January 30, 2009

Grace in Small Things, 8/365-ish

1. Taking a day off from GISTing and not beating myself up or stressing over getting back into it.

2. A quiet dinner with a best friend.

3. Having someone say, "Mmm, you smell good," when they hug you hello, though you weren't even trying.

4. Looking up in the sky on a clear night and spotting a constellation immediately.

5. [Insert highly personal, post-sickness item that only I would care about.]

While I still have a few moments every couple of hours where I feel wonky, overall I'm much better. Such a relief. I hope never to be that sick again.

It has been such a weird week that I really don't have much else going on. I'm happy for the weekend and a chance to rest up because even though I've been sleeping a full night, every night, this has taken a lot out of me and I'm tired.

January 28, 2009

Grace In Small Things, 7/365-ish

I'm going to have to dig into the past for today's items, as there was nothing terribly inspiring about today. I spent it fighting off the last of whatever had me so sick for the past few days. The only good news is that I think I'm over it.

1. Sitting on the beach alone, hearing nothing but the sound of the waves and the wind.

2. Seeing a piece of work by a favorite artist, up close and personal.

3. Peeling the paper from a Reese's peanut butter cup and having none of the teeth break off.

4. Watching a kite bobbing in the sky on a Spring day.

5. Finding a shiny penny, heads up.

January 27, 2009

Grace In Small Things, 6/365-ish, expanded edition

I was going to take a break from GISTing for a day and complete something I should have done last week. I was tagged by AnyMommy in a recent post to share five of my addictions here. But if I do it right, maybe they can be one in the same.

Aren't addictions generally for things that give us pleasure? And there's grace to be found in pleasure. I suppose there are exceptions to that, but I'm going to give it a try anyway.

1. Books - Anyone who knows me how much I like to read, but I doubt that most of them realize the extent to which I'm addicted to reading. It's the one thing I can count on to really take me away to another place at any time. It's very, very rare that I don't have a book with me and will whip it out whenever I'm left with time on my hands. To that end, having a Kindle has proved to be a godsend. So long as it's charged up, it's like having an entire library at my fingertips.

2. The feel of my cat's fur - From the first time I picked Finn up at the adoption table, I was captivated by the feel of his fur. He's got the lushest fur I've ever felt on a cat and it's so incredibly soothing to stroke him. I'm sure my propensity for doing just that has made him more spoiled than he might otherwise be, but it was by design, in part. When Peri came to live with my mom, she was tiny, scared and traumatized by being dumped off in a parking lot for who-knows-how-long before she was found and my brother brought her home. She never grew out of the scared and she's never been comfortable with being held. Over the years I've persevered and gotten her slightly more used to it, but she still squirms away in a short time. When I adopted Finn, I wanted to make sure that he got accustomed to being held -- that was a real hardship! Thankfully, he was on board with this and enjoys being petted and held pretty much any time, so I can get my daily dose of Finn fur without complaint.

3. Mashed potatoes - While it's a pretty mundane side dish, there's nothing I like better than good mashed potatoes; they're totally my go-to comfort food and I think it's fair to say that I'm addicted to them. I like making them from scratch and have my own method of preparing them that, to me, makes them unbeatable. But I order them at restaurants to compare and usually they come up short. Too cold, too thin, too gluey, too grainy, too peppery, too blecch is the verdict most of the time, but still I keep ordering because the restaurant that does them right will have my undying love. Until then, I'll just make my own whenever I need a comfort dish.

4. Pogo.com - I love playing games and Pogo feeds my addiction. Many nights I can be found there, playing games and collecting tokens. I'm very competitive and there I can go, compete, win and not have to listen to any whining about it. (People may whine, but I can always turn off the chat. And, really, people are mostly congratulatory, not whiny.) I can also play many games against "robots" so I don't even have to concern myself with someone else's reaction. Yes, it's a little anti-social but it works for me. There are so many games to chose from and it's relaxing to play. Each week there are badges to win, which is a fun way to challenge yourself and learn new games.

5. Iced Tea - This is my drink of choice, and one that feeds my need for great quantities of ice. I get tired of carbonated drinks and usually head for the iced tea when it's available. I drink it year-round; I figure if you nutty people can drink hot coffee in the summer, I can drink iced tea in the heart of winter! I love mixing it with lemonade to create an Arnold Palmer, which I'm always surprised to learn many people haven't heard of before. There's nothing like a perfectly sweetened, ice-cold, frosty glass of tea...filled to the brim with ice.

So there you have it, my graceful addictions, laid out for the world to see. I never know who will be in to this kind of thing so I won't tag anyone directly, but if you blog and would like to share your addictions with us, I hope you'll let us know in the comments.

January 26, 2009

Not Entirely Gratuitous Catblogging

To celebrate actually posting five days in a row, I decided to provide an illustrative photo for one of my recent posts and break all sorts of precedent by posting twice in one day. Yesterday, Issa commented about one of my GIST items, "Tiny little kitty lips." Being allergic, she doesn't get all that close to cats and therefore that one wasn't too meaningful for her!

I got out my camera this afternoon, in part because I wanted to practice a bit with a new lens I got for Christmas and hadn't had occasion to use yet. As the cats were all post-nap relaxed, they were (relatively) patient with the flash and I was able to get what I wanted.

Behold, the inspiration for the tiny little kitty lips, Peri.

When she comes up to me, stands there for a moment, then lets out this one plaintive "Mewwwwwww," because she wants something, I just can't take my eyes off those little lips. She has never been a very vocal cat so it's always so surprising when she does this. In that respect, Finn has been both a good and bad influence on her. He's vocal and, after a couple of years, she realized that he got results by voicing his opinion.

And because I can't post a picture of Peri and not one of Finn, here's the best one I got of him.

He really wasn't in the mood for having his picture taken, so I couldn't even get close to having a shot of his lips. Besides, he's a boy cat and his lips aren't as adorable as Peri's. (He's got a cuter nose, though, to be fair.)

I Don't Think This Is Really Going To Count

I don't know if I can really consider this to be a Grace In Small Things post, but this is the best it's going to get. I'm not sure what I ate, but I'm fairly certain that I just experienced the worst bout of food poisoning I've ever had.

The time my mother gave me food poisoning from canning her own strawberry jam was actually more memorable, but it wasn't as bad as this. 'Cause that happens to everyone at least once, right?

Anyway, I'm going to spare you any details and you can read between the lines as much or as little as you want. And because this is all my day has been about - in between trying to figure out what the hell I ate that caused all this - it's going to have to count as my entry for today.


1. I'm not throwing up anymore.

2. I'm not stuck in the bathroom anymore.

3. The pie I ate yesterday will not be going straight to my hips.

4. Being in my room for hours on end (between trips to the bathroom) has enabled me to get caught up on a lot of TV on my DVR.

5. Sleep, when it finally comes, after a long, rough night, is the sleep of angels.

January 25, 2009

Grace In Small Things, 4/365-ish

1. Finding out a friend is pregnant and feeling that bloom of joy.

2. The line of delicate foam a retreating wave leaves on the sand.

3. Tiny little kitty lips.

4. Catching a wisp of my favorite perfume as I raise my wrist past my face.

5. The anticipation of joining my first book club.

The Insta-Book Club is hosted by the incredible, intrepid Insta-mom and you're welcome to join us. We've selected our first book, Revolutionary Road, and will be meeting in cyberspace in early March via TweetChat.

I cannot remember the last time I posted twice in a weekend. Schmutzie, what have you done to me?!

January 24, 2009

Grace In Small Things, 3/365-ish

Just as I expected, I end up thinking about these all day long. Not an altogether bad thing. So far, so good and I'm happy I've been able to make it three days in a row. If I keep it up, I might have to drop the "ish" part.




1. The feel of a baby's hand clenched around your finger.

2. Bubbles rising from the bottom of a champagne flute.

3. Hearing "Yesterday" come on the radio and being swamped by memories of my grade-school crush.

4. Curling up in my favorite chair with the luxurious faux fur throw.

5. That spark of excitement when you come up with a great Scrabble word.

January 23, 2009

Grace In Small Things, 2/365-ish

I can tell you one thing about doing this project: It's going to be HARD. It's hard to sit here and try to think of things that make me feel good, that aren't too personal to share, don't sound too incredibly stupid (meaning I can actually come up with a way to articulate them), aren't things I've read on someone else's list...you get the idea.

I'm hopeful that it will get easier in time. In other words, that I'll get the "GIST" of it all.

1. The flip of a spatula yielding a perfectly formed, perfectly browned pancake.

2. The feel of really fine silk resting against your skin.

3. The loveliest shade of purple in a shirt that fits you just right.

4. The scent of Earl Grey tea rising from my mug.

5. A slice of luscious pie in the lightest, flakiest of crusts.

January 22, 2009

Happy Blogoversary to Me!

Today marks the fifth anniversary of One Ping Only. It's hard for me to believe that so much time has passed. Granted, one of those years was spent not actually posting. But I'm giving myself credit for coming back and reviving it because, frankly, if I hadn't taken the time, if I had forced it and resented it, the whole shebang probably would have gone belly-up.

The last year has been more rewarding because I've let myself do exactly what I want with it instead of worrying about what I "should" do or what anyone else thinks. Given all the angst I see other, "younger" bloggers going through, I think that's an accomplishment.

I do have some regrets about the year off, as I lost contact with a lot of good bloggers whose online lives I'd enjoyed being a part of during this blog's infancy. I've come to accept that as a part of the life cycle of not only blogging, but life itself. Or, at least, my life. I've mentioned before how I'm the kind of person who is very cyclical and I've come to accept that. Beating myself up about it doesn't change my nature, it just makes me feel bad about it and I'd like to be more positive than that.

Positivity is what my next project here on OPO is all about. A blogger I've gotten to know online in the past year is Schmutzie, who has a number of sites, the newest of which is Grace in Small Things.

Grace in Small Things is a daily reminder to take notice of the positive things we tend to overlook. Schmutzie stated that she started the site with the following intention: "Every day for 365 days, I will post a list of five things that have graced my life, either on that day or at any time in my life." You can read more about the how and why here.

I had been reading the posts on her blog listing her five things and I really liked the idea, but I didn't take the initiative to try it myself. One day I told her that I admired her doing her list every day, and that reading hers helps me remember to think about the things I would be writing about if I weren't too lazy. I'm not sure if she intended to shake me out of my lazy, but a short time later she invited me to be a part of the Grace in Small Things group.

I'm going to try to take up the challenge.

I know myself well enough to know that posting every day is going to be virtually impossible. But I also know that I'll be thinking about what I will post for it every day. That, to me, makes it 365-ish. And, hey, who knows? Maybe if the positivity needle starts to edge upward, I'll find that I want to post more often, even if it's just to share my list. Alternately, I may share some of them only over at the Grace in Small Things page if the mood strikes.

So today, on the fifth birthday of my little spot on the Internet, I'd like to present my first list, 1/365-ish. (If I had cake to share with you all, this is where I'd be passing it out, but keeping a corner piece with a big, lilac-colored flower on it for myself.)

1. The glint of light on the silver streaks shot through my mom's formerly dark hair.

2. The sight of my completely trusting, completely relaxed cat with all four legs in the air.

3. The feel of the raised letters on the cover of a new book beneath my fingers.

4. The tiniest bud poking out on a plant I thought would never bloom.

5. The sound of much-needed rain on the roof as I'm falling asleep.

If you would like to be a part of Grace in Small Things, too, please consider this your invitation. To make it a little easier, here's a button just for you:

January 20, 2009

More Than Just A Good Hair Day

I was delighted to hear that some of you took the opportunity yesterday to do something giving and I really appreciated your comments. I had the day off from work in honor of the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, and while watching the midday news I was pleased to see that they focused on the national day of service and what people were doing for it. I had decided to do something new (for me) as my service to the community, and was inspired to choose it by a recent post from OHMommy at Classy Chaos Reviews.

Her post was interesting to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it was a donation drive based on comments, much like mine. Her donation went to a local emergency shelter for women and their children who are affected by domestic violence. The review part of it was for the products that Suave had sent to her to compare to their more expensive counterparts. She "put Suavenomics to the test!" and I was sold; OHMommy knows from good personal care products. I'm totally trying their Humectant shampoo next time I need a new bottle. (Though I'm waiting for the free bottle coupon I signed up for to arrive in the mail -- one saves money where one can so one can splurge where one wants!)

But, beauty product talk aside, what grabbed my attention was that she had immediately packaged up the more expensive brands that Suave had sent (for comparison), in order to donate them to that women's shelter. I've never worked with a shelter before in any way, so I didn't have an awareness of that kind of need. Of course, I kind of mentally slapped myself in the head after thinking about it because it seemed obvious.

Then, last week I received an email that mentioned a service activity by a local Planned Parenthood center for the new President's national day of service. They held a "Giving Back the Basics: Toiletries and Essentials Drive" for local women's shelters, where they were looking for donations of exactly the kind of things OHMommy had given.

Serendipity, I tell you.

Over the course of the weekend, I picked up as many items as I could from the personal care side of the list of suggested donations they provided, (those at least I know and am aware of what's a good value and what's not; the baby stuff, not so much) then dropped them off at the collection site. It was heartening to see how much stuff they were sorting through and organizing inside.

After I'd bought all of my items, my mother said she wished she had thought to give me the coupons out of the Sunday newspaper insert because there were a lot of them for those kinds of products. I mentally slapped myself (again) and assured her there would be a next time when they could be used.

That's when I had an idea. There are always a lot of coupons for personal care and baby care items in those inserts, and I think most of us -- if we clip coupons at all -- use only a fraction of them. Sometimes they're real money-savers, but only if they're items you actually use or you know someone else who can use them! So I plan to pull all those coupons out of the paper, plus the ones I get online but can rarely use, and start buying items on that list (including the baby ones!) with them. This will serve both as a means of getting the most for the donation dollar and as a reminder to collect these items and drop them off periodically. I call that a win-win.

January 18, 2009

The Year of Living Generously

Thank you to those who gave me feedback about the causes and organizations you support and the ways in which you do so. Definitely food for thought.

I wrote those first two sentences three days ago. I've been struggling with where I want this post to go since then. I guess I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do and balancing that with how I share it here.

The basic idea is that I'm making this year one where I give as much as possible, both in the sense of giving money and in giving my time, to good causes that I find. Being practical, it's going to be more about where I target my giving dollars and how frequently I'm going to give those dollars. While I will look for opportunities to volunteer and do more than give money, I know the limitations of my time and personal comfort zone, and it would be foolish to make a commitment I know I won't be able to keep.

My purpose is not "Here's what I did, aren't I great?" It's also not intended to be a laundry list of opportunities for others to give. Striking that balance between encouragement and details of actual actions, along with a modicum of accountability, is something I'm finding to be very challenging. I'm also leery of coming off like a patsy who's going to be handing out money for every sob story that comes my way. That's my cynical side coming out, I know, but it's hard to ignore.

While this was something I was thinking about a lot when the donation drive was going on, it brought into more focus by some posts I read at BlogHer, one of which surprised me by mentioning the donation drive. (How did that happen? I left a comment on the author's first post about charitable giving throughout the year, not just at the holidays. Amazing how that works, huh?) While they contain some interesting ideas, none of them sounded just right so I needed to consider how to make it work for me. Thus was born The Year of Living Generously.

I don't know how to talk about the things that inspire me to act, however, without it coming off like one big overshare of self-congratulatory largess. Telling you, "Hey, I gave $X so far this month," isn't meaningful in my opinion. Telling you, "These are the charitable organizations I think you should support, too," is somewhat condescending (and limiting, if that makes sense). I would like to help inspire others to act where they can, yes, but what I do and how I do it isn't necessarily what any of you would do.

So it looks like this is a work in progress. I've already started finding and acting on giving opportunities, and I've already blown past what I initially thought would be my monthly dollar cap. Another bit of balance I need to work on achieving, I suppose. :-)

There is one aspect of this endeavor that I'd like to initiate, and that's highlighting agencies, events and opportunities for giving that I want to share with you. The one I'm going to lead off with is one you've probably already heard about, since it's pretty high-profile, given that was initiated by this guy called (President-elect) Barack Obama. He has called for tomorrow, the U.S. holiday commemorating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, to be a day of service across the country. I think this is an excellent opportunity to do something that you've been thinking about doing, be it large or small. Whether it's getting that spare blanket out of your closet and dropping it off at the nearest HomeGoods store or walking across the street to take the garbage to the curb for a neighbor who has limited mobility, giving your time to a local soup kitchen or giving blood that's so desperately needed, make the effort to get out and do it.

January 12, 2009

You Know You Want To

I've decided to take advantage of Delurking Day '09 to make a few comments about comments and lurkers. I know a little bit about both, although they are not nearly in proportion to each other on this site. The number of lurkers far outweighs the number of comments you see. There are some lurkers that I'm just dying to find out about and want to directly address, but I really don't want to alienate them because, hey, there's nothing wrong with lurking. But.

But, there's also nothing wrong with commenting, even if it's just to say, "Hey, I enjoyed reading this," even if you don't add, "...and the 25 other pages of your blog I viewed today and didn't comment on!"

I know that a lot...no, let me amend that..A LOT of people end up here via a Google search for the phrase "one ping only" from the quote in the movie "The Hunt for Red October" and that this is not really the page that they're looking for, at all. I can't apologize, because that's one of my favorite movies and it's not a mistake that I used that line here.

I also know that, recently, quite a number of people have ended up here via a new thing called AlphaInventions.com, which has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it's really nice to have new people stop by and see your site visit number rise because of it. A curse because not one of the people who has found me that way was inspired enough to say so much as, "Boo!" So that's a little frustrating. I have found a few blogs by it that I was intrigued about enough to bookmark or subscribe to them and go back from time to time. I try to make sure to let them know that I found them via AlphaInventions because I think it can be helpful to let people know where they're finding an audience. And since I know how much I enjoy comments from people, both those I know and those I do not know, I think it's a good way to reach out to newer bloggers.

And finally, I know that I can't be all things to all people, and that I have to write for myself (essentially) for me to enjoy doing it and want to continue. I value beyond measure the Internet friends I have, who I can count on to comment on my recent posts and let me know I'm not completely typing into the void here, and the people I know in person who stop by from time to time. I appreciate that what I often choose to ramble on about isn't necessarily enough to inspire people to add their own two cents -- the notable exception being the recent holiday donation drive that really brought people out in gratifying numbers -- but I hope that maybe once in a while you'll be willing to just say hello and that you enjoyed stopping by.

It's OK, the water is fine, c'mon in.

January 02, 2009

A Lot of Words, Followed by a Good Recipe

I made, and ate, soup for dinner tonight.

That doesn't sound like much of a statement unless you know me pretty well. I believe a member of my family called it a miracle.

Among the plethora of things to eat that I do not like, soup is the one that people seem to feel is the oddest. I know that soup is like the ultimate comfort food for most people, it simply isn't for me. (For me, that would be mashed potatoes.)

It's not accurate to say that I don't like soup, period. I just don't like most broth-based soups, which is what the vast majority of soups I encounter tend to be. One exception to this is miso soup, which I do like on occasion. I love cream-based soups (like chowder or bisque) when they're good, but they can be so heavy and often poorly made in restaurants; making them at home can take a lot of time and effort that I'm usually not willing to give. Fruit and cold soups are good, but rare.

But today I was making a concerted effort to get through some email that had accumulated in my inbox, hitting the items that I skip over when I don't have time to indulge in the goodies they hold. One of them is the Food & Wine missives our local paper, the Mercury News, sends out each week. Generally, if the subject doesn't absolutely grab me, I end up glossing over it and eventually deleting it, unread.

This week's had an intriguing title, "Going for the goat." I figured it would be about goat cheese, but the lead article was actually about goat meat, which I have had only once (in Portugal) and did enjoy. Apparently it's getting a bit more popular. And no, the recipe I'm going to share does not have goat in it. Goat soup would be a broth soup, now, wouldn't it?

The recipe that finally got my attention was called simply Cheddar-Ale Soup. Normally, that wouldn't make me very excited, except maybe for the ale part. But last year I tried and loved an amazing soup at a fantastic little gem of a restaurant in Mariposa, CA, called Savoury's (if you ever go to Yosemite, you owe it to yourself to stop there for a meal - you won't regret it). I think the soup was called something like Wisconsin Tavern Cheese Soup and it was just out of this world. I looked everywhere for that recipe in the weeks that followed, to no avail. This recipe very closely approximates it and is so incredibly easy to make! Plus, it's from a book that's called Comfort Foods Made Healthy, so it's got that going for it.

Some notes on my experience making it: 1. The recipe makes a lot of soup, so I halved the recipe, and drank the other half of the bottle of beer (Sam Adams Irish Red, if you're wondering). 2. The store didn't have any of the pre-cooked diced potatoes, so I just diced some red potatoes and cooked them a little longer. I didn't peel the potatoes first because I figured I'd keep in the vitamins and such in there, but I do recommend peeling them. Once you mash the potatoes, the skins end up floating around in kind of an odd way. It didn't detract from the taste, but I think it would look better without them. 3. Because I can't eat red peppers, I finely diced one Roma tomato and used that as the garnish on top. 4. If you're a black pepper fan, you might want to put some on before you dive in. I can't stand the stuff, but the abovementioned family member said it made it even better.

I hope if you try it, you'll come back and let me know what you think. I know I'll be making this again, which will maybe save me from being the weird one in the winter.