Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy New Year!

My resolution is simple to keep me focused:
a better
Care to inspire me to do more?
Feel free to share yours

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How do I LOVE Thee? (and a tidbit of a recipe)

According to a recent article in Reader's Digest, the first step toward loving yourself and HAPPINESS (the goal we all strive for) is simple: Be sure to Make Your Bed each morning.

It sounds like a doable task. And based on my experience, it kind of works. Or maybe it works only because that article in Reader's Digest told me it does, so that now as I make my bed every morning I tell myself, "Shaunda, you are taking your first step toward happiness! Don't you feel happy?" And of course in the thoughts that follow, I believe I should.

Then I shuffle to the kitchen and do what I've been doing long before reading that article in Reader's Digest. I lather myself in more self-love by treating myself to a specially brewed cup of coffee simply because it has always made me feel good. To anyone else who has not put themselves marching on a self-prescribed path toward self-made happiness, brewing a morning cup of coffee may not seem like it deserves to be sitting high on the scale of Earth-shattering activities. But perception or self-deception, whatever the case may be, can be a beautiful thing. And I tell myself that making this special cup of coffee every morning is a solid step to happiness, much like that article in Reader's Digest. I tell myself that I am being treated to a Specially Brewed cup of coffee, because I am worth it. And because I am worth it, that makes me feel happy.

What is in this Specially Brewed cup of coffee?

It starts with ground Gevalia French Roast, brewed through my dependable Black and Decker. One level tablespoon per cup. (I told you there was a recipe!)

While that is brewing and dripping into the jolly round pot, I get out my especially elegant porcelaine white coffee mug made by 222 FIFTH, which happens to be a fancy, chic name that I like to think I like.  Into this mug I drop a heaping teaspoon of Sugar in the Raw sugar cane (because that's THE sweetener to use these days) and fill it 1/3 of the way with milk that has been shaken, not stirred. Did you know that milk that has been shaken in the jug prior to pouring is one step closer to buttermilk? Well it is, at least according to my intelligent cued-in son and chefs who slave away in making happy things in kitchens. But I digress.

After pouring the raw sugar and shaken milk into my fine white mug, I pop that porcelaine beauty into the microwave and nuke it for 30 seconds. (No need to be all lovey-dovey and gentle in this step.) Once warmed so that it will not take the heat out of the coffee that is nearly finished brewing, I add a drop of pure vanilla extract to the milk and sugar and then whip it all up into a foamy froth with a powertool.

Okay, it's not a powertool kept in a shed out back. It's actually a hand-held gizmo that my loving and astute engineer-father gifted to me one Christmas many years ago: The Caffe Froth Turbo Handmixer made by BONJOUR. And I wouldn't be able to start my day without it.

Lastly, in no less than a span of five minutes, I'm ready to add my French Roast MoJo to the foamy-sweet white goodness, and when I do, I always make sure to pour it in the shape of heart, kind of like those fancy coffee shops do. But mine is better, because the heart that sits at the top of the mug was done by me for me. And that takes me further along on the road to happiness one small step--or perhaps one long shuffle--at a time. Which is all good in the end, because as I'm filling myself up with happiness, sip by sip, I get to a point where I am bursting with love, ready to move out into the world and share it with those I meet.

Who could have guessed that making a bed and a simple cup of coffee make the world go round?

What are the steps you take on the road to happiness?

Did you start by making your bed today?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Winter Gift Market 2012

I've been participating in the 2012 Winter Gift Market for a couple years. Judy Torres and I have begun making it an annual event. Our unspoken goal is to have new books to sell every year. This year Judy and I worked hard in to meet that goal. We each had two new books.

She had great success with her new picture books: Bearly Awake and The Monster Under the Bed Loves Chocolate Chip Cookies. I was pleasantly surprised with the reception for my new titles: Reality Bites, Tales of a Half-Vampire and From Rivets and Rails, Recipes of a Railroad Boarding House Cookbook. I sold out of the cookbook and walked away with orders to fulfill next week and a request to begin stocking it at the Cache Valley visitor's center. Woot!


Saturday, December 1, 2012


If you don't miss the feathering whisper of wind across your skin, this post is not for you.

If you don't turn your face up toward the warmth of sunshine on a cool spring day, then this post is not for you.

If you don't feel a smile snaking its way around your lips when the Earth presses up against the soles of your feet as you walk over grass or beach or woody path, then this post is not for you.

If this post is for anyone, it is for people like me who at the end of the day or week or month feel overrun by technology, worn out by the draw of TV, music via satellite, email, ereaders, computers, and those colorful animated programs that keep our eyes glued on a screen and our feet planted on a floor, indoors more often than not.

It seems like the overwhelming joy I feel when I take a walk outside should not always feel so OVERWHELMING. I should not feel such bliss. I should not feel so suddenly relaxed. Perhaps if I took time to step away from everything I'm "plugged" into, then it seems that a simple walk would not seem so monumental. In fact, it seems such walks SHOULD NOT seem monumental at all. Isn't the outdoors--what lies outside of the office, the house, the car--an inherent part of living? Are we not still part of the world around us? If so, then why do a I feel a resounding reconnection with the world when I wander out into it?

Obviously, I don't get out enough. I know the same holds true for others. There are others who are more "plugged in" than I am, and none of it seems quite right when I step back and take in an UNPLUGGED view.

When I was younger, I spent the majority of my time outdoors. When I was younger, most of my life was unplugged. I felt cut-off from "living" when I spent too much time inside. Today, finding "freedom" from the barriers of technology is found by taking a simple walk. But when I was younger, finding freedom literally meant pushing the limits until I was racing the wind. It wasn't found by simply walking outside, because that connection was already establishing on a daily basis. My freedom, my sense of pushing the envelope on what it means to live was found on top of a horse, running at full gallop across a long field with another endless field in sight. During those moments, living seemed to lie in boundless opportunity stretching out before me--all I had to do was run fast enough to catch it.

I miss those days when I was continually connected to the pulse of the Earth. When I wasn't plugged into anything but myself, my friends, my family, and life unfolding around me.

Technology can be wonderful. It can bridge connections. It can deliver images of coastlines, forested jungles brimming with life, and emails from loved ones at the touch of a button. But it can't deliver the feathers of wind whispering across my skin or the warmth of the sun flickering in and out of shadows. It can't deliver life in all five senses--or the six or seven I want to believe exist. That requires the devices, the gizmos, the pretty colorful screens to be unplugged. And to do that takes only the touch of a button.

So help me out here? Am I alone in this type of thinking? Does anyone else ever feel the need to unplug? (Never mind the fact that I'm typing this onto my fully plugged, fully charged screen.)