Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Finding Your Voice

Introducing... River Girl on Real Estate  (
A funny thing happened on the way to my river girl retirement dreams, a rogue wave so to speak.  Never saw it coming, but it came none the less.  Life unexpectedly changed, and so did I. 

Rather than brood over plans that must be placed on the 'someday' shelf, I chose to pick myself up and stumble forward.  Again and again, till merciful momentum finally arrived.  (Thank goodness.)

Have you ever been there?  Facing a seismic disappointment, struggling to find the grace to roll with it.  Struggling to figure out the 'so now what?'  Struggling to reclaim your joy.  Struggling with the struggle itself.

One of the sweetest gifts I've experienced was simply writing this blog.  Taking photographs along the journey.  Sharing ordinary moments in my life with people around the world that I've never met.  Taking the risk of being my quirky self, not fearing the judgement of others.  Finding my inner voice, even if I had nothing earth shattering to say.

For several months, I stepped away from writing.  Many have asked, "where have you been, Tam?"  Honestly, I can only say it's been a strange and difficult journey this year.  Mourning the passing of my beloved Maddie dog and learning to navigate life without my best friend.  Embracing an entirely new career path, at a time when most sensible folks would opt to slow down or play more golf.  Accepting that I will become a grandma in January, but I'll nix the rocking chair.  Discovering grey eyebrow hairs.  Accepting that I am 'well seasoned' (vs. aging).  Looking for where I left my Marian-the-librarian reading glasses.  Wondering whatever became of my bucket list.

Enough about me.  Forgive my manners, how have you been?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Who Says You Can't Go Home Again?

Last week, I found myself with a few rare moments to breathe.  

I'd just attended an intensive seminar that morning and wanted to clear my head.  Hmmm, my old office at William and Mary was just up the street.  Unannounced, I stuck my head in the door.  Man, it felt good to see those familiar faces.  Time went by far too quickly, as I collected much-needed hugs.  Great to catch up with wonderful people that I've missed so much.  

My only regret?
I didn't have enough time to see everyone!

So I joined Facebook this morning, 
hoping to hear what's new and amazing in their lives.  It's crazy that Tabb and I waited so long to join the Facebook party.  Even crazier is that it took me so long to stop back by the campus.

Begging to differ with Thomas Wolfe, 
I found you CAN go home again.
It's actually pretty cool.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Odd Duck Confessions

Life sure can be a funny thing.  Plans may change in the blink of an eye.  We might even believe we're taking the right path and then suddenly, bang!  It veers off toward an unforeseen direction.  Is it (yet) another new mountain to climb?  Is it just a plateau?  Perhaps, it's a wide river to cross.

Regardless of the terrain, we're called forth... to grow.  And it isn't easy.

For those who may not know, I've recently embarked on a new career path as a Realtor with a wonderful firm in Williamsburg (see:  Yepper, I'm now specializing in fine homes and waterfront properties, with a goal of earning my broker's license.  Immersed in plenty of coursework and research, I'm learning volumes daily.  (Oh, how I'm learning!)

Though I've enjoyed three decades of helping people thrive -- even amid their business upheavals and massive technological changes -- this new role is so much tougher.  I used to be a 'people person' working within the highly analytical crossroads of academia and IT.  Now I feel incredibly awkward and geeky, as I clumsily step into the unknown.  I long to be more approachable and playful, like breezy Chateau Relaxo weekends by the river.  All while working inland, wearing business suits and 'senator shoes' instead of my beloved Topsiders.

Maybe that's the secret to bringing about a warm, hospitable approach.  Perhaps I should begin to visualize that I've invited my clients to spend a casual day by the river with me.  To unwind and simply enjoy themselves.  I'd listen and take good care of them.  Comfortably get to know one other, collaborate, build trust and find that just-right place that will be their happy home.

More than communication, to seek real connection.
It just may work.  

Anything, to help this odd duck learn to confidently swim... and purposefully serve people again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Let It Snow!

There's something about seeing that 'ol calendar flip over to December.  After a dizzying, "where did the year go?" sensation passes, I long for the flurry of snowflakes swirling in crisp, cold air.

My family just loves to play in the snow.  
Skiing, sledding, ice skating, making homemade snow cream... please count us in!  
Unfortunately, here in southeast Virginia, we're much more likely to experience a balmy 65 degrees than enjoy a significant snow in winter.

Cold weather memories fill my mind, as I begin decorating for Christmas.  Half-tempted to break out the hot cocoa and marshmallows, even though I'm presently wearing shorts.

Yep, it's almost wintertime in Virginia.  Be sure to bring your flip flops!

Friday, November 30, 2012

My Life In 3 Pairs Of Shoes

There was a time in my life when I had a lot of stuff, but very little time.  
I quickly discovered that having it all wasn't worth having at all.  You can quote me on it.

I can recall Carrie Bradshaw-like moments, gazing at the treasure trove of gorgeous shoes that lined my closet in an upright, orderly fashion.  Even while very, very pregnant, I'd gladly teeter on those sky-high, spiky Ralph Lauren stilettos as I dashed about my corporate life.  
So chic.  And so silly, to tell you the truth.

My, my, my... what was I thinking?

Admittedly, there are times now when I still need to dress well for business.  I'll grab a pair of what I've deemed my 'senator shoes.'  My life in heels, albeit in sensible and stately models.  Like lady legislators might wear.  

Who needs the lower back pain?  No thank you!

To that end, you'll most likely find this rivah girl 
sporting a pair of Topsiders as she takes Maddie dog for a walk.  
Well-loved and a bit worn, they feel like slippers.  
Whether with jeans, khakis or a pair of shorts, it's a comfortable and (still) contemporary fit.  Loved 'em back when I was a ridiculously preppy teen and I love 'em now.  Ever at-the-ready, Topsiders allow for my quickest thinking.  Like impulsively taking the boat out 
on the river for a fun and fast run.  Vroom!
They're also great for when Maddie wants to go outside at 4:00am.
I'll be standing in my Topsiders gazing up at the stars, as she toddles about and (finally) chooses to do the necessary.  Oh, the glamor.

Since cooler weather arrived, my breezy and sockless 
Topsider approach can be a bit too chilly (brrr!), 
even for a lass who rarely gets cold.
Time to sneak a pair of my hubby's woolen socks and tuck them into comfy LL Bean boots!
Seriously, it's a girlie girl's guilty pleasure.
Perfect for tromping through the woods 
to view a waterfront homesite, too. 
or for crunching through snow up at Wintergreen.  
Selfishly, they're the best choice when sitting in an adirondack chair next to my sweet hubby.  Simply chillin' by an outdoor fireplace, as we share cheese and crackers with our perpetually hungry yellow lab.  Pedicured piggies stay nice and toasty, with his socks keeping me warm.  Peaceful.  Grateful.

Indeed, there are other shoe 'contenders' in life that are vying for time and attention.
Over the past two years, I've made some very deliberate decisions in an effort to simplify my life.
As a result, those other shoes often sit idle or end up being donated for another person's enjoyment.  

For me at this age, less truly is more.  Much more.

Life is short and I plan to enjoy it.  Quite likely, in the freedom of three kinds of shoes.

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's The Journey That Matters

Funny thing, but I 
was recently inspired by a dock.  
More specifically, its sun-bleached deck boards.
Their driftwood color and deep patina captivated me.  
I knew I had to try replicating it with paint.

I also saw a neat-o artifact in the 
Christmas issue of Coastal Living magazine.  
A simple, metal compass rose brought instant character to a beach shack's cedar siding.  
Knew I wanted to paint its form as well.

Thought I'd combine those 
two elements on rough hewn boards.  
Since we've been married for enough
decades, I can comfortably bring 
crazy woodworking ideas to 
my sweet hubby without him batting 
an eye.  He easily interprets my mind's 
vision into expansive canvases of 
reclaimed wooden boards.  
He enjoys the challenge, or so I tell myself.

After layering a trio of thinned chalk paints, the background started to resemble a weathered dock.

A stick of chalk -- like those from school days -- 
lets me quickly sketch and tinker with the design.
A quote from Ernest Hemingway helps express 
what I'm feeling inside.  The compass directions, 
N and W, represent amazing career opportunities.  One is to the North of my home, 
while the other is to the West.

Each are a step of faith into my future.

Barn red seemed like a good accent color.
I like the look of grey with red.  
It's a seasonal departure from my
summery sea glass aquas and river blues.

All is going well this afternoon, until 
news is received of a family member's 
passing.  I put my paintbrush down 
for the day and say a prayer 
in honor of her journey.

Elaine, you will be missed.

Thanksgiving, River Style

Hope that it was a wonderful 
Thanksgiving for you and yours!  

Ours was deliciously laid back,
because it was spent by the river.  
Sorely needed, too, given the health toll
on our family lately.  It's been tough.

It felt good to decompress while shucking oysters.  Yep, you read that right... oysters.  
Our Thanksgiving meal began with an oyster roast.

If you've never experienced an oyster roast before, it's kind of like a bi-valve (shellfish) cookout.  

Armed with a bushel of steamed oysters, Old Bay, hot sauce, drawn butter and a few crackers... it's a little slice of heaven on earth.  Be sure to add laughter, a shrimp fork and your favorite cold beverage,
as you nibble at a leisurely pace.
Try the crab dip appetizer or the cocktail meatballs, should you not like oysters.  They're tasty.

Had to pace ourselves, because there's still turkey, ham and all their fixins' yet to eat. Thanksgiving is a day long event in our family.

It was good to work it off with a walk down the dock with my sweet hubby, or in Maddie's case, by taking a brisk swim in chilly water.  Hard to believe she's 11, with her level of gusto.  (May I age that well!)

Nightfall comes so early now.  
It's one of my least favorite things about this time of year.  Sunsets are glorious though, which helps make up for it.  A little.  This evening's photo is courtesy of my dear son-in-law, who was super handy with his iPhone.
Couldn't resist sharing it.

There's so much to be thankful for, today and every day.  Thankful for the tough times and thankful for the good times.  I'm thankful for this restful day by the river, spent with people I love so dearly.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Back To My Brushes

The studio at Chateau Relaxo has been idle for a few weeks, as I dutifully focused on my studies.  With the 'Principles of Real Estate' coursework behind me and broker interviews in the weeks ahead, I have a narrow window of creative opportunity before me.  

A wonderful, new waterfront shop is opening in the Smithfield area -- just in time for the holidays -- and they want to feature my coastal artwork!  Yay!  As a result, I may even be ready to part with a few of the quarterboards that I painted this summer.

Feels like old times, as Maddie dog and I jockey for prime floor space around the studio.  My beloved four-footed colleague would love to claim its entire footprint as her own, but my wares demand plenty of room as I work.  In a labrador huff, she protests and reluctantly seeks solace elsewhere.  

It seems like ages since I've played in my paints.  There's something about the smell of waxes and glazes and the tactile feel of paint brushes and putty knives.  For me, it's like spending time with old friends.
Colors and finishes, all experiments and unplanned self-expression.  Loving what I'm seeing and most of all, how it all feels.  Such a simple thing, but it somehow resonates within me.  I'm back to my brushes and I'm having a ball.  
Lovingly offered up by my sweet Maddie dog, I am unexpectedly presented her tattered, stinky tennis ball.  Plopped it right in my lap.  Needless to say, I set the paint brush down in response to her unselfish gesture.  "You're right.  It's time to play fetch, old girl."

If you can, try to carve out a moment for yourself today.  Maybe even share it with a favorite friend.
Breathe.  Play.  Putter.  Do whatever you love to do.  It's worth the sacrifice of time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Coming Up For Air

Our beautiful coastal area was thankfully spared the brunt of Hurricane Sandy's wrath.  Sadly, many waterfront communities along the East Coast have experienced widespread devastation.  Even far inland and up to the Great Lakes, life is far from normal for so many people.  Please keep them all in your hearts, as they seek to rebuild their lives.

Love, hugs and prayers,
Tammy Morris Thrift

* * * *
It's been a while since I've written a post!  Will share the 'why' later on.  (It's pretty exciting!)

Also exciting are
 the countless sparks of inspiration that came from my visit to the lovely coastal community of East Beach last week.  I'd successfully completed my real estate licensing exam earlier that day, so I rewarded myself by touring the beachy homes of Homearama 2012.

Nailing my personal design aesthetic to a 'T,' I felt like
 the builders and designers had somehow translated what's been carefully cataloged in my mind.
Relaxed.  Coastal.  Elegant.  Traditional.  Timeless.

I definitely see myself helping clients who desire gracious homes of this quality level.  I've been in their shoes and understand how challenging and overwhelming it all can be.  Whether it's buying or selling one's home, it's a big decision... one to be wisely approached, with great care.  I'll set myself apart by giving them honesty, loyalty and the very best representation possible.

I also see myself developing beautiful homes in the future.  Though it's been 30 years in the making, I'm daring to dream big!
Fresh out of college, I managed the finances for large commercial real estate development firms.  My husband and I have invested in and renovated properties.  It's long been a passion for me and I believe that I have what it takes to succeed.  Paired with just-right details and finishes -- all beautifully imagined and thoughtfully applied -- it could be a wonderful venture.  In classic Chateau Relaxo designs, colors, and details, I hope to take it all to a whole new level.

Exemplary service, above all else, will be the key to meeting and exceeding my clients' expectations.  It's about hard work, grace and perseverance, with a willingness to listen, learn and even make (a few) mistakes along the way. 

I've come up for air and I'm ready to hit the ground running.
Look out, world!  :-)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hooray! He's Home!


Feeling an incredible sense of relief now that my nephew, Jeremy, is home from Afghanistan!  He is such a terrific family man and we're so grateful for his safe return.  Great story in his local newspaper, about the surprise homecoming during his son's high school pep rally... see link below:

God is so good!

A Dock Could Solve That Problem

The boat repairs took much longer than I would have liked.  We were disappointed that she wasn't ready when family visited VA in late July.  Still, we had a great time goofing like kids as we played up and down Nell & Lewis' riverfront lawn.  Hula hoops and corn hole games reignited competitive streaks.  Too funny.  Many needed to take Tylenol the next morning, given our ages.

Admittedly, the hardest thing about our boat repair adventure has been getting past the painful indigestion of its high cost.  Last weekend, I think my residual acid reflux may have finally settled down.  All it took was the pure joy of seeing a new generation learn to how to water ski and kneeboard along the gentle curves of the Corrotoman River.  Way to go, Parker and Madison, we're so proud of you!

Quickly proving that he's no slouch, sweet hubby hopped into the drink and absolutely carved it up.  Woo hoo, he's still got game!  What a blessing it is having our boat back in the water.  Time to make some wonderful new memories.  
Sure would be a lot easier to do so, if we didn't have to haul that big ol' boat by trailer each and every time.  (Hmmm... waterfront house, yeah that'll work!)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Call Your Mother

Tonight's sky 
was extraordinary
over the James River.  

A layering of clouds,
light and beauty.  

Rainbow in the sky 
made me think that 
mom was saying, "hello."  

Wonder if she saw my 
'Dear Me' post.  

Wonder if it made her laugh.

Wonder if it made her frown.

I miss being able 
to talk with her,
even though it was
never easy.  

Hard to believe 
since she died.

It still hurts 
to think about it.

Over at Lions Bridge,
the sunset
almost otherworldly.

Reminded me
 of a psychedelic
 Peter Max pop-art poster.

Simply stunning.
 This is what it actually looked like...
 no filters, no Photoshop.

Couldn't count the cameras.

Instagram probably lit up
like a Christmas tree.
I'm reminded 
of the reality that 
life is so 
incredibly short.  
The sun sets for us all.  
Maybe take a moment 
to call your mother, 
if you still can.

Easy Eclair Cake

On Monday, my (post-surgical) daughter returned to work.  Knowing that her first day back would be pretty demanding, I decided to make din-din and dessert for her and her hubby.  Since she's also a full-time student (MA in accounting), I thought a break from the kitchen might be a welcomed relief for the both of them.  Picnic basket in hand, I happily made a quick 'Dinner Fairy' visit to their home.  They were really sweet about it all.  Hubby later asked for the dessert recipe (yep, we're known for our sweet tooths!).

Rich, decadent and beyond easy, this ooey-gooey Eclair Cake is also perfect for taking to a potluck supper.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Easy Eclair Cake ala Chateau Relaxo

In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend by whisking together:
  1 (3.5 ounce) package of French Vanilla instant pudding mix
  1 (3.5 ounce) package of Cheesecake instant pudding mix
  3 cups milk

Gently fold in until well combined:
   1 (8 ounce) container Cool Whip whipped topping, thawed

Next, unwrap wax paper from the packages of:
   1 (16 ounce) package graham cracker squares (not cinnamon) 

Arrange a single layer of graham cracker squares in the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking pan (or opt to use two smaller pans, if keeping one for home and taking one for sharing).  Evenly spread half of the pudding mixture over the graham crackers. Top with another layer of graham crackers and the remaining pudding mixture. Top with a final layer of graham crackers. 

Chill pan of graham crackers and pudding in the fridge for one hour.
Microwave time! 
  1 (16 ounce) package prepared dark chocolate frosting
  IMPORTANT: open can, remove foil liner and re-cover loosely with its plastic top before heating

Heat frosting for 30 - 60 seconds or until mixture is pourable (but not runny). Stir well.

Pour warm frosting over cake.  Gently spread over the cake, up to the edges of the pan.

Cover, and chill at least 6 hours before serving (24 hours, optimally). Garnish with your favorite berries, if desired.

Very rich, so a little goes a long way.  Enjoy!

Recipe Courtesy Of

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Summer Wind

On Sunday, a cold front will usher cooler weather into the Tidewater area.  Though sweet hubby and I always look forward to Fall, I find myself feeling so conflicted this year.  I'm just not ready for sweater weather, to be honest.  School buses are back in motion and it's past Labor Day, yet I'm still daring to wear my white capri pants.  My nails are painted a summery shade of pale shell pink, Essie's 'East Hampton Cottage.'  I'd like to enjoy the sweet scent of Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen for a little while longer.  Chill and kick back, as Ol' Blue Eyes croons about the 'Summer Wind.'

Guess I'm clinging to the last gasp of summer because our boat has barely gotten wet.  Given how long it took for all of those repairs to finally be completed, I long to put some hours on that expensive new engine.  Admittedly painful, the mechanic's itemized invoice looked more like a shipping manifest.  Yikes, it cost the equivalent of three semesters of my 1980's college tuition, plus books!  I'd like to see a return on such a significant investment, even if it is measured in laughter, smiles and sandy beach towels.

It saddens me to think that the rivers of the Northern Neck will soon rapidly cool.  (Please no, not yet!)  Last Saturday's boat ride was waaay too much fun -- and it had been almost 2 years to the day since our last one.  Just a few more trips down the Corrotoman and Rappahannock Rivers, along with Carter's Creek.  Then, I'll be ready to button her up for the season.  

Well, maybe.
After all, we could use our boat to view autumnal leaves from the water.  Bundled up and cozy, it's beautiful and quite romantic.  Heaven on earth, with my favorite person and our puppy dog.  

With that sweet vision in mind, 
will I finally be able to let go of summer time?

Grant me one more gloriously sunny weekend.
After a swim in the Corrotoman, I'll gratefully bask in the last warm embrace of the summer wind.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dream & Dare To Accomplish It

Sweet hubby and I have wanted to make our move to the Northern Neck for quite some time.  It hasn't come together just yet, for a host of reasons.  Sigh.

Undeterred by this occasionally frustrating fact, we press on toward the goal in our hearts.  
We'll treasure our weekends up there, till we finally call it home.  (Plus, the boat is fixed!)

This time of waiting hasn't been without its growth and gains.  Most of all, it's taught us to trust His plan and timing even more.  It's also given us time to distill our thoughts and planning, defining what we truly want in our new home.  Most of the time, the visions mesh.  Sometimes, we see it very differently.  

For a southern fella with a pickup truck and hound dog, having the right home decor actually does matter to him.  He gets it.  After all, it's his home, too.  Willingly, he gives input on the selection of paint colors, fabrics and furnishings.  He also has an amazing eye for executing beautiful millwork and molding designs. (Bet he'll save us a fortune on customizing our new home, just as he's done with the current one!)

Our overall design aesthetic is wonderfully in synch, which is a relief to the decorator in me.  Thoughtfully blending our unique perspectives into those special little details will always be key for us.

Creating a portfolio of top ideas will help make our new home even better.  Along with many great properties on the Northern Neck, we're seen wonderful bits of inspiration within Coastal Living's showcase properties at East Beach.  Shelter magazines and web resources are helpful, too.  We've filled a large 3-ring binder, to carefully illustrate our vision when it's time.

So, what will this river home ultimately look like?  Honestly, it depends on how long it takes us.  We could go in a slightly different direction by then.  One thing's for sure, we want a traditional beauty that's gracious and welcoming *in the right scale.*  We want it to be wonderfully right-sized -- for when it's just us, as well as for when we entertain a crowd. 

We're drawn to coastal-influenced architecture, with a classically southern accent.  Transom windows and banks of french doors will give it a bright, open feel.  Add in high ceilings with exposed beams to complement Sweetie's amazing millwork, trim and built-ins found throughout the home.  Dash and Albert rugs on reclaimed wide-plank heart pine floors.  Wood plank walls.  Deep, wraparound porches -- some screened, some not -- will become the site of family crab feasts and for chilling in a rocker with a cool beverage.  Fieldstone terraces and pathways abound, as will hydrangeas, hostas and daylilies.  Metal seamed roof for timeless charm, come rain or shine.  Stacked stone fireplaces for chilly nights. 

Most importantly, it needs to have the right waterfront aspect.  Not only is the river great for our fun-in-the-sun lifestyle, it drives value.  We see it including a wide sunset view, a gentle slope to its sandy beach and deep water at the dock.  Hubby wants many, many acres of land, too.  (Yikes and ka-ching!)
Piece of cake, right?  Maybe not, but it sure would be our Northern Neck dream come true.

"My advice for young explorers, or anyone, is dream big and dare to fail.  If you don't try to accomplish your dream, you fail before you start."  (N. Vaughan, National Geographic)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Always Be My Little Girl

Middle of the night, her eyes are closed.  Beautiful fringe of long eyelashes... so familiar, I'd know them anywhere.  It's been years since I've watched her sleep.  Hard to believe that she'll be twenty-seven in October.

Maternal pangs run so deep, it'll never ever go away.  When they're happy, I'm happy.  When they hurt, I hurt.

Feeling so powerless this time because I can't fix the boo-boo.  I can't make it go away and I can't take her place.  I can only sit beside her hospital bed as she sleeps.  Silent prayers from a concerned Mommy in a dark, quiet room.  Her surgery is scheduled for later this morning.

She's married to wonderful man.  So blessed that He brought them together.  Watching how they care for one another is an amazing gift.  When it's time, he'll follow her up to those surgical doors.  Her deep brown eyes dart about, trying to process all that's going on.  Daddy and I fight to hold back tears, as our frightened daughter is wheeled down the hall.  It's hard to let her go, even for a moment. 

The emotions are so overwhelming.  I wonder how the parents of a very, very ill child can even breathe, especially when such moments happen over and over in their lives.  Rattled nerves nearly overtake me.  I try to distract myself with buying some silly balloons and arranging cheerful flowers for her room.  I want them in place, to greet her when she returns.

Skillful surgeons work quickly, then stop by the waiting room to give us an update.  Our prayers are answered!  I think this is the first time I've exhaled since that midnight cell phone call.  She'll need to take it easy for a few weeks, but all will be well.  Can hardly wait to see her.

Back in room 532, she's awake and feeling surprisingly good.  Sweet relief for us all.  I just want to squeeze her and hug her, but it's not a good idea considering those four incisions.  With a thankful heart, I lean to give her a gentle kiss on her forehead.

A sweet smile crosses her face and I simply melt.  Through these eyes, she'll always be my little girl.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Supermom's Banana Muffin Recipe

The years have passed too quickly and our little girls are now grown women.  Memories of silly and wonderful everyday moments comfort this empty-nester Momma.  Something that recently came to mind involves, of all things, the humble banana muffin.  During a sleepover at our house, hungry teens put a serious hurt on a fresh platter of banana muffins during their midnight snack attack.  Yummy because they're made-from-scratch, Danni dubbed me 'Supermom' after tasting 'em.  Sure made me smile.  It made this old mom feel... well, super.  

Here's my recipe.  Enjoy!

*   *   *   *   *   *

Supermom's Banana Muffins

In a large mixing bowl, combine:

    2 large over-ripened bananas; peeled, sliced and mashed with a fork until soft
    1 cup granulated sugar

Stir in:

    1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
    1 large egg
    1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract (never use imitation)

In another bowl, combine:

    1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour (not self-rising; keep fluffy, do not pack down)
    1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon    
    1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Add dry ingredients to the banana mixture, stir gently for 15-20 seconds or until just blended.  Lumps are fine, so be careful to not over-mix the ingredients.  (PS: that's the secret to great brownies, along with reducing their baking time.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray non-stick muffin pan with cooking spray.  Spoon batter into pan, filling the muffin cups approximately 3/4 full.

Bake for about 17 minutes or until the muffins' edges begin to crisp (note: oven times/temps do vary; adjust if needed).  Remove from oven and allow muffins to rest in pan for a few minutes, before transferring to wire racks to fully cool.  Yields 12 banana muffins.  Freezes well.

Recipe Courtesy Of

Color Inspiration for Fall Painting Projects

Recent travels have sparked my imagination for upcoming painting projects...

Along the entry road to Wintergreen Winery, the distressed white paint of this sign speaks to me.  I can see its relaxed, weathered finish reproduced on a Chippendale-style dresser.  A gift from a dear friend, I'd like to see it re-imaged as a beach cottage piece -- perhaps for my home office?  Bet its traditional fan carving will look like a seashell, once I've dressed it up in softy-sanded white paint.

I just love to take a tailored piece of furniture and re-work its vibe into something much more expressive and relevant for today's lifestyles!
 Consider this barn red paint.  Offset by a chunky handmade sign, it caught my eye near Wintergreen Ski Resort.  Great shade of red that's richly saturated and yet sun faded, all at once.

I'm thinking an antique Sheraton chest of drawers, inherited from Grandma Thrift, would look great in that color.  It's a perfect storage piece for our ski chalet guest room.  The space combines rustic elegance with pure escape, like Ralph Lauren crossed with LL Bean.  Its sumptuous fabrics, vintage snowshoes and wooden skis are so very Chateau Relaxo!

Being Grateful

I don't know about you, but there's always an area in my life that would benefit from more reflection.  And usually, some work.  Lately, that's been the area of gratitude.  I know could do much better there. 

It's not about cultivating a well-mannered 'oh thank you, dear' kind of gratefulness.  

I'm talking about becoming joy-filled grateful, even for the aggravating things found in every day life.  

Appreciating short term pain and inconveniences for their long term gains (like character building or peace of mind).  I'm so blessed, yet I still allow frustrations to creep in at times.

Thankful for cleaning the oven, because I actually have one to clean.  Thankful for picking up after a messy-but-sweet hubby and our perpetually shedding labrador, because my life is so much richer by their loving presence.  

A heart of gratitude means learning to automatically shake things off, just like Maddie does.

My prayer is to keep an 'each day above ground is a good day' level of gratitude.

With family members who are gravely ill, I can't imagine how precious life must look through their eyes.  Grateful for each difficult breath.  By stark comparison, it sure makes my concerns about life's ordinary obstacles seem futile, like chasing the wind.

Daring to focus my energy, resources and talents into developing a 'serving others' level of gratefulness.  
Grateful for every opportunity and creative thought I'm given. 
Asking myself important questions daily to stay in check:

"Who did I help today?"
"Where did I make a lasting difference?"
"What am I grateful for at this very moment?"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Color Inspiration: Sunset At Riverside Beach

Peaceful and serene along the James River tonight.

Good to see the sun again after so much rain.  

Extraordinary colors.
Feeling inspired to paint again.  

Simply beauty full,
if you know what I mean.