Thursday, December 31, 2015

Au revoir 2015

Paris street scene, March 2015

The BFF doesn't like odd-numbered years, so I don't think that she will be too sad to say good-bye to 2015. It is what it is.  It was what it was.  Final good-byes were said to friends and loved ones.  Health issues had to be faced.  For the next few days, the news and all other media sources will be filled with The Year in Review stories and photos. Some will make us smile, some will make us cry.  Doomsday soothsayers will declare that the world is about to end. Resolutions to be happier, healthier, and kinder will be made. 

I recently stumbled across a Ted Talk about happiness.  This comes from a 75-year study that has been conducted on what makes people happy.  It is well worth the twelve and a half minutes it takes to watch.  I've already watched it a couple of times.  Because in the end, isn't that what we are all searching for?  Happiness?  It seems like such an overused, vague word.  It really isn't, though. Isn't it what we are all looking for in our daily lives, what we hope our loved ones will find, what everyone in the world deserves at the end of the day?  Happy days should outnumber the sad days.    

Random thoughts and quotes that I've stumbled upon as we end one year and begin another...

  • Be open to new experiences.  Travel, food, books, thoughts, people.  You never know who you are going to meet and how they will change your life, even if it is just for the next few moments.  The Ex-Ex and I recently met a fellow named Jay who was sitting in a pub in Boone.  We struck up a conversation and enjoyed it immensely.  We will never see Jay again, but we will remember him for a long time to come.
  • "You want to perform a miracle?  Forgive yourself."   --Rune Lazuli 
  • Be grateful.  Express your gratitude in whatever way you can.  A smile.  A thank you note, a good deed.  Live your gratitude daily.  Make it a verb.
  • Slow down.  Stop multi-tasking so much.
  • Stay connected.  To friends, to family members, to your community.  Facebook and other social media outlets are not a waste of time if they keep you connected to people who are important to you.  Face time is equally as important.  Drop the cell phones when with people.  Technology will never replace sitting next to or across the table from someone important to you.  Look at them.  Talk to them.  Touch them.
  • Look for beauty.  In people, in nature, in everyday situations.  The first photo on the blog was not planned.  We were crossing a street in Paris in March and I turned my head and saw it.  I stopped every single 8th grader with me and made them look at the pure beauty of that sight.  Connect to whatever art form moves your soul- paintings, music, poetry, sculpture, photography.  Indulge in it daily. Vincent Van Gogh has touched my life since I read Lust for Life 30 years ago.  I've since had the amazing good fortune to visit the spots he painted in Arles, including where he painted Starry Night Over the Rhône in 1888.  While living in Arles, I went down to this spot frequently, especially when feeling homesick.  It was only a 2-minute walk from where I lived.
        Every March, I visit Starry Night at the Musée d'Orsay. It always brings me to tears. 
        What can I say?  If a painting (or song or sculpture or poem) has never brought you to
        tears, you haven't lived.
        I saw this one in July at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Tears. Raw beauty. 

Sunflowers, Vincent Van Gogh, 1887
  • Keep a sense of humor.  I recently read an essay written by a mom about cussing in front of her kids.  It was hilariously funny, in my humble opinion.  Reading the comments at the end of the article were not so funny.  Some people were judging this woman's worth as a mother based on the fact that she admits to swearing in the presence of her own children.  Lighten up, people.  I inadvertently taught Son #2 when he was an innocent two-year old to say Damn it with the proper pronunciation and inflection.  He is now 23 years old and a productive member of society, not an ax murderer.  (It is still my go-to swear word in numerous situations faced on a daily basis-- spilling coffee, locking my keys in my car, stubbing my toe, dropping a raw egg on the kitchen floor, forgetting my umbrella in the car when a sudden downpour hits, spilling cat food all over the floor, dripping toothpaste down the front of my dress five minutes after I should already be out the door-- you get the picture.)
The quote below sums up what I feel is the perfect ending to a day.  Happiness. Contentment. Whatever you want to call it.  May all who read this blog and who are in my life and bring me such joy find this or a moment like it every single day.

We would be together and have our books and at night be warm in bed together with the windows open and the stars bright.
                                                                                       Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

End of the Year Muffins
makes 12

2 cups cereal (whatever you have on hand- I used Great Grains Raisins, Dates and Pecans)
1/2 cup toasted coconut (optional- I had some leftover from make the Ex-Ex a coconut cream pie for Christmas; rereading that blog post still makes me laugh and he took me past Louise's Rockhouse Restaurant this past weekend)
3/4 cup milk (or 1/2 cup if you decide not to soak the cereal in it)
1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup whole wheat and 1/2 cup regular)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Grease (or line with paper liners) 12 medium-sized muffin cups
Add 1/2 cup milk to the cereal and stir.  Set aside. This softens the cereal.  Not a necessary step, however.
In small mixing bowl, beat the egg and then whisk in oil, honey and 1/4 cup of milk (if you are softening the cereal- if not, add the 1/2 cup of milk).  Set aside.
In large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix well.  If you are softening the cereal, add the flour mixture to it now.  If not, add the cereal to the dry ingredients.
Pour egg mixture into cereal-flour mixture and stir just until moistened.  Do not over mix. There will be some lumps, but that's okay.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.  
Bake 20 minutes or until muffins test done.
Remove muffins from pan immediately and place on wire rack to cool (or go ahead and eat one while it's warm).

Bon appétit to all.  Have a happy and safe New Year's Eve.  You do want to live to see 2016 and you don't really want a nasty headache as you eat your black-eyed peas and turnip greens (or whatever you consider to be lucky foods), do you?  Go Vols!  Win the bowl game and make my teams 4-0 (Appalachian State, Duke, and Nebraska have already won their bowl games).  Son #2 says this is the only game that really matters, of course.

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