Zen and the Art of Reno

I knew that renovating a home wasn’t going to be easy, and at times that it wasn’t even going to be fun. What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional highs and lows of living there while it was going on. I suppose I’ve adjusted fine to living in a chaotic environment (from a lady who thrives on routine), but to exist in one in which I don’t see progress is frustrating. Plus, all the things I usually do to relieve stress, like knit, or workout, or cook, aren’t possible because the things I need to do those things are either still in boxes or covered with a tarp, or dust, or both. Awesome.

But here’s the uplifting point in this mild rant: this week our new place is still dusty and still chaotic and still under construction, but we are starting to see progress. In renos and in life, progress is important. You can deal with a lot as long as you feel like today was a day that you got closer to your goal.

Pass the syrup

I get a hankering for pancakes about every other week. A peculiar pancake craving came over me yesterday morning and, alas, there was no syrup in the pantry. Channeling my inner Better Crocker I converted the logic of a simple syrup to brown sugar. I could not tell the difference, and in fact, I may save myself $7 for a 12 oz. bottle of maple syrup and make it this way all of the time…
Brown Sugar Pancake Syrup
1/2 cup of pressed brown sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup hot water (not boiling)
  1. Pour hot water into a small sauce pan containing brown sugar and cornstarch. Set heat to medium-high and whisk until sugar dissolves.
  2. Stir constantly until boiling.
  3. Continue to boil for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly
  4. Pour into serving pitcher and enjoy hot or cooled.

Self-indulgent? Absolutely!

I just love a brand-spankin’-new blog! The picking out of the template, the pondering over a good title, and the anticipation of whether or not your domain name will get to match your title or if you’ll have to pick some ridiculous combination of numbers and characters. It’s all so exciting!

I was previously blogging back and forth between my best friend, who is embarking on an exciting journey to Niger with the Peace Corps in a week. We would talk about day-to-day happenings and our ever present desires to be fit people. Given the magnitude of what she’s about to do, and the personal growth she will no doubt experience, I can hardly ask her to keep me updated with her running schedule and fitness goals….

But what I loved about that process was that I got to be totally open, but at the same time I was able to maintain my smarty-pants writing style that usually only appears when I’m aware that other people are reading. And thus, I’ve released said best friend from her obligation to blog with me and will too embark on my own journey (with the luxury of flush toilets and paved roads).

My general position on blogging is that it’s awesome, most of the time. What irritates me about a lot of blogs is that they are either too personal (i.e. public therapy session) or too mundane to be interesting. It’s the same as, say, a facebook status. You have those people who reveal everything and expect you to comfort them:
” I just want to cry right now because my boyfriend left me when he found out that
I’m pregnant and it’s not his….”

And then there are those people who say things that aren’t interesting and think that you care:
” I already fed Johnny and did three loads of laundry and it’s only 9:00am!”

So I’m left with mixed feelings. I want to be one of those blogs that is genuinely interesting for friends and strangers alike. While it might be self-indulgent and conceited of me to think that anyone cares about the things I care about or the things I will write here…. well–why the hell not?

The only thing left to divulge on my shiny new blog is:
What’s my schtick?

I don’t intend to simply provide you with a public journal, but to give you a tiny piece of one aspect of my life that I’d like to share. Namely, that I am a country girl that has never lived in the country. I have a fierce desire to lead a holistic, sustainable lifestyle, and I believe that it is the key to good health and happiness. Just one crafty lady trying to keep it simple in the middle of the concrete jungle.

A Day in Sicily

Sicily is an absolutely beautiful island off the coast of Italy, and Messina, our first port of call, on the Navigator of the Seas, is only 2.5 miles from the mainland. It originally broke off from the coast of Africa, not the coast of Italy, and the influence of certain aspects of Arab culture and architecture are still apparent. Rising above the island is Mt. Etna, an active volcano that erupted as recently as 2003. Workers have developed techniques over the years to divert the flow of lava away from populated areas, but you can see the toll that Mt. Etna has taken on the landscape. There are sensational cliffs and rugged mountains. The climate is extremely dry, but many fruit trees and beautiful flowers grow on the mountainsides.

Messina itself is not overly impressive, so we took an excursion to Taormina 35 miles away. Greeks originally founded Taormina in 358 B.C., although the layout of the town gives it a distinctly medieval feel. Our guide mentioned that Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Germans, French and Spanish have occupied Taormina at one time or another before uniting with Italy. Additionally, it has withstood earthquakes, fire, volcanic eruptions, and World War II. So, in other words, the whole place is volatile.

Cars are not allowed in Taormina, so the streets are narrow and cobbled. This time of year the area is packed with European
tourists on holiday, and it is scattered with knick-knack shops with unfortunate t-shirts and mugs featuring the Godfather.  In spite of this we managed to find a couple of spots that were less crowded and more pleasant. We ate lunch at Ristorante Gambero Rosso. If you walk by this restaurant, they don’t give you any choice but to come in. You pass by and they say “hello! How are you! How many? Two? Great! This way!” before you can get a word in edgewise. Although we were lured in, it ended up being a great choice. Later on we found Arte Mediterranean Café for the most phenomenal cannoli and gelato on earth.
Honestly, all you have to do in Taormina to have an amazing time is take a long walk.
This evening we’ve been laying low and watching the Olympics which is interesting to watch from Italy…you end up seeing a lot of fencing, weight lifting and water polo…