De-lurk, and win!

I thought it was about time I said thank you to all of you lovely readers by doing a little giveaway!

**The giveaway has ended.

I have a package here of some of my handmade items:

-A chalkboard flowerpot
-Two crochet dish scrubbers
-One red juice glass recycled wax candle, fruit slices scent (my personal fave)

The flowerpot is the larger of the two sizes I made this summer, and is actually plastic, so it’s much less likely to break in the mail.

It doesn’t come with a flower, but it does have two pieces of chalk in cute whale-y ribbon.

This is about $25 worth of goodies, and I want you to have it!

So, all you have to do is leave a comment and tell me a little about yourself. Are you mainly a crafter? A cook? An all-around Martha? Or do you just love to read blogs (this I understand, as I have at least 50 in my reader).

I will randomly select a winner tomorrow morning before I leave for Ragbrai. At that time you can e-mail me your address so I know where to ship it.

Coming up soon I have another giveaway from a crafty reader, so get excited for that, too!

Breakfast for dinner

The other day I discovered a half-full box of honey-wheat pancake mix in my kitchen cabinet, and couldn’t stop thinking about how good that might taste with a few farmers market blueberries mixed in.

So instead of making a savory dinner, I cooked pancakes last night. And even though this blog is primarily about from-scratch cooking, I fully give myself permission to make something from a box every now and then. It’s just not that big of a deal.

So, I mixed up the batter in my handy dandy mixing bowl with a spout so I could pour it easily, and it worked great.

Mmmmm, pancakes.

(Don’t worry, I did not eat this many pancakes. Usually what I do with leftovers is wrap two or three at a time in plastic, then freeze them. They taste great after a little thaw in the microwave.)

Then this morning I sprinkled a few leftover berries on a fat-free Greek yogurt, with a little bit of Grape Nuts and some agave nectar.

I love the creaminess of Greek yogurt, but to be honest, it tasted a bit strange to me, so I think I’ll stick with my regular Cultural Revolution organic yogurt. You just can’t go wrong with that stuff.

Practically free entertainment

Last weekend Mike and I went to a Des Moines Menace soccer game. The team’s on a roll this year, so it was the second time we got to watch them win at home.

Tickets are normally less than $10 anyway, but we heard they were down to $5 for this game if you wore red. So we donned our red clothes, only to have someone hand us free tickets to the game as we were walking in. Nice!

We purchased a $5 bag of kettle corn, which we devoured in a shockingly small amount of time. But later in the game as free T-shirts, Frisbees and water bottles rained down on the crowd, Mike caught this black tee. So I’d say we came out about even.

File that under reason 5,126 that Des Moines is a great place to be in the summer.

Garage sale finds

I almost forgot to show you what my mom and I found on our morning of garage sale-ing (and as I poked around her house to grab a few things before they made it into her antique mall booth).

There weren’t many sales going on in Lawrence that day, so we headed to Topeka instead. Right away I found a huge box of old fabric scraps for $2. I sorted it later, and found a lot I could use for my vintage fabric covered thumb tacks, and left the rest for my sister to plunder for sewing projects.

Later I found this great typewriter table with a wood top.

I think it was $5. With a new coat of paint and some love I think it could be really lovely, especially with my old typewriter on top.

I also just couldn’t leave without this plastic pitcher. It just has such a cool shape and color. I’m keeping it in my office to water the plants.

I didn’t take photos of the other things, but I did get some more partially burnt candles to remelt, some extra large glass canning jars (I’m thinking they might find their way into a wedding centerpiece), and a hardback book.

I’m kicking myself now for not taking photos of what my mom found: A great retro looking TV, two metal tables that look like something out of Austin Powers (think hot pink flowers) and the most amazing ’60s swimsuit that looks like the retro styles you’re seeing now in Anthropologie and such.

In addition to more fabric, I also grabbed this great feather duster and a bright red Samsonite suitcase that I think I’ll remake on the inside and use as a display at craft fairs.

And finally, the very best score, a Pyrex polka dot bowl.

I have been wanting one of these for a long time. Now I’m on the hunt for the rest of the set!

It’s the little things

Is there anything better than a bowl of fresh watermelon in the summertime?

I bought a whole giant watermelon. And then when I got home I remembered Mike doesn’t like watermelon (aka has no soul). Oh well. More for me!

Well, there might be one thing better — roses.

The sweetest woman in my Saturday morning Nia class bought these as a congratulations gift.

And guess what. My taterpot is sprouting. Come on little mints!

What is Nia?

All week long I’ve been training to earn my white belt in Nia. And you might be wondering, what the heck is that?

Nia is a fitness class I discovered probably close to two years ago at a yoga studio when they swapped it for our regular class. Instead of stretching we ended up dancing, and I just connected with it instantly. Maybe it was because I used to be a dancer (waaaay back in the day), maybe it was because I liked a little more energetic movement than my usual introspective yoga class, or maybe it was just because I’d never done exercise that felt so natural and good to my body. Either way, I remember thinking it was intriguing, but then forgetting about it for a while.

So when my current yoga studio started offering the class a few months ago, I showed up. The teacher and I talked a lot about how we felt Nia would catch on here if we just kept doing it. It’s popular in bigger cities like Portland, Oregon where it’s headquartered (!!), New York and Chicago. But not so much here. So we kept dancing, and pretty soon more and more new faces started showing up. My teacher got more routines in the mix, and then she started talking about how she wanted to do a training session here, so that people could have the full experience of Nia, get really immersed in it, and then become teachers if they wanted.

Even if I didn’t know right away I would do it, I think deep down I did know.

Going through this whole job change, which is really me trying to figure out how I can have the career I want and sustain it indefinitely, it really seemed like Nia could be a part of that. And wouldn’t it be great for someone like me who’s constantly struggling to find an exercise program I can stick with (and let’s be real, constantly failing on that front), to incorporate Nia into my work?

I joke that Nia is like new-agey aerobics, because I think some of the concepts are a little out there for most of us. But ultimately, the point of the class is to move in the way your body is meant to move. The way it wants to move. In a way that feels good and won’t injure you. The tagline is “through movement we find health.” So true.

So the classes are choreographed to music. The moves change as the music changes naturally, which is also kind of cool. The moves are a blend of the dance arts, martial arts and healing arts. So sometimes you are swaying or doing a cha-cha-cha, sometimes you are kicking or punching, and sometimes you are stretching, breathing, relaxing. Again, all moves go with different types of music. Some routines are more energetic than others.

We had five classes this week, and they were some of the most fun I’ve ever had because of the trainer who taught them, Stephaney Robinson.

She lives in South Carolina now, but she grew up in Des Moines. She spent the whole week with us, pulling us out of our shells, listening to us talk and talk and talk about ourselves. There was so much going on mentally and emotionally outside of the dancing, even though the class is all about the physical part. The best part really was finding a new community in Nia with these women that I just connected with right away. Three of us even live in the same neighborhood.

Here we are: Jewels, me, Moira and Jen, showing off our Nia bags like the dorks we are.

Another Nia white belt joined us for a couple of days, and she turned out to be one of the most fascinating women I’ve ever met. She’s a farmer with seven kids, who baked us muffins (twice!) with ingredients from her farm and brought us fresh flowers.

She told us a lot about the Nia community in Fairfield, Iowa, which is another fascinating place full of both farmers and hippies, thanks to the Maharishi University there.

Anyway, if you would like to try Nia, I would love to see you at the Family Tree yoga studio Saturday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Hopefully there will be at least one more class per week offered there, and I might even be the teacher sometimes! It’s going to take me a while to learn the routines, and practice until I feel comfortable leading the class. But the prospect is so exciting.

Perhaps one of the most profound parts was just getting comfortable in my own body. We spent hours, HOURS, freedancing. Just turning on music and dancing around the room like no one was watching. Except we were all there. You have no idea how unlike me it is to do something like that. I am usually wound up much too tight, but Nia just forces you to let go. I admit that at first I was like who are these people and what are they saying and what are they doing? I didn’t fully get it. But I just told myself to trust the process.

So here I am. I’ve got a white belt, five new friends, and a future totally open to possibility. I have to say I’m a little proud of myself for plunking down the money and deciding to do something totally for myself in my grand plan to create more positivity in my life. I can’t even remember the last time I exercised this much in a week, and though my muscles were tired and my feet hurt and I overdid it with a few crazy moves, I don’t feel anywhere near what it would feel like to even just lift weights for an hour. I may have even danced a little of my ass off.

OK. Enough rambling. I just really wanted to share this experience with you. And I hope if you’re open to it that you’ll give Nia a try sometime.

Even just turn on some music and dance around your living room for a few minutes. Let it go. LET IT ALL GO. You need it. Trust me.

Home sweet home

I’m back! It was so nice to have a true break from everything for a few days, even if it was boiling hot just about every day in Kansas. I watched more Food Network shows than I care to admit, finished a book, worked on my ripple blanket and rode my bike a couple of times. I caught up with a friend from high school, spent some quality time garage-saleing with my mom (more about that later), and cuddled with Charlotte, the Boston terrier.

One of the best things we did was the first night when we had a barbecue on the deck. We made kabobs and fresh corn on the cob. The veggies just looked so colorful and yummy.

Don’t you love my mom’s little flower setup with the old red lawn chair?

The next day I chopped up all the leftover grilled veggies, mixed them with the rice and added garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and herbs for a nice Mediterranean salad.

We ate it with a fresh Caesar salad with crunchy croutons.

I also added blueberries to my favorite bran muffin mix for some of the best blueberry muffins I’ve had. Good fuel for garage sale-ing…

And, of course, if you visit Lawrence you have to eat at some of the longtime local restaurants like Free State Brewery, Yello Sub (the original Planet Sub), and Pizza Shuttle. Pizza Shuttle has been around as long as I can remember, and the pizzas look and taste the same as they always have. The only thing that changes is the price of the walk-in special (one six-slice pizza and a drink for $4.75 now).

My mom and I love the cream cheese version. Cream cheese on pizza might sound weird, but I assure you it’s a combination you’ve got to try.

And in case you’ve been missing that doggie eye candy, I recorded Charlotte doing the only two activities she cares about: chasing a rubber tire toy, and sleeping.

I came back with some new stuff to sell, stuff to keep, and one antique typewriter table that needs a paint job. Can’t wait to start that project, but first I’ll be starting my Nia training course. I’ll be in class 8-6 every day, sometimes longer, so posting may be light for the next week.

Blogging break

I’m headed to my hometown for a few days of decompression before I come back and take my weeklong Nia training course. I doubt I’ll be blogging while I’m gone, but I’ll catch you up when I get back. Thanks for reading!

4th of July recap

I think last year the 4th of July weekend was when I really fell in love with Des Moines. I spent two days at the first 80-35 music festival where there was great music, clear skies, a fabulous view of the downtown skyline and just about every friend I’ve made in town. Hippies, hula hoops, a distinctive smell wafting around. It was one of those blissful summer weekends you could never recreate if you tried.

So I knew I shouldn’t expect that again this year, but it was pretty disappointing when the first night of the music festival was doused in rain. After our 40-mile bike ride that morning we were all tired and a little cranky. The rain just put us over the edge.

But Saturday seemed to make it all OK. The sun never came out, but we took our waterproof fabric roll to the festival and listened to great music all day.

Then we caught the fireworks show on the way to our car.

Hope you had a great 4th!