Celebrating World Coconut Day

photo by tijana drndarski via unsplash

Yes, yes I did happen to go through one of those made-up holiday calendars and make note of the ones I found interesting. And no, they are not ALL Cat Days (although there seems to be at least one cat day pretty much every month). But perusing things that someone somewhere thinks merit holidays does give one opportunities to contemplate delightful topics such as World Coconut Day.

World Coconut Day is September 2, but like all of these made-up holidays, it seems like the kind of thing you could celebrate any old time. There is also a National Coconut Day on June 26; you could book-end your summer with coconut celebrations if you wanted to.

As a fan of the coconut, I decided that I would take advantage of today being World Coconut Day adjacent to learn some coconut fun-facts:

Coconut is the fruit of the coconut palm. It is used for water, milk, oil, and meat (coconut kernel). Coconut milk, cream, and oil are all extracted from the kernel which is mostly fat.

The fat found in coconuts is a medium triglyceride (MCT) which is considered a type of good fat. MCTs are considered a good source of energy because they can be absorbed directly by the small intestine. Coconuts also contains phenolic compounds, which are antioxidants (substances that help maintain the health of our cells).

Coconut shell can be used to make an iconic bikini top substitute, drinking vessels, and other crafty things.  It can also be processed into charcoal. The fibrous husk can be processed into coir, which can then be used to make things like doormats.

Rhythm of Hawaii by Dole Foods (15570182163).jpg

photo courtesy of wikimedia commons

Did you know there is such a thing as coconut flour? I didn’t. But I learned that it is made from dried coconut kernel and is gluten free. And if you’re in the market for gluten free flour, you might be interested to know that coconut flour has less carbs and less fat than almond flour.

All of these coconut fun-facts got me thinking about my favorite coconut applications:

One of my favorite coconut products from my youth was classic Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil (which turns out was mostly mineral oil). It smelled divine and helped me achieve that tropical, golden glow.

In my early grown-up years, I parlayed my love of Hawaiian Tropic into an affinity for Malibu Rum. These days, rum is not my go-to spirit, but I sure do like Pina Coladas (and getting caught in the rain). I also love a Blue Hawaiian (when I can get my expert Tiki drink-maker neighbor to make one for me – hint, hint).

Of course, coconut cream pie is another of those coconut treasures that I can’t get enough of (even though it’s been two years since I made one – what am I thinking!?).

coconut cream pie

In our ongoing homemade ice cream venture, we are still working on perfecting coconut ice cream. Mr. Man’s special touch is adding toasted, salted coconut flakes to the coconut milk/coconut cream base (yum!). The problem is we are having a hard time getting a consistently creamy texture. My sister recently sent us an article about adding spirits to your homemade ice cream to help it stay softer. I may need to get myself some Malibu Rum!

How about you?  What are your favorite coconut applications? How would you celebrate World Coconut Day?

Ladies Who Lunch – Michael’s of Naples

I don’t know about you, but it has been a long time since I’ve been out to ladies who lunch.  Which is ok, but lunching out is one of my favorite things. And sometimes, I start a draft for a post, but never get around to finishing it. So today, in the spirit of Throw Back Thursday, I am posting this treasure from the vault:

In this week’s edition of Ladies Who Lunch, I will be telling you about my adventure to Michael’s Pizzeria, one of the top pizza places in Long Beach.  Also, somewhere that I had never been.

My dear friend works in the food business; it is important for her to stay up on all the restaurants around town. So, even though it was a Saturday, she was working, and I got to be her faithful and willing assistant!

We grabbed a table near the open kitchen so that we could converse with the chef, Julio.  You know when you get those déjà vu feelings that are for real?  This was one of those times.  It turns out that Julio had worked as a chef for Patina in the past and had catered at least one of my events (the catering kitchen was one of my favorite places at events, so I always met the chef).

Because I take my job as a lunch assistant very seriously, I needed a glass of wine and they had a great selection of interesting Italian white wines available by the glass.  The sweet, young waiter had a creative way of interpreting the wine list, but even though I had no idea what he was talking about, he was willing to bring a taste of this one and that one so that I could figure out which I wanted.

For food, we had the arugula salad.  I love an arugula salad.  This one was just simple and nice, arugula, a little cheese, and balsamic dressing.  It was the perfect compliment to the pizza we ordered, the Capricciosa on gluten free crust (it’s called teamwork people).  The Capricciosa has prosciutto, artichokes, mushrooms, olives, mozzarella, and tomato sauce.  Yum!  Even though the gluten free crust was not like a traditional, thin, crispy, wood-fired pizza crust, it was tasty.  We found out that it is Julio’s own, special recipe.

We also found out that he makes all of the mozzarella himself in-house.  And boy is it delicious.  But that’s not all!  Julio ALSO makes all of the gelato in-house.  And boy is it good.  I would usually have more savory food and skip dessert, but I will never skip the gelato here.  It made my life better.  The only downside was that we had decided to share, so I didn’t get my very own scoop of salted caramel gelato (I hadn’t known that I needed my own scoop, but now I do).

Now, my friend has furnished me with the supplies to be able to make my own gourmet pizza at home – special Italian flour, a big can of San Marzano tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella. I’ve been meaning to give it a shot but haven’t been able to overcome the new thing inertia … maybe this post is going to be the kick-in-the-pants that I have been needing!

Rosemary-Lemon Bread

Among my various around the house activities these past few months, I couldn’t help to succumb to the siren call of trying to make homemade bread. It was a big deal; there were many (mostly imaginary) obstacles for me to overcome to attempt such a culinary adventure: my fear that it would be complicated, my disinterest in kneading, my lack of proper bread pans, and the absence of yeast in my pantry. Over zoom happy hour a while back, my friend mentioned that she had found a really easy recipe for rosemary-lemon bread that you make in a cast iron Dutch oven. I’m not sure what all she said after that, I only heard certain words which continue to ring in my mind: rosemary, lemon, crusty, soft inside.

I wiped away the drool and demanded that she send over the recipe immediately!

Now, what about the yeast? Mr. Man was planning on making a trip to the market, so I let him know that he had better come home with yeast because I needed to make this rosemary-lemon bread as soon as possible. I’m not saying that he didn’t wind up going to multiple stores on his quest, but he did return home triumphant.

Our first attempt was a moderate success. I think the dough wound up really sticky and that it didn’t achieve its full potential in terms of how much it rose. But it was tasty, and more importantly, the smell was incredible. It merited another attempt for that reason alone.

This past weekend I tried again. I was able to correct the two issues from my previous attempt and it came out even better than the first time around. I’m so excited to have made bread!

*If you are not already a bread maker, before you attempt this recipe, be warned: I feel that this is a gateway recipe that could create a lot of enthusiasm for and interest in making more/other kinds of bread (at least that is what has happened to me).

Williams-Sonoma Rosemary-Lemon No-Knead Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 5/8 cups water
  • Cornmeal as needed

Directions:

  • Combine flour, yeast, salt, rosemary, and lemon zest in a large bowl.
  • Add water, stir until blended (it will look like a mess, it’s ok).
  • Cover with plastic wrap and rest in a warm (70-ish) place for 12-18 hours (I tucked mine into the oven with just the oven light on overnight).
  • After 12-18 hours your dough should have grown quite a bit and it should be bubbly/lumpy looking.
  • Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle with a little flour and fold it over itself a few times (it should be easy, when it stops wanting to fold, it’s ready to rest). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  • Get a tea towel ready with a light coating of cornmeal. Using just enough flour to keep it from sticking, form the dough into a ball. Place it on the cornmeal towel, seam side down. Dust with more flour and cornmeal and cover with another tea towel. (My dough ball quickly turns itself into a dough blob. It’s the thought that counts, right?)
  • Let rest for 2 hours (dough should double in size and should not spring back when poked).
  • At the 1.5-hour mark of your dough ball rest, put your Dutch oven (including lid) in your oven and preheat to 450. You want your pot to preheat for at least 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the oven. Uncover the dough and use the bottom towel to pick it up. Carefully dump it in the pot (I got cornmeal EVERYWHERE, just sayin’). You can shake the pot a little if it looks too wonky. You also can use a knife to cut some slits in the top of the dough (it feels like a very professional-baker kind-of thing to do). Put the lid on and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for 15-30 minutes (until the top is golden brown).
  • Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pot for 10 minutes before turning it out (I like to dump it out on a clean tea towel, otherwise I get cornmeal everywhere all over again).

I recommend having softened butter handy and digging in while it’s still warm.  If you want to keep yourself from eating the whole thing, cut it in half right away and run some over to your neighbor.

Rose Petals by Any Other Name

Recently, I have had an overwhelming urge to make the most of the natural resources around me. Anything growing in my yard (or my neighbor’s yard) has been fair game. Among the many, various, ridiculous things that I have been up to, one of my favorites involves rose petals from the wild, old-fashioned rose bush in my backyard.

This rose bush has those wonderful, fragrant blooms that open all the way up and immediately fall apart. So as much as I would like to bring them inside and put them in a vase, they are terrible roses for cutting because as soon as a bloom opens, it begins to disintegrate.

It turns out that there are more uses for roses than just looking at. Since I’m a fan of the Trader Joes rosewater facial mist, I wondered if that was something that I might be able to make myself. And so, I began down a rabbit-hole of things to make with rose petals. Rose petals are anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants. That is why they are such a popular ingredient in fancy skincare things. The lovely smell is a plus.

*If you are going to make anything with rose petals, make sure that they haven’t been treated with pesticides.

First, I decided to make rose water. It sounded like a nice thing to do. Rose water can be used directly on the skin or hair and can be ingested. There are two methods for making rose water: extraction and distillation.

Extraction involved putting rose petals and water in a pot and simmering gently.  When the rose petals lose their color, your extraction is complete. Strain out the petals and store the finished rose water in the refrigerator. Mine comes out a sort of dark pink/brown color.

The distillation method sounded like it would involve all sorts of equipment and knowledge, but I was delighted to learn can be undertaken at home as well. I felt so science-y! For this technique, put a heat-proof bowl in the center of a pot, then surround it with rose petals and water (I used roughly equal parts fresh rose petals and water). Place the lid on upside down and place ice packs on top. This encourages the condensation to collect in the bowl in the center of the pot. Again, a low simmer is best and once the petals have lost their color, you’re done.

Here’s the thing about distillation: it yields much less rose water although it is clear and said to be of higher quality.

What I consider a bonus is that you still wind up with a good amount of extracted rose water in the pot, so you might as well save that too.

full yield of distilled rosewater in front, half-empty jar of extracted rose water behind

I’ve been using my rose water as a toner and my skin loves it, especially if I’ve gotten a bit too much sun.

Next, I took rose water one step further and made rose syrup. I followed the extraction method then immediately added sugar to the warm, strained rose water (one-part sugar to two-parts rosewater worked for me) and stirred until it was dissolved.

This produced a delicious smelling if still unattractive brown-ish result. But when used for a cocktail it creates a delightfully pink drink.

Rose-y Gin Drink (help me come up with a better name please!)

  • 2-parts gin
  • 1-part fresh lime juice
  • 1-part rose syrup
  • Shake with ice
  • Serve up

Rose syrup is a common ingredient in Persian desserts (rose ice cream for one, which I do intend to attempt soon). There are probably also fun ways to use it in baking which I probably won’t get around to for a while.

dried rose petals

Of course, I have also been drying rose petals so that I will have a supply handy when needed. I have only begun to scratch the surface of uses for rose petals!

Around the House

What have you been up to around the house?

We have all been at home for a long time now. Have you been doing quarantine-inspired stuff around the house? You know what I’m talking about:

  • Make banana bread (check)
  • Make bread (check)
  • Make that fluffy coffee (I haven’t tried this yet; I worry that it might be too delicious and take over my life)
  • Clean your closets (at this point, I only need the clothes in my sweatpants drawer, but I might regret getting rid of everything else, so I’m holding off)
  • Take an online class (check)
  • Crafts (check) *more about this later
  • Gardening (check)
  • Marie Kondo your whole house and garage (Ay caramba! No way!)

The list of possibilities is endless really. I’m sure that I’ve missed some good ones.

I haven’t done anything major, but I have done a few little things here and there that have really made a big difference in how I feel about my home. For me, when I finally break down and do something that I’ve been avoiding, I know that it was worth it because I feel taller when I’m finished.  I know, it’s a little strange, but there is no other way to describe it.

For me, sticking to little, bite-sized projects is key. When I think of a big project that I’ve been wanting to magically take care of itself (like reorganizing the kitchen), I get a feeling of dread that quickly leads to anxiety and avoidance. So, I have been thinking about my kitchen reorg as a bunch of small projects. Sometimes I do one a week … or less, but it’s not so overwhelming. In that spirit, reorganizing the kitchen became:

  • Clean the refrigerator (like where you take the shelves out and wash everything)
  • Move the coffee maker
  • Find a place to store the ice cream maker (even though we use it a lot, it doesn’t need to live on the counter)
  • Clean the cupboard under the sink
  • Find a new home for that silver tray that has been living on the counter for the past XX years
  • A bunch of other stuff that I haven’t started thinking about yet

Even cleaning the refrigerator was tackled one shelf at a time. It doesn’t matter that I did it slowly, I still felt taller when I was finished.

I’ve also made some progress with consolidating/organizing/purging some of my other clutter catchers. Sometimes, just moving whatever doesn’t belong out of a particular location is enough to jump start some sort of resolution to the issue, like when I collected the various piles of books from the various locations around the house into one, big pile in the middle of the living room. I may have had to stare at it for a week, but one day, motivation took over and I organized the whole mess (including re-homing many).

book stack
some of the books that were re-homed

Anyway, I was feeling relatively productive and accomplished about staying home until I saw this story about an artist who is painting flowers ALL OVER her home. It is so whimsical and happy. I mean, look at those doors!

I don’t think that I’m going to start painting flowers everywhere, but I do think that I will keep trying to find little ways to make the most of my home. How about you?  Have you tackled any around-the-house projects?  Did you feel taller when you finished or is that just me?

Happy National Unicorn Day!

If I’m the first person to wish you a Happy National Unicorn Day today, I hope that I won’t be the last.  And I hope that you will take some time out of your day to commemorate the occasion.

Always be yourself
Unless you can be a unicorn
Then always be a unicorn

– t-shirt wisdom

National Unicorn Day is celebrated on April 9 every year to commemorate the popular, mythical creature with a horn growing out of its forehead.

Written accounts of unicorns are found in ancient Greek natural history, but not in Greek mythology.  At that time, they were believed to reside in India. These ancient unicorns were described as fierce, powerful, fleet animals.

During the middle ages, unicorns became a symbol of purity and grace in European folklore; wild, woodland, white horse-like or goat-like animals that could only be captured and tamed by virgin maidens.

WLA metmuseum 1495 Unicorn captivity

Modern unicorns, while still mythical, tend to be portrayed in a more cartoonish manner. Many common representations portray the unicorn with a rainbow mane and/or tail. In modern business lingo, a person might be described as a unicorn if they possess a unique and desired combination of skills or talents.

One of my favorite books when I was a little girl was the story of Morgan and Me, about a beautiful princess who lived in the Land of Later. She was supposed to clean her room but decided that she would … just a little later.  When she comes across a unicorn named Morgan, whose horn got caught and is stuck, she promises to help him … just a little later.  But when she falls in the pond and gets stranded on a lily pad, she learns her lesson about later and vows to her new unicorn friend to never put off what should be done now for later.  Aww, cute.

Some Unicorn fun facts:

  • The unicorn is the national animal of Scotland.
  • Unicorns are mentioned six times in the King James bible.
  • Unicorns cannot fly.
  • According to the Jewish legend, a unicorn can easily kill an elephant.
  • The Unicorn is thought to hold the power to divine truth and will pierce the heart of a liar with its horn.
  • A US patent was granted for a surgical procedure to create Unicorns in 1980.

How to celebrate National Unicorn Day?

Unfortunately, due to the national hermitage movement, this is not the year to throw a unicorn party, but I’m sure that we can all find some ways to celebrate while staying #SafeAtHome.  Why not:

  • Use food coloring to make any boring, white food colorful – rainbow swirl mashed potatoes maybe? Or if you’re feeling industrious, bake some rainbow-colored cookies and decorate them with sprinkles.
  • Draw a picture of a unicorn. Hang it in your front window to brighten your neighbor’s day.
  • Do something fancy with your mane today.  Maybe braid some ribbons in your ponytail or don a flower crown.
  • Find some other ways to bring magic and happiness into your house today: maybe shed the sweatpants and toss on a party dress, light some nice smelling candles, or take a bubble bath.

I hope that you will join me in celebrating National Unicorn Day a la distance!  Have a magical, mystical day my friends.

Creativity Doll

Long story short: I’m working through this creativity program. I’m part of a group and we meet every week, it’s a whole thing. I’ll go into more detail about it later, today I want to tell you about one of the exercises I just got to do.

The assignment was to make a creativity doll. And that was the whole exercise.  Whatever that meant to you, you were supposed to create.

I instantly knew that I wanted to make a rag doll. Like my childhood Raggedy Ann doll. Like Raggedy Ann, my creativity doll would have a candy heart. But she would also have magical sparkly things in her head.  And I wanted to create her completely out of supplies that I already had around the house.

She’d have a green dress, a flamingo print pinafore, a sweet face, and I could use some satin ribbon to make little ballet shoes for her.

I told Mr. Man about my plan.  He asked if she would have a cat.  You know, I had been thinking about that, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to pull it off.  And then, when I started gathering all of my supplies, I found a little bag full of felt cut-out cats.  Oh yes, she would have a cat!

I corralled all my supplies in one location and was ready to get to work.  Where to start?  Maybe it would be a good idea to look for a pattern.  Ok, Pinterest, whatcha got for me?  Wow, there was a lot there.

Once I recovered from Pinterest overload, I decided to make my own pattern.  She was MY creativity doll after all. So, I drew out the shape that I wanted, then I cut out the pieces, traced them each again, and added a ½ inch seam allowance.  Then I used those pieces to cut her out of off-white linen that had been purchased several years ago for a kaftan that has yet to be made.

After she was pieced together, it was time to get the sparkles for her head.  My original thought had been Christmas tinsel, but I realized that I didn’t want to dig it out of the back of the garage. I found a rhinestone necklace from the flea market (another unrealized project) and smiley face confetti.  And a few sweet pea seeds. Who wouldn’t have wonderful ideas with all of those treasures in their head?

The only purchase for her was a bag of candy hearts (one for her, the rest for Mr. Man). It just felt important that she have a candy heart like Raggedy Ann. I used clear nail polish to give it a clear coat before placing it.

Now that she was dressed, the poor dear needed something nicer for her hair.  I used all the remaining embroidery floss to make her a fringe. It wasn’t enough for a full head of hair, but it was much better than just magic marker.

At the end of the day, this reminded me why I’m so hesitant to get started on projects like this.  Once you have your idea formed and pull all of your materials together, its going to be a long haul. I may try to make her a nicer top for her dress and maybe a petticoat, but for now, she can sit on the windowsill with her cat and grow happy, sparkly thoughts.

Kitchen Adventures – Cat Cookie Edition

My friend, S, gave me a set of cat-shaped cookie cutters for Christmas.  When giving them to me, she mentioned that she had seen something on Instagram about tie-dyed cookie decorating and thought that we could make tie-dyed cat cookies.

Well, you can’t just hang a statement like that out there.  I made her pick a date and commit to coming over for cat cookie making.

Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I am not much of a cookie decorating kind of gal. I’m okay with the baking part, but I just don’t have whatever it is that you need to rock at cookie decorating (I’m pretty sure that whatever is a bunch of special equipment). However, I am also good at not letting being bad at something ruin my fun. So, I was not about to let an opportunity to play cat cookie bakers with my friend pass me by.

I made the cookie dough the day before. It never hurts to have well-rested overnight in the refrigerator cookie dough to work with.

I love Nigella Lawson’s Butter Cut-Out Cookies recipe from the How to be a Domestic Goddess cookbook. Whatever they wind up looking like, the cookies are just sweet-enough, just buttery-enough, just dry-enough, and a little salty. I like to substitute almond extract for the vanilla, but other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I waited for S to come over to start baking because I find that whole rolling out dough, cookie cutter, transfer to the baking sheet business to be very tedious.  I was so glad that I did because it was almost fun since I had another person there to talk to.

Once we managed to get all the cookies baked, we threw that round of dishes in the sink and rested up with some snacks while the cookies cooled.  Once we were sufficiently snacked and rested, it was time for adventures in tie-dye cookie icing.

We made up a big bowlful of icing (aka wet powdered sugar) and then divided it into bowls.  S was in charge of the food coloring and she did a great job.  We had tangerine sunset, teal, and raspberry sherbet, to play with.

According to the YouTube video she had watched, you start with a base of white icing, drizzle the colors on top, rake through it with a toothpick, then plop the cookie, twisting as you lift.

Our results were somewhat lackluster.

We experimented with all sorts of things. It was all a mess. Finally, we decided to go for the drizzle technique.  First everyone on the tray got a white icing base coat. Then S drizzled tangerine sunset in one direction to make stripes.  I followed up with raspberry sherbet in another direction.  We decided to leave well-enough alone and not use the teal.

The end result was sort of a pseudo-preppy, abstract madras. More importantly we were done. Most importantly we came away with a newfound appreciation for those $7 sugar cookies you see in the bakery and without any delusions of wanting to go into the cookie decorating business.

Rainy Day Kitchen Adventures

It was a cold and rainy day. I decided to combat the gloominess with some kitchen adventures.

First up was scones.  I had never made scones before (they seemed complicated for some reason), but I discovered a Martha Stewart recipe that seemed pretty straightforward and I was feeling ready to try it.  The recipe called for some sort of dried fruit (cranberries!) that I didn’t have, but I did have just a bit of candied ginger in the cupboard that seemed ready to meet its destiny.

I discovered the great things about making scones: 1) you don’t wind up with a huge batch of something (at least not with this recipe); and 2) there isn’t a bunch of rolling out, cookie cutter nonsense, you just flatten the dough into a round-ish blob and cut it into wedges.

I’m going to guess that the thing that makes scones so scrumptious is that they are made with half-and-half. Probably most important is brushing the tops with half-and-half and sprinkling them with sugar before baking.

After I had munched a warm scone (or two), I was ready to move on to something a bit more savory.  Of course, cold and rainy day kitchen adventures wouldn’t be complete without soup!

Mr. Man had made chicken tacos the night before and there was enough leftover chicken for a week’s worth of tacos. Or … chicken tortilla soup!

For the soup, I strictly adhered to the just throw a bunch of stuff in the crockpot and let it cook for as long as possible technique.

First, I chopped an onion, some celery, and carrots.  Those went in the crockpot with the box of chicken broth and can of diced green chilis.

After a couple of hours, I went to check on my veggies and started to get nervous.  I started to question why I wouldn’t have sautéed them up in a pan before throwing them in the crockpot?  What was I going to do now?  Those onions did not look like they were anywhere near melting into the broth the way that I wanted them to.  Oh well, at least I had another solid 5-6 hours for this to hang out in the crockpot.  Better keep it on high. 

I did go ahead and throw the chicken in at this point as if the pre-cooked chicken would set an example for the vegetables of what they should inspire to be. Because the chicken was already very seasoned, I didn’t really worry about adding any spices.

A few hours later I checked on it again.  Maybe it was starting to try to come together?  The carrots weren’t crunchy anymore so that must be progress.  At this point I tore up about six corn tortillas and added them to the crock to dissolve.

I just love the way that a few corn tortillas can add so much body to a really simple soup. They not only thicken the broth but add a dimension of flavor and subtle sweetness. Its one of those great uses for stale bread kind of kitchen tricks.

After all day, we had soup!  I served it with some homemade taco chips (oven-baked of course) a sprinkle of cheese, a bit of diced avocado, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.  Mr. Man approved.

Improving My Workspace

I’ve been taking baby steps to improve my workspace. It started a few months ago when I decided to stop storing my sewing machine on the corner of my desk.  It’s not like I can even sew here if I want to. Sewing is a dining table activity.

After making the bold move to allow myself to use my entire desk for my workspace (I know, right!) my bad habit of making piles started to take over. I’m still working on getting the tickler file situation situated (because that is where these piles should go to hang out) but in the meantime, I’ve gone from five piles to one (and not because I made it taller).  I feel that is a substantial improvement.

It feels very luxurious to me to spend time or effort taking care of my workspace. When I was working, I never felt like it was a legitimate use of my time to tidy up my office, which is sad because I certainly can tell that I am more focused and productive when my surroundings are in order.

I have great admiration for those minimalist-workspace people. Nothing is left sitting around on their desk, everything is in the drawer in clearly labeled files. For me, out-of-sight means out-of-mind; if I put paperwork for things that are in-process away, I can completely forget that they exist!  Suddenly I don’t have anything to worry about working on and I can just head out to the beach.  I am working on building a more tidy workflow process one baby step at a time.

This past week I decided to splurge on a little acrylic drawer-thingy to wrangle my paperclips and post-it notes and such.  It also created a great spot for my fancy, flamingo glitter globe to come to work with me. So far having her near has been a great help, a little bit of swirling glitter sure can produce a lot of inspiration.

Now the flamingo gets to hang out with the solar-powered lucky cats, my magic rocks and other lucky charms (a rock from my nephews, a shell from Mr. Man, head’s up pennies from my walks), and the positive vibes scented candle that my sister sent me for my birthday (note the cat-safe candle container).

On the other side of the desk, resting on the ledge is my “emergence tiara” – another gift from my nephews (I have a suspicion that their mom might have been more involved with creating this treasure than they are giving her credit for).

Emergency tiara and fun card from Mom.

As you can see, my workspace is bright and tidy and pleasant.  Anabel thinks so too.  She thinks that it should be her workspace now.  It might have something to do with the cushion that I’m trying out on my chair.  At any rate, Anabel has now decided that this is her favorite daytime sleeping spot.  Apparently, I have made my workplace too pleasant.