Internet Menagerie

November 26, 2014

Apple Cider
It’s time for a trip around the web. I must say, I love putting these lists together!

But before I forget, I want to apologize if you’ve been having trouble posting a comment over the past few days. For some reason, they’re registering but not showing up in the comboxes. I’m trying to figure out the problem.

In the meantime, travel safely all of you who are heading somewhere for Thanksgiving holiday. Hopefully some of the links below will help you pass some time if you find yourself in long lines or travel delays…

  • Great post on the Ferguson case from a white adoptive mom of two black sons. (Rage Against the Minivan)
  • I couldn’t love this story more. (New York Times)
  • I was never bothered by questions about my adoption — it was just my story.” (Chicago Now)
  • Is this the real reason so many people are having trouble with wheat now? (Healthy Home Economist)
  • For the gluten and dairy intolerant: pumpkin pudding. (Against All Grain)

Image: free people

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Understanding Introverts

November 24, 2014

Woman with Roller Skates
I’m always interested in the latest studies about introversion and extroversion. Since we have one of each in our marriage, I figure the more I understand about my husband (and vice versa), the better.

This HuffPost piece mentions ten ways that introverts physically interact with the world around them differently than extroverts do: For example, introverts withdraw in crowds, succeed on stage, think before they speak, and feel stressed out by small talk. I’d have to say pretty much all ten points in that article are true of my husband.

The same article mentions a new book by psychologist Brian Little, Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Beingwhich states that introverts are better off avoiding caffeine before a big meeting or important event. Research shows that introverts differ from extroverts when it comes to alertness and responsiveness to a given environment:

A substance or scene that overstimulates the central nervous system of an introvert (which doesn’t take much) might cause him or her to feel overwhelmed and exhausted, rather than excited and engaged.

While introverts can be very social, this rings true in the lives of the introverts I know. Which explains why they need to retreat to replenish their energy.

As a high extrovert, I can only try to understand this. Not that I’ve never been in overstimulating environments: Large department stores leave me depleted, and a weekend of non-stop networking and taking in a lot of information at a conference, for example, tires me out. If I imagine feeling this way in more “micro” situations, it certainly gives me more more empathy for the introverts in my life.

Are you an introvert or extrovert? What about the people close to you? Do you find it hard to relate or sympathize with the “other” type?

Image: SFGate

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Friday Inspiration

November 21, 2014

Chesterton on Cheese
As a cheese-lover, this quote gave me a chuckle. It’s true: I’ve never seen a poem that references cheese. I suppose you could stretch it and say the Old Testament writers of Genesis and Isaiah were poets — they reference curds, which are very much like cheese. But we’ll give Chesterton this one.

I wonder why cheese is so uninspiring to poets… Too stinky? Too mundane? I don’t know; it seems to me that cheese can be pretty interesting. The process of making it certainly is: I did it once, as a temporary helper to a real cheesemaker in the hinterlands of Canada, and it will go down in history as one of my best experiences ever.

While I’m not much for melted cheese, I do love a good cheese plate with crackers and vegetables — and a glass of wine, of course. Unfortunately, the other members of my household are party poopers on this subject and don’t even like the smell of most cheeses, so my dosages are pretty much relegated to little pieces in the Whole Foods extras bin that can I sneak into the fridge.

I’ve never been much into the full-throttle blue cheeses, but as I’ve gotten older I can handle little bits here and there. Goat and sheep cheeses, aged cheddars, fetas…there’s such a range of good stuff. What about you — are you cheese fan? Got any favorites? Have you ever read a poem starring a dairy product?

And yes, I suppose today’s Friday Inspiration isn’t particularly inspirational, but we all need something a little light and frivolous (and delicious) from time to time.

Have a terrific weekend, and I’ll see you back here next week!

Image via Pinterest

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How to Stay Warm This Winter

November 20, 2014

by Margaret Cabaniss

How to Make a Hot Toddy
This time of year is supposed to be all about easing us gently into the idea of winter: a nip in the air, crunching leaves, tasty warm beverages. Someone apparently forgot to tell the weatherman, though, because Tuesday morning I was shoveling snow off my car in toe-numbing six-degree winds. In those conditions, warm beverages aren’t just a cozy treat but a survival necessity.

Chai lattes and hot chocolate and Irish coffee all have their place, but when it’s this cold, there’s only one thing that warms me straight through: a hot toddy. Nothing else obliterates that ache you get, deep in your bones, when it’s bitterly cold out — same with colds, stuffy noses, and raw throats. It may not quite heal the sick or raise the dead, but it’ll make you feel a whole lot better about life in general.

I’ve seen toddy recipes that call for adding tea or apple cider or even hot pepper flakes — but for me, the original mix of lemon, honey, and whiskey is still the best. It’s a far cry from the usual fancy holiday cocktail, but I promise it has magical, life-giving properties.

Here’s all you really need to be deliciously warm and toasty in no time:

  • 2 oz. whiskey (whatever you’ve got; I usually have bourbon)
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • hot water

Add the first two ingredients to a mug, then squeeze in the juice from the lemon wedge. Top with hot water, sip slowly, and be reconciled to the whole idea of winter.

What are you doing to stay warm during this winter prequel?

Image: Margaret Cabaniss

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The Voices of Adoptees

November 18, 2014

Family
As an adoptive parent, I appreciate hearing from adoptees. Not surprisingly, their stories vary significantly, since every person, adoption, and family is so different. And whether you’re raised by your biological parents or someone else, you can grow up with a lot of baggage.

Still, adoptees experience some common challenges, and I like to learn what I can from them. I don’t want to be the kind of parent — or person — who sticks her head in the sand about the hard stuff. And some of the stories are hard to read — especially the ones where the adoptee has nothing good to say about adoption.

So I really appreciated this piece written by an adult Korean adoptee who talks about her experience growing up in a very loving (white) American family, yet still struggling a lot with racism and identity. I’m always looking for kernels of wisdom in stories like these and try to be open to whatever lessons or ideas I might bring into my own parenting.

When we were at an Ethiopian heritage and cultural camp this past summer, one of the most thought-provoking sessions was hearing an African-American adult adoptee share her experience growing up in a Dutch-American family. She wrote a book called In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories that I’ve been meaning to read ever since.

Do you know any adults who were adopted? Have they ever shared their experience or expressed their feelings about it?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Friday Inspiration

November 14, 2014

Validation quote

What do you think of his quote? I agree with the gist of it. Confident women who know who they are seem to provoke different kinds of reactions in other people: admiration, jealousy, discomfort, wonder. A woman who doesn’t need others to tell her who she is can accomplish a lot because she doesn’t spend her energy imitating others or seeking approval.

But here’s the thing: The only way you become that kind of woman is if you’ve had lots of validation early on in life. We don’t arrive knowing how valuable and unique we are; we need people to tell us that: our parents, relatives, teachers, friends.  And if we grow up with a lot of validation, we need much less of it as adults.

Still, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need a little validation every now and then — even the most confident women. I’ve been told I’m very confident, but sometimes I like to know where I stand and that what I’m doing and who I am is worthwhile.

How about you? Do you experience this quote as true, whether in your own life or in others you meet?

Image via Pinterest

 

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Into the Woods

November 12, 2014

I’ve got a weakness for movie musicals. (Well, the good ones, anyway.) One of my all-time favorites is Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. Many people thought it was strange, but for me it had just the right mixture of everything. I love it.

Along with the rest of the world, I’m also a huge Meryl Streep fan. Is there anything that woman can’t do in front of a camera? I’ll watch anything she appears in. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw the trailer above for the upcoming movie musical Into the Woods.

I’ve never actually seen a live performance of Into the Woods, but I know some of the music by Stephen Sondheim. You either like Sondheim or you don’t, and I’m in the former camp. Maybe because I was introduced to his work in my early 20s when I worked as a musical theatre actress. I’m super curious to see how this new film interprets the musical. It looks like a visual feast to be sure.

Are you a fan of movie musicals? What’s your favorite?

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Veteran’s Day

November 11, 2014

Greatest Generation

I always want to post something profound on days like Veteran’s Day, but then I get writer’s block. I’ll make a confession, though: It wasn’t until about five years ago that I realized the difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. I’ll blame that on the fact that most of my childhood was not spent in the United States and November 11 in Canada is Remembrance day, when the fallen are remembered and honored.

In case you’re still in the dark, Veteran’s Day in the U.S. is when we honor everyone who has served his or her country — living and dead. Whereas on Memorial Day, we remember those who have died in service only.

Even though I hate war and violence, as a full-fledged scaredy cat I’m always moved when I think of those who risk their lives for their country. I’m also aware of the trauma experienced by those who see combat and the scars they carry from it. And their loved ones… how tough is it to have a husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister in the military? Families sacrifice so much.

Peace and thank you to all of our veterans today — those who never came back; those in active duty right now; and those who are safe at home.

Image: greatestgenerationtumblr.com

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Friday Inspiration

November 7, 2014

Stop focusing on how stressed you are..
I’m totally talking to myself with this one. It’s been one of those weeks when I feel like, if I’m going to have any integrity at all, I need to change this blog’s name to “fast mama.” I have pretty much been saying a version of this quote to myself every day this week.

Most of the things creating stress right now in my life are blessings: I’m grateful for them. So it’s all about constantly reminding myself to shift my perspective…and take very deep breaths. Stress can be caused by happy things — think weddings, family vacations, starting a new job. It’s the effects of stress that aren’t so good: exhaustion, high blood pressure, impatience, anxiety, distraction, etc.

I think the only way to combat stress when you can’t change the circumstances is to change how you think about it. Also, wine. And daydreams about eco spa vacations.

Do you find it hard to be grateful when life gets really stressful? What’s your week been like?

Here’s to a relaxing weekend for all of us, friends! See you back here early next week.

Image via Pinterest originally from HuffPost

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by Margaret Cabaniss

There’s still a few weeks till Thanksgiving… Time to get cracking! Don’t forget to make these easy mitered napkins while you’re at it, too.

place mat
Because you don’t already have enough to do to prepare for the holidays!

If it makes you feel any better, I was supposed to make these placemats as a Christmas gift for my sister last year, and I only finished them yesterday (figured I’d better get them made in time for me to start procrastinating on this year’s present). Even sadder, they were painfully easy to whip up, so I’m not sure what took me so long. Sorry, Amy!

But enough groveling. I immediately liked these simple, rustic placemats when I spotted them last year, and making them from canvas painter’s drop cloth (which you can pick up at any hardware store) means they’re inexpensive and durable to boot. The instructions are simple, too — very beginner-sewer friendly.

supplies
Figure out how large you want your placemats to be, then add an inch to the length and width for a half-inch seam allowance (I wanted my mats to be 14″x19″, so I cut the pieces 15″x20″). You’ll cut two pieces of drop cloth for each placemat. The only other supplies you’ll need are coordinating thread (for the hidden seams) and a contrasting thread for the top stitch.

pins
Pin the two pieces together (there’s no right or wrong side with the drop cloth), then stitch all the way around with the coordinating thread, leaving at least a four-inch opening in the center of the bottom edge so you can turn the mat right-side out. (I also did a zigzag stitch around the outer edge to keep the fabric from fraying, though you can’t really see it here.)

stitched
Trim the corners…

corners
…then turn the placemat right-side out, feeding the fabric through your opening. Push out the corners and press the seams flat.

press
I added a small strip of hem tape to the seam around the opening and pressed that flat, too, just to make sure it held (in case the top stitching didn’t catch it):

opening
Then simply add a zigzag stitch in your contrasting thread about half an inch to three-quarters of an inch from the edge.

zigzag
And that’s it! Once you have your pieces cut and ready to go, you could churn out a complete set of these in an afternoon. If you wanted to get crazy, you could stencil a design on the mat, or even let your kids decorate them on Thanksgiving for a fun activity to keep them occupied while you roast that bird — but I think they’d make for a lovely, rustic holiday table just the way they are.

Images: Margaret Cabaniss

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