Blogging: When Nagging Doubts Take Over Your Mind

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Would you like to know a secret? Something about me, as a blogger, that I’ve never told anyone before?

Well lean in closer, my gentle readers, here goes…

I’m spending way too much time worrying about what to write here.

I mean, if I learned one thing from my blogging break it is that when I’m not blogging I wake up in the morning with a mind filled with mellow thoughts.

And I start my day with a sense of clarity and purpose that’d make Covey [and his Seven Habits] happy.

But when I’m actively doing the bloggy thing I wake up in the morning uncertain, with confused ideas about what to write here and low-level anxiety about whether or not what I published earlier in the week was a good idea.

Doubts fill me in a way that only the Devil [and his Seven Mortal Sins] could take joy in.

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So you know what I did? How I handled these nagging doubts that worry me?

I conducted a study on my bloggy self and my writing behavior wherein: 1) I tracked the time I spent blogging during October;  2) I reviewed my following/commenting process looking for a better way to do it; and 3) I evaluated my categories with an eye to revision.

Here are my findings + changes:

1) I put in about 3 hours per day on all things blogging, such as researching, writing, editing, publishing, reading other blogs, and commenting;

2) I follow a variety of bloggers and to do this more easily I’ve ditched WP Reader entirely, choosing to upgrade my Feedly account wherein I can have everyone filed away, all orderly like;  and

3) I need to have fewer categories, well-defined in my head, so that when I sit down to write I’m focused and unworried, thus I’ve re-envisioned my blog with 7 categories.

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So has my little foray into personal blogging self-awareness helped me feel more in control of what I’m doing here?

In a word, YES.  Most definitely.

And maybe the message of this blog post is that once a year I need to revisit what I’m doing on this blog and how I want to keep on doing it, so that writing my personal blog doesn’t cause me to worry.

Seems obvious as I say it here, but sometimes the obvious doesn’t come so easily to me.

No secret about that, now is there?

Where I Was When I Wasn’t Here: San Antonio, TX

TO BEGIN

Colorful bat mosaic on wall at zoo.

“The world is a book. If you do not travel, you read only a page.”

The above quote, that I see every day when I’m at home, is on a framed piece of artwork that I have hanging on a wall in our home office.

I only mention this quote, attributed to St. Augustine, because I believe it to be true, a guiding principle.  Thus I said “hell to the yes” when I had the opportunity to spend a few days in pleasant and pretty San Antonio, TX.

You see, last week Zen-Den was in San Antonio for a conference.  Remembering how much fun we had there years ago, I joined him after the conference was over and we goofed off for a couple of days doing things in America’s 7th largest city that is celebrating its 300th birthday.

[Did not know either of those facts before visiting there. Feel that I’m a better person for having shared them here.]

THINGS WE DID

• The San Antonio River Walk which is a meandering multi-level path around an urban waterway surrounded by restaurants, shops, and hotels.

• The Briscoe Western Art Museum which was beautiful, and wherein I saw Roy Rogers’s saddle, a real Wells Fargo Wagon, and ate a complimentary cupcake.

• The Alamo Quarry Market which is an open-air shopping area filled with stores and restaurants, not necessarily unique to San Antonio but a nice place to wander around in the warm sunshine.

• The San Antonio Zoo which was lovely, with more animals from South America, Australia, and Africa than any other zoo I’ve been to.

• The Alamo City Comic Con which was our first adventure into the happy, trippy subculture that revolves around comic conventions.  Here are my observations: 1) people, often entire families, were costumed like comic book or TV or movie characters [we were not];  2) people were standing in line waiting to pay to have photos taken with and/or objects signed by celebrities [we did not];  & 3) people were buying memorabilia and posters and t-shirts from the displays set up by many vendors [we did not].

IN CONCLUSION

And with that I’ll end this post with a hat tip to St. Augustine and his travel advice, suggesting to you, my gentle readers, that San Antonio, TX, is a fun + friendly place to visit for those of you inclined to want to read more than one page of this book we call the world.

The Great Cobbler Debacle Of 2018 + 12 Fruit-Based Desserts Explained

In the aftermath of the debacle there were questions, reasonable ones.

How could this have happened? What recipe did you use?

I used a recipe I found online from what I thought was from a reliable source.  Fake news, meet fake recipes.  But here’s the thing, I didn’t double-check the recipe, comparing it with other recipes, like a smart person would do.

After the debacle, when I found a wonderful recipe by the Barefoot Contessa, I realized that I had used a recipe with the wrong batter to fruit ratio.

Did you set the oven to the correct temperature?

I did, but after the debacle I checked the oven temperature with a thermometer to confirm that the oven was heating like it should.  It is not.

In fact it’s heating about 25º below where it should be so the cobbler baked at the wrong temperature.  Hence, the cobbler remained a soggy mess even when it’d been in the oven for twice the suggested time.

 How much money did you waste on this debacle?

Oh, the shame.  I hang my head as I tell you that I bought raspberries and blackberries and blueberries for this untested recipe, assuming it’d be a wonderful desert.  But it wasn’t, it never even made it to the table– thus my $12.00 worth of berries were lost.

And from a good friend trying to distract me: what are the differences among the various fruit-based desserts? Do you know?

I didn’t know the answer to her question, so I did some research, which was a good way for me, an egghead, to get over the debacle.  This is what I learned.

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BROWN BETTY – fresh fruit [often apples], spiced, then baked under buttered bread crumbs

BUCKLE – single layer cake that rises up around the fruit that is in the middle, making fruit buckle down, while cake forms circle above it

CLAFOUTI – fresh fruit [often cherries] covered with a flan-like batter and baked, usually in a cast iron skillet

COBBLER – fruit sweetened in a way that creates a thick syrup, with dough plopped on top like individual biscuits that when baked looks like a cobblestone street

CRISP – fresh fruit, spiced with cinnamon [+ other spices sometimes], baked with streusel topping

CRUMBLE – buttery crumbs that include oats with sweetened fruit baked between two layers of crumbs

GRUNT – fruit base with sweetened biscuits or dumplings on top, cooked in covered skillet on the stove top, named for the sound the fruit makes while it cooks

PANDOWDY – a baked pie [usually apple] that has a thick crust on top with slits that allow the juices to bubble up onto the top of the pie, then using a spoon one pushes the crust down as it bakes so that the dessert looks dowdy when taken from the oven

PIE – sweetened and thickened fruit as the filling, baked, usually in a round pan, between lower pastry and top pastry or crumb topping

PING – fruit [usually cherries], covered in a sweet sauce, with spoonfuls of dough that form a crust on top that when tapped makes a hollow pinging sound that indicates it’s finished baking

SHORTCAKE – I’m not going down this road again… click here & read what we discussed earlier this year

SLUMP – fruit base with sweetened biscuits or dumplings on top, cooked in covered skillet on the stove top wherein the topping slumps into the fruit

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Sources of general information + a few specific recipes: Serious Eats, Huffington Post, the spruce Eats, FLOURISH, kitchn, Cook’s Country, COOKS.COM.

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I’ve eaten 9 of the 12 desserts defined above.  I’ve not had Brown Betty, nor have I had Grunt or Slump– which some sources say are the same thing.  🤨

Fashionable Or Not, Here Are My Answers To The Fashionista Questions

Over the weekend I saw that Carol had answered these questions. She got them from Melanie who got them from Rory who asked them originally. I thought this looked like fun so I did it too. Here are my answers.  

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Q1 How important is colour in your life?

It’s very important, so much so that I have a blog tag for it: Colors Of My Life.

Q2 What is your most favourite colour to wear?

Blue, all shades– but not at once.

Q3 Is there a colour that you wear that brings the best out in you and in others – in so far as compliments?

Teal or aqua.  I get compliments when I wear either of those.  They bring out the color in my blue, sometimes greenish, eyes.

Q4 Are you a person who likes to overdress for the day or are you a follower of the credo, less is more?

Less is more, my gentle readers.  Overdressing makes me feel silly and contrived.

Q5 What are five of your best items of clothing that you simply couldn’t be without? [and l don’t mean underwear/socks]

T-shirts, cotton sweaters, Birks, denim jacket, jeans.

Q6 Do you dress for the season, as in colour wise, or just throw on whatever is warm and practical?

Remember the book, Color Me Pretty by Carole Jackson?  With a hat tip to her seasonal color analysis [learn more about yours here], I dress for each season using colors I know flatter my skin tone;  I’m a summer.  Then I add a shade or two associated with whichever season it is, so that I “blend” with the world around me.

Q7 If you were going for an evening out and the dress code was ‘smart casual’ what is your ideal outfit and why?

Dark jeans, silk blouse, a spectacular necklace + simple hoop earrings, leather flats with a bit of attitude.  Why?  ‘Cause that’s how I roll.

Q8 If you were having to attend an important meeting or appointment and the dress code was smart – what would your outfit be then?

Dark pants or a pencil skirt in wool [maybe], a blazer or v-neck cardigan, white blouse or t-shirt, small necklace + stud earrings + watch, flats or pumps [depending], a stylish leather purse.

Q9 How many pairs of shoes do you own, and what is the breakdown [as in casual, smart, evening, leisure]

Flats [5], sandals [12], pumps [3], boots [5], athletic [5].  This means I have 30 pairs of shoes.  Is that a lot?  Seems like it to me.

Q10 Do you have classic clothing, or classic items in your wardrobe that you have had for years and never go out of fashion if so name three?

Of course I do!  I’m all about classics.  Three items are*: cotton cardigan sweater by Lands’ End, three-quarter-sleeve blouse by L.L.Bean, Court bag by Coach [from before they lost their mind].

Q11 Are you into plain colours, wild colours or outlandish designs or a mixture and which do you favour more?

Clear colors, simple textures, as little pattern as possible.  Nothing too match-y, match-y.  I want people to see me not some goofy overpowering pattern or unflattering trendy color.

Q12 Do you have a favourite quote with regards fashion or design – if so what is it?

Yes, it is bien dans sa peau, a French saying that means to be happy + comfortable in your own skin.  ‘Tis a goal and a mantra.  I read about it first in French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano and the idea has stayed with me.

Q13 Knee high socks, ankle socks, shin socks or no socks?

No knee socks ever.  Ankle socks sometimes in the winter when it’s cold everywhere I go.  Sans socks when possible.

Q14 Can you see the connection between colour and music and if so does it influence your dress code for the day in any way?

No, I don’t see a connection between color and music.

Q15 If you are going out somewhere special and want to listen to some music to put you in the mood whilst getting dressed up, what do you listen to? [Provide link please]

I play no music while I’m getting dressed.

Q16 How often do you buy new clothing for the season or the year?

I HATE SHOPPING FOR CLOTHES, however I may buy one or two new items each season… if I have to… preferably while shopping online… so I don’t have to go near a store… with other people in it.

Q17 Remember tie-dye from the 70’s was it a thing you followed, bought into or worse, how do you feel about it now?

I have no strong opinions about tie-dye.  I’d wear it on a t-shirt or scarf, if I liked the colors in it.

Q18 What is the brightest coloured item of clothing you have in your wardrobes/drawers?

I have a bright pink [blue undertone] fleece jacket that I wear more often than you might think I would.  It goes with everything I own.

Q19 What is the most expensive item of clothing that you have in your wardrobe? How often do you actually wear it?

The most expensive item of clothing in my wardrobe is my lined wool winter coat that I wear when it’s below 30ºF outside.

PQ20 Are you deleting any questions, if so which ones?

Nope, answered them all, thank you very much.

Q21 Is being ‘fashionable’ important to you, or is being comfortably attired more so?

Being stylishly attired is important to me, which means that occasionally I’m fashionable, but for the most part means I follow my own aesthetic that I’d describe as relaxed classic with a little boho chick thrown in for fun.

I have a casual vibe.  I like simple structured clothes in natural fabrics, with an occasional foray into animal print or ethnic print or lace or tiny shiny bling.

I want NO extra fabric draping all over me, NO sports team apparel, NO tacky jewelry or makeup.  Just me, pulled together without fuss, comfortable in my own skin**.

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*Hello FTC! As usual no company has paid me a cent to talk favorably about their products here. Fear not, my old friend, The Spectacled Bean remains an ad-free blog.

** In case you’re interested, three personal style blogs that I like are: GIRLS OF A CERTAIN AGEThe Vivienne Files, & une femme d’un certain âge.

As College Begins, A Conversation About Time-honored Clichés & Proverbial Wisdom

Fawn sleeping in our Pachysandra. Posted here just because.

Here’s a fun conversation I had with a friend.

Friend’s youngest child, a girl, is going to college this fall.  Friend and husband didn’t go to college and their other children either didn’t go to college or lived at home while pursuing a degree.

Friend, who knows I went away to college and lived in the dorms [oh yes I did], was asking what advice would I give to her daughter.

Based on my experiences.

During the Dark Ages.

The question stumped me. I mean, it was soooo long ago, and while I admit that going away to college and living in the dorms helped define who I am today, my immediate answer was the somewhat less than articulate: I DUNNO.

Friend, of course, was taking none of that nonsense so together we got talking about time-honored clichés & proverbial wisdom.  You know, the things we say to each other, meant to be inspiration or balm for the soul, as we listen to each other’s woes and joys.

Eventually we realized that our advice could be put into five categories.  We might be phrasing things differently, but we were saying the same basic five ideas over and over again.  They are as follows.

BE WARY: take care don’t be a pawn in someone else’s game make no assumptions ask yourself, where is the lie?

BE YOURSELF: follow your dreams reach for the stars  well-behaved women rarely make history define yourself

DO YOUR BEST: never give up if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again the same fire that consumes the straw, refines the gold positive begets positive

PEOPLE SUCK: stupid is an iceberg no matter what, someone will take it too seriously never make as your priority someone who considers you optional “no” is a complete sentence

OH WELL, WHATEVER: don’t let the seeds stop you from enjoying the watermelon tomorrow is another day  build a bridge, get over it plans change, often

QUESTION OF THE DAY

What did we forget? What else should be here?

Do tell, in the comments below. 

In Honor Of My 800th Blog Post, I Give You Daisies & Zinnias

Daisies for Quality, Zinnias for Endurance. Living in harmony in an ikebana vase on our kitchen counter. I like the symbolism.

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Would you believe this is my 800th post on The Spectacled Bean?

Never would I have thought I’d stick around here as long as I have. Yet something about blogging caught my fancy.

It put a little pep in my step.

A little bounce in my pounce.

The izzle in my fo’ shizzle.

Certainly I must have something profound to say about this, right?

Some wisdom to impart…

Some life-affirming conclusions to share…

Some fricking how-to advice to foist on you…

But you know what? I don’t.

All I can think to say is that I’ve learned oodles while writing this blog and that I’m delighted by how many people read and comment on it. I may not fit into any one niche, but I do have a sense of community here.

And that’s what personal blogging is about, I do believe.

Thank you. You’re the best.

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How many posts have you published on your blog?

Do you know? Do you care?

Just curious.

#ThursdayDoors | Visiting A Popular Store In Ohio’s Amish Country

Today I’m joining Thursday Doors, hosted by Norm Frampton, so that I can share with you the following door photos + a few more photos taken at Lehman’s in Kidron, OH.

Lehman’s, originally a small hardware store in Ohio’s Amish country, is now a 35,000 square foot retail store [plus online company]. According to the store’s website, “the full shopping experience is nearly a quarter mile long!”

I believe it. We had lunch, then wandered around the store for over an hour, purchasing gardening tools– and sustenance for the road in the form of fudge.  

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DOORS to the east entrance into the store.

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South end of a north bound water wagon, sans horses to pull it.

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DOOR [faux] painted on side of building.

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A large well-kept farm as seen while driving to Kidron, OH, in northeast Ohio.

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Painting of cow, that has nothing to do with doors, as seen on side of building. *moo*

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Grinding stone that at one time would have had a practical purpose, now part of a pretty flower garden.

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DOORS [faux] painted on side of building.

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