Sunday, November 23, 2014


In amongst the usual kooky Buzzfeed links, You Know You Were An 80s Kid photos, and gratutious Kim Kardashian booty memes, I've lately run across this sweet sentiment:in my various social network feeds:
There are two types of best friends: 
There's the best friend who shares everyday life with you.. You see each other a couple times per week, and talk almost every day, staying up to date and tuned in to every little thing in each other's lives.  
And there's the best friend who rarely pops up in your life. You don't often get the chance to spend time together, and your conversations are few and far between. But still, you know deep in your heart that that person will always understand you and be there when you need them most. 
Aww. Precious, right? There are times when I would probably find those words to be sloppy sentimentalism, if not estrogen-infused mush.

Today, however, it seems that this wisdom is exactly what I needed to hear.

Of course, just about everyone over the age of twelve has known the joys of the bff. And anyone older than twenty has reunited with a childhood buddy and felt the intervening years miraculously slip away to nothing. At any given time, if we are playing our cards right, we usually have a few close friends in each category to bring balance into our lives.

But lately, I have to say, my friendship scales have been a little bit out of whack.

Over the past few years, each for different reasons, my closest, dearest, most trusted friends - the ones who truly get me - have drifted, one by one, from that first category to the second. Where once they were an integral part of my daily life, we now live our lives mostly apart.

Now I'm not necessarily complaining about that. I mean, sure, sometimes I really miss sharing my life with these people and I treasure the memories of those bygone days. But I also acknowledge that when we do manage to connect, our friendships are every bit as alive and rich and magically bff-y as ever.

Maybe even more so.

Maybe the best friendships deepen and intensify when they are stretched across the distance of time and space.

Maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

And maybe, right now, when I am missing my faraway bffs so sharply, is the perfect time to let them know how much they mean to me.

Yep. Just as soon as I finish this important and scientifically valid quiz, that's exactly what I will do.

No Regrets

In case you weren't convinced that last night's tiny apple crisp tasted as delicious as it looks, let me just say that I ate the leftovers for breakfast. 

With ice cream.

And thus fortified, I tackled my day with considerable enthusiasm and endless good humor. 

Which are just two of the remarkable benefits of eating dessert for breakfast. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tiny Apple Crisp

Inspiration strikes in strange ways.

My most recent reminder of this inarguable truth began as I was wandering around the thrift store the other day, and my eyes fell upon a gorgeous splash of ceramic red.

The object in question was a petite red baking dish, and I immediately recognized it as the junior member of a set of three baking dishes, of which my mom owns the large yellow and the medium turquoise versions.

Obviously, this precious dollop was my destiny.

Throw in the fact that the label read Crate & Barrel, one of my all-time favorite housewares brands, and without further ado, I marched myself up to the check-out and slapped down my $1.99 before anyone realized what a steal I was making. 

It wasn't till I got home that I grasped the undeniable truth.

Adorable as my new friend may be, his size is desperately small. Not a single recipe in my retinue would be content to bake in such limited quarters, and I had no idea how I would put the rascal to use.

Still, this was clearly a relationship meant to be, so I waited with confidence, and sure enough, the epiphany eventually struck.

If there are no recipes that fit the dish, then I will need to invent some that do.

Here's what happened next:

I sliced up apples till my dish was full. Three mediums did the trick.

I mixed about a half cup of granola with roughly a tablespoon of flour, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and enough canola oil to bind it all together.

I would have used melted butter but I was out. Whatever.

I popped my creation into a 350 degree oven and baked until the apples were soft, about 20 minutes.

Then I divided the spoils among my party of four, and topped each serving with vanilla ice cream.

* * * * * 

And here is what this little adventure has taught me:

Necessity really is the mother of invention.
Fruit crisps are ridiculously easy to fake.
I'm on a roll. Ain't no telling where my tiny red baking dish will take me next.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Scent-sational News

I've been having a devil of a time styling my linen closet.

I know. That's a ridiculous statement.

A linen closet is a place to store clean sheets, blankets and towels. The items are to be folded neatly, stacked logically, and left to their own devices until called into use.

The very existence of such a specialized storage spot is a Western luxury, and the notion that I should put time and effort into the handsome good looks of this little repository is arguably over-the-top silly.

But here is something I know about myself. The more effort and creativity I put into making a corner, cupboard or closet look especially nice, the more likely I am to keep the spot organized and tidy.

And if my linen closet is just a ho-hum collection of stacked laundry, trust me, it will go from apple-pie-order to hell-in-a-handbag in the snap of a finger. Trust me, it's happened before.

So that's my conundrum. I need a visual wow factor to motivate the maintenance of my new-found order and so far, I'm coming up short.

However, this afternoon, I had a bit of a break-through. Instead of fussing over how my linen closet should look, I came round to thinking about how it should smell.

Like lavender.

That's a total no-brainer.

So I marched myself off to Target and bought three no-nonsense bars of old-school lavender hand soap.

If you could smell this soap as well as you can see it, you would swear you were standing knee-deep in the blooming lavender fields of Provence. Not even kidding.

I unwrapped them, popped them into my linen closet, here and there among the sleeping stacks of folded things, and breathed deep.


I'm still not satisfied with the way this dang linen closet looks.

But now, by golly, when I open the door, the sweet fragrance of heaven pours forth and my spirits soar. And that is a lovely improvement indeed.

Ranger supervised the photo shoot and gives this fragrant product a big thumbs-up. 
Whew, that's a relief. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What's In A Name

Bob Marley isn't my name. I don't even know my name yet. - Bob Marley

If I'm gonna tell a real story, I'm gonna start with my name. - Kendrick Lamar

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet
- William Shakespeare

The past few days, I've been working on a birthday greeting for a little girl I know. As with many of the cards and banners I make, the design features her name, prominently displayed in bold shapes and bright colors. I've also left plenty of white space so she can add some color too, if she likes.

During this creative process, I've done a bit of musing about names. Here is a random sampling of the thoughts that have been whirling around my brain.

It's strange that our names are chosen for us without our consent at the very beginning of our lives. Think of it. The single word that will describe us and be associated with us for literally every day of our life is chosen when we are a mere day or two old. When you think about it, our names really say more about our parents, and their hopes and dreams for our life, than they do about our own selves. But we carry them with us as a fundamental part of our identity from cradle to grave, and that is truly remarkable.

Most people are ambivalently okay with their names, though others may love or actively dislike them. I personally have mixed feelings about my name. Weirdly, I like that it has five letters, three of them vowels, and I like that it starts with D. D is a good strong letter, and fun to write in cursive. Also, I like that my name is reasonably familiar and easy enough to pronounce. But I've always felt that the name doesn't suit me quite right and I've fantasized many times about shortening it to Ann.

It's good to know the story of how and why your name was chosen. I'm fascinated to hear how names are chosen, and I've made a point to tell my daughters their stories over and over.

My first-born was named for a famous Irish Setter,
my second named after a character in a storybook that my first-born adored,
my third was named after one of my childhood friends, and
my fourth-born's name literally means, "fourth-born."

As for my name, here's how it came to be. My father had always loved the name, Diane, but my mother preferred Carolyn, the name of her college roommate. After much debate, my mother let my father have his way, and Carolyn became my middle name. I wish my mother had stuck to her guns.

It always feels good to be called by name. During my many years of working with kids of all ages, I've tested this theory over and again and found it always to be true. Preschoolers beam, elementary kids come running, even the most disengaged, unemotive, trying-to-be-cool teenager will bust out a genuine smile when you call them by name. And I'll be honest - I light up when someone calls me by name. There's something about hearing another person speak my name that makes me feel known. And loved.

Little-known fact: the name of my blog refers to my feelings about my own name. After years of being a full-time parent, I was so used to hearing my daughters call me Mama, Mommy, or Mom, that I began to think of myself only by those names. As they grew up and flew from the nest, I realized that it was time for me to reclaim myself as a person who was more than simply a mother. It was time for me to be Diane again.

And writing these posts to you has been an essential and perfectly lovely part of my journey.

November Skies

Autumn, you have done your job well. 

You squeezed every last golden moment of warmth and sunshine from the waning days of summer.

You lit the world afire with your color show of yellow, orange and red. 

You sent rains to wash away the faded glory and winds to sweep away every last trace. 

Now the world stands clean and bare under cold November skies, ready for winter to descend. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

An Inspired Table

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this table of Oak;
And all the half-finished projects that low'r'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

William Shakespeare (adapted) in Richard III


My long list of loose ends has been (mostly) wrapped up, and I'm ready to start a fresh project: a new dining room table.

I've been thinking about this table for weeks, months, years. Decades. Not even kidding. Since my dining room is fairly small, and my family rather large, I've spend untold hours pondering the best size, shape, materials and construction style for our DIY dining dilemma.

To meet my goal of seating ten adults comfortably, this table will be eight feet long. 

Honestly, that's an aggressively large hunk of wood for my tiny dining room. But by keeping the table tucked up near the windows, our usual head count of six can easily sit along the sides of the table and still move comfortably about the room. When we need to make space for more, we will simply slide the table out to the middle of the room and pull up some extra chairs. True, the fully loaded table will clog traffic in the dining room, but hey, what's a large gathering without a little friendly chaos?

To balance the extra length, the table will stay skinny. A sleek 34 inches will make for a moderately cramped spread, but the proportions make sense for the shape of the room.

After considering pine, poplar and maple woods for the table top, we decided to go with oak. You know, this family has its roots in the wild oak forests of the American Midwest, and choosing a material that gives a nod to our ancestors just seems like the way to go.

As for the legs, I have been sold on metal hairpins all the way. I grew up taking my meals at a mid-century gem of a table, and I love the idea of going full circle by building a hairpin baby of my own.

Okay, finally, I was done pondering. On Saturday morning, we headed over to Home Depot, bought the lumber, then came home and created a mock-up of my exact specifications. While you may see in these photos nothing more than a few planks of raw wood balanced on saw horses, I see my dreams coming true.

So now I'm ready and raring to go. Construction is scheduled to begin in a few days, and with any luck, the table of my dreams should done just in time for Thanksgiving. Let's get busy!

Fear not, my lord, we will not stand to prate;
Talkers are no good doers: be assured
We come to use our hands and not our tongues

- William Shakespeare in Richard III