,
but our world, everyhwere.
Every day.

More at the link.

5. Or if you need further inspiration for 2017, take it away Doris Lessing:

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6. How Parents and Teachers Can Nurture the “Quiet Power” of Introverts. An interview with Susan Cain, and an especially good read after spending two weeks with our Order Muppets, who seemed (mostly) content to read and do solitary things.

7. Fitting in Cardboard. My friend Dan Blank sent this along recently and I found it very moving:

8. The Most Common Practices of Super Achievers. This a little Type A for a list of happy joyful things, but these are pretty good general life practices too.

9. This was a bittersweet article, “Frog and Toad: An Amphibious Celebration of Same-Sex Love.”

10. Our family loves Simon’s Cat. We watched this new one this morning, called Bed Sheets.

Bonus: The reaction to “Still Possible.” It’s been wonderful to hear from people who are using my 2016/2017 workbook-playbook. One reader wrote, “I am going on retreat for a couple of days in the middle of January and this is THE perfect thing to take with me.” Another: “Thank you MaryAnn for putting this booklet together. I love it because it helps me reflect on little things that I don’t usually think about and come to realize how important they really are!” Get yours by subscribing here.

Ten for Tuesday: Hope, Humanity, and Sweets

Last week I challenged myself to come up with ten small-or-large things that brought a smile to my face or hope to my spirit. Most turned out to be small, but they were enough.

Well guess what? The world ain’t no better this week. So:

1. Rogue One. How can a movie for which we know the ending be so riveting? And how can a story in which [spoiler redacted] be so uplifting? I’m working on a blog post tomorrow or Thursday about this film.

cd5abf828930350847d592e2e0cf30272. The televised yule log turns 50 this year! Parade Magazine had an unexpectedly delightful story about it.

3. Patty Smith sang at Bob Dylan’s Nobel ceremony and reflected beautifully on the experience. She was stopped in her tracks mid-song and couldn’t continue.

4. CBS recently profiled the white helmets in Syria. Incredible stuff. They literally dig people out of the rubble with their bare hands.

“Syria has descended into murder on an industrial scale. But on the outer limits of cruelty, humanity begins.” Donate to their cause.

5. This sermon I preached about Joseph, the father of Jesus, always gets a ton of hits this time of year, which makes me smile. It must be listed on a sermon-preparation website somewhere.

6. A maple syrup heist! I read Vanity Fair for years but had let my subscription lapse. I resubscribed this week with the $5 deal which I’m calling the Troll Trump rate. Anyway, here’s an entertaining article about the price of maple syrup. (Yes, really.) Did you know there are syrup reserves in Canada? We were a Log Cabin family growing up, which made me automatically suspect in the Dana house. (News flash, Log Cabin is cheap.) I do love real maple syrup now, but yes, it’s outrageously expensive.

7. Butter mints: I made these mints with Margaret yesterday. The dough is fun to work with and they’re yummy. The texture is different than commercial ones though: they harden on the outside but remain soft and silky on the inside. So it’s like little morsels of minty frosting. Delish.

8. These household objects and appliances, cross-stitched by Ulla Stina Wikander, courtesy of Colossal. So fun.

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9. I’ll let this story of a coffee shop “date” speak for itself. 

 

10. Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017: I asked people last week whether they’d like me to do another workbook/playbook for doing an annual review and looking to the year to come. I’m touched that so many of you responded with an enthusiastic yes! Subscribe to my email newsletter to get this year’s copy, which should arrive next week.

 

Ten for Tuesday: Mood Brighteners and Inspiration

This morning was dreary. The weather is gray, Robert is out of town… plus, the state of the world. I told friends today, with tongue slightly in cheek, that it feels like The Two Towers meets The Empire Strikes Back, every single day.

So I challenged myself to come up with ten small-or-large things that bring a smile to my face. Most turned out to be small, but they are enough bread for today.

1. I have greatly enjoyed Story People by Brian Andreas. A friend of mine receives daily emails from SP and sent this one along because it reminded her of improv:

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2. Speaking of improv, mistakes and “failures” are inevitable when you’re improvising. And living. This week I was randomly reminded of this cartoon by Stephen McCranie about making friends with failure:

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More at the link.

3. At a time when fake news is in the real news, including speculation as to whether the outcome of the election was influenced by Russian meddling, I needed these words from Walt Whitman. I can think of worse criteria for discernment.

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4. My kids and I were fascinated by the discovery of a dinosaur tail, preserved in amber, that appears to have feathers.

5. Jolene, sung by Dolly Parton, Miley Cyrus (to whom I’m coming around) and Pentatonix:

And as a bonus, this “open apology” to Dolly Parton is wonderful. I will admit–I too thought she was a bimbo when I was much younger. I was so very wrong. Dolly is a national treasure. (Keep your hands OFF her, 2016.)

6. Santa has been in the news lately. Sadly, my second-favorite Santa story turns out to be a hoax. But my favorite one is 100% true. My friend Alex, who has three children who are Latinx and African-American, took them to visit a black Santa at Macy’s in New York a few days ago. She reports, “He listened intently to each of our kids, then told them that he loved them and that they were perfect just as they are. By the time we left, Brett and I were both crying. Don’t tell me that Santa isn’t real.”

Don’t tell me either.

7. These toffee cookies made with five ingredients: butter, brown sugar, saltines, chocolate chips, and pecans. I wish the recipe were a little more specific–I know my way around a candy thermometer–and I made them in a 13×9 rather than 11×17, so they cooled more into hardened caramel than with that crystalline toffee texture. Still, good and easy.

8. Christmas music. My love for “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” has been well documented, and I have almost two dozen versions of it. (Best one: John Denver and Rowlf the Dog.) But this year I am loving “The Christmas Waltz.” It’s not one we think about often or list among the greats, but it’s pure schmaltz. Here is a version from Tony Bennett that provides top-shelf cheese.

9. Readers and friends reaching out. I sent an email newsletter last week, and every time I do that I get some unsubscribes. No big deal, it’s the nature of it. But I got at least as many people saying “That is exactly what I needed.” That’s a ratio I can live with. And in response to yesterday’s very me-focused running post, I heard from a friend asking if I would support her through Couch to 5K.

Thankful for the ways we carry each other.

10. Where Is the Light? I posted this song to Facebook the other day but it’s a worthy addition to this list. As the days get shorter, this will lift your spirits and remind you where the light can always be found. Performed by LEA, a wonderful local singer-songwriter here in the DC area.

 

Hacks for Lazy Bakers, Plus Bonus Non-Muffin Recipe

Hacks for Lazy Bakers, Plus Bonus Non-Muffin Recipe

One of the reasons I specialize in muffins is that they’re super easy… and I’m lazy. Mix wet ingredients, mix dry ingredients, combine, bake. But there are ways to make the process even easier. I hate doing dishes, so I’m always looking for ways to cut down on cleanup. Here are some simple tricks for making things easier.

  • If the recipe calls for melted butter, melt it in the bowl you’ll end up using for the wet ingredients, rather than a separate container. I have a Pyrex mixing bowl that’s great for this.
  • When possible, pour the bowl of dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients, not the other way around. The wet ingredient bowl needs to be washed regardless, but if you keep the dry bowl dry, you can get away with a simple rinse.
  • Use a scale to measure ingredients, so you can pour things directly into the bowl instead of dirtying a bunch of measuring cups. I have a slip of paper in an interior cabinet that lists the weights for common ingredients. 1 cup of flour =  5 ounces, 1 cup of sugar = 7 ounces, etc.
  • Use a whisk to combine the dry ingredients–better than dirtying a sifter, plus you can then use that same whisk on the wet ingredients.
  • Use baking cups in your muffin tins rather than cooking spray. Obvious, but effective!

This week’s recipe is not a muffin, but Congo Bars, one of our favorite bar cookies (and the most deliciously simple raw cookie dough you can imagine). We ate them last night at our family dessert. Recipe comes from the cookbook of Cafe Beaujolais, a beautiful little place in Mendocino, California.

CONGO BARS

2/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 lb. (not a typo) brown sugar
3 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (6 oz) chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional in the Dana house)

Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix together butter, brown sugar, and eggs in a larger bowl. Pour dry ingredients into wet and mix well. Add chocolate chips. Spoon into a greased 13 x 9 pan and pat it out. Bake at 325 degrees for 25-35 minutes. It will be golden brown on top but still soft.

Serve warm–microwaved from room temperature if necessary.